Found In the Woods

February 16, 2011

Building Building

Filed under: Projects,Railroading — bsullivan @ 10:16 am

Since I was laid off back in November, things have been different. Suddenly I’m playing Mr. Mom while a tenacious Ms. Dad has gone back to working full time to pay the bills while I search for a job. In my rare spare time I’m trying to finish up some modeling projects. I cleaned up the basement workshop room enough so that I could sit down at my table and take a stab at finishing a few projects. I did!

Life-Like Proto 2000 Hopper kit nearing completion

The P2K War Emergency Hopper Car is one I have had for years. It is a pretty nice kit. The details are exquisite. Lots of really well molded detail parts, grab irons and  a nice overall appearance. I brought this kit to Cape Cod with me last summer and never completed it because I ran out of time. It sat on my workbench all Fall and I finally picked it back up. I only had about 20 minutes of work left to complete it and the finished model looks great. Now it just needs a little weathering and it will be good to go.

Suydam 4 track car barn kit

This Suydam kit has a bit more history attached to it and I’ve decided to make it my next project to complete. This kit belonged to my father until I absconded with it years ago when he left the hobby for the most part. It’s identical to a kit that I destroyed as a child (a story for another time) and one that I’ve had half-built for about 12 years now. I picked it out one day many years ago and decided to try out the task of soldering the metal roof sections together which is something that I’d never done. It turned out so well that I painted and lightly weathered the roof. When I assembled the side walls, construction stopped. When this kit was produced, back in the 1960s and 70s, it was really nice. Card stock walls with printed brick patterns and lucite windows with printed on mullions were all relatively good looking. Now, they just look silly. In this day in age when superdetailing is at a mind boggling level, just putting a little effort can take a model like this to a whole new level.

What I’ve decided to do is complete this kit with a few modifications based on a prototype that interests me. This kit is modeled after some Southern California traction car barns. My layout/interest is with the Georgetown Branch of the B&O. I have a photo of the Chevy Chase & Kensington Electric Ry. car barn that once existed at the crossing of Connecticut Ave. in Chevy Chase, MD. The car barn was later repurposed as a car dealership and probably a host of other things before it was eventually torn down and replaced with an apartment building. My goal here isn’t to model the car barn exactly as it appeared but build a car barn model that will represent it with some degree of semblance. As such, even though it’s a very different design overall, I’ll be using this Suydam kit as a basis and adding some details that will give it a feeling of the old Georgetown Branch structure.

First up I’m ditching the old card stock walls. I’m going to replace them with Evergreen Scale Models styrene clapboard siding. The windows and doors are going to be represented with laser cut designs from Rusty Stumps doors and windows. I’m not sure how this will all turn out in the end, but if I can pull it off I think this will be a very nice model with lots of detail appeal on the layout. Who knows, I may even try to squeeze a traction line into the layout plan!

June 18, 2010

Movin’ on up, to Brookeville, Part 1

Filed under: Blogging — bsullivan @ 3:17 pm

Most of you are aware that we have moved. Then again I don’t really know who the audience here really is, so let’s assume that all my wonderful friends and family are tuned into this blog, awaiting each post with bated breath. Sound good? April 15, nigh eight years to the day we moved into our first house on Thornden Rd., we left Rockville for the town of Brookeville, MD which is about 20 minutes to the North via Rt. 28 & 97. Kris in particular had been looking for houses avidly on Redfin and other real estate sites. She pored over listings, checking a few times a day for months, looking for possible places for us to relocate to. The whole thing happened so fast and furious and we’re so thankful that we came out on the other side nearly unscathed.

Rockville had gotten a bit to clogged for us. The city is growing and traffic in and around just keeps getting worse. Intersections that several years ago were just a bit difficult are now nightmares most rush hours. Our neighborhood saw more traffic and the overall flavor of the area just didn’t appeal to us. We had done research on the elementary school and made the decision years ago to find a new one for our kids. It just didn’t match up with what our expectations were and what our own personal ideas were for where our kids would have their education. We decided a few years back to send them to Oakdale Christian Academy for preschool & kindergarten which worked out nicely because it gave us a rough time frame to consider moving. And now, the time had come. There were also some wonderful tax incentives being offered which we knew would expire soon if we didn’t take advantage of them and that turned into a big motivator for us too.

