Quick Update for February

Hey, still super busy, but one of the things I have been working on is migrating to a different host for this blog, so apologies if things look weird for a while.

A couple of notes on that – first, the theme hasn’t been fully customized yet, and that will be one of the last things I get to, so expect the appearance to be wonky and to change some. Second, some of the images didn’t import over properly, so I will be working on updating those as I get time. Third, this blog is important to me, but is not in my top five priorities at the moment, so it will be a while before I get it done. My goal is to have all of the technical and design stuff taken care of by February 28th, after which time I will start focusing more on content at that point.

Speaking of content, for the reasons outlined above, content will be irregular and sporadic this month and in March should start rolling out regularly according to a schedule. I know that nobody really cares about how the sausage is made, only how it tastes, but I am just putting that out there.

Finally, a quick wrap-up for January. The first and quickest update was the decision to do a social media fast. It went pretty well and was interesting to note how much of going to Facebook and Twitter was automatic and without thinking. I’d pick up my phone and instantly start typing Fa or Twi before catching myself. There were a couple of times that I logged on intentionally in order to check on something specific or reach out to someone that I only have their social media, but didn’t consider that a real breaking of the fast. I am going to continue in February mostly fasting but checking in a bit more regularly (I am still working on the SOP for doing social media and am going to largely continue fasting until I have nailed that down).

Fitness goal was to do a marathon in a month, and I completed it with nearly 10 days to spare so just kept on going. The “marathon” stats I wanted to post because it was an interesting comparison to look back at Oct/November when I did this for the first time supporting the Whittier Boys and Girls Club. Also, before I get into the numbers, and I wasn’t really targeting 26.2 as the finish line in either case, it was just through the end of the run that took me over 26.2.

WBGC Thirty Day challenge stats were 28.2 miles with an average pace of 22 minutes, 13 seconds (22’13”). Unfortunately I didn’t really total time at that point, and it did include a fair amount of walking as I was just getting back into exercising and was trying to avoid injuries as I knocked the rust off. My January challenge run was 26.7 miles with an average pace of 16’20” and a total time of 7:16:13. Obviously I am still not setting records (and it is crazy to me that in my younger days I was better than half that pace!) but I can only deal with the body I have now, so I am really happy to have shaved nearly 6 minutes a mile off the pace. I was obviously running way more than walking this time around, and I am looking forward to repeating this challenge for my birthday in August.

Fitness challenge for February will be focusing on stretching. I am going to dial back running to 3-4 times per week and doing daily stretches. This is the one I am looking to start with, but if you have a favorite routine, please let me know! This one is going to be harder to measure objectively but hopefully I will have some good results to report back. Why stretching you ask? Well, Ryan turned me on to this cool YouTube channel called The Bioneer and while that dude is crazy fit and I am not looking for that level of fitness (I’ll post more on my personal ambitions later), I really like his pillars of fitness which basically equate to: strength, endurance, agility, decision making, and explosive power. January worked on endurance, February is for agility. Decision making and being smart is something I am focusing on throughout the year as well, and will be writing about what books I am reading, or listening to at another time.

Anyway, that’s me updated. Hope you have a great month, and I will be posting a few more times this month – targeting once a week with short updates like this.

Fitness Friday Update

Been super busy but wanted drop a quick update here. Fridays will be my fitness update day – mostly because it will be “better” than any day closer to the previous weekend.

I am going to be doing monthly challenges and updating them here. This month I am doing a marathon in a month. This is actually a repeat of something I did toward the end of last year with the Boys and Girls Club of Whittier so it is kind of cheating, but it is also good to help get my body used to moving again after the black hole of the holidays.

So far, two weeks into it, I am already at 17.2 miles so I feel pretty confident about completing this one. One thing that does suck is that I slipped on ice back in mid December and have had consistent pain and swelling since then. I rested it for a couple of weeks, and it was feeling a little bit better so I am just doing the exact wrong thing and powering through the pain. Not to fear, gentle reader, I have an appointment coming up.

Anyway, just a short update of the kind I hope to do going forward.

Intentions Not Resolutions

Happy new year everyone! I know a lot of us are definitely ready to put that year in the can and move on. You can read lots of other retrospectives on the year, so I am not going to focus a whole lot on it but I am going to add just a few things that stand out about the year to me, and how it affected me. It makes sense to move from the past to the future in that way. Also, this post will be much longer than most, so sorry about that and good luck making it through.

I am going to start off with the most impactful, at least for me. My mom died at the end of 2019, which made it feel a bit like I had a few extra months of 2020, if I’m honest. She didn’t die of COVID-19, but it was just as unexpected. She went into the hospital for a fairly minor back surgery that was really only supposed to be an overnight stay. One complication after another saw her spend the last two months of her life in the hospital and in a great deal of pain.

I still struggle a bit with guilt – I wish I could have spent more time there. There are all the questions that one asks. If I had been there longer could I have advocated more for her? Would my presence earlier on have aided in her recovery? These things still bother me fairly regularly.

Even amongst the tragedy there are a few things I am very grateful for. We got to visit with her before she went in for the surgery and take her to visit my aunt (her sister) in Ruidoso, which is a very pretty town in southern New Mexico. My kids got to spend some time with her and it was a very happy time.

Shortly after we returned to California I threw my back out. The pain was terrible – I very nearly unable to move for close to a week and the actual recovery was closer to three. At the beginning it took me over an hour to crawl to the bathroom a mere 15 feet away from my bed.

