Archive for March, 2007

Fluffmaster Dubya

I got nothin today. Even after getting all over Wayne to update his blog. What a loser.

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3 vs 2 vs 2 vs 2 vs 2 vs 1

Most everybody ditched on Wayne’s LAN party last weekend, most with notice–which is absolutely fine–but some with none at all. Sure, it was just a BYOPC geek party, but Wayne spent weeks planning and setting up, and disappearing without so much as a simple “can’t make it” email is just lame.

But I digress big time.

We had 5 people at our peak, which put us firmly in the mini-party bracket. Still a ton of fun, of course, but gameplay is a bit different with a smaller crowd.

  • Far Cry:
    CTF maps were a bit large for both 2 vs 2 and 2 vs 3 action, but both were certainly doable. With uneven teams, it seemed more balanced with 2 defending and 3 attacking. Deathmatch maps were about right, though, and weren’t nearly as crazy as they are with 12 or more goons running around with pigstickers and autopoppers in hand. They also gave me a chance to do more boat jumps and 360 spins and whatnot at a time before gettin’ blowed away.
  • Call of Duty:
    We were evenly matched at 2 on 2 for this game, so everything was fairly balanced. Search and destroy matches were a bit too quick, but behind enemy lines maps were perfect. Well, the gameplay was, at least, but there was seldom any place to hole up in the maps we chose.
  • Enemy Territory:
    Nobody seems to like having to actually team up and solve objectives at LAN parties. Bunch of schmucks.
  • F.E.A.R. Combat:
    We were trying to run this one 2 vs 1, but gameplay was abysmal at best. Big maps and lots of ridiculous one-shot-kill weapons make it impossible for the lone man to do anything, including getting anywhere near the good guns. Deathmatch would probably have been much better.

Hopefully I’ll be able to straighten out my basement to such a degree that I can host another one at my place soon. It’s been nearly three years since my last shindig, and I’m definitely looking forward to attending a party to which I don’t have to lug all my heavy crap.

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Molly

Mom would be 60 today. Happy Birthday.

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Wha??

Watch out, cause I’m gonna say frack…

  1. Judge Julius told me today that the judging for the writing workshop scholarship is behind schedule, and that a winner hasn’t yet been named. And I was all nutty scampers in the head all week for nothing.
  2. Watched 300 tonight. Oh my. Not oh my bad because I definitely enjoyed it… more like oh my intense. That’s it. It’s visually intense even when there’s nothing going on. Surprisingly enough for a movie that features so many decapitations, skewerings, tauntings and whatnot, nothing goes on for a good portion of the rolling time. One more beheading or festering mutant parade would have probably evened out the action for me.
  3. Most folks ditched Wayne’s LAN party this weekend. Just a bad time for scheduling, I guess. There will just be 4 of us in the morning, but that number will swell to a whopping 6 when my boss and my coworker Sam show up later on. I wanted my boss to meet Wayne at some point in case a job ever opened up in our department. Wayne’s a very bright and capable guy, and he’s mentally more flexible than me in some ways. I think he’d do really well in a job that actually paid him what he’s worth but I’m not sure I could pry him away from the college campus, which is an environment in which he’s always wanted to work. Long as he’s happy I won’t meddle too much I guess.

Night. I’m beat.

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Snot Swaddler

OK, so I’m a little pink baby swaddled in his own selfishness, self-pity and snot.

I’ve been moping around for days about the whole assuming-defeat-and-not-being-informed-otherwise thing with the writers’ conference I wanted to attend. I’ve been in a bad mood this whole time and I haven’t been able to stop wondering why Judge Julius won’t return my emails about the conference. I’ve checked my mail about 35 times today already because, even though I know in my heart I didn’t make the scholarship, the lack of closure has got me all crazy in the head. I even moved all my inbox stuff into an archive folder so my new email would show up quicker after a refresh. Plus it’s hard to miss new mail in an otherwise empty inbox.

As soon as I got all that cleared out I polled the mailserver again and–bink!–there was the email that’s changed my whole outlook.

