Archive for Personal Life

I really should be better at this

Okay, so I’ve installed the WordPress.com desktop application to see if having a dedicated icon reminds me to write to this blog more often. Who knows if it will work? Let’s solve this mystery together, gang!

One advantage of taking a long time between posts is that you have plenty to talk about. What have we missed? A lot, as it turns out.

I was rear-ended by a semi while trying to take a friend to the airport way back in… May, I think? It was my fault, and nobody and nothing was injured except for my nearly perfect driving record and my sense of superiority as a driver. The car was eventually totaled out by insurance, so we bought a 2018 Suburu Outback. Back when we lived in Colorado, I used to long for a Suburu, which I often say is the official state car of Colorado (as well as apparently being the preferred car of lesbians everywhere). We’ve taken to calling it White Lightning. It’s certainly the nicest car we’ve ever owned. It has lane assist and adaptive cruise control, more radar technology than you can imagine. On the highway, it basically drives itself, speeding up and slowing down to go with the flow and staying in lane. I keep the lane assist off most of the time because it creeps me out when the car steers itself. I am definitely entering the old-man-shakes-fist-at-clouds stage of my relationship with car technology. For the most part, we love it.

I went to GenCon 2023, and Sarah came with me. You can read all about Monte Cook Games at GenCon over on the company blog, and even see pictures of Sarah and the cool costumes she helped us design. If you squint, you might see me in one of the photos. This year, I ran four games of Stealing Stories for the Devil and three games of Old Gods of Appalachia, including 4 outside-the-con games. My 7th game of Old Gods was at table 7, which felt proper. 28-ish hours of GMing left me exhausted, but happy.

A week after GenCon, a lightning strike fried my modem, router, and the main computer I use for work. $4000 dollars later, I am the owner of a brand new workstation. Beside the finacial expense, which is thankfully tax deductable, it also cost me two days of work last week around the clock to get everything restored. The biggest change on my outside-of-work life is that I now have a 4K monitor that can do HDR. If you haven’t seen Baldur’s Gate 3 in 4K and HDR, you are missing out. And that game doesn’t even have top-of-the-line graphics! I am looking forward to seeing how Starfield looks on it. Not that I have much time for either.

My personal time is mostly going to RPGs lately. I’m still running a D&D game on alternating Thursdays, our Blades in the Dark campaign on alternating Fridays, and of recent, a Brindlewood Bay game on Saturdays. We’ve only played Brindlewood Bay twice so far, but we’ve really enjoyed it. I hope to do a blog post with greater detail about how I’ve been using some AI tools to create assets for myself to use in my Brindlewood games. There are longer posts to be written about ethical use of AI generation for RPG campaigns, and maybe I’ll get a chance to write my view.

Speaking of Brindlewood, my good friend Gord Sellar has published his Carved from Brindlewood game, Something Tookish. A group of us got to playtest this a couple of months ago. I played a North Country halfling farmer with a dog as tall as he was. It was a real hoot, involving a mystery of who was stealing vegetables from a garden, and why. I absolutely love the Brindlewood system for mysteries, which makes them far more fun to game-master than a traditional mystery where you as the GM know the solution to the puzzle and have to somehow guide the players to it. If cozy halfling mysteries sounds like it would be up your alley, I highly recommend you pick up a copy of Gord’s creation.

Finally, when there’s any time left, I’ve been working on creating my own Forged in the Dark RPG, yet another attempt to somehow create the Conspiracy Game, something only friends from 25 years ago will know of. Basically, my goal is to create an RPG that is a cross between the X-Files and X-Com. I’ve been reading every Forged in the Dark game I can find to study up, as well as slowly working through the early seasons of the X-Files on Amazon Prime. The HD versions are a delight to watch. Bless those 90s shows that filmed in 35mm instead of video! At the rate I’m going, I will probably finish the game by 2030, if I am lucky. But the main reason I am making it is not to have a career; I just want to make something my friends and I can play. And with those low stakes, I will get there.

That about sums up my summer, besides the fact that my eight year old turned into a nine year old. He spent his summer learning Unreal Engine and Blender to do animation and video game stuff. I envy that kid.

Anyway, I hope your summer has been full of delights. Let’s try not to go so long between talks, okay? Good. Together, we have forged a pact in the eyes of the Internet Gods, one that cannot be broken without suffering terrible misfortunes!