This injury happened shortly after my mom went in for surgery. Since I was just laying there, I ended up calling her and speaking with her much more frequently than normal. The pain I felt in my back helped to give me a greater level of empathy and understanding than I might otherwise have had with her. As crazy as it sounds, I am so grateful for that injury. It sucked, but I was able to connect with her much more than I might otherwise have.

After my back healed up a bit to where I could get around some I returned to work at Ticketmaster. A short while later my mom’s condition really turned bad and she was admitted to the ICU. With both the summer vacation and extended back injury, I was pretty low on paid leave, but my supervisor and the company didn’t hesitate to tell me to go. I offered to work remote, but my boss Jon said not to even worry about it. Another thing I’m grateful and indebted for.

I headed out and spent the nights at my sister’s place, and the days at the hospital (remember, this was just pre-COVID). When I arrived they had just taken her of the ventilator and it was unknown if she would even wake up. She did. She was even a coherent and we all thought that she was maybe on the mend but then things went bad and her body just started shutting down.

I miss her all the time.

This is one of my favorite pictures of her and me.

Anyway, that set the stage for 2020 for me, and I had a renewed vigor to spend more time with friends and family. Then COVID happened. Fifteen days to flatten the curve turned into nine months, and is still going on. There were ebbs and flows throughout the year where I was able to see friends, albeit often in a completely different way (wearing masks at a park six feet away). It definitely took more effort but it helped a bit to really focus on the relationships I was able to.

The kids learning at home was challenging, but their teachers have all been amazing. We were pretty impressed with them before, but seeing the amount of time and effort they have been putting toward keeping things in some semblance of “normal” while also teaching them has been remarkable. I know that not everyone has had this experience with their educators, but ours have been phenomenal.

This extra time with the kids at home was awesome though. Just spending time, watching them learn and work has been an amazing experience. Being able to sit down and eat lunch with them and just eavesdropping on their classes and hangout times was (and continues to be) great. Also have been able to take more walks with them and even focus some more individual time on each kid rather than lumping that quality time with them together.

Speaking of walks, it was pretty clear early on that COVID-19 was especially deadly for those with certain conditions – extra weight and low Vitamin D being a couple of of the big ones that affected me. Working as a writer and a software quality engineer it is easy to just hole up like some kind of hermit in a cave. Seeing the emotional effect that losing my mom had on me, I was very motivated to try my best to stick around for a while. My friend Ryan has been a multiyear success story in weight loss and an inspiration to me – you’ll hear more about him in the future.

I swallowed my pride and started asking him how he did it. He helped guide me, giving me support and tips, but not pushing me too much (which he knows I would just resist because that is my nature). As a result of his guidance, I lost close to fifty pounds over the course of 2020 (and over fifty down from my heaviest).

The first picture I could find of myself of the year (Girl Scouts Daddy Daughter Dance), and the last picture of myself for the year. I haven’t really looked at them side by side before.

Ryan is also my main gaming nemesis for both Age of Sigmar and Warhammer 40,000 also called Warhammer 40k or simply 40k. These tabletop miniature games that have been a hobby of mine for years. In fact, when I first moved to LA way back in 2002, Ryan and I met via a 40k Yahoo Group (remember those things?). We became fast friends and he remains one of my best friends in the world. As we have both matured in our careers and families our gaming and hobby time has scaled back quite a bit, but we make the effort to get in a game a month along with regular weekly zoom paint nights. I am grateful to have him in my life, he has been a friend, a confidante, and a mentor.

As I was working on my physical fitness I decided to work in a more focused way on my mental health as well. There was a lot of stressful stuff going on and so I decided to start trying to meditate. I have ADHD so the idea of sitting perfectly still and not thinking was laughable. Despite that, I spent some time looking around for different very short meditations and found a few that I liked. I started out at two minutes a couple of times a week but that practice has grown to become a regular and valuable part of my day.

In addition to meditation, or perhaps because of it, I also turned more to my faith. It has been easier to spend time in prayer and I have had more of an interest in learning more about some of the saints and deciding to go deeper into it. It has also been a source of strength and comfort.

As the year passed, it became more and more obvious that the live entertainment industry was in serious trouble. Ticketmaster, and its parent company, Live Nation has had it rough. I give credit to the management for trying their best to do right by all the employees. The president, Michael Rapino, decided early on to forego his salary and many of the other executives took reduced salaries in hopes that the virus would pass quickly and things would be back to normal by the end of the year. Obviously that didn’t happen. There were several rounds of furloughs and layoffs and my number eventually came up and I found myself on furlough. For those that don’t know, basically that means that the benefits stay in effect, but the pay goes down to zero. I wasn’t (and am not) bitter toward the company. They have always been a very good place to work, and their support during my mom’s final weeks will never be forgotten. I was very grateful that over the last couple of years my wife and I had taken a much more serious view on our finances, which enabled us to get through a few months without really changing too much. Family has also been very supportive during this time.

As I started reflecting on the year I realized that despite common wisdom that 2020 was a dumpster fire, my own life was marked with blessings and gratitude. Yeah, losing my job sucked, but the closeness with my wife and kids is an an all time high. I am getting to watch them grow much closer. I have grown in my faith. My mental and physical health are better than they have been in years. I am happier. Yes, I know it has been a rough year for many people, but there have been so many blessings too. I have always felt that we see what we look for, and this year has really reinforced that belief. Finding the good doesn’t discount the bad. Okay that is my reflection on 2020. Now on to 2021. I promise it won’t be as long.

