Saturday With Harold

Star wars pezStar Wars Pez Dispensers

On Saturday, Harold and I went out to Winston-Salem to pick up some Star Trek toys communicators. Apparently there still are some Trek collectibles that he doesn’t own! He’d dome some kind of trade with the shop owner at Heroes Con, where he swapped some of the nerd paraphernali  he didn’t want for the kind of nerd paraphernalia he does want. Somehow he did not actually end up with more space, but he was pretty pleased with his new toys.

Then we stopped at the bookstore. Sure, I have about a dozen eARCs on my Kindle, but a couple months ago, a friend from Fortnite got me into audiobooks for the long drive. After GoT, I’ve listened to The Hunger Games, because obvious, and Citizen Girl (a lovely Manhattan story, although I deeply disagreed with the portrayal of game developers). This time, I picked up Chasing Harry Winston and Operation Mincemeat. (If you’re a history reader at all, check out The Man Who Never Was, a very readable account of Operation Mincemeat.)  I had a small credit from the last time I sold some books I didn’t want anymore, somehow I did not actually end up with more space.

I was happy to bump into some friends from Fortnite at the bookstore, too! Even though I just love teaching the YD kids game design, I miss my team at the game studio. Plus, it was funny to run into friends in a city where none of us live.  (Look, Harold, I called Greensboro a city without putting mock-quotes around it!) (But I totally typed it in an ironic tone.)

And I got to explain that we were just, you know,  driving across the state to get Harold some Star Trek communicators. As one does on a Saturday.

Busy Person’s Correspondence Card

 

NYC cards page #1Love this amazing old postcard I found. The concept of this low-tech, automated message is amusing, and some of the options are just delightful.

I’ve found myself in a lot of interesting little secondhand shops since Harold and I started spending time together. Also, I know a lot more about vintage Star Trek figures now. These are not entirely unrelated facts.

Meteolojinx Recanto

I wrote this a while ago, right after it happened, but I thought it was too negative, and didn’t post it. Recently, I got into a discussion about whether we’d recommend our rental company to friends, and I had to admit that no, whenever we have to deal with this company, it starts a serious talk about buying a house.  I’ve rented happily for more than ten years in different cities, and we’re now in a beautiful apartment, in a lovely building, where all the other residents own their apartment.

I was originally going to write about a nice day at work and a peaceful evening at home with Harold.  But that evening, after he’d shut off the Star Trek we were watching (see previous re: “at home with Harold”), we heard a strange noise… which turned out to be water dripping through the ceiling onto the washing machine. This is not a sound that is immediately identifiable, since washing machines are not typically outdoor furniture.

Harold went to alert our upstairs neighbour that it was raining in our apartment, and probably not benefiting her floors any, and she called the building emergency number, and went through a long phone tree where she pinky-swore that it was a real emergency, and we really, really did need an after-hours maintenance visit.  No luck. As we waited for them to call,  Harold, our neighbour and I all talked about how great it was that in two apartments full of books, no one’s books got wet. (Now that I have a Kindle, the physical books I own all have emotional significance for me, and it would have been really sad to lose any of them.)

Maintenance called the next day, saying that since we weren’t calling for a real emergency, they’d try to come back sometime soon, if they could get around to it. Look, I’m not a repair expert, but if water coming through the ceiling isn’t a maintenance emergency, I am pretty curious about what that emergency would be.

When the crew came, they discovered that we hadn’t actually heard the water coming through until it had filled the light fixture, and started to drip down. And I guess the light was turned on, although it wasn’t exactly emitting any light, just charging all the water in the light fixture!

I wasn’t actually watching when the crew poured out a ceiling light full of hot water, and I wasn’t the person who took the rusted lightbulb down. But I am pretty sure this isn’t a healthy lightbulb.

IMAG2328

They promised to be back right away to deal with the rusty wires hanging from the ceiling (also not an emergency), and they were super sorry about that potential for electrocution. I shrugged.

“Hey, Harold,” I said, after the crew had left, “Did I ever tell you about the time I had an extension cord running through my shower?

