The Domain of Steven Pinnacle of Paperless Perfection

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
29Mar/082

Chunk of hay + an indefinite article – Mirror 3 + AD replacement

The Sims is a series of award-winning games that let you control simulated people, each with their own needs, desires, relationships and futures. Some players choose to build elaborate houses, giving their characters a dream home and letting them roam free to do as they pleased.

I, on the other hand, played The Sims very efficiently. I built rooms only as large as they needed to be, with items strategically placed to minimize the space they took up and the time to travel between them. I did not decorate the interior of the house, because pretty scenery really only mattered when they left the house to go to work, and indoor decorations would not help that. I did not buy a full-length mirror because a square hanging mirror served the same purpose at a fraction of the cost while not taking up any space.

I built bachelor houses that were essentially very large cubicles, with no extra money spent on walls for the bathroom because no one would ever see him and it would never be an issue. I did not buy a lounge chair or sofa because it would not double as an eating chair, and which I would then have to purchase separately. The house had one chair. It was the chair in which my Sim ate, watched television and learned skills from. I spent money making it extremely comfortable, because that chair and the bed were the only sources of rest I provided my Sim. When he needed comfort, I did not let him simply sit down, I would top off his fun need by also making him watch TV. If he was already at full fun, I would discontinue TV watching and make him read a book to learn a skill.

But hermit Sims have stunted job progression because later promotions require you to befriend your neighbors. To accomplish this, I had a systematic way of rapidly maximizing a relationship level. I did not bother with most of the interaction options like backrubs and pranks, I did what I needed to do in order to get where I wanted to be, and then I sent them along their way.

I would talk to them until our relationship level rose a bit and then mixed in jokes, all the way until when a hug became the best option to increase relationship points. I chose these because they were efficient and reliable, but also because they raised fun points as well.

Talking, joking, and hugging were fun. With just those three, my Sim no longer felt the desire to watch TV. As long as he could keep talking, he never wanted to read a book, or play games on his computer. To keep the game understandable and not needlessly complex, the developers generalized a Sim's need for recreation into a single quantity that rose whenever something that could be construed as fun was accomplished.

It doesn't work that way in real life, sadly. Given constant exposure to something, we grow tired of it, and we are not as affected by it. Conversely and notably, the absence of something can make us profoundly affected by its reappearance.

For the past year I have been in the presence of amazing friends and socialization. I love being with them and have made shockingly large changes to my plans for next year in order to keep being with them, but they are not everything that I am. They don't do everything that I like to do. And so sometimes, as much as I want to spend every moment with them, I also want to spend moments relishing the comforts that I enjoyed so dearly before I met them.

Yet even with the best of both worlds at my fingertips, each having done nothing to dilute each other, I can't have everything I want. I am always missing something, missing someone, neglecting someone.

But given the choice to be everywhere and do everything with everyone, would I take it? Would it only make me tire of everything faster? Maybe it would. But at least I would never have to apologize.

3Oct/074

Charat + Hong’s destined battle – aXX:goim?screenname=SarcasticSteven&message=I’m solving your riddle right now.

My 3-day trip to New York was amazing, and both Shelly and I came back with twice the load we departed with. The majority of my load came from Saturday, when I went with my brother and the FIT group to attend the Digital Life convention at the Jacob Javits Center. I knew it was going to be a consumer electronics expo, but I wasn't quite ready for the sheer amount and size of the electronics on one small showroom. There were TVs bigger than both of my monitors put together, computer towers nearly as big and probably three times as heavy, and sexiness emanating from even the lowliest of booths.

Was it as good as the Licensing Expo? Despite both conventions being showcases, they were entirely different breeds. The Licensing Expo had gimmicky free stuff: lots of pins, buttons, stickers, and a couple good items like a Happy Bunny postcard book. Digital Life's freebies were a lot less plentiful but more useful, things that people would use and remind themselves and others about the product: Microsoft popcorn and playing cards, Lord of the Rings Online trial DVDs, and a Newegg poncho. Being the officer of the MMO club, I felt it was my duty to procure goods for our members, and took a whole nine full-size DVD cases from the piles that were being constantly replenished. It wasn't until later that I found out that the installer was available online and trial keys could be sent to your email address. Oh wells.

