Thursday, December 29, 2011

Yes, I'm Still Alive

Well, as promised, I am not so great at this whole blog updating thing. I will have no trouble coming up with a new years resolution! At this point, most of my recollection of December is now in bullet point form:

- I finished reading Mindy Kaling's book and loved it. I was hoping there would be more tidbits from The Office (there was really only one chapter that dealt with her being on set). The show is one of my all-time favorites, and I could probably read a whole book just about that. Mindy Kaling's book was fun, though, and left me wanting to go out and do something girly and gossip wildly with some girlfriends. I settled for a mani pedi.

- My office had a holiday party on December 16 at El Gaucho downtown. It was quite good, and pretty standard as far as holiday parties go. Because our office is so small, we do a gag gift exchange every year. Adam and I came home with a gingerbread house kit which we immediately swore we were going to build and chronicle on our blog. Judging by the lack of posts since then, I'm guessing you know as well as I that Christmas has passed and it's not happening. Look for that in the Jackson 2012 blog update.

- Kirsten Terry came back to the homeland from Michigan on December 17 and I immediately challenged her, Adam and Sean to a game of Catan. In classic Kirsten style, she built basically only roads and cracked herself up for most of the game. It was the best and made me realize how much I've missed her these last four months. For the record, I ended up winning the game of Catan (thought no one even got close to Kirsten's longest road).

- I was very excited for Christmas this year. Not that I haven't been in the past, but this was excited like 8 year old style. It ended up being a success and I am well on my way to my goal of making an epic scrapbook of all Adam and I's adventures from 2011. I started picking out pictures yesterday afternoon and I'm pretty excited.

- Though Adam will likely mention this in one of his posts, he built me a Magic deck from Christmas, and I can't wait to head down to Cafe Mox and try it over a sandwich. I wasn't expecting any gifts so it was a wonderful surprise - especially because I had no idea where he'd found the time to put it together!

All in all, December has been a good month. I didn't get all the Christmas-y things done I would have liked (didn't bake a single batch of cookies) but it was a great holiday. I won't pretend that I will be on the ball enough to post again before the New Year, so cheers to 2012 and learning how to use this thing more effectively!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Results from the Magic Pro Tour Qualifier

I wanted to write a quick follow-up to my last post about Magic where I mentioned I planned on going to a big tournament last weekend.

Well, I went. Here's my report.

I woke up early Saturday morning and met my good friend Toby and a group he knows through his work and various Magic exploits at Gamma Ray Games for breakfast at the 5 Point (NOT the 5 Spot as I kept confusing it with). It wasn't nearly as sketchy as I had made it out to be in my mind. The food was good, the coffee was hot, and I did not get stabbed. A good start.

The PTQ was a little slow getting started because the turn-out was much larger than the organizers had planned for: 295 people. A fair amount of neck beards were in attendance.

This particular event used a format called Sealed. Typically with Magic, you bring your own deck of cards to play with. But with Sealed, they give you the cards there and you build your deck right on the spot. This is something I am terrible at. If you've ever played Dominion with me (where its core mechanic is to build a deck), a game where I don't place in last is a pleasant surprise.

Anyway, I got my 6 packs of 15 cards each, and the 30 minute deck building phase began. After flipping through all 90 cards about a half-dozen times, I couldn't even tell you if the cards were printed in English I was so lost. I only needed to pick 23 cards from this pool, it shouldn't be this hard, right?

It was an extremely intimidating and humbling experience to be that guy at the table who obviously had no idea what he was doing. But, I've played Magic for years, I can swing this! So I calmed down, fanned through my card pool one more time, and started to see some connections. Toby finished his deck before I did, and he came over to see how I was doing and gave me some very vague tips to help me with my final card choices.

A few minutes passed and I finally settled on 24 cards, turned in my deck registration sheet, and started shuffling while I waited for the first round to start.

Ever since I started playing again earlier this year, every event I have gone to I have finished at .500, and this one was no exception. I lost the first round, then proceeded to win, lose, and win again. There were no blow-outs, all the games pretty much came down to a final turn and were a lot of fun. My opponents were nice, though a few made some underhanded cracks about my slow and deliberate playing style.

With 295 players, there were nine 50 minute rounds. By the time the 4th round ended, it was close to 4:00pm. A 1st place finish was far out of reach with two loss notches on my belt, and having to play another five rounds to see if I could make the top 64 (and winning some packs in the process) did not sound especially appealing. So, I ducked out early to go drink beer with my wife.

