Caution: Contents Under Pressure

There are currently 375 posts, 303 comments, contained within 13 categories. If I’d been writing daily, that would mean I’d started a little over a year ago. The reality is that I started writing a blog back in 2002ish, so we’re fast approaching year five. How novel would it be to actually post SOMETHING every day? Would readership increase, or would it drop off from people getting bored with what would inevitably be a lot of “neat link!” posts. I’m not going to set it as a goal… yet. Need to think about things some more. I went back through and reread all the posts a little while ago. A lot of the links need fixing, but the non-link posts (ie the ones with actual writing) are still reasonable. Not sure how many people have actually read the whole blog… I imagine it’s a relatively small percentage. I know I’m guilty of picking up on a blog basically from when I find it onwards and not hitting up the archives as often as I should. I’ve started slowly going through the blogs and journals I read regularly and starting from the beginning, so those of you who’ve bothered letting me know about your sites, you’ve been warned. It’s going to take a while though, dialup is le suck.

I’ve got a new project that I aim to have up and running by Jan 1, 2007. I’m not saying what it is quite yet, though some of you that I’ve chatted with recently probably already know what I’m talking about. But yes, it goes live with the new year. That gives me… well, essentially 7 days to get everything ready for it. Plenty of time, I’m sure, as long as I keep motivated on it.

That really is the hingepoint of most of the things in my life right now: if I keep motivated, it’ll work out. I won’t say all things in my life, of course. When it comes to romance, it takes two to tango, after all. Trying to remain positive about everything, though. There’s this undisclosed project I mentioned, and then it turns out my timing for the approach about the game design major was good, and so something may still come of that (not in a “hold your breath” sort of way, but in the “still worth pursuing that avenue of inquiry” sort of way). I’ll be attending the Apple Leopard Tech Talk in January in Boston, which I’m really looking forward to, and it also has given me a firm “not leaving the area until at least” date to base any other plans on, which is good. I’m sending out resumes again, following a brief “what the heck am I doing with myself” period where I wasn’t. So, yeah, thinking positively.

Doing some digging around for information for a friend of mine, I found out my college alma mater is going to be listed in the US News and World Reports 2007 best schools, so that’s cool. Nice to know it’s getting some recognition, considering how often I have to explain it to people. “Yes, it’s off campus. No, it’s not a correspondence course. Yes, it IS accredited. Yes, you DO design your own coursework. It’s based off a Socratic pedagogy. No, I’m NOT making this up.” Grargh. It’s the sort of program that I think would be a lot more popular if a) more people knew about it, and b) if there was an easy way to actually explain the program to people. Once you do it even once, you say “Oh, neat, now I get it!” but until then, you just have to “trust the process” as they say, and that’s not exactly an easy way to get people to enroll and spend money with your school.

Christmas is in two days. This doesn’t mean much to me, other than it might be hard finding a place to eat lunch (I think the plan is chinese buffet). I’m really hoping 2007 turns out to be an amazing year for everyone (myself included). The past few years really kicked my ass, and I’m hoping this is the year I make a comeback. Methinks sometime between now and New Years, I should actually make some (clear, measurable) goals/resolutions for myself for the coming year, and post them. Helps keep you honest when there are others out there who can pipe up and say “Hey, wait a minute, what about your goals?”

Oh, and one of the bright sides of not celebrating Christmas is that I don’t have any buying moratoriums. On that note, I picked up volume 1 of Animaniacs the other day. It’s been a few years since I last saw them, and I must say: really quality stuff, totally a worthwhile purchase.

Brain Dump

It’s been a while since I just wrote for the sake of writing, and not just because I’ve been busy elsewhere (even now, I’m blowing off working on piecing together my final product for my semester, having worked on it for roughly 4 hours this evening already). Nor is it from lack of things to say: relatively speaking, I’m bursting at the seams with things I’d like to talk about, but haven’t for various reasons (some good, some bad).

Mostly it’s just because when it comes time to sit down and write, my fingers seize up, and I’m left feeling tongue tied and twisted up. Which is sort of a theme with me, I think. It, like a dozen other things, is something I should work on. Not that I know how. Without trying to stroke my own ego, I know a bit about a great many things, usually just enough to get myself into trouble (or out of it, as the case may be); there is still so much I don’t know anything about, and am stuck taking blind-ass guesses like anyone else. I always find it ironic (and somehow reassuring) that despite my feeling fucked up, people do continue to come to me seeking some insights into their own peace of mind.

By and large, I’ve taken the divorce pretty well, as most people have tended to remark or agree. That doesn’t mean I’m a superhuman or zen master or a robot, it just means I happened to stumble on a path that didn’t drive me insane. And y’know, it still hurts. I’ve processed a hell of a lot and had to adapt in ways I really didn’t want to have to, and by and large my life is going pretty damn well right now. I go to GDC next week, my semester is nearly over and it looks like i’ll be finishing on time and well, and I’m dating an absolutely amazing girl. Hell, I even still talk to my ex-wife a few times a month. Even if it felt like the end of the world at the time, things have turned out alright.