 

Responsible Adult

After a pretty endless slog, Harold got some good career news yesterday, and so I stopped on the way home to buy a nice bottle for a toast, like adults do.  Anyway, I picked out a nice prosecco for Harold, and they also had a sweet red wine that makes a good sangria, and a moscato on sale, and you know what? I’m not going to explain myself. Wine is sold in cases, people have entire wine cellars, I don’t have to explain why I was buying multiple bottles of wine. I’m an adult and I can do what I like.

I should probably mention here that I look a great deal younger than I am, and I get carded fairly regularly, and every so often, the person checking my ID will take it all very seriously, carefully scrutinizing my license and sometimes calling for a manager. The most annoying part is that in North Carolina, a round of slow and predictable smalltalk is required here. I smile agreeably each time while an unhurried cashier comes to the inevitable conclusion that I certainly do look younger than my age and it must be so nice to look so young. (I miss New York,  where people assume that other people have places to be.)

So anyway, I was in the midst of convincing the cashier that I’m totally an adult and to please sell me lots of wine when I heard someone call my name, and there was one of my little students, excited to run into me and say hi.

Role model for the children, that’s me.

Blog Birthday

April makes ten years that I’ve been blogging, which is longer than I’ve done just about anything. I even blogged from behind the Great Firewall of China for two of those ten years.

In honor of my decade writing my thoughts to the internet, I wandered through a lot of my old posts, and was sort of amused by what had changed. Ten years ago, I was studying classics and hoping it would turn into a career of reading Roman history all day.  I got classical history questions at work, and in class. Still really love Rome, would still happily read about the Romans all day. I just started rewatching I, Claudius and it’s still great. I’m not saying Harold wasn’t interested in British Roman backstabbery, but he wandered off for a snack during “don’t touch the figs”. I’m hoping he’ll come back when Captain Sejanus is onscreen.

I barely remember seeing Troy, but when I reread this post about how awful I thought Troy was, I suddenly remembered writing it, while sitting in the room I shared with Kristine at Castle Von Hoffman, and that made me really happy.

Ten years ago, I really didn’t have patience for kids. Still don’t. One of the nice things about being over 30 is that now when I say that I love kids but don’t want any,  people rarely tell me I’ll change my mind when I’m older. Of course, I sometimes have to hear how few years of fertility I have left before barren tragedy sets in, so there’s that.

Ten years ago, I’d just started driving, and I was quite upset when I got pulled over for nervously driving exactly the speed limit. I’ve become a bit more comfortable with driving over the last decade, but this was not the last time the boys in blue would stop me to ask why I was so nervously obeying all traffic laws. As I’ve gotten older though, I’ve been harassed less and less when I get pulled over for driving suspiciously, and in the south, this ends with polite wishes to have a nice day, ma’am.

Ten years ago, I thought it might be interesting to write a little bit about some computer games. Just, you know, for fun sometimes. Not even remotely expecting that anything would come of it.

Video Game Industry Rant — luckysipe’s old man blog

Harold has a good post up about monetizing in games, and I wanted to share it here:

So, I was at a game demo event a couple of years ago in NYC. This sort of thing was mostly attended by indie folks and folks in the industry but there was also a number of people from various VC firms there as well.

A developer went through a pretty successful demo, he had the room, he a sour-faced VC stood up and asked, “This is all fine but how does it monetize?”

The developer was quick to answer that he was focused on making a fun game and that concern was secondary to him, The room cheered.

I have a BFA and can safely attest to the disdain that most all of modern culture has for the visual arts. That said, there are many avenues for funding artistic projects. Creative Capital being one.

Where does one try and secure funding for gaming projects? VCs. You don’t go into a gaming venture with a creative mission statement but with a strong P&L and business plan.

Maybe this is a bit of the problem with the overall direction of games and the glut of F2P mobile offerings? Where is the support for innovative design takes and risk-takers? There isn’t one. Just live in your parent’s basement and work for nothing to produce an indie game or hit Kickstarter and good luck.

I am happy that there is more discussion about video games as art but until there is actual funding for these endeavors it is hard to see where it is going.

