Archive for the ‘noodling’ Category

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New Chapter

16 May, 2008

Today was kind of a big day, kind of a sad day. My last day at Rockstar New England (formerly Mad Doc Software). I’m leaving to take a new job at Electronic Arts Vancouver. Yes, big news indeed. For those who knew me in Boston, farewell, and for my friends in Vancouver… I will be kicking you in the shins very soon!

So one chapter is ending, and a new one is beginning. I actually expected the last one to be longer. I didn’t come out to Boston thinking it would only be a year and a bit. It looked like such a good opportunity… an AI position at a company that specialized in AI. For a while, it was great, I was up to my eyeballs in AI problems, and loving it. But I haven’t touched anything AI related in almost 9 months, and there was a big fat nothing on the horizon either… so I had to ask myself, why am I still here? Clearly, it was time to move on.

A friend at work asked me yesterday, what was the one thing I would end up missing the most about the US? Truth is, there is no “thing” I will really miss. Not that I disliked the US… that wasn’t the case at all. Honestly, there are many more things here that are the same than are different. It’s nowhere near as foreign an experience as, say, living in Japan!

But I will miss the people. I had more fun with the people I worked with here than I’ve ever had anywhere else. I can think of times I laughed so hard my stomach ached. I will definitely miss those folks, and I should count myself extraordinarily fortunate if I have half as much fun at EA as I did at Mad Doc/Rockstar.

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The Sky is Falling!

1 November, 2007

I’m already sick of the latest conspiracy theory. You may not have heard of it yet, but it’s gaining steam, so it’s probably only a matter of time before you stumble across it.

You may not have heard. There is a conspiracy of military, corporate and political interests to dissolve the borders between Canada, the US and Mexico, and create a single North American Union under their despotic control. This going on in secret (of course), with the willing collaboration of our elected officials (of course) and the intentional silence of the mainstream media (of course!).

For some people, this will sound like a no-brainer (and ironically, it is). Others may require a bit of evidence. And boy, is there evidence! Website after website containing page after page… of… well… not much evidence at all. I know, I’ve waded through much of it, and it’s a pretty sad state of affairs.

Most of it is pure speculation. It typically starts by pointing out that these talks have gone on in secret. You might rightly ask how, if the talks are held in secret, do the conspiracy theorists know what is going on in them? Hey, Mister, if you’re trying to use logic, you already don’t belong in this crowd. The answer is that they fill in the unknown blanks with pure speculation, which they back up by quoting each other. That’s right, conspiracy theorist A backs up his claims by quoting from conspiracy theorist B, with a link to the website of conspiracy theorist C. As you can imagine, it gets very incestuous, very fast. And it inevatibly ends up involving pictures of the twin towers coming down, because hey, all this shit is interconnected.

The hard part was finding anything at all that came from a valid, verifiable source. Eventually, I found the official website for the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America. It refers to an agreement between the three gov’ts in question, to cooperate on such foul skull-duggery as… combatting avian flu. Real evil stuff.

I even managed to see a copy of the minutes of one of the meetings, obtained through the Access to Information Act. Again, it revealed discussions on such evil-doings as border security and emergency management. Merger of the three nations into one? Nope, not mentioned.

But aha, you say. These traitors would never actually admit to their conspiracy or its aims. Well, to that I say, show me the evidence. You can’t just say that because we can’t see behind this door, that proves there must be a three-headed monster behind it. Until you can actually bring the monster into view, all the wild speculation in the universe isn’t going to convince an intelligent observer.

Because, really, let’s get serious. Let’s imagine that Stephen Harper has worked so hard, for so long, to become the Prime Minister of Canada… only so that he can hand over the keys to the country. If that doesn’t strain your credibility, then try imagining that Jack Layton and the Bloc Quebecois know all about it and are dancing right along with the tune of assimilation into the US. Please tell me that’s hard to believe. Next imagine that the entire mainstream press has agreed to keep it all hush-hush so as not to alarm the masses. Good heavens, if you’ll believe all that, then just give me all your money, and I promise I’ll keep the elves from stealing your tin-foil hat. Might I also recommend the Flat Earth Society?

Might I dare to point out that, if you think war is bad (and it is), then perhaps diplomacy is good? Perhaps it’s a good idea for nations to talk to each other, and where it is beneficial to both nations, to cooperate? Trust me, we want our leaders to have communication and dialogue. We want our leaders to pursue and make international agreements. It’s the way forward, not some evil plot to steal your country from underneath you. What if we all lived our lives that way, refusing to speak to one another, trade, make agreements, etc? It would be a very different world indeed, and not a better one.

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What’s Up?

31 July, 2007

I mean, seriously, what is up? I’ve been down here for more than 6 months now, and this still throws me for a loop. I pass people at work and say “hi,” and they fire back a “what’s up?”

What on earth is the proper response to that? I’m used to people asking, “How’s it going?” That’s easy to answer. Any adjective will do. Even a single adverb is acceptable. The key point is that you can respond appropriately with a single word, which is handy when, you know, you meet someone coming the other direction and need to fit a micro-conversation into that brief span of time before you pass and have to start hollering over your respective shoulders at each other.

But what do you do with “what’s up?” That’s hard to answer in less than a sentence. I’ll confess I started off answering, purely on reflex, with “good,” then wincing afterwards, since that’s a total non sequitur and makes no sense. Really, the question demands a subject and probably a predicate too, or you really haven’t answered the question.

I’ve actually started asking people how one is supposed to answer. And people really haven’t been able to give me a good answer. People just shrug their shoulders and say, “I don’t know… nothing?” That’s a fine interaction, isn’t it?

“What’s up?”

“Nothin’.”

One friend even admitted that he has no clue how to respond to that, and it actually annoys him too.

