Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Quest for the Pro Tour

"Tournament Reports" has finally been re released under the Lulu label.

Now titled "Quest for the Pro Tour."

Available in print or download.

From Amazon.com reviews of the original -

"I spent $100 to buy this book and found it well worth it. Other MTG books age, this does not. Jamie Wakefield is very entertaining. " - Spyros A. Svoronos.

"Many current experienced M:tG writer were influenced by Jamie Wakefield. This book makes a wonderful autobiography of someone struggling to be one of the best Magic players around. You will not be sorry if you buy this book. " - C. Bedford Crenshaw.

"Jamie Wakefield's tournament reports draw you into his life. The book inlcudes some strategy advice, but mainly engrosses you in the story of Jamie's experiences at Magic tournaments. If there is a volume 2, I will buy it. " - A Reader.

"I have read every book out there on M:TG. This is my all time favorite book. A great way to learn how to prepare for PTQ's, through a person who's done it many times." - A Reader.

"I was very happy to have read and enjoyed this wonderful book. Mr. Wakefield provided a weekend of entertainment and enlightenment for me with his work. I highly recommend this book to any Magic player, or person just interested in a little fun reading. " - A Reader.

"This is a shining star in a morass of poorly written Magic the Gathering books. It is unique in that the author is the main protagonist and it gives you insight into how a professional Magic player evaluates cards and comes up with decks. This isn't a "how to" book its more of a "how I did it" book." - A Reader.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

A life worth living

I have just finished “Replay” for the fifth time. Well, I think it’s the fifth time. When you go years between readings you sort of lose track.

Years between readings. Think about the ramifications of that sentence fragment...

People say “life is short.” They are wrong. Life is long long long.

Years between readings.

I look back on the different sections of my life, and each one of them has so many experiences packed into them. Each like a four to ten year chapter in the novel that makes up my life...

The high school chapter. The college chapter. The manager of the Middlebury Inn chapter. The computer tech at Computer Alternatives chapter. The trying to be good at Magic chapter. The Marriage chapter. The obsession with MMORPG’s chapter. And now the Spain chapter.

All of those chapters were like little lives. Each one of them has so many experiences packed into them. So many memories.

I look back on the college chapter and it seemed to last so long. It seemed to last for a lifetime. And then it was over. And as the years passed and I would get together with friends and we would reminisce about those days and each year we would realize “Do you know that was 4 years ago? Eight years ago? Fifteen years ago.”

Lobsterfest is this weekend at my house. My college friends and past lovers will show up with chips, salad, lobster, alcohol and memories. We will reminisce and at one point someone will say

“Do you know that was nineteen years ago?”

If college was a lifetime, we have lived almost five lifetimes since then.

Which brings me to Replay.

In the past, every time I read this book it put me into a funk for days, sometimes weeks. It appeals to me so much the idea of going back to college and to make different choices with foreknowledge. I used to long for it. To know my friends in those days of burgeoning wisdom, mounting debt and dwindling funds. How fun it would have been to guide them both morally and financially. Convince them to pick up some Apple and Microsoft stock. Make us all rich. How nice it would have been to make both the same and different romantic choices as the options arose in the next decade.

How nice it would have been to collect a couple hundred Black Lotuses when they were selling for a quarter apiece. Or bet on the Buster Douglas vs. Mike Tyson fight at 40-1 odds and make a fortune.

To live that life over again. To not make stupid mistakes. To be effortlessly rich. To enjoy that time even more than the first time around.

The book put me into a funk because we only get one life. We only get one college time. One after college time. One set of experiences. And I would read it, and then I would look around and feel like I had blown it. Sure, I had a great life. I had done well by myself. I wasn’t homeless living in a ditch. I wasn’t drifting between jobs or women.

But this is LIFE MAN. LIFE! The great and beautiful thing! The best thing in the universe and I could have done it so much better! I could have been smarter. Made better choices! Not said those stupid things at those stupid times and embarrassed myself. I could have… I don’t know, been a better wrestler. Man I wish I had tried harder wrestling in HS. I wish had known how much money could be made playing pro tennis. I used to be pretty good. If I had practiced more when I was younger. Fitter.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I always loved my life. I thought I was very lucky. I loved my wife, my home, my job, my book. I always thought I had made some good choices and was in a very good place.

But I would finish Replay and I would be filled with a sense of loss. A funk like I had screwed up somewhere and couldn’t fix it. A deep longing to go back and do things different. Despite the fact that I loved where I was. And I didn’t know why that book always filled me with that longing.

Well, I just finished that book for the fifth time and for the first and only time, I have no deep longing. I have no feeling like I have messed up somewhere and would like to go back and make different choices.

And I know it has to do with the Spain life. The current chapter of this novel that I am living.

I don’t know if my meager skills can stress enough the importance of how long we live and how many different ways we can transform ourselves to make the most of that life.

In “The Last Superman Story” by Alan Moore, Myxyzptlk reveals that he is immortal. And immortals get bored. In order to relieve the boredom, he would spend 5000 years exploring an aspect of himself, and then change. And spend 5000 years doing something else. He once spent 5000 years in silence. Spent 5000 years being good. He had spent the last 5000 years being a mischievous top hat wearing comical imp. Now he had decided that he was going to spend the next 5000 years being evil.

We do not have immortality. But we have a long long time to explore all aspects of ourselves. Life is not short. We are the elves of this world. The only thing that lives longer than us is trees and turtles. (And carp actually. I just looked it up.)

I’ve told you before about the way I divide my life into varying chapters. The chapter I am in right now is particularly interesting. At the end of my last chapter, I had never been outside North America, I was married, 213 lbs, short hair, steady almost monotonous job, retirement fund growing every week, house payments made every month and I was finally bored of Magic and WOW and constantly wondered “Is this all there is?” I would look at myself in the mirror, see my bloated neck, crooked yellow teeth and I would give that fat thing the finger, disgusted with the way I looked.

Today, I am leeching away my retirement fund in a desperate bid to fulfill a lifelong dream of being a Writer. I am 170 lbs, long hair, goatee, waist the size it was shortly after college. When I look in the mirror I think with wonder “This is the best I have ever looked, in my entire life.” I have trained in MMA, competed in a Submission grappling tournament, been to Madrid, Paris, Provence, Berlin and I’m learning Spanish. I get up every morning and I cherish the last few moments in bed because I know the rest of the day is going to be “Ready? Go!”

I had no idea my life needed this chapter. I had no idea how to make myself stop saying “Is this all there is?” because I loved my life. I wanted to be interested in WOW again. I wanted to remain at my job forever. I wanted to keep growing my retirement fund and then retire and Mare and I would just sit at home and read and play video games all day.

THAT seemed like bliss to me.

My parents go down to Florida every winter and they stay in this little cabin right on the ocean. My brother and sister have both taken their families down to visit and stay in their own little cabin. Marilyn and I were invited every year and we would decline.

“Gotta take care of the dogs.” We would say.

Wendy and I went this year. I spent time with my brother and his family. Great kids. Lovely wife. We went for an ocean cruise, fished and rode the waves. I woke up and saw a dolphin jump out of the water in the early morning sunshine. There were three dozen Manatees floating right off the dock every morning. Close enough to touch. We walked through a nature preserve filled with alligators.

I did not know I needed that. But I did.

My sister was a waitress at Rosies for, I don’t know, fifteen years. It was perfect for her. The customers loved her, she got lots of attention, and the work was relatively easy. And she and I would get together and chat and ask each other “is this all there is?”

Then she quit.

She got some counseling about why she was sad, got some tests done on her brain and then decided to explore some options. Her counselor told her she needed to do something else. Her road to happiness would start with finding out what she wanted to do.

