Ad Liberation Alumni Show

Finally got around to editing this all together. There were parts missing, and I wanted to try to preserve it the best I could. I spliced in photos of the show taken from Sami’s mom to give context to the audio. It turned out OK. I’m at least glad to have what I have. The show was really fun though! Thanks for inviting us olds back to perform!

Tubes!

This past weekend I went home and grabbed my old tube TV that I had in most of college. It’s a 27″ Samsung Flat screen. Not flat panel. Just a flat screen.

I fell down the RGB rabbit hole some years back and have never fully emerged. I almost bought a Sony PVM a few times, but never pulled the trigger (yet).

This is my replacement, for now. I bought an RGB to Component converter. I also had to extract the audio so I got another little device that does that. Here is the outcome. It’s so sharp!

Saturn is a powerhouse for 2D games. Rayman never looked so good.
Saturn is a powerhouse for 2D games. Rayman never looked so good.
The contraption
The contraption

Back at it again with the vlogs.

I’m trying to do vlogs again and this is the first one. It’s fun! I loved editing this one. I hope this time sticks. If it doesn’t I’ll probably be back later to try again. Enjoy my crappy camera.

On Running a Marathon.

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I like to do a year in review to try and reflect on the triumphs and missteps of the previous year. This also gives me a time to look forward, and what I’d like to do in the next year. It has almost no value to you, the reader, if there is anyone beside myself reading. I actually missed the previous year (2014-2015). I kept putting it off, and after several fits, starts, and rewrites, I decided to call it when it hit June. Not this year. God no. Never again. I’m going to probably split this up into several posts. A look back and then maybe a look forward.

A Look Back or A Tale of Three Shoes

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The thing that was pretty all consuming was training for my first marathon. Yes, I won’t shut up about it. It’s something that has been on my to do list for the better part of a decade, and it’s so nice to be able to cross something like that off.

Let’s do a quick recap by the numbers (Runs before Runkeeper logs are estimated as 4 times per week at 3 miles/30 minutes in the gym)

Started Training: December 18th, 2014
Ended Marathon Training (Day of Marathon): October 17th, 2015
Miles Ran Training: 889 Miles
Time Spent Running: 426.45 Hours (17.77 Days)
Average Miles Per Week: 20.67 Miles
Average Time Spent Per Week Running: 9.91 Hours
Time Spent Preparing: 9 Months 29 Days
Pairs of Shoes Used: 3
Injuries: 1

There it is, in black and white. I like to throw the numbers up first because it puts a nice bow on everything. It is the microcosm of the goal. However, it is the abridged version of events. It is void of emotion and accounts of struggle. That’s what comes next.

As stated above this has been on my bucket list for along time, one of my white whales (Sorry, Ahab, I have more than one). During school, I never felt I had the time (read: diligence) to spend training. Well, school was over so what was my excuse now? I’m sure I could have come up with one, but I wasn’t getting any younger. So, running it was. If you notice, I started this on a Thursday in mid-December. I have noticed that If I wait to start things until X time I will definitely fail at it. No time like the present!

Winter sucked. I was not weather worn enough to be able to start running outside. If you haven’t experienced an Indiana winter, you are lucky because they are frozen hellscapes not fit for man nor beast. This is what resigned me to starting my trek in the gym. Purdue’s Co-rec is super nice so there are worse places I could have started. I decided to try the track, because I hate the treadmill. If the thought of running around a track over an over sounds rough, staying in one place amplifies this.

It felt different from before though. This was something I was going to do. I think it was coming off the high of finally graduating from college. I had some new found self-confidence and this gave more reality to the goal. When I went to the gym, I had an end goal and every step was one more towards it.

I started to develop a rhythm. Even going in the morning before work on some days (to this day I haven’t been able to do this with any degree of consistency). I started at 3 mile workouts and gradually went to 5 milers. I was making progress and I could feel it.

The next phase would come when the weather started to break and a little warmth would peek through. Realistically, nothing was stopping me from upping my distance at the gym, but 5 miles on the track is 50 laps, and anything more would probably cause me to go insane.

