Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Renaissance Soul

a.k.a. someone who is curious about too many things.

a.k.a. me

So much in our current culture encourages us to find one or two things we are good at (or interested in) and pursue them, put our in our 10,000 hours and become experts. There aren't a heck of a lot rewards those of us who have a broad range of interests and the intention to keep pursing them. Certainly growing up I felt the need to fine my niche and stay there, accumulating knowledge, skill and expertise. As I grew older and tried other things I still felt a sliver of hope at the outset, that this new hobby or interest would be "the one" and I would be on my way to a deep, lifelong relationship and maybe some published books.

Hasn't happened yet and I'm beginning to suspect it wont happen for me. But I have tried many neat things, learned some useful skills, and a handful of these activities are ones I want to keep pursuing, keep learning and improving my expertise.

So much to explore, so little time!

A few years ago I came across this book when browsing Amazon and just reading the description it felt like a light went on. The author gave a name to people like me, perpetual try-ers unwilling to commit to just one interest: Renaissance Souls. Ok, yeah, sure its a bit touchy-feely-selfy-helpy. And the phrase "life design" just annoys the everliving crap outta me - pretentious much? But it showed me that there are many more people out there with a similar bend and with a bit of restraint and planning, it is something you can embrace.

Getting better with the embracing part, still figuring out how to feed the part of me that is like a kid in the candy store, where the candy store is this totally, amazingly awesome world we live in. As much as I want to taste and try everything, there just isn't enough time. 

Hello new and interesting thing! What can I learn from you?

A brief, off the cuff list of things I want to pursue:
(note: most I have at least passing experience with, enough to know I want to learn more. Who knows about all the things I haven't tried yet!)

* running (barefoot, trail and chirunning)
* yoga (regular practice, and eventually ashtanga)
* rock climbing
* skiing (cross-country and downhill)
* whitewater canoeing
* kite surfing
* contortion
* improve swimming strokes/endurance
* meditation
* sewing (clothing mostly)
* quilting
* needlework (cross-stitch, needlepoint, hardanger)
* knitting
* crocheting
* learn to sing
* gardening (fruit trees, vegetable, herb, bulb flowers, ornamental grasses, lithops)
* bonsai
* build a computer
* raise a brackish-water puffer fish
* painting (oil and watercolour, plein air, abstract, fantasy and realism)
* drawing (keep a regular sketchbook, drawing realistically, portraits)
* coloured pencil art
* digital art (e.g. Photoshop)
* pottery
* history of the middle east
* history of asia
* oh hell, the history of pretty much everything
* ditto archaeology
* interior decorating
* carpentry
* learn more about investing
* home finances/become a budget ninja
* become a better (video) gamer
* eating (reducing meat, exploring more vegan, vegetarian and raw additions to my diet. Note I said reducing there, not eliminating. You can relax B ;) ) 

On to something else....

Some notable absences:

There isn't really anything to do with writing - I use writing as a tool, to communicate, but it isn't something that I feel called to do on a creative level. No blockbuster fantasy novels coming from this gal!
Cooking - not because I don't want to pursue it, but because I already feel I have a solid handle on the making tasty things; it is such a fundamental part of my life and who I am that it isn't something I want to pursue, I AM pursing it. Huge success. The same goes for camping/wilderness canoeing.

Looking at this list its no wonder that I think of the ~50 years left of my life and feel time crushing down. There are just so many neat things to learn and do in this world I'll never have enough time to try and achieve even basic competence at everything (and I haven't even touched on experiences yet, like travel!). Sometimes I think I'm too curious for my own good.

Snoozing up energy for the next adventure!

In an effort not to turn this into a novel, I'm going to split this post into two parts.

Next post I'm going to talk a bit about the challenges that comes from being endlessly curious in a world with endless things to be curious about and one way to deal with them.

To Part 2

Friday, 18 March 2011

PAX East 2011

Whew, been back from PAX since Sunday. On the bright side I avoided catching the PAX Plague, on the not-so-bright side I caught my friend's cold halfway through the weekend and spend my last day at PAX in a sick, exhausted stupor and most the subsequent week in bed.

PAX was.....amazing, incredible, mind-blowing, intense, affirming, cool....just totally an out-of-this-world awesome experience. I'm not really going to try and put to words all that PAX was and means to me as a geek who has been teased and felt like an outsider over her gaming hobbies for years. Instead I'll just give you a description that I've seen more than a few people give for PAX and now having experienced it for myself, I can say they are right on the money:

"It felt like coming home"

Comments on random things:

Mmy packing plan worked perfectly. Just bringing one t-shirt was a brilliant move if I do say so myself. By the end of the weekend I had bought 2 t-shirts and acquired 5 free ones (and really good free ones too!). Even had plenty of room for my loot on the trip home without having to check any bags.