She took up photography and she had the gift. Some of her stuff was just fantastic. Then she came to work with me as a volunteer computer tech at the high school. I’ve never seen anyone take to computers as fast as she did. I told her if she kept it up she could get a job at the school with me or at the local computer store. She could be a techie. She worked with me for about three months and decided it wasn’t for her. She wanted to work with animals and started volunteering with a veterinary service in Vergennes. I think that lasted a month and then they had a job opening that she applied for. She didn’t get it and was devastated.

We could not understand why, but secretly held onto the belief that everything happens for a reason.

Next she saw a job advertised caring for forty show dachshunds.

She got it.

Happy happy happy. Still there. Still happy.

Change is good. This is NOT all there is. There is more. So much more.

Her husband Todd was head chef and manager of one of the nicest restaurants in town. He had worked his way up through high school and been there ever since. Had health insurance and good pay. And pretty much hated and was sick of it after 20 years. You ever worked in a service industry?

It drains you. It saps your life. It has a very high burnout rate. Take it from me, I know. I would still dream about working at the Middlebury Inn for years after I had left.

Where Molly was working needed a new handy man. Todd likes working with his hands and he’s good at it. He applied and since the old money that owned these forty show dogs liked Molly so much, they paid him the same as what he was making at his last job so they could work together. I saw them just this weekend.

“You guys still love working with the show dogs?”
“Love it” Molly says.
“Best decision I ever made” Todd says. Looks quickly at Molly “Second best decision.”

My friend Steve Savage and his girlfriend Maria sold everything they owned and left a life in Madrid and moved to Australia. They’ve started up a new company called Cairns Unlimited. Nothing like a little risk to keep things interesting.

In Ultra Marathon Man a thirty year old executive making a ton of money finds his life hollow. His search for meaning comes when he decides to just run all night long. Now he runs hundred mile marathons and feels at peace. If he was immortal I bet he’d spend 5000 years running.

My friend Mizu is on a ten year plan to buy a boat and sail the ocean picking up work where he can find it. Right now he’s taking scuba diving lessons so he can repair the boat in the middle of the ocean if he needs to.

The point of all of this is of course, we live a long damn time. It is never too late to reinvent yourself and your life. You should never be asking yourself “is this all there is?” because no, this isn’t all there is. There is more. A lot more.

Mizu has a stable job and a family. It’s not going to keep him from living his dream.

Steve Savage traveled the world on pennies.

Ultra Marathon Man got up at 4 am to pursue his running. He has a stable job, wife, kids and he found meaning in the open road.

If you are perfectly happy where you are then you can read this entry and store it away for the future. I’ve been there. I have been perfectly happy in my house playing video games and I loved it. I envy you. I’m not saying you need to stop that. What I am saying is, if you are unhappy with yourself or where you are, then change.

It is never too late to pursue your dreams. It is never too late to reinvent yourself. It is never too late to try something else. It is never too late to lose weight, start writing, learn a different language, travel the world, sail the seas, and open a new business, whatever!

If you are in an unsatisfying rut, then get out of it.

If you are unhappy, then experiment until you find what fulfills you.

You don’t need a dozen lifetimes to fulfill your dreams.

You need one.

This one.

Make the most of it.

You do not get a Replay.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Quiddich

Joshie - "John, we broke down by your house, hop on your quiddich broom and get over here and help us out."

If you are mystified by the above sentence, I updated yesterday's entry in the afternoon. Go read that and it will all become clear.

The first two weeks back are very busy. I should be updating with more content next week.

I continue to fail at sleep.

I was up at 6:45 this morning after going to sleep at 1:30 am. I tried for 90 minutes to get back to sleep but the brain would not stop it's cacophonous litany of things it thought I should get up and do.

I do not feel well today.

Yesterday was hours spent at Lulu trying to fix "The Quest for the Pro Tour" upload and failing. The site went down for maintenance then my computer froze a couple times. I uploaded the manuscript, found some errors and had to do it again. Repeat that sentence twice more. When I finally got it right, it just sat and spun at "converting" until I finally gave up in disgust after two hours of working on it.

I still have nothing to sell you.

Soon my lovelies. Soon.

Would I be a whore if I shouted "Support the King of the Fatties!"

I think so.

It's okay, all writers are whores.

I think. Haven't I heard that quote somewhere...

You know what this blog needs? More white space... (green space?)

Coming soon, as promised, a lecture on "A Life Worth Living" wrapped around a book review for "Replay." Also, a Tenth edition Magic review. And, soon, a huge gamble will be taken on this site with a new idea called "Wakefield's Paladins" an idea I have been toying with for a decade and will finally try to make a reality. Wanna be a Paladin? Me too. Check back later.

In other news, I just checked out the latest tournament online for Time Spiral Block. The format used to qualify for Pro Tour Spain. Guess what color was in 7 of the top 8 decks?

I'll give you a hint, it wasn't Green, Black, Red or White.

Sigh.

Monday, July 23, 2007

The Random Stuff First

Magic - There is a tournament at Heroes Kingdom I will probably go to on August 4th. Hopefully Hilary or Jeremy can build me a deck and lend me some cards. All my cards are digital these days.

World of Warcraft - Having finally tamed Rak'shiri I headed back over to the Burning Crusade to explore. The first two quests vastly upgraded my bow and my melee weapon. But I kept seeing mining deposits that I couldn't touch because my mining was only 240. The only way to fix that was to head back to the old world and spend a week or five raising it up to 300. Could I really do that and just ignore all the new things to explore?

Hey look, I only have 47 gold in my pocket.

So, I guess, yes, if I ever wanted to buy anything again, like, say, my epic mount, then yes, I would be heading back to the old world to level my mining. That was three weeks ago.

This morning it hit 296.

Mixed Martial Arts - My weight continues to hold steady at 170. Wendy and I run often and continue to increase our distance. My Concept 2 rowing machine beckons me and soon I will be watching UFC while it hums along beneath me. I still plan to return to training at some point in the future and hope to have some more fights. Probably a few years off as I get this whole writing thing off the ground.

Going right along with that, thanks to my goatee, mustache and new wardrobe, old friends look me right in the eye in the grocery store and then look away, having no idea who I am. I'll catch their eye again, smile or say their name and they'll blankly look at me for a second say "hello" and about 5 seconds later a little light goes on and they say soemthing like "Holy Shit" or "I didn't even recognize you. When did you get back into the states?"

In real UFC news, a match of good versus evil has been scheduled. At UFC 74, the man I loathe most in the UFC is fighting the man I admire most in the UFC. Sadly, evil will probably win it.

Travel - 5:45 am. Eyes closed. Mind wide awake. "I should go downstairs and update my blog. I need to tell everyone about "Replay" and lecture them on a life worth living" I think to myself. But if I do get up, I will feel like crap all day. And Wendy and I have a lot of stuff to do today. Family stuff, chore stuff, work stuff, shopping stuff. I need to go back to sleep. Of course, I could get up and see if they have updated info on the Continental website about where my bag is. Man, that bag better get here. If that is lost, that is a big problem.

I open my eyes and look at Wendy's tan freckled shoulder, her long black hair lazily falling down her back. Still deeply asleep. At least, I think she's still asleep. She might be lying there thinking about all the things we have to do today. Jet lag has hit us both hard. Comparing notes in the past few days has found us both struggling to get back to sleep past 6 am. Well, that's noon in Madrid and our bodies haven't adjusted yet I guess.

I should go downstairs, get some coffee, raise my mining a few points in WoW and then get to writing. Well, after I look for updates on my bag. And check email. And go next door and say hello to my folks. And read a little more "Replay."

Oh and "Quest for the Pro Tour" came in. The jacket and pages look good. Quality stuff. But the inside margins are too wide and the spacing is off. I need to fix that, should be an hours worth of work. Upload it to Lulu again and then make a link to it on my blog. Gotta do that soon too. I'm anxious to see how many people will actually buy it. Fifty? A Hundred? Five Hundred?

