Saturday, December 31, 2011


For the first time since 2003/2004, I go into the New Year without a clear idea of what to expect. I know that the next few months will be pretty stressful, and hard work. And I know that April will bring the wedding, which will be awesome.

But after that...?

Well, I don't know. Hence the uncertainty, really. Things will change, but which things, and to what extent?

Oh well. It will be fun finding out!

My Year in 2011

With a view to clearing my to-do list as far as is possible before the bells (and also to put off some of the day's less pleasant tasks), I thought I'd do my review of the year a little early.

2011 has been a strangely mixed year. In some ways, it has been the best year ever, while in others it has been pretty horrible. My overall impression of the year, though, has been one of abiding and deep tiredness.

My Year in... Work

2011 has not been the best of years in work. Things for the company have been going well, but for myself... not so much. August and September were particularly hard, and things have only recovered somewhat. I'm not looking forward to going back, while at the same time determined to do better again in 2012.

My Year in... Gaming

2011 was probably the best year for gaming since I left university. The RPG Meetup has moved across to Groupspaces, and continues to go well. We seem to have settled at around 25 people, with about a dozen people in the "core group". There are several games ongoing at any time, so people can usually find a game when they want to play.

This year I ran the first section in a new campaign "The Eberron Code", which will continue in 2012 (some time after the wedding). That went exceptionally well, and has joined my legendary "big three" as one of the campaigns I'm most proud of.

I also ran three one-off games. The first was a "Star Wars Saga Edition" game with a bit of an A-team vibe. This went exceptionally well, with everyone involved having a really good time. However, it was very quickly eclipsed by "Ultraviolet: Code-500", which was the single best game I have run in many years. And then, this week, I ran my second annual Christmas Game, which was once again "Serenity". Despite two late call-offs, the game remained a lot of fun, and was rather more satisfying than last year's effort.

In addition to running some good games, I got some opportunity to play, with the occasional game of "The Laundry", "Deadlands" and "Dark Sun". Good times.

The Saturday Game has largely come to a halt. I finished off the "Company of the Black Hand" campaign, and we've since played a couple of sessions of "Dark Heresy". However, I explained that the wedding marks the end of my availability for this game. I think we will have no more than one or two more sessions between now and then.

In 2012, I am hoping to run a handful of one-off games, and am also hoping that my schedule will allow me to continue "The Eberron Code". Obviously, we'll need to see about both these things.

My Year in... Band

As with so many other things, 2011 was a mixed year for the band. Early in the year, we were promoted to Grade 4A. We went into the season in high spirits, and actually won prizes at the first competition of the year, a Minor contest but traditionally a tough one. Spirits were high... and then quickly crushed.

The rest of the season was largely a sequence of disappointments. We failed to qualify at the Worlds, we didn't win any prizes of note, and we got some really hard criticism for our efforts.

We did set up the Development Band, which competed four times. Again, they won prizes on their first outing, which was remarkable. But, again, they didn't qualify at either the Worlds or at Cowal.

Financially, the band did extremely well, easing my fears for the future somewhat. However, at the end of the year we lost our lead drummer, and the pipe major of the Development Band. These were both painful losses that we haven't really recovered from.

It looks like 2012 is likely to be another year of consolidation. We'll see how we get on in Grade 4A, but the standard is really high and it's not clear we'll make it. I'll be leading the Development Band out, which could be... interesting. We'll see how it goes.

My Year in... Love

Super Secret Goal #3 was completed in June, and was awesome of course.

The preparations for the wedding have been a bit of a shock to the system, as there's so much more to do than I had expected. And, especially difficult, much of it is stuff that gets put in motion but can't be finished off until April... this leaves a huge pile of things unresolved, which is just stressful.

Anyway, things are either well in hand, or we've forgotten something important. I'll let you know in April!

My Year in... Resolutions

Six done, three failed, and one in progress. That's a 'B' grade performance, which is okay but not stellar.

