A Belated Birthday Post

Originally posted on Even More Photography On The Citadel:

Howdy all,

So cast your mind back to Thursday the 12th February, otherwise known as my birthday(frankly it should just be called Alex’s Day, for convenience). Now I realize that the 12th Alex’s Day was ten days ago, but I did have a good reason for delaying this blog post; one of Vanna’s presents for me wasn’t delivered on time (thanks Presidents’ day…) and it didn’t feel right to publish a birthday blog until I had all my gifts.

Admittedly I didn’t expect my final present to take this long to arrive, but as I was committed to giving Vanna full credit for her efforts, I had to hold off even after my intended deadline (last Monday). So for those of you who were really desperate to hear about my birthday (all of you, in other words) but had to wait for an extra week, I do…

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Yesterday & Tomorrow

Originally posted on Even More Photography On The Citadel:

Hello all,

Before I get into today’s news, I just want to quickly apologize about my most recent absence. I do try to maintain a regular supply of posts while avoiding long breaks (like this almost two-week gap…), but for one reason or another things didn’t quite work out as planned this February. Sorry about that. But, uh, I’m here now, so that’s something!

*Ahem*

So what have I been up to lately? Well, there are definitely a few things to catch up on (social events[!], TV shows I’ve watched, films I’ve seen…and of course, Dragon Age Inquisition*) but today I’m just going to limit myself to what I did yesterday, and what I’m going to do tomorrow (hence the title Yesterday & Tomorrow…). First, let’s discuss the past!

ICE FISHING!

Yesterday, Becky and I went ice fishing. As I haven’t been on a lake since Christmas, I…

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Christmas Fun (In January)

Yesterday Vanna and I went to our friend Becky’s house for her family Christmas (we’re honorary family members), which was postponed to Tuesday because of various work/travel commitments (it was a similar story last year). It was a really fun evening; we had fish fry (crappie, bass, Northern, Walleye; if you cast your mind back, I even caught some of the crappie), played cards, had a few drinks…and of course, played the dice game.

To recap, the dice game is where everyone sits around a table stacked with gifts (usually novelty things, or small household items) and rolls two die (dice? I still haven’t cleared this up) in an attempt to pick out a present (7,11 and doubles are the numbers needed to take something). Once the table is clear, the presents are opened, and then there is the steal round, where each player gets three turns to take a gift of their choosing from their friends/family/mortal enemies…providing,of course, they roll a 7 or 11 (doubles don’t count this time). Fairly straightforward, right? It’s a fun game to play.

Now the last time I played the dice game (check the first link in the introduction), I didn’t do too well. I ended up with some decent stuff, but that was mostly down to pity and bargaining. This time, however, I was far luckier. Four of my rolls were good uns, and by the end of the first round, I had:

  • A big bag of pistachios
  • Cherry stick chocolates
  • Two martini glasses
  • …A Duck Dynasty Dancing Santa. Ugh.

My luck in the steal round was largely bad; I failed to roll a 7 or 11, and my martini glasses were stolen from me (boo Larry!). But I did manage to ditch the Duck Dynasty Dancing Santa, so I suppose I can’t complain too much. And after some clever trading, I left with…

A small flashlight and multi-tool kit! Better than pistachios!

Useful and stylish!

And the best mug ever. Seriously, just look at it.

Boom

Vanna loves it. You can just see the joy light up in her eyes when I ring the bell. She doesn’t say it, of course, but I can tell she is really pleased that I’ve got it in our house (cheers Larry!). I’m not entirely sure that the ringing guide works for me, so I might have to devise my own system before I can start using it officially. 1 ring = refill works, but I think 2 = toast should be changed to 2 = food. As for 3, I’m willing to listen to suggestions. Emergency situations perhaps, like if I need a pillow or my laptop charger (just now I realized my phone needed to be charged and the charger wasn’t plugged into the wall, so I had to get up and plug it in…that’s just ridiculous). Hmm, I’m not sure what to choose. It isn’t something you rush into, y’know? I’ll let you know what I pick.