Seven?

Probably seven...

The problem is, if I get up too early, the day is essentially ruined for me. I feel shaky most of the day, still half asleep, can't summon the urge to do anything other than read or watch TV. The only way to save even half the day is if I can get a nap in later and that almost never happens. And when it does, my mind won't shut up, just like now, and I can't sleep.

Anxious for news, I get out of bed, go downstairs and check status on my bag and there is nothing. Damn it! If that bag does not get here, I am really screwed. It has all of my writing burned to DVD in it. Wendy's power cord for her computer. My suit. My entire new wardrobe. Damn it!

I go back upstairs and fall back asleep after a half an hour of tossing and turning.

I check status again at 10:00 am.

Woohoo! They have found my bag.

It will be delivered in 4 hours.

Thank God.

Joshie comes over and laughs at my new look. Wendy comes in and hears the laughter and doesn't like it.

"Hey Joshie, nice haircut."
"Thanks."
"You lose a bet and have to get that?"

I love that woman.

We went grocery shopping, sorted a mountain of mail, had dinner with my folks, showed them a slide show of pictures on the computer, had dinner with Wendy's dad and his girlfriend of ten years and then went to a wedding in Rhode Island this weekend. As I pulled out of my driveway, the battery light on my dashboard came on. Wonder what that means? It remains on all the way down and all the home.

Until Concord NH when it, and everything else electrical in the car, goes off. Including the electricity needed to fire the pistons.

This was the best breakdown ever.

The car starts to sputter and fail right at an exit so we are not stranded on the freeway, but make it off the exit ramp before the car sputters its last. I call my folks to get my brother's phone number. It is rare they are home, or inside, on the weekends, but for some reason they are. I fill them in on what is going on and mom says she will call John and have him call us.

Wendy and I walk a mile into town and find a nice service station that doesn't have a tow truck, but if we can get it to the garage, they will be happy to work on it the next morning, it being a Sunday and all.

It is rare that John is home on the weekend. He and his family are frequently fishing on the lake. And being avid Harry Potter fans, they might be at his new movie today. (John is mad for Harry Potter. He dressed up like a wizard to get his copy of the new book at midnight this week. I find that a little odd for a 44 year old executive, but, hey, whatever floats his boat.)

Oddly, he is home as well and calls me right away. He says he's twenty minutes away and will be there soon. Wendy and I read "Time" and "People" magazine in the air conditioned lobby of the Sunoco station.

John arrives beaming. "Shit man, you look great."
"Thanks John, you too. Nice cape. And you've lost more weight. 155 now?"
"158. And I'm not wearing a cape you jackass, why are you telling people I like Harry Potter?"
"Artistic license. I have to keep my readers amused."

John suggests we go down to Walmart and get a new battery. I tell him I don't think that's it since the light has been on since we left and the car started right up this morning. If the battery was dying it would have been harder to start this morning.

Again, luckily, there is a Walmart 3 miles away.

We buy a new battery, some tools, get back to the car and before we change batteries, I try to start it up. Nothing. And it all clicks into place. The alternator is dead. It's not recharging the battery. So we drove it until it died and a new battery will get us home.

We put the new battery in and the 1998 Rav4 roars to life. I shake hands with John, his cape blowing in the wind, his little wand that he waves at the car jauntily held in his left hand and he wishes us well. We make it home with no problems.

Lucky 1 - Right near an exit.
Lucky 2 - Right near my brother's house.
Lucky 3 - Mom and Dad home.
Lucky 4 - John home.
Lucky 5 - Air conditioned waiting room with magazines.
Lucky 6 - Walmart 3 miles away.
Lucky 7 - New battery gets us home rather than waiting a day to get it fixed.

Some good.

Wendy falls asleep reading the new Harry Potter we picked up in Rhode Island. I finish Replay for the fifth time.

I am awake at 5:45 and cannot get back to sleep.

Today, Wendy is on the back stoop reading in the sun.

I am finally writing again.

Multiple Updates

I know it's Monday and you're looking for something to read. There should be multiple updates today as Wendy and I are finally home from the wedding and doing some work today. Check back often.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Travel Travel

Some fun. Holy God.

The morning started off better than mornings have a right to start. With a last wistful look, we left our apartment in Madrid for six weeks, closing the door quietly behind us. The plants watered, the fridge nearly empty, the Jamon gently placed in the bin.

Then the cab came on time.

We arrived at the airport two hours ahead of when our plane was set to depart. We were greeted by a teeming mass of humanity greater than the herds of buffalo that once roamed this great land. (See, I'm in America now so I can actually say that and not mean Madrid buffalo.)

Oh they were everywhere. We could barely get in the door. Each window had lines as long as a Dune sandwurm.

Except for ours.

Making our way through the press of the crowd, we plunged right through the sea of humanity to find the Continental windows completely vacant. We don't know what the chaos was behind us, but for once, it didn't touch us. We were in a mystical sea of calm inside an airport. Impossible, but true.

Wendy's bag was too heavy so we had to transfer stuff into mine. Like her computer power cord and all her toiletries and an extra computer battery. That was enough and that minor emergency solved, we got our tickets and boarding passes. On to that living nightmare known as "security." And again, there was no line.

In all of the traveling I have done in the past six months, this has never happened. Every single time has a been a line hundreds of people long at every major airport. Even the small airports had lines tens of people long. But not today.

We went to a small cafe and got some diet coke, a coke, a pizza baguette and some yogurt. Behind us, at 12:15 in the afternoon, a small elderly Spanish couple is finishing off the fifth beer of their lunch. Ah Spain. We won't see sights like that in the next six weeks.

Boarding was also hassle free. What a great day we are having!

Eight and a half hours later and I'm starting to wonder if this plane is ever going to land... And then when it does finally land, twenty minutes late already, someone is parked in our gate, so we sit on the tarmac for an hour waiting for a space to park. We finally make our way inside and find out our luggage will be coming in on carousel 11. Fifteen bags from our airplane come in, Wendy's being the third one out. I gleefully grab it and anxiously scan for mine.

Spain refuses to let me go. Next to me, a little Spanish kid is crowding into me trying to get his luggage. Only he doesn't seem to know which luggage is his and keeps grabbing all the black bags that go by. He starts to struggle with one of them, pulling it out and I step aside to give him room. Seeing her chance, his grandmother crowds into the space I just vacated and starts guessing at bags as well. She hauls one out, I step back a little more, starting to get peeved and mom and his sister push by me and start also pawing every ones bags looking for more of theirs. I look at Wendy and smile.

"What the Hell?" she says to me.
"Typical Spaniards."

I see an opening and jump back into a space that grandma has just vacated and press myself all the way tight to the carousel, learning a valuable lesson. If you leave a single space, they will take it. That space must be free! Oh were you standing there? Didn't see you!

But if you stand right up tight, they can't slide between you. I have learned a valuable lesson and hold my position.

2 minutes later and a loudspeaker blares that our luggage will now be coming out on carousel 14. What the Hell? Must have something to do with someone in our gate earlier and now they have to move or some damn thing.

We make our way over to baggage carousel 14 and nothing is moving. A few minutes go by and a girl from our flight informs the crowd she just got one piece of her luggage off carousel 13. They make an announcement. "Oops, we meant 13."

Sporadically, people from our flight start finding luggage coming out on 11, 13, and 14. But, as time drags on, more and more people are still without luggage, and more and more flights have come in and more and more luggage and people are being crowded into the area.

Meanwhile we, and a dozen others, keep asking where the rest of the luggage from our flight is. They don't know. Baggage isn't answering there phone. Well can you go talk to them? Page them? You have a walkie talkie use that!

