Rubber band After the initial flush of excitement it's a little hard to write here in earnest. There are some things I have planned, such as a breakdown of the Federal budget and why neither party nor the Libertarians are right in my opinion, but I'd like it to be more than that.
But let's start with a recap of some things since I last used this journal: 1) I met a girl online a bit over a year ago. Our first date was at the California Academy of Sciences. We clicked so, so well and so naturally. Her name is Jeanine and she's quite a bit younger than me. She'd been through two years of utter chaos, which has made her older than her years and is why I am okay with the age difference. She'd almost forgotten what stability was and that made it tough for both of us at first, but every day helps us both improve and many things have changed for the better. We're making a life together and she moved in with me a couple of months ago. Her cute cat, Demon, lives here too and, in addition to belying her name, has reminded me how much I love owning a cat.
2) I work for Electronic Arts in Redwood Shores - just passed my one year anniversary - on Origin, which is not actually the hellspawn of evil some would have you believe. EA is by far the biggest company I've worked for and also the most grown-up, I think it's because I'm at the company HQ so lots of people who don't directly make games are here. It's transformed me into an early riser and commuting by train gives me time to read, relax and not be caught up in immediate concerns.
3) After being laid off I spent more time at Disney parks in a year than I had in all my life before. Some friends are major Disneyphiles and they swept me into it. Sadly the cost of annual passes is going up so much I think that time is drawingbto a close for all of us. Disney's so enjoyable to me and on multiple levels; just experiencing the place, deconstructing the ways they make those experiences so wonderful and pondering the technical and logistical challenges in running such a complex system so reliably and efficiently.
All of these topics will come up more often, surely interspersed with the usual videogame raves/rants, observational humour and silly links, but that's the abridged version of my late thirties.
I went back to the beginning of this journal and read everything. It didn't take as long as I thought it might. It was interesting to see the different phases, the things that were tried and abandoned, the things that ran their course and the things that have always been a part of it.
For example, there were several months in 2004 where every post had a gonzo journalism title pulled from some news aggregration site. Things like, "NEW SUPERNATURAL MENACE ... WEREPOODLES". I might go back to that - I'm always in favour of preposterousness.
There was the multi-stranded story I was writing one post at a time, also in 2004. People seemed to like it then and thinking about the characters reminded me how much feeling I had for them, so I'm tempted to gather it up, make some actual outlines and character backgrounds and continue it in a more structured fashion.
There were even a few posts done in a monospaced block-layout form meant to portray a program reading and arranging text via thought-control. That was a lot of effort and I gave up on it quickly. If I'd written a script to slurp the text, format it and add the little header markers maybe it would've lasted longer. It seemed an interesting way to tighten up the writing and make sure I had multiple subjects to discuss. Twitter serves that purpose now, I think. You can find me at https://twitter.com/PinballGraham
Various other people were doing end-of-year media summaries and I did those for a couple of years. All the books, films and games I'd been through. Always too few books and too many games, not that the games are a bad thing; free time being limited, books got pushed to the back of the queue.
The more I think it over, the more I like the idea of 'appointment blogging' (to misappropriate a stupid TV channel term from their feeble attempts to avoid irrelevance) with a specific topic for a specific evening. Does that particularly interest - or disinterest - anyone?
It's pretty prosaic but then I think it always was. There were experiments - the mind map thing in 2004, the 5 way novel at the end of 2005 (maybe?) - some humour and some whining and some eccentricities and some seriousness.
Right now I'm feeling like turning it into a topic-of-the-day thing, with a regular rotation of themes. Monday might be politics, wednesday might be videogames and so on. I think it's easier for me to write when I have a structure to work with. Maybe even a guest column for Jeanine, my live-in girlfriend.
Speaking of, that's something none of you knew about! I'm doubly glad I have this big apartment because now we have more stuff although most of it is awesome stuff and it's been a good impetus to get rid of old and/or less awesome stuff.
EA has a Want Ads mailing list and anything free on it goes basically immediately so it's a great stuff disposer. Oh, almost none of you probably knew I've been working at Electronic Arts for a year on our world HQ campus. We have a labyrinth.