A Week Off Means Existential Crisis

I’m at the start of a week off from client projects work, due to it being the fifth week in a month, so I am of course teetering on the brink of a depressive episode and feeling aimless and introspective.

I wonder how common it is for men my age to realize that their work life has mostly subsumed their sense of self. I don’t even work as many hours as a typical salaried type, but even I feel at times that the totality of me that is valuable to society is the me that fixes computers and websites for a living, and everything else is chaff.

On a private Discord I run, one thing we’ve spent a decent amount of time talking about is how insidious the capitalist notion is that we are only the value of our work, and that we should all be allowed to feel worthless from time to time. I really struggle with doing that. Almost all time exists in a potential state of what I can accomplish with it. Even if that thing is “play a video game” I am very task-oriented in every aspect of my life. Simply existing isn’t satisfactory to me. It feels vaguely troubling, in fact. Like I’m wasting something precious.

I don’t know how much I want to change that. I want my time on this Earth to feel like I added value–well, there I go again, parroting capitalism. I want to… improve? things, make them a little better than they were when I found them? Even that feels like far too big of an ask in this era of decline and imminent eco-collapse. I guess at the end of the day, I can’t relax unless I feel like I’ve been productive with my time. My standards for being productive aren’t that high, though. Maybe just an hour or two a day even on weeks off will be enough to stave off the existential jeebies. We’ll put that to test this week.


Personal Life

Our Bird Balconies

One of the few highlights of our lives during the pandemic around here was when a pair of house finches made a nest on our front porch and raised babies. We watched them go from eggs to fledglings, and we really wouldn’t mind having a chance to do that again.

Since the pandemic, finches have tried to make nests on our porch atop the pillars that hold up the roof several times, but the locations are a bit cramped and small. Some attempts have fallen out entirely. Sarah and I decided to put our heads together and solve the problem for them, or at least make things a little easier.

Sarah took measurements and drew me some plans (get-you-a-woman-who-can-draw-architectural-plans.meme). I took her draing into TinkerCAD to create a 3D design. TinkerCAD is about the simplest CAD program out there, but They’re crude, but they get the job done – I really need to learn a proper CAD application this year.

I fired them off in white PETG on the printer – normally I print in PLA because it doesn’t matter if my stuff is outdoor safe, but these needed to stand up to the elements a bit better. We printed two of them and this past weekend, mounted them.

A picture of one of our bird balconies installed atop a pillar under our porch

It remains to be seen if they will attempt to make use of them, but really it wasn’t too much time to create, so either way, I’m happy with the results.


red and brown bird on gray rock

Personal Life, Wildlife

Money-based Thought Experiment

I had trouble sleeping the other night because I was filled with a question I couldn’t precisely answer.  That question was simple:  what do I want right now?

I had spent the day unhappy and unsettled, and I wasn’t sure why.  Weekends lately are harder for me than work days because I am given more time to contemplate these things, and I don’t have easy answers.  As I tossed and turned, I began asking myself these questions.

  • What would you do if someone handed you $10 right now?
  • What would you do if someone handed you $100 right now?
  • What would you do if someone handed you $1,000 right now?
  • What would you do if someone handed you $10,000 right now?
  • What would you do if someone handed you $100,000 right now?
  • What would you do if someone handed you $1,000,000 right now?
  • What would you do if someone handed you $10,000,000 right now?
  • What would you do if someone handed you $100,000,000 right now?

The purpose of this experiment is to help us understand where we sit economically and also to free ourselves from the constraints of concerns about finances when trying to understand our true desires. 

Meeting our basic needs consume much of our time and energy (a varying amount depending on your socioeconomic level), so finding the question above that pegs where you stop meeting needs and start thinking about wants is a useful one.  

It helped me to consider these questions. The answers don’t so much matter as much as how you feel as you consider them.


Last Week Was a Flop (for blogging)

It turns out that finding time to blog after you’ve been on vacation isn’t easy. I don’t know why I’m acting like this is a surprise. Probably because this most recent vacation was the closest thing to a real vacation I’ve had in ages, so by not working much during it, I was left with a tsunami of stuff to get done when I got home.

I scheduled quite a few meetings with potential clients, and can happily say that starting in April, we’re doing tech work for two more RPG companies at Clockpunk Studios. We’re leveraging what we know about WordPress for more independent creators, which is living the dream.