T-shirt haul

Actually felt much less urge to buy things than I had anticipated. Barely spent any of my birthday money. Was a bit disappointed in the selection of nerdy t-shirts for sale, particularly official Penny-Arcade ones, but it was made up for by the quality of the free ones. Other than some awesome new dice, card protectors and a pile of Magic: The Gathering (M:TG) cards acquired from a combination of swag bag loot/birthday gifts/tournament loot/stuff people were giving away I didn't really buy anything. Lots of board games for sale at really great prices (woot high Canadian dollar!) but we don't have the room for new board games right now. Maybe next year.

 Random dice bin at the Chessex booth

My new dice
Things to do
Wow, yeah. When they warn you that you can't even possibly come close to doing everything at PAX they are right. There is so much to do, we barely scratched the surface even after spending almost all of our waking moments at the convention center.

Things I got to do:
* attended two panels (had hoped to see a pile more)
* spent alot of time on the expo hall floor getting free shirts and entering raffles (boo, no new computer for me)
* Demo'd the following games: The Hunted: the Demon's Forge, Vindictus, Dragon Nest, Swam
* games I wanted to demo but the lines were too long: Orcs Must Die, Portal 2, L.A. Noire
* Late night booster draft game of M:TG. I beat The Tall, Hot Viking Hunk and came in the top 50% so actually won prizes. Would have made it to the final round had I not messed up my mental math in a game and attacked instead of holding back. Not bad for someone who is terrible at M:TG
* Watched Phreak shoutcast a League of Legends (LoL) game live (awesome)
* Played LoL (oh swoon how nice it was to game on a computer that doesn't have the processing power of a toaster)
* Sat in the famous giant beanbags in the Handheld Freeplay area. Bliss when you are sick.

* Walked around all Friday wearing a Plants vs. Zombies Traffic Cone hat. Left it in the hotel room, seriously regretting not bringing it home with me.
* Played Wasabi! and Agricola in the tabletop gaming area. Quite liked Wasabi! Can't argue with a board game where you make sushi :)

Things I didn't get to do:
* Watch or participate in the LoL tournament
* Go to the Riot Games invite-only party (got the invites, but were too tired to go in the end....sigh)
* missed a ton of panels due to distraction and leaving too early on Sunday
* Play D&D with new people
* Play in the M:TG intro deck league
* Spend more than 5 minutes in the comfy beanbags
* Attend the concerts and see Johnathon Coulton and Paul & Storm play live

On cosplayers

 A Claptrap from Borderlands

So I knew there would be cosplayers, and I honestly wasn't sure how I would react to them. Yes, I'm a geek, but cosplaying has never been something thats appealed to me or that I've really understood. I've laughed at more than a few pictures of silly looking cosplayers (and grumbled in envy of the girls with the bodies to basically walk around in their underwear and look hot doing it). At best I had figured cosplayers would make me speed up and glance uncomfortably away.

But you know what? They turned out to be one of my favorite parts of PAX. The smiles one people's faces when cosplayers walk by, the fun of recognizing favorite characters, or gasps in awe at the complexity of some of the costumes. I was just blown away and got a big grin every time I saw someone in costume. They were like walking smile-generators moving through the crowds, spreading joy (and a bit of ab-envy). That is something I can get 100% behind.

An oops....
The trip back was uneventful, aside from the whole "omg just let me get home, get cold meds and fall into blissful oblivion", but when we were waiting to go through customs, and I was staring down at my chest (don't ask why, probably my sick-addled brain through it was a great way to rest my neck)....only then did I notice the shirt I was wearing. The "Fully Loaded one"

Look closely

Do you see it?

Why yes, the text on the shirt IS in fact made up of weapons.

Brilliant move Fuss, brilliant move.

Thank you TSA for not pulling me aside and strip-searching me.

Some notes-to-self for next year:
* take the same approach to packing, you awesome packing beast you
* spend the extra money and go down Thursday night and leave Monday morning
* save money by not eating breakfast at the hotel restaurant (however delicious) and bring snacks for lunch instead of overpriced con food.
* have the confidence to enter the LoL tournament.
* have even more guts to actually talk to the designers of LoL (gods that they are)
* seriously consider volunteering to be an enforcer

Apologies for the lack of really awesome pictures. Sadly the camera I borrowed was disinclined to focus properly.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

PAX East 2011 - packing

Alright, here is the promised packing post - with pictures!*

It's only after I took the picture that I realized that this is going to be a much less interesting post than anticipated. Since I'm traveling with just a carry on, space is limited.

Yup, that's everything for a week of nerdy goodness.