I am not saying MBAs don’t have a place in the industry, I just think that place shouldn’t be the only place in the industry.

via Video Game Industry Rant – 2/6/2014 | luckysipe’s old man blog.

I was at the same gaming demo, a few years ago, and also wrote about the moment when the game dev said he had no plans to monetize.

Local Search Terms

Harold and I are in the car, when I notice a familiar name on a sign.

Meg: Oh, that’s what *local business* is! I’ve been wondering who they are because they follow me on Twitter. I wonder how they found me.
Harold: Does your Twitter bio say Chapel Hill?
Meg: No, of course not.
Harold: Do you tweet about living here?
Meg: Probably, but I don’t imagine I said anything nice.

Adventures, Games, Harold

Sometimes it’s challenging to work in games and have a partner who also works in games. Sometimes the very idea of having two stable game jobs at two different studios in the same city seems completely insane, impossible and ridiculous.

Today, though, Harold came into my study and asked me I was working on. I looked up from my flowcharts and scene breakdowns, and told him.

“Having written entire hidden object games in a weekend,” he said, “I’ll leave you to it.”

Surfer, Muppet, Gun, What?

My App Design 3 students are doing a math-heavy assignment, and as I explained what they were doing, I threw out a couple of Chinese  number handsigns, meant to emphasize that there were 6 sides on a die so 7 would roll an error. Ok, fine, so this math-heavy lesson was helping the kids make a cheat in a dice-rolling app. One of my students asked me what I doing with my hands.

Oh yeah, I said, it’s just a handsign I used for bargaining in Beijing, sorry kids, let’s get back to the app. The kids had a million questions, so I told them about my years in China, and taught them 6 through 10. (That’s Surfer, Muppet, Gun, Fingerpuppet, Fist, if you’re wondering.)  Sometimes I don’t feel like I’ve done very much in in my life, but I just sidetracked my games programming class with expat adventure stories, so, there’s that.

Later that night, I told Harold how funny it was, that I have so internalized the Chinese number handsigns that I used then in class for emphasis and clarity, forgetting that not everyone knows them.

He looked at me weird, and then asked me what number handsigns I was talking about.

Apparently I have been just throwing random hand signs around for years and no one has ever questioned it.

Still Life With Tardis

Harold is at my parents’ house, after driving up for a meeting and then getting caught into the snowstorm. I’m really glad he’s spending the night there, and not on the road in a blizzard, but it’s sad to be in Chapel Hill without him, and it does mean another day without the car for me.

Chapel Hill really requires a car. I got a ride into work, which was awesome, but I can’t just rely on people to drive me around all the time, especially if it’s going to be a couple days and not a one-off favor, so I decided to take the bus back. It’s only 2 buses from my office back to my apartment, and I routinely took more transfers than that in NYC, without even thinking about it. If I could make public transit work out for me, I wouldn’t have to drive and park every day, and that would seriously improve my opinion of this area! I went out to wait for the bus. North Carolina laughed in my face and started snowing.

Also my phone died, taking with it the number of a cab company I’d saved in case my travels didn’t work out, but I can’t reasonably blame that on location.   At the bus stop (which is in the middle of a strip mall parking lot, because North Carolina),  I noticed I was only wearing one earring. It was one of my my 3D-printed Tardis earrings, which I bought from an artist in Seattle, so pretty hard to replace it. Ugh. Losing my favorite earring at that point is exactly the kind of heavy-handed symbolism I would just hate to read.

It was no longer snowing this morning, or even particularly cold out. It’s actually only one bus to my office if I walk a bit first, which is quite nice in the sunshine. I enjoyed walking quickly up the street, and commuting with my Kindle and my coffee, and my bag tucked between my knees. (Because that is how you ride public transportation. You do not take up more than one seat. I’m just saying.) Civis Romanus sum, and all that. 

At work, I pulled on the corduroy blazer I leave in my office (because I’m always chilly, and apparently it’s not professional to curl up in a duvet at my desk), and found my missing Tardis earring in the pocket! It wasn’t really lost! I think I’d slipped it off while on the phone with Harold, finding out that he wasn’t going to make it back last night? And I wasn’t exactly thinking about my earrings then? I’m not totally sure. But it’s here!

