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Gaming, crafting and other awesomeness.

So, updates..
Quit working at the Casino, now working as a Lab Tech, its great.
Concentrating on creating hand made gaming miniatures, set up an ETSY shop called Little Sculptures, retooled my Facebook profile to be a business style format, also started networking with online creators of Dungeons and Dragons terrain, mainly from Youtube video channels, but also the DM's Craft forum.
Have sold a few of my miniatures, and am sending some free sculpts to select individuals, increasing my skill level as I go from one project to the next.
Have a weekly Tuesday night D&D game that is going very well, and a lot of my terrain crafting is focused around that, plus DM Scotty from the DM's Craft is making me a custom made 2.5D crypt dungeon tiles prize, which is just excellent.

Back into gaming

Well, after a dry spell, I am back into gaming.
Wednesday nights is now RPG night, with a sort of rotating DM's seat arrangement, we all get to run games and we all get to play.
First it was a home brewed Sci-Fi space ranger style game, then a D&D 4th ed game where all the player characters were Pixies, and now we are in 1800's New Zealand, in a sort of Steam Punk home brewed system (D6 based).

I have started selling my hand made miniatures online at www.etsy.com/shop/LittleSculptures and am adding new items slowly but surely, I also plan on making a new plaster cast model, a Gargoyle, when time and focus permit.

Work is work, I am on graveyard shifts at the moment, recovering from a workplace thumb tendon injury that has limited my ability to move my right thumb backwards (as in, I can't "splay" my hand completely open, the thumb tendon is jammed due to swelling in the ligament and tendon).. hopefully it will make a full recovery though, work has been pretty good about it all, and its all covered, so, no financial loss as a result, just a lot of pain and frustration.

Getting close to the holiday season and I have quite a lot of leave owing.. something like five and a half weeks.. I plan on taking a nice long vacation next year in the summer, celebrate my 40th birthday in style.

Not so long ago my father gifted me a Sony Reader, and I must say, as much as I love traditional paperbacks, its so handy to carry around and use once you get used to it. I also have a reserve payment on an iPad 2, so will be buying that when it arrives in store for me.. there are some apps I have had my eye on, and having started to use the Reader, the idea of a slate style computer has grown on me.

Right.. time to cycle through a storm and go work for 8 hours.. Yay!

Back to the drawing board

Hey LJ, long time no see.
Well, the year so far has been pretty ho hum, a bit of innovative elbow grease and I came up with some garden gnomes and a plan on how to make a business out of them. Work is work, nothing new there, aside from different uniforms and some new carpet and roof lights.
Other than that, all is well.


Got an email from Alltern8's CEO saying that the site is seeking sponsors, and for the time being, the money for the writers has dried up..
However, I at least am going to keep on writing at the same pace.. things will pick up soon I'm sure.

Meanwhile, here is one of the pictures from the blog.
Try and figure out how I did this using Microsoft paint and the paint.NET programs

Best computer case I have seen today


Inspired by the works of HP Lovecraft.
My ideal computer case would be a mixture of Alchemical vials and tubes, steampunk and something like the the one on the web page.

I just stumbled across this page as I was image surfing for my blog posts.. the theme for the next 30 days is The Month of May Mind Flay!

I love mind flayers... so creepy, so delicious.


This music video pretty much sums up how I view things..
Except, include about ten thousand other variables and you are starting to get close.

So excuse me if I forgot it was your birthday... ever.

New inscription for tombstone..

"He was a bit distracted,
For his entire life..."

Ha ha ha!
The D&D version of the Star Trek Away Team is the subject of my latest blog article.


In case you wondered why all the images of the Star fleet guys are of dead dudes, I should mention I am watching a week long marathon of Star Trek The Next Generation (thanks Don!).

Clearly, it is warping my mind.
In a good way.

Next months articles should be fairly heavy on the random roll tables.. I've been inspired by the old Advanced D&D dungeon masters guide, and the infamous random prostitute table (I kid you not, its right there on page 192). They just don't make tables like that any more.. well.. they don't but I sure as hell do!

I have a dream..