I have spent the last few weeks thinking about my life and what I want out of the new year. I decided not to do a resolution. To me, resolutions are hard but brittle. In the past I have found that once the resolution has been broken, I tend to just shrug and move on. “At least I tried”. Bringing in what I learned last year, I have decided to live more intentionally. So rather than resolutions, I am going to list my intentions for the new year. You might call it semantics, but as someone who works with words, I know that they have meaning. Also, beyond just the intentions, I also am working on being more intentional with time, the currency of life. It is so easy in this world of distraction to squander it.

I sat down and wrote all of the things I wanted to focus on this year and tried to schedule a sample day. Turned out I needed about 56 hours a day (64 if I wanted to sleep). I’ll write more about this process and the original things in the future, but for the time being, here is a picture of the first pages.

I love my Bullet Journal. Life changing for me. Also, page 1 of 6 of “great” ideas and ways to spend my time in the new year.

I really like all those things and want to devote all of my time to them and more. As a side note here, there is a moment to reclassify ADHD from Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder to ARD for Attention Regulation Disorder. We aren’t always distracted. Sometimes we hyperfocus on a thing. I think the combination of medication and meditation have really helped me to get a better ability to regulate my own focus.

Looking at the various things I was able to kind of narrow it down into some broad categories. Those categories will be what I focus my blogging on. My goal, as mentioned in a previous post, is to do one post from each category every week. The following paragraphs will break them down just a little bit more. Since 2021 is starting on a Friday, the new schedule will go into effect next week. I am still trying to decide the exact day for each category, but want to make it consistent so people interested in gaming can only check it one day a week, those interested in writing a different, etc. Also the list is just in alphabetical order below, not necessarily the order I am thinking for publication.

Hobby. This is where I will put all of my miniature gaming stuff. My painting guides and updates, whatever battle reports from games I play, as well as any narrative fiction that I write up in order to go along with it. I have posted some of those things in a different blog in the past, and given the current COVID situation, I will likely repost them here with some additional comments or pictures.

Pre-COVID I would never have even considered a game at the park.

Personal. This is where I am going to write about the things I am doing to improve myself physically, mentally, and emotionally, I will also write about my experiences with ADHD and the challenges and benefits it brings. This is also the likely category where I will talk a bit about my family, but I am ferociously protective of them, so they won’t pop up too much.

Professional. I will be writing here about my professional life. From software quality and product integrity, to thoughts on writing, as well as things like time management and even professional development like programming and other learning will be in this category. Also, art will either be here or in personal. I am still deciding.

Spiritually. While I considered adding this to the Personal category, I decided it was deserving of its own. I am catholic, and many of my friends only really know catholicism from movies and tv. I will be posting my own personal reflections here as well as some common prayers that we say and what they mean to me as well as exploring misconceptions that people have about us. Also, if anyone has any questions, I will do my best to research and answer. I am obviously not a priest, nor a theologian, but simply a practicing lay catholic, but I will do my best.

St. Finbar’s Parish in Burbank has truly become a spiritual home for me.

Thanks for making it to the end of the colossal post. In the future, they won’t be as long, but probably some will because I like the sound of my own typing.

I hope your 2021 is blessed and happy, and I look forward to sharing it with you all.

-Patrick

Making Progress

As mentioned in my last post, I am working on a new direction and consistency for this blog from a more holistic point of view. Since we are so close to the new year, I am just going to officially kick this off on the first of January. I will do a few posts before then to kind of set up expectations and hammer out a workflow that is most efficient and effective for me.

I know that what this means is that some of you won’t really care about some of the topics I post, and that is okay. You are welcome to read them, of course, but really, if you don’t care about my hobby stuff, or my faith stuff, feel free to skip those days. In order to help you decide how to best spend your valuable (and hopefully limited) online time I am tossing around the idea of posting in four different “lanes”. I am going to write just a little bit about them below, and then I would love to hear any thoughts you might have.

The four lanes I am looking at are: Spiritual, Personal, Professional, and Spiritual. I will probably do other, more detailed posts on each of these lanes or even change it up a little between now and then, but roughly here is what I am thinking for each of them.

Spiritual. This is where I will post my reflections on readings or other things I read or see online. Additionally, I plan on talking about my catholicism. Why I chose to be catholic, how it has helped me in my life, some thoughts on some of the catholic things like saints and Mary that might not be familiar for my friends and family because, happily, I have a number of friends who are Protestant, atheist, buddhist, muslim, and even a few Wiccans. I am sure that there are others, and that doesn’t mean I don’t care about you or love you, it just slips my mind at the moment.

Personal. This is where I will write about things focusing on emotional, physical, and mental wellbeing. This is also the category where I will talk about my challenges (and successes) with my ADHD and other neurodiversity struggles. I torn between putting art here or in the Hobby category, but I feel it might end up here mostly because I don’t expect to have a lot to post other than finished products. I also will likely keep instagram and post pictures there, but am not sure. Also, I will probably talk a little bit about my family here, but don’t expect a lot of that because I am working on guarding their privacy pretty diligently.