Wem-ber-ley, Wem-ber-ley! *football reference*

As well as an awesome mug that will help her be to be a good an even better good wife, Vanna also collected an owl sensei (I think that’s how you spell it), a power screwdriver, and some mixed nuts from the dice game. I didn’t bother taking pictures of her stuff, because, well, who cares now that I have that mug?

You’ve probably noticed that this picture of the box is a little brighter than the other one. Most people would achieve this effect by moving closer to the light, or by using flash. I, however, used my new flashlight LIKE A MAN!

Aaaand that was about it. Oh wait, here’s a picture of the awesome food we had yesterday.

(modelled by Becky’s dad, who couldn’t wait for us to finish taking pictures)

Speaking of food, I’m starting to get hungry…and my new glass is downstairs. I suppose I’ll have to go into the kitchen so I can then bring the mug back up here to ring for food. Such effort. Boy, it isn’t easy being me.

*sigh*

Speak to you later (if I don’t die of a bell-related incident),

Alex

Cats At HART Animal Shelter

Originally posted on Even More Photography On The Citadel:

Hello all,

Yesterday Vanna and I went to HART animal shelter to look at the cats. Why did we do that? Well, essentially we wanted to check out potential friends for Anya in case the highly unlikely (but still possible!) scenario we’re allowed a second cat comes to fruition.

Yes this is another cat related blog, I know, I know. But this one has pictures of other cats so it is different, okay? Stick with it!

So why another cat? Our reasoning behind Cat Number 2 is simple enough; Anya needs someone to play with. Since last week’s post about kitten’s bad behavior, I have made a conscious effort to play with her more, particularly during the evening when she is most energetic. The late night routine with the laser pen has worked wonders; kitten loves chasing and hunting the red dot, and her behavior has greatly improved as…

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More Kitten Excitement, A New Device, And A Very Addicting Game…

Hello all,

So…we’ve had some big (well, not really, but you should just pretend they are important anyway) things happen lately. You know, life changes, notable incidents, new influences…big things like that (again, not really, but as I don’t have much going on I have to improvise). And today I’m going to discuss three of these big things (though not the biggest; I’m just not ready to discuss my Dragon Age addiction, it still hurts) because…why not?

Uh…right. Let’s start with the most traumatic!

Cutting Kitten Nails

Anya’s nails kept getting stuck in the carpet/chair/my arm so Vanna and I decided it was time to clip them earlier this week. And if Monday’s post was any indication, Anya was unlikely to be a willing participant.

This cute, amicable kitten is long, long, long gone.
This cute, friendly, loving kitten is long, long, long gone, replaced by a demanding fiend. Like all kittens, I suppose. Still adorable, but also deadly.

And she wasn’t. Oh man, it was rough. Anya was not a happy cat. You should have heard her! Meowing like she was in pain, moaning when we pinned her down, hissing, trying to bite, scratch…it was frantic. Even though Vanna had her properly restrained (the cat burrito was also required), Anya thrashed around like a wild thing. And I was the poor sap holding the scissors! I don’t think cutting nails has been so stressful.

I started having flashbacks…

But we got her nails done…eventually. Anya was fine obviously. She got treats and adoration for hours afterwards, but of course she is still unhappy with us. The scissors also got mistrustful stares, which doesn’t bode well for the future. Not looking forward to the next clipping. Gloves might be necessary. But hey, it isn’t all bad!

New phone!

I have a new (second-hand) phone, people! Vanna got an iPhone 4 (neither of us are so frivolous to buy the latest model) a few months back and it has transformed her life. It hasn’t quite reached necessity status (currently it is in the category below that of food, drink and sleep) but it pretty damn close.  She uses it for everything, and always has it nearby. Essentially it is her new favourite thing.

