Ali Kira's Musings...

thoughts on a life filled with adventure

Made it! Blogged nearly every day in November...
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ali_kira
... with the noteworthy exception of November 7th when I was doing Extra Life. Blogging mored has meant a better focus on some aspects of my life, but also the redevelopment of a good habit. There's certainly no guarantee or plan for me to write quite as much in the other months of the year, but it was and is a good exercise I've taken part in these last couple of years and I'll keep it in mind for future Novembers! Some of my blogs were featured by other bloggers or on social media in general which is good. I don't get a whole lot of engagement here, but these little things tell me that at least SOME people are reading whatever it is that I am posting.

And you know what? It's been a pretty great month on the whole. I got to do some really fun things like play in board game tournaments, discover new video games, eat some great food, see some awesome Doctor Who, enjoy the relatively balmy winter weather and much much more besides. I got to spend great times interacting with awesome people both in person and online, and I got back into my exercise routine (at least when I haven't been in pain) and have even done some good (and decent) cooking.

There have been some downsides: no calls for interviews, or other progress in that sense on the job front, but I've applied to many jobs and hope to apply to many more. I had some aches and pains that have interrupted my workout progress, provided discomfort, or otherwise slowed my forward progress for hours or days at a time. I worried a lot about little things. And when tragedy was the focus of the news for a while, it was hard to keep up my online presence emotionally.

But it was also a month of making plans. The cruise (though not the activities I'll do before and/or after it) has been paid for. I have plans for Christmas. My planner pages are filled with tentative and actual plans for the new year. I ordered a new planner (a different style even!) from a Kickstarter and I'm excited about using it come 2016.

Certainly there are a lot of things that I'm focusing on from reading new books, to video games, to travel, to personal development and job hunting, to spending time in person with people I care about (and whom I often see far too little of).

I look forward to the future of course but I find it a rather valuable exercise to reflect on the past, on from whence I've come, and on how I've changed/grown/experienced so much. Here's to the past, present and future! Here's to continuing to blog and communicate!

This winter, I need to...
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ali_kira
... stop burning my tongue. This is the downside of so many warm liquids and foods in general. I want it and I want it now (gosh I can be impatient!). But I ought to be more patient because foods are more tasty when my tastebuds aren't injured by my hot foods.

... apply to more jobs (evidently I'm working on this). But each job takes between half an hour to 4 hours to apply to properly (depending on how different it is from others I've applied to, how different the system I'm dealing with is, and precisely how much I want it.

... read more awesome books. My reading backlog is large (as it always is) but I know that I have some gems here. And I rather do want to read a few things by at least a few of the people attending the cruise in February in advance of that moment. But it's not just that: curling up with a good book on a winter evening is pretty awesome. Besides winter is a good time to get a start on my 50 Book Pledge for 2016. I'm over 100+ books read this year and I hope to do the same or better next year (note that many are graphic novels, but still!).

... play more awesome video games. These challenge my way of thinking. And I get better at them the longer that I play. Last night I started playing Hearthstone -- which is probably as close as I'll ever get to playing a physical TCG for the reason that I have no desire to spend the loads of money on TCGs or LCGs and take up all the space in my apartment with physical cards. I'd rather collect full fledged board games...

... play more board games. When a week goes by without my playing a card or board game or other tabletop game of some sort, I'm somehow disappointed. And I know life gets busy and I don't have to do these things, but I want to: for many reasons. It keeps me social, it provides me the opportunity to do something relatively low-key but which is rather rewarding, it keeps my hands active in ways that (usually) don't injure them or activate old injuries, and it's just darn fun.

... take walks through this winter wonderland. There's no guarantees that it'll look beautiful and white all winter long, but I want to take advantage of the less icy/slippery days to take strolls through the scenery.

... keep exercising. It's easy to get caught up in the busy-ness of life, and not lift my small dumbbells or do crunches or go for that walk, especially when one is sore or tired, or not getting enough sunlight (especially with these short days) but I think it's important for my mental and physical well-being.