Professional. I have a few different professional passions and am looking forward to talking about them and exploring them here. This is where I will pontificate on the importance of Quality Assurance in software design, the practical ins and outs of writing, peeks into the various sandboxes that I get to play in as an author (particularly the Dying of the Dark vampire world and the NashVegas paranormal hunters, as well as my own original settings – I have a few things I am working on here that are top secret at the moment), time management systems that have succeeded (and failed) for me as well as programming, and online learning in general as well as reviewing podcasts I have been enjoying and professional development books. I will also pontificate on the evils of the run-on sentence. I will post any original short story writing that is not related to the games I play under this tag.

Hobby. This is going to be where I will mostly focus on my hobby of miniature gaming. Like I said above, I might do a bit of art here, but since miniature games actually comprise a number of different areas from building and painting the models, to writing up army lists, coming up with narrative for my (and my friends’) armies, and actually playing the game. Plus I might do a few reviews of Black Library books here and there. I will also tag any gaming related fan-fiction that I write under this tag.

Anyway, if you have any thoughts on the best days for those lanes or other things you want me to write about, please let me know.

Stay safe and sane!

-Patrick

The leaves were so gorgeous I had to keep them in after the jog.

Specialization is for Insects

Hi. Just because I haven’t posted lately, doesn’t mean that I have been neglecting this blog. Far from it. I have actually been thinking a lot about it and trying to decide how to treat it going forward.

I am, you see, like most people. I am a father, a husband, a catholic, an ADHDer, a software QA engineer, an author, a gamer, a painter, an artist, a cook, a learner, a self-improver, and a few hundred other things. Conventional wisdom on blogs is that you should really focus your content in order to build a following.

I have started a few different focused blogs and all of them ended up dying sad and lonely deaths. I think trying to force that specialization was something that made it very difficult for me. There were times I was super focused on a certain game system and wanted to write a lot about it and share my games and models and experiences, and that was great until I wanted to write about something else or play a different game. I would end up forgetting about that blog, and it would just kind of fade out as I started up the next.

I considered making a more general blog, but worried about “the audience”. Would the people who were interested in my gaming stuff be turned off when I posted something about my faith? What about those looking for some bit of fiction set in my worlds and instead find me on a soapbox talking about software quality or online security? Those thoughts paralyzed me to the point where instead, I would spin up a new blog, write a dozen posts on it and then the cycle would renew.

I recently rediscovered a quote from one of my favorite authors when I was young. Robert Heinlein famously wrote:

“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”

Reflecting on this and why I feel compelled to express myself in the written word I decided to try and do a combined blog. I know that the conventional wisdom is probably on point that an audience is looking for something specific when they come to a blog or follow one because they want that content. I respect that and feel the same way for most of the blogs I follow. For that reason I decided that I am going to post topics on consistent days. The exact content and schedule is still being finalized and I will do a post on that in the coming days.

To those of you who decide that you are more interested in more focused content for your attention, I truly hope you find what you are looking for. For the rest of you who want to come with me on this ride, I hope that this will lead to more regular posting for me as I won’t feel the need to debate whether or not it is appropriate content for this blog. The title has been Random Thoughts for a long time, so it is time to live up that.

Stay safe, be well, and forge your own joy.

Patrick

P.S. just because pictures are more interesting that wall of text, enjoy this picture of me trying on glasses at the optometrist.

Death in Life (Free Fiction Friday)

Hello all, as I have mentioned in the past, it is my goal to be a much more regular poster on this blog (and a much less poster on social media). I am going to start a regular Friday posting of short stories and flash fiction. It will vary widely in content some will be reposts, some will be new original pieces and I am shooting around a thousand words or so as a target. I am following up yesterday’s post on the narrative Age of Sigmar campaign Shep and I are doing by sharing the narrative for my Ossiarch Bonereapers army, the Harvesters of Sorrow. Enjoy!

Lord Kyrush slid from his mount and walked toward the massive library hall. The psychopomp summons from his master bore an unusual call for haste and that alone had piqued his interest. He didn’t bother the tie the reigns of the skeletal beast to the ornate hitching rail. Some of the other Liege-Kavaloi preferred their steeds to retain some wild spirit thinking that it made the beast more ferocious on the battlefield, but not Kyrush. He preferred loyalty and obedience in all who served him. He had selected the souls bound to his warbeast by hand – two from loyal soldiers that he’d fought alongside millennia ago, when flesh still covered him, and the remainder belonged to those foes who had earned his begrudging respect on the battlefield. Some might see this as a move designed to degrade those who’d opposed him but in truth it was an honor. Of course, their individual personalities had been stripped out and refined but their ferocity and prowess remained. More than once he’d considered letting his mount lead a campaign. If he still possessed lips, they would have curled in a wry smile at the thought.

            The library hall was the largest building in the Dry City of Dur-Surrakan and contained the records of a ten-thousand conquests and hundred times that number of tribes and kingdoms fallen and forgotten over the millennia in the Mortal Realms. The scrolls and tablets were neatly stacked and arrayed on towering shelves, every single one in their proper place.  Kyrush had never bothered to learn the method of organization – it was said that a scribe would spend their first century committing the method to mind and Kyrush lacked the patience. This didn’t mean he found no use for the information stored there, quite the opposite. His study and perfection of war meant that he spent nearly as much time reading as anything else, but his own tupsars were efficient and reliable so there was no need.