For 2012, there is precisely one goal, and it will be resolved in 2012 (barring a disaster, of course).

My Year in... Travel

The annual trip to Ireland with the band went well enough. This year, we were joined by Lady Chocolat, which was nice. Recently, work took several of us out to Stuttgart for a training day, a trip that also went very well.

And, finally, the big trip of the year was to Rome, which was awesome.

Next year might well have a big trip in the offing...

My Year in... Faith

There's not really a lot to report here. All remains well, for now.

My Year in Painting

Over the course of the year, I gradually painted up that Ork Warband I mentioned last year. It is now done, and glaring menacingly across the living room. I have decided against getting any more figures to paint, at least for the time being.

My Year... Overall

2011 was a very mixed year. The trip to Rome was awesome, and the gaming front has been very good. On the other hand, the band's season was extremely disappointing, and work has been extremely stressful. August, in particular, was an horrible month.

2012 beckons. The high point is pretty obvious, but the rest...

Books of the Year 2011

As I noted in my update on goals, I'm currently in progress on two books, but extremely unlikely to finish either today. That being the case, here's the roundup of the books that I have completed this year:

  1. "AD&D: Monster Manual", by Gary Gygax
  2. "AD&D: Player's Handbook", by E. Gary Gygax
  3. "Pathfinder: Vaults of Madness", by Greg A. Vaughan
  4. "Pathfinder: The Thousand Fangs Below", by Graeme Davis
  5. "Pathfinder: Sanctum of the Serpent God", by Neil Spicer
  6. "Les Miserables Volume One", by Victor Hugo *
  7. "Serenity: Out in the Black", by Tracy and Laura Hickman
  8. "Serenity: Adventures", by James Davenport, Ted Reed, James M. Ward, Alana Abbot and Billy Aguiar
  9. "Pathfinder: The Haunting of Harrowstone", by Michael Kortes
  10. "Serenity: Spaceships and Six Shooters", by Lynn Blackson and Jason Durall
  11. "Serenity: Big Damn Heroes Handbook", from Margaret Weis Productions
  12. "At the Gates of Darkness", by Raymond E. Feist
  13. "Pathfinder: Trial of the Beast", by Richard Pett
  14. "Les Miserables, Volume Two", by Victor Hugo *
  15. "Pathfinder: Broken Moon", by Tim Hitchcock
  16. "Cloud Atlas", by David Mitchell *
  17. "The Fort", by Bernard Cornwell
  18. "Pathfinder: Wake of the Watcher", by Greg A. Vaughan
  19. "Watcher of the Dead", by J.V. Jones
  20. "AD&D: Dungeon Master's Guide", by Gary Gygax
  21. "AD&D: Legends & Lore", by James M. Ward and Robert Kuntz
  22. "AD&D: Fiend Folio", edited by Don Turnbull
  23. "AD&D: Monster Manual II", by Gary Gygax
  24. "Pathfinder: Shadows of Gallowspire", by Brandon Hodge
  25. "Pathfinder: The Brinewall Legacy", by James Jacobs
  26. "Pathfinder: Bestiary 2", by Paizo Publishing
  27. "I Shall Wear Midnight", by Terry Pratchett
  28. "Pathfinder: Night of Frozen Shadows", by Greg A. Vaughan
  29. "Empire of Silver", by Conn Iggulden
  30. "War and Peace", by Leo Tolstoy *
  31. "Black Crusade", by Fantasy Flight Games
  32. "The Books of the South", by Glen Cook
  33. "Pathfinder: The Hungry Storm", by Jason Nelson
  34. "Pathfinder: Forest of Spirits", by Richard Pett
  35. "The Gathering Storm", by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson
  36. "Pathfinder: Advanced Player's Guide", from Paizo Publishing
  37. "Renegade's Magic", by Robin Hobb

There are four books from The List, marked with asterisks. (Note that "Les Miserables" counts twice, per my "one set of covers = one book" rule.) Twenty-five of the books are RPG-related, mostly from the Pathfinder line. There were no work-related books, nor were there any re-reads.

