The Domain of Steven Pinnacle of Paperless Perfection

30Jun/081

*fumble*

When at the cash register I realized something: with this new currency, I don't know how to count change XD . Two pounds, two pence, one pound, one pence, ten pence, twenty pence, fifty pence, I thought dollar coins were bad but this is ridiculous!

Filed under: General 1 Comment
28Jun/085

And I think it’s gonna be a long long time…

I was a little nervous last night, but today I'm simply excited. Not for the trip to England, no, I'm excited because I'm going to be flying business class. A few years ago this would have been called "first class" but airlines thought that having to fly "economy" was too degrading so they changed economy to first class and first class to business.

The Terraces Lounge in the British Airways terminal is a high class, spacious, well-lit waiting area for business class and club fliers. Instead of sitting on the floor by the crowded gate, in the lounge you don't have to hear babies cry and kids complain, every single chair is plush, there are English and American snacks (from Milanos to cheddar cheese to Walkers cookies), and in the corner of the picture you will see a sign that says Pre-Flight Supper.

This isn't just some sandwich and chips deal, no, this is a ritzy multi-course meal. Adobo marinated flank steak, samosas with mango chutney, stuffed fish, salad bar, fresh fruit...probably the last good meal I will have in a while considering neither my roommate nor I can cook. They serve us in the airport so that they can give business class fliers a quieter flight, with no hubbub of a flight attendant delivering meals. Of course that's not going to stop me from asking for a bottle of water and some peanuts for the four hour ride to Exeter once I get off the plane.

I keep hearing British accents around me, and I can already tell that it's going to be fun in England. My flight may be delayed to a thunderstorm outside, but I'm in no rush considering where I'll be waiting. More to come once I get a picture of the cabin that costs four times as much as economy.

Filed under: General 5 Comments
25Jun/080

My right leg is still sore

Went out to Union Square to meet up with an old friend. It was the first time in a while that I've gotten out of the house, and just my luck, it's extremely humid. So we did what city kids do: take shelter inside air conditioning. Our refuges were Whole Foods and Barnes and Nobles, where we looked at mysteriously unpriced chocolate that was not listed in their inventory, picked out a dozen travel guides to Europe, and then proceeded to read none of them while we caught up with one another.

Sufficiently cooled and increasingly hungry, we sallied forth and found that the weather had gotten better and sunnier. We went into the farmer's market and were tempted by vegetable turnovers, but settled on focaccia. She picked out something with mushrooms and a strange cheese, I took the more pizza-esque tomato/basil/pepper/garlic/mozzarella. Eating them on a bench in the park was a delicious end to our reunion.

We went our separate ways, hers the ride back and mine the ride forth. My Rock Band itch had been exacerbated by talking to Jason, not to mention all those Youtube videos, and so I determinedly wanted to find someplace to play it that was not Neutral Ground and their $3 fee (god knows how long that actually gets you). Most Best Buys and Circuit Cities I had gone to either had broken foot pedals, non-working units, or heinously, working units that were not allowed to be turned on. So I went to the one place I knew once had a working set: the Circuit City next to the Best Buy on 5th Avenue.

Now I don't know who runs this place but they are obviously a fan of rhythm-based gaming. When Shelly, Sally, Mike, Simon and I went there last winter break, they had a positively orgasmic demo setup. There were three gaming stations, separated from each other by a 3-walled partition. Imagine a triangle; the partition's walls would extend from the points of those triangles towards the center. Two stations were for Guitar Hero 3, and one was for Rock Band, which was complete with a mic, guitar and drums, all in perfect working order. Each station had huge LCD TVs, and they were in full display of the window looking out to the sidewalk, with extra TVs facing the street so that passerbys could see what we were doing.

On my trip to this paragon of gaming exhibitionism, which could only get more awesome if we were on a raised platform or there were bleachers for spectators, I found that there were now three Rock Band stations, one for each system. The PS3 only had a working drum set, the 360 only had a working guitar, but the Wii version (perhaps because no one had had time to break the instruments yet) had a full complement minus a second guitar.

Mmm. Drumming. There was a fairly regular stream of people floating in and out of the store that wanted to try their hand at the guitar or drum, but in the corner were a group of loiterers like myself who were drumming beasts. It's always awe-inspiring to see someone nail a song your mind can't even comprehend. Of course it's also a little scary to watch someone whose drumming style does not involve hitting the drums with the points of the sticks, but instead hitting the entire length of the drum pad with the flat end of the stick. This is not some full contact sport, dude. The drums are loud enough, you don't need to add in the constant cracking of wood on hard plastic.