            The summons didn’t say where to report, but Kyrush knew his master would be found in one of two places and since the Chartis Kosmoi was on a lower level he made for the map room. Entering the chamber he quickly saw his estimation had been correct.

            Elu-Erashim leaned over roughly hewn tablet as large as a table and dragged his fingers along the symbols etched in the top. Not adorned in his battle gear, the Master of the Bone Tithe was lank and tall – he would have towered over nearly all the intelligent mortal races save the ogor and their intellect was a point of constant debate. His eyes blazed with power, even when he was at rest. Kyrush knelt and awaited his master’s audience. In the past Kyrush had been made to wait days before his lord addressed him, but time has no meaning for the dead, so he waited.

            After a time, the Tithe Master Elu-Erashim took notice of him and turned eyes of balefire on the Liege-Kavalos. When he spoke, the voice echoed in Kyrush’s head alone, for the ossia of the Tithe Lord’s mouth was sealed around a scroll. That papyrus was cause of great mystery in the land of the dead. All of those who bore any sense of curiosity wondered at the words etched and hidden for him alone. Some claimed the papyrus contained a list of the deeds of the greatest dead, others that it was a list of those who’d escaped the tithe. Some swore it contained Elu-Erashim’s life name and was the magic by which Nagash bound him. Some even whispered it bore the darkest secrets of the Great Necromancer himself. Whatever the truth was, most were knew the realms would be cold and dark long before Elu-Erashim himself revealed the glyphs.

            “Lord Kyrush, Conqueror of the Oblate Eternal, I have cause for thy arms, and thy puissance in war. Would that we had a century that I might recall thy deeds, I would recall unto thee a thousand honors thy arm and thy blade have won, worthy Liege.”

            “I exist but to serve the Tithe, my lord. It is neither recognition nor ambition which drive my blade, but service and honor of the Legion.” Kyrush responded as tradition dictated but was surprised at the formality of address. He then noticed the Library’s own Liege-Tupsar was recording the moment on a scroll of vellum.

            Elu-Erashim crossed his arms and bowed. “I address thee thus, Liege-Kavalos Kyrush to commemorate this great day. Lord Nagash’s necroquake has revealed unto us a cache of heroic souls, long hidden by treacherous magics, deep within the heart of the Jade Kingdoms. As thou art aware, long have we sought a foothold eternal within Ghyran from whence to collect the tithes from the living. Within the Vast Wood of Whitkarnelles a great boon has fate decreed be ours. Not a dozen leagues from the soul-vault a Gate long dormant has awoken. The stars of Shyish have revealed unto our Chaldeans an omen of greatness. Within that dark wood shall our glories be written. Thou, oh Master of the Field, shall be the architect of our victory. Lord Katakros himself hath decreed it thus and chosen thee by name to be Emissary of the Tithe.”

            “For the honor of the Legion!” Kyrush cried and slammed his fist into his chest. Although there was no heart beating within his breast he felt a rush of excitement. He had been chosen by the greatest of them all. He would establish this foothold, grow it into a stronghold, and then a necropolis. He would raise statues to honor Nagash and strike fear and awe into the denizens the realm of Life, and harvest a tithe unmatched throughout all of the Mortal Realms.

Crusade to Glory!

As regular readers of this blog will know my friemesis, Shep and I have been really changing our mindset from a tourney-oriented hyper competitive point of view to a more narrative driven. While this has been happening for the last couple of years, it takes time to change and we haven’t been rushing it. There are a few different reasons for this, and I will be getting into that in a future post, but for right now, let’s just accept that we are competitive players who are really enjoying narrative. With the release of the Indomitus set for 40k, there were a few interesting things, but one of the most was the new narrative play called Crusade. The Goonhammer blog has a pretty comprehensive write up and review of the rules for it for Warhammer 40k.

Trust me, this is an Age of Sigmar post, but before we get there I needed to talk a little bit of 9th Edition Warhammer 40,000 and give you a frame of reference. Now, Shep and I started up our new factions for the year, me with Ossiarch Bonereapers – The Harvesters of Sorrow – and he is growing his Stormcast Eternals collection – The Knights Invictus – with a slight focus on the Warrior and Vanguard chambers.

This is our third themed year of doing this sort of thing. First was my Nighthaunts vs. the proto version of his Knights Invictus, and that was a very fun year which started with a very basic small first game that saw the soul of one of his leaders captured within the magical lock of a Spirit Torment and then had to get it back. It culminated with the Knights charging through a Realmgate to recover him and establishing a foothold within Shyish.

Boo!

Last year it was a 40k year and after an abortive start trying out Nurgle it eventually ended with the birth of my Harlequins, The Masque of the Sanguine Dawn. Overall, the year ended up being a bit less narrative and kind of fell apart at the end of the year due to a personal tragedy and some overall disappointing outcomes in trying to set up games beyond just the two of us. That being said, I am pretty happy with how they ended up looking.

Joke’s on you!

This year, we decided to do AoS again and had really big plans for 2020 like the rest of the planet and then COVID happened. Despite that, Shep and I have been working away at our armies and the narrative and even managed to get in a couple of games. We started out using the Path to Glory rules as we developed the narrative. Quick aside, we like to not plan too far ahead, or be too restrictive and let the results of the game kind of influence the flow of where we go.