I thing that is not really talked about with distance running is just coming up with good routes for that distance. Ideally, I like going in one loop. End up where I started without repeating my route. Here are a few of the routes I used when I was training.

When I broke out of my 5 miles it was to be a 7 mile. At that point I would just strap on my watch and see when it ticked to 7 miles. Can I just say that smartphones and GPS have made finding routes so much better! Like decidedly better. It’s just great. I’ve tried many apps and have found Runkeeper to be the best. I also use tapiriik to sync my progress to Dropbox and Strava. It’s always nice to have a backup and more analytical tools. Everyone loves statistical analysis!

I would then step up to 10! This was a big accomplishment. I was only a 5k away from half of the goal. If it wasn’t clear before, it was starting to crystalize now. This was achievable. One week I decided, this Saturday (5/9/2015) (Saturdays were my long run days) I was going to do a half-marathon. A half! 13.1 miles! A distance previously thought for others, the elite. So, I did it. I ran it on one hot, humid, rainy day. It was entirely exhausting and painful. Around mile 11 my legs started to give out. I had to really keep myself focused. It was a matter of not letting my lizard brain win. This was repeating mantra time. I don’t remember what I was muttering to myself, but it worked. I finished, showed, and promptly flopped down on the couch.

Alright, half way. Only half to go. Cake, right? Totally not. Classic case of the 80/20 rule. 80% of the goal is easy, the last 20% is what is really a bear.

From then on it was trying to progress pass 13 miles. I’ve found that once I complete a perceived hard goal, It’s much harder to keep going past it to the next goal post.

I didn’t break past my half-marathon goal until 7/25/2015 with a 17 mile run. There were a lot of runs in between there and the eventual next goal. Those are far more important than the actual breaking through the goal. Those are the slogs. Those are the ones that are hard, the ones where you have to get out of bed, slap on the shoes and go, when you would much more like to sit and play some Zelda. I mean this in the best way possible, the majority of the runs on this were of this ilk. Just absolute bears, but I was never upset when I did them, I was upset however when I lost the battle between lethargy and action.

Here is a small snapshot of what it took. I’m glad I actually took all those pictures now.

My training mainly continued in this fashion for the rest of the long, hot summer. (How I miss you now, summer, in the dregs of winter). As the deadline approached I became a lot less nervous. I had been training, and since I had been tacking I had number to back me up whenever I felt like I was out of my league.

One of the benefits of running, that a lot of other athletic endeavors don’t allow is the exploration of new areas. If you are traveling and you don’t have access to a treadmill, you can just run around. I’ve discovered beautiful places that I would have never, ever seen if I hadn’t of just gone for a run. Those are the times when I knew that post marathon, I’d still be running.

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It seems like I had no real setbacks during training, but that isn’t how it went. I had two, memorable setbacks. One was extremely hard to deal with for me, and that was the inevitable injury. I was running on a sidewalk and a car didn’t stop when I should have. I dodged out of the way and landed wrong, twisting my ankle. It turned about 90 degrees from my leg. I felt that. I walked for a second and tried to run it off. No way. I had really messed it up. I walked back to my apartment and knew I would have to be off it. It was pretty disheartening. I felt like my training was going to be set back too far. I was feeling really terrible about the whole thing. My ankle looked like a softball the next morning. I went and bought a brace because it would send a shooting pain up my leg at the slightest provocation. I was off of it for about two weeks total, probably before I should have started running on it again, but I was antsy.