After I left and started making my way back to the train station, I discovered that a second Neutral Ground opened up across the street from where I interned at for a couple years. Now the original Neutral Ground was a nice gaming store: there was a big selection of games, miniatures and collectibles, and there was a large open gaming area where collectible card game players would hang out before and after the frequent tournaments held there. It wasn't exactly pretty, but you came there for a specific and undoubtedly dorky reason, and it would never disapopint.

This new store was more of an annex than an actual Neutral Ground. It had much less stock, because there wasn't a whole lot that could fit into what was essentially an alleyway between two buildings. The back of the store definitely fit that bill; where the old Neutral Ground had a dozen long tables in their brightly lit gaming area, I could count the number of both tables and light fixtures here on a single hand. It was like accidentally stepping into a shady illegal poker game between two rival gangs, since a crowd would form at the head of the table (it was the only place with space for spectators) preventing you from seeing what was going on in the sparsely lit nook all the noise was coming from.

I didn't want to stick around to witness the Yu-Gi-Oh-tastic geekery that was wrapping up in the gaming area, so I quickly inquired as to whether they had the out-of-print game Bang! (no they didn't, and I was actually the third person that day who asked) and then hopped on the train back home.

My last stop was at the post office, where I picked up the work visa for my trip this coming weekend. With it becoming more real as every day passes, especially with the knowledge that I should have already been there for a week, I am getting quite excited. We've been slowly packing and setting things aside for the trip, and I have to remember to put my multitools in my checked luggage lest they be put up on Ebay. I've loaded up my DS with games, put music on my iPod, and am putting addresses on file to send post cards to. My top concern though? Finding my fucking camera charger so that I can put up pictures with my posts XD .

Filed under: Gaming, Life, Outing No Comments
17Jun/083

Eh.

Leaving next Saturday the 28th instead of this Friday the 20th. Gone till the night of August the 16th.

http://www.exeter.ac.uk/virtualtours/accommodationbroadband/jamesowen.shtml

Unrelatedly, I need a hug. I am not fortunate enough to be in such good company this time around. And so, ladies and gentlemen, I go to sleep before midnight for a change.

Filed under: Sad 3 Comments
16Jun/080

I once had a blog called Dreamer

In the dream, I'm late for my internship with an Asian film director. They're shooting on top of a large cliff overlooking the sea. The sun is bright, sky is blue, and there's plenty of lush grass beneath our feet. Our, being myself, the director, his assistant, and the hundred actors comprising two armies of rival nations, decked out in blue and red.

As I run up the hill to meet them, I find the director standing smack dab in the middle, with armies in formation in front and behind him ready to charge. He yells "Action!" and my mind fast forwards. He is preparing an actor for a scene involving him being pushed off the cliff by an enemy. The assistant irritatedly walks up to the director and starts haranguing him, complaining about safety and expenses and difficulty, how we could easily do this on a blue screen back at the studio. It's getting late, he says, and the actors are tired. If we film this shot digitally, we can call it a day and not go back to this wretched place.

Wretched? This oceanside cliff is beautiful, a sharp contrast to the bloody feud that is taking place. I want to make my case to the director, but it's not my place. I'm just an intern. And when the director looks into the tired eyes of his employees, he too lets out a weary sigh. Very well, we'll call it a day, he says.

I don't bother pleading, or helping them pack up, I just walk back the way I came. This place has a certain majesty about it, something that couldn't be recreated by a second-rate computer geek who has spent his life indoors, who has never felt this wonderful ocean breeze.

At the bottom of the hill is a wall-less tent adorned with a sign that says WI-FI INTERNET. Several tables have been strewn about, packed with people on their laptops. A few people are sitting on the fat, pillow-sized stone slabs that serve as a railing for the small ramp that leads down the cliffside to the water below. There's one poor shmuck who is standing in line, apparently not content to sit on the grass or sit in the sun.

Curious as to why they'd make a rail that leads downwards, I hop onto one and start to make my way down. My balance wavers a bit, and I decide that it's best if I sit down and scoot instead of walk. The ramp alternates between slanted and straight, and it would be a fun slide if the friction of the granite wasn't such a killjoy.

I reach the bottom and find that the water is actually pretty shallow. It would probably just reach past my feet, if I stepped in, nothing like the ocean I saw from on top of the cliff. It's inconsistent. But life is consistent. The only place something like this could happen is...a dream? Is this a dream?

As rebellious thoughts fill my mind, I remember that I'm in bed after having taken a nap. I give a gentle mental push, and suddenly my hands feel the smooth sheets of my bed instead of the rough rock.