The big notables were the video games. They had computers that ran Bioshock beautifully and still smooth as silk, two DDR arcade machines, dozens of PS3s and 360s, and several unreleased games: Crysis, Guitar Hero 3, Team Fortress 2...the first hour at the convention was really just me going from booth to booth gaping at the live games that were being played on these monster rigs and screens. I'm not so sure I like Guitar Hero 3's interface, but my opinion might have been soured by the long lines for everything worth playing 🙁 .

But the absolute best part? Totally whooping the Geek Squad's ass at 3-question computer trivia, and winning a USB hub in the process 😀 . Working as BU tech support finally pays off (well, other than in the literal sense XD).

The last day was spent playing with not one, not two, but three linked Xbox 360s, with three matching televisions, three copies of Halo 3, and 10 controllers (sorry to break the sequence of 3's). I donned the mantle of SomeRandomGuy so that people could say "Woo, I just killed some random guy!" and "Damnit, some random guy keeps sniping me!" Unfortunately it was more of the former than the latter, but I eked out a spot in the middle of the leaderboard, which is good considering my inexperience with console shooters. Regardless, it was crazy fun for all of us, with lots of jeering and screaming and teabagging. Shelly came back with a 360 of her own, opening up the possibility of four-player Halo 3 co-op with Megan's 360 😀 . Toss in Bioshock, MMOGS meetings, and RPG games, and I've got a lot I want to do and not a lot of time to do it with. College is definitely in full swing.

28Sep/072

Bee Arr Bee

Off to New York for the weekend for Digital Life. Will be playing Halo 3 with two linked 360s 😀 .

19Apr/074

Closure.

Every character in World of Warcraft is allowed to learn two tradeskills, things like blacksmithing or alchemy, though in WoW they're called professions. Professions are like college educations; they put you deep into debt in order to complete, and they're near-worthless until you finally do. Once you've learned all that you can, you want to put that knowledge to good use, namely to work off those training expenses. Some people tersely advertise "300 engi/alch," "port to darn/if/sw 1g," or "arc transmute 5g." I chose to advertise a little more flamboyantly.

"Like vibrating mechanical objects, but can't tell the difference between a Mechanical Squirrel and a Sniper Scope? Want to get back at that mage with an exploding sheep? Let Iskar the Incredible Inventor with his 300 Engineering handle all your engineering needs!"

"Have slippery fingers and keep dropping your vials? Whether it's Swiftness potions or Rocket Fuel, let Iskar the Incredible Imbiber with his 300 Alchemy handle all your substance-related needs!"

"Parents never talk to you about the birds and the bees? I can reenact the story with your Thorium Bar and Arcanite Crystal for just 5g! Come see the Miracle of Life...arcanite bar style!"

"Tired of Aragon the paladin and Gimlii the warrior begging for money? Change it up and have Llegolaz the hunter beg instead! Take a portal to Darnassus for just 99s! Friends ride free!"

"Tired of the contaminated canals of Lagwind and the soot-filled air of Lagforge? Take a trip to the clean, cool, tree-hugging wonderland that is Darnassus for just 99s! Friends ride free!"

I programmed all of these messages into individual "macros" that so I could advertise a particular service to all three major cities with the click of a button. The biggest rewards would be when people would LOL in the trade channel after my advertisement spam. The racier ones often provoke a LMAO or a WTF. Sometimes people would send me a private message saying that they didn't need a transmute, but if they did, they'd buy one from me. Whatever the reaction, I enjoyed eliciting them and making money in the process, and it's something that I've missed since I stopped playing WoW. I miss the people in my guild, their quirks, their voices, their talents, their generosity and companionship. I miss completely annihilating players that think I'm an easy target. I miss manipulating the economy, perfecting methods of killing a dozen monsters at a time when other people have to slog through them individually. I miss being good at something. The feeling of success is what I look for in a good game, and I stuck with WoW because it provided it so well.

The game has since changed drastically, and made itself dead to me in the process. I was in love with what it had been, not what it now is. I'm sure that I've changed in the interim just as the people who I played it with have changed. Even if they don't remember me as fondly as I remember them, the least I can hope for is for my guildmaster's words to ring true: "Iskar, no one will forget your macros."

22Feb/072

Which came first, the わりお or the わるいじ?

Waluigi - Evil version of Luigi
Waruiji - Japanese pronunciation
Ijiwaru - Japanese word for mean-spirited

waru - iji
iji - waru

COINCIDENCE? I THINK NOT!

If only Wikipedia didn't beat me to the punch.

