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.

Update 7.20.2006b

I’m putting Critical Code on hiatus while I figure out the next few months. Realistically there’s no reason I had to formally state as much, but sometimes it’s better to actually say it — less guilt about not posting that way.

As I said in that post, my living situation is going to be changing very shortly, in several ways. My brother may or may not be moving out soon depending on what happens with a job offer (i’m crossing my fingers, as I think it’d be a good move for him). That would leave the rest of the house one, maybe two months of scrambling to fill the gap in rent before our lease is up and we move out as well (which is the plan to the best of my knowledge). The issue, however, is that no jobs have actually panned out, and I’ve been applying since April. I’ve had one nibble (which may still go somewhere, as I haven’t been told no yet), and one bite that got away (made it through the first part of the interview process, and then in the intervening weeks between the first and second interviews, they reprioritized to solely part-timers and removed me from the running… I don’t blame them, and wish them well). The rest have been thus far duds (VERY few bother with a GFY, so who knows how many I’m actually still in the running for and simply don’t know).

Looking at my previous post, I do not have the resources ready to actually start my own company. It’s still something I sincerely want to pursue, but for now it is returning to the backburner. The option I’m choosing to pursue (unless and until a job comes through) is writing. While I am not in as stellar a financial situation as I’d like for such an endeavor, things seem to be pointing more and more towards this, and as has been said before, hunger can be a powerful motivator.

As some of you are aware, there are a few properties that have been in the family for generations, which by and large don’t get used nearly as much as they could or arguably should be. So my current plan is to discuss with the family over the next few weeks the possibility of utilizing one of these properties for a few (3-6) weeks in September/October to get some writing done. In particular, I’m thinking the house in Peterborough would be an ideal location for this project. We’ll see what pans out with that (the family who may be reading this, please do comment either here or privately, I’d really love to hear your thoughts on the idea).

As a somewhat tangential aside, I think it’s somewhat amusing that I seem to get absolutely no comments, yet when I check referrals/trackbacks/etc, it becomes clear that I have a small but consistent readership, plus some random blips that seem to actually get some use out of what I’ve written. Once I started realizing that, I stopped feeling like I needed comments and users to validate the blog’s existence, which I think is a foible of a LOT of bloggers, and a contributing factor to why so many bloggers stop after a short while. One of the big unsurprising personal revelations, there. When I got linked to in a rather large video game related podcast by I’m still not sure who, it really made me start to realize that while I do have a lot of these self-referential maundering posts that provide nothing useful to anyone who isn’t involved in my life in SOME fashion or another, I’ve also got a lot of content buried in here as well, and should stop acting like no one would possibly give a damn about what I have to say or offer. Even a personal blog is, at times, more than personal.

Okay, tangent over, back to the maundering post. (The delight and drawback to blog posts is that they tend to be a little spastic, which I suspect is an attribute of the medium that we’ve simply tried to fight for most of its brief history.) In other news, I’ve joined yet another social network site, which means I think I’m on all of the major ones at this point… MySpace, Friendster, Orkut, OkCupid, FaceBook, LinkedIn, some others I’m sure I’m forgetting. I don’t obfuscate my name or anything on them, so I’ll leave it as an exercise for the reader to find me on whichever they feel like checking. Please note, though, that I don’t actually do much of anything with any of them. The main reason I’m on them is because one friend or another is on one service or another, and that gives me a motivation to take the 5 minutes to create an account. The motivation for this is to make myself accessible in as many ways as I can: maybe it’s narcissistic of me, but I like knowing that in any of these places, if anyone from my past or present gets it in their heads to look for me, they’ll find me. I may be an introvert, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like the idea of being remembered.

I’m going to wrap this up by saying up front that it’s HIGHLY unlikely that I’ll be posting again or even being on IM or responding to email for the next week. Instead, we’re going on something of a family vacation, spending a week at Squam starting this Saturday. To friends and family who might be reading this: you know how Squam works — if you’re interested for coming over for the afternoon or even a few days, give a call and chances are high that we’ll say “come on over.” And with that, see you all in a week!

Heat Vision

It’s unbelievably hot in my room right now, and there’s nothing to be done about it. All my computers are off except the laptop, the lights are out, the window is open and still the heat is akin to a sauna, only one you don’t have the option to walk away from. It makes me wonder how people further south deal with this, and apart from the snarky response “air conditioning”, I must simply assume we adapt to our environment well enough to not notice this after a while.

I’ve not adapted, however. It’s fucking hot.

