Back in Dobra

For those who are recent additions to the readership, Dobra is a tea house in Burlington, VT, just off Church Street. It’s the sort of place that serves their tea loose leaf, and their menu is book-length, filled with anecdotes about where they found this or that drink. You sit and read the book while relaxing music plays in the background, and when you’re ready, you ring a small bell, and they come and take your order. The entire experience is relaxing and meditative… and they have free wireless, so it’s a definite win. I would probably spend far more time here if I lived closer, but at this point I rarely make my way up to Burlington.

It just seemed appropriate today, for whatever reason. The meditation of thinking over a cup of fresh tea (Bai Mu Dan for those curious) is sometimes an invaluable one. There’s a lot of thinking to be done. As I’m sure many of you can attest, I’m a bit of a scattered individual. I divide my time into irrelevance between passions for games and art and the web and programming and speculative fiction and philosophy and writing and cartoons and music. Some I’ve managed to relegate to something which I enjoy passively, like music, and reading, whereas others still occupy central facets of my attention, like art of several types, and writing, and to some extent programming. All of these are things that if I dedicated myself to, I could refine my abilities and do for the rest of my life (or certainly for a while), and yet because there are so many, I’m left so scattered that I don’t really dedicate enough of myself to any of them. This is a problem, and has garnered quite a bit of thought that i’m trying to process.

Ultimately, I’m simply going to have to narrow things down a bit and focus on one or two, if only for long enough to gain a greater mastery of them than I have so far. Programming is something that frustrates me but attracts me at the same time. Every time I think I’m done with it (for a while anyway), something comes along that makes me think that maybe it’ll be different this time and that I should give it another shot (this time, it was watching the Ruby on Rails videos, which my friend Duncan showed me). There is a great deal of appeal, here: a knowledgeable programmer can effectively work in a mercenary fashion, or work for themselves, and there is in fact an element of creative “making” involved. That said, it’s the one that I’m arguably the least qualified for: my math skills, while adequate, were never all THAT stellar, and when getting into more complex stuff, my programming suffers for it. This could be overcome with diligence, but for now at least, it’s probably a sign that I should move on to other things.

So what next: I love art, I love talking about it, I love viewing it, I love participating in it, and I love making it. But in terms of many forms of traditional art, I have a great distance to go in terms of technical growth before I’d really be comfortable with it. Photography is the possible exception to this, however the kind of photography I feel I’m best at and most prefer doing is an extremely unsalable one. While this shouldn’t put me off from doing it as a career, for now at least, it does. I will likely continue to do photography in my spare time, but I do not think I’m going to actively pursue it or the mastery of it right now. I am mercenary enough, and (at the risk of sounding like I’m tooting my own horn), savvy enough that I could probably do alright doing photography as a career, it would not be the type of photography that is satisfying to me, nor what I feel I do as well as I’d like (it is this process that I would be practicing and refining) if I were to be charging someone.

The web: while there are people who are making good money as A-list bloggers, it is actually an incredibly small percentage, and I don’t feel the content that I write necessarily fits a fiscally rewarding model (especially these long rambly posts about nothing that have a light whiff of angst). But there’s more ways to make money on the web than that, like, say, doing web designs and maintenance for others. I feel that I have a fairly clear and solid design aesthetic (whether you like it or not is another matter), and once established, I could probably do it reasonably well. In fact, regardless of what else I do, I’ll probably put myself out there in this capacity, though just how much may vary. I’ve already got a rapidly growing list of projects I’m helping people with, in addition to the work I’ve done on my own site and Erica’s portfolio site. (Especially since some are still tentative, I’m not going to elaborate on these projects. In fairness, as they come to fruition, I’ll post about them.)

This all leads up to the one that I’m at least tentatively committing to working on for the next several months (and longer if it goes well): writing. What exactly this entails, I’m not precisely clear on. I know that I want to take several weeks to go into a self-imposed solitary to focus on getting somewhere with one of about a dozen ideas at this point. Some are fiction, meant for short stories, novellas, novels, and also game scripts, and comic scripts. Others are essays and reviews of games and books and music. Others still are grander ideas, where what I’m writing is samples and a proposal, and applying to magazines and papers as a columnist. All of which take time and determination and skills that range from prepared to rusty to untrained and needing attention. Why did I pick writing? Because it’s solitary, independent, and can be done anywhere with the materials at hand, all of which are things that are really important to me right now.