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The second was about not enough preparation, and perhaps too much hubris. I was running around Lake Geneva in Wisconsin. This is one of those instances I mentioned above that I would in no way would have done this if I wasn’t running. They have a nice little path around the lake where you go through people’s back yards. Most of has nice paths, they are maintained by the home owners. For most of the day it was gorgeous just running around the lake. It was sunny, I was passing people saying, “Hi”. Great. The problems arose from two places. One, I did not bring any water, gu, or money with me. Two was I was misinformed at the distance around the lake, I thought it was 20 miles, well within my distance. It was 26. I really didn’t want to do 26 miles because the marathon was the following week. Was it smart to be running so much distance a week before? Probably not (hell no). Around mile 20 my legs started to lock up. It was because my body was starved. I hadn’t provided it with anything since the night before. I hadn’t had water for hours. I was dehydrated and without nutrition. This was entirely stupid and dangerous. I located a park where I did find a nasty looking drinking fountain. I will say that it was the best tasting water I have ever had, quite honestly. I ended up having to make a call for a ride because my legs were shot, my body was shot. Stupid.

This experience was pretty life changing. It gave me tremendous confidence to know that I am able to do big things, but they require sacrifice, time, and work. I don’t think of myself as naturally talented in many ways. I am lucky to have the genes I have, but I believe myself to be fairly average in most categories. What I don’t think I am average in is grit. I am stubborn about my goals. I am able to stick with something until I finish it. I might take a break from it, but I rarely let it go. In essence, what I lack in natural born talent, I make up for in tenacity.

I think anyone can do this, it’s learned. You have to practice it, it’s will power. I don’t subscribe to the theory that we are good at one thing or we have a set amount of will power. Like anything you want to be good at, it requires effort and study. Practice. Practice. Practice.

Alright, enough aphorisms. I’m not writing a self-help book here. Running a marathon is hard, I’m really glad I did it.

NaNoWriMo 2014 (In 2016)

This was a long time coming (look who is finally getting their stuff together). From the cozy confines of a laundromat on a rainy Wednesday night, I bring you the affectionately titled “Best Novel Ever Written.” We are not arrogant enough to think this was truly the best novel ever written. Hell, this is hardly long enough to warrant the title of novel. But, wait, “we”, who is this “we” you speak of? Well, the “we” of which I speak are my friends Tim and Mike. We admitted that the idea of writing 50,000 words in a single month sounded a bit daunting, and truth be told, it probably is a bit more than that. We wanted to co-write a novel during NaNoWriMo. “Geeze, but now what is NaNoWriMo?”, you’re asking. Fear not, dear heart, I will explain. NaNoWriMo stands for “National Novel Writing Month”. It started in 1999 and occurs annually for the month of November. The goal is to write an entire novel, defined as 50,000 words, during the month of November. It’s not an easy thing to do; a crazy amount of respect to those who do finish. We managed 16,103 words between all three of us. Guys, it’s hard.

The tenuous rules of this were that we would switch off writing duties everyday, round robin style. The person could write whatever and however they wanted. A person could end how they wanted, mid-sentence in some cases. That was really it. Full disclosure, we missed days. It was tough to devote that much time each day to it.

Over a year too late, I present our unedited, untitled magnum opus. I color coded each section to highlight who wrote it, and not get in the way of reading. It’s not great, but I kind of love it.

The New Virtual Boy

This was a small little idea that has been floating around in my head for a bit. Well, Nintendo had a sale on replacement battery compartments for the New 3DS XL, so I jumped. I think we can all agree, one of Nintendo’s greatest systems was the Virtual Boy (what, just me?). Well, the 3DS is kind of a spiritual successor in my mind, at least within the realm of stereoscopic 3D. The New 3DS XL that was released originally came in two flavors, red and black. The Virtual Boy’s color scheme! I smell Illuminati. Nintendo was throwing the “new” moniker all over the thing, so what better way to pay an homage to one of my favorite failed systems than to make the 3DS the “New” Virtual Boy. I mashed the two logos in Illustrator and had them printed as a vinyl sticker. I also replaced the red battery back with a black one to two-tone the color scheme. Here are the results. Pretty happy with it!

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On How I Was Oh So Wrong About Modern VR

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I listen to a number of video games/tech related podcasts as well as read a slew of related sites. I can safely say that VR has been trumpeted as the next coming. It seems everyone who has tried it is gaga over the prospect of a VR future. I’ve heard it so much it started to become a little irritating (the irony is not lost on me). So, when I was at the gym yesterday and noticed that HTC had set up a booth right outside the check-in, I was intrigued. It was pretty late when I finished up and they were already closing up shop, so I looked online and saw they were still holding sessions the next day with sign ups at 9 AM.
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I waffled back and forth because I was pretty apathetic about the whole prospect, but, to set the tone of this post, I’m glad I did.