I'm open for ideas if whatever small group of readers I have left has suggestions for format or what they'd like to see.
“So I'm at the train station waiting for the Caltrain, and one of ticket machines here says: "this machine is temporarily out of service." I have never seen say any other message in the year or maybe more that been taken the southbound caltrain from this station. So, I'm not sure what their definition of temporary is. Compared to the rise and fall of Roman Empire, certainly temporary. Even compared to - you know - the journey of Voyager 1 or Voyager 2 to the edge of the solar system... temporary there too. But none of those are really useful in regards to ticket machines. I don't know. It's just one of those things that makes me go: "What is up with that?"”
I wrote my first Objective-C class a few days ago. It's interesting comparing it to C++. They decided not to make any new keywords so it's all new syntax instead and that's awkward to get used to at first. The difference between static and non-static methods is especially awkward, just using a plus or minus respectively before the method's return type. It also feels like C++ used to be before people went crazy over templates and before the language committee turned it into the language that ate Sheboygan.
It's been a good while since I did real object oriented programming so I'm having to get back up to speed with that. I think I'll have a working iOS app pretty soon though and I'm enjoying learning a new environment. Apple's documentation seems very good so far although I'm using the tutorial material more than the references.
I've been slacking a bit on my other language, namely Japanese. I'm mostly spending time playing Pokemon White in order to improve my kana reading speed. I need to do a lot more grammar and vocab so I can start to decode the game's text but I can glean some meaning on my own. For example, こうせん means beam/wave and しょぶう means battle/contest and みず means water and so on. Getting the game was a great idea - it only uses kana, it has lots of text, it is aimed at children so is fairly simple and I am highly familiar with the contextual material. It'll still be a long time before I am conversant with the language.
Tomorrow, Monday 25th October, is the 11th anniversary of Williams shutting down its pinball division - that was also a Monday. I remember it every year but this year is especially poignant for me because I recently went through a very similar situation.
Working on pinball was a great experience. Three and a half years of doing something I loved, getting to work with hugely talented people, teaching me a great deal about my craft but also about myself and getting to be a part in creating something of which I'm truly proud. I count myself lucky to have had that experience.
And then, I got to work at Cryptic Studios on City Of Heroes and move over to Paragon Studios (NC Norcal as we called it then) when NCSoft bought the rights. There are many parallels. Aother three and a half years of doing something I loved, again working with talented people, who also taught me a great deal and again helping to make something I am and will always be proud of. That experience came to an end three Thursdays ago but I count myself even more lucky, outrageously lucky in fact, to have been able to do this twice in a lifetime.
I can't say much about what happened but I will say that the company treated me generously. Not only at the end, but over those three years when I was ill they were very sympathetic and compassionate. It's definitely a reminder to me to treat others with the same compassion, which I try to do and fail more often than I'd like to admit.
It's been fun playing the game again and remembering what it is to be a player and not having to think "Oh, I ought to fix that UI positioning" or any other kind of bug you come across. And no, I can't give you any inside tips, hints or future features.
“Another day another drama at the apartment complex. The whole block is apparently out of power. So I was working from home but that's my happening without any electricity. So time to go for a little walk.”
I just sang for six hours basically non-stop. I started at about 7pm and eighty four songs later I've finished the endless setlist in Rock Band 2. I hoped I'd get at least 350 stars (out of 420) and I got 352, so I am happy. I don't think I'll be doing that again any time soon, or on any other instrument for that matter.
The fire alarm turned out to be a false alarm, everything is safe.
There was a posse of fire fighters inspecting the place, and the alarm kept blasting for a good 20 minutes or more. I wandered down the street and bought a couple of slices of pizza and had a nice outside sunny dinner, a very agreeable way to spend some time. I also met some neighbours and we spent the time chatting. Much better than perishing in a huge conflagration, that's for sure.
