I’m Going To Win A Truck! (Well, Probably Not, But I Can Hope)

Howdy folks,

I hope 2016 is treating you nicely so far. The first month of the new year has been somewhat difficult for me, though February is certainly looking better at the moment. I haven’t really contributed to my resolutions BUT I have started reading/editing my book at work, which is something, right? Maybe if I pretend the new year started February 1st, I won’t feel so bad. Hmm.

So why the negativity for 2016? Uh, I should clarify that mostly everything has been good. Work has been fine, Vanna and I are doing well, and there is some exciting times coming up, such as the Ice Fishing Extravaganza tomorrow (Saturday), and my Birthday/Valentine’s Day the following week. Quite a lot to look forward to, so that’s nice.

Additionally, not that long ago, we were in Madison, Wisconsin to visit our friend Ashley for her birthday. Have to admit, Madison really showed Brainerd up. Not only was it a picturesque place, there was a lot of things to do there. Definitely an interesting city (I can’t say much more, mainly because we didn’t have the time to do a detailed tour). We really couldn’t get over how lively it was! So many people out walking, skating, shopping…not used to that level of activity here (even in the summer, Brainerd only looks that busy at the big events). It was a good weekend. The one big downside was the 14 hour round trip which really ate into our time there. Vanna and I agreed that we would have to go again in the summer for a longer stay, so to actually explore what Madison has to offer. Here’s a picture of us in front of the Capitol building. Maybe next time we’ll take more than just the one photo!

Woo, blocking the road!
But amongst all this good, there has been some bad, mainly health related issues. Nothing horrific, but I was miserable for a week with a serious-ish stomach illness. Three days off work was the result, and my Martin Luther King extended weekend was ruined as I spent most of it writhing in pain. Then, when I finally felt better, Vanna became sick with a similar problem. THEN my laptop decided to stop working to really annoy me. Fortunately we are all better now, but it wasn’t exactly how I wanted to start the new year. Boo!

Other than that, I guess I don’t really have any complaints; maybe this would have been more pertinent had I posted this blog sooner. I mainly brought it up to introduce the real topic of this post, which is…

Uh. Well, forget that because it isn’t ready. I thought it was – had it planned for over a month now – but I feel like there is more to be done before I share. So I’m going to end this here, and come back later to publish the true content of this intended post. Sorry about that. I’ll explain why it took so long once it’s ready, I promise. It’ll make sense. I’m not being lazy, honest!

Right. Wish me luck at the ice fishing! I’ll talk about that experience, maybe with pictures (of me and the truck I won, perhaps?), sometime next week if I have the time. As for the other thing, hopefully that will follow shortly after.

Speak to you guys later,

Alex

A Short New Years Eve Post

Howdy folks,

Well I hope you all had a good Christmas break! It didn’t last long enough for my liking, but thankfully I have another three day break starting tonight. It offers much needed respite, or at least much wanted respite, and it should be a great time as I mostly plan to do absolutely nothing. Football, Xbox, lounging in my chair…oh yeah, I’m excited to do nothing, especially after the busyness of Christmas.

So what did I get up to last week? Largely what I said before; Friday and Saturday in cities, Sunday at home and with family in Brainerd. My favorite part was probably Thursday night though, eating curry and watching The Great Escape with the wife. We also opened our gifts from my folks, which was a good combination of  chocolate, British sweets, and some personal items. There was also a few other cool things we didn’t expect to get, like a personalized calendar and a Skye jigsaw that I might complete someday. It’s only 100 pieces…I’m sure I can manage that, right?

From the Vanna side, we got more food-related gifts and a cool knife which I’m looking to use at any occasion, whether it is necessary or not. The ‘big’ presents, aka my games, were bought in advance so no surprise there, though I have enjoyed playing Rise of the Tomb Raider during my Fallout 4 hiatus (it was getting too much for me, I could sense that I was losing enjoyment for it…should be good to play again after a few weeks though).

What else is going on? Well we still hope to see Daddy’s Home at some point, but that might not happen until midweek. Tonight Sharissa is coming over for New Year celebrations, and Friday we’re having dinner at Becky’s with her family. As for the rest of the weekend? Well, I think I’ve already covered that. And for the New Year? Um, I suppose I do have a few resolutions:

1) Be healthy. Couldn’t hurt to exercise and lose some weight.
2) Spend more time with Vanna. Now that she works less, we can do more things together.
3) Write every day. I need to finish my book already!

