Thursday, September 30, 2010

A Year Overdue

The earliest record on this blog that I found was back in April of 2009, when I first added the progress bars for reading here, and back then I was 18% of the way through The Shadow Rising. By Fall of last year I'd only made it to 67% of the way through the book, then I didn't really pick it up until a few weeks ago after going through all of Harry Potter and I finished the last 33% of the book in just a few weeks. Now I'm excited and motivated and should be able to keep up this pace of faster reading for a while to come. I'm just starting the 5th Wheel of Time book, The Fires of Heaven, and hope to be through its nearly 1,000 pages in the next two months or so. So here's my reading schedule going into the future:
  • WoT 5: The Fires of Heaven
  • 1984
  • WoT 6: Lord of Chaos
  • WoT 7: A Crown of Swords
  • ???
My hope is that I can keep up and finish Fires of Heaven by the end of November and then read 1984 over the holiday season before the end of 2010. Then I'm planning on getting through the rest of Wheel of Time as fast as I can much like I did with Harry Potter. It feels really good to get through a long series like that, and I've already started on WoT so it's definitely something I want to finish!

Monday, September 27, 2010

The End of September

We're quickly nearing the end of September, and as you might expect life continues to get better and better. 2010 has quite literally been split in two for us, with my new job starting in mid-June I can easily consider the year as 6 months of unemployment and 6 months of recovery from those harder times of our lives. I certainly don't expect easy times from now on, but it's nice to be in what I can consider easier times for a change. For absolutely no reason other than my bizarre love of numbers, let's break my life down into some segments:

By Age (in years):

1-4 - Pre memory for the most part, though I did become friends with Dennis during that time (in pre-kindergarten, Chipmunks 4 life!)

5-11 - I became obsessed with things I am still pretty obsessed with, Nintendo / videogames, Transformers, TMNT. At some point early on in these years I saw and liked Voltron and Thundercats, got toys for them, but then mostly forgot about them so my most vivid memories of those franchises are of the TOYS and not the shows themselves. Everything for me in this time period was put down to ambitions of what I'd be able to accomplish at the age of 12, I have no idea why but for young-Danny that was the age of supposed adulthood.

12 - I realized it was not, in fact, an age of adulthood at all and that I was not any closer to building a blue suited boy robot as my best friend (seriously)

13-15 - My dad probably started bugging me to get a job before this, but he started working at the age of 14 and that's when he could legitimately get on my case for being a bum. Middle School also introduced me to my friend Andrew the O, who would gateway me to becoming friends with Dave and thus is the origin of the power-friendship that would somehow lead to Critical Hits becoming a website that Wil Wheaton (who I was watching on TV at this age) knew the name of.

16-17 - Driving, gaming like crazy and also getting into board games in addition to playing all kinds of RPGs and videogames. Also I finally got a job in the kitchen at the local Olive Garden (thanks to Andrew working there already).

18 - End of highschool, summer of conventions and debauchery, then college studying Architecture, met Becky and life would never be the same again (take that as you will :P )

19-22 - Somehow ended up continuing to study Architecture, no matter how hard I didn't try at some points, moved in with Becky / got engaged, dealt with the ongoing realization that Becky was majorly depressed and how we were both going to handle it, then graduated and again somehow got a job that started one week after college. That was probably still one of the luckiest moments of my life because that was the ONLY place that offered me a job

23-26.5 - Working for a living, got married, awesomest. honeymoon. ever. (Disney World FTW) Adopted two cats, bought a house, adopted the cutest white German Shepherd in the world. Then got laid off from my job just shy of 5 years of professional experience.

26.5-27 - Endured 7 months of stressful but not entirely terrible unemployment, learned the incredibly valuable lesson that Becky and I can spent nearly 24 hours a day together, at home, with little to do and very much enjoy it - plus not really get sick of each other! Then getting hired at a new, incredible, and absolutely better than I could have even imagined job and now beginning to pay off some of ours bills from the last 8 years.

That's it, not sure why but just felt the random urge to break it all down like that. Hope you enjoyed it!