OK OK, this is just a first step, but I have a dream.. that one day, I can walk up to a vending machine, insert a some currency, select my choice, listen to the whirr and clack clack sounds, and then hear the satisfying thud and dingle sounds as my eight pack of fresh Maki or Onigiri pops into a folded paper tray, with a little pack of wasabi, soy and pickled ginger.

I mean, look at the shit they put in vending machines.. cookie time biscuits, chocolate bars, energy bars, sweets and trail mix..
Potato chips, corn chips, Nougat logs... *gak, puke!*

Seriously, the simple components are... rice cooker, rice former, seaweed roller, fresh ingredient storage and dispenser, slicer and packager.. all existing technology.
This machine would make a fortune!

Compared to how labor intensive it is to hand make sushi, run a shop and retail the stuff, a few staff servicing a whole array of machines would cut a great deal of the cost.

I want it!
I want it now!

almost there

One more article to go this month and I have filled my quota for the alltern8 blog.. all the rest is gravy (or, stuff I have written for next month's quota).
I like this carrot on a stick motivational method.. but I can see there may be times when my writing is going to be sucky.. I did manage to get an article in there about my favorite Magic the Gathering deck.. so that was fun.
I might see if I can slip a board game review in there as well.
What do you think.. Settlers of Catan, Pandemic or Shadows over Camelot?
If you are an avid reader of my Alltern8 blog 'AJ's Bag of Tricks' then you no doubt marvel at the images I include with the short, tasty articles.
If you are not an avid reader of my Alltern8 blog, just imagine me looking at you with a deeply hurt, but bravely trying to fake a smile expression, and a devil may care "Hey no problem".

OK, so here is my own little brief..

"I want a picture of someone who looks like a fantasy hero, who is being attacked by a slime which is trying to latch onto their face".

I go for a search of internet images on Google, using various key words.

I find this image of Conan.

And this image, of The Blob (from the movie, The Blob)

And using the magic of both Microsoft Paint, and Paint.net (thanks to Jexia, I use this quite a bit now), I come up with this..

And there you have it.
In a matter of 15-20 minutes, I have exactly what I need.

In other news: I have a head cold, and am taking a physical health day today.
In Related news: While suffering the onset of the head cold, which included sweating, runny nose, sore throat, reflux, dizzy spells, head aches and a nose bleed... I had my first stint on the Casino floor as a supervisor (or 'Hotel' by radio call sign), for three and a half hours at a much increased rate of pay.. despite also having to mother hen a newly signed off team member on pretty much his first solo shift (as in, not buddied with a senior staff member) and there being a bit of a gap in the roster where I did not get a break for four hours, and it being quite busy for a Saturday... I got to wear my new jacket!
Despite the sweating, nausea and dizzy spells, the suit jacket was very comfortable.
So, I am lurgy, but still kind of chuffed.

Hey look, I'm a grown up!

Shocking eh?
Did somebody cast a spell on me? When did I turn into this guy who has his dream job (and a regular job that he really enjoys)?
When did I become a man in a suit?

It just snuck up on me..
So yeah, this Sunday I will be working in that suit as a gaming machine Supervisor.
Authorized to issue $10,000 payouts, free drinks and generally be trusted with the keys to the castle.

I'm actually really looking forward to 'the suit effect' I have heard about.. where all of a sudden you get treated quite differently because.. well... you have a suit on.
Of course, under all that swish and Windsor knotted finery, I am still a total geek who sometimes gets his kicks by imagining that the slot machines are all instrument banks on a large space ship.. its either that or all the beeps and warbles drive you batty.

A simple explanation

I'm sure it has seemed, to my good friends, that I quite like to get drunk.
It's true, I do, I enjoy the effects it has on my brain, and generally speaking, I am very happy when I am under the influence.
Right now I am rewarding myself with a few shots of my good friend Gerwin's most excellent birthday gift.. namely Maker's Mark, the finest Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey, brewed in one of the United State's smallest distilleries, hand made with love and almost alchemical precision.