I thought up a bunch of smartass answers (Mortality, Taxes, the Sky, Childhood Obesity, etc), but the truth is, I just want an answer that is sincere and polite, yet still succinct enough to serve me in those hallway walk-bys.

So here’s my plan. From now on, I’m just going to try to be quicker on the draw. When I run into someone at work, I’m going to try to blast ’em with a “How’s it going?” before their “What’s up?” clears the holster.

Another blow for cross-cultural condemnation. =P

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Crunch Mode

24 June, 2007

Next week is a week of crunch mode. That means I’ll be at work 50 hours instead of the usual 40. Not fun, but it could be worse – last time we crunched, it was for a full month and involved working on the weekends too. It won’t be quite so grueling this time.

But it is the first taste of what the next couple months should be like. We’re approaching our deadline, and there’s still lots to do (there’s always still lots to do). I expect we’ll be crunching off and on until the game is done. It isn’t fun, and it’s probably not even wise, but it’s kind of a necessary evil in the game industry, so I figure the best approach is just to put my head down and try to make the best possible use of the time.

And eat chocolate, ’cause it’s good for me.

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Missing the CBC

21 March, 2007

Back home, I always used to listen to CBC radio in the car. Crap for music, but it’s a better quality of journalism than you’ll hear on any music station. And listening to “Ideas” on my way home from Hapkido was always a real pleasure.

My first few days of radio-listening down here were pretty frightening. I found some decent music stations, but in terms of news, journalism and commentary… well, it was mostly bellowing and polarized politics. Unfortunately, CBC Radio International is purely shortwave and thus not available in the car. = [

However, after a week or so I discovered National Public Radio. I’d heard it mentioned before by American friends, and I now understand their fondness for it. It’s about as close a facsimile for CBC as I’m likely to find down here. Once again, it’s crap for music, but it has good journalism (rebroadcast BBC news), good interviews (yesterday morning was Tom Delay, an appallingly unrepentant dirty Republican politician), good commentary and arts. Overall its bias is clearly toward a “social democracy” perspective, but I’m fine with that. All media sources and commentators are biased, it’s just important to recognize that and take it from the source. The main thing that I like is an obvious effort to look at problems from all sides.

NPR isn’t government funded like the CBC. Instead, it survives purely by public donation (and they’re in the middle of a fundraising drive now). It’s cool to see that something like this can survive just on the strength of its audience’s largesse, and it reinforces their relative independence. The particular NPR subsidiary is WBUR, which is broadcast from Boston University.

I can’t believe I’m already starting to say, “Back home…”

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The Bible – Rated M for Mature

27 February, 2007

Well, doesn’t this just put a smile on my face. It seems that researcher have concluded that reading Bible passages can lead to increased aggression. Their report is entitled “When God Sanctions Killing.” It isn’t available online (it won’t be published until next month), but you can read an article about it at this here link.

So why does this please me so much? It’s not because I’m stooping to bash the christians, or that I expect this research will constitute any kind of blow to religion. To tell the truth, I’m not particularly impressed by their findings or the means by which they arrived at them. While the title of their report refers to killing, the “aggression” they found in their experiment was pretty tame. Basically, after reading Bible passages, subjects played a game which involved pressing a button and blasting each other with a loud buzzing noise. The aggression they found was a “slight” increase in the duration of the blasts given by those who had read provocative Bible passages compared to those who had not.

Whoa. That is some hardcore aggression. Clearly, these subjects were on the verge of homocidal frenzy. I’m being sarcastic, of course. This finding, while measurable and perhaps significant, falls far short of any conclusion that reading the Bible is likely to make otherwise ordinary, sane individuals go out and pop someone.

But what is interesting here is that this is exactly the same methodology that has been used by “media effects” researchers to support their claims that video games turn kids into crazed killers. The same fraction-of-a-second increase in blasts of noise is touted as increased aggression, and is used to support claims that games cause violence.

I know it’s hard to believe, when politicians are standing up and claiming that “a mountain of evidence” proves that games make kids kill, that it all boils down to something as flimsy as a razor-thin difference in button presses… but it does. Other shocking discoveries include finding that playing violent games increases heart-rate, or get this… stimulates areas of the brain! (For a more thorough discussion, check out this meta-analysis of game research.)

So now this new research poses a difficult bind. If anti-game activists and politicians want to control the sales of games on the grounds that they cause violence, then they have to put a stop to Sunday school too, because the same kind of research shows that the Bible itself is equally dangerous. On the other hand, if they reject this research on the effects of the Bible, then they have to reject the equally flimsy research on games and aggression. And that’s pretty damn sweet.

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Chocolate Milk

24 February, 2007

You knew I was going to talk about it eventually.

Those of you who have never had a morning class with me might not be aware that for me, a litre of chocolate milk is breakfast. A “breakfast” is a one litre carton of chocolate milk. People goggle at me when I drink them, but really, it’s the perfect breakfast. It weighs in at about 700 calories, it has more than twice as much protein as fat, it is packed with vitamins, and it tastes good to boot. I can grab a carton from the fridge on my way out the door, throw it in my pack, and I’m set.

One of the things that concerned me about moving to the excited states of america was what kind of chocolate milk I would find here. My first encounters were not promising. The hotel I stayed at did have chocolate milk out for breakfast, but that brand (Hood) was too thin, too sweet, and just failed to satisfy.

However, now that I’m settled in my own place, and buying rations and supplies at the local grocery store (the “Super Stop & Shop,” a name that is both emphatic and literal), I’ve found brands that are more to my liking. The Super Stop & Shop’s house brand is entirely up to my standards, but they have another brand, Garelick Farms, that is quite good. My only complaint is that they only sell it in plastic jugs, not cardboard cartons.

Drinking chocolate milk from a plastic jug is like drinking beer from a can.