Unfortunately, the Path to Glory wasn’t really working for us. It didn’t even really give you much of an idea of how to play your army, which is something we were really hoping for in order to help us determine how to grow our forces into something that was interesting visually, story wise, and didn’t absolutely suck on the table. We’d already begun talking about maybe just scrapping the Path to Glory and kind of home-brewing something, which isn’t our go-to because we are still evolving as gamers from competitive tourney players and that just seemed a bridge too far.

And then Indomitus happened. There was that initial rush of new game excitement and we even talked about maybe switching the year to a 40k year (dibs on Necrons!). Games Workshop is really leaning into the multiple ways to play angle (narrative, matched, open), and there was a little bit about Crusade. It seemed much more inline with the kind of gamine we wanted to do and we ended up taking the dive into some home-brew work. Having the structure of Crusade really made it feel more proper to us, and seemed to provide the necessary framework we were looking for. Shep is “running” the narrative campaign this year (I did the last AoS one) and he dove into making the necessary tweaks with a bit of feedback and input from me.

Kyrush the Unyielding, Troika of the Crown Transcendant, Lord Beyond Time, Conquerer of the Oblate Eternal, Bringer of the Ruin of Nations, Master of the Field.

I am pleased to say that it is working out really well for us so far. Giving all of your units names, and watching them “level up” is a nice little bit of helping us own the game and our choices in game. Occasionally the question will arise, “What would Kyrush the Unyielding do?” and that has led to some very memorable moments which will be forthcoming posts in this series.

The Harvesters of Sorrow

If you are interested in taking a look at the ruleset we are using, go for it! Feel free to adapt it to your own liking or run it straight as is.

We also are just using a simple excel spreadsheet to keep track of our units and their glory, experience, and happenings. Here is a look at mine, again feel free to use as you see fit. (this is after the first game – so you can see some experience, etc).

Next time I will share with you the narrative bit that I started writing at the beginning of our campaign and then following that a narrative writeup of the games we have played so far. Thanks for making it this far and let me know what you think!

Just Checking In

Let me apologize in advance for this post that basically could have just a tweet, but I am super busy right now, even by my standard of normally busy. I am posting this because it is one of my intentions for the year to be more active in blogging, and less active in other social media and I have found over the past few days that I need to do one or the other. Mostly because I like the digital sound of my own voice I guess.

Anyway, big congrats to Darrick and Darlene on your wedding and making it work despite the challenges of our time including the closing of the venue for the reception, and torrential rain going along with all the normal stressful things associated with a wedding. We know that there will be many many happy years to come for you guys and we look forward to sharing it with you as family. On a personal note, thanks for giving me an event that is not a funeral to wear a suit to!

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Even in the time of Corona, love and faith both find ways to bring hope and community!

I will write more later this week – I have a few different things I want to write about, and hopefully will have time soon. On the nerd front, I got in a game against my game nemesis and good buddy Ryan, writing is going well as I am finishing up work on book 3 of the Dying of the Dark vampire series, as well as some very small art updates.

Free Books for my Birthday!

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I usually make my first novella, The Monitor, free on Amazon for my birthday. I totally spaced it out this year, but a friend reminded me about it so I made it free now! It is my birthday week, so that is close enough for me – you can get it here! (All the links will open in a new tab/window – also remember, ALWAYS mouseover a link to make sure that it is sending you to where it says it is. Be safe online).

Also, I will probably be taking this down toward the end of the year and then updating and republishing it in an anthology of stories early next year, so get the OG version and see what changes!

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Turns out my writing partner also decided to make The Vampires’ Last Lover, the first book of our take on vampires, free for a few days! That was unexpected but super cool, so go get that for free too! (It would be cool, if you liked it, to leave a review).

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The 49th State of the Self

Today is my birthday, which is always a time to both look back at the year that was and to look forward to the year to come. I decided to spend a bit more time than usual in introspection and to share it here on my blog that I am planning on using much more regularly for a variety of topics on a regular schedule. Intrigued? Keep reading. Also be warned, this blog post will most definitely be TLDR for most.

A lot has happened over the course of my last trip around the sun. I am going to touch slightly on these at the beginning just for context. Some of it has been great, much of it not so much. The biggest thing is obviously the death of my mom, which has eclipsed all else. I still think of her almost daily, and miss her the same. That being said, some other craziness (COVID-19, mass protests, and currently an early fire season and record setting heat, among other things) has had a major effect on most everyone, and I am no exception.

These states are not in order of priority, but they are in an order which will hopefully flow into each of the other states. That is my intention, anyway. Feel free to let me know whether I succeeded or failed.

Professional State

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Like many people today I consider myself to have more than one profession. Call it diversification of revenue, side hustle, or passion project if you prefer. I am going to address each of those in time, starting with the “day job”.

Most of you know that I have worked for Ticketmaster for long time (just hit 10 years on this boomerang there). It is a good company, with great people and fantastic mission. Simply put, we help fans connect with their passion for live entertainment. Whether it be sports, music, theater, monster trucks or whatever, we help it happen. I know lots of people have a knee-jerk dislike for us and that hurts my feelings sometimes because most of the people I know and work with are great people with a shared love for live – myself included.

When my mom’s condition turned for the worst, I talked with my direct supervisor and there was never a question as to what to do. It was “go.” There was no pressure for outstanding work, no checking of available vacation days. No hemming or hawing. Simply support, and for that I will forever be grateful. I got to be with my mom for the last days of her life – both when she was lucid and when she wasn’t. There aren’t a lot of companies with leaders like we have.

