Tag Archives: Announcements

Say Hello to Frankie! (and Anya too!)

So we have a new addition to our family! His name is Frankie and he is a beautiful little kitten! Where did he come from? Well, there is quite a story attached to Frankie, which I will discuss very soon. Until then, enjoy the pictures!

Hi buddy!
He loves to watch us from up there!
Anya isn’t too impressed that she has to share attention now.
We still love you kitten. Even if you are a pain in the butt.
He’s skittish but getting better.
“Frankie Baby” – Vanna, constantly.
Oh kitten…
Little Frankie is very timid, especially around Anya.
Sorry about the board games…anyone for Family Fued?
Best picture ever! So dramatic.
Oh Frankie.
“Should I run away?”
What, a cat that doesn’t attack our hands? This is..unusual.
Aw don’t be scared, little Frankie!
Well, he likes feathers.
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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.

Happy 4th of July!

Even More Photography On The Citadel

Good morning everybody,

(well, it’s morning for me so play along those of you in a different timezone)

Happy 4th of July! I don’t have any preview t-shirt pictures for you, (they’ll be coming soon!) and because I have a busy day starting soon I can’t write much either, BUT I do have an animal slideshow to celebrate this momentous, American day!* Enjoy!

Alex

*Vanna recently asked me how I felt about 4th of July, given what it represents (Americans beating the English). To be honest, it really isn’t that significant to me. When I think about important wars in my country’s history, there are far bigger battles that shaped our country, our culture, our heritage. Both World Wars, Battle Of Hastings, the Roman and Anglo Saxon invaders…America and the war for independence was never something we studied. Only my opinion, of course, but I don’t think it is something…

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News, News And More News!

Hello folks,

It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Sorry about that. I’ve been much busier than I anticipated (this week I’ve been sorting out clothes for a wedding!) and thus, quite a lot has happened since my last ‘proper’ post! Now I’ll do my best to update you on what’s been going on lately, but to prevent this piece from becoming a super long essay on my life, today I’ll just focus on the most important news, starting with…

Gears of War: Ultimate Edition Beta

So the Beta is finished, and I’m sad about that. However, I must admit I wasn’t overly enamored with it initially, for several reasons. But before I go into that, let me summarize my past experiences with the Gears of War series. Only a few details, I promise. It’s relevant to the beta, honest.

Gears of War: The original Gears came out in November 2006. Loved the campaign (best out of the three) but never played the multiplayer. The Gears of War: Ultimate Edition is a remaster of this game, and this game alone (this is an important fact, as I’ll explain shortly).

Gears of War 2: First game I played on Xbox Live, and will always be special because of the experiences I shared with people I’m still friends with today (long-term followers will be aware of the trips I took to visit them while I was in the UK). In game terms, the campaign was good and the multiplayer, though flawed, was one I loved (for aforementioned experiences). Compared to Gears 1, there was improvements in several areas including movement (quicker, slicker) and the shotgun (more on that soon).

Gears of War 3: As I still play Gears 3 on a regular basis (I was on it the day before the beta was released), I can say conclusively that Gears 3 is my favourite Gears. The campaign isn’t the best (story was well written but the missions were a little tedious) but the multiplayer is probably the most rounded, balanced experience to date (still flawed, but far superior to its predecessors). Movement is far better than Gears 2, weapons are better and more varied (though it does have the retro lancer, an abomination which can ruin a fun match very easily), and there are far less connection issues than those I endured on the original Gears games. As I say, my favourite Gears multiplayer experience.

Gears of War Judgment: Ha, I’m not talking about Judgment. The campaign was interesting, but the multiplayer was largely terrible. It is so negatively different from the rest of the series, there is no point in even using it as a comparison. I’m only mentioning it so you know I didn’t just forget about it.

Ahem. So there’s my background. What didn’t I like about the beta?

Well, as I said above, the beta is part of a remastered Gears of War, and thus remains faithful to the original Gears. Except for a few added features, it is essentially Gears of War on the Xbox One. This meant there were several things I wasn’t used to. Some of these features I could accept (sniper downing enemies, not being able to crawl while down, torque bow locking onto enemies) but there were others I hated. The biggest adjustment was the shotgun.

Now, the Gears of War franchise is as big as it is because of the shotgun. While Call of Duty and Halo are generally more orientated around rifles (I don’t have a problem with that, by the way; I’m not one of the elitist snobs you find on the Gears forum who thinks Gears of War 1 is the holy grail and everything else is garbage), Gears of War is about close combat shotgun fights. Over the course of the series, the Gnasher shotgun has evolved, and in my opinion, improved from its humble beginnings. One of the biggest changes from the original is how it fires. In Gears 2, 3 and Judgment, it fires from the barrel. In Gears 1 however, it fires from the centre of the screen. How is this different? Well, if you play the sequels, the shotgun spread lands where you’d expect it to. In Gears 1, you have to aim slightly above and to the right in order to hit the same spot. So if you want to kill your opponent, instead of looking at them directly, you need to look slightly to their left. Yeah…I think that’s right. Does that make sense?