Long line of people signing up to try the Vive
Long line of people signing up to try the Vive

I’ll give a little overview of the hardware and then go demo by demo. This should hopefully capture everything I want to say about it.
Hardware

The Vive Hardware
The Vive Hardware

The Vive looks much like the other VR contenders, Playstation VR and the Oculus Rift. It’s a headset that covers your entire field of vision. There is additional hardware that the Vive has that the Rift and PVR does not, and that is maybe what makes this more exciting than most. The Vive has two controllers, one for each hand, and these have triggers on each controller, and two thumb pads on top. The thumb pads are similar to the Steam Controller, which makes sense because Valve is a partner on the Vive. These are how you react with the virtual world, they are far more immersive that using an Xbox or PS4 controller due to the fact that they are a better analog to how we traditionally interact with the world.
The other, and perhaps the most important, piece of hardware are the positional pylons. I’m not sure what the official term for these are, but they surround the play field on tripods and feed your absolute position in the room to the headset. This, this right here, is why the Vive is amazing. Being able to actually walk around in a virtual space is what turned my opinion on its head. This in concert with one-to-one controls. It’s an experience, to say the least.
The last thing that HTC provided was some generic over-the-ear-cans to provide sound. They are not part of the hardware, but they did help with immersion.

Starting Area
When you first put on the headset you are in a pretty large white room with little informational podiums about various upcoming VR projects. The first thing I did was naturally looked around and then down at my hands. I could see the two controllers and they moved and tracked like in real life. Then I started messing around with buttons and thumb pads. A balloon started to inflate as I rolled my thumb around the pad. As soon as it was filled it started to fall, and I instinctively went to bump it up, like you would in the real world. It totally worked! The women running my demo said, “Oh, I see you’ve discovered the balloons.” Oh, I had discovered much more than balloons (I’m sorry, I’m still giggling at how god-awful cheesy that line is. It’s perfect.)

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The white room went blank and when the lights came up I was underwater. I started looking around, trying to get my bearings. I was immediately taken aback at the fidelity of what I was seeing. I know graphics have gotten good. My card is a little old, but I’ve seen things at 4k on the beefiest of rigs. I can’t tell if you are more or less sensitive to screen tearing, aliasing, artifacting, and every other graphic anomaly that can crop up. Perhaps because it’s so immersive I didn’t notice all the irregularities, but it looked incredible. I didn’t have to to think, “OK, let’s try moving around.” My body instinctively went exploring around the ship. Looking all around the ship and amazed at the detail. The artists captured the how the sea had started to reclaim the vessel. Seeing schools of fish swim by. Looking up at the refracted light above. I even walked over and looked off the bow of the ship to see the disappearing sea floor below. Then I heard something out in the distance. It started to come towards me. There was this whale swimming up to me. It didn’t seem intimidating at first, but as it got closer I saw the enormity of the thing. VR allows you to sense depth, too, using stereoscopic vision. That in concert with the field of view makes the scale of things feel incredibly real. So, I felt the rush of adrenaline you feel when things are about to turn sideways because this whale was coming right towards me. I feel like I must state that this isn’t me trying to embellish for the sake of writing. This was a visceral reaction. I was even telling myself, “this isn’t real, there is nothing coming towards me.” As the whale’s fin approached I physically moved out of the way to not be hit by it. Then it just stopped, looking at me with its giant eye. As it moved on I turned to my left and there was a manta ray right by me that startled me and I again dodged out of the way. It’s pretty incredible how your brain is completely tricked by this illusion. Then the lights went down and the white room came back up. That is one hell of an introduction.

