Wherever You Go

I am simultaneously excited and scared shitless by the state of my life right now. I gave up my apartment, and moved out on the first, without having a job or a place to live lined up anywhere — while I thankfully have friends and family whose couches I am able to crash on for a while, I am effectively homeless, without the funds to rent an apartment. I don’t really know what I’m doing or where I’m going or even what the hell I’m thinking. I just know it’s time for a change.

For now, I’m in Portland, and have been crashing on my brother’s couch for the past few days. His roommates are friendly and nice, so there hasn’t been any complaints about it, but I know it’s not a viable position for more than, say, a week. Exactly what I’ll do next, I’m not entirely sure. It depends to some extent on what sort of work I find and when.

It’s exciting and freeing to have no real ties, able to end up anywhere, but to be that completely adrift is also incredibly frightening: I love to travel and wander, but it’s nice to know there’s somewhere that is ostensibly “home” when doing so, which isn’t something I really have going for me right now. (It’s also nice to have some cash set aside for such wandering, and it goes without saying that I don’t have that either.)

In other news, Gary Gygax, creator of Dungeons and Dragons and an essential lynchpin for so much of what the gaming industry and achieved since, passed away last night. Rest in peace, and my best wishes and condolences to his friends and family.

10 Days and Tea

It’s kind of ironic that what seems to finally get me to write a blog post is my internet being down, sending me to the coffee shop. I don’t really have much to say, mind you, but it feels good to be writing something, like it’s what you’re supposed to do in a coffee shop, more than actually drinking coffee. In my case, it’s not even coffee, it’s tea, a blend they call “Haiku”, which is a light green tea with a hint of spice to it. Pretty tasty, and it survives a second infusion quite well.

I’m getting over a cold that started with a cough, proceeded to a general feeling of guckiness, and is now just a slightly scratchy throat (my immune system is good: I may get sick, but I tend to power through it quickly enough). I laid low during the bad parts of it, but otherwise I’ve been feeling fairly productive. I paid off three out of four credit cards, and paid a chunk down on the fourth, which puts me at a lower debt load than I’ve had in over a year. I still don’t have a job, but I saved out enough from the stock sale (which is how I paid those debts) to survive for a while longer. I may put in my notice on my apartment, despite not knowing where I’m going next: it’s a lot of money I don’t really have. Pretty scary to think about being unemployed and homeless, but hopefully it wouldn’t last long (if at all — the goal, of course, is to land a job sooner than later).

It’s amazing what not getting harassing phone calls every few minutes will do to one’s stress levels (I’m not kidding, they autodial, and had the same people call every minute for fifteen minutes — I wasn’t bothering to answer, because I’d already told them my situation and had nothing more to offer or say). My phone would ring at 8-8:20am every morning, 7 days a week, and then again in the afternoon and evening (and often mid-day as well, but I took to turning off my phone). They even tracked down my parents’ numbers (home and work) and started calling looking for me, even though I’d never given them their names or contact information. (The incessant calling and contacting my family in this manner is illegal as it qualifies as harassment. I’m debating whether to call them on it — I have call logs to verify the call behavior.)

I prefer not to air dirty laundry like that, but it’s been pretty ridiculous.

In other news: Mouse Guard was excellent — the story itself is well told but unremarkable: it would fit easily as a re-telling of a Three Musketeers adventure. What really gets me is the world: it’s very well developed, and operates on an internal logic that makes a lot of sense. It’s the sort of place you’d love to learn the lore of, to view it as a functional society. Also, the artwork is stellar. Looks like they’re doing a regular series of these (this was Autumn, the next volume will be Winter, the volume after that, Spring), so I’ll be sure to keep an eye out.

I also thoroughly enjoyed Amulet, which is a graphic novel aimed at the young adult market by Kazu Kibuishi. Again, the artwork is excellent, and despite cartoony characters, he does an excellent job of conveying emotional gravitas where appropriate. The one major disappointment I have with it is that it is simply part one of a larger story, and as such ends with something of a cliffhanger. Not a fan of cliffhangers in general, and I know putting together a project like this can be a lengthy process, so it may be a while before the next volume is out. (Checking Kazu’s website, it looks like I have a first printing, with a gold title! Neat, in a makes-no-difference-I’m-not-a-collector sort of way.)