Two hours later and everyone gives up. My bag is still no where to be found as I type this. My bag with checks I want to cash worth $2200, with all my new clothes, with my suit for the wedding this weekend in Rhode Island, with Wendy's make up and computer power cord and extra battery.

Not fun.

"Luckily" we have a 5 hour layover so we still have time to get a steak a couple beers and a crab cake before we have to board our flight to Burlington. Also luckily, the family of five, four of them being very small children, decide NOT to sit next to us and go somewhere else.

Not so luckily, we are seated next to a couple that seems to think they are the cats meow of western civilization. A young couple that talks on their cell phones for the entire meal, send back the meat he got on his salad to have it done more, and ask a dozen questions about every piece of food as if they were eating in a 5 star restaurant not a pub in an airport.

Jackasses.

Our plane is ten minutes late boarding, we get on and they inform us "There's a bit of a line to take off, and we're about fifteenth so its going to be about 45 minutes until we can leave."

Wendy and I both swear loudly.

To make up time, the tiny little plane is cranked into warp factor eleven to get to Burlington and hits a lot of turbulence. The relentless noise of the engines and the dipping and jostling fray my nerves and I scream like a little girl and Wendy has to slap me a few times. (In all reality I told her I wasn't enjoying this flight at all and she did a brilliant job of talking me down and taking my mind off it. Such an amazing woman.)

My folks graciously pick us up at the airport and drive us home. The entire house has been cleaned, car inspected and cleaned, dogs shaved and all vet appointments done, and, I kid you not, Doug has turned down the bed and put chocolates on the pillows.

It's good to be home.

Monday, July 16, 2007

A Perfect Day

Last week I had a perfect day.

Perfect days do not come along often. Savor them. I am still grinning and happy today because yesterday was so perfect.

It started out with a b… sec, phone…. breakfast bar, a liter of water and coffee.

Then I colored my hair.

Hey, I’m not afraid to admit it. Both my parents have that early grey hair gene so that means I have it too. If I don’t color my hair I might look like I’m over thirty and I just couldn't face that. It came out a little less red and lot more brown than I would have liked, but all the grey is gone. Even the grey streaks in my mustache and beard are gone.

Wendy had to do some errands and asked if I wanted to go which was a thankful yes. The scale has been very kind to me and we didn’t go for a run that morning so walking around Madrid for a couple hours and then up four flights of stairs with groceries sounded like a good idea. And since I’m working on the part of Marilyn’s story where she first gets her colostomy bag, I was looking for an excuse to work on anything else. Anything.

Let me start off our day talking about Spaniards.

(This story happened a couple days ago, not on the perfect day.)

Wendy has a very big meeting this morning so I hang around the apartment doing chores and writing. She comes back and is thrilled because the meeting went so well, but then she went to El Corte Ingles to pick up some chocolate eggs for Alana’s birthday party which starts at our apartment at 10:00 pm this evening. Yes, starts at 10:00 pm.

She hits the restroom at the store and there is a line. Standing next to her is an shrunken older woman with a cane. After a few minutes, another woman comes in, moves to the front of the line and stands there. The old woman with the cane immediately shuffles in front of her. Not afraid of confrontation, Wendy, well, confronts her.

“You know there’s a line.”
She looks Wendy up and down and snorts “How rude.”
“I’m rude? Well, there’s a line and you’re behind us.”
“I know that.”
“Well you have to respect the line.”
“I know that. I was uncomfortable standing back there so I moved up here.”

As if being uncomfortable “in the back of the line” automatically justifies ignoring it. This is perfect Spanish logic.

At this point she turns to another woman who she also cut in front of and says “Can you believe her. My god.”

This woman looks at her like she’s insane and wants nothing to do with this.

Wendy moves in front of her and says the most insulting thing you can say if you are in Ecuador (Which we’re not, but Wendy spent 18 months there and figures a lot of what works there works here.)

“Okay, now that is just badly raised.”

Spanish people have a unique disposition concerning time and their place in the universe. It is best summed up by the phrase “Viva Yo.” Which Michner translates as “Fuck you, go me.”

In the heart of a huge city, every Spaniard thinks he is alone. They will happily walk in front of you at a brisk pace, and then just stop to read a sign, completely oblivious to your presence causing you to lurch sideways to avoid running into them. They will stop in the middle of a major pedestrian thruway and chat as if they weren’t surrounded by hundreds of people looking to get by. Wendy has had people smash into her, while standing in one place, and have them glare at her as if it were her fault for standing in their way! After they just crashed into her!

Having never lived in a big city before, I didn’t know if this was a city thing or maybe its only town people that actually plot a route through a crowd. Wendy assures me that in Boston and in NY that everyone plots a route as well. It's only the Spanish that seem to have no peripheral vision, no sense of anyone around them, no idea that they are awash in a sea of people and they are blocking traffic.

This is readily apparent at Bullfights. There is barely enough room in the outer ring of the arena for people to press through and get to their seats. Despite this, there are hordes of people standing outside the beer and sandwich stands amiable chatting, smoking cigars and sipping whisky. While chaos reigns around them.

One night a few weeks ago, two of Wendy’s more distant relatives visited and we spent a night showing them around. One of the first things out of their mouth’s when we sat down at a little cafĂ© was “Where did these people learn how to walk?”

Back to the perfect day.

Apparently, today is slow and stupid day and no one informed us.

The first place we stop is the Spanish equivalent of Kinko’s. A tiny little shop where Wendy frequently does business presentation bindings and copies. Today is copy the front page of our passport. We’ll keep the copies in a drawer at the apartment and if we ever lose our passports they are much easier to replace by showing them the photocopies of the previous one.

There’s about five people ahead of us when we get inside but the line is moving fast. About two minutes before it is our turn, a middle aged man comes in looks to be in quite a hurry. He is edgy, eyes shifting side to side, eager for attention.

And he knows we are in front of him.

I do a lot of writing about the wonders of Madrid. As you can imagine, this isn’t because I think it’s better than America, but because I am being opened up to new things, and just sharing them with my readers. Well, for anyone who got the mistaken impression that I thought Madrid was all wine and roses and nothing whatever was wrong with it, let me tell you a few stories about it to change your mind.

In the states, when you are in kindergarten (that’s German for “children’s garden” you know) one of the first things you learn is how to line up. Usually single file. Standing in line and knowing your place in line is very important. Cutting in line is very bad and can get your hand smacked or in some red states, killed.

In Spanish schools, they follow the parable of “The Last Little Duckling.” Which I thought was a very famous story but now I can’t find a link to it which probably means I just have the title wrong. What I remember about this story was that there was a herd of ducks tended by a boy. And every day the ducks were let out to swim and eat. And every night the boy rounded up the ducks and put them back in their pen. The last little duck into the pen got a sharp rap on his ass with the boy’s stick.

Well, one little duck found himself last and didn’t want to get hit by the stick and instead hide and all night long had horrible, fearful adventures involving pimps and lesbian gangs. The next day he was last again, but this time he was happy to get hit in the ass with a stick rather than be outside all night long.

I always found this a very disturbing story even as a little kid. How fair is that to get hit on the ass with a stick for being last? Every day someone has got to be last! There’s no way around it! One of those ducks is going to be last! I just think that little boy had a thing for duck ass.

Anyway, this is the parable they teach in Spanish schools. “Theres the bell! Everyone crowd through the door with no line! Don’t be last or you’ll get hit on the ass with a stick!”

“But Jaimito’s in front of me. He was there first.”
“Well shove by him! Pretend you didn’t see him! Haven’t you ever heard the African expression “First come, second served?” Learn it and live it! Viva Yo!”

