Taking stock

One of the biggest chores in reconstructing our living situation is putting the books in the new bookcase(s). When we brought the books and the old bookcases upstairs, speed was more important than organisation, so they’re just all stacked haphazardly. But of course when the books take their rightful place in the living, we want to have some sort of grouping to have similar books together. (Certainly nothing like Dewey Decimal, but it has to make sense for us.)
So yesterday I spent quite some time pulling out all the books of my RPG collection and putting it in the new bookcase — it is certainly the largest category of books we have, and I am the one who has to organise them. A lot of work, but in the end it turns out I have just over 2 meters of shelf filled with RPG books. And over a quarter of that (56 cm) are classic Iron Crown Enterprises releases: the Middle-Earth Roleplaying boxed set (2nd edition), lots of Rolemaster (multiple editions and lots of sourcebooks) and almost the entire run of SpaceMaster (including two copies of the rules).

These days, I tend to buy PDFs instead of physical books: shipping costs tends to take out all the fun of getting physical books, and there are no local stores that I could visit to buy those books. There are two notable exceptions: one is every book published by Cubicle 7 for The One Ring, the current iteration of a Middle-Earth RPG (and, in my opinion, the first RPG to really capture the feel of the books!). The other is Tales from the Loop, an RPG set in an alternative 80’s by Swedish artist Simon Stålenhag — I think those two books are all that’s going to come out, but I recently participated in a Kickstarter for a follow-up and sequel, set in the 90’s…
Both those series are gorgeous books with lots of atmosphere and great illustrations, so they’re worth it. There’s still some room in the bookcase for expansion of the RPG collection!

Radio silence

I haven’t been posting much here recently. Apart from a business trip that kept me occupied, these past two months have been spent working on our house. You see, our house has an extension built behind it: four meters deep, over the full width of the house. This is our living room, and the space where the original living room was, at the front of the house, is used as an office space. Especially now that klik works from home, it’s pretty important to have a good space for that.
And that’s all fine and dandy, but the extension turned out to lack any proper foundation. That in itself isn’t a problem, if our house wasn’t built on clay. The house itself is rock solid, but the extension has been slowly but surely sinking — and by now it had gotten so bad that we could see daylight through the cracks between the extension and the original house!
It took us (and our builder) about two years to find out what the original construction was, what the problem was and to explore different options for fixing it. Worst case, we’d have to demolish that part of the house and rebuild, but we didn’t have to go that far. With ground injections, a specialised company was able to stabilise the ground and even lift the extension!
But before that could be done, we had to clear out all the furniture and even the floor out of that part of the house. And on the coattails of that major operation, we had other building work done, and it spiralled from there. We just spent the past week painting the whole ground floor, and then in three weeks we’ll get the new floor put in…

I’m happy and relieved that the problems have been solved and the end result will be so much better than what it was, but I was not really prepared for how much work it was to clear out everything from the ground floor. We’ve lived here for fifteen years, and it’s amazing how much stuff you accumulate during that time. I’m so glad that we’re nearing the end of it all.

Rose knows best

I guess the rosebush in our front garden doesn’t need us to tell it how to grow. We haven’t done anything about it for all the years we live here — no trimming or cutting or anything. The rose knows best how to grow big.

A few years ago, my in-laws gifted me with a small Japanese maple tree. We kept it in a pot for a year (or maybe two?) and kept the tree indoors during winter. But then it had grown enough that it could be put in the ‘full ground’ in the garden.

We used bits of electrical wire (brown, visible in this photo) to guide the branches to spread out instead of growing upwards, and that worked quite well.
Normally, the leaves are a reddish-brown colour, but what with the fall, my trees has really intensely red leaves! I love it.

Webcam lighting

I play a fair amount of RPGs through video chat. It’s ideal: you don’t have to leave the house, and you can play with people you otherwise wouldn’t even be able to play with due to distance!
However, I have been struggling with the lighting situation at my desktop. Our study gets quite dark: we never turn on the ‘big’ lights for the whole room, because the dimmer makes a very irritating buzzing sound — as if there are large flies swirling around your head. But we don’t need that much light ourselves anyway: we have desk lamps that take care of that, and the monitors are bright enough. But if you’re using a webcam and the only lighting is your monitor, then you get this sickly pale blue hue in the face. And part of a good roleplaying game is to be able to see the expressions and mannerisms of the other players as they portray their character.
So the search was on for a light that is bright enough to illuminate my whole face, but also diffused enough not to blind me. I got a LED desk lamp with adjustable brightness and both ‘cool’ and ‘warm’ light, and that helped a bit — but not wholly.
So when I saw that Ikea was selling LED panels, I was interested. And looking at them in-store convinced me that it might be the right solution for this particular problem. So we bought the smaller one (the 30×30 cm Floalt) along with a cord that would allow us to hook it up to a wall socket. All that was needed was to find a way to get it onto my desk, above my monitor.