I feel a bit like a broken record, here. But it remains present in my thoughts, and each time I write about it, I keep hoping that by writing it out, I’ll stop dwelling on it all. Hasn’t worked yet. In the next week or so, however, I’ll (theoretically) be finished moving, which is one less block weighing on me, and closer to being able to act on my intent.

Moving, Stretched

I’ve been back from Peterborough for a few days now, but I’m just now getting around to posting.  More on why in a moment, but first, a recap on the weekend: Thursday, I left Montpelier and headed to my parents house, where I collected Freya before proceeding down to Peterborough.  It was really great seeing my cousins again, and I know Freya had an absolute ball playing with the other dogs all weekend.  As seems to be tradition, we all packed off to the Peterborough Players on Friday night, where we saw a rather pleasant rendition of Shakespeare’s Winter’s Tale. Saturday was spent mostly in the annual meeting, which I think went well, especially considering how much material we had to cover.  After all that wrapped up, we joined the larger Morison clan for a barbeque up by the pond, followed by dessert at the Brick House (which I think is technically called Highland Terrace, but we’ve always called it the brick house).  These were all highly extended cousins (3rd cousins?  4th?), so I hadn’t really ever had much of an opportunity to get to know many of them, a fact I was happily able to remedy at least a little.  To any of you who might be now reading the blog: “Hi!”

Dessert at the brick house was interesting; despite the family connection to the house, this was only the second time in memory that I’ve been inside it.  It’s really quite swank, and the murals inside were spectacular.  I ended up asking one of the older generation about it, and found out that they were painted by a fellow named Otto E. Farhm, back in the 1930s.  Otto had recently immigrated to the US, and set up shop as a house painter in the Peterborough area, but had previously been trained as a painter by the Norwegian Royal Academy of Arts.  When this was discovered, he was quickly commissioned to do murals in several rooms, which have largely survived into the modern day with only a little retouching.  Really neat stuff.

Sunday was quite a bit quieter, spending most of the morning preparing for a reception to be held at the Yellow House after the interment service of great uncle Bill.  The interment itself was subdued and tasteful, his urn buried in the family plot beside his wife Abby.  I departed directly from there.  I hope everyone enjoyed the reception after, however.

Overall, it was a really good weekend, but tiring, and there was more than one occasion where I was about “people’d” out and ready to go hide in a darkened room for a while.  Maybe it’s just a passing thing, but I have found that my capacity for socialization has dwindled markedly in the past year.  Prepping myself to become a hermit, it seems like.

As for what’s kept me from posting this sooner: I’ve been in the process of packing up all my worldly belongings in order to move… somewhere.  Still not entirely sure where, yet.  For now, my belongings are going into my parents house, until I figure out where I’m going next (and how I’m going to afford such).  I started packing boxes and moving them down last week, and have continued to do so this week.  I’ve been keeping it pretty mellow, basically filling the back seat of my car each day and taking it down.  I’m going to probably need to rent a van for a day when the time comes, however, in order to move my furniture.

Of course, given my somewhat scattered nature, I let myself get distracted yesterday afternoon looking at web related foo for several projects I’m either actively or tentatively working on.  Which of course led to me deciding it was high time to actually update Critical Games to use my logo (illustration by Erica Henderson, logo implementation by Nabil Maynard), which I’ve been using on my business cards for months.  (And yes, I’m well aware of the humor over the fact that I have business cards for a business that is currently not much more than a name and an idea.)  Please, check out the new design and let me know what you think.

Real Post

I can’t speak for anyone else on this matter. Perhaps others don’t have this issue. For me, however, I find myself often stuck in a position of desperately wanting company but simultaneously not wanting to deal with anyone. These feelings are also often accompanied by a desire to make a social rapport with someone — anyone, a friend, the waiter, random pedestrians, you name it — and having efforts to achieve that fail miserably. It’s happened to me dozens and dozens of times, and I STILL don’t know whether it’s just me perceiving a failure (your own worst critic and all), or if there really are times where I really am just completely disfunctional. As I’m sure the reader has surmised, today was one of these days. I found myself desperately trying to make a connection and kept on feeling more and more disconnected for it. And it’s no one’s fault but my own for creating a need that relies on the energy and presence of others, who may be quite busy and unable to participate even if they had the time. And of course, I’m just as guilty of shutting others out in much the same way, over the years. Things come up, or I simply don’t have the energy to devote to an in depth conversation, but the other side wants to dive in, even needs to dive in. The feeling of a real rapport with someone is addictive.