I bought the Demolition Man. It was a decent price and I've always liked the game. It has a fairly simple ruleset but it's just fun to shoot those ramps. It has some things wrong but they are mostly cosmetic. The only serious ones are that the left flipper is dead, 2 whole strings of illumination are dead and the flipper buttons are only registering the lower position (they're normally two-stage, lower than upper). The flipper looks like the wire has come off the coil so that should be a simple fix, even if the coil itself is dead they're not expensive. The illumination is probably just blown fuses. And the buttons are likely just due to dirt - if not, the boards for them are fairly cheap.
The thing is FILTHY. I cleaned the glass and the back of the translite (the picture above the display) and the paper towels were just black. The playfield and ramps are crusted with grime. I'll have to strip it down and give it a thorough cleaning, but it'll look great when I'm done. Nothing looks worn out or gouged. I found a pinball stuck inside the right slingshot and another loose in the cabinet (along with several quarters). Still not as many as it's supposed to have. Just what I needed, yet another fix-it project pinball...
Yesterday we came out of Fry's (stopped in before pie) and I wondered for a second if we'd been magically transported to Walmart. There's an electric vehicle charging station near the door and, unusually, there was a car using it. That led us over to gawk, and I noticed someone had stuck a black and white sticker on the charging station that said, "If all the white people die, who'll be left to feed you monkeys?" After my double-take I tried to peel the thing off but it wouldn't come.
Seriously, people! This is the 21st century and we're in the bay area. People who aren't white are here to stay, and they're every bit as good as you are. In fact, they're better than you because they aren't sticking racist stickers on things.
I downloaded "Game Room" for Xbox Live tonight and played about with it a bit. It's lousy. It feels unpolished and jerky, you can't actually walk around the gameroom with your avatar so it's really just a giant 3D menu, and their pricing for games is outrageous. $3 for an Atari 2600 game? Give me a fucking break! They made some bad choices in arcade games; Tempest and Crystal Castles never, ever play well with a joystick. The emulation felt off to me at times, both for Lunar Lander and Scramble, as if it was laggy. The vector games don't look good on-screen either. In general the whole thing looks blocky, perhaps there's no anti-aliasing, perhaps it's upscaled, or perhaps both. The avatars don't look right either. Their lighting feels too flat and they also look jaggy. I could go on and on...
This morning the lady in the leasing office asked if I knew what a good price for a Demolition Man pinball was because she has one to sell. So if anyone in the south bay wants one, I know where there's one available. I'm going to arrange with her to look it over and assess its condition. I've no idea where she got it.
I was just sat on the sofa, doing a whole lot of not very much and I heard a THWACK sound over the rumble of the washing machine. It wasn't super-loud, but loud enough to startle me a little bit mostly in case it had something to do with the laundry. Nothing further untoward happened so I went back to snacking on Pringles. Then came the familiar high-pitched BIP! that means one of two things in the West household. Either a smoke alarm needs a battery changed, or a Leakfrog has detected dampness. Figuring the latter I checked by the washing machine but everything was dry and happy.
The BIP! bipped again so I tracked down which was dying - it turned out to be in the library/office. I didn't have a spare 9V to hand but I opened it up anyway to take out the old battery and stop it bipping. To my great surprise I found the bottom of the battery had exploded open, the cap blown half off and a metal rod extending maybe 1/4" out of it. After a little thought I realised this must've been the noise I heard in the first place. That's the first time I've ever had a battery pop.
I ate probably 12oz of pudding cup tonight. It came in a clear plastic cup, like the strawberry cream things Starbucks sells. It was titled "Tristan's Magic Pudding Cup" and who am I to doubt a claim like that? It was pretty goddamn good, all chocolatey and vanilla and cream and crumbled brownie bits in its majestic self.
It adds another aspect to my sadness that Zanotto's appears to be fizzling out week by week. Every time I go in there the shelves seem more threadbare and they have less of the things I like to buy - which I guess is a positive feedback loop. The Safeway down the street is taking all their customers, including me. Zanotto's has better sandwiches but I don't think you can carry a whole supermarket on a deli counter (how would you balance it, for a start?) They've moved their tables indoors and rearranged things to make a cafe area, perhaps to try to cover up that they're only offering half as much stuff as they used to.