I immediately pull my mind back, my head spinning with the realization about where I am and what I can do while here. I have had a lucid dream only one other time, where I was on top of a large building. I wanted to jump off but I was too afraid, worried that I might be sleepwalking and would wake up moments before my death.

But this time I was too curious. I stood up on the stone railing and looked back the way I came. Another inconsistency, the railing was not part of a ramp that led up the cliffside, it was now simply a long curved railing that led back to an island. There was no cliff behind me anymore, just the expanse of the sea. The water was still foot-deep.

The best stories are made when you're bold, curious, and just a little bit stupid. I dove head-first into the shallow water.

My head entered, then my body, then my legs. I was fully immersed, and there was plenty of room beneath me in the cool water. I wanted to come up and take a look around and found it effortless to rise to the surface. The island was still in the distance, but the railing was gone and the water was now a proper ocean. I started swimming, not caring which way, and it was the easiest thing in the world. I was totally uncoordinated but it was as if I had on a miniature life jacket that had that helped me float.

It was amazing, liberating, and in a flash it was over. I was on my bed, eager to go back into the water but too certain that I was awake and would not be able to return. And so instead of reliving it in my dreams, I sat down at my computer and relived it through my memories and my words. Hopefully I'll have more lucid dreams, because I'm sure as hell not diving into water outside of one.

14Jun/083

Happy Father’s Day

(12:42:32 AM) TONY lN BROOKLYN: theres this one brand..
i forget what its called but
(12:42:37 AM) TONY lN BROOKLYN: its the prettiest one of all
(12:42:39 AM) TONY lN BROOKLYN: it has like
(12:42:45 AM) TONY lN BROOKLYN: little subway circles on them
(12:42:50 AM) TONY lN BROOKLYN: like 7 train, A train, etc
(12:42:55 AM) TONY lN BROOKLYN: dammi whts it called hld on let me think
(12:43:10 AM) TONY lN BROOKLYN: oh yes
(12:43:11 AM) TONY lN BROOKLYN: life style?
(12:43:16 AM) TONY lN BROOKLYN: lifestyles? I dunno somethin like that
(12:43:20 AM) TONY lN BROOKLYN: anyway, buy those! really pretty
(12:44:33 AM) SarcasticSteven: ...
(12:44:57 AM) SarcasticSteven: just so i can make a "train's coming into the station" triple entendre?

Filed under: Amusing 3 Comments
13Jun/080

Perhaps not two whole months, but…

Work visa has been processed. I'll be leaving next weekend and starting next Monday.

It'll be one long flight.

11Jun/083

My name is Steven, and I provide services selectively.

Yesterday was my second annual visit to the Licensing International Expo. Held at the Jacob Javits Center, it's a convention that brings together brand owners and investors interested in licensing them. It gathers businesspeople of all stature, from independent artists in a one-man booth to industry giants in expansive and elaborate showcases. The expo is brimming with money, with deals being made around every corner and exhibitors trying to catch your attention, hoping that you are their next big client.

But as a lowly college student, what am I doing at the expo? What people usually do when in New York City: see the sights.

Over 400 companies set up lavish displays in the interest of ensnaring visitors, and as such the expo is full of eye candy and free candy. Indeed, part of the reason I attend is the promise of souvenirs. But strangely, I mostly attend to soak in the atmosphere. It is a world that I would otherwise not have known existed. It's exciting being around so many different companies, so many inviting exhibits and product presentations that make you wish you had a legitimate company so that you could chat them up and give them support.

As one without such financial backing, I choose not to waste their time and not to push my luck. This year I floated around with Sally, Mike, Simon, Kenny and Brian. The expo was a bit darker than I remembered, just as pretty, but not nearly as bountiful. Last year's convention was marked by Viz's anime-themed photo booth, free blueberry muffin bites, stuffed animal prizes by Neopets, and Jim Benton signing postcard books. While Jim Benton was diligently still there, none of the others were. Viz instead had an intimidating monolith of a booth, and I can only speculate as to the dealings that happened inside. Neopets was cast down from the pedestal it held last year, going from a large open space to a mere hallway, a couple computer stations sandwiched between two very close partitions. It was a very different experience for me, Sally and Kenny, who were the only repeat attendees.