That said, in about a month, it will be my birthday. A week after that, and it will be exactly a year from when I received a phone call from Mickey that completely ripped my guts out and left me with some rather overwhelming relationship-trust issues that I’ve been damned blessed to have an understanding lady to help me work through. Overall I’ve done pretty well (heh, she’s still happy to be with me at least!), but in these weeks preceding that anniversary, I’ve been getting increasingly anxious and testy and nervous. I’m about ready to crawl out of my skin, if that’d get me away from this feeling. It doesn’t help that I have other things to stress about, so I’m stuck on this merry-go-round of anxiety:
1. Stress about school: I graduate in a month. Do I feel like I made good use of my time, and learned things that will help me in the days to come? Will my paper go over well in review? Will my presentation go alright?
2. Stress about money: several people owe me a considerable amount of money at this point, and unless they start paying me back, my ability to do what I need to do this summer will be SIGNIFICANTLY more difficult.
3. Stress about housing: I need to have found a new place to live by the end of the summer. Ideally I’d like to buy, but that takes an initial downpayment that hinges around money. Even renting, deposits are generally needed, and also how much can I realistically afford? See #2, stress about money.
4. Stress about work: if GDC goes well, I might have either a job, or (hope of hopes) the seed funding to start the studio I want. If not, what am I doing with myself? Where do I find the money to live while I work on trying again? (“McDonalds!” “Borders!” Yes, I’m aware: the question isn’t whether I can find work of some sort, the question is whether it’ll be enough to be sustainable without having to work two jobs and double shifts every day, as that’s a dead-end path on being able to move on from it.)
5. Stress about relationships: this is by far the lamest one of the five to be stressing about. Erica has not given me a SINGLE REASON to not trust her or doubt her faithfulness or care, and yet because of the baggage from previous relationships, I still have those anxious moments that she frankly doesn’t deserve to be put through.

And then I just cycle through them, even when I’m working on other things. It’s like this constantly flexing knot in the pit of my stomach, and I’m sick of it [sic]. Yet I don’t feel like i have the energy right now to force myself out of that cycle. (I’m self-aware enough to know that change ultimately comes from within, and they only way to get out of these cycles is to choose to do so. Knowing what you have to do doesn’t make DOING IT any easier, though.)

Hopefully after some of this sugars out (one way or another), I can sit down and actually do some of the things I’ve been meaning to do… like post-mortem the MUD. I started playing in May 1997; its time to give it the critical eye. And get back to some of the stories I started writing last year. And get back to photographing for myself. And get back to drawing. And Maya. And working on levels and modding games. So many things…

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.

Taking a Break from Schoolwork

I’ve been working on my preface and introduction for my final product. There is still quite a bit I’d like to do on it, but I promised my advisor I would have them ready by this weekend, so I suspect I’ll simply have to make more revisions later and plow through to finish it for now.

But first, some other news. I’m currently house sitting for my parents while they’re in Hawaii, which has proven to be a nice time for meditation, just myself and Freya. That said, I have made it out about a few times, notably to the new chinese restaurant in town, which has taken over the former Panda House location. The food is pretty decent in a similar style to Panda, and the service is acceptable though still working out the kinks of their first week (they aren’t even done hiring and training yet, which is why they haven’t formally promoted the place in the paper or anything). It’s several levels better than the other chinese in the area, at the very least, so I’m pretty satisfied, and suspect my parents will be as well when they get back from Hawaii.

A few weeks ago, my iPod was stolen out my car (no, it wasn’t immediately visible, I was parked in my parking spot in Montpelier at the time, and yes, I am going to be filing a claim). While it’s unfortunate (and moreso because they stole the car charger too, which was lent to me by my friend Dano), this has meant that I’ve begun looking at the new iPods… they’ve come a long LONG way since my first generation 5GB iPod. I’m currently eyeing the 60GB Video iPod as a (more securely handled) replacement. Now, in the process of this, I’ve also begun keeping closer tabs on the Mac rumors and heard the rumors of new Intel based laptops being announced at MacWorld San Francisco 2006. They were right.

This is damn near everything I’m looking for in a laptop. Needless to say, I’ve ordered one, literally within minutes of the Steve Jobs keynote finishing, and expect to receive it sometime in February when they ship. This is a hasty decision, but that doesn’t necessarily make it a bad one, nor poorly thought out. With that laptop, I will be able to effectively sell off THREE computers, which should nearly cover the new purchase. (The three are my 800MHz 15″ G4 Titanium Powerbook with 1gb of ram and a fresh screen, hinge, and hard drive; my Windows desktop, a Pentium 4 2.2GHz Vaio with 1gb of ram, 120gb drive, DVD RW and additional CD-ROM, Audigy 2 soundcard, and an ATI Radeon X300 [I think, need to double check]; and my nearly brand new 12″ G4 Aluminum Powerbook with 1.25GB of RAM — essentially the most recent version of the laptop prior to the Mac Book Pro — which I bought in May.) Please, if any of these interest you, make me an offer (pass the word to friends, too, please). I’m really excited about this new laptop, and have been impressed with how much of an impact it’s made on even dedicated Windows users.

