Good Sunday

I’ve had a relaxing, eventful day so far today. I was over at my uncle’s house this morning watching our hometown Chargers beat the Ravens in the final seconds of the game. Very suspenseful and surprising. I had no thoughts that we would win, but we did. And tonight it will become clear if I will be eliminated from the playoffs or if I get in for fantasy football. It’s not looking good though.

I hung out with my cousin’s daughter Chloe and she stuck stickers on me and played a sticker counting game. It was fun to play with her, while also enjoying the football I got a chance to catch up with my cousin David and my sister, who was visiting from Sacramento. My cousin and I got to talk fantasy football as well. Good stuff. It was a refreshing break.

I’m back at work tomorrow and I’m again looking forward to it. I find that I really largely enjoy what I do. I get in difficult spots sometimes, but I continue to succeed. Even if it can be both busy and boring, it’s what I do and I do it well. I’m going to have another good week, I’m sure of it.

I am sitting here on my couch that used to be my bed, and I’ve got my blankie and I’m watching Sunday Night Football. I’m perfectly happy and relaxed. I will probably go to bed soon. I’ve got nothing to lose.

Cry For You

Streaks of rain on the window,
Soft and quiet like the wind at night,
The ember that glows in the dark,
Choking on ash and dust,
Familiarity ripped apart and down,
The shadow of touch,
What was will never be again.

Pines in the clear blue air,
Treading lightly on sacred ground,
The hills lit up in sunset reds,
Beckoning the twilight gasp,
Forgotten promises,
Abandoned words without homes,
Snapping like twigs underfoot.

A piercing howl at the moon,
Fools stay in the past, mourning,
The sun rises yellow and bold,
Sand and stones,
Days and years, going by.

To Bed With Ye

I’m retiring much earlier than scheduled because I’m right back at ’em tomorrow morning at 4 am. I open the office and my shift begins at 5 am. A daunting task for me, yet at the same time kinda exciting. They’re handing me the controls and letting me be the only call agent on staff from 5 to 6 am. It’s a skeleton crew, just 5 of the 25 that are normally in there. But I’m psyched. I like getting a chance to prove my capabilities. This is a golden opportunity for me to gain a reputation as someone they can trust.

Today was a crawl through the mud. I hardly took 12 calls all day, and that was WITH billing, which was oddly quiet. I guess people are waiting until after the holiday weekend is over to scream at is about their bill. But I’m sure it will catch up with us, this lull we’ve enjoyed over the last few days. Issues never just go away. Mood will probably send another threatening letter to its clients indicating that they will terminate service for a past due balance. And the calls will come in once more.

Other than that, I guess I’m doing fine. I don’t get much rest this weekend because of this extra 8 hour shift. But I also get a regular paycheck, where most everyone else will be down a day because of Thanksgiving. I need the money, so I wouldn’t dare pass up a chance to make more of it. My mentality has been good. I’m finally about 95% done being sick. This unseasonable dry weather is taking a toll on my sinuses. It’s fall, and the high today was 81 (and that’s down from 89 the day before)! Right? I clearly live in a coastal desert. The merciless dry and hot fall will (should) be interrupted by a storm on Tuesday, but I’m leery that we will get anything but drizzle from it. Weather says up to an inch. Somehow I doubt that.

Well, I’m off to bed. Have a great night, and at least YOU don’t have to be up at 4.

Age Of Empires III: The Improvement Mod v. 5.4

The Improvement Mod doesn’t fundamentally overhaul the game. It adds some bug fixes, tweaks, and some new features to the landscape. They also introduce an entirely new faction: America. But it’s, at its core, based off the European civ model, with a similar stack of home city cards. The new additions to the game are largely represented by a few new buildings, some new technologies, and some new units and mercenaries added to the core game. The AI was modded, so that is uses the new content, cards and started building walls again.