Different was still good, though. Brian and I diverged from the group in order to check out a piece of music-mapping software that produced visual representations of music as it was being played. It was to usher in a new method of learning music, where you didn't just memorize finger positionings for guitar chords, you saw a 2d map of the strings you were strumming and which frets you held down, or the same information projected onto a 3d spiral. It would even show you the corresponding keys on a keyboard were you to play them. It was colorful and impressive, and I got to hear Brian play a bit on the acoustic guitar they linked up. I wanted to play on their drum set but it was being hogged. It was a well-made and most likely expensive booth, considering all the monitors and equipment, but not very popular.

We then found our way to the Neopets booth, if you could call the small firing lane a booth. I saw computers and bins with goods in them and was looking forward to winning whatever prizes they had. I was immediately thrown off guard when the exhibitor smiled at me and said "Oh it's you! Back again?"

I was immediately puzzled. This was my first time stopping by, perhaps he confused me with another Asian? I started to correct him, because damnit I wanted my prize and I wasn't going to let accusations of double dipping stop me.

No, he clarified, he didn't mean I was back again this day. He meant back again at the expo this year. The exhibitor remembered my escapade last year at his booth, and I suppose I made quite the indelible mark. Their former setup included stations lined up with Neopets games running on them, inviting people to play them, and they would reward high scores with scaling prizes: bins full of different Neopet plushies of different sizes, a very high score netting you a bigger plushie.

I immediately went to work and farmed the shit out of that game.

"It's no fun staying in the back and dodging the ice creams. Why don't you move around?"
Because staying in the back gives you the most time to react and plan ahead. "Nah, it's okay."
*several games and one of each plushie later*
"You're a gamer, aren't you."
...*smile*

This year, skill was not a factor: you clicked a button that spun a wheel of prizes. The bins were full of crossword puzzles and coloring books. I prefer to think of them as red herrings, though. The real prizes were tucked away in his belt pouch pocket: codes to redeem for in-game items, and Neocash cards. The nice exhibitor gave me a code, Brian $10 in Neocash, and we appreciatively scrammed. I figured my brother Mikey would know someone who played Neopets and would love the gifts, but he denies knowing or being associated with those who know about Neopets.

Another online game we stumbled upon was called Cookie Town, which was geared towards young kids. I admittedly chatted them up a bit because I wanted one of their cool cowboy hats, which they did indeed give me. Apparently Cookie Town was the brainchild of one of the brothers at the booth, who dreamed of a cookie town while stoned. FYI, do not tell people this. I do not feel comfortable introducing children to a game based on someone's intoxicated fantasies, no matter how delicious when dunked in milk.

The highlight of the expo was over at the Comedy Central booth, one that I passed by but totally ignored. Brian unwisely pointed out that they had a Rock Band station, and I immediately sprouted hair all over my body and went feral, dripping saliva as I raced towards my glorious prize. I rent the drummer asunder and took up his spot without missing a beat. The guitarist and bassist stared at the mutilated former drummer until I let out a bestial growl and yelled at them in an unearthly tone, "KEEP PLAYING. IF WE DON'T FIVE STAR THIS, IT'S YOU TWO NEXT." Compliance was not an issue.

The station was meant to attract a crowd, and featured a sweepstakes: if you played Timmy and the Lords of the Underworld and left a business card, you would be entered in a raffle for a Rock Band bundle. Damnit, the one time I really really wanted my company to be real!

I instead stood quietly to the side as the band finished the song. People wanted to try guitar, and so Brian stepped aside, but fewer wanted to embarass themselves on drums, and I gladly volunteered. Unlike somewhere like Anime Boston, very few of the attendees have ever played Rock Band, and I would say there are people who probably have not even heard of it or the console I was playing it on. I get stares as I scroll down to expert difficulty, and a concerned stare from the booth manager as I flip the foot pedal backwards. I end up playing the mind-numbingly slow Wanted Dead or Alive thanks to our lead guitar's girlishly squealed mandate, and I leave with my appetite tantalized but unfulfilled. Brian and I return later towards the end of the expo when there is no crowd or band, and I convince him to guitar alongside me as I drum to Maps. I finish very content, but Brian's handling of the Stratocaster set off a spark that, fueled by the real life guitarist in him, made him really want to play more Rock Band. Mmm, delicious convert.

We walk back in the oppressive heat, grab a drink at McDonald's because $3.50 is too much to pay for a bottle of water even if it is in Javits, have our suspicions heightened that the M34 is a god damn bus of myth, and then take the AC-less train back to our stops. I realize that I've only eaten a mouthful and drunk two cups of fluids all day, and proceed to gorge myself after taking a much-needed cool shower. I then sit back, reflect on how much I liked the expo this year despite coming back with a light (but procured) bag, and start hoping that the Neopets manager will bring back those cute plushies next year.