If they become just another empty commercial unit with a 'for lease' sign I shall be dismayed. There are too many of those in downtown San Jose already.
Since God Of War 3 comes out very, very soon I figured I'd go back and play God Of War 2 because I never finished it originally. It was a tough game for me then, so now I'm playing on easy difficulty and I'm definitely having more fun that way. You start out fighting the colossus of Rhodes, clawing its face and eventually getting inside it to smash it apart from within. This is the beginning of the game and it's already more epic than a lot of titles manage.
This has been a weekend of Rock Band and Doctor Who. Rediscovered my love of bass in the former. Lots of sets played. I enjoy Gimme Shelter more as Bill Wyman than as Charlie Watts. I've been playing that game for 18 months and I'm still not done with it. It rekindled my love of music in a number of ways, too.
As for the latter, I struggled through the Pompei episode of season 4 and found the rest to be much better. It has more low points than any other season, I think - come on, cutesy bag-of-sugar-sized aliens made of fat?! - but The Silent Library two-parter has to rank up there with Blink as one of my all-time favourites. Now I know what Vashta Nerada (as referred to in robling_t's journal means. Donna's brassiness is definitely a different approach to companionship but their dynamic really does seem to work, fueling both comedy and tragedy between them. Alas, now I have to wait several months for season 5 to come out on DVD.
I came home after a bit of a crazy day and discovered a message on my answering machine. When I played it, it was obviously some kind of voicemail thing, and it simply said, "Due to a technical problem on our end we are unable to speak with you personally. Please accept out sincere apologies. Goodbye." I have no idea who that was from or even what it was regarding, but I guess there's a very humble autodialer out there somewhere.
I wound up watching two films this weekend and that's a fairly unusual situation for me. Both are worth the time but one is superior to the other in my opinion.
The first film I saw is Moon, where a solo man on the far side of the moon takes a three year tour of duty to manage and support robotic mining machinery. The film's really about character study and how getting to the truth is about peeling away the onion layers of the situation. I think it does all the abstract things very well but the more concrete things fall flat to me. It's much more likely the base would be empty, with equipment all tele-operated, or with three or four crew on shorter tours, probably staggered. The implicit motivator of radiation sickness thanks to solar flares? Bury the base under fresh regolith and/or water tanks. There are a bunch of other things that I won't discuss directly because of their spoilerdom. All that aside, I do very much like the way the protagonist dealt with unexpected changes and how to persevere in the face of adversity.
Nixon/Frost is different in many ways. Extroverted David Frost is out and about in society, having fun, pressing the flesh, his faithful support unit of three people providing good backup, coming into his own in a duel of wills with the wily ex-President Nixon (played by Frank Langella). The movie Nixon felt jarring at first but Langella felt like he disappeared into the role the more fce time he got in the film. The real interview has some iconic moments and those can be copied into the drama which simultaneously adds authenticity and intensity to the situation. Like Moon, what matters is the one on one interpersonal connection, but the former is introverted and mostly restrained whereas in Frost/Nixon it's more flamboyant.
I semi-regularly read a block written by an autistic person called Amanda. I first learned of her a few years ago because of a short video she made to demonstrate her internal language. I had essentially subscribed to the high-functioning vs low-functioning scale for autism and her videos and writing promptly shattered that preconception. In those terms she'd be considered quite low-functioning - she is non-verbal, needs living assistance and so on - but it's obvious that she is highly intelligent, rational and empathic, quite possibly moreso than me in each of these. She's written about the way autistic people are implicitly expected to fit into the way neurotypical people perceive them, and are blamed when those perceptions turn out to be incomplete or just plain wrong.
This particular post not only made me realise how lucky I am not to be in this situation but also scared me because I'm not sure I have the fortitude to survive if I did have to go through this in the future.
Warning: This may be triggering for people who live with chronic pain or a chronic disability, or matters related to dissociation.
Her recent post, The Summer Thing struck me as an especially good example of how difficult it must be to understand what is happening to you, and to make others understand your situation, if your model of the world and your own place in it is so thoroughly different.