Archive for August, 2006

Eight Years of Morning Pages

18:42 08 Aug 2006. Updated: 10:07 24 Aug 2006

“Morning pages” are a practice from The Artist’s Way. The idea is that you write every day, preferably in the morning. You don’t show the writing to anyone, and what it is doesn’t matter at all, as long as you write enough.

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19:57 07 Aug 2006

Accent has always been an issue for me in Ireland, because I don’t sound Irish, despite seventeen years of living here. Ireland gets tons of American tourists, so the natural assumption of people that I encounter here is that I’m a tourist. This bothers me, although I’m not entirely sure why. [more...]

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Snacks on a Plane

09:15 06 Aug 2006. Updated: 17:55 08 Aug 2006

That’s right—I’m talkin’ about snacks on a motherfuckin’ plane.

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The Desert of the About-To-Leave

03:08 05 Aug 2006

Not quite a desert, perhaps, but I somehow felt a nod to Baudrillard was appropriate. Whenever I’m about to leave a place I’m established in, I feel as if the departure were unreal, illusory. This happens more strongly when my destination is another place that I am also somewhat established in (trips between Dublin and San Francisco fit this category perfectly). The feeling that the place I am about to go is somehow not real clings to me for a few days before I leave, getting stronger as departure nears. There is a corresponding other feeling, which is that the place I am in feels “more real”, in contrast to where I’m going. I start to feel as if I am more grounded where I am, more connected to where I am, as if I “should be” where I am, and not elsewhere.

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July Reading

23:02 04 Aug 2006. Updated: 22:14 27 Jun 2013

I read a rather ridiculous amount in July. This is probably not a good sign, almost undoubtedly indicating a thoroughly escapist mindset. It seems that being depressed, or close to depression, results in either very heavy or very light reading for me.

Still, reading is better than a lot of other activities I could have been doing, and I did read some great books, including:

Flesh and Blood, by Michael Cunningham. I was surprised by how much I liked this family saga, and found the writing to be excellent.

Garnethill, by Denise Mina. More excellent writing, a plot that pulled me along, an excellent, believable and original protagonist, and an effectively grim and oppressive atmosphere. I ended up reading the whole trilogy, and some more books by Mina, and thought they were all excellent.

Kafka on the Shore, by Haruki Murakami. I’m a huge Murakami fan, and this did not disappoint. Not quite as utterly amazing as The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (which everyone should read), but still ethereal, compelling, and oddly down-to-earth at times, a mixture that Murakami does better than anyone else I can think of.

A Long Line of Dead Men, by Lawrence Block. I’m a sucker for Lawrence Block’s Scudder books, about a recovering-alcoholic ex-cop in New York. Gritty crime fiction with enjoyable plotting and occasionally lyrical prose, and I like the protagonist. I liked this one most of the three Scudder books I read in July.

Underground, by Haruki Murakami. This was the hardest read from last month. Not due to the subject matter (the 1995 Tokyo Subway gas attacks) as much as to the fact that it’s largely made up of interviews. I found the stream of interviews difficult to stick with, which probably says something about my reading preferences. It was amazing to me how much easier I found the essay sections of the book. Despite that, it was worth reading to get quite a lot of insight into how people react during crises, and how both city socialization and reliance on central authorities make people much less able to react to disasters. Some of the later interviews (with members and ex-members of Aum Shinrikyo) also reveal details on the mindsets people who get involved with cults.

I liked a lot of the other books I read also, but those were the really outstanding ones in my opinion. (Eventually I’ll enter all of them in a database application and write reviews of all of them as well…).

For the curious, the full list of last month’s reading:

  • Mr. Irresponsible’s Bad Advice, Bill Barol
  • Flesh and Blood, Michael Cunningham
  • The Exception to the Rulers: Exposing Oily Politicians War Profiteers and the Media That Love Them, Amy Goodman with David Goodman
  • Hell to Pay, George Pelecanos
  • Soul Circus, George Pelecanos
  • Hard Revolution, George Pelecanos
  • Drama City, George Pelecanos
  • Garnethill, Denise Mina
  • Kafka on the Shore, Haruki Murakami
  • When the Sacred Ginmill Closes, Lawrence Block
  • A Long Line of Dead Men, Lawrence Block
  • All the Flowers are Dying, Lawrence Block
  • A Simple Plan, Scott Smith
  • Underground, Haruki Murakami
  • The Blood Knight, Greg Keyes
  • The Ghost Brigades, John Scalzi
  • The Ruins, Scott Smith
  • Exile, Denise Mina
  • Resolution, Denise Mina
  • The Dead Hour, Denise Mina
  • On Snooker, Mordecai Richler
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Ice Age/Alliances/Coldsnap Draft

21:56 03 Aug 2006. Updated: 12:47 27 Jun 2013

We played this somewhat bizarre format at draft last night, and overall people seemed to dislike it.

It’s a strange environment, as Ice Age and Alliances were printed over ten years ago, before draft was really a serious consideration for set design. Coldsnap was printed this summer, ostensibly to “complete” the Ice Age block. But since Ice Age and Alliances are long out of print, Coldsnap was designed to be drafted on its own. So the format consists of two very old sets that aren’t designed for draft at all, and a modern set that wasn’t designed to go with the first two. The snow theme is a key indicator of this: if draft had been a consideration for Ice Age, they would have printed snow lands in the boosters, not just in the starter packs.

We should have marked 16 lands as “snow”, and distributed them as the 16th and 13th cards in the Ice Age and Alliances boosters.

Most of the other players considered this the worst draft format ever. I’m not sure I agree, because I think I preferred it to triple-Coldsnap, which annoys me greatly. Probably because of the Ripple mechanic, which depends on luck in drafting it and luck in playing it.

It seems certain that we won’t be trying it again…

I actually enjoyed it, despite placing dead last in my draft. I thought I had a strong deck, with Ray of Command, Illusionary Forces, Rimescale Dragon, Balduvian Horde, 2x Storm Shaman, 2x Martyr of Ashes, Vexing Sphinx, Meteor Shower, and other cards that I thought were reasonable. Most of my games were close, and I won one game in all my matches, losing two and drawing one. I suspect that a big part of the reason I did poorly is that Red and Blue are both rather snow-dependent in Coldsnap, but there’s no way I could have gotten enough snow lands to support that theme. So while everyone else was picking up good removal, fatties, and swift beaters in Coldsnap, I didn’t get much that was helpful beyond the Dragon and Sphinx and Martyrs—all good, but not enough to compete with the 9+ cards other people brought in. A shame I didn’t think that through in advance…

That poor performance ended my recent good run at the Canvas drafts, and since I’ll miss a bunch in a row now, I’m going to drop well out of the seeding top eight. Hopefully I’ll be able to finish out the Ravnica/Guildpact/Dissension block with some strong results to get back to the top table before Time Spiral comes out.

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11:29 02 Aug 2006

I started using Zipcar a few months ago, and I love it.

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A Month of Blogging

11:45 01 Aug 2006

In August I’m going to post something to this blog every day.

I’m not placing any restrictions on how long (or short) the posts have to be, or on subject matter. In advance I’m not sure what I’ll post about, given that I seem to have had trouble coming up with more than one or two things to post about per month. But part of the reason for this is to see if the practice of posting will bring up all kinds of other things that I in fact do want to write about.

For a long time, I’ve wanted to get back into the practice of writing for public consumption. I write my morning pages every day, and have done that for about eight years, but that’s explicitly private writing. So this month is practice and an experiment.

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