I think that’ll do. I’m not sure how far they will go – according to my work calendar, 17th is the give up day for resolutions – but I’ll do my best to be consistent, especially with 2 and 3.  They are both very important to me, and things I want to do. Eating healthy…that’s just a bonus.

Another bonus would be keeping up more regular appearances with the blog. I’ll try that too. For now though, I’m off to celebrate.  Have a happy New Year, guys. See you again in 2016!

Alex

A Short Christmas Post

Hello all,

This is just a quick message to wish you all a merry Christmas! I’m excited, mainly because I leave early Thursday afternoon. This working lark certainly lowers your standards for good things, especially when it comes to free time. I don’t like it. I don’t like it at all.

Anyway, we do have some plans for this weekend, though they have been somewhat tempered by an illness in the family. Here’s a breakdown of our activities.

Thursday – Finish work at 3pm. Go home, have an Xmas curry (the best kind of curry!) and watch The Great Escape with the wife (Vanna’s first ever watch…I don’t think her enthusiasm is quite as high as mine!). We will also open what presents we do have (we bought for ourselves this year; Vanna got her Kindle, I bought 3 games that so far have remain untouched thanks to Fallout 4, and probably will stay that way for a while) and pack our bags for…

Friday/Saturday – Going down to visit Vanna’s grandparents and uncle Ben for Christmas day. Not entirely sure what our plans are once we’re there, but I’m looking forward to seeing family.  There is also Saturday football to watch before we head back home, so that’s something.

Sunday  – Might be a family dinner, not sure. Otherwise I’ll Skype my dad in the morning and hopefully see Daddy’s Home at the cinema. Then it’ll be Xbox time until evening when the Christmas festivities end and I return to the zone of responsibility (ie, make my lunch for work, wash my clothes, go to bed early).

*sigh*

Well, that’s about it for me. I hope you all have a wonderful holiday, see the people you love, get the gifts you want etc. I should be back again prior to 2016 with another update on our life events. I do want to write something more extensive (so many things to talk about, so little time!), but for now these -500 posts will have to suffice (heck, writing that much is difficult; I’m so unfamiliar with my laptop now, typing takes a real effort) until I have a more productive system in place. Sorry about that.

Anyway, I’m off. Speak to you later!

Alex

P.S. No Christmas picture this year, I’ll make sure to get one sorted for 2016, however.

Work, Work And Work…Oh, And More Fallout 4, Obviously.

Howdy folks,

Wow, it has been a while since my last update, hasn’t it? For once, however, my excuse of being too busy is a legitimate one. This past weekend was the first time I’ve been in the house for an extended amount of time with no responsibilities since the beginning of Thanksgiving week. Between my work, Vanna’s work, and all the time spent with friends and family (pft, those people), I haven’t really had much of a chance to relax in my chair. Some days I was lucky to enjoy an hour of television/Fallout 4 before I had to sleep, never mind finding time to publish another blog post (after being used every day, my laptop has now begun gathering cobwebs) As I say, it has been a very busy month!

Things have been pretty good though. I’m enjoying my job and I’d say I’ve had a successful start so far, despite the many technical difficulties slowing me down. I’ve picked up a lot of information relatively easy, and I’m largely capable of working independently with my assignments now. Hopefully I can continue to progress and become more integral to the team. Sometimes it can be somewhat daunting (I am a complete rookie when it comes to finances) but I’m getting there. Well, at least I think I am anyway.

What has really helped with my integration is the friendly atmosphere at Ascensus. Everybody has been very nice, helpful and patient with me. It’s easy to get involved and I think I’m fitting in well.  There are lots of things going on too. We started secret santa after Thanksgiving week (which was pretty festive), and this week there is a free lunch, three days of cookies, ugly christmas sweater day, and our team meal…so yeah, lots of fun. Lots of work, obviously, but lots of fun too.