I, however, wasn’t too concerned about a snazzy mobile, preferring new Xbox games (oh, Dragon Age…) to an improvement on the primitive thing I was using to call and text.

Best 0 dollars I ever spent…

But then my cheap phone really started to vex me (the reasons for my annoyance are too extensive to list), and then Vanna mentioned how she’d spotted another iPhone 4 available at a cheap price…my resolve faded. Long story short, I have upgraded to an iPhone as well.

And it’s pretty good. I think my laptop is starting to feel abandoned, as I do more or less everything on the phone. Texting doesn’t take twenty minutes, I can go online easily, and the iPhone doesn’t feel the need to reset itself every other day like my old phone did.  It doesn’t neglect calls, freeze or run out of memory on a regular basis either. And it plays music too, so yeah, I’m pretty happy.  Low standards, I know, but this is the only phone I’ve owned that nails all the basics without any huge drawbacks. The battery is a bit weak, but other than that, I have no complaints.

The major difference to the iPhone to my previous phones is, of course, being able to download apps. The most notable app that I’ve downloaded is even the final big thing I’m going to talk about in this post (like I said, clutching at straws doesn’t quite cut it…)

Trivia Crack

Boy, who would have thought answering general knowledge questions would be so addicting? For those of you who don’t know it, Trivia Crack is essentially a trivia (duh) game you play against other people (either friends or failing that, strangers). The goal is to win the six characters (sports, science, arts and literature, geography, history and entertainment) before your opponent. TC is a very compulsive game… especially when you have instant access through your new phone.

*cough*

Mind you, Trivia Crack is a bit of a sore point at the moment, as I’m in a bad, bad, bad losing streak (I’m doing fine 1 v 1, but suffering some bad misfortune in the group challenges). As a consequence, I’m more inclined to criticize than compliment the game, so instead of talking about the good features (the social aspect, the useful help options, the way it does help improve your knowledge) I’m going to rage pointlessly for a little while. Here’s my five biggest issues.

American favouritism:
For a country so young, America sure does dominate a vast majority of the questions. I know this was bound to happen (American game – I think – played by a load of Americans with lots of America orientated questions? You don’t say!) but I’m tired of the bias. The main problem is that it puts me at a serious disadvantage against everybody I challenge. History is obviously the huge issue, but even the president on the twenty-dollar bill, a question practically all Americans know easily, can throw me off. Even so, this wouldn’t be so bad if…

English/Europe based questions weren’t either dumb or wrong:

My best chance to one-up my competition is foreign knowledge, but every time I see a question related to my homeland it falls under one of the following three categories;

  • Painstakingly obvious, so easy that the $100/£100 questions on Who Wants To Be A Millionnaire looks hard in comparison (London is in which country, for example)
  • Potentially tricky, but ruined through the multiple choice (Prime Minister during WWII? Queen Elizabeth, Charles Darwin, Tony Blair or Winston Churchill; yep, I’m stumped)
  • Flat out ignorant, like saying the English flag is the Union Jack (a cursory look online will show it is actually the St George’s Cross; the Union Jack, or Union Flag – both count so I won’t criticize for that, though I feel the latter is more appropriate – is the United Kingdom)

The first two I suppose I can allow, but the third is unforgivable. You might think the flag error is a genuine mistake, but that is no excuse. It takes five seconds to find out the correct answer. If you’re going to ask a question, make sure your answer is right first. Otherwise you look like a complete idiot to the five people reading this blog post.

*sigh*

Multiple Choice is good and bad:

It isn’t just English questions that suffer from dodgy answers. There are plenty of challenging questions ruined by the answers. Multiple choice is good as it offers you a chance when you’re not entirely sure of the answer, but I find little enjoyment in seeing the answer among three obvious red herrings. Sure, blatant choices have helped me answer questions I was clueless on, but I’d rather draw upon logic, knowledge and reasoning to deduce the answer than simply know because the other three options were ridiculously obtuse.