Hot Chocolate Before Bed

Two thirty in the morning and I’m drinking hot chocolate from a “Bad Ass Coffee” travel mug, before padding off to bed. It’s been a few days since I last wrote here (though not since I last wrote). It’s been a good day, the weather holding up while I had lunch and wandered around with a friend. I bought a few books, though I know I probably shouldn’t have spent the money, and refrained from buying several more that were remarkably enticing. I purchased two books on writing (The 3 A.M. Epiphany, and The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes), which should tell you where I’m trying to head with my writing in general: polish, and getting back to storytelling. I also picked up Amulet by Kazu Kibuishi (which, for those of you who were fans of Flight and might want to pick it up, it was in the Young Adult section and the Barnes and Noble). Looking forward to reading that (and also looking forward to reading The Mouse Guard which my friend Anna picked up for me a week or so ago).

The rain started again a few hours ago, typical winter in Seattle. I’ve been doing the job hunting thing for about a month now, and haven’t really had any nibbles to speak of. I’m not letting this get me down: non-seasonal hires during the holidays always tend to be fairly light, and I know several companies that effectively shut down for a few weeks around now for a collective vacation. Doesn’t mean I can really afford it, or to slack off because of that, though — it’d be better to have a resume sitting on HR’s desk when they get back (or sitting in their email as the case may be) than to simply wait for some arbitrary period to be over.

Planning to head down to Portland tomorrow to visit my brother. He’s in much the same employment predicament as me, so at the very least we’ll be able to commiserate and enjoy some company in the process. Fun (and hopefully productive) times shall be had by all!

Another Season Ending

Today is the last day of September, so happy birthday to Chris, and happy birthday tomorrow to Anna! With the end of September comes the rainy season to the Pacific Northwest, and I must say I don’t really mind. I like the 50-60 degree temperatures and kind of grey days that come with it. Though soon enough, I’ll need to start wearing shoes again.

I have a lot of things on my mind right now, and I’ll try to address what I can. I sort of realized that it’d been a while since I posted, so I thought I’d rectify that situation (and upgrade to WP 2.3 to boot). So, quick sum up: still working, but it looks like this project may be ending soon, and that’s been a bit of a wake up call on getting back on the resume/job-search horse. I’m pretty happy with the work I’ve been doing, and have been stepping up where I can, so hopefully that will lead into something a bit more permanent (and better paying). In the meantime, I’m keeping an ear out for other gigs anywhere, and contemplating a move to Omaha, where my friend Jen has offered me a place to crash for as long as I need (such as, for instance, time to work on building up a portfolio, since most of my experience is on the theory side of things… while theory is important, it tends not to get you jobs in a product driven field). Or I could always start buying lottery tickets.

My days have been sort of merging and blending together. For the past two months, we’ve had overtime every weekend at work, so it’s been a while since I really had a whole weekend free (this was supposed to be the first one, but I got called in to sub for someone who had an emergency come up and couldn’t make it. For the record, I only dropped the obligatory “I’m not even supposed to be here!” once — I was actually happy to help out). I finally got around to grocery shopping today for the first time in a while, and if I can keep up some steam, I may do other things I’ve been meaning to do (I’ve been meaning to email several friends for a while now, and simply haven’t because I’m a bum that goes and hides out in a dark room after work). I also want to update my resume, and get some other writing hashed out (I started the year out pretty close to my daily writing goal, but I’ve been slipping a bit lately… need to get back into it and end the year strong).

Right now, I’m listening to the KEXP Live Performances podcast of Animal Collective, and I must say I am damn impressed. Their live versions of “Leaf House” and “Who Could Win A Rabbit” just floored me. If you like Animal Collective, you should go download that and take a listen, I think you’ll be well pleased. I’d really like to go pick up their new album (Strawberry Jam), just gotta wait til I can afford to buy music.

We Might Just Break, Can You Hear Us Trying?

I had a good roll going for a few months with the blogging, but I seem to have slipped back to sporadic again. In fairness, things have been stressful and in fashions that don’t really involve progress or anything that merits talking about. I’ve been working a lot, though I’m still going to need to take some drastic measures to get back out of this hole I’m in, which leaves me a little frustrated.

Last week, Mickey and I went and watched Stardust — it was a jolly good time, though I will say don’t go watch it right after reading the book: it keeps the flavor and mood of the book, but there are definitely some changes. There was an incredibly cute girl sitting near us playing Six Degrees with one of her friends while we all waited for the movie to start, but I didn’t have to nerve to strike up a conversation and ask her name. Alas.