You think I am kidding but I am not. Spaniards are awful at standing in line. I’ve writtten about it in my columns. It’s a cultural thing around the world. American’s are excellent at standing in line. Spaniards, while awful, are only the middle of the scale. According to my friend Steve Savage and two Africans I meant at the Berlin Zoo and Time magazine, Africans and Chinese are the worst. They haven’t the faintest idea of what a line is. You just rush the window, or door, or whatever, pushing and shoving to be next.

Wendy is very aware of the man in the suit. Luckily, so is the person helping people and breezes right by him and up to Wendy to help her. We get our copies and head out.

“You know that guy was trying to go ahead of you, right?”
“Yeah, I saw him. And I was going to call him on it if he did.”
“Yup and he would have pretended he thought you were already being helped.”
“Or would have pretended he didn’t see us. Or that maybe we just came in to get out of the heat and have a smoke.”

Okay, that story didn’t come out nearly as well as I had hoped but I’m leaving in because I like the duck story with the lesbian gangs. Is Bill O’Reilly insane? I think we can safely conclude: yes.
Wendy has a meeting this morning so I hang around the apartment. She comes back and is thrilled because the meeting went so well, but then she went to El Corte Ingles to pick up some chocolate eggs for Alana’s birthday party which starts at our apartment at 10:00 pm this evening. Yes, starts.

Okay, need to finish this later. The perfect day will continue in a couple days. We're flying back to the states tomorrow.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Hooked!















Actual quote - "Do you want to open up a bottle of wine, sit on the terrace and play some Magic?" - Wendy

Note - I gave her the White deck with the Serra Angels and she hated it. She played four games with it. Hated it! I gave her the Green deck with the Force of Nature and the Durkwood Boars and she likes it much better.

She looked through the decks I had made. All mono color. White, Red, Green, Black. I explain the theme of each one, illustrating this with cards in the deck like Force of Nature, Castle, Terror, Incinerate.

Wendy - "Aren't there five colors of Magic?"
Jamie - "Nope, there's only four."
Wendy - "But on the back of the cards it..."
Jamie - "Who is the Magic expert here?"
Wendy - "Well, you are but..."
Jamie - "Four colors."

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Wil Fucking Wheaton

So one day I find this link.

"On a completely different note...I LOVES me a good story. I also loves me some good writing. If you ever want some good writing but relatively unknown writers, I urge you to check out Wil Wheaton and Jamie Wakefield. Both are geeks who have incredible gifts of the written word. Wil Wheaton is a former child actor turned author who has lead an interesting life. Jamie Wakefield is a former geek turned renaissance man who is forcing himself to lead an interesting life. A year ago his wife died of Ovarian Cancer and she told him before her death that she didn't want to look down on him from heaven and see him alone, sad and crying. He quit his job and began training for the UFC and now lives in Madrid Spain with his former high-school girlfriend. His life is something I would never want and can't stop wishing I had. What makes both of these writers great is that they have stories...and they have the skills to spin the tales. I strongly urge you to check them both out."

(Thanks MrWright)

Pretty cool huh? Me being compared to Wil Fucking Wheaton? And I know you're thinking, Wakefield, why do you call him "Wil Fucking Wheaton?"

It's a sign of respect.

His blog is pretty slick and I have to point out these two entries I just found that you need to read. All about his first encounter with William Fucking Shatner. I can't do a direct link, so scroll down to the bottom of the page and read the two William Shatner entries. Well worth the time for anyone who ever watched Star Trek and Star Trek: TNG.

http://suicidegirls.com/members/WilWheaton/news/

"I passed the craft service table, setup behind the starfield that hung next to the Ten-Forward set. Michael Dorn and Jonathan Frakes were pouring cups of coffee.

"To hell with him, W," Jonathan said. I love it when he calls me "W."

"To hell with who?" Michael asked.

"Shatner took a shit all over the Teen Idol," Jonathan told him.

Beneath his latex Klingon forehead, Michael rolled his eyes. "You want me to kick his ass, Wil?"

"No, that's okay. Thanks, though." I said.

"I've got your back, man," Michael said."

RUFUS!

Looking through this blog I have discovered that somehow I failed to post a story from my journal that I meant to put up long ago.

Thursday, June 21 2007

Wendy’s intern Albina is here of course. Every Thursday is “take Albina out to lunch day.”

Today we took her to Casa Lucas, another of the endless places that love Wendy. We went there last Saturday and one of the owners went by, said hello and touched her shoulder as he passed into the kitchen. We haven’t been there in six weeks and he still remembers her. That day, based on that gesture, we resolve that since we have grown a bit tired of mussel place and the only good food there is the mussels, that we need to frequent Casa Lucas some more. This is specious reasoning since we should be exploring all the places we haven’t ever eaten at in Madrid and those places are endless.

Wendy had to do an errand before lunch so Albina and I got a table and waited for her. When she got there Wendy ordered for us since she knows what I like and what she wanted Albina to try. We are trying to pack as much of the Spanish experience as we can into Albina's short time here. Soon she heads back to Boston. Lunch came in reverse order this time. Seared tuna was first, followed by the pork, then finally our chicken. And of course a bottle of wine for the three of us.

It amazes me that I have gone from eating McDonalds and pizza every chance I got, to after Marilyn passed and I started working out to eating oatmeal, fish, and wheat bread. And liking it. Now I am enjoying raw tuna with onions bathed in an apple and soy sauce.

Maybe that’s why I’ve gone from 213 to 170 pounds.

We have a delicious 45 minute meal and the waiter brings us a complimentary after lunch drink; Muscatel. Again, I am sure that it is because Wendy is so charming and always asks the waiters opinion on food, engages them in conversation and tells them how much we love this place. Today is no exception.

When we get done with lunch, Wendy and Albina head back to work and I head to El Corte Ingles for some groceries and a blue matching lounge chair to go with the one we bought the other day. I come home and write until eight pm and then it’s time to go to a concert.

That night we go see Rufus Wainwright.

If I remember correctly, this is my first concert. Sure, I’ve been to Middlebury College piano concerts and small things at the park in Middlebury, but I don’t remember ever having been to a rock concert before.

The entrance to the place reminds me of riot night in Berlin. There is a winding street that leads down to the club. There are hundreds of kids lining the street and the driveway of the club. There are vendors selling drinks with little makeshift bars set on little makeshift tables making an alleyway like a fair. There is one guy selling beer out of a grocery cart. There are about a dozen men with little grills for hot food and people just milling about drinking and eating for a hundred yards before heading into the club. For some reason this triggers some small anxiety in me.

We head inside; bypassing a long line with our pre-bought tickets and the place is amazing. A circular building with multiple levels with multiple bars around the outside and one main bar in the center and gigantic palm trees that reach all the way to the circus top roof. Standing in front of the stage, ready for a long vigil, are a couple hundred people packed tight. Wendy and I avoid that noise and make our way up to the bar on the left hand side, elevated above the crowd. Despite the fact that the bar is as large as Wendy’s entire apartment including terrace, there is never more than a dozen people in it and we have the railing and most of the place to ourselves. I get us a couple beers at 5 dollars apiece for what amounts to eight ounces of watery foam.

Rufus comes out and I expected him to look like the son of a couple of folk singers. Why wouldn’t I? That’s what he is. Having heard him on Amazon the other day to refresh my memory of what he sounded like, I was expecting a granola hippy, someone like my friend Richard Ruane.

Rufus comes out in short pants with knee high stockings.

“Hi everybody” he says in a high lispy voice. “Do you like my lederhosen? Aren’t they cute? I’m trying to be like King Phillip because he was a Hapsburg.”

Everyone laughs and he chats a bit about how nice it is to be back in Madrid and then he starts to play. And, he sounds just like his albums. His voice is beautiful and moving. Definitely not a studio only performer. His music s almost hypnotic. I feel like swaying and so does the rest of the crowd. Hundreds of kids in front of the stage sway back and forth in unison. Despite being in the middle of Spain, the crowd knows most of his lyrics and sings along with him on every song and claps and laughs at his jokes.