Alcohol is a unique bit of chemistry, almost custom made for the Human brain, it seeps into the cellular membranes, plays a gentle tune across the synapses, and to someone like me, occasionally spurred by poetic forces, something like the effects of very fine whisky are excellent right about the time when some prose is required for new blog posts.
Of course, there is always the danger of soaring a little to close to the sun and having imaginary conversations in the dead of the night, expounding on life, the universe and everything.. but even so, it is all within the warm, fuzzy glow of perfectly timed intoxication.

I don't know about you, but I believe different alcohols have different effects.. it is not just a matter of changes on atoms and metabolic calculations.. it is a much more complex and subtle beast. The numbing of this gives more freedom to that, and in turn, restricts these things, which bounce off that, make this more prominent and hey presto, you are crying in the rain at the thought of a moth falling in love with a perfume scented ladies t-shirt, sodden and discarded in the rain, beneath a street lamp.

I guess the key to the thing is to appreciate what we can, and for those of you who ever imagine that my love of this one molecular marvel is a worry.. fear not, I just appreciate it, I am not a slave to it.

Now coffee on the other hand.. I'm addicted to that stuff like the air I breathe.
But you don't see anyone raising an eyebrow to that now, do you?

My work mate is so Zen.

Work story..
We have these booklets of forms for pay outs.. you win more than the gaming machine can pay in coins, someone like me shows up out of thin air (actually a complex computer net that sends a message to my pager) and out flips the handy Pay Book...
Anyway.. we got a new batch of them today, and they are a wee bit shoddy.. really the only thing wrong with them is that the cardboard flip divider page is not folded right and the yellow slip carbon copy is not perforated for easy tearing... that is a right pain in the ass when you use them all day, trust me.
The rest of the new design is excellent; smaller, better details, crisp layout, and more complex than the version Auckland uses (because, well, they need the large print and the extra space for the crayons, and writing down both the dollar amounts and credit totals is a bit much for them, even if it avoids the most common error on payout slips... but I digress).

While at the cashiers, I comment to workmate Lee.. that the new payout books are both good and bad, and once the problems are sorted, they will be better than the original versions.
Lee replies, jokingly.. "The pay books do not change because we want them to, we become people who use the new pay books".

How very bloody true.

Makes me wonder how much of the problems of the world are just not that real.
What if all of a sudden, you were every person on the planet.. six billion of you..
Would there still be a national debt crisis on any country on the globe? Would there be any wars? Would there be issues of conservation, pollution, over consumption, famines, hate crimes, robbery, theft?

Could we all just stop one day, look around and say "Holy crap, it's not the world, it's me!".

All this from a pay book.
And you wonder why I do so much to distract myself.

So far so good.

Got a promotion at work, so far I have gone from a part time, to a full time Machine Operator and Action Host (radio call sign 'Kilo'), I am about to go through 'Dual Rate' training, which means that I will occasionally be a shift supervisor (radio call sign 'Hotel').. what the customer considers a manager, but our actual managers are the Shift Managers (radio call sign 'Sierra').

OK, I get to wear a suit, and when the suit is on, I get paid more.. otherwise my job is just the same until one day I become a full time supervisor.

Also there is a sort of promotion on the cards for my blogging job. With a commitment to 8 articles per month, they will pay a flat rate of US$80, plus the usual $2 per thousand hits per article.
I am working feverishly to see if I can churn out that many quality posts per month.. I think I can, and really, it will help my writing a lot if I do.
It was floated as an offer under consideration for some writers (and since it was emailed to me, and because I am one of the regular writers, I think I am one of the writers they are talking about) and I have emailed back that I am keen on the idea.

We shall see.
So far, this is a great year!
Considering last year I lost my job, got stuck on the dole, made do with shitty temp work, got shafted and had to sell off half my stuff just to get by... yeah, this is a GREAT year so far.


I'll take that Meme

The Meme Challenge!
- Post ten of any pictures currently on your hard drive that you think are self-expressive.
- No captions. It must be like we're speaking with images and we have to interpret your visual language just like we have to interpret your words.
- They must already be on your hard drive - no google or flickr! They have to have been saved to your folders sometime in the past. They must be something you've saved there because it resonated with you for some reason.
- You do not have to answer any questions about any of your pictures if you don't want to. You can make them as mysterious as you like. Or you can explain them away as much as you like.

