Sunday, 20 November 2016

NaNoWriMo 2016

In theory I've been participating in NaNoWriMo this month, but up until a few days ago I was only getting a few hundred words per day. Mostly it was too much to do at work and needing to rest from it on weekends, but then I realized another problem was that I wasn't happy with the story and not sure where to take it. So I picked a different story and now am excited about it.

Sunday, 17 July 2016


On Thursday we took a 4-hour train ride back from Edinburgh to London; on Saturday I took a plane back from London to Montreal, and today I'll take a train from Montreal to Kingston. So I spent a day and two partial days in London as the last couple of vacation days.  There is a lot to see in London, plenty for a month (or a year!), so we had to pick just a couple of highlights

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Last Explore of Edinburgh

Today was our last full day in Edinburgh; we spent it making sure we'd entirely explored the Royal Mile. We had prevously walked from North Bridge west all the way to the Castle, so today we walked east to the Parliament (actually, to the bus stop just before it, since we had walked from Parliament to the bus stop on Monday we visited it and the Palace of Holyroodhouse).

Monday, 11 July 2016

Palace, Parliament, and Peak

Today we explored the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the Scottish Parliament across the street, and Arthur's Seat a little to the south.

Inspirational quote for new writers

Seen on a writer's chatroom; don't know where to find the original:  Found many places on the web, including Goodreads. The original is in part 3 of a 4-part video from NPR.

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.” —Ira Glass

Sunday, 10 July 2016


This morning we went to the 10am service at St. Giles Cathedral on the Royal Mile, then spent the afternoon aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia.

Saturday, 9 July 2016

Rest and Words

Some months ago when I mentioned taking a big vacation to Britain, my doctor said she was a little dubious about trips where people run around constantly, exhausting themselves so that at the end they need a vacation from their vacation. I’m not sure “running around constantly” quite applies to us, since we tend to go to one place each day and explore it thoroughly, but nevertheless, after over a week of exploring York and the Edinburgh area we’re feeling tired – and Margaret has to last two more weeks beyond the end our our stay in Britain next weekend, for the Cantabile Choirs' trip to Paris and another week in Britain after that. So today we took the predicted heavy rain as an excuse to justify taking a day off.

I decided to write up a few Britishisms we encountered – words or phrases that are different from what we say in Canada. Lots of people know about “boot” for trunk and “petrol” for gasoline, but here are some that I’d never heard before.

Friday, 8 July 2016

Stirling Castle

Today we took a 40-or-so minute train ride from Edinburgh to the town of Stirling. It has several tourist attractions, but the big one is Stirling Castle, where we spend most of our day (from about 10:30 to 4:30). Given the way we want to explore things thoroughly, we would have had to spend overnight in Stirling to fit everything in.

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Rosslyn Chapel

So, like 150,000 other fans of The DaVinci Code each year, I chose to visit Rosslyn Chapel, about a 35-minute bus ride from our vacation apartment. Margaret proposed a lot of our travel destinations, since she was in York and Edinburgh much more recently than me, but this one was my suggestion.

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Edinburgh Castle

Today we visited Edinburgh Castle; I visited all the public areas I could find except two. We then ate dinner at the Elephant House Cafe, where J.K. Rowling started writing the Harry Potter series.

Monday, 4 July 2016

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Bishops and Barbicans

Today my feet were still sore from Friday's exploration of York, so I wasn't sure I'd be able to do much, but I managed to keep going.  We attended an ordination of deacons at Yorkminster Cathedral, had afternoon tea, took a bus tour of the city, and walked the segment of the old wall that we missed on Friday.

Moors and Dales

Yesterday we took a private car tour of the Yorkshire Dales, visiting several  of the sites associated with James Herriot, the author of several books with slightly fictionalized accounts of his life as a vet. Some were real locations, such as his actual home and surgery, and others were used in filming the All Creatures Great and Small TV series. The people making the series must have decided that a lot of the real places didn't look photogenic enough.

Friday, 1 July 2016

The Walled City of York

I've just started my first overseas trip in 22 years, and the first big vacation my wife and I have taken alone together since our honeymoon over 32 years ago. Wednesday/Thursday was something like 28 hours of travel with gaps waiting for the next mode of transportation, which I plan to forget about. Today was a wonderful walk around the old walled city of York.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Extraordinary skills for D&D 3.x

For quite a few years the only tabletop / play-by-post role playing game I've used is D&D 3.x (or the Pathfinder variant). As far as I can tell it's still fairly popular, despite the fact that D&D is up to a 5th edition, and various OSR (Old School Rules) have emerged. But it has always suffered from the problem that magical power is roughly quadratic with level, whereas everything else is linear or worse. My online gaming colleague Keith Davies has designed a whole new system, Echelon, in reaction to this, but Echelon is in flux and I'd rather not take quite so big a step away from the familiar just yet. So I've looked into some (as yet unplaytested) house rules that would beef up mundane classes, at least for a few levels more than at present.

This post is about some ideas for improving skills. If you think they ought to be totally mundane ("skillmonkeys can't have nice things"), this is not for you.

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Recovering slowly…

It has been pretty much exactly 3 months since I broke my left elbow, and I've recovered a lot, though not quite enough to return to work yet.  Here is the saga of what happened since my last post.

Saturday, 12 March 2016

My temporarily one-handed life

As I posted a few days ago, I recently seriously damaged my left elbow in a fall. The surgeon who replaced part of my elbow had to put me in a humongous cast in part to prevent the elbow from moving at all, and in part to immobilize the wrist I also broke. This leaves me temporarily trying to operate with one hand, since I was told not to attempt to lift more than the weight of three sheets of paper with my left fingers. Fortunately for me, I know this situation is temporary, which makes it much easier to cope with emotionally. I'm sure people who have permanently lost the use of a hand have much more significant issues. I'm not looking for sympathy; I thought some people might be interested in a few details:

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

My recent accident

On Tuesday, February 22, I slipped and fell while walking from my office at Queen's University to the bus stop. In the process I seriously damaged my elbow, and will be in a cast for at least the next 10 weeks. Here is the story in more detail – not quite "gory detail" but close. By the way, I am dictating this via Dragon Naturally Speaking; typing with a few fingers of one hand is no fun at all.