... be social and not just for obligations. For my own personal happiness I need to see/converse with/enjoy the company of awesome people on a regular basis. Sure I default to a lot of alone time. Sure I often go to events and activities because I've confirmed my attendance or feel strongly that I ought to be there. But I don't always have to be involved in structured time with other people. Spontaneous time spent with people who matter to me is key too. And discussions between me and others can be key. Sure, I need my downtime, my alone time, and my structured time, but it's important to invest in friendships in other ways too.

Music, music, everywhere... but to what shall we listen?
pensivepink
ali_kira
Yesterday, I was reminded of just how odd a music selection I choose to listen to at times. I listen to my personal collection of tunes daily but I guess I associate a lot of it with specific experiences rather than genre, specifically. For example, right this moment, I'm listening to Aerosmith and remembering my youth and just how much I enjoyed Aerosmith at that age.

But yesterday I was at the Buy Nothing Day Free Market and at first we were listening to reasonably popular tunes on a laptop (I recognized them as current hits but not the oens that I don't already know) for a bit and felt relaxed to be hearing those catchy tunes. I know them to be recent hits from the last year or two. Which was followed by some Christmas music that, I think wasn't very good at all. I mean, sure I love Christmas music (and will probably start listening to Christmas music myself soon as I'll start writing Christmas cards in the next week or so, in all likelihood), but this was incredibly unfamiliar Christmas music seeing as the radio station we got the best reception on in the room were we were located was an incredibly Christian one and well... a lot of these songs were just unfamiliar/not my cup o' tea.

And I started thinking about what I actually do choose to listen to on a regular basis. And it's a grand swath of both what is popular (over time, of course) and what provides a certain type of enjoyment whether comedic, whether it fits with my personal value system, whether it suits my nerdy/geeky interests, or whether it just has an interesting tune. I associate certain types of music with certain things, of course: Electronica with a certain time in my life, Chiptunes with certain video games, musical soundtracks with the motifs from their storylines, etc.

And you know what? I can't say I have a personal favourite genre of music to listen to: I like oldies, new music, country, classical, soundtrack, world, indie etc. But when folks ask, I probably can say I listen to nerdy/geeky/folk/humorous etc. music the most often because that's what takes up the majority of my music library. I really like Jonathan Coulton's music and for darn good reasons, really. The same goes for Weird Al Yankovic, The Doubleclicks, Molly Lewis, and oh so many other musical artists in my personal music library. But that doesn't always match with what concerts I go to or what music I buy most frequently on physical or digital media.

Thanks to Kickstarter I own the entire back catalogue for a number of musical artists I really love. Thanks to serendipity I've seen great live music concerts from bands such as The Presidents of the United States of America, Twisted Sister, The Village People, or Barrage. I really enjoy the small shows I've seen like from The Fugitives, and the large shows I've seen like Savage Garden or Simple Plan. And I probably own more Cirque CDs than I do most other music artists. Just as I adore soundtracks to musicals I've actually seen. I don't know if this all makes much sense really.

Because for me music has a lot to do with my mood, with the lyrics, with my memories associated and much much more. Music is so multi-faceted.

Black Friday... the shopping extravaganza?
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ali_kira
Let's just for the moment forget the other meaning of Black Friday (referring of course to the 1987 Edmonton tornado), and instead think about Black Friday the shopping event. Putting aside the fact that while I definitely prefer Boxing Day sales, and the fact that I ACTUALLY like January shopping the best of all, Black Friday sales can be entertaining. For the past 7+ years I've gone to the Buy Nothing Day Free Market to help declutter and find some items too, but that hasn't meant that I haven't spent money on Black Friday.