It wasn’t from Julius or the writing workshop folks, though. It was from a guy I used to do improv comedy with, and somebody I’d probably even consider a friend. He’s got three sons now (I only met the oldest, and he was a foot long and curly at the time) and the newest arrival, whose name is Feller, has been in and out of the hospital with the respiratory problem that’s so dangerous to infants. Bob and his wife have been stretched long and far over the past few months taking care of the boys (and trying to take care of themselves), and his email was a call-in of all the favors his friends and family have offered since Feller was born.

The asking for help wasn’t really the thing that twisted my guts and made me feel like such a schmo, but rather the subject of the plea: something better to eat than macaroni and cheese once in a while. Spank. Life is a lot rougher for Bob than it is for me if he doesn’t have time to make anything more complicated than a presto-magic-whip-it-up-quick meal. Thanks to my wife I’ve been eating like a king for 11 years and, no matter how bad I thought my life was, I always had good food, a loving wife and someplace to sleep. That’s not to say that Bob is homeless or has a crappy wife, though. Home and spouse are both good. It’s just… what is it? It’s a life in constant near-crisis is what it is, and Bob and his wife are making it through without all the drama and hysterics that I would bring to the table under such circumstances.

So I need to just go ahead and shut up, I reckon, about this whole writing workshop deal. Burt, one of the network guys at my office, sent me a nice email the other day, and it’s a bit of good advice that I really should take:

Don’t cry little baby. You cry like a little gurl! HAha…little gurl!!!!1!”

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Totally and Completely Crushed

I’ve been working on a couple of long-format science fiction stories on and off for the past several years, but have only in the last six months become really serious about finishing them or dreaming (beyond hope?) about laying the foundations for a new career as a novelist.

In recent history my work life has actually been one of the biggest boosts to my writing life. I couldn’t find the creative job I had imagined for myself after finally getting my bachelor’s at the end of 2005 (Mass Communication, Middle America State University, cum laude even!), though I spent nearly four months actively trying to find it. Back when I was doing the Internet marketing development thing I had a lot of satisfaction with where I was and where I thought I was headed. At the same time, though, I knew I wasn’t creating anything upon which I’d ever be able to prop my feet; whatever mediocre talent I had was being spent on somebody else. That it went toward making scads of money for my employer wasn’t really a problem since I wanted it to do the same for me, but I was always strangely jealous of the time and effort the company “stole” from me. I got paid pretty well, sure, but around 2004 the pay started losing ground as a “good enough” factor for me. I’ve never had aspirations of running my own business or anything like that, but I really started feeling the need to build something–in the creative sense–for myself. Problem was, I came home so mentally exhausted every day that there was no way in the world I could even think of writing or repairing my butt-ugly website or anything else of that nature during my downtime. Ever. So, after I finished my re-education and found that my “dream job” didn’t exist… and after the couple weeks of second-guessing my decision to become a software loadtester instead of something better suited to my perceived abilities… I started settling back into the work-eat-sleep pattern with which I had become so accustomed. It didn’t take long to realize, though, that even after a long day at the office the part of my brain that can create (and wants very much to do so) was–shocker!–not tired and cranky and fed up! So… short story long, late last year I started writing again in earnest.

I discovered at some point that my friend Julius, a big director/producer/digital effects guy here in Middle America, was (on top of everything else) also a very talented writer. He propped me up but good with some encouraging words and started talking about a writers’ workshop with which he’s been involved for many years. It really looked like a pretty good program and I was excited to attend, but it was too expensive in terms of dollars and time away from the job hunt to be a viable option for me last year. I learned they had full-pay scholarships available for first-time attendees, and so I decided the best way to get in this year would be to win that. It’s a ten day event but since it spans across two weekends and Memorial Day I would only have to take 5 days off work to go. That’s half my vacation time for the year, but it seemed worthwhile considering all that I stood to gain from the [potentially free] seminars and lectures.

And so it was that I worked my butt off to polish the first chapter of my current novel, Project One, the name of which serves double duty in meaning, in order to meet the scholarship submission deadline this past February. I made myself physically sick with worry over it and even missed a couple days of work so I could finish in time. It didn’t surprise me, though, that as soon as I overnighted my finished package to the judging committee the deadline was extended by two weeks. It also didn’t surprise me that they lost my entry for a few days. Why? Because I was confident I would win, and bad things always happen before the good… right? That’s how my mother always felt, anyway, and it seemed she was usually right about those kinds of things. There was nothing to do but wait at that point, and since the winner notification date got pushed back along with the submission deadline there was a whole lot of waiting to be done.