I lean into Wendy “I’m so fucking glad we came tonight.” And I am. A beautiful woman in my arms, an amazing singer, fantastic standing room, no one around us and two watery beers. The place is packed with people below and we have a wonderful view of the stage and everyone below us to people watch.

Below us, 6 people are passing around a joint. (Which is legal in Spain.)

He sings a couple songs and then tells us in his high lispy voice “My new video is out. It has me walking through a Victorian gym in my bathrobe. All around me muscular men are working out. And then I take off my bathrobe and I’m standing in my underwear.”

He pauses for effect.

“Well… it’s very gay.”

Everyone uproariously laughs including Wendy and I.

He sings some more, sometimes moving to the back to play the piano; sometimes he stands in the front and plays the guitar. His voice is melodious and enthralling. At one point he tells us that the next song is the one with the flamenco clapping. Everyone cheers.

“I remember how much you love that song.”

Everyone claps some more. Then one of his men comes forward and whispers in his ear informing him that no it isn’t. He apologizes. The next song he again says

“Okay, this is the one with the clapping.”

And he is again informed that it isn’t. He apologizes again.

“I don’t know what is with me tonight!”

He plays another beautiful song and then he says “What’s the Spanish word for clapping?”

The crowd roars “Palma” at him and he points to the towering palm tree in the center of the room. “Palma!”

And now it is finally, honest and for true, time for the flamenco clapping and the crowd goes ballistic. Hundreds of people start clapping and stamping there feet and singing along with the lyrics to a fast paced wonderful piece of music. The air is charged like it is the middle of a lightning storm and Wendy and I clap along with everyone else and smile and sing through the whole thing with everyone else. It is very moving and I can't believe the direction my life has taken.

Jamie Wakefield. In Madrid. Eating seared tuna. Flamenco clapping. At a concert with four hundred people.

He sings a few more songs and then starts to wind down. He leaves the stage to change into a new outfit. Wendy and I go back to people watching.

Below us, two good looking lesbians are flirting. I point them out to Wendy and we watch the drama unfolding as we wait for Rufus to come back. One of them gets more interested in taking pictures of Rufus and leaves the other standing alone as she presses through the crowd to get closer to the stage.

Poor little lesbian!

I feel so bad for her. She looks forlorn. Then the one up front turns around and motions her new friend to come up and join her. Gleefully she presses through the crowd.

Rufus comes out in a big white bathrobe. He sits down and puts on black high heels and earrings. He stands up and takes off his bathrobe to reveal a black short cut dress.

As Judy Garland, he sings “Get Happy”.

The crowd goes wild.

It was pretty gay.

Sadly, it was his last song. The crowd streams out and Wendy and I wait for them to thin quite a bit and get some more people watching in.

We watch the two lesbians leave hand in hand. Yay!

We walk home and talk about how fantastic that was. Wendy buys more Rufus for her Ipod. We listen to him all the next day and look for his video on YouTube. Reading one article, Wendy tells me that last year he closed his show by coming out naked except for a red sash on that said "Miss Madrid 2006."

I prefer the Judy Garland myself.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Well, I was wrong on some of my predictions for UFC 73.

I didn't have the patience to wait and steal it from U-Torrent so I actually paid for it the next day and Wendy and I layed on the couch and watched it.

Dear UFC,

You have WAY too many fillers, fluff and dead air time in your programs. Seriously, I don't know if I will ever buy another one. If I do, I'll tivo it and fast forward through all the shit you put me through while waiting to get to the actual fights.

Love

J

The fights pretty much sucked. I bought the card because I was looking forward to a lot of the match ups. Too many of them weren't even shown. Two of the ones were corrupted in streaming download from the UFC Direct to disk site. Apparently Kenflo had a nice victory we didn't even get to see. Never saw the Lytle flight. Nor the Gurgel fight. Nor the Bonner fight. Not that I carred about that last one anyway...

The fights I did get to see were boring or confusing.

Sherk is an amazing athlete. Amazing conditioning. Also the newest most boring fighter ever. This guy is more of a blanket that Rashad and Koshcheck combined. Sure he won but Wendy and I were booing right along with the rest of the crowd. Take some lessons from Diego or Tito and learn how to finish... Wait, strike one of those names...

Tito's fight with Rashad was one I was on the edge of my seat for. I said to Wendy about 5 times during the build up of the fight "Please God let Tito win."

What a coitus interuptus that fight was. Holy boring and unsatisfying. Tons of build up with no pay off. Disappointed in both of them.

As for Marquart vs Silva, I don't understand why the fight was stopped. Maybe my corrupted video was just too much to see at that point, but it didn't look like a good stoppage to me. I could be wrong. I am happy Rich gets a chance to avenge his loss, and he will avenge it, mark my words.

The Heath Herring fight was just annoying. Heath could of scored the upset and acted like such a dumb shit he handed the fight back to Minotauro and lost a decision. Not that I wanted Herring to win, I didn't, but it's just frustrating to see a guy inches from finishing and not take advantage.

It wasn't, but it looked like a work. (A fixed fight.)

The rest of the day was watching The Ultimate Fighter 1.

Today - a lot of work. Did some excellent work on "Marilyn's Story" of which I still haven't settled on a name yet, poll coming soon. As mentioned previous, reworking the original blog to be more of a story not random updates. After dozens of hours of work I'm up to page 80 of 168.

That's it for today. Wendy and I are going to go watch the running of the bulls we taped this morning and then some more of TUF season one.

Cheers.

J

Saturday, July 7, 2007

UFC 73 Predictions

Nate Marquart vs Anderson Silva.

I know very little about Nate. I hear he has a ground game.

I know that Anderson Silva is a Muay Thai machine with fantastic clinch, knees, elbows and pin point accurate strikes with hands and feet. I know he destroyed an up and coming Chris Leben and a 20-1 Rich Franklin that no one thought would ever lose.

So I'm picking Silva?

Not on your life.

I also happen to know in his last fight a weakness was shown in Silva's armor and that's the ground game and a lack of takedown defense. A dehydrated and out of shape B-level fighter known as Travis Lutter took him down at will and rained down fists and elbows on a seemingly defenseless Silva.

Yes, Silva won the fight, but he won't win against Nate. Nate is going to take him to the mat and pound him out. I don't know what round, but I predict a savage beating, then a ref stoppage.

Alvin Robinson vs Ken Florian.

In Ken Florian's last outing he almost won the Lightweight championship. His opponent was Sean Sherk who is 32-2-1. His only losses coming from Matt Hughes and GSP. Both are phenomenal fighters. Two fights previous be demolished Sam Stout in a first round rear naked choke that was pure poetry from the opening bell.

Florian stops the fight early.

Rashad Evans Vs Tito Ortiz.

Okay, sure, Rashad is 10-0. Very impressive.

Tito Ortiz is a former light heavyweight champion with wins over Wanderlei Silva, Forrest Griffon, Guy Mezger, Evan Tanner, Vitor Belfort and more. His losses have come from Frank Shamrock, Randy Couture and Chuck Liddell.

Tito has beaten Legends.

He has lost to Legends.

His resume reads like a list of "Who's Who" in the Martial Arts world.

Rashad Evans 10 wins reads like a "Who's that?" in the MMA world.

Tito by brutal ground and pound.

Hermes Franca vs Sean Sherk

This is a toss up. Sean Sherk I mentioned above. I don't think he's ever fought anyone like Hermes Franca though.

Hermes Franca is on an 8 consecutive wins winning streak. His last opponent is someone I think is a great fighter, Spencer Fisher who he knocked out in the second round.