Job Simulator

Next up for Office Simulator. The primary function of this demo, I would learn, is to get used to interacting with objects in the digital space. This is where your controllers really shine. You start in a cubicle, in a nondescript, cartoony looking office. Everything is stylized to be brightly colored and blocky. I looked around and then looked down at my hands. In keeping with the theme of cartoony, the looked like big Mickey Mouse gloves. Then “my boss” came in. He was a floating CRT computer monitor wearing a tie. In a manner echoing Portal’s GLaDOS he starting informing me that consuming caffeine has been show to improve worker’s productivity and that my first task was to consume some. A cart came into my cubicle with coffee mugs and a box of donuts. As before it was no problem to easily reach my hand over, pick up the mug, using the trigger on the back to mimic grip, and take it over to the coffee machine. I placed the mug, pushed the button, then brought the mug to my face to drink it. The incredible part is I didn’t have to think, do this, then do that. It felt natural. I think that is the most telling part about all this. It’s instinctual in a way a 15 button, 2 stick Xbox 360 controller isn’t.
On a side note, I honestly think the 360 controller is the peak of being able to navigate a 3D space projected in 2D. The issue is the learning curve. I’ve been playing games my whole life, so it feels second nature to me. But I’m sure you’ve seen someone new picking up an FPS for the first time and running into a wall and spinning around. It’s not intuitive.
Going back, he then had me eat a donut, and then move on to turning on my computer. The computer was unplugged so I had to plug everything back in. What was pretty neat, is that I had to look under the desk, which I did like I would look under a real desk, careful to not bump my head (are you sensing a theme?). The next part was cool for a wholly different reason. You had to use the computer, albeit in a simplified manner. The thing was, using the mouse, didn’t feel totally unlike using a mouse for real. This could mean that translation of familiar workflows could be achieved in VR, which is pretty awesome! He then had me fire some people by stamping fired on their files, and the demo was over.

Tiltbrush

This was probably the most, “woah.” demo for me. This was made by Google, for whatever that is worth. The premise is simple. It’s a drawing program. It’s like the MSPaint of 3D. It’s dead simple to use, the one crucial aspect, is that it is in three-whole-d’s! I started just making squiggles in the air. I noticed the tools were controlled by the thumb pads and started messing around with color and changed the background to “space.” Up popped a tiny moon in front of me! So cool. I was drawing all around the moon, which was so cool. To do any of that in a modern 3D modeling environment is really hard because of the limitations of 3D projected into 2D. You would have to be zooming, panning, and tilting. Not only that but my squiggles would cast shadows on the moon. The lighting tech doesn’t directly relate to VR, but it does a great job of making the whole thing more convincing. I then changed my brush and color and the started making twists around my squiggles. Weaving in and out of them, again with the lighting being incredible. As I was walking around looking at this mass of nonsense “art” I made from different angles I thought to myself, there is NO PARALLEL to this in current computing. This is why I think that this was the game changer for me. This opens up all new possibilities for artists in a way that modern tools don’t. I’m not trying to say that this will supplant old ways of doing things, I’m saying this will enhance them and create better end products. And just as soon as it started, this demo was through.

Aperture Robot Repair

This was the most complete of the VR experiences from a complete start-to-finish perspective. This took place in the Aperture Science facility from Portal. All the humor was there as well. What struck me about this demo was that it was a contained room, and it was so detailed. It was ostensibly a repair shop, albeit with unmistakable touches of Portal. I just walked around, looking at everything in it. Imperfections in the walls, tchotchkes on the desk, it was incredible. The voice over wanted you to do various things, like open some drawers, and in typical Portal fashion, you never did anything correctly. There was a moldy piece of cake in one of them as a nod to the long running, and over used “cake is a lie” joke from the original Portal, I chuckled. There was even a tiny universe that made me its god in one of the drawers that was then promptly incinerated. I was told to open the garage door to let a malfunctioning robot come in. As he sparked and sputtered in I found myself at quite a sense of unease. Again, it’s the scale of everything. I backed up to the wall to avoid it. You were then told to explode the robot, not in the boom sense, but in the sense of seeing all the parts floating in air. You were then informed to repair certain areas of the robot and only had 30 seconds before it exploded, this time the boom kind. Of course you were set up to fail. At that point the rooms starts to fall apart to reveal the larger facility, and the spinning death grinders below. Then GLaDOS herself comes down and peaks in with her monoeye. I’ve played plenty of Portal, and let me tell you. She wasn’t that scary until then. She is HUGE! I found my heart racing as she would move around and berate me. I was then informed I was not qualified for this position and subsequently stamped out of existence, literally. That’s where the this demo, and the demo at large, ended.