I know that the whole ethos around Buy Nothing Day has a lot more to do with not buying UNNECESSARY items than anything, and well, most of the actual purchases I've made over the years during this particular day have been either holiday shopping related (though that's actually unusual for me -- traditionally I don't get a whole lot of that done until the Butterdome Craft Sale in December) or more commonly the purchase of more essential types of things like groceries or lunch. And I can't really feel bad about that -- I mean as great as chocolate peanut butter sandwiches are, I can't live on those alone (I've been eating a lot of those lately, actually).

Over the years Canada has gotten more and more onto the Black Friday bandwagon. Which makes some sense in that it is a reasonable time to start Christmas shopping, but realistically it's a much bigger deal in the USA. And that's led to retailers who choose not to participate (like REI) by being closed on Black Friday (it is afterall the day after American Thanksgiving) getting media attention. Similarly Cards Against Humanity have had great success with their anti-Black Friday sales (one year CAH was MORE expensive on Black Friday, last year they sold actual Bullshit (poop!) to their American customers only, and this year their store is closed but you can give them $5 for nothing in return). These types of promotions always bring a smile to my face, even though I don't participate (instead I spend my money on CAH in so many other ways on their other promotions/expansions/cards).

This year, I've seen some tempting sales on items that I might actually want from places like the DFTBA store, or the LEGO shop, but it's pretty hard for me to buy myself anything that unnecessary on this day, especially when I still have Christmas shopping to do (I haven't started, not even for my gift exchange recipients) and know that I'll have other expenses coming up in the coming weeks and days. Besides, fiscal responsibility is pretty important to me and I really don't NEED anything that is on huge sale today anyhow (WANT is another story... but job hunting takes priority).

So happy Black Friday/Buy Nothing Day to all of you -- I hope to see some of you take advantage of the Free Market, and if there are some legitimately good deals to be had on things you actually need/want/should have I'm not judging you for the purchases. But as reddit tells me, some of these crazy deals are less than actual deals so do your research (many are good deals but others aren't), have fun and be safe. I cannot imagine the search for material goods being so important that one should get injured stampeding through store doors etc.

Making lemonade
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ali_kira
People often say that if life gives them lemons, they ought to make lemonade.

And well yesterday was a good example of that: You see, Monday night I started having back pain which interrupted my sleep horribly (it didn't help that someone snowblowed the sidewalk by my bedroom window at 4 in the morning). My back was in pain for two full days but it quieted down by the time I awoke yesterday (though it was still tender and I didn't want to overdo things).

With all my decluttering, I really didn't want to leave the house and jar my back on the ice either -- this I suspect is the reason my back started hurting on Monday night -- I must have jarred it or twisted it suddenly in my rush to get to majorly delayed buses on Monday night. So yesterday instead of going to a lecture I really wanted to attend or a few community league events that were of good interest, I did something good for me, and did some chores, decluttering, and basically took it easy enough. I even cooked a nice crock pot full of udon soup broth (so I'll have at least three more delicious meals (probably more) of delicious soup!) and the serendipity of my being home meant that a mistake that someone else made resulted in a wonderfully sociable evening chat with some friends for an hour or so later in the evening, purely because I was home.

There are some certain positives of my not being as busy these days... I've been able to catch up on household things. I've been able to sleep. I've been able to job hunt more. I mean sure, I loved the busy-ness of the Elections Canada job (really it was a great experience on the whole), but it's good to not be working 12 hour days these days. And sure the lack of income lately is a huge frustration, but I'm trying to make lemonade out of each incident where life gives me lemons these days. Looking on the bright side of life is easy -- there's so much to be thankful for (and no, it's not Thanksgiving here, that was in October, but American Thanksgiving is just as fine a day to give thanks as any other!).

So while I busy myself with chores, and think up ways to improve my life and the lives of others, I'm pretty happy that I've been able to take less fortunate moments (eg. back pain) and turn them into a form of productivity... and enjoy the serendipitous moments that life brings.