Onboarding tends to cause a big rush of stuff to get done, though, so it meant I just didn’t have time to ruminate about anything that wasn’t work related. I did find a little time to read some of a book called Building A Second Brain. I’m not done, but it’s inspired me to get my Evernote into better shape.

I need to spend some time thinking about what goal I am trying to accomplish on this blog. I’ve been writing just for the sake of writing, but that isn’t leaving me with banger content. The whole place feels a bit inspid, if I’m being honest. It feels a lot like like in your mid-40s. Mostly fine, comfortable, but not exactly full of adventure and genius.

I’m determined to do better, though. I just need to figure out by what metric I measure “better.”


Personal Life

Spring Has Sprung

I’m working on a longer post about our vacation in Florida – I have a lot to say about the theme park experience, and several people have asked me for tips. It’s going to take me a few days to process all my thoughts about it, so instead, I’m blogging about the first day of spring.

It doesn’t feel very spring-like here this year, compared to past years. The earliest flowers came and went in February, and now we’re waiting on crocuses and daffodils to make their appearance. The trees are about to burst into bloom. Birdsong is quiet, due to the high winds we’re experiencing. Temperature-wise, it definitely feels like spring, but the forecast calls for at least one more freezing day ahead of us.

Still, today is the official first day of Spring and I intend to embrace that. I spent much of the weekend cleaning, organizing, and generally trying to improve our lives in tiny ways that hopefully add up in the end to a noticeable impact. I feel like we all walk around with metaphorical pebbles in our shoes, irritating us, but the effort to remove them is too much, so we continue living with them. I know I do this, but sometimes, especially after I’ve had a chance to rest and recuperate on a vacation or something like that, then I feel empowered to deal with those things.

I started with our trashcans. We’ve had the same ugly plastic, broken trashcans for a decade, and trash can technology has gotten crazy. I splurged one some fancy ones for the kitchen and the bathroom. Before I tell you which ones, we’ll live with them for a while to make sure they are actual improvements. The foot pedal lid on the dual trash/recycling one is already getting a lot of use. And the bathroom has a fancy sensor so you don’t even have to touch it. Both are stainless steel and advertised as being resistant to fingerprints.

We’ll see about that.

I’m also printing various space organizers and things, alongside some requested prints for friends and family. I enjoy using my 3D printers to help people with things. If you’re local to me and need a little something printed up, let me know. I’m getting pretty good with the new tree supports in Prusa Slicers, so I am finding it easier to print fancy things. I’m also about to take the dive into printing with PETG for the first time, which means I’ll be able to print things that can be kept outside. Most of what I print with will melt and warp on a hot day, so that’s a step forward for me.

For a long time, my interest in 3D printing was relegated mostly to gaming, but I find myself increasingly wanting to live in the real world, and that means functional prints. It’s a whole new world for me, and I’m excited to learn all about it.

In reading news, I finished Murderbot book #2 and Psalm for the Wild-Built over the past few days, as well as caught up on all the released episodes of Station 151, a podcast produced by some local friends of mine. I commented to some friends on Discord recently that reading for pleasure has been one of the most positive changes in my life in recent memory. Writing had me reading not for pleasure, but as a kind of chore, and now that I’m mostly retired from that pursuit, I can read things that speak to my soul, not aimed at growing my skillset. I’ve already read more books in three months than I did all last year.

Books. So good. Don’t sleep on books, y’all.

Photo by Arno Smit via Unsplash.


low angle photo of cherry blossoms tree

Books, Freelancing, Personal Life

Am I even an adult?

The title of this post is a question I’ve asked myself a lot lately. I mean, obviously, I’m 45 years old, but my mental image of myself stopped growing older around 22 (coincidentally, my mental image of myself is also a lot skinnier). I think of myself as a “kid” in most conversations, unless the people i’m talking to are obviously younger than me. Then I seem to adopt some kind of “elder statesman” role.

But I never really feel like an adult. It’s a sensation I’ve been anticipating for decades now, and it never shows up. I’m not even sure what that would be. Would it mean that I suddenly take an interest in golf and lawn care? Fuck if I know.

There was a moment when I was reading STILL LIFE and the characters were having a dinner party and I felt like maybe I was missing out on something. I haven’t been to a dinner party in… decades, maybe? The idea of getting together with a group of folks with no ulterior purpose is almost alien to me. Before COVID, I used to get together with groups, but it was always to do things like watch bad movies or play board games or RPGs. Never to just eat and talk like that?