Of course, my new working life isn’t perfect. I’m still adjusting to the different schedule (ie not going to bed late, sleeping in, and then doing whatever I want all afternoon), and finding time to write my book hasn’t been easy. I’m more inclined to spend the few hours I have free gaming or catching up on my sleep, but hopefully this balance will change soon (Vanna has worked evenings most nights this month so I’ve stayed in Brainerd which hasn’t helped; thankfully that’s changed so I’ll actually be home most nights from now on), and I’ll be able to incorporate my book writing into my evening routine. In some ways the time restrictions could work in my favour; if I am disciplined, one scheduled hour of writing could be more productive than my output in a full afternoon, as the time restrictions will prevent procrastination from taking hold. Guess I’ll just have to try my best, won’t I? If I want to do it, then I should just do it, right?

Anyway, I suppose that it is for now. There are other things I want to talk about (Thanksgiving, our trip to Duluth, our Christmas tree) but that can wait for the weekend or something. I really just wanted to touch base tonight, remind you guys that I haven’t died/forgotten about you all. Can’t believe it has been a month since I started work/last posted. Time goes by fast when you’re having fun?

Hmm.

Speak again soon. And this time, I mean “soon.” Like, within reasonable boundaries of the word’s definition…possibly.

Alex

 

Nothing But Fallout 4…Until Monday.

Howdy folks,

How’s everyone? Things have been pretty good here; I start work on Monday (after being informed earlier this week that the background check would take until 4th December, I then received a call yesterday letting me know that it was done), we have new furniture to make the first floor of our apartment a hospitable area (I’m typing this up on the recliner sofa right now), Vanna has been exploring her artsy side, and I have, rather predictably, become addicted to Fallout 4.

We all saw it coming. To say my life for the past week and a half has been food, sleep and Fallout 4 is no exaggeration. In many ways, even eating and sleeping haven’t been that important to me (reduced appetite, irregular and erratic sleep patterns) since the 10th. Tis rather shameful; I can’t tell how many hours I’ve spent gaming in the past nine days, nor am I willing to say the times I’ve gone to bed this week. All I will disclose is that I’ve already played roughly the same amount of time on Fallout 4 as I did on its two predecessors (which were completed over a few months)…and that I have climbed into bed with the sun shining in my eyes on more than occasion (never a good sign, especially not when it is November). So yeah…addicted is probably the right word to use. Going to be rough changing my schedule for Monday, isn’t it? Urgh.

Thankfully I have a very understanding wife who hasn’t complained once about my current obsession, even when I try to engage her in conversations about the settlements I have saved (the fact she can use my laptop – which is so rarely out of my hands – has probably made my overexcitement easier to handle). Of course we’ve still had “couple” time; last week we went to Zorbaz (a great bar/restaurant ruined by their decision to replace every single use of ‘s’ – only one of the most common letters in the English language – with a fricking ‘z’, a choice which gives me an aneurysm every time I try to read the menu…honestly, it is the worst thing ever), and we always make sure to eat and watch television together too. We’ve actually gone through a few Netflix shows* in recent weeks, despite my Fallout 4 cravings and Vanna’s hectic work schedule. Regardless, I appreciate her for being so forgiving about my many hours up in the attic. Sadly it appears that my binging going to end before I am ready to move on. How am I going to cope?!

*sigh*

You may think I’m being dramatic – to an extent I am – but there is a level of seriousness to that asterixed (tis a word!) sigh. I have become attached to Fallout 4, and it will be tricky for me to not play it. Why? Well because Fallout 4 is a fantastic games, even better than I expected it would be. I’m enjoying it a great deal, and there are a lot of things I love about it. The new settlement feature is addictive, the Boston Commonwealth is a rich and diverse wasteland, and the combat is challenging yet satisfying. The only thing I can’t praise is the story…as I’ve barely started it (told you building settlements was fun). As a consequence, I feel like I can only give a brief impression of the game so far, despite the many hours I’ve already racked up. What can I say? It’s an impressive game.

Having said that, I can’t say Fallout 4 is perfect. There are some flaws; the opening story is weak in some aspects, doing anything other than the main campaign gives me a disconnected feeling**, the settlements sometime glitch and cause me problems (I wasted over an hour last night trying to figure out where people had gone), the dialogue, though a step in the right direction, is somewhat simplistic and flawed, and the lack of a manual*** to help with all the new features is bloody frustrating. I’m still in agreement with the 9+/10 reviews so far, but I’m not going to worship it as the best game ever just yet.