So I’m just, you know, sitting at work a couple hours early, taking photos of my earrings. As one does.

I Guess I Could Read The Walltext

I enjoy going to the museum with Harold — I like both Harold and art museums very much — but  we go off in opposite directions immediately. There is almost no overlap in our interests here. I wave him over to look at a Chinese inscription, full of my own cleverness when I can read a bit on an ancient vase. (Actually, ‘reading’ is an exaggeration. The few Chinese words I can recognize — up and big and China and mountain — are the simple ones that haven’t really changed much in centuries, so it’s really just me announcing a few characters I recognize, while pretending to be deciphering ancient wisdom.)

I also call him over to look at classical art, because I need a second opinion on what myth is being depicted. I got through my art-history courses by treating classical iconography like a hidden objects game, and I enjoy it more in a gallery than on an exam. The dude with grapes is probably Dionysus, the lady in a helmet is Athene. White background and lots of reeds? Probably the Reed Painter.  This is apparently less fun to people who did not major in classics.

Harold studied art, instead, and is more interested in modern works. I always ask him about it, because despite boring Harold through the Asian and Ancient wings, I still want to visit the museum together. Then he tries to explain it to me, saying things about form and color and photography freeing art to become less representational, which makes no sense at all. I don’t really get abstract pieces, but if you want to paint blobs and lines and sections of color, why don’t you title it something that hints at the point? Why are these always called things like 27 and Untitled? WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO UNDERSTAND FROM THAT? Where is the narrative? What is happening in this picture? Ugh. Then I get very frustrated because I would really like to be someone who looks at abstract art and says something thoughtful and intelligent, but mostly I think there’s a lot of green in this one.

Strophe and Antistrophe

There is a theme in the tragic Greek myths of repetition. Sisyphus pushing that stupid rock up that stupid hill, and Tantalus thinking that this time he’s really going to get a sip of water. And Prometheus, chained to the rock, feeling his liver regrow every night just so it could be eaten again the next day.

Failing again and failing better is the motto for serial entrepreneurs, for disruptive start ups, for charismatic founders explaining that they built their success by hiring the best and brightest, and creating the space to fail. Failing differently is the keynote takeaway in a Silicon Alley tech summit. Failing the same is Greek tragedy.

I have a rough time with certain aspects of living in Chapel Hill, and there’s a special kind of tragedy in knowing that I have already identified and taken extreme measures to take those things out of my life. Troubleshooting my issues with the state is identifying things I already know, that I already have known (“It’s driving, Meg! You don’t ACTUALLY want everyone in the state to die, you just hate to drive!”), but the possible solutions are things I’ve tried, and failed. (Maybe I’ll work out complicated backroutes to places and only travel at off-peak hours! Maybe I’ll just never leave my house! Maybe I’ll just have Harold drive me everywhere! Maybe one day I’ll just wake up and get over it?) The driving is the worst offended, but the slowness, oh, God, the incredible Southern slowness. And I pinpoint that — Meg, you hate people most when you are waiting for simple things — and I try to solve it. Become more zen about delays. Always bring my Kindle, with some interesting reading on it. Attempt to chat with others about nothing while waiting. Just get over it. Be fully present in the moment, and breathe, and think This is my now, this is what I am doing at this particular moment, this is a moment in my life and I am spending it WAITING FOR THIS IDIOT TO PERFORM AN INCREDIBLY SIMPLE TASK WHAT HAVE I DONE WRONG IN MY LIFE TO BRING ME TO THIS POINT? Some of my attempts are more successful than others.  These are all problems I’ve had before, and solutions I’ve tried before. There are traffic intersections, social interactions, and other problems I can’t master, and I know that my life was happier without struggling with them. I know, because I’ve experienced it before.

Hating the area is strange because other people like living here so much. They are genuinely happy about the weather and the cost of living and the lifestyle. And I’m just not.

I’m constantly reminding myself to make the best of things, to look for something good, to not let my attitude become another obstacle, to change things I can, to focus on what is good. And even this refrain is a solution I’ve tried before.

I’m pretty sure the Greeks were on to something.