Eerily specific questions are equally frustrating:

This is the opposite problem, where a question is so narrow in scope you have to be an expert in the field (or a good guesser) to get the answer right. I cannot stand statistical questions in trivia games. The tie-breaker in a pub quiz, fine, but not in this super important challenge against my friends.

Typically, I can’t think of an example off the top of my head but trust me, these questions suck.

Still, they are nothing compared to the worst problem with this game…

Sports, oh God, Sports:

I love football, and though I do not follow them, I have an okay knowledge of tennis, cricket, rugby, Olympic events, Formula One and hockey where I might be able to deduce the answer. But of course, they rarely come up because it is always baseball, American football, and basketball instead!

Always! I can’t stand the sports category because it is highly unlikely I’ll get it thanks to the America bias. As a result, sports is the last character I go for every game, and it is often the reason why I lose (especially challenges, where I’m more or less guaranteed to have two wrong thanks to sports). While my success rate in the other categories are 70% and above, sports lingers just above 60%.  Hate sports.

Ugh. Sports is definitely the main reason I can hate this game. A vast majority of the time it is American, and quite often very precise statistical information that nobody cares about other than the loser who drafted up the question (harsh words I know, but there is no way I’d ask my fellow gamers how many dribbles Eden Hazard successfully completed in the 2013 season because who gives a?) so I end up guessing most of the time. And the multiple choice easiness only applies to the sports I know and Vanna et all don’t…because of course it does. And on top of that…

*sigh*

Okay, I’m a bad loser. And I should probably take a break…

Have a fun Friday everyone,

Alex

Living With Anya The Kitten

Originally posted on Even More Photography On The Citadel:

So this July 14 – January 15 stretch that I’ve spent in America is the longest consecutive time I’ve lived with Vanna, and in turn, the longest time I’ve lived with Anya the Kitten. Being a husband has been a huge change for me (as you’d expect), but I think in some ways, having Anya the Kitten as a pet has impacted my life much more.

To prove how much influence Anya has, these past few weeks I have compiled a list of some of the things she gets up to that require my attention, and typed them up below. There are even pictures to demonstrate her behaviour, because sometimes words just aren’t enough. She’s just that kind of cat, ladies and gentlemen.

But wait. Before we get into the list, I should mention that this isn’t meant to be a complete mean, cat-shaming thing, where everything is Anya’s fault…

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Welcome To 2015! Did You Bring Your Thermals?

The news isn’t good, people. According to the indisputable website that is the Daily Mail, it is going to get mighty cold in the United States this week. If you don’t wish to click on that link (I don’t blame if you don’t; the sidebar of shame is enough to make you want to scour your eyes), the article basically states that there will be freezing temperatures, frostbite-causing winds,  and heavy snowfall all across the country (well the northern part anyway). In summary, it is going to be pretty damn bleak.

How I long for the UK, when this is considered snow.
How I long for the UK, when this is considered snow.

For us, it has already started. I don’t even have to look out the window to know it’s nasty; I’m currently sitting upstairs covered in blankets (they are cheaper than our electric heat, which manages to do a good job at heating the ceilings and nothing else) hoping my telepathic command to Anya the Kitten works out so I don’t have to leave my cocoon to get some food (so far, she is either not hearing or ignoring my requests…I wouldn’t put it past her for it to be the latter).

Ah well. The decent weather was nice while it lasted. To be honest, an awful winter is long overdue for me. Last year I arrived after the ‘polar vortex’, and although this past October wasn’t particularly nice, November and December were manageable. Except for a few feet of snow and some icy mornings, it was fairly mild (for Minnesota). The weeks of acceptable weather were bound to end eventually. I just wish I didn’t need to wear two pairs of socks in order to go to the bathroom.

*sigh*

But enough about that. You’re probably wondering what I did over my New Year’s weekend (Thursday counts as the weekend, doesn’t it?), right? What wacky hijinks did Vanna and I get up to?

