How One Story Ends

In 2009 I began to emabark on a personal journey — to go back to school. My desire to do so dated from my departure in 1991, but it was only with the unflagging support of Mrs. Ardwulf that it was finally made to happen. I have been taking classes since 2010 and it was a very long, slow road, filled with potholes and faceplants along the way.

There were times that I didn’t think I would finish. One of those times was just before the start of the Autumn 2014 semester, when my financial aid was abruptly cut off. Just like that, it looked like I was done, two semesters away from graduating. Thankfully there was help. Arrangements were made, but in order to pull it off I had to pack everything that I needed into one semester. The university did their part by giving me a final-term grant so I could finish, and a family member lent me the rest until I could pull the money together. It was harrowing — at one point I was actually disenrolled.

The semester itself was backbreaking, bearing in mind that I have worked full time or more the whole time, at a real grownup job rather than at a part-time student gig. Sleep was often an unaffordable luxury; sometimes I didn’t have time to eat. I developed a variety of stress-fueled ailments. My beleaguered wife had to deal with me having very little time or energy to spend with her.

As the pieces started to fall into place in the autumn I kept my distance from the graduation. The paperwork was all done, and as the end of the semester loomed so did due dates and projects. I just didn’t trust that everything wouldn’t fall apart through some bitter mischance. I breathed sighs of relief as the grades came in, one by one, with room to spare. I got nervous when I got my line assignment. It’s not real yet, I’d tell myself. I kept on thinking that as I walked into the Schottenstein Center on Sunday morning, only to find my name on the list. But that still wasn’t surety, that I wouldn’t get a crushing letter in my envelope instead of a diploma, informing me that I didn’t qualify and would have to do more to graduate — which could not have happened. When I saw my name in the program I was still in a quantum state of believing and not believing.


When they handed me this, I believed. And there it is. After 25 years, with an 18-year break and five more years that felt even longer, it is accomplished. I look forward to having my life back.

Real-Life Damage a.k.a. Getting Old Sucks

I’ve been having chronic hip and back pain for the better part of the last year. It started last summer, and resulted in many, many visits to multiple doctors, six plus months of physical therapy, a couple thousand ibuprofen tablets consumed and various other prescription drugs. None of this seemed to be effective; in fact the condition became worse and worse over time, to the point where I was physically pretty non-functional for a lot of the last three months. The pain was extending down as far as the ankles, and my back was visibly crooked when I stood or walked. Getting around (at school, for example) was a daily ordeal.

The initial diagnosis, when the pain was mostly confined to the left hip, was for Bursitis. It became apparent a few months ago that the root problem was in the back, specifically in the Sciatic Nerve, which was being pinched or impacted somehow and causing both the hip and back pain and muscle spasms.

Exercise did not seem to help. I was walking for a few miles a day on a treadmill and was doing some bike and elliptical work — as much as I could stand — and still the condition did not abate. Nor did visits to a Chiropractor. Nothing I did seemed to have result in any sustained improvement, and for about the last three months or so the idea of exercise has been simply unthinkable.

The root cause is probably my sedentary lifestyle consisting of way too much sitting combined with a lack of core strength and being somewhat overweight. I’m not grossly flabby but I’m heavier than I should be, enough to have a negative impact.

A month ago I started seeing a massage therapist once a week. Not your fancy rubdown type massage, but the deep tissue and pressure point stuff combined with really intense stretches. Each massage is quite an unpleasant experience, actually, and I have felt stiff and dreadful the next day.

Yesterday I noticed that with no coaxing on my part my back was visibly straighter. I’m also sitting normally for the first time in months. And while I’m not entirely comfortable, the pain and discomfort are a lot less and are very manageable unless I’m going out of my way to exert myself (like while walking around at the zoo for three hours today, for example.)

I haven’t really been talking about this online at all, but now seems like a good time to mention it. It’s getting better, and I appear to have turned the corner on the fucking thing at long last.