This is not the reason I’m writing, however (it would, after all, make more sense to simply close the laptop and try and get some sleep). Frankly, I’m not entirely sure why I’m writing, other than that I feel a need to write some of the things in my head out and see how they sit. The frontmost thought has been revolving around figuring out my immediate and intermediate future. I need a place to live, and a place to work, and frankly if I get the latter, the former will come based on the job. I’ve sent out dozens of resumes to various places all over the world, ranging from design positions (what I really want), to retail computer sales, and everything in between that I could consider myself qualified for that is remotely close to my chosen field. I’ve been sending these resumes out for months at this point, and frankly I’m starting to get a little tired of getting jerked around by companies that won’t even acknowledge I exist, and makes me appreciate quite a lot more the places that even bother with a GFY (“Go Fuck Yourself”, the form letters that politely let you know that the position is no longer available or that you’re no longer considered). This frustration has led me to consider another option: start my own business.

The basic gist of the idea is this: take out a loan (SBA or otherwise) to start an independent software and game development studio. Especially at first, the focus would be on small, targeted, inexpensive apps likely for OS X, while expanding into games (shareware and mods and contract work, and maybe moving into commercial games in future). I’d also work to bring in revenue via web design work and any sort of consulting or contract work I can get, especially at first.

It’s where I want to be in 5 years, the question is whether I’m in a position to do it now. That’s debatable, but even taking my friend Chris’s maxim that the best way to learn is to base your ability to eat on it into consideration, the likelihood of pulling it off isn’t that stellar. (NOT impossible, not even slim! Just also not high.)

Which takes me to my next idea: hide out for a bit and devote the time to getting some REAL writing done. Articles, short stories, and in particular, comic book script and proposals. Once I have some ready, submit them appropriately and see if I can get either some freelance work or better, a full time writing position. I have some strong ideas for comics that I’d like to see done, so I don’t think this is an unreasonable path to take, assuming I can get out of this non-writing rut and back into the habit of writing daily.

The key part to both this idea and the previous one is that they both involve taking some creative/productive responsibility into my own hands. I think an anecdote related to Utah Philips by Fry Pan Jack is the best explanation as to why it’s so appealing:

I learned when I was young that the only true life I had was the life of my brain. But if it’s true the only real life I have is the life of my brain, what sense does it make to hand that brain to somebody for eight hours a day for their particular use on the presumption that at the end of the day they will give it back in an unmutilated condition?

I’ve found ways to minimize the hoop jumping by going to alternative schools, and it would seem a shame to take that experience and throw it away by diving headfirst into the hoop filled corporate culture — there must be another way that still keeps me fed, housed, and clothed, and by damn I mean to find it!

What the Plate Looks Like

My plate is currently a large, colorful, plastic plate that is square with rounded corners and a raised edge. It’s the rim that gets me. I wouldn’t mind letting some of the things on my plate slough off, but that’s hard to do, since it’d involve tipping the plate and running the risk of losing the whole kit and kaboodle. Maybe that wouldn’t be so bad, though, since Life is always quite generous about refilling your plate, sometimes faster than you can eat it. Still, some of the things on my plate are quite delicious, and I’d hate to lose them. Honestly, I’d say what I really need to do is start diving in, rather than sitting here overwhelmed by the amount in front of me.

I’m of course talking about the metaphorical “plate” that describes the things we have going on or needing to do.

The job search has begun, though not with any marked or specific direction. I’m looking primarily for jobs in the New England area since I’d rather not end up further away from my girlfriend, since she has two more years of school. That said, I’m hardly in a position to be picky — while I’m not going to move to California for a job at McDonalds, if a job within the gaming industry presents itself, I’ll go where the work is. Still, with 50ish game companies in the greater Boston area, I don’t think I’m limiting my chances of getting a job in my industry of choice that much. (That’s to say nothing of other tech related companies, as well as colleges and universities.) The biggest hurdle, honestly, is writing cover letters for each position. While a resume can be fairly straightforward and identical/similar across jobs, cover letters are meant to show a bit more of the person, and why I’d be a good fit. I hate talking about myself (notice the lack of updates on here?), especially when I’m essentially trying to sell myself. Still, it must be done.

In the next month or so, I need to make arrangements to transport my storage unit from Seattle out here… which means I need to have some idea of where I’m going. This is going to cost money, more than I really have to spend right now (which is none to speak of), but there’s the simple reality, and frankly it’ll be nice to have all my stuff in one place again. Ideally, I’d like to get an apartment by myself (the idea of buying a condo or house is still very appealing, but there is no way in hell people are going to pay me back in a reasonable enough timeframe to do so), and again ideally, somewhere within walking distance for Erica (which means Providence, which means likely commuting to Boston for work… I’ve done that leg enough times at this point to not feel horrible about that, though). Now, the interesting thing is that due to how rent was paid earlier in the lease, my rent is paid through July, at which point I’d damn well better have a job (and realistically sooner, paying your own insurances is decidedly not cheap).