Decluttering and the Buy Nothing Day Free Market!
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ali_kira
So every year around this time, I go through my home and attempt to declutter a bit. This is done partially with the intent of helping keep my pack-rat-ish tendencies under control, but also with the side benefit of helping other people. You see my Kiwanis club (and other Kiwanis clubs and the local CKI clubs in Edmonton as well) has been hosting the Buy Nothing Day Free Market for the past 7 years (and this year will be the 8th year of this event. It's a great event where people bring in things they no longer want/need (useful things, of course) and people pick up items that they do want or need. I'm always happy if I rid myself of more than what I bring home from the event (and more happy if I bring home maybe less than 10% of what I bring in).

And over the years I've picked up some rather awesome stuff. Greeting cards, books that I had been meaning to read, the occasional CD, sometimes a clothing item or two, and some kitchen ware have been some personal finds that I've been rather happy with! Quite honestly, I never know what I'll find one year to the next. And that's part of the joy of this free event that serves the community at large. No money exchanges hands but a lot of useful goods do.

I really love seeing the smile on people's faces when they find something that they really want or need. Once a woman outfitted her whole family with winter gear from the market, and they were new to Canada let along Edmonton. I've seen students really happy to be able to outfit their kitchens with items so they could spend their limited resources elsewhere. Others have found good gag gifts for holiday exchanges or sometimes great games or craft materials. And I've seen family and friends benefit from the opportunity to declutter or to pick up great items.

I benefited this year from a friend who will be bringing some of my items to the market in her car. This meant that when I started going through and weeding my bookshelves and other supplies in my house (I'm not done yet!) I was able to strategize how much I'll be able to carry to the event I've got some good hardcover, softcover, graphic novels, comic books, fiction, and reference books coming to the market this year. That plus a bunch of miscellaneous items and my house will be just that little bit less cluttered.

I realize I STILL need more bookshelf space for the books that I do have... but my shelves do look happier. Generally I only rid myself of books that I doubt I'll ever reread or recomend to someone else. Personal favourites don't leave my library though there are some rather great items going to the Free Market this year. And media of various forms will be leaving my home for the market as well. Pretty much the same weeding criteria was used (with the exception of format -- some items I've since acquired in more modern forms).

I have yet to go through most of the other rooms of my house to declutter but I like to think that this is a great opportunity and hope that I don't make too many rash decisions! :)

The Annual Holiday Wishlist Post
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ali_kira
Won't be a traditional one this year, really. Seeing as family have started to post/send their wishlists my way again, I figured it was time to type a bit about mine. And mine is pretty simple. I still have my Amazon wishlist which I try to keep updated with items I find around the internet and Amazon that I might actually rather appreciate, though there's a certain focus on books on that list for somewhat obvious reasons.

But what do I actually wish for right now? The #1 item is a job. I want a fullfilling-ish one, preferably one that will pay my bills. Realistically I will be happier when I start getting more interviews again. I've blogged about this at least once this month -- it's a source of stress/worry, but I really do want/need a job. My savings/investments won't last me forever. But more importantly than that I want to move further along my career path toward awesome!

Secondly, having financial resources to worry less about my vacation expenditures come February would be nice. It'll be nice if I have the spare cash to not really worry about the cost of Disney, Universal, and Cirque. Certainly I'll have paid for the cruise by then (that'll happen in the next week or so) but I'll be spending money on hotels and food outside of the cruise itself and that's costly. I'm super excited for ziplines and the Kennedy Space Centre among other things... but the financial worry attached to this vacation is less than ideal. I know I need the vacation and I'm really looking forward to it, however so it's no big deal in the grand scheme of things. Getting a job would help with that (a financial windfall would too, but I'm not going to be fiscally irresponsible and spend on lotto tickets or anything).

My third wish is for other people I care about to have awesome holidays/fewer worries. I want to spoil the folks I care about with time/attention etc. I'm really enjoying this fall/winter as of yet (yes the snow today is pretty crazy when you compare this accumulation to what was there a couple of days ago) but I want to wish others happiness and good vacations (and have these good experiences too but really, that's less important in the grand scheme of things).