Farewell, Fellow Traveller

This is one of those non-gaming posts that I have long been threatening to write. I wish that the circumstances were different.

Last Sunday I got the dreadful news that a friend of mine had passed away. Ed was a tabletop buddy from the old days hanging out at Matrix Games, and while we were never “best buds” we did have a great deal in common and there was never any scent of acrimony between us despite the game store drama that inevitably came up in those parts, to which I was often a party, alas. Ed and I were also the only people in the area who were fans of Traveller, and we talked that up a great deal over the course of years.

Ed was one of the most naturally upbeat people I’ve ever met. I can’t recall that he ever spoke a genuinely unkind word about anyone, even though his wit was sometimes biting. He was a incorrigible practical joker; it wouldn’t have surprised me if the whole thing had been a put-on. Of course it wasn’t, but I would have been simultaneously outraged and overjoyed if it had. Everybody who wasn’t an irredeemable douchebag liked and respected Ed for his mild and genial nature, warm personality and penchant for never taking himself too seriously.

Ed was only 45. There were no indications that I was aware of that he was in ill health in any way. It was completely unexpected by everyone. I’m told it was quick and painless, and Ed made sure he’d leave a legacy, donating his body to research and medicine so that others would be helped now that he’s gone. Predictably, he even left us with jokes and non-funereal music. I’m afraid I’ll never be able to listen to Starship Trooper (Yes was another love shared by Ed and I,) the same way again. And maybe with perspective that will seem like a good thing.

This past weekend we drove up to the Cleveland area for the memorial service. The ceremony was lovely but I’m afraid I myself was more than a bit overwhelmed by it. It’s taken me a couple of days to get this out, and that’s why. I’ll miss Ed Cole. Cleveland gaming and Cleveland television, the field in which Ed worked and in which he was respected by all for his charm and professionalism, will miss Ed Cole. I wish Meredith, his wife, all the best moving forward, and I’m glad that she got the time that she did with him.

A New And Improved Ardwulf

A few weeks back I went through a sort of crisis of confidence in a number of areas. The bottom line boiled down to me feeling increasingly isolated due to working 3rd shift and sleeping all day. During the school year I had classes and interaction to take some of the edge off that, but over the summer things had started to wear really thin, and I felt it rubbing off on my confidence level and affecting me at home as well.

The unfortunate truth that came out of all this self-deconstruction was that I was spending too much time sitting in a chair each day, staring at a computer screen. The lonely third shift that I work (in IT) along with hours spent at home gaming were increasing my feelings of isolation and frankly bloating my fat ass.

This last has gotten to be a fairly serious issue. Two weeks ago I weighed myself and came in at an all-time high of 257.5 pounds. That is… not good at all. I carry weight well, but a short six or seven years ago I was a very tight and muscular 190. I’m feeling the difference in my energy and confidence levels, not to mention that getting so out of shape had more or less hustled me out of the one physical activity that I really love (fighting in the SCA) as of about two years ago. The new (as of a year ago) job and a sedentary lifestyle has sped me along on a negative physical trajectory, and on mental and emotional trajectories as well, fed by the same factors. It amounted to what I felt was a downward spiral, and was affecting everything including things at home.

So I made a couple of mid-year resolutions.

One of them was the abandonment of MMOAxis, and the resurrection of this blog. A couple of the things that I really wanted to accomplish with the dedicated site can be done here, including occasional articles by other folks. I have also set up a dedicated blog for Vanguard Forever; some Vanguard-relevant stuff will probably get posted both here and there.

Secondly, I have the intention of getting more than peripherally involved in the SCA again. I never dropped out, mind, but my events-per-year rate was getting gloomily close to one. Getting to meetings presents major difficulties with schedule, but Mrs. Ardwulf and I will be hitting two events in the next two months.

