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      Posting these cat-cartoons-without-the-cartoon was a long journey that I don’t know if I’ll repeat soon again. A daily blog is tough … even when you have your material handed to you! But, I couldn’t have done it without the artwork … Continue reading →
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Where ya been?

Posted by joeabbott on January 11, 2014

As expected, getting back to work on Monday completely overrode any other activity during the week. In addition to dates with Suzy and the gym (Tuesday and Thursday), it seemed I was just running in place!

Today I plan on getting a lot done on the cabinet, however. Suzy is off at her Master Gardener class and I slept in past my time to get to the gym for a Saturday session at spinning, so I had best make it worthwhile! Here’s where I’m at with my various home activities …

Cabinet

imageThe cabinet project didn’t completely stand still, but a little of the progress I made I’ll have to undo.

Part that I won’t have to undo is giving the overall cabinet another treatment of oil. I figured while it was sitting there, I could lay it on good. I was surprised at how thirsty the wood still was, but that was mainly on the sides. I did notice a little pooling on the bottom panel but by the next time I looked, everything was reasonably dry. Laying on oil was the easy part.

Last Wednesday I spent a fair number of after-work-hours in the garage working on the top panels. At this point, other than the doors, it’s all I have left.

One side has banding around the sides and one end but the strand plywood (center panel) was slightly thicker than the vertical grain bamboo (edge band) … making the overall panel thinner on the edges and end where I’ll be clamping it tightly to the under-panel. So I had to place the panel bottom-up on a workbench and plane away the internal thickness. Oy!

I could have used a belt sander or other abrasive tool that would eat away the strand thickness. but I don’t have one. I do have a plane, so I worked on that thing for about an hour, shaving off material over the 1 1/2’ width by 6’ length. Lotta shavings, lotta work.

In the end, it looked pretty good! I was surprised. The thickness was consistent and the face was reasonably smooth. No one will confuse the topside for the bottom, but it was nice to go through that exercise.

imageOn the other end, I still needed to glue on the end edge band.

While I was sawing a straight edge across the end, I noticed this panel had a bit of cup in the top, but I assumed getting some biscuits in there and locking it level with another board would help. Unfortunately, the final glue-up was so ill-aligned on one end, I’m going to have to buzz off the end edge band and try again. This sets me back a bit, but doing a bit more work is not terrible … making such a rookie mistake is what is terrible.

So, for today, I have three things in the works:

  • Remove the edge band from one panel and re-glue it
  • Trim down the other panel to be closer to the final top dimensions (I’m about an inch wide at this point!)
  • Start building the door

It’s a good list and I should be able to get to most of it.

Dieting

Yup, back on the diet train.

imageI hit an all-time low of about 204# sometime this fall and I was really happy there. I’m not a small guy so I can carry that amount and not look or feel bad, so that was my “goal weight”.  That said, 204# was a number I hit probably a day or two and I was back to 207/208# in the following days and weeks.

I told myself I’d be happy within 5# of 204# so I didn’t blink as my weight fluctuated around the 20x# numbers through the fall.

When I went over 210# I started to notice but still didn’t really panic as work bore down on me, my birthday celebrations and “Week of Joe” arrived, and then the end-of-year holidays. So I entered my month off at about 214# and said, “I will gain weight between now and the end of year, I don’t care … I’m not dieting just yet.”

So you could almost say it was to-plan that I found myself at 220# on my first-day-back-to-work weighing but it’s time to start trimming down again. I’m not worried as I have a good formula to follow, I just need to follow it: a modest breakfast, a simple lunch, and a dinner that satisfies but doesn’t stuff me. In between I have a mid-morning break for some fruit and an afternoon break for a salad. It’s simple and it works at helping me lose weight and feel good about myself.

Where am I after the first week of the diet? Well, this AM I weighed in at 215.2#. It’s tough, though … we still have treats from the holidays around us, there’s a chocolate Santa in the pantry with my name on it, and the cravings of eating whatever I wanted whenever are still tugging at me. For me, I just need to remind myself that I said, “this is how it will be” and then acknowledge that by stepping away from the treats. I can do this. I’ll be fine.

I just need to stop thinking about those Peanut Butter M&Ms I have stashed in the cupboard!

Games

Yes, even with work and a big home project I’m making time for games.

The last time I wrote about video games I noted the Tomb Raider game … which was a very good bit of work … and nothing after that. Well, I’m clearly making time for games as I have played a ton of stuff since then.

imageThe Wolf Among Us

On Christmas, Xbox Live game everyone a chance to download a game called The Wolf Among Us for free; and I did just that. I played the next day or so but it’s a short game and I completed it in  two sittings. The premise is that all fairy tale creatures live in a small town near NYC and are disguised by magic to appear as people. They can maintain some of their fairy tale powers but largely opt to remain hidden.

In The Wolf Among Us, the Big Bad Wolf of Red Riding Hood fame is a sheriff and overseeing a number of disturbances, which includes a murder. Someone among the fairytale cast is up to no good and it’s up to the sheriff to track the perpetrator down.

There’s a lot more to the elaborate world of The Wolf Among Us and the game largely unfolds as a story told to the player with occasional prompts for the player to move about an area or dodge a vicious blow. My description doesn’t do justice to the fun and cleverness of the game, but it’s both fun and clever. The game has won awards and the “chapter” I played is one of a serial telling. Other chapters will be coming out later and, based on the engaging tale, I may be handing over a little money to see how Bigsby (the Big Bad Wolf’s name) manages to solve the crimes.

Oh, and the game only has seven achievements, largely all are unmissable, and nets you 100 GS.

imageLocoCycle

LocoCycle is an Xbox One game that I played largely for feeling guilty about having an Xbox One and not playing any games on it.

