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!

Announcements and General Updates

First off: i’d like to announce my new “learning programming” blog, Critical Code. I’d also like to announce that I’ve migrated to a shared user table across my three blogs (Critical Games, Critical Code, and this blog), so if you have an account on one blog, you have an account on them all (there might be a temporary delay while user privileges transfer, but they’re all there). So please, by all means, comment! Kibbutz! Let me know my meager site traffic isn’t just bots! (For those playing the RSS game, I also have tentative plans to make a unified RSS feed that combines posts and comments for those that want such a thing, like me. I wish there was a way to send comments left on the Livejournal feed to the actual blog, but there doesn’t appear to be a way. I will reiterate, though: it’s best to leave a comment on the blog, not the LJ feed — the feed was created by a friend of mine, not me, and as such I don’t get notified of comments on there… also, they disappear as the posts drop off the feed.)

That’s it for announcements for now. As far as general updates, I’m doing alright. I’m skirting the very hairy edge of being broke, but I’m trying to stay optimistic that I’ll find some sort of employment before I hit that line. It’s stressing me the hell out, though, in a way that being broke in the past did not: previously when I was in these sorts of situations, I either had work lined up for the near future, or a new semester (and subsequent education stipend) coming up. Right now I have neither, and it’s nervous-making. I’ll simply need to continue to send out resumes and hope for the best (any suggested leads would be appreciated, and YES, I’m willing to relocate damn near anywhere including out of the country).

I have a lot of things to say, but I don’t really know where to begin. I’ve been incredibly frustrated nearly the entire time I’ve been living in Montpelier, and am frankly looking forward to moving out of here, even if it means temporarily moving back in with my parents. It has been extremely hard to spark any sort of motivation to DO anything, let alone retain that motivation. (To make something perfectly clear, I don’t blame my roommates for that. For lack of a better way to describe it, the vibe of the house and I simply don’t seem to get along — I’ve felt like an interloper from day one.) I’ve been really distracted, tired, and in a brain fog for most of my time here, and have consistently had to LEAVE the premises to get any work done (like my schoolwork during the semester). This is arguably the least productive or capable of being productive that I’ve felt, ever, and that’s a really disheartening feeling to have when I more than anything need to start DOING.

So, little steps. Here is my goal, please poke me to stick to it: at least one new post in each blog each week. That’s three posts a week: one personal/creative, one professional/design/gaming related, one programming. It’s worth noting that at least two of those need at least a little forethought or additional work, so just whipping something up half-assedly 15 minutes before the end of the week really is out of the question. Here’s to resolutions and goals: may these last and blossom!

Endeavors of Best Intent

As I’m sure many of you are aware, I have a love-hate relationship with programming. Namely, I love the idea of being able to put together custom solutions to my problems, or (dare I say it) write my own games, but I find that actual process of learning to program simply drives me bonkers, and falls through my brain like water through a sieve. Every few months or so, I go through my increasingly large collection of technical and programming books, and take another stab at learning a programming language. “This time, it’ll be different. This time, it’ll stick!”

Only it doesn’t. I took Logo in 4th and 5th grade (even went to a summer camp for it), TrueBASIC my freshman year of high school, Introduction to Object Oriented Programming using C++ my sophomore year, PASCAL my junior year, and then a course in Visual BASIC at a community college after graduating high school. And that’s just formal courses. I’ve got piles of books on learning C, Objective C, Java, even PHP that I’ve either slogged through or started to, and virtually none of the practicum has stuck.

There is a rhyme to this rant, however. It comes down to learning styles. Different people learn in different ways, and some ways are simply more effective than others. Now, in my experience, the most effective method I’ve found for retaining new information is through synthesis and participation, and that’s simply not happening in rote situations like books and most of the programming classes I’ve taken. So, my idea is this:

I’m going to blog the whole damn thing. As I go through the books and exercises and programming attempts, I’m going to write about it and post it here, in a new “Code” category on the blog. It will help me think about and restate the things I’m trying to learn, as well as hopefully serving as a helpful resource for others trying to learn. I’m hoping to start this task on Monday, as that will give me a few days to get things set up on the site and otherwise (I’m installing Xcode 2.3 as we speak). My focus (unless one of you convince me otherwise) is on learning Objective-C, so if anyone has any suggestions on books, sites, articles, et cetera, please post them here or IM me. Also, those of you out there who are gurus on the subject, if you’re willing to help me through pitfalls I might run into, it would definitely be appreciated.

For reference, the books I plan to use/reference:
Programming in Objective-C by Stephen Kochan
Cocoa Programming for Mac OS X by Aaron Hillegass
Core Mac OS X and Unix Programming by Mark Dalrymple and Aaron Hillegass
The Mac Xcode 2 Book by Michael Cohen and Dennis Cohen

Improve Thyself

I’m back home now, freshly and officially divorced. Freya is adjusting well to her new home. Maybe it’s just shellshock, but I feel pretty resolved, finally… the actual divorce (all 5 minutes of it) seemed to bring a certain amount of closure, which is appreciated. Despite all the stress and tension over the past few months, Mickey and I managed to part friends, and I wish her the best with her life.