Well, we did all right. Here’s a brief outline of New Year’s Eve…

Dragon Age, Dragon Age, Dragon Age:

Vanna was at work until 3pm. What else was I supposed to do, eh?

Seriously addicted to it now, mind. I’m about halfway through now, and I’ve just passed the 76 hour mark. That’s the most I’ve ever spent on a game campaign before (by that I mean a single playthrough); Mass Effect (1,2 and 3) took about 30 hours for me to complete, Fallout and the earlier Dragon Age games around 40 hours, while I hit 50 hours in Skyrim before I lost interest. Yet despite spending nearly four solid days on Inquisition, my enjoyment has not wavered once. I’m equally excited and nervous about reaching the end. Such a fantastic game. I plan to play it once this blog is done.

Food at the C-I Pub (I think):

We were invited into Crosby (Deerwood technically, I believe) for some drinks with our friends. On the way we stopped at one of the few bars in Crosby that Vanna hasn’t been to. It was pretty nice. The food wasn’t great (in fairness, they were about to close the kitchen), but the drinks were extraordinarily priced; a Jim Beam and Cranberry (though you could barely taste the cranberry…it just coloured the drink pink) and a pint of cider (Smith & Forge, the only cider I’ve tried over here worthy of the name) was just over $8. When some pubs charge you that much for a nasty bottle of beer, that was a pleasant surprise.

So Many Drinking Games:

Never have simple playing cards been so deadly. Thankfully I wasn’t still drinking Jim Beam (Vanna ordered it but didn’t like it, so I gulped it down for her), so I was still conscious by the time we got to midnight…

The New Year…And You Americans Have So Much To Learn:

I’ve never really been one to watch the TV coverage of the New Year, but I was blown away by the London celebrations in 2011. Even though I’d hate the cold, the hordes of people, and the hours and hours of just standing around, I thought the fireworks were so brilliant I was actually jealous of those who were there in person because it must have been amazing to witness. It was that thirty minute display of synchronized explosions that made me realize we might actually do a decent job of hosting the Olympics the following year. Heck, I’m not ashamed to say it; watching those fireworks made me feel proud to be British.

…Okay, slight exaggeration. But you get the point. We did good.

So cut to Wednesday night, and I was expecting to see festivities even more impressive. This is America, where everything has to be bigger and better. Well we watched the CNN (I think) version of their midnight events….and it was awful! Why? Let me tell you.

1) Most of the coverage was focussed on the presenters. Uh, I don’t care about you, random people. I want to see things happen…fireworks, entertainment…not you drink champagne and try on stupid, sponsored hats.

2) Richard Quest. In an evening where I can’t really remember anything of detail, I remember him. Never have I been so disconcerted by the actions of a fellow countryman. It disturbs me that he is our representation on one of the major networks. He was so creepy, so awkward, and so uncomfortable it made me angry just watching him leer around on screen. Seriously, be glad that you didn’t see his performance. He makes the likes of Russell Brand and Piers Morgan welcome company.

3) There was no visual countdown. What is this nonsense?

4) Oh wait, there was. It was just terrible. The Americans, if you didn’t know, celebrate the New Year by lowering a giant ball (or a giant guitar attached to the top part of one of those ‘Test Your Strength’ machines you see at carnivals) until the countdown hits zero. A vague description, I know, but that was what was relayed to me. I don’t think further detail would make a difference…it sucked regardless.

Why would they do something so weird? I have no idea. But I was disappointed. If that’s all you have, America, I’d rather watch those  Scottish people in kilts play the bagpipes.

So that was our New Year’s Eve. Pretty good, aside from the television celebrations, and Richard Quest *shudder*. We drank, we ate, we had fun. And all with friends. What else could you ask for?

Alex

Oh, kitten finally answered my telepathic calls…sort of.

 

 

 

An expression of my love for gaming and writing

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