Conclusion
In a well trafficked portion of a gym full of people, I flailed my arms and looked around and under things not there are people gawked from a distance, and I didn’t give a damn. In fact, I didn’t even think about any of that while in the headset. That should be a ringing endorsement in-and-of-itself, but to bring it further, it was a visceral experience that nothing has replicated to this point. It is everything those podcast people said, and more. I am more than excited to see where all this goes. This is a game changer. I see some issues with it though. The cost being one of the chief concerns, at $800 plus another $1000 for a top end PC to run it, it’s hard to justify those costs. I think costs will come down, but like any hardware, software needs to follow or it’s dead in the water. If there are not enough users to justify software development costs that could all wash away. Secondly, the Vive requires ample empty space, a VR room as some have been making plans in their house. Most people don’t have that kind of space in their domicile. Being able to walk around in the world is really what clinched it for me. The experience misses something without it. Finally, and most importantly, is that you need to try it. You can watch the videos I have here. You can read my entry, you can listen to impressions. There just isn’t a good proxy for trying it out. That is a problem, because if it’s anything like what I had to do, you are only hitting a small amount of people per day. It’s going to need more demos and a lot of people’s friends who fork over the cash to buy it and let them try it.

I am changed though, there was pre-VR and now post-VR and I can see myself with one of these in the future, one that I hope overcomes its hardships.

On Being The Very Best Like No One Ever Was.

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When I say I was into Pokémon, I mean I was into Pokémon. I was sucked in the first time I read about it in Nintendo Power. This isn’t specifically about the game, which is/was/will remain fantastic. This is about the trading card game.

I was already wrapped up in the world of Pokémon when I heard about it. I may or may not (totally did) have a Pokémon binder among various other paraphernalia. I’m not totally sure how I caught wind of it, but I heard a couple of my friends were in an after school Pokémon card league on Fridays. Well, I liked Fridays, I liked after school, and I sure as hell like Pokémon. I didn’t know a thing about trading card games, but that wasn’t going to stop me. I convinced/whined and complained to my parents to purchase me a starter deck and promptly signed up for the league.

League was held at the now defunct:
Big-League Baseball Card Supply
527 N. Sheridan St.
Crown Point, IN 46307
663-7537

Luckily, those guys mentored me in the game and the atmosphere was welcome and inviting. For one glorious half-year (10/30/99-04/09/2000) Friday’s meant one thing. League 3-7 PM. It also meant Totino’s party pizzas, but while league is a thing of the past, party pizzas can still, and should happen.

It hard to explain how fun it was, but it was something I greatly looked forward to at the end of each week. It was fiercely competitive, but everyone was surprisingly nice for a group of mostly boys aged 9-12. We just all loved the game and loved playing it.

We kept scores and reported all matches so we had point totals and checked the website religiously to see our rankings. Sadly, due to the card shop closing the website is also a thing of the past. Luckily, the wonderful Way Back Machine archived the site. I have now mirrored the sites, as they were when I saw them, on my own site.

Here are the links:

Season 2
Season 3
Season 4
Season 5

We were intense. The shop owner imported the yet to be released Japanese card packs and sold them to us for a hefty profit. I shutter to think how much money I sank into those cards. Because they were in Japanese we had translation guides found in the once great, SCRYE. We went so far as to have to have blacked out card back protectors when using the Japanese cards because the designs on the back of the Japanese cards were different from the American version and people could cheat if not blocked.