So to reiterate, my big wishes are really job related, whereas sure there's always little things on my wishlist but most of them are little rather than big as the one on the employment front. I wouldn't say no to a whole bunch of financial goodness, of course, but the priority is to become gainfully happily employed again and that's something I'm working on these days. So we'll see what the future holds but I'll remain hopeful. And yeah, if you're looking at physical goods to send my direction, my wishlist is probably a good starting point.

Cruise (and vacation planning) Excitement!
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ali_kira
So today was the day that the JoCo Cruise announced (and eventually opened for booking) the shore excursions for the cruise for 2016. And I was over the moon excited -- even though that means today was a pretty expensive day (this week will be expensive with lots of bills to pay of various sorts anyhow).

Seeing as I got booked into the two (and only two) excursions I really wanted, I'm pretty pleased. I'm sure that if/when I get off the boat for other shore visits I'll have a perfectly fine time without excursions. Exploring the beach should be fine regardless. In any case, I'm excited and slowly planning this vacation of mine as the days pass.

This month is the month where my final bill is due for the general cruise itself. And I'll have no problems paying it (though I'd really much prefer a better US exchange rate), but money's tighter than I would otherwise prefer: I can afford this vacation primarily because I left my stable job in the spring, but of course doing so provided much uncertainty and that uncertainty stresses me a bit, even while I'm getting excited about a real true vacation sans conference or convention to attend (not that I dislike conferences or conventions, but this'll be a vacation for me!).

I've also narrowed down my options for the Orlando portion of my trip -- I think I've decided to spend a day at Universal Studios and a day at Epcot, as well as an evening at Cirque and a couple of days of simple downtime at hotels (though one of those days of downtime will be more busy seeing as I'm staying at the JoCoCruise hotel for a while...).

I'm hoping that my strategy of booking a solo vacation into a cruise filled with fellow geeks/awesome people means that if/when I want social time I'll get it and make some good friends too. And there seems to be enough introverted people going on this cruise that if I want to escape and have some downtime that'll be perfectly A-OK too. It'll be hard to decide just how much of what to do with my time... especially since I rather do love playing board games, literature, music and whatnot. It'll be a cruise FILLED with things to do and hopefully the chance to meet a few folks that I've been a fan of for a while and/or whom I've yet to discover/meet. Currently I've not met any of the other attendees and so that'll be interesting (if perhaps a bit daunting) when it comes to experiences... though Jon has assured me that at least a few of the cruise goers are rather good people to interact with in person so there's that.

Hopefully I'll get all my anxieties/worries re: cruise vacation out of my system long before actually leaving in February... but in the interim, I suppose I'll get alternatively excited/worried. And right now I'm concerned that I'll have such a good time that I'll want to budget to go again in other subsequent years, but not be able to afford it. Of course, as far as worries go, that's not utterly impossible to deal with.

Tournaments...
Serious
ali_kira
Some folks really like playing games casually. Others really like playing competitively in one off games. I think, based on my experiences as of late, I rather enjoy playing board and card games in tournament format. This is a reason I seek out and make the trek down to Table Top Cafe when they put on a tournament of some sort. Sure, there are games I prefer over others, of course, but I really enjoy the challenge of playing the same game multiple times or over the course of a number of hours against multiple other people. Even if I don't perform particularly well, I find it enjoyable. And that's the thing: for me it's less about winning even in tournament play than it is about enjoying myself.

Today I took part in a 7 Wonders tournament at Table Top Cafe, and found it to be remarkably enjoyable. Sure, I didn't win or place, but that's not what it's all about. I won my last game which felt good after placing a close third a couple times. I really enjoy 7 Wonders because it's a board game where there are numerous good strategies, you don't know if you're winning or losing until the very end, and because you're realistically mostly only impacting the strategies of your neighbours directly (this depends on the size of the game too, but yes). 7 Wonders is certainly among my very favourite tournament games to play.