So I waited and waited and waited, and the knots in my stomach got bigger and tighter and more clearly visible from the outside every day. As my wife would say, I had knots that gave birth to knots. Every time I got done waiting, it was time to wring my hands a few times and then wait some more.

The notification day was supposed to be Monday, but here it is Wednesday and I haven’t heard anything. I can only assume this means I lost, but along with being totally and completely crushed I’m also aggravated beyond measure that the losers weren’t contacted as well. As fellow writers, the committee should understand what an investment we applicants each have in our stories, and the eagerness with which we submitted them in the first place. Simply put, this was a very big deal to me, and I’m confused and disappointed by the sounds of silence. Nothing from Julius, either, who was one of the judges again this year. He did ask a question a few weeks ago about my going even if I didn’t win, though, and at the time I sort of took it as an indication that he felt I wouldn’t be getting the scholarship. They say the waiting is the worst part, but I think waiting unnecessarily trumps everything else. The conflict between hoping for victory and assuming loss is terrible, and I just wish I could have the bad news already. This stinks. Actually, this fracking stinks.

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FW: Help

This is an actual email chain-let between my boss and me. Oh, and also a test of the post-by-email feature…

________________________________

From: Lee Snidely
Sent: Monday, March 12, 2007 8:39 AM
To: Eugene Beauchamp-Simmons
Subject: RE: Help

Please forward to support. Thank you.

-The Management

______________________________

From: Eugene Beauchamp-Simmons
Sent: Monday, March 12, 2007 8:06 AM
To: Lee Snidely
Subject: Help

I died and went to hell and then escaped and then died and went there again and then I escaped again but that time it was just a trick and I only thought I escaped so I’m really in hell still but they have terminals and stuff so I can write this help message.

Eugene Beauchamp-Simmons

Ed.: the email posting worked, but visible linefeed markers were left all over the place. Kinda bummed I had to edit them out. Also a bit let down that html emails don’t work. Will probably be looking to recode or find a ready-made replacement for this feature. Also, Ed didn’t write this. It was me. I don’t even know an Ed.

- Ed.

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Going Legit

Last year my church offered a co-ed Bible study on the topic of financial stewardship which covered giving, investing, deficit spending and the correct perspective toward work. It was a fantastic study and my wife and I really enjoyed spending that time together, but what affected me the most during those weeks was a casual question the teacher (one of my better friends, and to whom I’ll refer from here on out as Axel) raised one night: should a thief be trusted with money?

That question made me feel uneasy right away but, as I’ll admit to a certain callousness toward introspective criticism, I just brushed it off. I wasn’t a thief, after all. I was a good person. Except… how many CDs borrowed from friends or the library had I ripped? And how many had I downloaded via bit torrent or–back in the day–Napster? How many computer games had I downloaded and played without ever buying? What about other software? Operating systems, even? But, like I said, I really, really wasn’t a thief. I had never stolen a car, for example, or broken into anybody’s house. So no biggie. I figured the software companies charged way too much anyway, and since I didn’t see any starving record execs on the street there wasn’t really much harm in the lightweight shenanigans up to which I had been.

As the days slipped by, though, that initial feeling of unease came back, and soon it grew too strong to ignore. Axel has a way with words, and I’ve often found myself thinking about something he’s said even if I disagreed with him initially. I began wondering, from a purely human perspective, and ignoring the intangible concept of the soul, how much I was worth. They say everybody has a price, and I realized mine was something in the neighborhood of ten bucks, or maybe even less, because that’s how much any of the CDs I ripped-slash-stole would have cost me at the used music place. But really, since most people know I have pretty crappy taste in music, actual market value might have been just a few cents on some of those discs. So I wasn’t a thief, I reckoned, unless the item in question cost more than a nickel or two. That’s no good. I once heard the street value for all the chemicals and minerals and whatnot in the human body was around $38 (but does that include the bottled water?), and I decided right then not to be worth more dead than alive. I was going to go legit, dang it!