Of course, my opinion might change once I’ve completed Fallout 4. I’m sure there are a lot of surprises still in store. Who knows what I’ll think when I’ve finished the campaign? Maybe the good will be better, or the bad will be worse. Perhaps I’ll share a more in-depth analysis once I’ve reached that point. For now though, I just wanted to provide a brief summary of my thoughts so far, which essentially boils down to Fallout 4 being a very, very good, arguably amazing game, with some minor issues. There! Now I can go back to playing rather than writing, and you can rest easy knowing I haven’t wasted away in my chair.

Right then. I guess that’s it for the moment. Unless you, uh, want to hear about my settlements?!

…you don’t? Oh. Well then. I’ll be back next week for a job/ Fallout 4 update (providing I have the time…should probably sleep and eat between my working and gaming).

Take care,

Alex

P.S. If I’ve made any grammatical errors, I apologize. WordPress has changed the format and I can’t find the little check button which usually flags up my biggest mistakes.

===================================================

*After finishing season 2 of The 100 (very good, a definite recommend), we watched Happy Valley (grim but good), before then moving onto iZombie (name aside, a surprisingly good show). No promises – I’ve made that error in the past – but I’ll try to talk about these and more sometime in the future.

** This is hard to explain as I probably sound insane, but I tend to obsess about my actions within expansive games, and have to logically reason out everything I do. Essentially if my character has this huge, super important mission, and needs to get from A to B, I need to mentally explain why I’ve decided to detour to C, D, E, and F first. This happened a little bit during the Mass Effect trilogy (I guess I found this urge easier to pacify with those games), and was bad in Fallout 3 (even though my side-tracking happened after I completed the campaign!) but is especially problematic now I’m playing Fallout 4 (given the context of the plot, it seems wrong to do anything other than search for Shaun). I don’t want to go into too much detail right now as I think this could make for a good blog post, but yeah…my own brain is causing problems with my immersion in the story. Grr.

*** Embarrassingly, after complaining non-stop about having to figure out the settlement builder by myself, I’ve discovered there is a little help page in the pause menu. Ooops. I still think the system could do with improvement (especially with assigning settlers to different tasks) but my criticism has wavered now I realize the answer, or at least something of an answer, was staring me in the face this whole time.

Three More Days…(Also, Halloween Pictures!)

Howdy folks,

Three* days until I can play Fallout 4, people. Just three more days. I can almost taste it. My excitement is overwhelming. Last time I was this pumped for a game was probably Mass Effect 3, and only my latent anticipation for next year’s Mass Effect Andromeda (hopefully) and Gears of War 4 rivals my current level of hyperactivity.  Fallout 4 is going to be amazing guys! Failure is impossible. Three more days!!!

*Ahem*

Sorry about that. I should contain my jubilation for now, don’t want to go overboard just yet, at least not until Monday anyway. As it happens, my excitement for Fallout isn’t even the reason for this post; I actually just wanted to  bring you up to speed on recent developments.

First, my job. Yeah…still waiting on that. Good news? The US background check has gone through. Bad news? The UK/international check has only just started. I sent them more documentation on Wednesday to get things going, but I imagine it is going to take at least another week before I get confirmation. Rather frustrating – I expected to be working by now – but hopefully I’ll get a start date soon. The only consolation is that I’m likely to get at least a week to binge on Fallout 4 before I become part of the working world. So…that’s nice, I guess.

(admittedly being a functioning person with money would be nicer, but having extra gaming time isn’t all bad, especially as it’s unlikely to happen again. Gotta enjoy it while I still can, right?)

Next, I should talk about Halloween. It was a relatively fun weekend, but not one which was really blog-worthy, as we largely just spent our two days in Bemidji with our friend Sharissa. We did go to a party Saturday night but didn’t really have much fun there (there was nowhere to sit, everybody was already drunk, and there was no-one that we knew…Vanna and I aren’t exactly social butterflies at the best of times, so we didn’t exactly fit into that situation too well), nor did we enjoy ourselves at the bars. On Sunday we chilled at Sharissa’s place and walked around Bemidji. It was a nice day, but not much else I can say about it really.