Hermes Franca has bombs at the end of his arms. One of them catches Sherk like it did Fisher and it's going to be light's out. If the fight goes to the ground Franca wins there as well. Of his last 8 fights five of them have been won by submissions. Armbar, Armbar, Triangle choke, Armbar, Armbar. Hell in his last eight fights not ONE of them has gone to a decision.

You face his bombs or you face an armbar. Your choice.

Sean Sherk is primarily an amazing wrestler. He is facing an opponent well versed in submission. His only chance is a boring lay n pray victory taking Franca down and just avoiding submission.

I'm not going to predict a winner in this one. I can only predict that it will be quick and violent if Franca wins and slow and boring if Sherk wins.

Heath Herring vs Antonio Nogueira

Nogueira by destruction. This isn't even a fight that should be on the card. Herring has zero chance in this fight.

Mike Nichels vs Stephan Bonner

First let me just say - "Who cares?"

Okay I care a little. Bonner took steroids and was caught. I hope he gets destroyed. Nickels is just kinda boring and so is Bonner so this fight is a snooze fest.

Jorge Gurgel vs Diego Saraiva

Gurgel.

Chris Lytle vs Jason Gilliam

Lytle by destruction.

Frank Edgar vs Mark Bocek

Edgar

Thursday, July 5, 2007

I hear "free" is good.

My premium articles from Star City Games remain subscription only for three months. Which means that this years early articles are now available for you to look at for free! Yay! You have to scroll down a half a page to see the beginning of any article you click on. Well, any one that is older than three months. You would be surprised at how much "not Magic" content is in these things. It's always been my style. Even knowing nothing about Magic, you can enjoy many stories in these.

Some of my favorites were -

Picking up chicks on Airplanes

Picking up chicks on Airplanes part II and How would you like to die today?


Spanish Food, Movies and whining about Blue

Philosophy Waldo style.

Next Tuesday, Bringing a Ham Leg to Paris becomes available. Don't miss it.

Also, let me point you to what I think was one of my better articles you might have missed that I wrote when Mare was in Chemo and I was reading Bill Bryson's "A short history of nearly Everything."

Conflicting Interests

Still have a lot of things going on these days. Sometimes it seems like too many, and then I kick myself in the head (using my old MMA training, what that move is supposed to be used for and how it is supposed to help in a fight I’m not sure…) and remind myself that I’m certainly not bored.

Wendy and I are working our way through “The Ultimate Fighter” season two. And I’m a very impressionable, visual guy. I see someone drinking a beer, I want a beer. I see someone cut into a large steak, I want a steak. I see someone in a cage pummeling someone else, I want to go work out and wrestle again. I see someone having se.. Well, you get the idea.

So the entire time we’re watching TUF I’m thinking about how I need to work out harder. I need to get enrolled in a Muay Thai class over here. I need to run further. Do stairs. Work on my intended goal of a hundred push ups at one go.

We watch until Wendy has to leave for a girl’s night out dinner with Jen, a friend of hers who is about to say "goodbye" to late nights, free time, eight hours of sleep and say “Oh God” to a small red lizard that will burst screaming from her womb. (No, honest, I love kids. No really. I do! Stop laughing!) So, Wendy takes off and I finish up some notes and then I head up the street for “un bistec, muy poco hecho” which is essentially, “Steak, rare.” One of the many phrases I have on index cards for practice and ordering times just like this. Sadly, the steak house is closed. So, I go down the street ten yards to a nice place where Wendy had her 39th birthday party. I look over the menu but don’t see anything that looks like bistec (pronounced BEEFSTEAK!) and when the waiter comes over I ask him if they have it and he says no, and points to something else on the menu. Since I don’t have my glasses, and the light is dim and smoky I can’t read it.

“Vale” I say, which is basically “Whatever”, “Good”, “Fine”, and “Okay” all rolled into one. Then I sip my wine and wait for my mystery food to come. Next to me, a couple is speaking and I can’t even easedrop. The waitress comes and the plate of food she delivers is fantastic. She asks me a couple questions that I don’t understand, she repeats them in English and I kick myself in the head again.

I need to focus more on my Spanish. I should be doing an hour a day of learning and I just don’t have the time. But I have to make time! I so badly want to know what is going on around me.

And as I type this, it is 6:33 in the evening, and this is the first writing that I have done. Admittedly, there was the intern this morning, then the outdoor errands we needed to run, and then the last lunch at Pink Sushiman we will ever have with Albina. Then the Doctor’s appt to see what this weird rash is on my neck and arms (so very sexy) and then home again and please give me some coffee and a cold fan blowing on me before I die oh my God is the sun close to the earth here.

So, I have a bunch of goals, some of which are coming along, some of which are not getting the time they need. But all in all, I have a lot of conflicting interests these days that all want my full attention.

And then there’s Magic.

I am struggling with Magic.

Something about the game or myself has changed from the time when I used to be halfway passable. I don’t know if I’m just not devoting the time I need to it, or if the game has fundamentally changed. I have a feeling it is deeply both. Regardless of that, I suck at Magic these days. Suck with a capital SUCK.

(Soon, this will turn into a rant against Blue. I know there are readers that hate when I do this. I urge you, look away; it’s not going to be pretty. If you don’t like to see me rant against Blue, then stop reading right now I assure you, it’s not worth your time to continue.)

There is a Pro Tour here in Spain that I would very much like to go to in October. My friend Adrian Sullivan has already qualified and it would be nice to see him again.

In addition, the qualifiers are block format, something I have usually loved and excelled at.

And Marilyn’s card is part of the set.

And Hilary is working hard trying to qualify.

I SHOULD be putting a lot of work into learning the format and getting a deck ready that I can play and qualify with.

Alas, no. I cannot summon the urge to play.

As long time readers know, I nurture a blind hatred for the loathsome color Blue. It annoys a lot of readers that I despise the mechanics and cards for one color so much. The fact that I am so vocal about it turns more people against me than it draws to my cause. And… I can’t help myself.

To me, playing Magic and having to play against an opponent using Blue is just annoying. I don’t enjoy it. It is not fun. Now, take a look at the statistics for this weeks Online block constructed tournaments.

http://www.starcitygames.com/php/news/article/14400.html

U/B/(w) Teachings Control – 111111111111
U/B/G/W Wild Pair Slivers – 1111
U Pickles – 1111
U/G Tarmogoyf – 111
U/W Pickles – 11
U/B/G/R Sliver / Tarmogoyf Control (?) – 1
U/B/R Mishra Control – 1
U/W Blink – 1
U/G Pickles – 1
U/B Dredge – 1
U/B/R Akroma Control – 111


G/W/(r) Tarmogoyf – 1111111111111
White Weenie – 11
G/R Big Mana – 11
B/R Control – 11
Mono-Red – 1
Mono-Black Nihilith – 1

Every time you see a deck with a “U” at the beginning, that’s a deck that uses Blue. All the “1”s after the deck name is how many times that deck made top 8 in a Premier event.

There are five colors in Magic.

Blue is the overwhelming color being played in every format, including this seasons block constructed pro tour qualifiers. Now, imagine if you were me, and every time someone played a blue card, it was akin to someone snapping the back of your ear as hard as they can with a finger.

You enter a tournament, and five of the six decks you play have Blue in them. Flick, flick, flick.

Flick.

Flick.

Logoff. Uninstall Magic: Online. Drink a beer. Pout in a dark room and listen to Goth music.