Our decision was guided by a few factors. Schools, housing costs, neighborhood, accessibility to name a few. We discussed moving to places as far away as California and as near as elsewhere in Rockville. Ideas of moving up to New England or Delaware didn’t pan out after we realized the complications with family proximity (we want to stay near our folks, who are mainly in the DC area) and house values. Also, job markets haven’t been to hot lately so that was unappealing to me particularly since I have an excellent job which I’ve been at for over twelve years. (for those of you keeping score, that’s more than a third of my life) We couldn’t really afford to move into Potomac, which was also high on our list. Despite housing prices coming down quite a bit the P-mac market stayed relatively out of our range. Virginia was also an option but that was the opposite direction of our friends and family. Moving up Rt. 270 also was an option, but the idea of moving into one of the really crowded neighborhoods along the exploding corridor didn’t appeal to us. I also didn’t want to move WAY up North to, say, Frederick county.

Olney/Brookeville appealed to us in many ways. The land out there is underdeveloped. There are still working farms out there (yes, a few dairy, but mostly turf, but hey! I’ll take what I can get) with just incredible amounts of park land and opportunities for exploration. The schools are great, the neighborhoods are bursting with children and the area overall is very friendly. There’s a laid-back feel to the area that many of the other nearby towns don’t have. Olney/Brookeville is isolated  – it’s sort of in the middle of a triangle between 270/495/29. It has proximity to DC/Frederick/Columbia in different ways. It sort of leans in a few different directions, which means it offers opportunity for work and commuting. (more on this in a later blog post) The houses are relatively new (aside from the ancient farmhouses dotting the area), infrastructure is good, cost is reasonable for the region and when were looking the market was favorable for us. It also allowed us to keep decent proximity to our family and friends in the area which we really liked. So this became our target.

Selling our house was a rough process to begin. I have to be honest, Kris really fronted this effort from the getgo. She lit the fire under my ass to get the house sold, she had the get-up-and-go to start things moving and then keep them rolling. All of the years of watching home improvement shows on TV was about to pay off. Like a force to be reckoned with she swept through the house, planning out a course of attack for each room and area. What was going to stay, what would go into storage (thanks Mom & Dad!), what needed repainting, what needed removal, what needed dressing-up, and so on. She had a really good eye for staging the house and set about doing so in as much of a frugal manner as was possible and what a job she did. In a period of a few weeks she had the house read to go on the market. And so we did.

Our realtor, Beth League, was a client of Kris’. She had cared for Beth’s father and they had forged a friendship over the time she worked with him. Beth was wonderful from the get-go. She really helped us take baby steps from the beginning and not get overwhelmed with the process as a whole. She started by outlining the rules of the game, talking about how things work and explaining what we could and couldn’t do. I fired a ton of questions at Beth and she was able to give me good answers across the board, something that is important to me. If someone who is in a service position blows me off I tend to do the same to them. It’s not worth wasting my time unless it’s a very special person. She did a great job and maintained that throughout our time working with her. We filled out a lot of paperwork, got the house listed and went to bed. Mind you this was right in the midst of what would be dubbed the “snowpocalypse” when we received over 2′ of snow! Our house wasn’t exactly “show quality” at that point. The trees were bent, there was an 8′ high pile of snow at the base of the driveway alone. You could hardly see the place from the street! Ice everywhere, pathways carved out of snow around the house, sore backs and worn-out lungs. But, the inside of the house was immaculate.