As for me, I’m on a bit of a self-improvement kick. I’ve hung out with usual crowd the past two nights (since I got back), and I’m just not feeling like I’m fitting in, and I’m kind of ready to get into a more productive mode. Even girl watching isn’t all that appealing right now. I just want to dive into all the things I’ve wanted to do, but didn’t for various reasons. I purchased my books for the upcoming semester yesterday from Amazon, and I’m looking forward to jumping head first into the topic. I also went over to Borders today and ended up picking up O’Reilly’s Learning Java, and Killer Game Programming for Java, plus a collection of Kanji Cards and a introduction to Japanese course (book and 8 discs).

I’m looking into the possibility of auditing a programming course at Dartmouth… I need to talk to Admissions tomorrow about what the process will be to do it. I’m also looking into taking ballroom dance classes with my friend Liz. I definitely need to haul ass on these, since the Dartmouth semester starts soon and dance classes start the 22nd.

The last time I felt like this was three years ago.

In other news, the more I read about the next generation consoles, the more I want to develop for the Nintendo Revolution. Here are a few reasons why. On a related note, I’m currently working on building a backlog of essays for Critical Games, and will be reviving the site once I get a few weeks ahead (I want to post an essay a week, and want at least a month’s buffer).

Holistic Imagery

The title of this post is drawn from a conversation I just had with Dallas, another regular here at the coffee shop. He’s working on something called Form Syntax, which is basically creating a linguistic reference for visual concepts. It’s pretty cool stuff, from what I could see — complex in concept, but the idea is a good one. It was an interesting discussion to say the least, and the best way that I was able to encapsulate the concept is to call it holistic imagery — showing the interconnectedness of form, function, and emotion within design.

Earlier in the day, I went and had lunch with Robert, which was good. We ended up going to this strange little Hawaiian place near his office, which was odd but fun. I hadn’t seen Robert in a while, so it was nice to catch up with him a bit, see what’s new. He’s apparently gotten serious with a ladyfriend, kudos to him on that, and has also picked up a new car (Penny Arcade is doing well). It’s an Audi Quattro convertible, leather interior, climate control, all the bells and whistles (yes, Penny Arcade is doing THAT well), and I was quite envious. When I finally get back into town (who knows when), he told me to look him up and we’d hang out more.

Last night, I discovered to my joy that Muppets Season 1 will be available on DVD August 9th. I have been spreading the gospel ever since. Also, they’re doing a sequel Dark Crystal, and other fun projects, and that makes me happy — it’s always nice to see Hensons doing cool things, though I must say I still miss Jim.

Yesterday was… odd. I ended up not leaving the house all day, and just sat around online, looking at movie trailers and reading comics and chatting. I was feeling pretty isolated, but unable to bring myself to change my situation to fix that. I’m ready to head home (3ish more days, I fly home on Monday, arrive Tuesday), and am mostly just killing time until then. It just feels weird to be where I am, I suppose. Mickey’s coming down tomorrow to move shelves and stuff to the garage to be craigslisted. Then comes the weekend, and we may go do something, or do some more cleaning if needs be. We’re still friends, and even marginally functional, just getting divorced is all.

Yeah, this is a bit of an amalgam post, but such is life sometimes. I’ve been thinking about what steps I want to take this summer, and I think I have a regimen that should work:

  1. Wake up
  2. Go hiking or swimming
  3. lunch
  4. study programming, game design, writing

Dinner onward is variable, depending on what friends and family are doing. But that’s the routine I’d like to get into, and I think it’s a reasonable (and simple) regimen, one that I think I can maintain. By the end of the summer, my goal is to have at least 8 books from my bibliography read and hopefully annotated, and to have a solid grounding in Objective-C and the new features in OS X 10.4, and to be in better shape than I currently am. These three goals are accomplishable and worthwhile towards my goals. Comments, concerns, anyone want to join in?

Programming (1)

So, some of you may be wondering where I’ve been for the past few days… the short answer (ie, ignoring everything else that was going on) is that I’ve been wading through the last few chapters of Stephen Kochan‘s Programming in Objective-C. Useful, well written book that does more for actually teaching the language than most of the other books on my shelf combined.

I finally got through it, and feel moderately comfortable with it, ready to take the next step, and actually try my hand at actual development. Never one for small bites, I decided to dive right into building a MUD server. From scratch. In Objective-C, which none of my friends know and thus can’t help with. Woo!
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First: I’m an Uncle (again)! Nikhil Tiger Sacks was born March 31, 2004, and is doing well (as is his mom). Congratulations, and I can’t wait to meet him :).

I’m not quite sure where this post will take me. I’m mostly posting because I’ve had requests to update so the prior post is no longer so prominently displayed. What exactly I’ll be posting, I’m not entirely sure. Hence the post, “Explorations”.

It’s not that I have nothing to say. I have a LOT to say, about a great many things. Enjoying the beautiful weather we’ve been having, getting to spend time with my wife, adventures with UberCon, money woes (if I don’t get a job in the next month or two, we’ll have to move when our lease is up, and if it doesn’t pay very well, then we may have to move anyway), and looking forward to seeing my friends on my impending trip back east for school.

That’s just the things that are immediately pressing on my mind. There’s much more to say. The sad part is that I don’t really want to talk about any of it in any amount of depth.
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