It felt very “adult” and it made me wonder if my interests, like all the games and such, are holding me back from achieving some kind of maturity. I love conversation with people, and I miss it. I sometimes get to have fun conversations at other things, but rarely just conversation. There’s always something else in the mix.

Sarah and I used to talk about hosting dinner parties, but then we had the boy and it’s hard to host a dinner party in a tiny house where an eight year old is playing Minecraft 2 feet away from the table and loudly narrating the whole thing as if he’s a Youtuber.

It’s got me thinking if maybe I need to “mature” out of some of my childlike interests, like miniatures and video games and find more “adult” friends. Serious people. Why? Maybe I’m missing out on some aspect of life that is really important.

But most of the serious people I’ve met seemed pretty miserable, so I’m really not sure about all that. Something I will continue to ponder.


What to Write About That Isn’t Me

One frustration I have with this blog is that most of my posts are all about me. I would like to write about things that aren’t me, but when I ask myself to do that, I draw a blank. I’m not sure if its even possible for me to write anything that isn’t somehow relating back to me personally.

This probably marks me as an extreme narcissist, except I don’t really like myself that much, so I’m not sure. I was accused in college of being really self-centered, and that much I think I can definitely cop to. I don’t have a defense against the notion that I center myself in most of my thoughts. It’s not that I can’t think about or care about others. I think I do, especially when externally prompted. It’s that I have long had rooted deep inside that if I’m not looking out for my own needs, nobody will be. The way I’ve tried to put it, which barely makes sense is: “my own thoughts are very, very loud in my head.” I am my own favorite subject, I guess.

As I barrel towards old age, I want to get outside of my own head. I often say I want a vacation from being me. I don’t want to be self-centered the point of myopia. I don’t really know how to break this habit. It feels way deeper than a habit.

As always, open to suggestions.


Personal Life

A Time to Change Things

Every February for approximately the last twenty years, I become convinced that everything in my life is wrong and I must change and rearrange my life to become truly happy. This, of course, is bullshit.

It’s seasonal affective disorder, a type of depression that manifests the worst for me in February, and a type that has only gotten worse since the pandemic. Every February, I have to fight urges to fire my best clients, desires to completely change my career, to sell my house and move to the other side of the world. Absolutely nothing is satisfactory, and everything irritates.

February. The shortest month, in actual days, but the longest for me in terms of sheer misery.

I have gotten much better at understanding what February does to me over the years. I browse my Facebook memories in February with a kind of morbid fascination, traveling backward in time and watching myself become more and more unhinged. Self-awareness has not come easily where it comes to mental illness, I guess. Now days, I understand just how crazy I am. Most of my long term clients should probably also know that February is not a month in which I should be taken very seriously, or given serious tasks.

February, for most of my life, has been a month to bear. A month to do little more than survive.

Now the end draws year. The seasons are turning, and, well, I wish I could say I feel better, but my SAD does not respect the temporal boundaries of a calendar. Instead, I feel like I’m a half-dead animal trying to drag myself over the finishing line of a race. Or a dehydrated beast, near death of thirst, trying to pull myself up to the drinking hole. For me, the drinking hole is a week off of vacation.

Twenty years I have tried to change everything about myself, but the one thing I’ve never succeeded at is getting rid of my bizzare need for change in February. Now I just ride it out, as best I can. Still riding it out, but I can see that it’ll be over soon. I owe a special thanks to my friends and family who put up with me in this season.

But… I should consider a career change. Are there still stevedores? I’m not even sure what that is, but I like the sound of it.


selective focus photography of green succulents in snow

Personal Life

Motivation Null

I finished The Three Body Problem last night. Now what?

The book seems to have triggered an existential crisis in me. It tangles with a lot of themes and issues that I have tangled with in my own life. Despair for the future. Environmental catastrophe. The value of living things. It’s a really intriguing book, even if half of it went over my head because it seemed like there was more allegory about Communism than I was picking up on. But today, I am at my lowest point in personal motivation in a long time.

My mental health comes and goes, so I’m used to fighting through low motivation, but today I’ve just kind of embraced it. I’m going to remain still, mostly and let the book and its impacts integrate into the rest of me. The cacophony of my to do list screaming for attention shall remain ignored for a few hours. A few hours is probably about all I can stand.

My body and mind has been begging me to do less lately, but doing less isn’t easy for me. Just for today, I’m going to give into that instinct. Call it self care or whatever. Sometimes you have to let the world spin on without you.


Personal Life