Maggie had moved out weeks before to keep hair & dust down. We were on high alert. A regimen of cleaning up dishes quickly, vacuuming, neatness, care and upkeep was the norm. We had just got used to it. So when the snow storm came right when we planned to list the house it was kind of a bummer for us. We had to push it back a couple days which was a bummer since we were so jazzed to get going, but we pressed on and the house went live on Wednesday night. The call came in on Thursday morning that we had got an offer. And it was a good offer. We scheduled time with Beth to go house hunting in the snow on Saturday and to sit down with the seller’s agent on Friday evening to review the contract. It was happening so fast. After reviewing the contract, we really felt good about it and we were ready. All the stars were aligning, now we just needed a house to move into.

April 9, 2010


Filed under: Blogging — bsullivan @ 9:53 am

Why is Metro so broken? That’s a question best left for the pundits and the blowhards. For me, it’s a few things.

  • No through trains. If I want to get from Wheaton to Crystal City, I have to stop at every single one of the 15 stops between those stations, including a transfer. In many major cities like NYC there are “express” trains that skip stops in order to take those who are traveling long distances to their destination faster. Locals. Expresses. It’s basic public transport logic, right? Well, not for Metro. Apparently the ridiculously elaborate and fancy designed system is too good for express trains. Way to plan for the future, Metro. There are no express trains that I know of on the Metro system. As a result my train ride today took just over one hour on the rails. This includes waiting for trains to clear platforms and the train stopping at my station (Crystal City) and the doors not opening. No announcement, no warning, the doors just didn’t open. The train continued to the next stop where I had to transfer and ride back to my stop.
  • Lack of coverage. As far as I’m concerned the DC Metro area screwed the pooch back in the 50s when they decided to rip up the DC Traction rails and convert to buses. Much of the old DCT system rode on dedicated right of way, that is to say that it didn’t have to contend 100% with the flow of traffic as the buses do. Of course the system had its own problems and much of it did in fact run on city streets with cars. But what troubles me is how we have reached a quite saturated suburban population as far as infrastructure load is concerned, yet we have no right of way left. In order for Metro to get a train line in place now it involves years and years of money wasting deliberation and meetings. And then there’s the astronomical costs. It’s ridiculous that these people actually argue with people. What happened to eminent domain? Putting in public transportation projects is something that must be done. Do it.
  • Cost. I had to break this one down for you a bit. Now keep in mind that I like driving. I like being in my car. I’m a big gearhead. I like to be able to open and close the window. To turn the music up or down. To put the heat or the AC on. I don’t mind traffic that much and I sit in traffic nearly every day. My commute usually takes from 40-60 min door to door driving from Rockville, MD to Crystal City, VA which is ~18 miles. I pay for parking, which costs $7.75/day. My car does about 24 MPG which roughly comes to $4.16/day in fuel costs. That’s $11.91/day so far. This does not include the cost of wear-and-tear on the vehicle, which I’d have to figure separately *. I walked from my mechanic’s shop to the Wheaton, MD Metro at about 7:38am and arrived at my office at about 8:53am. That’s 1:15 total travel time door to door. Cost round trip today is $8.90. So the way I see it, for a few bucks more per day I get to roll down the windows, keep my hands clean, turn up the music and enjoy the breeze. No bums to breathe at me, no rude boys to stare. No tourists to get in my way (GET OUT OF MY WAY). No freaks. I don’t have to squish myself into the sardine can seats and I get to come and go as I please from the office.

It’s a no-brainer for me. No wonder Metro is struggling so badly. Putting too much money into a super-fancy system, poor route design, trains that go no where. Astronomical costs (it’s a good thing I didn’t have to pay $10 to park for the day at a Metro lot) don’t help. Unreliable trains and broken escalators abound. Until the system gets its shit together and starts to put their service first, they are never going to succeed.

* The astute among you will notice that I left out a key item in my car’s daily cost. The operational costs. This includes wear-and-tear, depreciation, insurance, etc. GSA has a figure of ~$18/day for my vehicle which I think is a little high. For one, I don’t really see the need to include the depreciation value of my vehicle as I don’t see it as an investment, per se. I didn’t purchase the car to make any money, I bought it to perform a task. However, like any tool used to perform a job, it still has a value. But I’m not sure the depreciation costs need to be figured here. Anyway, this does bring the daily costs of my commute quite a bit higher, but the freedom of driving still supersedes doing the Metro dance for me .