Speaking of our leadership, when COVID-19 was just a thing on the news happening overseas, our management was taking a hard look at things to come. They had us working from home a couple of weeks before it was mandated. They didn’t have to do this but they did.

We are an industry that is entirely dependent upon people coming together in large crowds. When you talk about the economy taking a dive, consider the live entertainment market. Almost overnight we went from being on target for a record year, to zero revenue. Our leadership all the way up to the president of Live Nation has been pretty frugal to begin with and there were hopes of a short disruption that we could weather. Unfortunately, we ended up having furloughs and pay cuts for those who remained. While I myself was not furloughed, many of my good friends were. And this hurt a lot and has caused (and continues to cause) some level of anxiety. 

The company has worked to be both open and transparent about the future challenges we face as an industry and company. They also recognized that this so-called “new normal” was anything but. They have provided a number of services such as regular twice weekly meditation by zoom and support for parents to help keep their kids engaged and growing.

Overall I am concerned about the future, but I also still enjoy the work and am grateful to work with some of the most talented and decent human beings I have ever known. That being said, I am currently enrolled in a class for a security certification as it is something that interests me in the field as well as being a valuable skill set to develop.

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On to my other professional passion – writing. I am not going to sugar coat it – writing has been really hard since my mom died. She gave me my love of reading, and some part of me drove me to be a writer to make her proud of me. I feel like I let her down by not achieving greater success.

I did a lot of work on book 2 of the Nash Vegas supernatural series, and that focused on some Civil War era spirits, and in light of the last few months it just feels like this is not the moment to do this book. It will come out at some point, and will be very reworked. I have been working on book 3 of the vampire series – and am very excited for this one. It should be out this fall.

Writing has always been something that I have done for myself first. I enjoy it and process various ideas and characters. Since my mom died, writing has been hard. It hasn’t come easy, and hasn’t even been fun. I expect that to eventually change but it is rough right now.

Mental and Emotional State

I am very much an introvert. As a result the 2020 lockdowns haven’t been terrible for me. I’ve loved spending extra time with my family and having a built in excuse to not have to leave. That being said, we live in a small two bedroom apartment and it is easy to get grouchy with each other. 

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A few years back I was diagnosed with ADHD. The surprise for most who know me was that I wasn’t diagnosed previously. In reality, it was both a shock and a relief. I spent a while coming to terms with that diagnosis and the treatment options, and this last year I feel like I really hit my stride on how to be a functioning neurodiverse person. The combination of medication and BCT and new skills such as meditation and using a bullet journal have been life changing for me both in terms of getting stuff done and in giving myself some compassion for my (many) failures earlier in life. I am trying to carry this compassion and understanding over into helping my own children with their challenges.

Something else that really helped my mental and emotional state was that during this period I read a book called Atomic Habits by James Clear . This book is amazing, and has made such a difference in my life. ADHD gives me a tendency to go all or nothing. Reading the case studies on how small changes add up over time much in the same was compound interest does has really had a positive effect on so many aspects of my life, and gave me the faith that I didn’t have to change a million things at once, or turn a dial from three up to ten.

As mentioned above, my work has given us access to regular meditation and I  have tried a few different apps to help out. I absolutely loved Whil, but as a cost-cutting measure my company doesn’t subscribe to it, and it is a b2b thing only. That being said, Headspace is decent and I have been using both it and Hallow. I prefer Hallow overall, but we do meditation at bed with the kids and the prayer structure and closing by crossing ourselves disturbs and wakes them up and kind of counters the point. That being said, meditation was super hard for someone with ADHD but a couple of things that really helped me were starting out with very short three minute meditations. Also, one of the meditations I followed said something along the lines of “when you catch your mind wandering, congratulate yourself because of this mindfulness”. That was a big breakthrough for me.

Even as an introvert I really get a lot of mental and emotional value out of hanging out with my friends and playing miniature games. This is something I have done for years, and is something that really matters to me. I have used the extra time at home to put a little bit of paint on models at break and lunch during work and as a result have been knocking out some models. I am very happy with how they are looking and those rare opportunities I have had to play games with them have been a blast. Obviously I would like to get more time to paint and play, but I am grateful for what I have and this is one of the very visible places that Atomic Habits have yielded fantastic results.

In terms of an area for improvement here, now that the kids are getting older, I need to make more an effort to play these games with them, and the games that interest them. We play family games a lot, Uno, Boggle, various board games, but they ask questions and love the models I am painting, so I will try and be more inviting to them and willing to play “my” games with them.

This year has also seen me really reconnecting with my catholic faith in a deeper manner. For Lent 2019 I added this image as my phone lock screen.

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A nun designed it and it is laden with symbolism. Death is something we catholics should think about. It would be easy to think the this rough year has shaken my faith, but in actuality it has strengthened it. By facing death – my mom’s, and then thinking about my own as a result, has had the paradoxical effect of a much broader and longer view of things. A decade is not much compared to a century and the century is short when viewed through a millennial lens. My life may be short in comparison, but it is the time I have and what I do and who I am echos down through my children, and then through theirs, and so on. This knowledge of my own ephemeral existence has made me feel connected me to a greater, more lasting one.

Finally, during lockdown I made the conscious decision and put in the effort to get fit. While this has definitely had an emotional effect, I am going to talk about it more detail below.