This all does, however, mean that Critical Games is going to have to wait a while longer to swap over to a design studio (which remains my goal). I still strongly feel that there is a need for nuanced, narrative based games that really delve into the storytelling capabilities of the medium, a style of game that is largely unmade currently. I simply don’t have the assets or industry clout to pull it off right now. Instead I will be pursuing other things, including game design for other companies, level design, writing (script and technical), customer relations (GMing), QA testing, web maintenance and moderation, and other positions I’m either qualified for or feel I could do (I’ll leave you to guess which are which… I will say I’ve done most of them in one capacity or another, just generally not for pay). I’m also looking into grants through the NSF and NEA (among others) to either do some game prototypes (much thanks to Chuck Kinzer for pointing me towards some of those), or write a book (either on the role of animation in the US in the 20th century, or one of several photo essays). I’m also going to see if I can put together some written articles to submit for publication. I’m not sure if I’m at the point where I could actually do that for a living (in fact I’m pretty sure I’m not, though the desire to eat can be a powerful motivator), but if even one or two get published, that could help stave off a negative bank balance and give me more time to find a good gig. If there was ever a time to be looking in these directions, it would be now, since my living situation is fairly stable and rent at least isn’t an issue.

An idea that my brother and I tossed around at lunch also has some merit, though it doesn’t solve short term concerns per se. The idea is to offer ourselves as freelance researchers and consultants to game companies (though the work could just as easily apply to television and movies). As we move more and more towards high definition, technically and historically accurate depictions within games, the need for cultural, geographic, architectural, and historic research is going to increase exponentially. I feel well equipped in my capabilities as a researcher, and I think now is an opportune time to start offering this talent as a service. I can take 4000 pages of text about a culture or historic period or esoteric topic, and synopsize it into a 10, 20, 30 page report covering relevant details to what might be needed in accurately depicting that idea in a game. Anyone who has spoken with me for more than half an hour knows I’m a sponge for random information — why not try and get paid for that? The issue is in convincing studios that they need such a service, and while I absolutely believe that they WILL come to this realization, I strongly suspect it may be slow going. The best thing I can do, I think, is put up a page offering this service and start contacting companies about what I’m offering. That, and pick the brains of folks in the industry about the idea. I may get lucky, and someone will throw me a bone, and give it a shot. The reality is that will be the real test of whether or not a freelance research role is viable and worthwhile.

There are several projects I’d like to get underway that I think would be beneficial for me (if for no other reason than I think they’re neat and would keep some sort of creative and intellectual momentum going). I’d still like to work on building some levels and mods of various types. I want to wade back into programming with both arms swinging, namely in Java and Objective-C. I want to write a MUD from scratch, hopefully with a scalar framework so it could be taken visual by someone with gumption. I want to get back into Latin (I’m rusty as heck), and put a concerted effort into Japanese. I want to finish some of my short stories (and start some more). I’ve been talking with my father and our friend Charlie for several months about restarting a photographic art group. All this, I want to do while I continue the job search, and try to have some semblance of life. Needless to say, I have my work cut out for me. Time to get started.

General Update 93.2.2b1

I’m down in Rhode Island again (this is a trend observant readers may have noticed). I’ve been spending time with Erica, and in general making rumblings about getting work done rather than actually doing it. I’m feeling alright about that, though, as it’s helping me collect my thoughts for my critique of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, viewing it as a social commentary.

Today has been a mixed bag. On the positive side, my laptop has shipped a week earlier than expected (it had been delayed due them upgrading all the systems from 1.83GHz dual core to 2.0GHz dual core), which makes me quite happy. I’ve also been upgrading various bits and bobs of software (including WordPress and Gallery), and in general doing little computery housekeeping that I’ve been slacking on.

On the negative side, I just received an email from the school’s dean, informing the student body that one of our professors just passed away from cancer. I worked with Charlotte for fully two semesters, and greatly appreciated both her humor and her insight. I strongly suspect I’ll be blowing off my other weekend plans and attending the service this Saturday; she really was a gem, and I feel like I should pay my respects.

On to other things. My friend Eli proposed to his girlfriend Pia last week, and she said yes, so congratulations to them. Also, I’m thinking of moving to Rhode Island for an interim period of about 2 years, while I get Critical Games rolling as a development company (yep, Uri and I have decided to bite the bullet and do it… I hope to speak with people at GDC both for seed funding and developers, but also for general insights into trying to put together a small, tight development team in this day and age). Why Rhode Island? It’s as good a spot as any for now, and it’s also where Erica is, so that way I’m at the very least not dividing my time quite so frenetically as I am now. It’s hardly set in stone, but basically I’m looking to buy a townhouse or condo in the area to live in until Erica finishes school, and then both of us want to go west.