April 7, 2010

Your Name In Lights

Filed under: Railroading — bsullivan @ 2:31 pm

Years ago I helped the B&O RR Historical Society Archives out by scanning, tracing and redrawing an old B&O RR logo. The impetus of the project was a friend and fellow member needed a decent version of the logo and the iconic font for use in a B&O caboose restoration. Up in Sykesville, MD there is a B&O caboose that houses a model RR and some other exhibits. My friend Jack wanted a nice digital vector file to work with instead of the really crummy reproductions that were floating around. So being that we were involved with the B&ORRHS Archives at the time, we located some original blueprints and go to scanning. The rest of the story can be read here.

I did this project out of a love for the subject matter, largely. The B&O has held a special place for many years to me, being the main focus of my own personal model railroad and research project, the Georgetown Branch. Since getting involved with the B&ORRHS I have met minor railroad celebrities, shared ideas, heard stories and enjoyed the love of all things B&O. I’ve received praise and thanks for collaborating on the font/logo project but nothing compares to seeing the designs we created end up on a final product. I’ve had folks contact me telling me about the logo going on flags, mugs and even HO scale model railroad cars! How cool is that? But, nothing compares to the joy I get when folks share their stories of how they restored an original piece of B&O rolling stock and used our logo & font to make it happen.

This week I got a letter from a gentleman in Indiana:

Thanks guys for your font work. I wanted to attach a photo of a restored caboose I helped with in a park in Indianapolis using your fonts and logo. I do have at a higher res. if you are interested.

Pretty cool. I got a few more high res photos a few days later. Here they are, shrunk down to fit:



April 2, 2010

Look at the Sky

Filed under: Music — bsullivan @ 11:12 am

Today’s choice, like so many other days, this song sets the scene. One of my all-time favorite remixes of one of my all-time favorite artists, Ulrich Schnauss. Anyway, this remix is by Rob McVey, from Long-View, and is found on the Quicksand Memory EP by Schnauss. One amazing track. Enjoy!

March 30, 2010

To Put Into The Date For The Sake Of The Cities

Filed under: Blogging — bsullivan @ 12:32 pm

funny caption YouTube’s new Transcribe Audio (beta) feature is ambitious, but very flawed. It’s really entertaining to turn it on for whatever it is you’re watching. Good fun.

March 26, 2010


Filed under: Blogging,Goot Stuff — bsullivan @ 2:10 pm


Links to works by Fairey. Gootah.

Deep Thought

Filed under: Blogging,Goot Stuff,Tech — bsullivan @ 11:50 am

Nice little easter egg in Apple Numbers in the Chart menu.

March 24, 2010

End of the World

Filed under: Blogging,WoW — bsullivan @ 1:46 pm

As most of you probably know I’ve been an avid World of Warcraft player for some years now. I got a copy of WoW for Christmas in the winter of 2005. I was pretty excited about this, but had no idea what I was getting into. See, MMORPGs were a new frontier for me. I’d played the first two iterations of Warcraft, Orcs & Humans (1) and Tides of Darkness (2) back in 1994-5, during my college years. I pretty much completely missed WCIII. When it was released in 2002 I was in the midst of buying a house, getting married and all that good stuff that comes with it. So when WoW came out, in 2004, I heard about it but didn’t really have any interest. Why? Well, it has to do with a little game called Halo.