Age Of Empires III games are classically long-term engagements, lasting upwards of 45:00 per round. The game is geared for this, not the rush, which is a horribly annoying strategy to take, in my opinion. Most of the time, gameplay breaks into a few identifiable segments (roughly 3): Building Phase, Defense Phase and Attack Phase. In the Building Phase, your goal should be to create upwards of 30 villagers, a market and a barracks. It helps in this phase to grab a few trading posts too, because the experience income is useful in getting several home city shipments sent, which if you are thinking ahead, may bolster your economy. The Building Phase should focus your concentration on developing a fast-moving economy, and depending on what faction you chose, you might be below or above the recommended villager count. But by the end of it, at about 10:00 in to the game, you should have enough resource income to start dispensing troops, and get a standing army of 15 – 30 units of varying functions. If you have the AI set on Hard, they will be attacking at 12:30 nearly every time, and with maybe 20 units, some cavalry, mostly infantry. You must be ready to defend your colony and start the Defense Phase. Usually, this phase lasts the bulk of the game, and goes from 12:00 or so until the 35:00 mark. During this time, your economy should be growing still, reaching a villager cap of over 60 (depending on your civ). Your standing army should reach a full battalion, possibly two, and you should build every house you can, and at least one additional town center. The enemy will attack you at regular intervals, and usually from a different angle every time, to try and avoid marching directly into your standing units. I typically have my villagers who are still gathering raw resources (like trees) on the fringes of my control, because I have enough standing units to come rescue them, or have an army stationed near them in case things go down. I might divide my army into two distinct fronts, holding ground at any sort of choke point I can find. In the final phase of the game, the Attack Phase, I’m moving my 2 – 4 full battalions up the field into enemy territory. The AI is pretty good about building walls, but they usually leave a hole in them somewhere because of terrain problems. My units go in on attack-move, and stop to kill units they find, and start in on destroying the structures after that. With 4 full battalions, there’s not a whole lot they can do to stop that. It’s just an overwhelming number of troops to contend with. Fixed structures and spare units can make 1 battalion go away in just a few minutes, but not 3 – 4. For each faction, there are slightly different procedures for getting through the phases.

I typically use Aztecs, Portuguese or Americans. The American civ is a lot of fun, because they get going pretty fast in the building phase of the game with an early boon of 400 wood to get some houses and a market built right away. You can infinitely ship pilgrims from your home city, and at a clip of 4 at a time, but usually in these games I don’t get to using that card often. By the time you gain access to it your villager population might be already capped. The map gets explored very fast because the explorer unit is mounted and has great line of sight, but he’s just about useless for capturing treasures.

Aztecs are insane: once they get past the 2nd age, they move rapidly, using the fire pit and warrior priests to create units ridiculously fast. I typically spend the first part of age 2 getting 10 warrior priests built and dancing around the fire pit, sending 3 with a shipment and building the rest right out of the fire pit. After I have them, I switch them over to the productivity dance, and units are cranked forth from structures at a furious pace. I can accelerate the process of gathering resources dramatically, getting my 60 villagers and then some in only a couple of minutes. I will have more than the afore mentioned villager cap, because I usually need 10 – 15 more of them to add to the fire pit to get it really blazing. Then when the Attack Phase rolls around, I switch the fire pit over to increased attack, and get another 30% – 40% amplification to damage on all my units, which is difficult to deal with when you consider just how many units I make with the Aztecs. The skull knight might be the single most amazing unit in the game altogether.

The Portuguese are a separate story. They tend to be slower, and cost more to get going. The skirmishers and musketeers all cost a chunk of gold, and that’s almost always the constraining factor. If my gold income is awesome, which can usually be managed by 25 or more gold gathering villagers, I can get a good deal of ranged units built, which is where the Portuguese excel. They have several home city cards which amplify gunpowder infantry, and some which help their cavalry and artillery. Organ guns are the unique artillery for the faction, and they abuse standing units, much like the gatling gun for the American faction.

All told, I get some different looks from the three factions I play, but not too dramatic a swing. Aztecs I prefer the most because of how fast they are. They can be into the Defense Phase pretty early, maybe even 8:00 or so with my first standing army. I can also have an amazing economy, especially when villagers come out every 5 – 9 seconds or so. And the unit selections for Aztecs I really like. You know me: infantry is the way to go. I vastly prefer it to any other troop type. Portuguese are all ranged infantry, so that fits. America is a mix of both. You can’t be successful with just infantry from them, even if they do have two kinds of decent ranged units. This combination has kept me fairly entertained through more than 10 separate matchups. I have yet to lose one that I actually got started right and didn’t accidentally forget to pause. I highly endorse installing the Improvement Mod if you have a chance, it really makes the game so much nicer, cleaner, better.

Thanksgiving Day

I had a great Thanksgiving with my family. There were 10 of us there at my uncle’s house and it was quite a lot of fun. The kids were there with my cousin David and his wife Jen, and Tanner was there too (Bruce and Megan’s son). So it was nice to see those little kiddos running around having a good time. I was pretty absorbed in football, which was slated to be exciting, but turned out to be pretty lopsided. Detroit took control over Chicago in the second quarter and never looked back. Philly owned Dallas and Seattle’s stifling defense put San Francisco in it’s place. Thankfully my fantasy teams did alright, with the highlight being Calvin Johnson’s unbelievable day: 11 catches, 146 yards receiving and 2 touchdowns. It’s win and I’m in in the family league, and Megatron’s performance can only help push me in the right direction. Hopefully the rest of my lineup puts together some points this weekend, though that remains to be seen.