Of course, time tables change, and so do locations, so it’s all still very tentative. I may end up back in the Upper Valley instead (which is at least closer to RI than Montpelier is, but that’s not saying much), or in southern New Hampshire feeding Boston. A lot will depend on what happens at GDC, in terms of accelerating or deccelerating our plans. I am fully aware that I may need to go take a job elsewhere for a while and leave this as a side project that I do in my spare time until we can afford to break free and do it full time. Again, depends on what happens at GDC.

GDC 2006 Confirmed

I’ve just completed making arrangements to attend the Game Developer’s Conference 2006. This is not an inexpensive trip by any means… between the conference itself, airfare, and hotel fees, I am already looking at well over $3000. That said, the potential opportunities and contacts I can make while there are invaluable, so I don’t feel bad about, just… drained, financially speaking.

For those who might want to know:
I fly into San Jose on Friday, March 17th a little after 5pm. I’ll be staying at the San Jose Doubletree from then until Monday, March 27th, when I fly back east. I’ll be busy with tutorials and the conference from 10am to 6pm Monday through Friday, but my time before and after is free, and I’d love to see people.

I’m both excited and nervous as hell about this. And most things, lately.

Design Revision

For those of you not reading this on a feed, you’ve probably noticed a significant site revision. The design I created for Critical Games has been growing on me, so I decided to implement it on my main blog. One nice aspect of this is if I ever do switch to an entirely Nucleus setup (or other), the transition will be essentially seamless for the viewer. That’s not any time soon, though, if ever (probably never).

In either case, I like having the uniform design between sites under the Critical Games aegis. Once Gallery 2 hits a stable beta (or better, stable final), I’ll probably look into effective ways to integrate the gallery into the rest of the site (a random image block, for instance, which is a built in module in Gallery 2). There is still some work that needs to be done before the transition is complete, however. (The main page is done, and so is the Credits page, but the rest of the site still needs to be transitioned.) This will be happening over the next several days; I could have plowed through and done it all at once, but I DO have other things I need to be working on.
Continue reading

Hello I’m Updating

If you haven’t seen it yet, Sockbaby has finally released the conclusion to the Sockbaby Trilogy. If you haven’t seen these movies, I would highly recommend checking them out… “That Sockbaby is a Sockbaby Jesus, the Sock Saviour of the Sock People,” need I say more?

I haven’t updated in a while, and I apologize for that. In my defense, I’ve been pretty busy. For instance, I am now back in Vermont for a few weeks, UberCon just wrapped up, and so did my semester. On a more geeky front, I managed to break my server severely enough that the CTO of the company had to step in to patch things. Basically, in my recent site renovations, one of the changes I requested concerning the subdomains and how things get redirected managed to create an instance of a bug that hadn’t cropped up in 3 years. I would like to publicly thank Terra, the CTO of FutureQuest, for not only fixing the issue, but doing so quickly and professionally. He (and the rest of the support staff) are the reason I keep on recommending FutureQuest.
Continue reading

Changes Are In Place

So, in case you haven’t noticed, the changes I alluded to in a previous post have taken place. is now up and operational (though not yet fully organized and certainly not populated with content). I’m really excited about it as a project, and look forward to doing stuff with it soon. I am a little concerned that my IRM for doesn’t seem to be functioning as I was expecting, but that might be propagation stuff… I’ll wait a few days before pinging the service folks at FutureQuest (whom all have been MORE than helpful through this process… go buy a package from them, will ya? They deserve your business!).

Until then, I’ve posted a quick greeting message on the Critical Games front page, and will only be lightly futzing with organization until I finish my schoolwork. If I finish it quickly, I may post an actual essay or article before heading to UberCon, otherwise it’ll have to wait til I’m in Vermont (or later).

And no, don’t worry, I don’t plan to stop posting here. This is my blog, and will continue to be my central place for personal and informal writing. DO expect a little maintenance work while I clean up links and such, though.
Continue reading

BIG Changes Coming

For those of you who’ve been reading a while, you know that I picked up some domains about a year ago that I haven’t had an opportunity to do anything with mainly through lack of cash to do it right.

No, I didn’t suddenly come into money. However, my web host recently expanded the features included in my webhosting package, meaning that the services came to me, instead of vice versa. Awesome awesome.

So, sometime in the next few weeks, I will be changing my webhosting package into and .net will also work. will also still work, but only after a fashion: it will redirect you to, which is where I’ll be hosting my blog from then on.

I’m pretty happy about this, though I apologize to folks who will need to update their links list. This arrangement allows for a lot more flexibility for professional growth (game design and writing on gaming, et cetera).

Our addresses will still function (or so they say), so this shouldn’t affect email at all, save perhaps during the actual transition.

Anyway, just wanted to share. I’ll post another update when the site is actually about to go under the knife (so to speak).