Another point, and perhaps the most important, is that I’m working out again. Not saying how I’d like to start working out again, but actually working out. I’m in the second week of that, have lost 8 pounds so far, and have started to feel better; I already note a difference in my energy level and my pants are slightly baggier. I’m not anywhere close to a goal yet, but at my current rate of progress I ought to be in shape enough to fight well before January or February when the 2012 SCA event season starts. I may even be in good enough shape to do some sparring in armor at Red Dragon (In Columbus, Ohio on the last Saturday in October.

Lastly, and this is the sticky bit for long-time readers of Ardwulf’s Lair, I need to game less than I have been over the last couple of months. It’s just too much chair time. Note that I am not doing anything like “giving up gaming,” I’m just choosing to budget my available time in a smarter way. This means an hour a day during the weeks, a resolution I have mostly kept to. And there’s still overnight on the weekends when I will occasionally be able to pull a longer haul. Essentially the 25-30 hours a week I’d been putting in was making me way, way too sedentary. Instead I’ll be working out, doing stuff around the house, and giving Mrs. Ardwulf as much more quality time as our differing schedules permit.

This also means that the complexion of Ardwulf’s Lair will be changing a little bit. There will still be predominantly video game talk here, of course. But I want to feel free to blog about other stuff as well, so you’ll be reading occasional non-gaming stuff as well. That’s not exactly new – I have blogged very occasionally in the past about books and movies and whatnot, but I plan to do somewhat more of it moving forward.

And finally, on the gaming front, I am slowly creeping toward level 47 in LotRO at the moment. I figure at my current pace I will hit Moria about when the expansion releases. I intend to make LotRO and the other f2p hybrid offerings that are now so abundant in the western marketplace my main MMO outlets from here on out; between EQ2X, AoC, DDO and LotRO, Champions and STO and Fallen Earth there’s really nothing I can see paying for a subscription to at this time.


As you may have divined from the lack of an exultant post yesterday, the PC still doesn’t work. At this point I have no options other than to take it in and let Micro Center look at it… which, of course, I cannot afford. Looks like I’m out of business for more weeks. Investigating other solutions right now.

Status Update

PC Status: Still not working. I’m hoping in another two or three weeks I’ll have enough for a power supply. To be honest, I have higher priorities.

Other Status: I found out today that my petition for reinstatement to Ohio State has been approved. Apparently I should be getting an official written notification of this some time soon. It’s been about a month since I submitted the petition, and even though they told me it would probably be okayed, I was starting to sweat it a bit.

I’ll be limited to 10 hours the first quarter back, which really isn’t all that onerous. There may or may not be other conditions, but I’ll have to wait for the official notice to know.

Forced Hiatus

Soooo… I haven’t posted in a while. That’s because the third video card that EVGA sent me also doesn’t work. I think it can safely be said at this point that it’s the power supply, since the motherboard appears to work just fine with another video card that requires less power.

I don’t have the money to replace a power supply right now. What with this laptop being junk for gaming, that means I’m out of the MMO scene for… well, I don’t know how long. I’ll be back… eventually. And I may well have blog posts in the meantime, but they likely won’t be about PC gaming.

Status Update

Okay, couple of things:

My reinstatement appointment went pretty well, and the advisor I’m in contact with says he doubts there will be a problem with getting back in. I don’t want to jinx it, but it’s looking positive. I’m hoping to hear back within a week or so.

As mentioned yesterday, the replacement graphics card is a bust. I called EVGA again this morning and asked whether the replacement cards are new cards or refurbished ones, and it’s the latter. I expected this. What I did not necessarily expect was for the EVGA customer service ep to offer to send me a different card instead of another possibly-bad 8800 Ultra.

So it looks like I have a GTX 260 coming instead. This is good – while nowhere near the top-of-the-line GeForce card right now, it should give me performance very similar to, if not better than in some cases, the 8800 Ultra.

I’m not willing to sing EVGA’s praises quite yet – not until I have a working computer sitting on my desk (my motherboard doesn’t have integrated graphics and the only extra video card in the house is the one in Mrs. Ardwulf’s computer, so this thing is a boat anchor right now,) but I can’t really complain much so far.