Imagine that you don’t like nuts. It’s okay that other people like nuts, and you understand that every now and then you might have to eat nuts, but you don’t particularly like nuts. But walking to work one day you stop at a hot dog stand and order a hot dog. You bite into it and there are nuts inside the hot dog. The vender tells you that it’s a new thing. You don’t just get hooves, snouts and tails, now, every hot dog maker is including nuts in the hot dogs. You go to the bakery, and of the twenty donuts they have available, nineteen of them have nuts in or on them. You can have a plain donut, or you can have nuts on it. You order a pizza, and the toppings you are presented with are cheese, and six different varieties of nuts. All around you people are enjoying there different varieties of pizza and don’t understand why you don’t just order one with some nuts on it.

This is the scenario I am presented with every time I play Magic in any format these days. I will be lucky to find one game in five without being forced to play an opponent who has tricksy smarmy Blue as a major component of his deck. If I play in a tournament, I will be lucky to play one round without facing a deck revolving around Blue.

I don’t mind if you play Black and your spells kill every creature I put on the board and empty my hand of cards. I’ll find a way around that. I have the tools. I don’t care if you light me on fire every single turn with Red burn spells, reducing me to a charred blackened crisp before my creatures can kill you. That will teach me I need to be faster. I don’t care if your White birds and angels fly over my forces and kill me with superior air power. I should have planned for that. I’ll make changes and come back wiser.

But honestly, I don’t want you to be able to have counterspell mana up during my turn, then be able to draw cards or return something to my hand at the end of my turn when I can no longer do something. I don’t have any tools remotely that powerful. I can’t keep mana up to affect you during your turn and if you tap mana I can cast some amazing creature like, say, TEFERI, which utterly changes the game state and has a 3 / 4 body as well. I despise the fact that your Vesuvan Shapeshifter is an answer to my Spectral Force, Verdeloth the Ancient, Quagnoth AND Baru. All in one. And if that’s not enough it can also be used with Brine Elemental to lock me hopelessly down.

Not. Fun.

Having the best spells and the best creatures all in one color, year after year, is just infuriating to me. I know I’m not making any friends typing this, I’m just trying to explain my position that so many people just do not want to hear or understand.

The point being, still working on a lot of stuff and still have a lot to accomplish before I die.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Killing God

Wendy is happy I’m a writer.

As long as he has substantial savings, any woman should be happy with a man that chooses this profession. Because as many writers will tell you, they would rather do just about anything to avoid the blank page.

“The easiest thing to do on earth is not write.” - William Goldman

“Anybody can become a writer, but the trick is to STAY a writer.” - Harlan Ellison

This morning I have done laundry, put the rowing machine back together, made the bed, put away clothes, put dishes in the dishwasher, sliced some Jamon, written an invoice to Wendy’s company and answered all my email. I would rather do all of those things than sit down and compose. Now that I’m doing it, it’s fine, but forcing myself to get to this spot is always hard. It is always supremely procrastinated.

Ergo, the laundry is always done, dishes are rinsed and put in the dishwasher with startling regularity, trash is emptied the second there’s enough in the bag to justify using another one.

Wendy thinks I’m tidy guy.

Little does she suspect that I’m actually just lazy.

And luckily, she has given me another reason to pause. On the way to the dentist she spotted a long column of horses and called to tell me to take the intern up to see them. She gives me directions, I grab Albina and off we go.

When we get to the plaza there is a large section cordoned off. Inside this area is a half dozen policemen, two dozen mounted honor guards, three carriages pulled by a team of eight horses each, and people in ancient dress inside the carriages. The honor guard is all men in uniform, spiked hats, white wigs and swords by their side. The carriages are old wooden enclosed coaches like you might see in Cinderella. The people inside the carriages look like minor royalty.

I ask Albina to ask one of the policemen what it is going on. He informs her that they are four ambassadors come to pay homage to their King and let him know their position on certain matters. They bring him Rioja, gold, olives and many virgins to appease his great appetite and sway his favor towards there causes.

Admittedly, my Spanish isn’t that great so I might have translated some of that wrong. I heard “King”, “Ambassadors”, “position” and guessed at some of the rest. I’m pretty sure that’s right though.

As Wendy points out later, in NY this would all be done in black limousines. In Madrid, a very formal older tradition is carried out with a mounted honor guards and polished wooden coaches. I have to say, I think that’s pretty cool.

And now we’re back. Some Jamon and a cup of coffee later and maybe now I can write about what I meant to get out when I sat down this morning. Today I wanted to alert people to a couple of book series they may have missed.

In an odd coincidence, Wendy and I are both reading children’s books that were introduced to us by the other. She is on the last book of The Belgariad, a series which she has been devouring. I went through the same thing when I first got hooked. I was working at Smuggler’s Notch as the night audit there in college. (Tip: never take an all night job when you live in a dorm. You can kiss sleep goodbye.) I would go to work, do the half an hour of paperwork needed and then read for the rest of the night. Then I would drive home, have six eggs in the cafeteria while reading, then go back to my room and read until I fell asleep. Get up, if possible, read until I went to work, then read all night long. I finished all five books in four days. When I was done, so much of my reality had been immersed in those pages, I was momentarily lost. I finished the last page and set it down and I didn’t know what to do with myself. I literally, was lost for a second on what I was supposed to do now that I didn’t have the next page of this universe to unfold.

Yeah, they were that good.

I introduced the series to Wendy and in turn, she introduced me to "His Dark Materials." It’s odd how things work out. She ordered the Belgariad when I was still in Vermont. And “His Dark Materials” has been on her bookshelf since before I got here. It was just coincidence that we both got involved with them, without a word from the other, at the exact same time.

Both have child protagonists. Both explore the nature of science and magic. Both have the driving plot of “Well, I’m off to kill God.”

The Belgariad isn’t quite so shocking because they are actually off to kill “a god”, not “The God.”

Despite me (and others) claiming these are children’s books, they are like The Harry Potter series (which I hated btw) in that they can be found enjoyable by adults as well. In fact, despite some elements that are a little cutesy (armored intelligent polar bears) and young adult (all children have a shape-shifting pet that is with them always), a great deal of “His Dark Materials” is startlingly frank, brutal and scary. A further caveat to this series is that it is not something anyone devoutly religious should ever read. The church is the villain in this series. Not God, but the church and its teachings.

At her first taste of love, a nun gives up her habit. A young boy kills people. The church steals children away from their parents. Inquisitions and torture are a regular part of the series. A boy gets a wound on his hand that won’t heal and wakes up in a sheet soaked in his own blood. Discussions of the church’s role in human history are explored and dissected.

Really, it is not a book for the faint of heart or someone who can't handle religion coming under scrutiny. But the multiverse he presents in the series is deep and fascinating. The characters he molds throughout the book are well developed and interesting. The ideas he presents about the nature of the universe are quietly thought provoking. Much of the writing is top notch with some vivid imagery you won’t soon forget.

I highly recommend both series if you’re looking for something to read. The Belgariad is quite a bit the lighter of the two, but both are wonderful books. Now would be the time to pick up “His Dark Materials.” The first book of the series “The Golden Compass” is being made into a movie to be released December fifth of this year. Starring Nicole Kidman (oh how perfectly perfectly cast!), Daniel Craig, John Hurt, Kevin Bacon, Eric Bana and a couple dozen armored polar bears!

Vista

So I bought Vista.

Being a computer tech, I am qualifed to give you my unbiased, knowledgable review of this new operating system. I hope this doesn’t get too technical for some people.

It sucks.

Don’t buy it.

And I'm not the only one that thinks that.

http://aspnetresources.com/blog/vista_sucks.aspx

Listed there are many of the problems that I have had. I have a 9 month old machine so I'm very capable of running the OS with all the bells and whistles, without having hardware so new that Vista doesn't have drivers for it. Despite this, I have had random lockups, shut downs, apps that just disappear, apps that won't run at all, security headaches, and no matter what DVD burning software I use, all that happens is I destroy a disk, making it unreadable or writable AND the machine crashes at the end of the burn.

It's just not sexy.