Honestly, it’s the first computer to give me serious technolust since the G5 originally came out (2.5 years ago). That and the Nintendo Revolution are really the only techno-goodies that I’m actively excited about right now. While I’ll likely still pick up the Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3, that is more because gaming is my interest, not because I’m overly impressed by what they have to offer. (And even then, I’m waiting for “killer apps” out of each… for the 360, those would be Mistwalker’s Lost Odyssey, and Bungie’s Halo 3… I’ve yet to see a “must have” game for the Playstation 3 for me, though Metal Gear Solid fans certainly have something to be excited about.)

Anyway, back to schoolwork.

Up and Running

With four days to go until my school residency, we finally have an internet connection at the house in Montpelier (JUST finished getting it set up). A lot has happened since I gave a real update, so let me sum up: I’m living in Montpelier with Uri, Andy, and Kate, and will be starting my final semester this Friday. UberCon VI was a lot of fun, and I did indeed pick up a sword (it’s sweet), and ended up selling my graphics tablet (Wacom Intuos2 12×12) to Erica, who is an extremely talented artist and fantastic person in general.

In fact, she and I are now seeing each other. It was unexpected and entirely welcome. I went down to drop off her tablet, and we ended up spending the day together… While I’m aware that I’m getting into yet another long distance relationship, and with someone who is insanely busy, I really like her and we both want to see where things go. This is my first real relationship since Mickey, and I’m a little nervous that I’ll end up carrying too much baggage with me, but I’m going to do my best to simply be as open, honest, and caring as I can, and hope for the best.

Okay, if I keep talking about that, I’ll get mushy, so let’s move along. I’ve been hanging out with a lot of people lately that I haven’t seen in a while, in particular my friend Tiffany, who is a leet gamer that also writes reviews and is a contributing editor for Computer Games magazine. She’s getting me back into Final Fantasy XI (I know, I know… however, I am planning to critique the game for my study), which should be jolly good fun, in that “OMG, I’m hardlining MMOs again” sort of way. Just in general, though, I’ve shipped my game systems out from Seattle and picked up a Nintendo DS under the auspices of my study, and am aiming to try and get a press kit from Nintendo about the Revolution, so I can write about that in particular. (The DS and the Revolution are key points in how my study is formulating in my mind, more specifically how they view/affect the concepts of gameplay and interfacing with games.)

All in all, it’s starting to look like the shitty period is drawing to a close, and things are really starting to look on the up and up. I’ll try and be a bit more cogent/coherent later… still feeling a little scattered and worn out, so I’m going to go drink a couple gallons of water and go from there.

Seattle, Montpelier, and Me

I’m in Seattle again, this time having flown out to help Uri pack and to collect some things out of my storage unit. Every time I come out here I’m reminded why I moved out here in the first place, how appealing the feel of the place is to me. I still hate the traffic, though. Uri has shared a similar sentiment, yet he’s also moving out of Seattle… he and I are renting a house in Montpelier, Vermont, with our friends Andy and Kate. In fact, we officially moved in about a week ago.

This might seem rather abrupt to some of you… that’s because it IS abrupt. Uri has spent the past month living in Brooklyn with Andy, and while there, the idea of moving to Montpelier just sort of got tossed into the air. They looked into it briefly, and managed to find an awesome old house just off Vermont College campus, and so they decided to go for it. I found out about all this when they happened to swing through town on their way up to check it out, and ended up volunteering to go in on it, which made it financially more feasible for everyone (splitting the rent four ways is much better than splitting it in thirds). The whole thing just sort of happened all in the course of about a week and a half.

While naturally I’m a little nervous about it all, and was enjoying the free rent at my parents’ house, I think this will prove to be a beneficial move. I’ll be splitting my time (most of my time in Montpelier, a few days at my parents, playing with the dog and such — Freya is staying with them, more room to play, more stable routine), which I think will help me organize my time for my upcoming (final!) semester. Also, I’ll have broadband in Montpelier, and will be setting up my game systems, which should prove useful given the topic of my semester (game design).