It went okay.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011 is still available

My hobbies tend to come and go in super-obsessed, condensed phases. I get really in to something (like playing Fallout 3 for about 22 hours over the four day Thanksgiving weekend), and then, well, it just goes away. Whether it be playing video games, reading books, watching a particular TV show, blogging, or getting back to playing the trumpet, no time-sink is safe.

However, there's one exception. The one hobby that has stayed with me for the better part of a decade has been Magic: The Gathering. If you haven't played, or even heard of the game, here's the gist from the Magic's lead designer, Mark Rosewater: "Magic is a strategy card game representing a magical duel between two players." Still with me after that? Okay, great! It basically invented the Collectible Card Game genre, paving the way for things like Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh. Think of it like Uno, except you get to build your own deck to draw from, and every so often new cards come out that do more than force your opponents to draw two cards.

Since my parents got me the Portal gift box for Christmas back in 1997, it's always been a part of my life in some form. Sure, as soon as I got some cards, everyone I knew that played the game stopped playing. Minor setback. Then in high school when we'd see people play it in the lunchroom, we dismissed them as outcasts and nerds. We're way too cool for that. Then sometime during Senior year, I don't exactly remember the catalyst, but everyone that used to play came to the conclusion that we should try to play again all around the same time.

And so it began.

What followed were dozens of visits to Crazy Tony's shop on Casino Road in Everett, countless late nights in my parents' basement playing gigantic, multiplayer free-for-all games on the pool table (heaven forbid we ever actually play a game of pool!), and an incalculable amount of hours pouring over thousands of cards. I spent so much of my disposable income (read: all of it) at Tony's during that first year or two that he thought I was some hot shot VP over at Boeing. The toupee he wore was older than me, so I don't know what ever gave him that impression.

For whatever reason about 4 years ago, I stopped playing, buying cards, and reading about the game. It wasn't a cold-turkey situation, the game just drifted away and in to the shadows over the course of a few months. Life pulls all of us in various directions, and the stars just weren't aligned for a while.

When I got back in to the game this past spring, fueled primarily by Card Kingdom and Cafe Mox opening up down the street, one of the projects I tasked myself with was organizing my collection, which had been scattered across multiple closets around the house. It took me about the first 3 seasons worth of Parks and Recreation to finish - about 16 hours. Lots of late weeknights.

This is what my collection looked like in the final stages before I put them all in long 5-row card boxes:

There are 5 boxes, just like the one in the pictured above, filled with cards. It's kind of a sickness.

The reason I bring all this up is this weekend I'm going to head over to Seattle Center and participate in a Pro Tour Qualifier. It's a feeder tournament for the Pro Tour in Honolulu. Yes, this is a competitive Magic tournament. You see, when you started reading, you didn't even know this game existed, and now look at you! If I win (extremely unlikely in a field of hundreds of players), I get an invite and a plane ticket to the PT Honolulu. Lose or lose (just being realistic!), it will be a fun way to spend a Saturday morning.

Wizards of the Coast has a fun little website where I can track my competitive progress. Here is my page. They call it Planeswalker Points, because you represent a super-powerful being called a Planeswalker when you play the game. Sure, it might be a little dorky.

But I don't care. I love this game.

Monday, December 5, 2011

In the Christmas Spirit

...or, why I should not quit my day job to be a wreath maker.

As I mentioned I hoped to do in my last post, I spent my Sunday afternoon making an ornament wreath. You may have predicted it would end up being more complicated than stringing ornaments on a coat hanger and, well, you were right. 

My journey started at the Ballard Fred Meyer, where I purchased a set of red and a set of silver ornaments. First of all, I learned something that was not in my wreath tutorial: cheap ornaments made with a crapload of cheap glitter = mayhem. My living room now looks like an 8-year-old's dream birthday party. Even the dog is covered with glitter due to a stray flung ornament. She thought she was just going to stand by her dish and wait for dinner, and instead BAM! - pelted with a 3" globe of sparkle. 

Aside from the glitter, which I will be sweeping up until the day I die, the ornaments also tended to...fall apart when I tried to bend the wreath into a circle (which really ended up being a trapezoid, or oval at best). In all fairness, the tutorial did warn me that I would regret it if I didn't hot glue the ornament tops on but, being the craft master that I am, I blew that advice off (I also have no hot glue gun, which was definitely a factor).

Once all the ornaments were strung, the challenge became how to bend the coat hanger back together and into a circle. Every time I tried to twist the metal, PING! an ornament hit the floor. Adam suggested the ultimate go-to "Dale Fix" (a term coined by my father due to the numerous projects growing up which needed on-the-fly adjustments) and slapped a zip tie on there. Once I strung a ribbon bow on top, you can barely see the zip tie (another fun tidbit I learned - I am terrible at bows. The worst.).