It's hard to pick out the best books of the year, as there weren't any that stood out. I think perhaps "Les Miserables" edges out the competition as being the most satisfying read (although that's two books, and so cheating...). The worst was "Renegade's Magic", which was not a fun read - I only read it to finish up the trilogy, and the best thing I can say about it is that it is done!

For 2012, I currently have 25 books picked out, plus the two that are currently in progress. This includes two from The List - "Great Expectations" and "A Town Like Alice". I would expect to get through all of these without any difficulty. Beyond that, I'm not setting any reading goal, but will continue to note books as I finish them.

End of Year Update on Goals

The end of the year beckons, and I'm unlikely to make any more progress on any of my goals, so here's the year-end update:

  • Super Secret Goal #3 - Complete.
  • Blog more - This is post 818 on the blog, well short of the 900-post mini-target for the end of the year. On the other hand, I did manage to "blog more", so the goal as stated at the start of the year, is a success.
  • Lose weight - Fail. Christmas has not done me any favours this year.
  • The band got promoted last year, which meant that our goal for 2011 was to attain promotion again. This proved to be far too ambitious, and so this goal is failed.
  • The Saturday Game - Complete.
  • Write something - Fail. I had intended to finish off the writing task during the month of December, which then became an effort to finish it in my week off, but I never did. Shame.
  • Relax more - Complete.
  • Books - The goal as stated is complete. Of the five books other books I wanted to tackle, I have finished three and am in progress on both of the other two. I should finish those in the next few days, but won't get them done today.
  • Painting - Complete.
  • Wedding Preparations - Ongoing. The next major task is sending out the invitations, but there have been some unforseen delays...

So, that gives a total of six goals completed, three failed, and one that will remain ongoing for the next three and a half months. That's not a bad showing, but not a particularly good one, either. Still, given that I wanted to avoid a "tyranny of goals", it's not too bad I suppose.

#36: "Pathfinder: Advanced Player's Guide", from Paizo Publishing
#37: "Renegade's Magic", by Robin Hobb

Thursday, December 08, 2011

On the other hand...

Turns out that almost immediately after I published my last post, the road opened up again and I was able to go. I promptly left the office and had a really quick ride home. I'm now 36 minutes short of where I 'should' be for the week, but that's okay. I'll make up the time tomorrow.

With the extra time I have been given, I was able to finish up the most recent novel, which was the twelve volume of the Wheel of Time. And, having said that, I can almost hear Chris bracing himself for the big rant...

Well, it turned out that the book did indeed live up to expectations, being a big turgid mess of words with nothing actually happening. For the first twenty-seven chapters, anyway. After that, suddenly, the plot sprang to life, and it was actually quite exciting. Almost reminded me of why I got so far into the series in the first place.

Apparently, Robert Jordan had the book partially written before he died. It's probably unkind, but I think I can pinpoint just where he got to.

#35: "The Gathering Storm", by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson

There's no place like home...

Today, Scotland is being battered by high winds. This is not the usual run-of-the-mill winds we sometimes get, nor indeed is it the absurdly anti-climactic non-winds I expected when I heard they'd put out a Red Alert about the winds. (I mean, honestly, what was I supposed to expect? They declare extreme weather warnings at the first hint of weather these days.)

So, I developed a cunning plan. My plan was to stick around in the office for the minimum possible amount of time, attend the meeting I had booked, then copy some stuff onto a disk (so I could work at home), and then, well, go home.

This was an excellent and inventive plan, which proved to have only one small flaw.

About one hour before I was able to leave the office, a lorry overturned on the motorway, right where I needed to join it. And, consequently, the entire road system near the office has ground to a halt for the foreseeable future. In a cruel reversal of last year's Snow Days, this year I have become trapped in the office.