Busy Busy Busy…

Today’s the day I polish up my petition for reinstatement, which I’ve spent the last couple of days working on. The next podcast, which I already have a lot of notes for, is waiting on that; I should have it up by midweek, I think.

Comments Off on Busy Busy Busy… Posted in Real Life

General/College Update

It’s hard to write about gaming when I’m not doing it. Skill Training in EVE is proceeding, and by the time things are back up and running I should be able, skill-wise, to fly a Retriever with most of the necessary trimmings. And I’m looking forward to getting back to Champions Online. The new video card (same as the old one, but working) is en route. UPS predicts it will arrive on Tuesday, which leads me into my digression.

Many, many years ago, I was dismissed from Ohio State for basically being a tool with no goals. Fact is, I didn’t want to be there, so I put in no effort. Well, negative effort, really – I seldom bothered to go to class in that last quarter, and the result was the inevitable probation followed by “academic dismissal.” Can’t say I didn’t deserve it, and I’ve never held anything against Ohio State for throwing me out on my ear – if nothing else, my affection for the place has magnified over the ensuing years.

At that point, I needed some time to mature and gain the benefits of hindsight. The fact was that I didn’t think I wanted or needed college at that point. Well, nothing teaches you the value of a college degree quite like 18 years in the workplace without one. In that time, I have worked pretty hard and done fairly well, but I have also been extraordinarily lucky to have gotten many of the opportunities I’ve had.

I always wanted to go back to college, of course. But there was never the time or opportunity, and in the early years, probably insufficient drive on my part. Money, schedule, lack of available options in the Cleveland area stood in the way longer than a lack of willpower did, because one of the things people in the workforce do is accumulate financial obligations.

Two things conspired to change the scenario radically. The first one was meeting, a little over four years ago, the woman who is now Mrs. Ardwulf. She’s helped and encouraged tremendously, not least by her own splendid example (she too came to college late, and graduated this past May.)

The other factor was the consulting job I was recently laid off from. I might be sore about the layoff, but it was a tremendous opportunity, and the logistics of the job worked to help me shed myself of long-term financial burdens. We went from a condo to a rental, gaining us mobility. Because of the constant threat of layoff, we laid many layers of contingency plans, so that we were ready to move on short notice and had money saved up in the event of the worst-case scenario. Plus it paid a stupid amount of money, which is now serving us well.

The timing of the layoff was fortuitous – it hapenned shortly after Mrs. Ardwulf graduated, and about a month before our lease expired. It couldn’t really have been scheduled better. End of July we were packing up and relocating to Columbus, because fate arranged it so we could.

That Ohio State was the site of my previous failure is… important but not over-ridingly so. Had we been somewhere else in the country I wouldn’t have hesitated pursuing another education option elsewhere. But we were still in Ohio, where Ohio State is generally spaeking a respectable option for most courses of study, and well above average in many.

So I plan to start up classes with Winter Quarter, in the first week of January. Of course, I have to petition for reinstatement and the appointment is set for next Tuesday. I didn’t get in quite as much course work elsewhere as I’d wanted before petitioning – the layoff cut a full-time semester out of my plan, and I expect the University to set conditions (along the lines of “don’t fuck this up again,”) but all in all I feel pretty good about it.

I don’t know whether or not there will be a formal interview or not; the online documentation of the process implies one, but that didn’t come up in my meeting with the appropriate counselor a few months ago. (As a digression from the digression, I find it a little… weird that I now look up blog entries to find out exactly when stuff in my life happened. I now return you to your regularly scheduled digression.) I tend not to be intimidated by interviews and in fact interview extraordinarily well, so if there is that’s okay. And in any event I need to provide a written statement hat-in-hand about how I am now a Very Serious Person and will not screw up again.

So hopefully some time soon I’ll be posting good news. I don’t know that this will happen next week… but it’s probably next week that I’ll need the good luck wishes and karma and all that.