I became a “Gym Leader” in the 4th season of the league. This basically meant I could be a deciding voice in match disputes. I also was in charge of official scoring and mentoring. It was super fun!

We all developed strategies and analyzed weaknesses and spent hours building, tearing apart, and rebuilding decks. This culminated in a tournament held at Southlake Mall in Merrillville, IN.
It was an official Wizards of the Coast tournament, and this was the peak of Pokémania. It was massive with hundreds of kids and some teenagers playing. Because we played all the time against each other we were pretty confident in our abilities. One of my friends was like a savant. I almost never beat him. I managed to walk away with three victories, but lost early on. He made it to the final round. It was actually two Big League players who faced off for the championship. He ultimately lost, but it was clear we were the best players in the area. Which was brag worthy back then, but maybe (definitely) no so much now.

Like all good things that burn too brightly, it was done almost as soon as it started. When 2000 came around we were all started to become angsty teenagers who were more into girls than card games. That meant, sadly, Pokémon league was out the window. And so it went, but I can look back on it fondly as an amazingly fun was to spend a Friday night. I still have my decks, so maybe some Friday night the special, three move, Japanese, Team Rocket Mewtwo will make an appearance.

Summer Reads

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With fall already upon us, I wanted to get this post out before it becomes Winter (totally still going to get that New Years Resolutions 2015 post out).
This summer I went on a reading rampage. Perhaps not as exciting as a lyrical rampage, or the game Rampage. I still am fairly proud of that number of books I was able to knockout this past season. Turns out when you spend hours and hours running you tend to have a lot of time to fill.

Here is a list of the books, and a little blurb about each.

Open: How Compaq Ended IBM’s PC Domination and Helped Invent Modern Computing
Interesting story of how the modern PC came to be. It made me wonder if we could have gotten to the sheer dominance of the computer without the standardization and commoditization of computing technologies. Like the way most app writing is done now, there has to be different apps specialized for their specific target devices. You can’t have an iOS app run on Android. Back then it was the same thing, but with a lot more fragmentation as you had all these desktop computers and none of them worked with any other software. It’s hard to have a large developer base with so many devices. Either way, good little history lesson. Definitely biased though because it was written by one of the founders of Compaq

Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration

Super interesting look into one of the most influential animation studios. Pretty good tips and hints for getting the best from creative people. My thoughts of the author were slightly tinged afterwards as I learned of Ed Catmulls alleged wage fixing.

The New New Thing: A Silicon Valley Story

Who doesn’t love eccentric millionaires? This story follows Jim Clark of SGI and Netscape fame. It’s an interesting look into the beginnings of the Internet boom and it’s eventually bust. It also touches on Jim’s life before which is tied mainly to inventing large scale 3D graphics technologies. Remember the Nintendo 64? That used chips developed by Silicon Graphics. This was before you could buy a graphics card off a shelf for $200 and have it render the entire universe. There is also lots of Yacht talk. Fun book, I love Michael Lewis’ writing style.

The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation
You like all of the tech things you have? Mostly developed here. Seriously, this was a hotbed of innovation that has rarely ever been seen. It’s hard to overstate how important Bell Labs was to modern technology. Doubt me? Why not take this book for a whirl?

The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution

Walter Isaacson does a decent job of capturing the general feeling behind tech stuff. He wrote the Steve Jobs biography and did a pretty good job of capturing a portrait of the man. He now takes that and picks up some of the most important people that lead up to the modern computer and gives a little insight into how they contributed. I generally was transfixed by this book. They should just call the book, “Matt’s book for Matt with topics Matt likes.” I saw people complaining about Issacson’s embellishments with history, but I think that is the nature of a book like this.

Dealers of Lightning
Like the Bell Labs that preceded it, Xerox PARC was also an important piece to the modern computer puzzle. It is generally accepted that Apple and subsequently Microsoft stole a lot of ideas from PARC to establish the Graphical User Interface paradigm. I think this kind of shows that if you get a lot of really brilliant people together with little administrative oversight and a pile of cash some really cool things will result. That being said, it’s a really hard sell from a business angle. The book was pretty short, and I wish it delved deeper into what happened at PARC. What I did get was pretty awesome.