My point to this? Well it means that there was a slight difference to how the shotgun fires in the beta, which was both illogical (barrel fire makes more sense, hence why it was in every other game) and somewhat difficult to get used to. Making this adjustment even harder is the fact that Gears of War 1 is almost completely orientated around the Gnasher. While you can adopt a rifle game in Gears 2 and 3 (I consider myself proficient with both shotgun and rifle, and so my play style varies from map to map) and succeed, Gears 1 is more or less shotgun only. Therefore, I found it very frustrating to play the beta because the strongest gun in the game doesn’t work the way I’m used to (it is also very boring to me to only play one way). In other words, I died a lot.

Another huge drawback to the beta was the movement. Gears 1 feels so much slower than 2 and 3. You can’t wallbounce (um…if you don’t know what that is, just go with it) as easily, and you generally can’t manoeuvre anywhere near as efficiently. Consequently, both my accuracy and ability to evade are nowhere near as good as they are in Gears 3. I don’t like that.

Those were the main problems I had, though I could go on. I didn’t like the way grenades are thrown, the slow lobby and matchmaking times, or the fact that hammerburst (my weapon, my baby) is a pick up weapon either. I also had issues with muting (someone I muted in-game would be heard back in the lobby, so I’d have to unmute and mute again…and then do that again once the next match had started) and teleportation, but I’m reasonably confident that those issues will be resolved in the main game. Still, that knowledge didn’t exactly help with my beta experience…*sigh*…I was easily irritated this past week, ladies and gentleman.

HOWEVER, despite these big game-breaking problems, I did actually begin to like the beta. It took some persistence, but eventually I got used to the shotgun (I pretended to shoulder bump the other team) and the movement. I’m not perfect, but I’m better than I was. And in some ways, I think the challenge made my kills more satisfying. Yeah…it was pretty enjoyable by the end. Will I love it and play it as much as Gears 2, or 3? Probably not. But will it be a fun stopgap while I wait for Gears of War 4 to arrive? Most definitely. Replaying the campaign will be awesome, and I think I’ll be able to have fun on the multiplayer too. Roll on August 25th!

Okay, this section went on far longer than I intended. What was supposed to be a concise and brief point became a sloppy review. Oh man. Sorry about that. My bad.

Ahem. So what’s next?

My visa was approved…I’m now an official resident of the USA!

Oh yeah, I probably should have led with this, right? After all, gaining residency was the biggest obstacle between me and my new life, and now it has been approved! That, my friends, is HUGE!

Of course we still have a way to go, but this is a big step forward. I can start working on my driver’s license (I suppose I should start working on my reversing skills) and we now have the option to move home. Getting a job is obviously the priority, so those two factors will be very helpful. Otherwise it is just a relief knowing that I haven’t been denied, and that there is no deportation on the horizon. In terms of my long-term life in America, it is now just a matter of waiting and/or paperwork. Woo!

Kitten is…nice?

This is the most surprising news I have. It has been two weeks and I still don’t believe it is real. Our little Anya the kitten, the savage who rips at our furniture and keeps us up at night, has actually been supremely well-behaved! I know! Dare I say she’s like a normal cat? We didn’t even dream we’d ever have a lovely cat in our lives. Never.

What’s changed? We don’t know. We have our theories, of course. The main one is that this is the longest we’ve been settled (we’ve been in this house for a few years now, and nobody has abruptly left or moved in since my return last July) so maybe Anya has finally accepted we’re family (going to suck when we do move) and decided to be nice about it. Or it could be something else. We don’t know what prompted this transformation, but we are certainly glad it’s happened!

Now, you may think I’m joking (and to some degree I am) but this is more exciting to us than my visa approval! Seriously…Anya is lovely now. She meows calmly when she wants something, she waits patiently if she doesn’t get it straight away, she seeks our affection regularly and often sleeps with us, she comes to our hand when it is offered for petting (something she has never done before), she doesn’t attack me for no reason, she doesn’t keep Vanna awake every night, and she’s stopped begging for food (or at least doesn’t whine like she used to). She’s like a new cat!

So those are the biggest adjustments in my life. What happens from here? Well, nothing too drastic yet. Wait for the residency card, start making steps towards a license, look for work, continue writing, save up for games (I did watch most of E3, and I’ll share my thoughts on that sometime in the future. All you need to know now is Fallout 4, Gears Ultimate Edition, Fallout 4, Gears of War 4, and Fallout 4) and, of course, enjoy the company of my reborn kitten.

Speak to you later,

Alex

P.S. Oh, as demonstrated above, I actually tweet now (and not just blog posts…I talk about Anya too!). Follow me at @phlegethon92. Say something to me!

Temporary Blog Closure, Sponsored By Gears Of War

Even More Photography On The Citadel

Hey folks,

This is just a quick announcement to let you know that I’m still alive (just really busy…well, kinda busy, mostly forgetful) and I haven’t forgotten about you guys and the blog. However, an update on my life (there’s trips to talk about, food, films etc) is going to be delayed at least another week because…

This morning my wonderful wife surprised me... This morning my wonderful wife surprised me…

...with this amazingly good headset! Good thing too, because... …with this amazingly good headset! Good thing too, because…

...the Gears of War beta was announced yesterday at E3... …the Gears of War beta was announced yesterday at E3…

...and I need to play it! Today, tomorrow, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, every hour until it has gone! …and I need to play it! Today, tomorrow, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, every hour until it has gone!

So I have no time for anything else. Sorry.

Speak to you soon! (possibly)

Alex

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