Monday, January 31, 2011

New Work Duties

I'm being trained at my day job for PHP/MySQL now in addition to my standard architectural duties. This is incredibly exciting because I really enjoy Web Design and Web Development and it's been something I've wanted to learn in the last two years and haven't really had a solid reason to do it until now.

Unfortunately having to read training books for work has mostly stalled my personal reading, but this is something I'm aiming to rectify in the next few weeks. So far I've read roughly:
  • 123 pages on PHP
  • 68 pages on MySQL
I'm just getting into the sections about integrating the two together, and I've gone through a lot of examples of writing PHP and creating MySQL databases on my computer. I've also just started working on taking our existing company webpage and redesigning it/changing the code so that it uses PHP and connecting it to the MySQL database I'm putting together at the same time.

It's funny to me because I have never considered myself a programmer (and still don't) but I'm actually starting to learn quite a bit more about how things are programmed, specifically dynamic websites. This minor change in job duties came at a hilarious time for me as well, I was just starting to get back into creating custom maps for Starcraft II and had been banging my head against a wall with some minor things that I somehow eventually figured out with different programming in the SC2 editor. Then this comes along, and I was already in a programming / looking at a lot of code and seeing how it works mindset, so things seem to have worked out pretty well on that front so far.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

January Update

I'm in the process of learning PHP/MySQL (and Javascript) for my day job so that I can help out with the web development stuff that my company does on a regular basis. It's interesting and as usual incredibly fun for me to be learning something new in programming (and my first professional training in any kind of programming).

Coincidentally, only a day or two before I found out I would be doing this for my day job, I got back into map editing for Starcraft 2 pretty intensely. It's a very interesting thing to get back into because I was doing a lot of map editing back in March-May while I was unemployed so it feels almost nostalgic to be doing it again.

Also last Thursday, January 13th was my first day attending Bushikai training for Nihon Jujutsu here in Frederick. In quite certain terms - I got my ass kicked. I couldn't even get through the warm ups (including a minute of push ups, carrying people around, all the fun stuff) and my body has been sore all over for the last few days. However I'm planning on going Tuesdays and Thursdays to start, adding Saturdays in once I'm a bit more in shape and hopefully even doing Mondays regularly as well. When I'm in shape I should be able to handle 4 days a week, I hope!

Reading Update: I am now 33% through book 8 of Wheel of Time, The Path of Daggers. For anyone that hasn't read the book series through book 8, I'm about to discuss a spoiler: It is on exactly page 207 of book 8 that the first mention of the weather finally getting cooler again occurs (mentioned by Faile). Now I just need to go back and re-read and keep my eyes open for when Jordan introduced the first real indication that the weather was staying warm into the fall. My guess is that it's sometime in book 4 (or even book 3) because that was the book that I read over a course of 9 months and so explains why I don't have a very good recollection of when it first started.

Overall that's probably one of the largest "plot" arcs that's happened in the books so far, really taking place over the course of 4-5 books, whereas most other things (so far) have generally lasted only 1-2 or at most 3 books excluding some of the largest plot points that are arguably in every book. To me that's pretty exciting, and is helping me propel through the middle of this book.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

The Marathon Method

I'm coining the personal term "Marathon Method" for my complete domination of reading in the last 6 months. I set out to read all of the Harry Potter books before the last movie, giving myself a deadline and a tough but still reasonable increment to complete each book in (1 month per book) and as you may remember I came in at least a month early. I even finished the last book, The Deathly Hallows, in 2 days! I'm fairly confident in saying that 700+ pages in 2 days is the most I've ever read in my life in such a short period.

Now I've moved the method on to the Wheel of Time series, and it's working wonders. I don't have a good record of when I was reading or finished the first two books in the series, but they were easily within the 2006-2008 time frame. That's 3 years for TWO books! I'm sure I read other books mixed in there, but still, I know for a fact I would finish one of those books in about 6-8 months if I was lucky. With my confidence built from the Harry Potter marathon, I set roughly the same goal for Wheel of Time - 1 book per month - in the hopes of finishing before the final book comes out. The book was supposed to be out in late 2011, but has been pushed to 2012 so I will easily be able to meet this goal.

I finished the 3rd Wheel of Time book, The Dragon Reborn, around 12/1/2009. I finished book 4, The Shadow Rising, on 9/30/2010. 10 months for one book. Book 5 - the Fires of Heaven - was finished on 10/27/2010 and book 6 - Lord of Chaos - was finished on 12/4/2010. I've taken what used to take me 6-8 months and relatively easily brought it down to roughly a 1 month task. The greatest part of this is that I don't really feel like I'm spending that much more time reading than I used to.