I’m getting back from Seattle on Tuesday morning, and then will be heading down to UberCon VI the following weekend. I was really waffling about going or not, as I think it might be nice to catch up with some of the folks down there, and can just go to enjoy myself since I’m not attending as staff. Any help I end up offering will be entirely at my choosing (which, knowing me, will be quite a bit… that’s not the point, though), so I think it’ll be a lot more fun. The final deciding factor was that my friend Tiffany was interested in attending as well, so this gives me that last bit of an excuse. I’ve only told one or two people that I’m attending, and I don’t think any of the usual UCers read my blog with any regularity, so I’m hoping to surprise them.

I’m hoping to get back into the groove on blogging regularly, but I’m not going to hold my breath… if it happens, awesome. I think it would be good for me, though. Once I get the computers and broadband hooked up at the house, I think that process will be a bit easier. Time will tell.

One Packet to Go

I’ve been in school for most of my life. Pre-school, then Kindergarten, then first through twelfth, a few months off, then a semester, a few months off again, then my current stint at Vermont College. For various reasons, many of which tied to depression, college has taken me a bit more than the stereotypical four years. I started in October of 2000, and God willing, I’ll finally be graduating in October 2005. That’s fully 7 months away and an entire semester, but even so, I’m a little startled by its approach. I’m left taking stock in the work I’ve done, in the topics I’ve studied, and wonder if I’ve actually learned enough to go DO something with it. And if I haven’t, why the hell did I spend so much money for a piece of paper that doesn’t mean anything?

I’m trying not to think about it too much, no point psyching myself out when I’m in the home stretch. It’s definitely in the back of my mind, though.

My current semester has been about writing, though mostly I’ve been doing a lot of reading, as usual. I’ve got a few stories right now that I like, and I’m going to see how far I can take them in this coming month, at which point my last packet will be due. Then I head back east for my residency, and begin my Culminating Semester. The format is a little different than previous semesters, and the final body of work will be bound and placed in the university’s library. This makes me nervous. No matter how good people say my work is, no matter whether others find it acceptable, a part of me is afraid that when the work is actually weighed and measured, I’ll be found like how I feel: a fake. The work is my own, don’t get me wrong, and the amount of fluffing I do is the occasional digression; I don’t even mess with the margins or font size (the favorite length extender of students everywhere). But I don’t feel like the work I did contributes to a greater understanding for the reader or myself. So regardless of whether the essay or annotation succeeds academically, I feel it was a failure.

I’m hoping to change that with my final study. At least a little bit. I plan to focus on game design, which is a daunting enough topic that the only way I’ll complete it is if I take the bull by the horns and aggressively pursue it for the entire semester. But if I do that, then I’ll really have something to be proud of coming out of my degree. I’m down to the wire (I can’t afford another semester, if I screw my culminating one up, my education fund is about depleted), so perhaps it would make sense for me to do a lighter study for my final semester. I’m not going to, though. I want my degree to be something I’m proud of.

Writing Fun

I’ve been focusing on writing this past semester, which has largely involved a lot of reading and my typical avoidance techniques for the actual writing. That said, I’ve started three separate stories, all of which have the potential for a worthwhile story (in my humble opinion). The first is a dystopian future world with nanotechnology that I’m now thinking about rewriting (I’m only a few thousand words in, so now would definitely be the time). The second is a silly little story about a Reality Assessor investigating the strange occurences occuring in a small town somewhere in the midwest. The third is an idea that’s been percolating in my brain for ages, and I’ve actually started to write it down. I’m really happy with that one. It basically hinges on the concept that a few thousand years ago, the existing pantheons of gods got together and decided to come up with a long term solution for survival, since their existence hinges upon belief, and what with all the plagues and wars and the fickle nature of humanity, no one really had what could be called “job security”. So they formed a union, or something similar to it at least, pooling the resources and beliefs of various different pantheons into one superstructure… which is how “GOD”, and the sudden predominance of monotheistic religion was formed.

The GOD story has been quite fun to write so far, and reminds me somewhat of a hybrid between American Gods and Lord of Light (both excellent books in their own right). I may post excerpts later. Maybe.

Speaking of Lord of Light (at least in passing), I just finished reading it for the first time. It is written by Roger Zelazny, and is considered by many to be his best work (justifiably). Given the nature of this semester, I took the opportunity to put it on my bibliography, and am very glad I did. Much like the excerpts previously mentioned, I may post my annotation about it later.

In case you hadn’t noticed, I’ve switched to WordPress. There are still template tweaks to be made (making sure navigation is everywhere I want it, etc), but overall I’m really happy with the new design and system. I’ve placed a personal moratorium on even thinking about new systems again for at least a month, to give this one a chance to shake down. Besides, WordPress 1.5 has all the features I want, as far as I can tell. So why switch again? Also, I upgraded Gallery to 1.5RC1, from 1.4.1. The template changed a little in the process, but otherwise the changes should be largely invisible to the viewer (possibly a bit faster). This gives me a chance to add the “random image” block they have to this page, which’d be cool. That said, I may hold off on that until Gallery 2 hits final, and then upgrade to that first.