At any rate, it's hanging in my living room because I'll be damned if I'm going to spend an afternoon fiddling with glitter and wire and whathaveyou to not have something to show for it:

Note the top where the coat hanger end could potentially harm you. Don't worry, though, it's zip-tied

Two examples of my (lack of) bow skills
Also on the subject of getting in the holiday spirit, Adam and I hung our Christmas lights this afternoon. I thought they were quite cute, but both Adam and Tommy's responses were more along the lines of "wow, that's ghetto." We have limited space to hang Christmas lights, what with our roof being four stories high and frightening, so I thought we made the best of it. Plus, you may not guess, but it is three whole strings:

You say ghetto? I say pretty

Note Adam's detail work on the pillar
 All in all, things are pretty Christmas-y here at the Jackson's. I still haven't listened to nearly enough Christmas music, and I am itching to watch Elf and the Grinch (the original, mind you), but all in due time.

Our mantle...Adam still needs a stocking
The tree. So far Greta hasn't peed under it this year

Other highlights from our Sunday include:
  • Walking around Ballard, including a trip from Golden Gardens up the stairs to 85th. Quote from Adam: "You asked me if I wanted to go for a walk, not if I wanted TO DIE."
  • Nursed our walk wounds by testing out the new Red Mill Totem House across from the Locks. Delicious fish and chips, I would definitely recommend them.
  • We got the world's slowest meat slicer at the deli again. This isn't really a highlight, but my OCD requires that I list three items.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Katie's First of (Hopefully) Many Posts

I will be the first to admit it: I am terrible at blogs. I think I have had 5 or 6 now, starting in high school with a (joke) counter-blog to Adam Jackson Online supporting our seventh President Andrew Jackson. They've each lasted anywhere between three days and two months, and chronicled everything from news about my life to updates to an unsuccessful book club I started. Anyway, my point is, my blog track record is terrible. But I'm trying, and this new joint collaboration between myself and Adam is my current attempt. I hope this blog allows me to share some of my insight and I ideas and, frankly, I started it to be cool. Blogs are so in right now.

Adam and I took a big leap yesterday morning and joined Fitness 19. The last time we were gym members was the year before our wedding, and we quit when we moved from Sand Point to Ballard (and, honestly, we hadn't gone in months). So, it's been awhile. I told myself I didn't need no stinkin' gym, I could go on walks and do my sweet Zumba DVD in the spare bedroom. One year and countless pounds later, I am no closer to being physically fit. I'm hoping I can make my trips to the gym a standard part of the week. I've finally come to terms with the fact that I hate exercising. I know that's terrible, but it's true, and I'm working through it. I worked out yesterday, and with today looking gorgeous I am hoping to take a walk through the neighborhood. 

In more happy news, I finally executed my plan to give Greta a Christmas photo shoot. I got the idea from Pinterest (which I discovered through Rebecca Orr - thank you!). The original photo, shown below, is a dachshund strung with Christmas lights. I thought if we did this with Greta, it would be a cute addition to our Christmas card photo, which is Adam and I (unshowered) at Crater Lake last June. Next year's goal - actively try to have more pictures of Adam and I together. Our vacation photos include one of me in front of something, and then one of Adam in front of the same thing. Stupid PNW-too-afraid-to-ask-strangers-to-take-our-picture-it's-stupid-I-know Syndrome. 

Original photo:

The dog is so cute! And the lights are so perfectly string. 

Our attempt:
 Greta hated the lights. Hated them. I had to force her to sit still to take the pictures, and she struggled with my every step of the way. Plus, I used a brand new string of lights, which were still all bendy and not stretched out like the sample dog's lights. At any rate, it was amusing. I ended up using the second photo, zoomed in a bit, and it looks pretty cute on the card (at least on the mock-up).

Next up on my craft agenda: ornament wreath. It's supposed to be easy: take a wire coat hanger, stretch it out, string some cheap ornaments on there, and clamp it back together. TBD on that one.


Friday, December 2, 2011

The start of something

Welcome to our new, joint Jackson blog. Katie and I will both be contributing. I figured since I have had blogs before (one so legendary/embarrassing, it caused me to get slammed during our friend Kirsten's toast/roast at our wedding), I'd cut the ribbon so-to-speak.

We haven't talked much about what we will be posting on here, but it will probably be of the "current events" variety. I have a few ideas, as does Katie.

On the other hand, I do have a very good idea of what we won't be posting on here. The inspiration for the not-posts comes from a recommended list of domain names that our registrar suggested we purchase when we picked up Feast your eyes on what you will not be missing out on: