Catching Up

So, what have I been up to in the past two months? The obvious answer would be “stuff,” but that’s not very descriptive. I’ve been working a lot (the 8-4:30 is really a 7-7 due to traffic… working weekends was always delightful, because I was not only making overtime, but my commute was 20 minutes each way), and that’s been sucking my brain dry, where I’d usually get home, maybe eat something, maybe putter a little bit, and then go to sleep. That doesn’t leave a lot of room for much (I didn’t even hit the coffee shop more than maybe once). But there were a few highlights:

I flew back east for UberCon. My friend Chris (Tsabrak) offered to cover my airfare, so I was suddenly able to at least partially justify the trip. It was fantastic seeing everyone, including meeting some folks in person that I’d only known online up until then. It was definitely a good time, though I do wish Erica had shown up, as I would have liked to see her. (I was both nervous and hopeful about the prospect… I do miss her.) I was recently made head builder for Avatar, so I ended up spending most of the trip talking about mud related stuff, and I think we covered a lot of good ground that I hope to see getting implemented soon.

My parents were gracious enough to cover the expense of picking up Mac OS X 10.5, so I’ve got that installed and running on both of my machines (the laptop and desktop). I must say, I am damned impressed. Not only is there a considerable amount of polish, but the interface is cleaned up and the machine in general seems to be snappy. The file sharing integration into the finder is an excellent addition, and makes the process of mucking with files on both machines remarkably painless. I did clean installs for both machines and then migrated documents back over from my backup disk, so I’m still in the process of installing applications back onto it. Overall the whole upgrade process has been fairly painless.

My brother has moved from DC out to Portland, Oregon! I went down and visited him last week and bummed around with him and Dano and Dan’s lovely fiance, Moonrise. Totally good times, we even hit up the roller derby, which was great fun (Portland vs Baltimore). Later in the week, Uri came up for Thanksgiving, and we sorta tooled around a little bit, found a place for tasty turkey dinner, and in general had a good time.

Those are the big highlights that come to mind. It should be interesting to see what happens in the coming weeks.

Erm, Yeah

Sorry for disappearing like that… not a single post in all of October, and it looks like I’m only barely making it for November. For whatever reason, I simply didn’t feel like writing. Work was starting to get to me (or more particularly, the commute), and I was finding other things to occupy my time. I’ll try to catch up a bit over the next few days.

The big news of the moment is that I’m abruptly unemployed again, as of this past Wednesday. This does and doesn’t suck. Losing your job sucks, BUT, I knew I’d have to jump ship sooner or later, as there was nowhere I could really go vertically within the company. I would have preferred to have my next job already lined up, but I did rack up experience on four commercial titles, including experience as a test lead, so it’s been a productive time spent, and should hopefully significantly improve my chances of netting a better gig. I need to update my resume (which is going to take some redesigning, so I can get the information I want on there and still fit on a single double sided piece of paper), but overall I’m feeling pretty good about it. (Mostly. I was already living paycheck to paycheck, so in that respect, I’m stressed the hell out.)

In particular, I’m looking for an associate producer position with a game company — anywhere, not just here in scenic Seattle. I’d be happy with better, I’d settle for less, but that’s what I’m realistically looking for, given my experience and skills. I’ve got a few good leads on companies that are hiring, but feel free to feed me more, faithful readers.

Grr, Argh… mostly Grr.

Fucking check

Forgive the lack of posts the past few days, things have been keeping me busy (working overtime this weekend, probably next weekend as well). Right now, I just need to share something. I got my paycheck in the mail today, covering my partial week from when I was coming back from vacation. I worked two days… this is my paycheck:

Yes, that’s right, $0.00. It seems that I’m apparently still doing double duty on my benefits (they take out a month’s worth of benefits in advance to cover the month after you leave work), and then both the benefits advance and the normal benefits were doubled again to cover the week I was gone on vacation. After that and taxes, it came to $.58. Which they apparently decided not to issue in the check. You can be damned sure I’ll be looking for that extra $.58 next week.

Seattlite Once More

I’m back in Seattle finally, sitting in Zoka, drinking an iced chai, and listening as they play Andrew Bird’s Andrew Bird and the Mysterious Production of Eggs, an excellent album if I say so myself. Before I get into the “backness” of things, let me fill in a bit since when I departed.

I flew out Friday the 20th in the evening after a full day of work, tried to nap on the plane (with “plane dozing” about the sum of it), got into Philadelphia in the morning, and then had a speedy flight up from Philly to Manchester, where Dad picked me up, and we proceeded directly to Squam, where Mom and Freya already were. We all caught up a fair bit, and I filled them in on what’s been happening in my life, some of which simply doesn’t translate to text, public or private: there is the strain and timbre of the voice that carries a weight that is hard to convey with the same ease in written form. I am an ardent supporter of using the myriad forms of written communication to talk and discuss and communicate, but I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes it takes a face to face and voice to voice to get the right message across.

Uri didn’t show up until late that night, having had a late start in the morning driving up from DC due to getting his car serviced (a prudent decision, as much as the delay sucked). Finally meandered to bed around 3am for my first real sleep in two days (and my first sleep in an actual bed, not a futon, in months). Sunday brought JJ into the fold for a few days, and Mike and Mariah showed up for the day (with a 3 month old min-pin named Jack in tow), along with more catching up and chatting and, of course, finishing the final Harry Potter, which I managed to convince Mom to let me read first since I was only in town for a week. No spoilers or anything, but I did want to say that I thought it was a nice wrap up of the series — I really feel like she brought the arc to a good close, without leaving lots of things dangling. So, kudos to you, Ms. Rowling.

Monday involved swimming and relaxing and chatting, with the addition of Dave and Margot and their daughter Leah, who came out for the day. It was great to see them, and Leah was adorable and precocious (it occurs to me that some day a dozen years from now, Leah will be googling for her name and may come across this, and not even remember it, but it’s true: you were adorable when you were three years old, already counting and spelling and asking questions and learning how things worked. We rarely think about longevity in what we put out on the internet… maybe we should more often.)

JJ headed out Tuesday, and the rest of the week was basically just the family. I got to spend some quality time with my dog Freya, who lives with my parents (and is fiercely devoted to my mother, though she likes the rest of us well enough). She’s definitely my dog, though: dogs really do seem to imprint something from their owners, and a number of her tendencies definitely mimic those of Mickey, myself, and my parents. In particular, she seems to have my habit in liking to play and socialize, and then after go hang out somewhere quiet and private and safe to refresh. (There were several dogs throughout the week… the folks in the houses on either side of us had dogs, there was Jack the min-pin, and Dave and Margot’s dog India, whom she played with non-stop ALL DAY.) It was great to go swimming every day, get a little sun (light burn that is already faded, leaving just a slightest hint of more color than usual), reading, writing (not the kind of writing you’re thinking: I finished a new area that I’d been puttering on for Avatar for the past 5 years… I’d started it at the same time as the last area I wrote and put in, which took a few years and was put in two years ago… yeah), and just in general chillax. Didn’t worry about food or work or money for at least a little bit, and that was a nice break, above and beyond the fact that I got to see friends and family.

Friday night, we packed up and headed back to the Upper Valley, where I managed to catch up with Eli and even ran into Annah from high school, who was apparently part of a bachelorette party that night. It was great to catch up with her a bit — she’s looking great, and her husband sounds like an interesting fellow (a photographer, currently off in China for a few months). Hopefully we’ll keep in touch a bit. The next day was sort of a dud… Uri and I went out, but no one was around… and I mean no one. Called everyone we could and no responses. Did, however, get ahold of Chris, and arranged to do coffee with him and Gloria the next day, which was excellent.

After doing coffee with Chris and Gloria (which involved next to no actual coffee, it was mostly just a gab session, but that’s sort of why I call it “doing coffee” rather than getting a cup of coffee — the coffee is irrelevant other than as a mechanism to bring people together, like “doing lunch”), Uri and I were chased by a crazy guy who kept on trying to convince us to give him a ride and who knows what else (his voice kept on undulating between semi-coherence and mumbling). We managed to get away, went and did dinner with Mom and Dad, and then headed south to Eli’s house, where we caught up with a slew of people. I managed to get ahold of Bethany and convinced her to come down as well. It was great to see her and talk a bit — I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned before that I used to have a crush on her (and I am of the opinion that crushes do not go away, they simply go dormant), so I suppose it goes without saying that I enjoy her company greatly.

Uri took off Monday morning, and plans to get picked up fell through, so I ended up spending the evening at home, which was fine. Tuesday involved lunch at the Orient with Mom and Dad and Eli, and then departing for the airport. Mom and Dad saw me to the airport, fond farewells and all that… and then the fun began.

It seems that the flight coming from Cincinnati that was to take me down to Atlanta to catch my plane to Seattle had not yet arrived. In fact, it hadn’t even lifted off. Mechanical trouble. The expected departure time kept on creeping forward in increments of 15, until they finally confirmed “yes, it has lifted off, we WILL be taking off at 8:45”. (It was supposed to take off at 5:36). Needless to say, I missed my connecting flight by just under 3 hours, getting into the airport around midnight. Delta set us up with hotels and rescheduled our flights, and about half the plane trudged off grumpily to various hotels around Atlanta to catch what sleep they could.

Got checked in to the hotel a little before 1, and was asleep not long after, sleeping fitfully for the 3-4 hours I had before I needed to be up and hopping BACK onto the shuttle to the airport. Got to my gate, checked in, got my seat, and tried to doze in the seats by the gate waiting for the flight. Of course, there was a small problem: so many people had been shunted around due to not one but TWO overly delayed flights the previous night that the morning flight was overbooked, heavily. They started offering $400 and an upgrade to first class to those willing to wait until 6:30pm, when room really opened up.

I really wish I could have afforded to take that, since that’s $400 towards any flight, anywhere, anytime in the next year (it’s not frequent flier points, it’s more like a gift certificate). That’s a trip back east, say, next year, when we’re having a family reunion. I couldn’t justify it, however: I had already missed one extra day of work due to this snafu, and it being the first, my rent was due, which meant I needed to get home in time to actually a) pay it, and b) deposit the paychecks that had arrived while I was gone so I COULD pay it — i.e. during business hours. However, they did also offer $200 dollars and confirmed seating for the next flight out (about an hour and a half later, which would put me in at noon instead of 11… don’t ask me how they shave a half hour off these things). THAT, I took, which means I now have $200 towards any flight Delta will fly for the next year… domestic, international, whenever, whatever. Given that I have a court date for that ridiculous speeding ticket the Monday following the Morison trustee meeting, I STILL can’t make it to that (nor would it cover it all… a good rate for a round trip ticket from Seattle to New England is ranging in the $350-450 range, assuming you have time to wait for a deal, which I don’t). That said, it almost exactly covers the cost of flying round trip to Los Angeles or the Bay Area, and given I have friends in both areas I would like to visit, as well as potential job prospects in both areas, having this little nest egg dedicated to air travel is NICE. It means I can afford to fly down if an opportunity presents itself, and see people to boot (or vice versa, but the miser in me says I really should try and make it do double duty if I can).

Got in, paid for my car parking (11 days is painful! But it would have been worse parking at the airport… hopefully next time I’ll be able to impose on a friend for the inconvenience of dropping me off and picking me up), and made it home by 2, not only in one piece, but with my luggage to boot! It managed to make it onto the morning flight that I passed up, which meant it was waiting for me when I got in, with no real issues other than some fretting while still on the plane. Showered, deposited pay checks, paid rent, and was asleep by 8. Good to be home.

No Friday

Apologies for the lack of a music post on Friday. I debated writing one and back-posting it over the weekend, but ended up opting not to. No good reason, it just didn’t happen. In fact, not much happened all weekend — felt a little anti-social and worn out, and spent most of the weekend playing World of Warcraft as a result. That said, I did spend a few hours today trying to clean/reorganize my apartment so the stack of books that were occupying half my desk now actually have shelf space (much juggling, and a little haphazard in terms of organization towards the end of it), and other random assorted foo. Sometimes you need the down time, I guess.

I’ve been working for the past few weeks doing functional testing for some video games. It’s enjoyable, and I like my coworkers well enough, though I will admit, you do get a little sick of playing the same game over and over and over again. All in all, it’s pretty laid back: we each have our station, and we’re pretty self-driven. I don’t think it’s what I’d want to do forever (even if it paid better), but it’s a nice gig for now, and hopefully will provide a leg up to other positions I’m interested in. It’s kind of ironic that I set out to do this “daily music” thing right around the same time I started working again, and thus suddenly didn’t have as much time to rummage around for neat music, but by and large I think I’ve managed to get by. Any thoughts or comments on the format or music you’d like me to review, let me know.

I’m at a point in this whole “single and isolated” thing where I’m really sick of putting in the effort for essentially no reward. Just feeling kind of disillusioned with the social and dating “game”, which frankly I was never a fan of anyway. I’m sure it’s just a passing thing and sooner or later I’ll give it another shot, but for now… meh. I’ll happily talk to anyone who puts in the effort to show enough interest to say hi, but I’m done trying to initiate.

Several Short Items

I’ve been working this week — huzzah! As ever, I can’t talk about it much, but I will say that I’d really love to pick up a Wii sometime. I’d heard my fair share of people who were gamers having trouble adapting to the new controller — I’ve found it to be incredibly intuitive, now that I’ve actually had a chance to sit with one and actually play with it. I wish I could tell you more, but “I’m testing a a game for the Wii” is I think about as far as I can reasonably go. Looks like this project will be wrapping on Friday (I’m basically just filling in for the week because they needed an extra person, and with the other gig continuing to be delayed, they knew I could use the cash).

In other news, Apple released Safari 3 (Beta) for Mac and Windows. It’s fast, it’s shiny, it’s still a little buggy (it IS a beta), but so far I’ve been liking it. I did have to go in and turn off the visual editor in WordPress, though, because Safari 3 supports TinyMCE, and frankly I don’t like what it does when editing existing posts in visual mode. I do like the automatic spellcheck in text fields (I generally don’t need it, but it’s handy for catching typos and similar).

Switching back to a morning schedule is a pain. Yesterday, I fell asleep shortly after getting home, woke up long enough to stumble to bed, and then nearly slept through my alarm in the morning… call it 13 hours. Hopefully that’s now past. Tried bringing my bag with me to work, and then going directly to the coffee shop immediately after work, rather than going home first, and that seemed to be a lot more effective in actually getting out and about (it’s really easy to come home, collapse into my one chair, and not go out again despite the best of intentions).

I’ve got a spate of songs I’m on the fence about writing up… Gabriela Robin’s “Green Bird”, Broken Social Scene’s “Major Label Debut”, The Chalet’s “Love Punch”, a few others… the issue is that they don’t have legit free downloads of the songs available, and I’d really rather select songs to review that can be shared, so readers can listen for themselves. Is this a problem for people? Should I write them up anyway, or should I keep with my aim to select songs that everyone can listen to for free?

Oh Noes!

Yes, that’s right, my intarweb is down. I had a tech in yesterday who couldn’t even get his unit to talk to the main office from the tap outside the house, the line was so screwy. They’ll be sending out a maintenance crew sometime tomorrow to work on the line, at which point my network should be copacetic. Until then, no net at the house, and I’m STILL not being as productive as I should be (though more than I have been for the past week). I’m starting to feel that urge to try my hand at programming again, so we’ll see how long that lasts. It looks like I’ll have most of this week to work on it, at least, since I haven’t heard from work yet (I’ll be calling again saying “give me work!” soon). On the bright side, while this past week was a total wash money-wise, and it looks like this coming week may be as well, next week I start a new project on a PC title that should run for the next 3 months, Monday through Friday, 9 to 6, at higher pay (still not matching cost of living, but a HELL of a lot closer, enough so that I hope to be able to “fake it” at least). I broached the topic of heading east for a week in late July, and from initial talks it shouldn’t be a problem (will get final confirmation later this week when I go in to sign new paperwork and additional NDAs and such), so I’m currently still planning on heading back to New England for a week at Squam in July (if you know me in real life, ping me if you want to get together? It’d be nice to see people).

I was a total shut-in this past week, despite the absolutely beautiful weather. This is a shame, since I’d really like to take some bracketed exposures in order to play with HDR imagery (since cameras currently don’t take HDR images — though they’re being worked on from all rumors — the way you make HDR images is take multiple exposures (over and under expose), and then merge them via “Merge to HDR” in Photoshop. You can get some really spectacular, rich colors and fill that way. While I do often take multiple images, very few of my available shots are varied in exposure enough to really work for this purpose (not enough dynamic range), since while the time and aperture may vary from shot to shot, I’m still aiming for the same exposure level. There’s a bracketing feature in my camera that I’m going to need to explore, that should help a lot with this process, but since I’ve not played with it so far, I’m going to need to sit down and futz for a bit.

I’ve applied for this position over at Areae, and really do think it’s right up my alley — I just hope they feel the same way. (This would mean relocating, but so what? I love Seattle, don’t get me wrong, but that community manager position is something I’d really love to do. The job is totally worth relocating for.) It is (simplified a bit) basically a job where I’d be able to apply my work for Avatar and on my first thesis (Online Communities from a User and Administrator Perspective) towards creating and fostering a viable online community, and my Don Quixote nature concerning player advocacy and casuals (I’m decidedly PRO-casual players, and feel they are the core of the social element of any online game… they’re the ones who are most likely to be willing to stop and have a conversation or answer questions, rather than focus on min-maxing and a mad rush for levels… if you sacrifice your casual players, your online community becomes “just a game”).

Some Days You’re Busy

Nabil in November 06…and some days, you’re just a bum.

May has been a weak writing month so far, for no discernable reason. A good chunk of the first half of the month was spent working nearly every day — good for the wallet, bad for writing. This week, however, I’m not sure if I’ll be working at all: the problem with this testing gig (other than low pay and no benefits) is that it’s as-needed, and sometimes projects simply don’t time out to give steady work. There may be a shift starting on Wednesday, but in the meantime, that means Monday and Tuesday are something of a wash. I managed to get some errands done today, and tomorrow is supposed to be beautiful and warm, so I’m hoping to go out and enjoy it.

Saturday morning, I got up and headed south to Portland, where I helped my friend Adam move one of his friends into her new place… we got back north about 4am, so a kind of long day, but it was fun and good nevertheless. It felt good to get out and doing something with other people. Timing unfortunately didn’t work out to catch up with Dan, but hopefully I’ll manage to track him down some other weekend.

I’ve been doing a bit of reading about HDR photography, and decided to experiment a bit with some of my existing work… I already take doubles and triples of a lot of my shots, so I figured it’d be reasonable to find at least a few sets that would be suitable (the best way to create an HDR image is to set your camera to do exposure bracketing, and do multiple shots at multiple exposures… 3-9 shots at different exposures should give you a nice range… tripods are practically a must). In the process or sifting around, I found my shots from spending Thanksgiving down with Claire and her family in Williamsburg, VA. I miss her like crazy.

I tend not to talk much on this blog about the personal stuff — I’ll bore you to death with mundane shit and idle references, but when it comes to personal interactions, they at most get a mention. This is entirely intentional, and has nothing to do with wanting to avoid being “emo” or any other similar poseur bullshit. It comes down to the fact that it’s personal and private. Sometimes I think I shut it down a bit too much, though, so let me open up a little bit: this past fall, I wasn’t exactly in the best frame of mind, and several events transpired that exacerbated it — in short, I was a trainwreck. I ended up relying heavily on Claire for support and a receptive ear, which put a lot of extra stress on her. Things started to fall apart, and ended back in January with her decision to cut off all contact. This is largely my own damned fault, and you’ll not hear me argue any different. I regret where things ended up, and daily wish there was some way to fix things. Not looking for anything, not pity nor advice, just saying it because it’s been on my mind.

Not the Post You Are Looking For

First: welcome to May, may it be warm and lovely and enticing towards things to come. Second: Robot Chicken Star Wars Special. Oh hells yes.

