With my last post being on February 26th, meaning that it has been over two weeks since my last post, I guess you can say that I went dark, or underground.  Of course, prolonged absences are not unusual for me and my weblog.  I’ve done months before.  But sometimes things happen…

So what happened?

Well, I got a job.  Nice place, good work.  I’m back at a small company again, and let me say that after four years working at BellSouth/AT&T I don’t think I ever want to go back to a giant corporation again.  Too much politics and middle management.  Don’t get me wrong, I loved my work, and the immediate team of people I worked with, and at the end of every segment of the project when the people who had been giving us hell and ulcers for months finally broke down and said they liked the work and looked forward to using it and copious rounds of attaboys for all it was sweet… but the bureaucracy of meetings and playing the blame game and jockeying around all the folks who want to make sure they get all of the credit with none of the responsibility… well… to be blunt, fuck that.  There are only so many times you can have someone hand you a problem they spent no time looking into and after you spend a few hours or days digging through it you discover that not only is it not your responsibility but that the only person with the ability and authority to fix it is the guy who passed it to you before you want to strangle someone.  But I’m out of that now, and I hope never to go back.  Getting a new job, though, does mean a bit of a learning curve as I feel out the new folks and the new company, get up to speed on the products and projects, so the first couple or three weeks are always a bit of a cram-fest.  After nearly four months of being unemployed, working feels good, especially in this economy.

On a non-work related note, a place where I normally hang out has become a place I don’t want to hang out anymore.  Have you ever had a group of people that you liked to be around, except for one guy?  Its always that one guy, the one who seems to want to be a part of the group, but doesn’t seem to know how to do it.  He joins in every conversation and drives everyone away, or into fits of anger, as he insists that he knows more or better than everyone else, despite repeated showings that he clearly does not.  Well, one of my favorite places to go has one of those guys, and in the past I have had varying levels of success in just ignoring him or putting up with his crap, but recently he just pushed a few too many of my buttons a few too many times, and as much as I love the rest of the people I just can’t handle the anger and frustration that I feel in having to deal with this monumental douchebag on a daily basis.  So, my choices are to continue to go there and feel pissed off all the time, or stop going.  It is depressing.  Perhaps I’ll return there after a nice long stay away.

All in all, however, life is good.  And I’ll be back to posting more soon enough.  I’m even going to bring back movie reviews since my idea for doing a movie review site didn’t really pan out like I hoped.  You’d think being unemployed would equate to having more free time… but looking for a job in a shitty economy is hard work and more thoroughly exhausting than actually having a job.

Zombie Day at the Mall

It has been a while since I posted something for Zombie Wednesdays, and I hope with this post I am beginning a trend of doing so.

I am, by all accounts, a t-shirt and jeans sort of guy.  T-shirt and shorts in the summer.  I really don’t like dressing up nice because I find most “nice” clothes to be uncomfortable, especially anything with a tie.  Wearing a tie is like voluntarily placing a noose around your neck… but I digress…

Knowing my love for zombies, and probably suspecting my love for t-shirts, a friend of mine sent me a link to this:

Zombie Day at the Mall t-shirt @
Zombie Day at the Mall t-shirt design @ ©

And that is just all kinds of awesome.  As soon as I find a spare twenty bucks, that beauty will be on its way to my door.

The Rocker

11 out of 13 nots
for making me want to start a rock band

The Rocker is the story of Robert ‘Fish’ Fishman.  He was the drummer in a rock band named Vesuvius, until he was kicked out.  Twenty years later, his nephew’s band needs a drummer to play their prom gig.  From there we follow Fish as he is once again in a band on the rise.

When I first heard about this movie, I was worried it was going to be ninety minutes of “the old guy” being crazy and gross before ending with some sort of heart warming ending.  Thankfully, while there are some crazy gross old guy moments they are few, and the movie is genuinely funny.

I really enjoyed it alot, and I suppose it helps that I am already a fan of Teddy Geiger, so I liked the music quite a bit.

Definitely worth seeing.

Everything I Needed to Know, I Learned from Video Games

This month’s Round Table is about learning from video games.  The truth is that I actually learned quite a bit from video games.  From things as simple as Math Blaster forcing me to be able to do math fast enough to win, to budget management in games like Sim City, to teamwork and risk versus reward evaluation in EverQuest.  Games can teach quite a bit, in many cases they teach the same way life teaches: through experience.  You do, you learn.

Of course, not everything you do in games is a quality learning experience, and some games are best approached as a game only and not a lesson to be learned.  For example, no matter how many Grand Theft Auto games come out, hopefully no one “learns” that killing hookers is a decent source of cash.