Quite thankfully, nearing the end of the book with The Shadow Rising has brought with it many interesting and cool events in the Wheel of Time universe so I'm back to reading quite a few pages per day and am up to 88% through the book, now a full 20% beyond where I was stalled for quite a while. It is a bit tough to remember things from the first 1/2 of the book having read them over a year ago, but once I'm finished with the book I'm going to read a synopsis of the whole thing to hopefully refresh me on all of the connections.

Oh also we're hosting our usual kickass Halloween party at the end of October, which I'm looking forward to a little too much. Becky and I have already decided on our costumes and it should be awesome. Pictures will definitely show up after the party!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Now That It Actually is Fall

Back in August I started a new series of posts for Critical Hits and I titled it "The Architect DM" because I received a lot of good responses whenever I discuss my professional and architectural education experiences with regards to RPGs and specifically D&D.

Part 1: Building Foundations
Part 2: Function & Playability
Part 3: Environment and Interaction

Perhaps the most interesting development of this series is that I've found writing these posts is not only easy - meaning I can come up with a concept for a post much more quickly than normal, but also I find it even more enjoyable than writing other things for blogs. Also writing more regularly on CH is rewarding on its own, so I'm planning on doing this series for as long as I can keep writing it and enjoying it.

As for my reading schedule, it has unsurprisingly slowed down post-Harry Potter, but I am now 74% of the way through The Shadow Rising when I was stalled at 67% for the last 6-8 months, so progress is being made! Becky really wants me to get through all of the Wheel of Time series (at least 8 more books...) because she enjoys discussing the books as I'm reading through them. I guess to her it's pretty much the same as re-reading them, but she also gets to discuss things with me and that's a plus, or so she says.

I haven't been creating that much artwork lately, but I can feel myself building up to a productive time with the ideas I have swimming around. I have a project for my friend Wyatt (a baby dragon with a treasure hoard) and I now have most of the supplies I could need for doing some acrylic paintings - my goal for the fall is to use up all of the extra canvases I have from as far back as college. Though it sounds kind of lame at first, I am probably going to try some Bob Ross style landscapes to start and then see what cool elements I can add into them!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Harry Potter Complete!

In just two days I couldn't help but fly through the 7th and final book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I've surprised even myself by finishing the series WELL before November 19th, when the first part of the final movie comes out in theaters, and am hoping that I've now made a habit of making progress in my reading and I've already jumped back into Wheel of Time book 4, The Shadow Rising, and hope to finish it very soon. It's funny, because I was hoping to finish it by the end of LAST year, but we'll see how it goes now.

The change for me has been incredible, because I absolutely hated the first 2-3 Harry Potter movies because of the seemingly inane plot twists and, to be frank, ridiculousness of some of the things presented in the movie. It wasn't until Goblet of Fire that I started to enjoy the movies, and then with Order of the Phoenix I began to see the wider world behind it all and became a fan. I believe it was around that time that I finally read the first book, and enjoyed it but also didn't really desire to progress through the others at the time.

I was content to see the movies without reading the books, and I can now tell anyone who expresses the same opinion to me that this is absolutely NOT the way to go. I enjoy the movies so much more now that I've read the books, there are tons of little things thrown in that you simply don't notice or that literally make no sense at all unless you've read the book. The climax moments in Prisoner of Azkaban were confusing and didn't come over well just watching the movie, but once you've read the book and know the story behind it all the characters are nothing short of impressive and quite moving. So if you're one of those people who is watching the movies without reading the books, I can't tell you enough: Read the books as soon as you can!

It took me roughly 70 days to read all of the Harry Potter books from start to finish, and though I was going for a 41 pages/day pace I ended up at a healthy 58 pages/day. This was far from consistent throughout the 2.5 months, because I didn't read at all during GenCon and then read the entire last book in the course of two days, but it's a good average pace for sure!