I’ve been working a fair bit, including overtime (which is ironic in that they made a point of explaining how that NEVER happens during the orientation not a week before), working on “things.” I took a few days off earlier in the week to take some classes they were offering on project management — seemed to make a lot of sense naturally to me, so I’ll take that as a good sign. I was sure to thank my employee rep the next time I saw her. After that, it was back to work, wrapping up the project we’d been working on all last week (I’m working this weekend, but I’m not sure on what yet… the project from before is now “done” for the time being).

I haven’t really been doing much with my time other than work, though. While it’s only an 8 hour shift, with commute and waiting for the shift to start, it usually ends up being closer to a 12 hour day. This isnt horrible, but it has been taking a while to adjust and make better use of the ~4 hours I have left before heading to sleep. I’m definitely thinking about doing less with the screen and more with the reading. (This is my first time in Zoka in over a week, simply because while I’m thinking that heading there after work sounds like a great idea when I get off shift, by the time I deal with 520 traffic, I just end up going home and not going out again. Good for the wallet, but is making me feel like a bit of a shut-in.)

My creative and social energy has always had a bit of an ebb and flow to it, so part of it I suppose is just that I’m in something of an ebb right now. The goal, of course, is to make the ebbs as short and minimal as possible, and encourage the flow, the upswelling of energy, to go as high and last as long as possible. I think it speaks well that I’ve still managed to write at least a little on most days, whether during lunch, or waiting for work or class to start. None of it has been something to post, simply a page at a time in my personal, physical journal, but it’s still something.

At work, I sit around and talk with a bunch of geeks about geeky things, and even then, I feel like something of an outsider, and always in the back of my head, I wonder if to them, I’m one of the “annoying hangers on.” You know the ones I’m talking about — they’re basically ignored by the group, but keep on trying to interject, and end up just sort of talking to themselves and laughing nervously and too loud whenever someone says something remotely, possibly amusing. I know what you’re thinking: wouldn’t you KNOW if you’re one of those? You’d think, but I don’t think anyone ever intends to be that way, so maybe you don’t realize it when you’re doing it? (And yes, I know it’s probably all in my head. It’s just part and parcel of getting to know new people.) I feel like I’ve been talking too much and too quickly, but can’t seem to stop myself or slow myself down: all the time alone over the past several months has left me a torrent of words when I’m finally able to break the seal (for better or worse). Definitely some interesting people, at least. I don’t know whether any lasting friendships will come out of it (since the job doesn’t actually pay enough to cover my monthly bills, I sort of need to move on sooner than later, and have been working with my employee rep about doing so), but it would certainly be nice. There’s a certain point where eating alone all the time gets old, and I passed that a while ago.

Magical Disappearing Self

I sort of dropped off the planet for the past week or so, despite my best intentions to continue to post images and writing. However, since Monday, I’ve been getting up at 5:30am and heading to work, and spending the day in a computer lab, and then not getting home until 6 or 6:30 (sometimes later… it all depends on traffic). At the end of it, I make some food, maybe watch a movie, and head to bed… my brain has simply not been in a state where I’ve felt like writing during the periods of time where I’m actually able to write something.

Regarding work: this is the same testing gig I had back in 2004. I emailed them earlier, and basically re-upped with them, so I can have at least some income while I look for more steady work. As soon as the paperwork was filled out, I got a weeklong shift doing Xbox 360 testing (and more than that, I can’t say, because they treat their NDAs very seriously). I’ve been looking forward to Friday for most of the week (which is normal, I imagine), so I could catch up on the things I’ve been neglecting while my sleep schedule radically adjusts. Of course, today (Friday), we got offered overtime for the weekend, and I honestly can’t turn down 16 hours of time and a half, so I’ll be working tomorrow and Sunday as well. Monday I know I have off, because I’m taking a course instead — one of the nice “bennies” they offer to make up for the low pay and sporadic hours is that they offer a number of courses and classes throughout the year for very very little money — like, $10. So, Monday and Wednesday this week, I have sessions on project management that I’m kind of looking forward to. Given that the direction I’d like to go within a game career is game production and writing, having project management training or experience is a really great addition to my resume.

I also want to give a shout out and congrats to my friend Tegan, who I finally managed to catch up with after several days of phone tag, who informed me of her recent engagement! May you find a lifetime of happiness.