In a roughly clockwise order starting from the top left:
- day pack for carrying swag and snacks
- empty water bottle (to be filled when through security)
- carryon bag for everything
- camera
- toiletries (including copious amounts of hand sanitizer, vitamin C and ColdFX to help prevent the PAX Plague)
- clothing (extra pair of pants, 1 t-shit, 1 sweater - will be supplemented with awesome geek-ware purchased at PAX)
- cloth bag (in case of large amounts of swag)
- schedule
- granola bars, fruit leathers and a bar of really really good chocolate
- Nintendo DS + games
- Zombie Dice
- ereader
- credit cards
- notebook + pen
- passport!
- socks

Missing: comfy pair of shoes, PAX entrance badge, which I stupidly forgot to include.

It all fits!

So, will this be too much? Not enough? I really cheezily want to write "stay tuned to find out!"

Back in a few days, hopefully with great experiences and great loot.

* no, camera isn't back yet, ended up borrowing one for the trip.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Where Fuss works on fitness....

It is still winter here, and ice coats the roads and sidewalks, so getting out for a walk or run is more suicidal than anything. I practice my chiwalking when I can, but until the roads clear up a bit, I'm limited by my desire not to end up with a broken arm or (yet another) sprained ankle. I want to do something before spring to improve my fitness, give myself a confidence boost and get a head start for when the roads clear and I can run without threat of hospitalization.

In an effort to counteract the effects of sitting in my chair all day thesis-ing (or trying to thesis) and eating my parent's food I'm embarking on a series of fitness challenges:

* The 100 Push-ups Challenge
* The 200 Sit-ups Challenge
* The 200 Squats Challenge
* And the Yoga Journal 21-day home practice challenge

It may seem like a lot, but the first 3 only require a commitment 3 days a week, for 10 minutes each, so a total of 30 minutes for a push-up/sit-up/squat session, 90 min a week total. And the yoga sequences vary in length from 10 minutes to 45(-ish). I should add that all of these are free - even the 21 video sequences for the yoga challenge. I love free.

The push-ups/sit-ups/squats challenges (henceforth known as p/s/s) have you do as many p/s/s's in a row as possible for a baseline a few days prior to starting the challenge. Did that today, and I will begin all of the challenges in earnest Post-PAX on Monday (really don't feel like doing yoga crammed in a hotel room in front of my friends).

My starting numbers:

Push ups: 10 (from the knee....never been able to do a proper push-up in my life)
Sit ups: 35
Squats: 65 (WTF?!?!?! and yes, I triple checked to make sure my form was correct. I am a squat monster, hear me roar!).
Yoga: too fluffy to gauge, but I can easily touch my toes and do some sort of yoga at least once a week, so I'm not starting from scratch here.

Anyone want to join me?

Monday, 7 March 2011

Absensce and a scarf

Well, now I've gone and done something else typical of blogging - disappeared for a long while with no updates. Not a great way to keep my two readers coming back for more :P

Life hit with some things going on that I didn't want to write about (this place isn't a blow-by-blow of my life after all) and my energy and focus for blogging went ka-blooey. Kept wishing my camera was back from the shop since there are some photo-posts I want to make that would have been easy to do in the flurry of last week. Alas.

Next time I've got some ideas to try for keeping blogging in the face of stress:

* keep a list of post ideas for times when my idea-generating capabilities are low
* write a few extra posts to keep in reserve
* just blog small, short things to keep things from getting stale
* hope my camera gets back soon!

So, I'm back.

And I knit a scarf. It looks like seaweed. Awesome.

Of course, lack of camera means lack of pictures, but conveniently I ended up choosing the same coloured yarn as the model, so you see pretty much exactly what I made:

(Picture linked from, although it seems to be the promo image for this type of yarn. Citation gods, please don't strike me down!*)

My grandmother and I were in Wool Thyme shopping for a sweater pattern she is going to knit me (Nanny = awesome knitter) and she looked at this yarn and told me to pick out a colour since I was GOING to knit a scarf. I love a crafting woman who takes charge. Yarn is Triana in Sea Green & Blue and it basically looks like a type of mesh that you then knit to itself. Very very simple and knit up in about 3 hours. Perfect for this knitting-challenged individual.

Kinda want to make a few more - a 3 hour scarf is good boost for the crafting self-esteem. I also have some really cool ideas to use the yarn in a tribal bellydance costume. So many ideas, so little time...and money.

This week will be a short one - the PAX East festivities begin for us on Thursday night and Friday morning we fly to Boston for 3 days of gamer heaven. Can't wait.

Am thinking about doing a "Packing for PAX East" post, I love reading other people's packing lists, and it might be useful to have to compare for future years (yup, haven't even been yet and we are already thinking of making this an annual thing. Cart before the horse much?). So my dual dear readers, care to hear what I'm bringing for an orgy of nerdy activities?

*Note to self: research blogging policy and etiquette on linking pictures, recipes etc. grad school has given me a complex about citations.