I finished the book around 2am last night because I just could not put it down, and was very interested in the general feeling of loss that came both as I went to sleep last night and this morning. I mean loss in the sense that reading these books has been something I've simply been doing for the last 2.5 months, and now that thing is complete. I'll move onto reading other books for sure, but there simply won't ever be another time that I'll be reading the Harry Potter series for the first time.

This just looks nice:

Monday, September 13, 2010

Reading Extravaganza

Last night I finished book six of the Harry Potter series, The Half-Blood Prince, and promptly read the first 40 pages of the Deathly Hallows because it was my first real foray into uncharted territory with the series. This isn't entirely true because the amount of information and number of events that are in all of the books but don't make it to the movies is staggering, especially with book six where there are some key explanations of the origin, history, and even major motivations of the primary villain that are skimmed or completely skipped in the movie.

I am currently 83% of the way through the entire HP series, which means on Saturday and Sunday of this weekend I read a full 10% of the series and put myself WAY ahead of schedule. This is exactly what I wanted to do, but to be honest the books made it easy to accomplish. I now often find myself contemplating exactly what it is about certain books (HP being at the forefront right now) that make them so popular, interesting, easy and enjoyable to read.

As I've said a few times before, the crazy thing to me is that in just over two months I've read through six books, which is incredible for me considering the books are from 300 to 800+ pages which I would normally read much slower and do one book over the course of 1-2 months (or more). Both Becky and I are really hoping this continues even after I'm finished reading HP, because she is dying for me to get through all of the Wheel of Time books that are out so far, thankfully I have a bit of a head start because I'm currently almost all of the way through book 4, out of I guess 11+ books? Good god, that's going to be crazy.

Also on my reading list:
  • Dune (the second time through will be awesome)
  • Dark Tower
  • 1984
  • many and various HP Lovecraft short stories
  • Game of Thrones (maybe?)
  • Fall of Public Man and Conscience of the Eye (by Richard Sennett, Architecture/design/sociology books)
I'd actually love for anyone reading this to make further suggestions, if I haven't already read it I may end up adding it to my list and you will have greatly contributed to my edification in the wonderful world of books!

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Now That It Feels Like Fall

Autumn is my favorite season of the year, so I am very happy that it is September and the weather is beginning to get cooler, windier, and pleasantly sunny. Another great thing is that our good friend Matt just bought a house about a mile from ours and we will most likely be spending a lot of time hanging out at his place or at ours now that he has moved out of the downtown area. In that vein fall also means that many people will be a lot busier on their weekends as we get closer to Halloween, Thanksgiving, and then Christmas and New Years so I'm hoping I can keep my D&D game and other activities with friends going through the busy times!

As far as reading goes, two weeks ago I had a day trip for work down to Jackson, Mississippi which marks my first journey actually into the Central time zone (I've flown over it once before) and my first time in a southern state that wasn't also on the east coast. During the four flights I had (in one day, which I do not recommend and hopefully won't be doing again anytime soon) the fortunate part is that I demolished the middle section of the 5th Harry Potter book, The Order of the Phoenix, which I finished reading two nights ago and have already started on The Half-Blood Prince.

Despite one of the most annoying villains (Umbridge), a lack of Dumbledore before the last 150 pages of the book, and Harry acting like the worst kind of teenager he could - Order of the Phoenix is at the moment my favorite of the books I've read so far. Goblet of Fire seems to be the favorite of a lot of people who read the books when they first came out, but to me the plot involving Mad-Eye Moody and how that turns out has always seemed very unsatisfactory to me. I'm avoiding any major kind of information that might be spoilers, but I'd be happy to discuss it further with any hardcore HP fans out there.

At the moment I am just starting the 6th book but am now 67% of the way through the entire series and very happy about it. Order of the Phoenix, as the longest book, pretty much accounts for 22% of the series which is ridiculous so reading that book took me from 45% through the series all the way to 65% so it definitely feels like the turning point of getting through all of the books. On top of that, I only have this one book left before I'm into completely uncharted territory (for me), though honestly the last few books have so much that was not even touched on in the movies that it feels like largely uncharted territory already.