The title of this entry is moderately tongue in cheek… because, obviously, I didn’t learn everything I needed to know from video games.  I learned plenty of things from TV, movies, comic books and an old homeless Navy man named Morty.

I’m kidding about the homeless guy… or am I?

But what exactly could I pretend I learned from video games?

Dungeon Keeper taught me that I can get more work from people if I beat them, but that beating them costs moral and breaks their spirits, so while they may work faster, they won’t respect me or be loyal.  Sim City showed me how to balance a budget, and understand that no matter how great things were, Godzilla might still come and destroy everything.  EverQuest taught me to be nice to people in random encounters because you never know when someone you chose to shit on is going to be the recruiting officer of that guild you want to join, or when its going to be that guy who you helped get his corpse back when no one else would.  Burnout Paradise showed me that you can work hard, pay attention, and be great, but the cross traffic at the intersections are still going to get you now and then.  Playing almost any console game online has made me understand the importance of preparation, because there is nothing more frustrating than playing with someone who jumped online and into your room as his first action, without even knowing how the controls work.  King’s Quest III taught me the importance of semantics by only allowing certain words, conjugations and word combinations to mean anything, everything else was frustration.  Warlords, and many other turn based and real time strategy games, showed me the importance of production schedules and how to think ahead before committing to decisions.  And Dead Rising taught me that when the zombie hordes come, everything is a weapon.

Of course, little of that is strictly true.  I don’t have any fantastic story about how a game helped me overcome dyslexia or cure cancer, but I do feel that games have, throughout my life, helped encourage and reinforce certain aspects of my education.  And I think that almost any game has that potential, given the right context and perhaps a guiding voice (of a teacher or parent).  Sometimes, though, games simply provided a break from learning, a rest for my brain, so that I could attack learning again later with renewed vigor.

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The Best of Both Worlds

In most fantasy based MMOs these days (and even in most non-fantasy based ones), there are only three functions a player performs at the root: take/absorb damage, deal damage, heal damage.  Most games also usually have one class that is designed to exclusively do one of those tasks.  A warrior tanks, a cleric heals, a wizard or rogue does damage.  Then we introduce the hybrids and controversy ensues.

In real life, at a real job, it is perfectly respectable to have people who specialize in small skill sets working alongside people who have two or three lesser specialties, not to the depth or quality of the single set specialist.  I’ve encountered this in my own life, worked with a guy who was aces at building databases and understanding database structure however his every attempt to ever do user interface work not only looked horrible but failed to function.  I’ve also worked with people who can build the most beautiful web pages but couldn’t properly lay out a database design to save their lives.  Personally, I live somewhere in the middle, I generally do all of programming work from UI to database with a decent degree of competency.  I’m not the best at any of it, but I do all of it well enough.  Usually in a work environment, its best to have a team built mostly of specialists with one or more generalists to support everyone else and to translate and transition work between the specialists.  See, when the UI guru and the DB savant get into a knock down drag out over design, I’m the guy who knows enough about both to be able to talk to both of them and make them see that they are actually agreeing with each other, but using different terms, or to make simple suggestions for both sides to bring them to a point where the work can get done.

In game design, this is where the hybrid should be.  He should be a mix of tanking, healing and damage dealing, any two or all three, to various levels but never as good as the single focus classes.  Hybrids should also be rare, and largely confined to group settings, because the whole point of the hybrid is that he supports other classes in doing their work by picking up slack or boosting just a little.  The problem, of course, is that hybrids are often more dynamic, by design, than the single focus classes, and so they attract more players.  While many people are content to be a specialist in real life, in gaming they want to be able to do everything, on one character.  So you end up with a bunch of people playing Paladins because they want to tank and heal, but then they complain when they do neither of them as well as warriors or priests.

So, what’s the solution?  Is there one?  Does it need one?

I’ve got no answer to those questions… but maybe other people do, and I would love to hear them.

Hey You!

Yeah… you, the guy who just quit out of our Burnout Paradise Freeburn.  Look, I know you want to get all 350 of the Freeburn Challenges completed, we all do, but some of us don’t quit just because the guy in charge picked a challenge we’ve done before.  Hang around and chat and have some fun instead of being the assbag everyone is now calling you because you quit.

You do realize that we talk about you when you leave, right?

Yeah, and some of us even rate you poorly on Xbox Live.  Ever wondered why your carefully crafted star rating is suddenly plummeting?  Yeah, that’d be us.