Lately I've been brainstorming how to apply this concept of getting myself motivated and moving on things to other parts of my life. I'm still working out how to apply it to my drawing, but I think applying it to gaming could be a pretty direct correlation to reading. Issue #1 is that there are a LOT of videogames that I want to play and beat, some from years and years ago that I just never got around to beating.

Here's a list of the games, most of which we already own or have borrowed from someone (Josh most likely) and that's why I'd like to get through them finally:
  • Metroid Prime (and I'd love to beat it with 100% completion)
  • Other games in the Metroid Prime series (2, 3, etc)
  • Fallout 3
  • Assassin's Creed
  • Assassin's Creed 2
  • Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood
  • Mass Effect
  • Mass Effect 2
  • Dragon Age
  • Bioshock
  • Bioshock 2
  • God of War
  • God of War 2
  • Little Big Planet
These are the games that I'd like to continue playing, or play more, but aren't necessarily a "beat it and be done" scenario:
  • World of Warcraft
  • Starcraft 2
I am thinking about simply progressing down the list above, because I know for certain that I'd start with Metroid Prime because that's one of the oldest games I have yet to beat. I need to steal a wii controller from my in-laws house first!

Reading Update: I've been breezing through A Crown of Swords finally, almost making up for how slow I was going back in late December. I'm now 86% through the book and I fully expect to finish it today or early tomorrow. Then I think I'll move right on to Path of Daggers, and then maybe after that book I'll jump over to the first book of the Dark Tower series and/or A Game of Thrones.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Recap of 2010

Last January I attempted very briefly to fill the void that a lack of a job gave me with doing a lot of my hobbies - drawing, writing, and playing games. I set some basic goals and I didn't even meet one of them. This year is a hell of a lot different, but I'm not to the point of setting up goals and certainly not to writing them online as even an unexpected promise to whoever reads them. Instead of setting goals right now, I'm working on accomplishing the ones that don't even need to be set for me to know they're there. Perhaps they were set years ago, or have always been there, but I'm doing them.

That may sound like I didn't do anything in 2010 then, if I didn't reach my goals. I know that's not the case. With that in mind, instead of goals for 2011 let's look back at some of the things that I accomplished in 2010:
  • I GOT A JOB!
That could really be the end of the list right there and I'd be happy, but there are some other (less important but quite fun) items that I'm going to attempt to quantify in some way here. Possibly in some semblance of chronological order:
  • Experienced one of the most enjoyable Winter Olympics ever with Becky, since we were both home all day/everyday - so much so that I'll consider taking vacation time for the next Winter Olympics
  • Determined that my marriage to Becky is even more special than I could have imagined, since we could spend all day, everyday together and still have a LOT of fun and not ever get that mad at each other. I've had numerous couples tell me they can't imagine doing that and how much they would kill one another.
  • Played a LOT of the Starcraft 2 beta, didn't play as much once it hit retail (but that may change soon) - also designed an awesome custom map for SC2 which I want to re-do for the retail build
  • Ran 15 adventures of my D&D Campaign - I'd certainly love to do more, but greater than 1 per month is not a bad number!
  • Attended a Bonsai beginner's class and actually learned how to pot, grow, and care for Bonsai properly (hint: I was doing a LOT of stuff wrong)
  • Attended GenCon 2010 and had a blast
  • Read through the entire Harry Potter series (for the first time) in preparation for seeing the last movie
  • Read 1984, and realized I (and all of my friends) should have read it years ago
  • Finished The Shadow Rising (Wheel of Time book 4) in September, finally, after almost a year of very slowly getting through it. Then finished books 5 and 6 in roughly one month each, and got half way through book 7 in December
  • I started and continued the Architect DM series at Critical Hits, which has been insanely fun to write and seems to be received quite well too
  • Movies we saw in theaters: Iron Man 2, Inception (twice), RED, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, Tron: Legacy (maybe some others, will update if I remember)
  • Becky and I resubbed to World of Warcraft for Cataclysm (god help us) in early December - and we're loving it
Reading Update: I am currently 67% through Wheel of Time book 5 - A Crown of Swords. My progress stalled for a week or two during the holidays for various reasons. We were pretty busy, but also I got several new books before the holidays and as Christmas presents so that naturally slowed down my progress because I wanted to read them a bit instead of just focusing on Wheel of Time. The very last Wheel of Time book was also pushed back to a 2012 release date, which means I have more than a year to read the last 5 books and one prequel which is more than enough time. I'm going to throw a few other books in the mix but will also try to get through WoT as soon as possible so I can talk things over with Becky without fear of spoilers.