Filed under: Amusing, Gaming, General 2 Comments
11Jan/074

Mystic Snake – 1GUU

For the past twelve hours I have been thinking entirely in terms of Mario Kart: Double Dash!!: I keep envisioning myself blue sparking. Blue sparking around the enemies in the game I'm playing. Blue sparking around the hall. Blue sparking around my kitchen table.

I loved the game the first time I played it. It was easy to jump into, and it gave you a sense of speed not through being faster than other racers, but by the sheer chaos of what was going on around you. Whether you were facing an incoming shell, a pair of racers bobbing and weaving through your path, or a trio of giant pirahna plants ahead attacking riders who came too close, there was always some impending doom that you had to avoid. Because you received more powerful weapons the farther away from the lead you were, there was always a hope for redemption, and always a paranoia about the people behind you. You know, the ones that wielded weapons even more powerful than yours?

I was obsessed with the game when I learned how to blue spark. All the on-screen chaos became perfectly controllable: a matter of judging the right angle at which to slide down the course and around the corner, of how hard to yank my vehicle to dodge an obstacle, whether I was coming in hard enough to snag the item box or not.

The kicker was that I could do it. Heck, I could do it wonderfully. I no longer just held down the acceleration button down a straightaway, I drifted down it like a snake, relying on the continual speed boosts to propel me faster than I could have gone just driving straight. I was constantly in the zone, each successful powerslide a work of art that I brought about with my own hands.

I believe that my mind is using the memories as an antidepressant, an upper. By constantly reliving my successes, I'm kept in a state of euphoria. It instills confidence into me about my skills and my judgement, my ability to predict what needs to be done and then take decisive action. My mind is cheering me up. My mind is a good friend.

For the past twelve hours I have been thinking entirely in terms of Mario Kart: Double Dash!!: I keep envisioning myself blue sparking. Blue sparking around the enemies in the game I'm playing. Blue sparking around the hall. Blue sparking around my kitchen table. Blue sparking around my worries. Blue sparking around my concerns.

When I blue spark, I feel like I can go anywhere and do anything. The problem is when I can't, and when blue sparking becomes an obsession instead of a tool. I become so overwhelmed with the need to blue spark that I don't pay attention to what is in front of me, and tumble face first into the problems blue sparking was supposed to avoid.

My mind means well but sometimes does more harm than good. Like my dependence on constant blue sparking, I have become so reliant on my mind's tricks that I'm not sure how well I could function without them. I just have to keep practicing and hope that one day I can finally obtain the control it makes me believe I have.

28Dec/062

Draw-go

If I had a lifetime to train as a fighter, I would specialize in counters. I would wait until my opponent attacked, then analyze and redirect it to throw him off balance, following up with an attack at the newly created opening.

When I play chess, I always prefer to be black because I do not like taking the initiative when the sides are equal. Even when playing white, I would use the extra move to build up a fortified position. As my opponent would mount an offense, I would deftly repel the attack and then take advantage of the weakness caused by overextending. (Skip to the next paragraph if you're not a chess geek.) I'm sure you've seen a bishop dive towards the side of the board close to the opponent's pawns in their starting positions in order to snatch up a piece. And I'm sure you've seen the bishop get chased back by the pawns, leading to the bishop getting stuck in some obscure nook while the pawn player's bishop, knight, rook, and possibly queen now have room to breathe. I'm the pawn player. They've looked to gain a small advantage or equalize the playing field, and I've manipulated the situation to deny it and open up more possibilities for me.

When I play Magic: The Gathering, I actually do not choose to go second. This is because I do not have to actively create new opportunities with all my pieces like in chess; rather, a new opportunity presented to me automatically each turn as I draw cards, and going first ensures that I can strike at an exposed opponent as early as possible. The board starts as a clean slate, unlike chess where everything is already defended. Indeed, my Magic playing style is no different than that of chess or fighting: I am what is aptly called a control player. I enjoy playing cards that break down the foundation my opponent tries to set up, or that nullify his efforts and leave his resources exhausted. By locking my opponent down, I can set up for a decisive blow. I also have a somewhat comparable propensity for cards in aggro decks, since constant overwhelming force keeps the opponent off-balance sometimes more efficiently than a control player could hope for.