Double Kill
I was introduced to Halo CE by some coworkers. At the time, the company was riding the gravy train, we were up to our ears in billable work and we were the “cool guys” at the office. Multimedia got to have all the fun toys and we enjoyed it. Part of the fun was we were able to get a couple XBox’s and projectors procured for our editing suite and use them to blow off steam from time to time. One of the guys brought in a copy of Halo CE and I was immediately hooked. I had never been a fan of the first-person-shooter genre when it pertained to “realistic” combat, ie. killing humans in a graphic manner. But when it’s space aliens, robots and baddies? Oh, I was so in. We used to have marathon sessions, heated and serious. There was Ninjasaki, Sgt Fun, Rubbarubba, Nickynewnew, Tenderloynes and me, SLUGGYJUNX. We usually kept the same teams, and everyone accused everyone else of screen watching and cheating. Plenty of BS calls were made. The highlights of this game for me were the multiplayer nights we used to host on a monthly, sometimes bi-monthly basis. We used to get about 10-16 people together, set up 4 XBox’s, projectors, sound systems and point them toward 4 screens arranged in a “cube” in the center of the main conference room at work. We would hit Chipotle, bring it back to the kitchen, chow down, and then settle in for a long night of Team Slayer, Trenchfoot, Snipers or King of the Hill. The games were epic and everyone had a blast. Times were good. And they were only getting better.

Second Coming

November 9, 2004. Halo2 is released. Us at the office took a day off. At the office. To play Halo2. At the office. It was epic. We were totally blown away. The second was better than the first. More action, more detail, more maps, some legacy content which tickled our fancy. The gameplay was better too. Master Chief had a whole new set of tricks up his sleeve. More weapons, more elaborate techniques. And, to top it off, we were introduced to XBox LIVE. This was sort of my first introduction to an MMO, even though it’s technically not an MMO since it was more of a glorified LAN party. With LIVE we could login at any time, queue up and play a ranked round of combat in Halo2. Matches could be blowouts when you played against premade groups who would trounce you. Or they could be all glory as we make amazing plays and win the game. You could get a good map or a crummy one. Or the legendary network latency issues could crop up and make the game unplayable and frustrating. This was in the heady days of cheaters using the Reset buttons on their routers to win. It was wild west and we were loving it.

So WCIII pretty much got glossed over by Halo. I was so into Halo no other games could really influence me. As a newlywed with a house I had plenty of projects at home to keep me occupied, but I also had some free time. Halo was perfect because I could login, play a few games, logout. No big time commitment, lots of fun and got to play with my friends from home. Our multiplayer game nights slowed down quite a bit at this point. People were getting married, having kids, moving or otherwise busy. It was OK though, we all still played on XBox LIVE from time to time. But I was vulnerable. In June 2004 Kyle was born. My time available to play video games went down the tubes as we spent our days (and nights) tending baby. I did find I would have time to game at odd hours but I was so tired I really didn’t get into it like I used to.  Halo was waning and I was in the mood for something new.

Wandering at Home
I walked by the intern’s office and saw he was logged into WoW. I immediately snuck in and commented on the game, telling him that I had a subscription and had just started playing. “What? You play too? Awesome! Oh, dude, you gotta roll on my server. I’m in a huge guild, we totally rock. We’re raiding Black Wing Lair right now, it’s pretty awesome. Dude, I’ll totally hook you up. Roll a toon on Gurubashi and you’ll be set, dude!”

Dude. This was the Summer of 2006. My daughter had just been born and I was back in the throes of baby madness. Having a second child was a lot harder for me than just having one. Some people will tell you it’s easy having the second one since you already have one and you know what to expect. Those people are crazy. Don’t listen to them. Anyway, I was looking for a fun distraction. My Halo friends had gone the way of the winter Goose and migrated elsewhere. I had got World of Warcraft for Christmas the previous year. I installed it and played a little bit here and there, but I didn’t really get into it since I was still playing Halo. I did, however, have a subscription to WoW, incubating in my subconscious.