There's simply something about playing tournament board games/card games that I rather like. I wish I knew all of the dynamics involved because it has got to be something more than just the fact that it's established -- I seek out tournaments long before playing a freestyle game or a hosted game at an event and that kind of strikes me as a bit odd. I enjoy tournament style poker over casino style poker too. I know it limits my options quite a bit when it comes to what games to play, realistically: certain board and card games are not conducive to tournament play (and I do rather like cooperative board and card games generally.

Similarly I shy away from TCGs and LCGs (trading card games or living card games) partly because of the inherent costs of participating in tournaments but also because it just seems cumbersome to collect so many cards (yes I still collect expansions to regular games that also cost me time and money and space so I'm not sure how accurate that is).

Sometimes I wonder if my desire to play board/card tournaments stems in part from my great familiarity with sports tournaments (at which my brothers often excelled whereas I was never the most skilled at sporting activities, though I was determined to do a good job insofar as I was able). I mean I'm familiar with the format -- I spent countless hours at hockey arenas growing up and competed in swim meets culminating in regional and provincial meets as a kid. There certainly are similarities.

But maybe it's just that I enjoy the challenge. Or that the playing field is set up such that I might get some sort of reward for my having played. Maybe that is why I have a prize bin for folks who win games played at my place (I rather should host again sometime soon as it's been a rather long time since my last board game event). It doesn't even need to be a tangible reward usually either -- the joy of having played is often enough -- then again I did rather appreciate getting an alternative art card for 7 Wonders only this afternoon...

Genealogy... one of the world's most popular hobbies
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ali_kira
Since early in the summer, I've been poring over the genealogy records I have access to from my father and slowly (and I mean it when I say slowly) entering them into wikitree. I've been ever so pleased with this free wiki-based website, especially since it does a good job of preserving the privacy of living family members and of others, but it being a free website (unlike many of the other paid websites that one might use for genealogy research) and it being wiki-based means that I can collaborate with others interested in genealogy whose research connects with the data I am entering. Plus it gives me the option of things like linking to a publicly shareable family tree like mine which still preserves a certain amount of privacy.

It's really fascinating to go through all of this data and find out where it intersects with what others have put on the site and find out random factoids like how many degrees of separation one has with some famous people or something. And wikitree allows for some of these more fascinating pieces of information. Another website with regards to genealogy that I stumbled across (via social media) today was forebears.io. I liked it because I could do things like find out how common a surname is (mine is shared by approximately 658 people worldwide according to their statistics. Forebears reminds me just how many genealogical websites are password protected and just how difficult it is to access specific information even if they can allow you to view stuff in aggregate, like the hypothetical popularity of your surname in a country. What can I say, I like infographics and information visualization in general. I may blame my humanities computing degree on that one in part... ;)

As a librarian, I'm pretty sure that I could pursue my mild interest in genealogy throughout my life (continuing to slowly increase my knowledge of what came before etc.), but I'm starting with the records that my dad has and am moving forward throughout those records. The last time I put concerted effort into my genealogical history was while I was in grade school (and looking at the family tree I drew as a kid is really fascinating). Genealogy is one of the world's most popular hobbies (a fact I learned in library school), and well, libraries spend a lot of time supporting this hobby. Most public libraries will have resources somewhere for helping a person get started on learning more about family history and whatnot. For me I just find it really interesting digging through the data to see what I'll find out. I don't know if I'll be able to add much to what my dad and extended family have already done, but I'm working at figuring it all out. I'm sure that if you're related to me and ask for permissions to have access to certain profile data on wikitree, we'll each be able to help the other get just that little bit further in our searches.

Sure, I may have a rather lot of hobbies that I pursue (and some to a more effective level than others too, but I figured I'd write a little about one of them that I've become just that little bit more enthusiastic about these days). Some months I do little about this one, others I'm really active. It all depends on timing and what else I'm working on. I wonder at how genealogy research will continue to change over time!

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