I should have expected that in mediums with so many different approaches, I would learn more about myself by examining the strategies I used. I approach social situations the same reserve I bring to duels in Magic and chess. I want to predict the best thing to say or do, but that requires me to deeply understand the people I'm dealing with. I strive to be empathic to the point where I'm easily overloaded. I can read a single person, and am comfortable with a group of sociable friends, but group dynamics with an unknown person tend to be too much for me. In those situations I simply blank out: I'm fully aware of what is going on, and will respond to questions directed towards me, but I can't manage to think of anything to say. Even when conscious of my absence in the conversation, my mind works impossibly slower at generating anything beyond interjections.

I prefer to read and respond. I may start up conversation with you, perhaps lead a discussion, but make no mistake, I'm still of the same disposition, I've just analyzed the situation and determined that provoking a reaction was the best move. I mentally jot down potential conversation starters as the talk progresses, ready to whip out the most interesting one when the energy wanes. With groups, talks tend to move around too much for me to complete so many mental calculations. I can always jumpstart a conversation, but I can't think of ways to insert my own thoughts between keeping contingency plans and reading the everyone's attitudes.

I've noted many times, most poignantly when handing in late papers, that I should lower the standards I set for myself. If I did not expect myself to be able to handle my opponent's attack, how would my chess playing be affected? Would I not be as addicted to denial cards in Magic? Would I be more outspoken in conversations?

Cristen's continued presence in my life answers my question for me. Yes, if I changed my attitude, my behavior would change, possibly for the better. But at the same time, I can be wonderful just the way I am.

17Oct/061

Clubs, aka university-funded ways to shirk work

I am a persuasive French wino that can stun people with insults and convince policemen that he and his party were in fact not responsible for the mutilated bodies tossed out of a window into an alley. All with the flick of a d20.

The BU Role-Playing Society is one of the three clubs I've joined. Right now the only campaign I'm dedicated to is a post-WWII spy adventure set in Vietnam. There are lots of other games in many different non-D&D settings, but my schedule often conflicts and I honestly don't have the time anymore. That said, it's a fun and often hilarious way to spend a weekly evening.

Wizards is a community service group that teaches science experiments to kids from kindergarten all the way to early high school. A friend in my computer science class invited me over to a meeting one day, and I figured that it was a weekly two hour committment that might be reminiscent to the fun time I had volunteering with 1st graders at P.S. 89 right next to Stuyvesant. I noted this on my app, and lo and behold, I got one of the spots in the group that works with kindergarteners and 1st graders 😀 . We're driven by van to the Young Achievers school, what seems to be one of many Boston pilot public schools for new learning strategies. The distinction wasn't exactly evident though, as it reminded me a lot of P.S. 89 despite it being a regular public school. Not that it mattered, because the school was charming and the kids were cute and wonderful. The kindergarteners have their current curriculum based around butterflies, so our activity focused on symmetry using butterflies as examples. Few children remembered the word when the day was done, but all of them had fun seeing their folded paper cutouts become butterflies. The colored versions were all pinned up on the window afterwards.

The BU Massively-Multiplayer Online Gaming Society is a club that a couple friends and I founded after seeing interest on the BU Livejournal group. We rotate through new MMOs every two weeks or so, playing games like Gunbound, Rakion, Albatross18, and Ragnarok Online. We're all encouraged to play games on our own and stick with ones that we like, but we often meet up with other MMOGS members so that there's a sense of familiarity when in unfamiliar territory. After each game's rotation is finished, we each write a review and give it a grade, both of which are posted on our soon-to-be-created forum. We're hoping to have generated enough of a track record to warrant attention from non-MMOGS members, perhaps non-BU members, and hopefully game developers looking for effective beta testers. The pinnacle of success for the MMOGS would be either getting access to a highly anticipated game in closed beta testing or getting enough funding to provide paid accounts to some of the newer, hotter games on the market. As it stands, we're just a bunch of college gamers. But next semester, we'll be gamers with university funding for snacks.

I am vice-president of the MMOGS. The president, secretary, and treasurer are all juniors, which means that in all likelihood I'm going to be inheriting the club after two years. Oh man it's like Excalibur all over again. Luckily the club's survival doesn't depend on my (lack of) gaming skill, but rather my enthusiasm, which I have plenty of. For now I'll just chip in where I can and learn a few things along the way. And have fun with ultra-high angle shots on a mammoth while I'm at it.

19Sep/0616

Eggs and bakey

People who make dorm fire alarms should consider branching out into the alarm clock industry. That shit would not stop.

Filed under: Gaming, Life, School 16 Comments