Physical State

Based on some of the early things I read regarding COVID-19 I was concerned for my safety. I have a bit of extra weight, I had pneumonia as a kid and then a few times as an adult, and also some exercise induced asthma as a kid and just general weak cardio system. I have always thought of myself built more for strength. My mom had recently died, and I didn’t want to do that to my kids. It also seemed to me that being inside all the time would lead to vitamin D deficiency which would make me even more at risk. So I started to take things seriously. I have tried in the past and have had a tendency to jump right in, push myself too hard, and end up with a fairly severe injury. I didn’t want to do this, so I sought out a mentor for health. Luckily for me, I didn’t have to look too far.

Last fall, before the stuff with my mom, I was talking with my friend Ryan, who has lost not only a great amount of weight, but also successfully implemented a number of lifestyle changes that have him in better shape than when he was in high school. He was (and is continuing to be) generous enough to share with me the things that worked for him, and the things that didn’t. One of the first, and most important, things was to track every single thing that goes into your mouth. Overall I never really thought I was eating “bad” but really started keeping track of everything with an app called MyFitnessPal. The first few months the idea was to change nothing at all, just kind of get a baseline and identify. An interesting effect of this was that I found that I cut out beers and sodas almost immediately. I always knew they were basically empty calories, but actually having to enter it and see it just made it not really wroth it. I also started making other changes for the same reason. Anyway, once I had that baseline and the habit of tracking the food, we started playing with the macros (increasing protein, cutting down on processed sugar, etc). Again, just minor tweaks rather than a major change.

I was also not supposed to start exercising anything extra at this point, but for reasons listed above, I decided to start a walking plan which was on the MyFitnessPal blog.

Also, this was pretty early in the US phase of the pandemic so I was able to get a kettlebell which is something I had wanted to get and keep in my car with the idea that I would workout at the parking lot for my work. Fortunately I was able to find one. The recommended weight for males starting is 25-30 pounds, but as I mentioned, I have had a tendency to overdo it in the past so just went with a 20 pounder. In hindsight I wish I would have bought both the 25 and 30 pounders at the time, because they have become very hard to find for a decent price, but live and learn.

After completing the 6 week walking plan, I have continued to walk on a daily basis. Also once I had completed it, I started a very basic kettlebell workout plan from Greg Brookes  – his 4 minute circuits were short enough that even I could not come up with a valid excuse not to do it and I was able to turn that into a habit. 

Overall I have lost nearly 35 pounds since February and am seeing big changes in how my clothes are fitting on me. And these are with just minor but intentional changes – remember Atomic Habits above? Yeah, I have worked really hard to keep that in mind in every aspect of my life.

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Friends, Allies, and Acquaintances 

2020 has been a challenging year. It has also been a year that I have begun to realize that I need to redefine my relationship with social media. ADHD often has addictive behavior components and I have struggled with addiction to video games and, more recently, social media and online in general. Maybe it is FOMO, maybe it is hyper focus. In any event, along with my mindfulness practice it has started to become clear to me that I allow what people write to affect me too much, and in a negative way.

Again, I have to credit and thank Ryan for the following bit of insight as well. People haven’t really changed over the last 30 years and somehow we managed to get on just fine with people. All of those opinions weren’t just in your face all the time. Basically Social Media has made many daily interactions into that awkward Thanksgiving with the family jerk after a few too many drinks. It has a tendency toward bellicosity and offense. And it turns out that I would rather just like people and give them the benefit of the doubt. My dad, who also died way too young, was a very blunt and often crude guy, who said things to shock people. To be fair, that really helped the things he said stick. Anyway, if you are of a delicate humor, I apologize in advance. He used to say “opinions were like assholes. Everybody has one, and they all stink.” Something about social media makes people think that everyone else wants to see their assholes, er, sorry, hear their opinions. And frankly, I’d rather not.

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To that end, I am going to be cutting back on my social media use – particularly Facebook and Twitter, although Instagram as well to a lesser degree. I am still working out the exact schedules and details so watch this space.

Holistic Overview and what the future holds.

So that is where I am at right now. I think it is a pretty fair representation of the last year, and I am happy with the areas I have grown. I believe that there is no true homeostasis in life; that you are either growing or you are dying and that is largely a matter of inertia and choice, and your inertia is determined by your choices. I have often failed to live up to this ideal, but there is value in striving.

I have a lot that I want to say about my mom. She was an amazing, strong, and loving person. She was chronically late and yesterday (the 16th) I felt very out of sorts. I eventually came to the realization that I was expecting a text message from her saying that my birthday card would be late, but that she would get it out. I cried when I realized that, and now writing this, I am crying again. I will be sharing more on her in the future. I often took her for granted and am so ashamed about that. I had to set a monthly reminder to call her, because I would get so caught up in the grind of daily life that I would forget to call her for a few months. I regret all the times that I blew her off because I was “too busy”. Expect this blog to become a place of memories about her, and my own childhood, because I realize I have a terrible memory when I try to recall but sometimes things bubble up and I don’t want to forget them. Or her.

She continues to teach me even with her passing, because she was young. I always thought I would have another year, or ten, or twenty, with her and there would be time and the truth of the matter is that tomorrow is never guaranteed for anyone. She has left an amazing legacy in me and in my own kids. She was kind and wise in ways I am just now beginning to understand.

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In closing, allow me to say simply, that in 2020 the state of the Self is strong.