The early weeks and months of playing WoW were like any new hobby. Full of mistakes, learning experiences and fun. The halcyon days of WoW for me were really wonderful. I was in a guild full of great players, most of which were helpful and friendly. I was a complete n00b and they helped me along, and to understand the game. I played alone most of the time though, just getting used to the game, and Kristin would sit behind me and help me do quests and explore the world. This was my favorite thing. I remember telling my friends about how in WoW you could walk and go anywhere you wanted. Some people had horses even. And everyone you saw was another real person playing the game. And there were hundreds, thousands of them, everywhere. I played a Warrior, a class which I only rolled because I figured it would be the simplest. Shield, sword, armor, slash-slash-kill-kill, profit. (Little did I know that the Warrior is one of the most complex, robust classes in the game) Kris cheered me on, as the levels ticked by. Around the time my character was in the low 20s she decided to login and roll her own character. A mage named Amarilyn. She too enjoyed the exploration and the game mechanics. It was just a ton of fun for the both of us.

Pretty soon having one account just didn’t cut the mustard. Problem was we only had one computer at the time. On a trip to Atlantic City with a friend, I won a poker tournament and made enough scratch to buy a new PC. This was perfect. Kris got her own account, re-rolled Amarilyn and we were off. We played a lot together. It was a great way to relax after a day of kid stuffs. A great distraction. The game was fun, challenging, beautiful and enjoyable. We were hooked.

We leveled, quested, fought, explored. All that good stuff. The game had its first expansion in January 2007. We largely missed the excitement since we weren’t even level 60 yet. (you had to be 60 to venture into the new worlds) One day at church, I started talking to a new friend there who, as it turned out, was also a WoW player. But not on the server I played on. He and his father and brother played together and were also involved in a good guild. We talked and talked and after a couple weeks Kristin & I decided to transfer our main characters over to this new server so we could play with our friends who we saw all the time. We did, and at the same time got to start exploring the new worlds opened up with the expansion. It was Spring 2007 and by now we had the hang of the game. The new zones were huge and impressive. The game sucked us more and more in. Now we had a regular group of the five of us to play together with. Every Monday night we’d group up and run through dungeons and do group quests, help each other out. The game went to a whole new level. And just about that time too, we all joined the same guild. A very large, social guild, full of activity and fun, good people. We continued playing every Monday night as a team, and playing with our guild mates. The game was now a real serious hobby for us. Most of my other hobbies and free time interests were waning as I devoted more and more time to the game.

See, WoW is one of those games, like many, that you get what you put into it. You can play the game super casually; maybe only a few hours a week. Or you can play for a few hours a day, maybe more. Read strategies, tips, blogs, and formula online. Theorycrafting your character’s gear, abilities, professions and talent points to make them the best they can be. Online resources were exploding at this time, and the game was really opening up. I started to really see the path that the game designers laid out for players. A casual player can just play every now and then, play a few dungeons here and there and have a blast. But a serious player can do all that and then more. So much more. There were heroic dungeons, epic crafting patterns and raids. Raids. The guild I was in previously was a big raiding guild. Since I was so low level (and a complete n00b) I never participated. I would enjoy their guild chat and oogle the items they’d link when they killed a big boss, but it was all very “high-end” to me. I never thought I’d get a taste of that.

Fool’s Gold
I started to make a lot of friends in the new guild, and we were really having fun. The turning point came one day when a large contingent of people who were in charge of raids in the guild decided to leave to attempt raiding with another group. I guess they weren’t that successful here so they decided to up and leave. I was disheartened because I figured that now our chances as a guild weren’t so good and I was nearly ready to start raiding. In a flash, it hit me. That I should step up and help to lead the group. Sure, I had no experience in raiding, but from the looks of it neither did most of the guild. No one had stepped up so the opportunity was there and I did have my second hand experience from being in the previous guild, which at least gave me a healthy respect for a well-run raid group. So I did, I wrote up a note to the guild master and sent it to him. Shortly I was appointed as the main raid leader and the challenge began.

Building the team didn’t take long. There were enough interested people right out the bat. We formed up and hit the raid and suddenly the game opened up into a whole new arena. Raiding isn’t like anything else in the game. It is where the most difficult monsters are, the most challenging and complex fights, elaborate dungeons and the absolute best gear and treasure is in the game. In order to win, the group has to work together as a team. There are strategies, positioning, timing and techniques which all must be observed in order for it to be a successful run. People generally need to know what they’re doing. We all learned fast, we grew fast. The guild enjoyed it. Some days it was frustrating as hell to build a team and run a raid. Some days it went smoothly. Overall we had a blast and the game just got better and better.