I took today off from work to go deal with my traffic ticket that I’d previously mentioned. Funny story about that: turns out the court date was tomorrow and I’d screwed up my dates, and didn’t realize it until I was already down there. Went in and explain the situation, and they managed to work me onto today’s docket, so I wouldn’t have to miss a second day of work and drive two hours each way again. The end result of the whole affair is that the speeding infraction was thrown out entirely for being ridiculous (I’m sorry, in moderate to heavy traffic, you are NOT going to be able to positively identify a specific car from over a mile out, regardless of whether or not your laser detector can take a reading that far away), and the “failure to pull to the right” was mitigated to a mere (!) $500 (down from $1168), which I’ll be paying in installments over the next six months. So yeah, it would have been nice if I’d managed to get both thrown out, but the whole process could have gone a LOT worse.

I’m looking forward to the day that I’m not scrambling for cash so much. Hopefully that’ll be soon.

(Today’s title is taken from “Human Being” by The Beta Band.)

Thump Thump Thump

Sorry for the radio silence for the past week. Life is, as ever, a quixotic complication of schedules, stresses, and situations, all requiring time and attention. Needless to say, while I could have found the time, I opted instead to not worry about it, and focus on other things. Will I be continuing the music posts? Yeah, probably, but I think I’m done doing them daily for now. There is no shortage of music to talk about, but when you’re coming home wiped and it’s 103 degrees in your apartment, you simply don’t want to sit at the computer and write a review. While writing every day is important, it should be because you’re passionate about it, not because you feel a sense of obligation — that’s a surefire way to douse the spark before it even has time to light. (As Heinlein said: “If you happen to be one of the fretful minority who can do creative work, never force an idea; you’ll abort it if you do. Be patient and you’ll give birth to it when the time is ripe. Learn to wait.“)

I’ve been continuing to work doing game testing, which has been good. I get along well enough with my coworkers, and while I do get up early, and have to deal with 520 traffic heading home (which often leaves me knackered by the time I get home, regardless of how I felt when I left work), it’s still an enjoyable gig, and I feel like I’m DOING something (most of the time… every once in a while we get a day where we’ve done the testing we needed to do, and are simply waiting for a newly corrected build from the developer, so we’re basically just playing through the game trying to think of a new way to break things then, and that ends up feeling like makework for this late in the cycle). I’ve been chatting with a few of my co-workers about doing a mod, as we all have different “other” abilities to bring to the table… one is a modeler and texture artist, one is a programmer, I do production/writing/design, so the idea currently is to brainstorm a project that allows us each to showcase what we excel at. I’ll definitely keep folks in the loop as things solidify with that.

Things I’d like to get back to doing:
1) Photographing regularly (daily would be ideal, but weekly would do).
2) Writing (in particular working on some fiction).
3) Programming (Objective-C)
4) 70 a character in WoW, 75 a character in FFXI
5) Studying and writing about game design.

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.

On Childlike Innocence

It is remarkable how delightful it is to watch small children explore the world. Their perspective is fresh, and there’s a marvel in their eyes that is infectious. It is simple behavior, the nuances of discovery that makes an everyday action an adventure: opening a cabinet and discovering the treasures within becomes a noble quest.

When do we lose that sense of marvel and wonder? When does the world become mundane, a cage instead of a playground? To remain an inquisitive soul is a lofty aspiration, and one that most sadly fall short of. Once fallen, can that sense of wonder ever be truly regained? Is it fate to become inured and jaded?

Perhaps we’re not asking the right question. It is, perhaps, unreasonable to assume that a youthful blank slate is the desired state. Instead, can we hope to evolve into one who is perhaps acquainted with the trappings of reality, yet still able to appreciate the beauty of it? I suspect this is closer to the right path, the balance of awareness and innocence that leads towards enlightenment.

A lot of it comes down to seeing the cage of reality, and choosing which side of the bars you perceive yourself on. Are you trapped within reality, or are you an observer of it?

Rainy Weekends

Sitting in Zoka, eating a piece of blueberry coffee cake, drinking a split chai (half sweet, half spicy), and watching the rain out the window. Kings of Convenience is playing, and it’s a good way to spend an afternoon. Looking around, I can spot a number of the regulars, and even several of the weekenders (regulars were it not for that pesky 9-5 job), which is a sign that I’ve become something of a regular myself, even without being accepted into the greater social group.