 

But I did the dishes, like I always do, and we cleaned up the feast in no time flat. I take pride in my cleaning ability after the party is over, and I get many thanks for it too. It’s the kind of reputation I enjoy having. I had a blast though. It was really nice to see my parents again, who were back in town for the first time in more than a month. And they brought my sister with them. It was really cool to catch up and see everybody again. I got lots of hugs, and that has helped fill me up with a good feeling headed into today. I’m actually really looking forward to work today, and have had a calm, restful, peaceful break over my little 1 day holiday off. I work Saturday as well, and I open the facility at 5:00 am, which means my alarm has to go off around 4:00 am if I am ever going to make it there by 5. I’m even excited about that too. I can’t wait to do it, but I’m a little worried about how groggy I might be at that time in the morning. I intend to pack my lunch and set up my coffee maker to be able to brew a quick pot for the road, so I can be at least somewhat awake for work. I have a thermos I can bring, which will probably save my day. And I go home at 1:30, which is like, hell yeah.

 

So all in all, it was a very eventful break from the norm. I had fun on Wednesday night over there after I got off of work, and had an all-day ride on Thanksgiving, from around 8:30 am until after 6:00 pm. I hope you all had a chance to spend this fantastic little holiday with people you are thankful for. I don’t know where I’d be without the love and support of my family. They’ve saved me from the pit of despair more times than I can count.

#745

I’m in that odd little piece of useless time before work starts. I’ve been thinking since my last post, where I was feeling kinda down and lonely, that I should probably get used to having those emotions. I’m clearly a being driven more to feel than to think, and this rebuilding process will no doubt have its difficult moments. I will be challenged to sit with my emotions and comprehend them, rather than discard or reject. It has been my tendency (in the past) to shy away from my most acute feelings, and not give them the attention of understanding. Because it sucks to feel pain, to ache in my chest and gasp for air. It’s not a place I enjoy finding myself, but that doesn’t make it any less prevalent. I still have to cope with it in order to move forward.

I guess I yearn for something I actually don’t want. I remember the good feelings that would come from a relationship, but none of the bad that accompanied that (seeming) emotional bliss. It was difficult to come to realize that my partner and I were married, but totally incompatible. Like I have said before, for every one thing we had in common, we were different on four others. I can see how two people could fall in love over an idea, but have that love dry up once the reality set in. I was foolishly committed to a long-term relationship to someone I often times didn’t get along with. I have since learned that if love is ever to come back into my life, it would take a much more sustainable pairing. But looking for new relationships is not on the agenda, oven if my heart burns for it. I know such a thing might undo all of the labor I put in to building my independent life. I might just abandon my principles and risk everything on love again. Which is not a good idea, but I wouldn’t put it out of the realm of possibility (however stupid a choice that would be, I’ve done similarly in the past).

I guess I just needed to vent out what I was going through. I appreciate your support and thank you for helping me see a way through that difficult spot.

At A Crossroads

Blog, I’ve been pondering my tendency to isolate. At work I tend to play my cards pretty close to the chest. I don’t mill about and socialize like the other guys do. I am just a dramatically more serious person, I figure. I really don’t want to give off the impression that I take my position for granted. Or that I don’t care about it. But I’m not really engaging with anyone beyond my work related conversations. I guess I’m not “loosened up” yet, and I don’t feel a need to be carefree. Maybe I should ease off the throttle a bit though.

I got to thinking about how long I plan to be alone. And then I got to wondering why I would ever be with someone again, and how long a time that was going to be. It will be hard to fully let go of all the extenuating factors involved, like contact, conversation and understanding. I’m not very appealing. I’m still overweight, though not as much as I was. I’m stubborn and we’ll set in my ways. I’m coldly rational, and sometimes hard to understand. I don’t really have much to offer besides my personality, which is a good one. I am fearful that I will collapse into sadness after enough time, because some part of me will be totally unused and I will go on being lonely. I don’t know if I can bare that fate.

But here we are. And I know that the longer portion of this solitary confinement is still ahead of me. I’m having a hard time seeing the good in it, even though I know it’s there. In places like this, I sometimes just wish it was back to the way it used to be. When I had someone and it was not just me. There are flaws in that thinking, clearly, but it doesn’t appease the ache. Maybe nothing will.