Unfortunately, the guild did not progress very well. It was about a year and we were stuck farming the same dungeons for the most part over and over. A few of the group (including me) got tired of it and decided to move on and form our own guild and focus more on what it was that we wanted to do and forming a group the way we wanted to. The new guild was fresh, exciting and fun. We started small, and grew and grew. We allied with other groups, ran bigger dungeons, got better loot and had more fun. It was great. The game just kept chugging and chugging along, ups and downs, right along.

You Might Say I’m Crazy
One might say that at this point I was addicted. It depends on what your definition of the word is, and I may or may not agree with you, but I certainly was obsessed. I spent all my free time playing and studying the game. Striving to be the best I could. We ran every dungeon, heroic, raid we could. Some days it felt like work, most days it didn’t. I was totally into the game. All of my other hobbies, interests, some friends, had fallen by the wayside of the game. My model railroad which was under construction was frozen in time. Even occasional work days with my train club didn’t help and eventually was dismantled to make way for storage. My workshop was a mess, piles of boxes and junk littered the room with no real “work space” to be found. I would occasionally venture in there on rainy days to survey the land or to find something I needed or lost, or maybe to clean up a bit, but would eventually wander back to the computer room to get back online and play WoW.

In November 2008 the game experienced another expansion, Wrath of the Lich King. This was a biggie. I spent the night before at the GameStop in Rockville waiting for the midnight release. I even took a day off work to play it. The new content was huge. The guild was on fire. Everyone was playing, it was exciting. Now the level cap was 80. There were new zones to explore, new dungeons, new story lines and new foes. The guild stepped up and everyone was on board. We were having a blast and heading towards making good progression as a guild in raids and dungeons. We recruited some new people, and made headway into raids. We learned it all as we went along. The monster grew in power and force as we got more and more involved. I was now so into the game that I nearly spent all my free time playing the game rather than doing anything else. I was totally hooked.

Now, mind you, don’t get the wrong idea. I wasn’t a complete hermit, ignoring my family, friends and loved ones altogether. I still got out and spent time with friends, still spent time with the family and saw people regularly. But the problem here was that I spent nearly all of my free time playing the game. Nearly. This meant that most of the  wholesome things that would help me to bond with my children, grow my marriage, keep my home in good repair, keep me intellectually stimulated, challenged, and on top of things in life, were all falling by the wayside. It’s not that I completely lost interest in them, I just enjoyed playing WoW too much. I was having too much fun, if you will.

All Good Things
“Quitting” the game never really dawned on me. I had seen WoW friends come and go. Some go and then come back. Most onlookers would always lament the loss and say something like, “oh, they’ll be back. I know it.” I always laughed this off, and usually it was true. Most folks who left the game came back after time. Some because of a work related issue. Or financial or life-changing, like a child or baby. Some quit for other personal reasons. Most found their way back at least in some way or another. Playing WoW in late 2009/2010 was like work for me. I was the guild master of our now large guild, and we were making amazing progress. Our “a-team” group of raiders was charging through the new content we just got; the final battle of the expansion against the biggest baddest villain in the game, Arthas. On a few days after the patch was released, our raid team cleared three of the four new bosses! The only reason we didn’t get the fourth was we ran out of time. We went back in the next week and got him on the second or third try. We were elated. The game was challenging, the raid groups were in tune and everyone was having fun. Including me. Big fun.

I got a call from Jason on a Saturday afternoon. Saturday was raid night. Jason had just moved from Richmond up to Columbia, which is about 30 minutes from me. He was a good old friend who was one of my roommates my Junior year in college. Jason was one of those geeky engineer types who always had some fun project or idea up his sleeve. He is always on the move, looking to have fun doing something cool, whether it’s cross country skiing, R/C cars or kite-boarding, there’s always fun to be had. He said he was going to be in the area to do some Valentine’s day shopping and wanted to get dinner & coffee with me later that night, if I wasn’t busy. I had a raid, but a trip out with an old friend was far more valuable. Little did I know it would be life changing as well.