I’m sure all of this isn’t helped by the fact that I was off in my room for most of the day, since for the next week or so, I am without my laptop. There were a number of little niggling things that were making me uneasy, and then two nights ago it started making a whining noise, so I decided enough was enough, backed up my user directory, and drove it down to the Apple Store in Rockingham Park to get it serviced (still under warranty thank god). The Mac Genius there was moving about a mile a minute the entire time we were there, and it’s pretty clear he’d been that way since he got on shift. Looking at their listings on the Apple jobs site, they’re understaffed, and really should have had a second Genius on to help lighten the load (the wait time was over 2 hours when we got there… we managed to slide in during a cancelled reservation after about an hour). They’re saying 5 to 7 days, but it’s still really unfortunate timing, since I’m about to head to Peterborough for the annual meeting, and would have liked to have it for then. Still, better to have it fixed and ship-shape, I suppose.

I’ve been feeling pretty dysfunctional lately, in a really strange way. In terms of basic function, I’m doing alright, even getting up at reasonable hours (assuming I’m not going to bed at 3am, of course), exercising at least a little, eating moderately alright, and in general trying to get what I need to do done. It’s more intangible than that: I feel dysfunctional on a creative and intellectual level. I feel like I’m just repeating the same things over and over, telling and retelling the same stories and anecdotes, and not growing or deepening as an individual. I feel boring, and that I’m boring other people with my lack of growth and insights. I’m feeling mired in the present and the mundane and that it’s become the centerpiece of my conversations… rather than discussing some idea with passion and zest, I talk about how my car was broken into, and my computer needs fixing, and all this other mundane shit that doesn’t even fucking matter in anything close to a grand sense. (Well, beyond that everything and everyone matters within the cosmic consciousness.) It makes me feel like I’m wasting the time of others as well as myself, and bring nothing worth offering to the table in relationships with others who have kept that passion and honed their talents and intellect. Feh.

For Sale

As I’ve already touched upon, I’m moving. I’d like to consolidate, and I’m planning to do so in several ways… the first of which is that I’m selling my two LaCie pro-grade CRT monitors and converting to an LCD screen with the proceeds. The link to the craigslist ad is here: Please note that I’m also selling off a spare graphics card I have.

It’s going to have to wait until my belongings from my storage unit in Seattle can make it out here, but I’m planning to sell my PC desktop as well. The reason I need to wait is that the cds that came with it (like, say, all the various software that came with it plus the Windows install disk, plus the Windows XP Pro upgrade disk I put on it a while back) are all still in that storage unit. Makes it kind of hard to, y’know, clean up the machine and get it ready for sale. That said, Froogle is still listing that model at $795, and that’s base… I then added an Audigy 2 Platinum sound card and a Radeon 9500 Pro graphics card, an a/b/g wireless NIC, and an extra half a gig of ram. Realistically, if I sold it for $700, it’d still be a steal. (For the record, if anyone reading wants to give me $700 plus shipping and paypal fees [if that’s how you’re paying] and doesn’t mind if I send the cds along later, I’ll send it out tomorrow. I even have the original box and packaging material, so it’d ship safely.) The reason I’m selling it? It takes up space I don’t have, I rarely use it, and what things I do use it for I can run off my laptop via Boot Camp.

I’ll post more of a “real” post sometime soon, but I wanted to get this out into the world sooner than later.

The Heat Has Broken

I don’t know how many times I’ve said it before [just checked… 10 other times], but I’m sitting in Hanover at the moment, watching people and enjoying the New England August, which is about as close to perfection as can be achieved in nature. It is ranging between 72 and 78 between shade and sun, with a light westerly breeze and low to non-existent humidity, and just enough vivid white clouds floating by to provide texture to an otherwise rich blue sky. Simply put, this is the weather that God sets his climate control to. If you abruptly keeled over and died, wafting up to that oft-remarked upon better place, you would not notice a difference in the weather.

Depending on the weather report you listen to, it’s supposed to stay this way for a few more days. Personally, I’m hoping so. In the grand scheme, as much as we claim an immunity to the weather via concrete and steel, we are still very much affected by it, and enriched by the beauty of that divinely pristine day. But perhaps I am waxing on too much of the day, and not enough of the moment, nor my place within it.