I threw out all my “undocumented” software, including:

  • The Macromedia suite (Flash, DW, etc.)
  • Photoshop (sob)
  • Vegas Video
  • Windows 98
  • Windows 2000
  • Windows XP Pro (the one with the corp key you know by heart)
  • Office Pro two-thousand-and-something
  • Battlefield 2
  • Thief 2
  • Maya
  • Various SoundForge apps
  • Various commercial MPEG encoders/utilities
  • FruityLoops
  • Several Sims 1 expansion packs
  • A disc full of apps like Bryce and Poser (very old, but still)
  • Some Mac OSes
  • CoolEdit Pro and various plugins
  • VMWare Workstation 4 (but now server is free!!!)
  • Nero 7
  • WinRAR
  • Much more I’m not remembering on the fly

And replaced them with:

  • Two purchased upgrade copies of WinXP (Pro for me, Home for the wife; fortunately I had a legit copy of NT workstation, and a friend of mine gave me his old copy of ME, so both of those upgraded nicely)
  • The free version of Nero that came with one of my burners
  • 7-Zip
  • OpenOffice
  • The Gimp (still struggling to be effective with this one)
  • VMWare Server

I’m still looking for a user-friendly looper/tracker that can be had cheaply or for free, and I’ll probably also want to get back into editing old digital8 footage on something similar to Vegas… but, again, it has to be cheap or free.

I also made a point to delete all the MP3s I don’t rightfully own. That hasn’t been accomplished yet because my file server has been down for an eternity. Once Henry is back up, though, it’ll be a huge undertaking to weed through all that stuff.

I already feel better–if not poorer–about my decision to go legit, but I know it will always be a struggle. There will always be those gray areas, like at the LAN party my friend… uh… Wayne… yeah, that’ll be his name… is about to throw. If I don’t own one of the games he’s hosting, he’ll be sure to have a copy I can use for the day, complete with crack or auto-generated license code. On one hand, if I delete the game right after the party is over I’ll feel like I’ve skirted my obligation to pay for high-quality and entertaining software, and on the other, $45 – $55 is an awful lot of money to pay for (ostensibly) one day’s enjoyment. Of course, I’d have a legitimate copy of that game next time around… and I do like playing shooters from time to time… so I’d have it to enjoy whenever I wanted. I did find a review of a site that supposedly rents PC video games, but at a starting price of $14.95/month for one game at a time, I would have to be going to an awful lot of LAN parties. Axel’s at most of those parties… I wonder what he would think about all of this? Or about the manly name I gave him?

Part 2 of this series is here.

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Out of Context

Danny: I like being surprised from behind
Lynn: it just burns on the right side.
Lynn: I don’t want to be beaten or mutilated
Joe: it crashed when it saw me naked
Eugene: we can get the beans off the wall too

I love instant messaging. These are actual snippets from conversations of which I’ve been either part or privy. Three fish tacos authenticos to whoever can correctly identify the contexts from which each were taken.

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Cocktail on the Big White Bed

My friend Sam, from work, was in Las Vegas with his wife this week, and from what I understand he treated her to a heaping dose of surprising (but delightful) spontaneity while there.

Example: Sam listened to a two-hour spiel about a timeshare at Alan Thicke’s Tahiti Village in order to get cheap tickets to a show with an unpronounceable name and acts ranging from a hula-hooping “schoolgirl” to gay cagefighting. I’m not sure why he chose not to part with the $26 grand, though… that’s a whole week in Vegas he’s going to miss out on every year.

Example: he took his wife to a standing-room-only show (on whether or not it was the gay cagefighting one I didn’t ask clarification) that had, right at the front, a roped-off and unpopulated VIP section containing plush couches and a big white bed. Asking around, he discovered that by merely buying some champagne from the bar they would be admitted to that lotusland for Vegas showgoers. So, purchasing a $500 bottle (plus a beer, just for class), he scored some good seats up front where the waitresses were hot and the only discomfort was from the angry stares of the lesser folk outside the velvet bonds of his luxury nest.

From what I gather, what happens in Vegas happened to Sam. Plus I reckon his wife had a good time too.

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