If we confronted you, you might try some excuse like, “I had to take a break from gaming” but we know you’d be lying, because, Xbox Live lets you see all the people you’ve recently played with on your friends list, so we can see that you dropped our game, without a word I might add, and hopped in to another game, because the list shows that not only are you playing Burnout Paradise still, but you are Freeburning (and it even gives us an option to join the session you are in, not that we would, because you are probably just going to leave again).

So, next time, how about not being a cock and sticking around to play.  You might even try asking the host to pick particular challenges.  You never know, he might listen.

Rest Stop

5 out of 13 nots
for Confusing Yet Stupid Twists and Unneeded Characters

Rest Stop is supposed to be a horror film, but in the end its just a mildly disgusting film that leaves you saying, “What exactly did I just watch?” The 5 out of 13 I’m giving it is generous, it would be a 4, perhaps even a 3, but it had naked boobs in it, and they were kinda nice. Be warned though, I watched the unrated version, so view the regular version at your own risk because it may not even have the boobs. Overall, still not worth the time.

More after the break.

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National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets

12 out of 13 nots
for Excitingly Questionable Accuracy and Fun

Much like the first movie, they take a bunch of historical facts, throw in a bunch of historical sounding fiction, make a few conspiratorial leaps and run with it. If you liked the first one, you’ll love the second one. More after the break. Oh, and spoilers too.

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Some time later this evening, shortly after eight I think, I will have officially survived thirty-three years of life.

Yay me.

I’m not the kind of guy who believes in omens, or the kind to prophetically announce that this will finally be the year that Fink beats the Stomach, but I do honestly believe that things have to change. I am officially a job burnout. One thing I have prided myself on over the years (well, at least after high school) is my work ethic. I go by the following rules:

  1. A job worth doing is worth doing well.
  2. A job that pays a decent wage is worth doing.
  3. If I accept the job for the offered wage, it must be a decent wage.

By those rules, if I take a job for the money they offer, I’m going to do the best job I can. Right now, though, I am just going through the motions, doing enough work to not get yelled at. I am Peter Gibbons. Even worse, I have noticed myself engineering situations with coworkers to properly lower their expectations so that I can do even less work.

Its a bad situation all around, and honestly its not because I care about the company I’m contracted at, it is because at the end of the day I am disappointed in myself. Add to that, I am officially thirty-three pounds overweight. Maybe I need to be putting a little more stock in these omens and signs and stuff.

My general down turn of attitude has also crept into other aspects of my life. I want a new job, but getting a new job takes effort and I’ve been avoiding it. I have at least a dozen unfinished projects around the house that could have easily been finished by now. I’m sure there is more, but I don’t have the energy to do a full self evaluation right now.

So, my goals for thirty-three:

  • Stop being a lazy shit and get my work ethic back.
  • Stop being a lazy shit and exercise to get my waistline back.
  • Stop being a lazy shit and find a new job that engages and excites me.
  • Stop being a lazy shit and finish some of these projects around the house.

I’m seeing a theme here… guess its time to stop being a lazy shit.

I Am Legend

Normally, I am not a vampire guy. Except as bad guys. That whole Anne Rice immortally tortured gay blood sucker thing just put me right off. About the only time I have ever liked a vampire as the hero has been the TV show Angel.

Luckily for me, Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend isn’t about do-gooder or tortured vampires.

The story tackles an idea normally reserved for zombie movies, what if the world were overrun by vampires. A virus of some sort has swept the world and slowly the world succumbed. There are two kinds of vampires, dead ones and live ones, but there is only one man left. Robert Neville is the last man on Earth, and with no end in site, with everyone he loved gone, for some reason he just won’t give up. He keeps garlic on his doors and windows by night and goes out for supplies and to kill sleeping vampires by day.

Given the bleak subject matter, its a true testament to Matheson’s writing that the story doesn’t spiral into a morose somber mess. Instead there is an odd sense of hope, and even humor, in Robert Neville’s life. The end left me a little wanting, I understand what Matheson was doing there, but some part of me just felt a little… cheated. But the rest of the book is good enough that I’ll forgive him.

If you don’t care to read the book, it has been made into a movie a number of times in the past, although always under another name (The Last Man on Earth starring Vincent Price and The Omega Man starring Charlton Heston directly, and I’m sure the story influenced quite a few other films), but this year we’ll see a more direct adaptation in I Am Legend starring Will Smith. I suspect it will deviate from the book much like Mr. Smith’s previous I, Robot did. But I would still recommend reading the book.