The premise of this somewhat tarnished gem is that you’re a mechanic working on a motorbikes for a clandestine government agency when one of the bikes you’re working on is struck by lightning and “goes rogue”.

The bike has an AI (artificial intelligence) that was scrambled and it’s now seeking “freedom”. Additionally, you, the mechanic, are stuck on the bike and being dragged along behind it. How you don’t suffer damage is never explained … other than a number of “owie!” like yells made infrequently … but the bike races for freedom, the government agency is intent on stopping it (and assumes you’re stealing the bike), and mayhem ensues.

It’s an on-rails game in which the bike races through a simple maze of roads and can never fall off or stop. Your job is to give it gas, run over those in the way, and shoot your futuristic weapons at those intent on stopping you .

LocoCycle unfolds through cut scenes as a B-rated movie setting up the premise and the various stages that come your way. I have only played through enough to get a single achievement but this one doesn’t really have my attention. Just not loving it. I’ll likely play more, just to see how it ends, but I hope this is a short game. Call it an hour and a half sunk into this one so far.

imageZoo Tycoon

Another Xbox One game I played is Zoo Tycoon.

While Suzy was doing a bit of baking one night I started working through the various tutorial levels and, later in the week we finished them together. Then we went off and built our own “luxury zoo” in an unlimited mode. “Unlimited” appears to mean something different to the Zoo Tycoon makers than it does to me, as I hit a limit at one point and could no longer expand my zoo. Oh well.

I learned a bunch on what’s expected and will likely go in and try my hand at the “campaign” levels … scenarios you play through with constrained budgets … if only to rake in a few achievements for things like “create a zoo using all possible food stands”. Hey, I’m not one to leave easy GamerScore on the table! And there’s lots more to be had as I only have 120 GS of the possible 1000 GS.

imageBrothers – A Tale of Two Sons

OK, where LocoCycle is a game in which my mechanic is dragged throughout the story and no harm comes to him, Brothers – A Tale of Two Sons is a completely different sort of story. Based on European-style fairy tale (that is, not a Disney story), you play through a story that starts at the grave of your mother and ends in yet more tragedy. It’s done well and is surprisingly moving.

I got that game as a digital download during an end-of-the-year sale (I think it was $5 … and very worth it) based on reviews and awards and was ready for a game in which no one talks words you can understand and you control two brothers at the same time. While the tactical gymnastics required to manage maneuvering two characters at the same time are challenging, none of the puzzles punish you excessively. There are a couple tricky parts but, on the whole, you can navigate the world and enjoy a fanciful, if moderately scary story.

While I say it’s not a Disney story, that doesn’t mean it’s not fantastical: you meet both friendly and cruel giants, you befriend large bird-like creatures that give you rides, and whales breach the water as you navigate a small inlet at one point. Absolutely charming. The dark side comes into play as you avoid monsters that wish you harm, fight off a cult sacrificing a young lady, and navigate a battlefield of dead giants, many who are cruelly slain.

I finished this game in a couple days and liked it enough to offer to play it for Suzanne to watch if she wanted in on a fun, well-told story. Twelve achievements, 400GS. Good stuff.

imageBioShock Infinite

BioShock Infinite is another game that I got on sale (it was going for $60 at the beginning of last year and I picked it up for something like $14 as a digital download), and one I have high hopes for. I played through the original BioShock game and loved it. Loved it enough to play through a second time on the hardest difficulty. And, Infinite is getting great reviews.

However my achievement hunting ways are hurting me.

As you can see by my fixation on GamerScore, I’m back in the hunt for achievements. I realize it hurts my enjoyment of game stories but seeing my GamerScore rise is fun in itself, so I’m spending a bit more time trying to move that needle. Infinite, however, is a great story and I’m ruining it by chasing all around the city, looking for the hidden collectibles and worrying about missing some achievement or other. I talked to a friend at work and he’s convinced me to stop that and just play the game for the story. I’m sold, but having a hard time getting into this one.

I’m just a bit into the story but I’m putting this on hold until I pad my GamerScore a bit more and get that out of my system. I loved Tomb Raider for the fun of the game … I need to get back to that mindset.

imageX-Men: Destiny

This is the cure for what ails me.

X-Men: Destiny is a game that most people play for one thing: to pad their GamerScore; and I’m after it for that! I had the game on my shelf for a while now … I had borrowed it from my team’s “game library” and noticed that I still had it out and hadn’t played it. So, it was time to get playing … both to return the game and to feed that GamerScore beast in me. I started last night and am playing almost completely by looking at a walk-thru and then following along.

I don’t care about the story, don’t care about how I build my mutant, don’t care about anything but completing the game and milking it for all the GamerScore I can! And, reading that last sentence I realize it’s a shallow approach, it’s true, and that I should give a few props to the game as it’s not necessarily a bad game … just not very good.

In the game you play one of three characters, who is a mutant (with exceptional powers) and you must understand who is behind an attack on the city, and manage the various factions (essentially the “good X-Men”, the “evil X-Men”, and the “Purifiers” … normal humans who dislike all X-Men); I chose a guy (not even sure his name) who had been a Purifier but recently found out he had mutant powers.

You then run through a mostly on-rails story with a few places you can choose your path or a power perk. I just started last night and a short way into the story: 12 of 50 achievements, 165 GS. I would be farther along but my brother-in-law was online and wanted to play more Borderlands 2 … and who am I to turn up my nose at an invitation like that!?! <g>

Coda

Well, I see that I play a lot of games. A lot. Hey, that’s a good thing! But now I need to get into the shop and start making good on my cabinet project. Thanks for dropping in and apologies for an over-long post. Hoping we can catch up again soon!

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