Atlas Shrugged
Here is one sure to be divisive. This is like the conservative bible (or is that just The Bible?). I read The Fountainhead back when I was a sophomore in college, and I actually liked it. This book is not The Fountainhead. It bludgeons you over the head with the same objectivist philosophy Ayn Rand was trying to popularize. Seriously, The Fountainhead tried to at least have the trapping of a story. Atlas Shrugged has extensive monologues and inner thoughts that offer no additional insight than the points made earlier in the book. I don’t fully agree or disagree with Ayn Rand. I feel like there are insights to some of what she says, but it’s so easy to go overboard with it which is what I feel like she does in this book. She paints the world as black and white and that is disingenuous to how life actually is. I do think it’s funny that this book is held up as a conservative tome of ultimate power because it vilifies large corporations who mirror some of the very same practices that are done today that conservative politicians put into place. Not going to get political too much here though. Overall, super long, repetitive, and not up to the previous book. Probably wouldn’t recommend it. Also, stop writing “Who is John Galt?” everywhere.

As you can see, I like non-fiction tech books. Dork status, in check. Boring to some, really fascinating to me. I did use Audible to “read” all these. Some consider it not reading per say and that’s OK, but the content is the important thing to me and that is the same. Books are pretty cool though! The smart money is on me reading more.

UPDATE:
I forgot, in my haste, two additional books that I read.

Naked Economics
Economics can be interesting. No, seriously, it can be. It’s not all charts and graphs. I mean, a lot of it is better represented with charts and/or graphs, but really economics is a way to better understand human behavior. It’s not just about dollah bills. The author does a good job of relating the real world to the theoretical. Super interesting read. Would recommend.

Naked Statistics
While this does make statistic easier to understand, this is not going to make a convert of anyone. Statistics is an inherently dry subject matter. It can provide illuminating insight into situations, but it is very math intensive. No bones about it. I can’t really recommend this book to anyone who isn’t mildly interested in stats or math even though the author does a great job of making the subject interesting.

Double Fine Adventure Documentary

Alright, a favorite scene from a movie/TV show/documentary. Because I am still vying for the belt of king dork, I am choosing a documentary. Specifically, I am talking about the wonderful documentary put together by 2 Player Productions. The documentary follows the Double Fine team during the production of their Kickstarted adventure game, now known and released as Broken Age. While this is about a specific scene, the documentary is fantastic. It’s well shot and scored, and follows some charismatic, passionate people around doing something really amazing. I can’t recommend it enough.

To the scene! It is embedded above and should start at the appropriate spot. If not it is at 22:17, the bar crawl scene. This scene just makes me happy. It encompasses so much in such a small package. The Double Fine gang take a drinking tour of their previous projects namesake. First let’s address dive bars. Dive bars are great! Usually garishly lighted with a cadre of neon and rope lights; it provides a great atmosphere. This scene combines the past, with all its ups and downs, and the untarnished optimism of the future. It’s a visual representation of the feeling you get before you to embark on an adventure (pun very much intended); before you get mired in the details and the slog of the midpoint. I personally relish this moment, because I’ve been through the process enough times to know how taxing long projects can be. You get sick of seeing the same thing over and over and wonder if you are really making any progress. So, this moment before. Bliss.

This scene also illustrates the comradery of the team and the personality that only comes out when you away from the confines of the office. Their affection for one another clearly comes through the screen. It looks like a fun, memorable night out. They have the added bonus of seeming just like the people I want to be hanging out with.

Can we talk about the score? Good. Because it is on point! Seriously. Why not throw a few shekels the artist’s way and pick it up from Band Camp?

It is entirely plausible and likely I am looking too much into this, but that is what it feels like to me and I never get tired of watching it. The entire documentary is free on YouTube and you really should watch it, even if you don’t give a flip about video games. It’s really something special.

Guys, I kind of like video games, just a pinky toe.