The result

I’m quite pleased with it!

I’ve spent this morning reorganising two of the three shelves that hold my RPG books. I weeded out some photocopies and print-outs of session reports of old campaigns (which I’ve gotten scanned already). I also tossed two of those really trashy supplements that came out in the heydays of the OGL/D20 glut. I don’t know how I ever got those: until 5th edition came along, I had even never DM’ed D&D! I could try to pawn them off to someone else, but really, that trash is made more useful by recycling it…
I don’t buy many physical RPG books these days. It’s all about the PDFs: they’re much cheaper (especially if you factor in the postage costs!), and there’s something to be said for the instant gratification of downloading your new RPG book immediately after purchase. The only exception to that is the whole line for Cubicle 7’s The One Ring. I buy every book that comes out for it, and that policy has served me well: the books are all high quality. But that means that the shelf-space for that game will be expanding in the future, and it had gotten so messy something had to be done!

Here, have some pics (and click to embiggen if you’re curious of my collection):

Not pictured: the enormous stack of books for Rolemaster and Spacemaster and the ShadowWorld modules. Some of those I bought, most I inherited from Rupert in auction.

A blackbird had decided to build a nest in the hedge, close to the back door. So far, so good, but then he got Really Angry when the cats went out. Sounding the alarm and even diving towards them! The cats sneaked from chair to chair, but after about a week of this they didn’t want to go out as often anymore: the Angry Blackbird was winning the battle for the backyard. It even got so bad that they’d sit on the backs of the chairs we have in the living, and the Angry Blackbird would see them through the glass, and then would get all Angry again — we’ve spent a few days with the curtains half-drawn…

And then last Saturday, the cats went out — the Angry Blackbird seemed to be occupied elsewhere. But after a while, he had found them again and was again in full-on alarm mode. When I went to the backdoor to let the cats back in, I saw that they had caught a lady blackbird! I let them in, and then I found that the bird was still alive — but she clearly was never going to get up by herself, so I had to euthanise her… Not a happy experience, that. We’re still not sure if this was the prospective bride of the Angry Blackbird, or just a random passer-by.

Later that day, we decided that enough was enough. We plucked the blackbird nest out of the hedge (which was still empty) and chucked it in the green bin. I don’t enjoy interfering like this, but raising a nest of young birds in our back yard is not going to end well for anybody involved.
We haven’t seen the Angry Blackbird since.

Kitty doorkeeper

We had new windows and a new front door installed in Februari. The old windows were only single pane glass, so in winter it wasn’t very comfortable. And since that side of the house is oriented to the south, it needs regular painting — but the new windows are plastic, so we never have to do anything about that again.
I especially like the new front door — though we had to install a mailbox outside since the new door doesn’t have a mailslot. (Which we only found out after it was installed and the mailperson rang the bell to tell us she couldn’t put our mail anywhere…) It has a narrow pane of glass to the side that goes all the way to the floor — a perfect size to act as the lookout post for a cat!
So when I return from work, this is how I am greeted:

Wiring up the house

The glassfibre modem is at the front of the house. From there, an ethernet cable runs to the router, and our desktop computers are wired to that. Works like a charm, no problems there.
We also have a computer underneath the TV, about ten to fifteen meters away to the back of the house. At first, I had created a cable and looped that through the plinth to where the computer is, but either that cable is of low quality or my plug crimping skills are insufficient, because we’ve only had really slow connectivity there. Then I plugged in a wireless card and relied on the wifi, but that had spotty reception at best — not ideal when you’re watching streaming video or playing a game online. Then I bought two of those homeplug adapters. That worked, and we had good throughput, but with high throughputs the adapters crashed and needed to be taken out of the socket for a reset. Workable, but certainly not ideal.

So I bought a 20m cat6 ethernet cable, and simply ran a cable through the house. I bought a cable with a brown sleeve, to color-coordinate it with the plinth. It was a bit of a hassle to run the cable behind the bookcases and all, but with the two of us working together we had it done within an hour. I didn’t want to run the cable through the plinth, because we have foil pinths that you attach to a slat nailed to the wall with tiny nails. I suspect the first cable fiasco was due to a nail going through the cable, and I didn’t want to run that risk again.
So we went for a bit of a ghetto solution: hot glue. A big dab of hot glue on top of the foil plinth and simply press the cable in there when it cools a bit. And since it runs behind bookcases and other things for most of the way anyway, that’s just the right solution. And who knows, if we want something else further down the line, it’s easy to dissassemble too.