I’ve been thinking, which is ever the deadly activity. Let’s explore them a little bit, though: love continues to be a bone I chew on, turning it around, thinking about it, what it really means, its value and significance, and why it’s so hard to explain or truly define. It’s simply used in so many situations and circumstances that we allow the context to define its meaning. But that’s unfair to the concept, and to those we are involved with: it hinges upon a subjective, personal experience, and all parties essentially guessing right. Sometimes we’re able to broadcast strong, direct clues to meaning, but to assume our intentions even then is begging for trouble. I’ve been accused in the past of using “love” too freely, of devaluing and diluting its meaning — I can’t disagree strongly enough. There is never a moment where I am not saying it conscientiously, with awareness for the power and weight of the word. To dilute the concept would be to say it and not mean it, or to not say it when you so dearly do. It’s a dishonest behavior, which is intrinsically counter to the idea of love. By necessity, honesty, understanding, and love are intertwined and related. To truly understand someone, to grok them, honesty and love must be present.

I’ve been thinking about where I live, and what I’ve been doing with my life, and the flailing around I’m involved in. I feel blurry, diffused across a great many grand ideas and projects and interests, such that no one thing is able to hold my attention for long, and thus, the clarity and acuity necessary to excel in any of them remains scattered. There is nothing wrong with being a generalist (or in a romantic moment, a “Renaissance Man”), but it does require a greater degree of practical skill in these fields to be truly effective. As mentioned before, my theory is strong, but my practicum is weak. It is well beyond time for me to sit and concentrate on the common threads throughout most of my interests — as near as I can tell, that is writing. My essentials are good: my grammar is generally good (though full of my own idiosyncrasies, like opting for commas where I could probably drop them, and too many parenthenticals), my spelling is good (though if I have a doubt, I check via the Dictionary widget on my Dashboard, which I also use to make sure I’m using a word appropriately). Realistically, I simply need to start sitting down and churning work out and submitting it. Everywhere, and all the time. That is by far the most effective way to hone your craft (any craft): fucking do it. I’ve been living in a world of theory and philosophy and intellectualization, and unless I suddenly have the money pop up to go get a grad degree and start teaching this shit, that simply isn’t enough to go on.

I need to stop over-thinking and over-planning. So many grand ideas and dreams and goals… but what good are they if I never actually do them?

Music reviews resume Monday.

Out of the Heat

It was pretty hot the past few days, and my apartment was something of a sauna, but the heat has largely broken now, and it’s down to a far more comfortable 70 degrees. Definitely digging it. Today has been something of a late start, you might say, since I didn’t really wake up until 1 (I went to bed at 4, woke up at 5:30 long enough to hear the KEXP pledge drive, and then went back to sleep). What, pray tell, was I doing up so late? Excellent question! Mostly I just couldn’t sleep, and even ended up going out and walking around (it was 60 degrees still at 1:30am), and decided it was high time i started exploring this whole “video blogging”/”vlogging” thing. By which I mean making them, as I’ve already been quite familiar with the media from a user perspective for a fair bit of time.

The short of it: I could do a Ze Frank-esque show relatively easily with the tools I have now, though I’m not entirely happy with the audio at the moment: the video from the built in iSight on the iMac is quite excellent, however, using Quicktime Broadcaster to record directly to a 640×480 H.264 MP4. The audio was simply a little “fuzzy”, and could be markedly improved using an external microphone, I’m quite sure. I could clean it up and edit it using iMovie, and publish it either hosting on my own site (not feasible for a long project or if it became popular), or find one of the numerous places out there are are hosting user videoblogs (not the least of which being YouTube). A minute of footage is running around 1.2MB… reducing the resolution to 320×240 cuts it down decently (not in half, of course: the audio is still what it is), if space became an issue, and as long as it’s in that proportion, it’ll scale on iPods easily.

So, the technicals are largely out of the way: just keep an eye out for an in-expensive Mic on Craigslist (don’t need something insane, just decent, and less than the Mic they had at the Apple Store for $50) for the audio portion, and otherwise i’m good for some basic stuff. The question, then, is what the hell do I want to be recording? I’d like to put myself out there, but for what? What’s the project I should be doing with myself? I’ve thought about talking about and reviewing music and games and movies and books. I’ve thought about doing brief readings of poems and stories. The “witty newsshow” has sort of been done, and isn’t really my thing anyway. I have several ideas I’d LOVE to do, but they involve an actual video camera — until my financial situation significantly changes, it has to be something I can do from a stationary location. One idea is to write something every day, and then do a reading of what I wrote each day. Thoughts?