Things have been (un)hectic since my last post. By that statement, I mean that there have been a great many things happening, but very little of it has been occupying my attention. My brother has taken a position in Washington, DC, and in fact has already moved down there (rather abrupt, I know). I wish him luck, and hope to visit him at some point soon. My car was broken into shortly after leaving my previous post, while it was parked on the street in Providence. They went through my trunk lock, so I didn’t even know anything had been taken or damaged until I was already north at Squam, and went to collect the bags holding my mask, snorkel, books, and warmer clothing (it was raining when we got there, an a sweatshirt seemed an eminently good idea). All in all, about $1600-2000 worth of stuff was taken, encompassing two bags and my leather jacket containing all the usual doodads and knick-knacks I’m wont to carry. As soon as I got back home, I assessed to make sure everything I thought was gone really was, and then arranged to report it to my insurance company and to my bank (since my checkbook was stolen). It’s proven to be a bit of a hassle, since I now need to prove to the insurance company that I did in fact own each of those items, several of which were gifts, others were part of events or other non-itemized things, and others still are either too old to have a receipt after several moves, and the remainder have receipts handily organized by my ex-wife for just such an occasion… in a storage unit in Seattle. It’s not enough of a loss to justify the money to fly out to Seattle, either. Of course, the whole point is moot until I get a police report case number, or else the insurance company won’t pay a dime… and of course, you must file a police report in person, which I have not been able to arrange yet (I’ll be heading down later this week). All that said, I find myself remarkably unstressed about it, or much of anything. It’s like someone’s been slipping valium in my water — I simply find myself remarkably beyond worrying about what I cannot change, and accepting of my situation (broke, unemployed, and unsure where I’m going or what I’m doing next). To be perfectly frank, a part of me has been thinking of just taking off for parts unknown and taking a job at a diner in some podunk somewhere no one has ever heard of.

I was pleasantly satisfied with the results of the Apple Worldwide Developer’s Conference keynote yesterday, where they showcased a number of features being added in the next release of the OS (Mac OS X 10.5, due out this spring), many of which I think will be invaluable additions to my workflow (their incorporation of several principles of GTD into their apps bodes well for being more organized). They also debuted the new Mac Pro (the desktop to replace the PowerMac G5), and the new Xeon-based Xserve, completing their transition to an Intel based architecture after a whopping 210 days (instead of the anticipated 2 years). Both of these new systems are looking pretty stellar, though I really can’t justify an upgrade: my G5 is still in excellent condition and usability, and my Mac Book Pro had best last me quite some time (though I will be the first to admit I use it quite a lot, and not in ideal flat-table-or-desk situations… in fact, I think it may have warped a little, as it no longer sits entirely flat with all four feet on the table anymore… I may take it down to the Apple store sometime soon and have them look at it while it’s still under warranty). Overall, the keynote meant very little to me in the present, since I have neither the money to join a high enough developer’s membership to get a 10.5 developer’s seed, nor to buy a new machine. That said, there is a lot of excitement about some the features to come in the spring, not the least of which includes what they’re calling “Objective-C 2.0”, which according to the banter on the obj-c-language list hosted by Apple, is still under NDA and won’t be elaborated on for a while yet. The little tidbits put on the Apple website, however, point to some really nice additions to the language, including ones that potentially make it an even more viable platform for using in a game development situation (I still believe it has the potential, and that we simply need to really assess the libraries and tools provided in its feasibility — the Core libraries alone hold a lot of potential).

In the next few weeks, I need to move out of my house, and line up where I’m going to be after that lease ends (I also need to find rent money for that final month, as well as pay off some bills that require cash). I’m still sincerely hoping that I’ll be able to work something out involving staying at Squam and Peterborough for a few weeks each, to get some writing done in a place that I can be alone and undistracted (both of which are very important to me right now, as I find myself more and more a recluse).

Actually, I want to talk about that parenthetical for a moment. As many of you know, in the Meyers-Briggs personality scale, I’m consistently a strongly leaning INFP (Introvert iNtuitive Feeling Perceptive). My introversion has been becoming more and more pronounced over the past months, and I find myself more and more reluctant in combating it. It has nothing to do with anyone but myself, and the directions I feel I need to go. It does not mean that I don’t care about others, or my relationships with them. It does, however, mean that I’m realizing that I probably haven’t been the best person to hang out with lately, and likely won’t be for some time to come. Caveat emptor!