Jason & I met up and decided to take his Audi S4 (it’s a lot more fun than my Jetta) to a nearby BBQ joint. We sat and talked, reconnected really, and shared stories. He told me all about his growing collection of R/C cars he has that he uses with his kids. He told me about the trips they were taking, about the plans they had. He talked about his car and what he did to it, how much work he’s done to it. I used to be into R/C cars. Big time. I used to be into traveling. I used to be into cars. I realized at that moment that not only did I not like where I was and who I’d become, but that I had to change. And fast. It hit me that all these things he does are things that are beneficial to not only his peace of mind, but to his family, friends and lifestyle. WoW provided me with incredible enjoyment, challenge and companionship. I made some amazing friends in the game that I know I will be friends with for the rest of my life, but it doesn’t do much to help my relationship with my children, with my wife or with my other hobbies which I can touch and feel and do. I lost sight of all those creative things that drove me, all the neat little things I liked to do and had done since I was a little boy. Stuff my dad did with me that I will treasure forever, making models, chasing trains, flying rubber band powered airplanes, collecting, visiting museums and historic sites, driving long distances, camping, swimming… the list goes on and on. In a flash I saw my time with my kids flying by with me sitting in front of a computer instead of leading them and encouraging them. It had to change.

The Light
It only took a day or two. Maybe hours. I forgot. I sent some emails back and forth with the other officers in my guild and told them I would be leaving. I arranged for another wonderful friend to take the reigns and be the GM. I said my goodbyes, transferred all my gold and stuff to the guild bank and logged off. I canceled my account. Walked away. Remorse? Withdrawal? No. Not so far. It’s been a month and a half and so far the worst I feel is an occasional twinge when I am bored. I miss the really great people. Our guild was made up of some of the nicest and most fun folks I’ll ever meet. People weren’t rude, crude or demeaning. We all had a good time and kept up a decent level of respect. That, I miss. But what I don’t miss is all the time I didn’t spend doing my other hobbies and interests, most importantly my family. The last few weeks have been a coming-out-of-my-shell experience for me. No, nothing terribly exciting or earth-shattering happened. No soaring song montages with me riding my bike through sun-splotched forests, diving into deep sea lagoons and running with the bulls. My head is clearer. I’m doing and finding things that I had put aside, planning more, sleeping more, enjoying more. I am communicating more with my family, doing more fun stuff, and loving more. The crazy thing is that I’m right in the midst of selling and buying a house, so all my fun hobby stuff is packed up and stored at my folks’ house. I can’t even get into it! The good news is that the new house has a workshop room all ripe for the setting-up. There’s even a garage where I can tinker. I have a new outlook. What’s old is new again. I look around at everything that is now new and tell myself “welcome back”. It’s good to be back.

February 26, 2010

Wake up

Filed under: Blogging — bsullivan @ 2:17 pm

I purchased my first album on iTunes today. Riceboy Sleeps, by Jónsi & Alex. This album is one of those moody, reverberating mood pieces that is just so pleasant to listen to. This one has moments where you’re transported into the center of the earth then floating high up in the rafters of some ancient cathedral, the whole while completely wrapped up and drenched with sound. The movement of the music in this album feels very much like the rhythm of ocean waves; somewhat regular, but varying enough so as to not be enough to set your watch by. Some of the textures remind me of Neil Young’s soundtrack to Jim Jarmusch’s Dead Man where you feel immersed in an environment where the sound just wraps around you, tantalizing and soothing. Many albums fit this criteria, some do a better job than others at successfully mind-melding with the listener and offering some form of aural transcendence, but this one does the job and does it well. I’ve given it a good once through, and now I’m in for my second, eager to feel that warm fuzzy wrap around me and take me to another place.

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