Oh wait! Before I forget, I do have a few pictures from Saturday night for you guys! It’s just Vanna and I in our costumes, but I think they are worth sharing. Vanna especially looked excellent! I liked my costume too, but had to throw the red glasses away because the faulty charge pack started melting my batteries. Ah well.

Aaaaand that’s about it, really. Any other news? Well, Vanna and I are currently watching The 100 season two, which has been very impressive so far. After the disappointment of Hemlock Grove, it’s good to have a show which doesn’t progressively get worse with each passing season (the fact that season three of Hemlock arrived with little fanfare shows how far it has fallen…). I just bought the second book in a sci-fi type series, and purchased my first pair of boots (talk about those some other time)…so, uh, exciting times for me! Of course, the big, big, big event is next monday (if you haven’t heard).  I’ll uh, try not to forget about you guys, but it’s going to be tough. The wasteland doesn’t explore itself!

Alex

 

*Because I’ve downloaded Fallout 4, it will be ready at 12:01 PST, which happens to be 10pm in Minnesota, meaning I have a few extra hours to play before sleep hits me. Ah yeah!

Halloween & Beyond

Howdy folks,

First things first, I want to offer a quick apology for the lack of updates recently. Granted this isn’t really my fault; the reason I haven’t brought you up to date with my situation is because nothing has happened since my last post. October hasn’t been a bad month, but it has been a frustrating time for me, in more ways than one.

So what am I waiting for? Well…

New Job

Oh boy. Who would have thought sorting out background checks for a job would be this difficult? It’s been three weeks since I was offered the job, yet I’m still waiting for confirmation. The complications largely arise from my international status, which is causing problems for the people working to get my information processed. I don’t blame them for the delay – this is a new experience for all parties involved – but I really didn’t expect it to be so time-consuming.  Hopefully it’ll be finished up soon because I’m keen to start working again. It’s been a while since I last had a ‘proper’ job, and I’m looking forward to getting back into it. It’ll make our life immeasurably better, for reasons I will explain once everything is confirmed. Until then it’s a waiting game.

*sigh*

Gaming!

Speaking of waiting and games (see what I did there?), it feels like each day speeds by yet November 10th* only gets further and further away (I’m not going to tell you the significance of that day because you should just know it!). This past month has been painstakingly slowly. I’ve tried to fill the void with other games but so far my attempts have been unsuccessful. Gears of War: Ultimate Edition was a false dawn (gave up on that within a month), Thief was too clunky, Mass Effect was a brief fling following my game writing (didn’t get the second job either; not too disappointed however, it is just something I need to work on), The Walking Dead was enjoyable but ultimately a story not a game, and FIFA 16, which had taken up most of my gaming time, doesn’t really work as a long term solution (I prefer to pick it up from time to time).  It’s been a rough time, I tell ya.

Fortunately I’ve just discovered Assassin’s Creed Unity (it came with my Xbox One along with Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag; I jumped forward because I haven’t completed Assassin’s Creed III and Unity isn’t tied into the main story like Black Flag) so I’ve started playing that this week. It doesn’t quite satisfy my bloodlust (my mistake was not giving my 360 a go, as Halo 4 or Gears of War 3 probably would have helped with this…now I can’t go back, as I’ve given the console to a friend for a couple of weeks) but it should keep me entertained while I wait for the 10th.

Halloween!

One distraction from my gaming and job woes is tomorrow’s Halloween adventure! Vanna and I are heading up to Bemidji again for the weekend, where hopefully we will have a…spooktacular time (sigh).  I’m not entirely sure what is on the agenda for Saturday night, but I will bring my camera to document what I can. I actually have a proper costume this year! It is shop bought (If I’m going to dress up, I want it to be something unique and clever**. But at the same time, I’m too lazy to be creative…hence why I didn’t really bother doing anything last year) BUT I’m happy with it. What am I going to be? Find out next week!
Have a happy Halloween everyone!

Alex

 

 

 

*Fallout 4′s release date. If you didn’t already know that, shame on you.

**I did have a great idea for a costume this year, but due to time constraints, it will have to wait until next Halloween as I’ll need more than a week to put it together. I’d tell you what I thought up, but I don’t want to ruin the, uh, surprise. Also, if I forget to do it or it looks bad, you won’t know that I’ve failed.

An expression of my love for gaming and writing

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