Here goes..

I sometimes rub people the right way

OH how I relate to this skit!
If I had a dollar for every time I have had someone say "You're so weird", I would have at least a thousand bucks for nothing.
Lets face it, some of the shit I say is Way Out There, or at least from a tangent you are afraid to investigate further than absolutely necessary (this is often the tangent you mentally take when someone points at a screen full of static and says "Do you see a gorilla face there? A gorilla in a tutu, eating goldfish? look, there it goes again!")

But you know, I mean you no harm.
I try to make sense of it all, because I swear, most folks are looking at the static and seeing goldfish eating, tutu wearing gorillas and demanding that I look until I see it as well...

I'm a product of the prevailing environment.

That explains it

Just read this news piece on a couple of cases.. one is a woman who had some brain damage and now has trouble recognizing her own children in a crowd, the other a lady who can recognize just about anyone she has met for 30 seconds, several weeks ago.

There was a link to a web site with tests you can take.

On the first test, I scored 97%, or WELL above normal.
So the next time we are watching some movie or TV show and I say "Oh, that is that person from that other show."

Just take my word for it.
And no, I did not realize that this was an unusual trait.. I thought everyone had about the same level of facial recognition.

Turns out we don't.

Go figure.

general blah

I need to be less honest when I am drunk.

Alltern8.com | D&D 4th ed: Need a random shop?

I don't know how or why, but this blog post just smashed the record for numbers of hits in under 24 hours.
Hey, I'm not complaining, but WTF?
Did I accidentally use exactly the right google keywords or something?

Got any ideas?

I have a few ideas scribbled down for future D&D blog posts, but I was wondering if anyone had any special requests for topics.. do you want monsters? Weird alchemical concoctions? Gadgets of cunning artifice? Magical mayhem? Weird and wonderful locations? Charts and tables of amusing diversity? Items of legend, of infamy and disrepute?
How about barbarians with laser guns riding giant flaming air squid?

Hit me with your wild ravings.. I can take it.
I live for it
I need it baby

I dare ya.

It is the end of a decade!

Seriously ending the year on a high note, my D&D blog article http://www.alltern8.com/library/tabletop_collectible_card_games/dd_4th_ed_how_to_make_a_troll_serum/l-4556.html has made it to Front Page on the web site, that means banner advertising and more hits than a toy stuffed with sweets at a Spanish child's party.
Maybe writing is a viable second career, or very slow moving primary career for me?
Who knows, the idea I think, is to plug away at it and just hope for the best.
So often it seems we don't realize what we are really good at until our peers tell us, in no uncertain terms, that we are good at.. what they enjoy about what we do.
Anyway, feeling great, have a rather indulgent spread of delicious food set out for myself tomorrow, the list is too long to type out here, but suffice to say, it is great eating.
I am also indulging in a little intoxication, and with a day off in this gorgeous summer weather... why not eh?

Merry Christmas my most excellent friends and loved ones.
I am thinking off all of you, as always, on this special day.
I hope your year brings you as many highs as mine, with a few less of the lows.. but you know, years from now, I will look back on this one and remember it as one of quite a blunt contrast between the highs and the lows.

And really, that is what life is all about right?
The dreaded Troll Serum is one of those sick and twisted ideas I once sprang on my players, which turned out to be hilarious.

Alltern8.com | D&D 4th ed: How to make a Troll Serum.

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good news

I just got promoted to level two writer status on www.alltern8.com along with four other bloggers.

I'm... I'm getting paid to write.

I am fairly jazzed right now, this was one of those things on my life-long To Do list.

It's not a lot of money, but that matters less than the fact I can now say that, yes, I am a professional writer.

It's like my brain is wearing a nice suit now.

First Blog Post is Up!

The lovely folks at Alltern8.com have installed my first official D&D blog!

Although I'm going to have to wait a while before they start paying me to do this kind of thing, I'd appreciate it if any of you could go clicky and take a gander, because it features one of my favorite things in the whole world.

Random Roll Tables!

Just me?
OK then..

Anyway www.alltern8.com/library/tabletop_collectible_card_games/dd_4th_ed_random_encounter_motivations/l-4423.html is the link.
I am very proud of my title logo.. took me an entire 15 minutes using microsoft paint!
I tell you, the things you can do with that program are so often overlooked.
I mean, there's copy, and paste!
That right there is half of anything a graphic designer actually does.. really, they are up to their elbows in scotch tape and bullgum glue all day, I swear to you.

Welcome to the street friends!

I'm not as sore today as I should be, all things considered..


Friday was my day off, so I stayed up all night after work, started the day with a stale can of Kentucky bourbon and cola (I know, I know, but hey, it doesn't count as breakfast if you have not slept yet), teamed up with Don and Becs, we hired a trailer, went over to their old flat, surveyed the task at hand and I went into "AJ the ex-moving man" mode.
Washer, dryer, bed base, Becs gets a concussion, bed, sets of drawers, a few lead lined kitchen boxes... (seriously, what the hell was in those things? They just blasted my arms by the end of the second load).
Big praises on Bec's trailer reversing skillz.. I'm afraid my directions for reversing were probably a bit scew-wiff due to the second can of bourbon and cola.
Second trip, shelving unit, more drawers, antique chest, lots o boxes, everything wrapped safe for stacking in the wire walled trailer.
The sun hammered down, shirt off, lugging the last few boxes and... time for a powerade and a lie down.

Then finally, off home to get a good mid day's sleep. ahhhh... well ok, not a good sleep, but it's the lack of being awake which counts.
Sometimes sleep is just good for dividing one day from another.

Work today was crazy busy, many thanks to Becs for the loan of the Scooter.. sometimes I fail at bus time table checking when my work hours get randomly tinkered with.

My new hair cut (I think this is by far the shortest it has ever been.. just a touch off shaved bald really) is nice and cool, easy care and hey, I was right, I do have lots of old scars on my head.
Thanks for that, older siblings and adventurous farm boy childhood!
There is at least one large scar there that I have no recollection of getting...

Anyway, work is going very well, with compliments about my performance. The delayed contract is finally getting seriously chased down for me, and I'm all sorted for my roster up until Christmas and beyond.

The Tuesday night game (and drinking session) is kicking into high gear this week, as the guys have finished the introductory quest and are off on their first real, serious mission.
The location was randomly generated on my home brewed tables, and sure enough, the situation is completely wild!
They have been hired by the Manu snail people to rescue them from some insane dragons who are going through some sort of decade long dragon-rage. The location is the great fungus forest found in the ten mile deep ear channel of the Great World Serpent Jörmungandr!
The snail folk are offering ten cans of the universe's most precious ear wax if they can be safely relocated to a new home, or twenty cans of wax if the dragons can be subdued or eliminated somehow.

Now that is what I call an exotic adventure to strange and distant lands!

Right, time for an early night I think.
2.40am ha ha ha!
Oh the life of a night shift worker.. it's like permanent jet lag or something.

Fact-o-rama meme

FIRST NAME: Adam (technically), but although I might introduce myself as that, my name to friends and family, as well as the name I sign to books and written work, is AJ.

AGE: 36, born in the year of the Water Ox, in a small white room in Rotorua, under slightly mysterious circumstances that it is best not to dwell on for too long, as they are not actually that important to the overall narrative structure of the tale. I was born on Valentines day, which is inconvenient when trying to organize a birthday party, but I am an Aquarius as a result of the month, and that is just awesome!
This is the age of Aquarius after all, so I know exactly what is going on and am cool with everything.. any questions, just send me an email.

LOCATION: Hamilton, New Zealand. I've lived in NZ all my life, although I wasn't born in Hamilton - I did most of my growing up in Turangi and then Whitianga. Turangi is kind of a dull, dank and miserable town, I am glad we moved out of there, prior to living in the town we were just outside it on a little farm, which was AWESOME.. it broke out hearts to have to leave there really. I spent my youth in Whitianga (Coromandel peninsula) and grew up working in the family restaurant, which funded some trips overseas, provided a stable base to return to after travels to Auckland and down south and taught me how to cook. I moved to Hamilton pretty much on a whim and fell in love with the place.. it is now my home.

OCCUPATION: I work as a Gaming department Machine Operator.. I wear a nice uniform, look after the slot machines and hopefully, I will be writing blogs professionally in my spare time in the near future.
Prior to this Casino job, I worked for Waikato Hospital for a little while as a storeman and delivery guy, which was not that sucky, but the manager was a knob, and before that I was Site Manager at Caltex Naylor street, before it was sold for a tidy profit by the owner and demolished.. it is now a day care center. Other work in Hamilton includes the Genesis Energy call center and working heroicly for Steel and Tube as a level two storeman, where I was refered to as "The Machine"... never again will I work that hard, on this I swear.
I remember one time my friend Iain commented that he was walking up a inclined street with me and puffing away, I was marching up the street like the incline was not even there... ha ha ha.. I don't think I will be that fit again for the rest of my life.

KIDS: Not likely at this stage, and really, not up to me. If it did eventuate, I'd be happy to be a dad, but it is not something I will care about unless it actually happens, in which case my entire world view will shift instantly to center around being a dad. Until then.. meh.

BROTHERS/SISTERS: Oldest is Kim, she is currently living in Australia, then there is Wade, living somewhere near Auckland, and then Ned, she is living down on the west coast.. unfortunately, both my sisters married guys I am now obligated to have to shoot on sight (well, I say obligated, but I'd be happy to do it in all honesty). My brother Wade has five kids, Ned has three and Kim has one. When I was little, living on the farm near Turangi, we had two foster brothers called Malcolm and Grant, and I sort of have another sister, Tracy, who is such a close friend of Ned and me that she is really a part of the family. Same with Neera, Max, JP and "Uncle" Selwyn (rip).

PETS: I share the house with Tuttoo the Fairy Princess, whom I love. I am definately a cat person, and they seem to like me as well.

3-5 THINGS GOING ON IN MY LIFE: Working at the casino (went from part time to full time and am on the cards for a fill-in supervisor role at some point), trying to balance work and life by shifting to daytime hours come January, with Monday/Tuesday off. Getting at least one Dungeons and Dragons game per week, accomplished by sheer providence really, as some guys at work are into it as well, and who knows, maybe Iain will have a spot for me in the Monday game, later on?
Related to D&D is the recent pursuit of paid Blogging work for a special interest site called Alltern8.com where I shall be posting once a week on D&D stuff.
Aside from Gardening and trying to spend more time with loved ones and friends, I have little else going on.

PARENTS: Two, both married young (by today's standards) and are still together, living a working retirement in Katikati with one cat (came with the property), a goat, a herd of chickens, some ducks, a grove of kiwifruit, heaps of citrus and a giant avocado tree.
My Gran also lives with them (mother's mum), I also have Dad's mum and my step grandad living over in Aussie. I have one uncle in Hamilton whom I rarely see (mum's bro), one living in Canada who I wish I could go visit (mum's bro), one in Aussie who is one of life's unique people (Dad's bro), an aunt in Canada I barely know at all (mum's sister) and one living at the family house in Whitianga (Dad's sister, and the house is her's by consensus for the rest of her days).. I have a few cousins, but we are not close.

CLOSE FRIENDS: Woooo, ok, chronologically and not repeating multiples of Mark, Paul, etc...
Conrad, Tama, JP, Max, Shane, Trent, Rowen, Paul, Daniel, Weston, Robin, Sarah, Anna, Angela, Shannon, Raylene, Pomare, Mark, Gene, Candice, Pete (Strongwolf), Ange, Jo, Alison, Simon, Nile, Kristen, Gary, Claire, Sue, Donna, Charles, Lee, Verena, Iain, Errol, Kelly, Rosco, Dave, Robert, Sam, Hazel, Gerwin, Malcolm, Diane, Natalie, Hannan, Jessica, Scott, Lyz, Katherine, Lem, Jason, Faran, Michael, Clint... to name a few.
I tend to make friends, and have a long memory.
Except for birthdays.. don't even ask me when my Mum's is, because I don't know. I have it written down somewhere safe.