The Domain of Steven Pinnacle of Paperless Perfection

3Jul/082

Sex train

The other intern and I had been planning to book a coach at the airport once we arrived, and take a four-hour ride into Exeter. We arrived an hour later than expected, but there were trains all throughout the day, so we figured we'd be fine.

Pshh, no. We walked up to one of the self-service ticket terminals only to find that all the buses had been booked into the evening. Yes, all into the evening. We couldn't get into Exeter unless we wanted to wait several hours at the airport and then arrive past midnight.

We took the backup option: a train service than ran from London to Exeter. It was more expensive, on the order of four times more expensive (69 pounds, keeping in mind that a pound is roughly two dollars), which is why we didn't choose it even though it was a bit faster than the bus. We took two intra-city trains (shown) to Paddington, and then a Amtrak-type train all the way to Exeter.


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Filed under: General, Life, Outing 2 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
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.

12May/082

(mr)understood

Apologies in advance for obscurity.

There used to be a time when people would crowd into my room to watch Ninja Warrior and The Colbert Report. It was a time when Papa Johns was frequent and delightful, when we had to schedule hangouts on the weekends to accomodate my work schedule, when it was predicted and feared that seawater and the searing sun would cause my skin to have fits. A time of firsts: sleepovers, karaoke, banter, bunnies.

Those were not the most notable features of the time, though. It is more distinctly remembered as a time when memory foam was thoroughly appreciated, when strong tones were not, when steam was constantly recirculated in a futile attempt to make sense of it. It was when the borders of your mom expanded to gleeful smiles and rolled eyes, when you were young was fussed over and grown to be loved, and when Catan was played cooperatively. When talks would be long, frequent, and grandiose.

But that time is best remembered through the moments that caused me to lose more of them. Can I really say that I've gotten better if I often replay them in my mind? That I'm no longer affected by something I look back on with such nostalgia?

I moved off the reservation solely because of the hope that maybe I could relive some of those times. But it's never that easy to forget. You never need to tell someone what you think of them, and so you don't. It is always their intent to hurt you. They are always trying, but they're not the ones who end up hurt.

Some people miss the good ol' Calvin and Hobbes days. I just miss Hobbes.

26Apr/089

Two months of making perfection perfect

Microsoft came to campus some time ago for a recruiting drive. I knew that my odds were low but I wanted the experience, and no matter what the odds are, there is still a chance. Talking to the recruiter went very smoothly; I liked talking to him and he liked talking to me. He made notes on my resume before dropping it in and I walked away happy.

The actual first-round interview was not so smooth. It was not so much an interview as an interrogation. To be fair, the interviewer single-handedly had to deal with two dozen people over the course of two days, and as I was the penultimate, I was going to get the short end of the cordiality stick. I tried to establish a casual talking environment, picked up on every cue that was dropped in order to promote talking and build a rapport, but he was not interested in a rapport. He was there to weed out candidates and that is exactly what he did.

I felt confident that I did well where it counted, but it was not enough. I was not invited to a second-round interview, the multi-day affair where Microsoft flies you over to Washington and pays for everything so that they can subject you to a day-long interview gauntlet.

However, I am completely fine with not moving onto the second round. And that is because I already have plans.

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The plans looked a bit like this, hastily scribbled onto a piece of paper with an old Spanish homework. They was spurred into being by Chris, and dreamed up and laid out during one of my classes. It was the roadmap to an essay that, with Shelly's help, won me a scholarship.

My benefactor was a UK-based software testing company that was moving into Burlington, Massachusetts. They recently started a program that offered scholarships to BU computer science students, the winners receiving a lump sum as well as an internship.

The money was definitely enticing, but the internship was the much more valuable prize. Being very young and having so little experience, I would cherish any opportunity to build up my resume and gain momentum. The internship was originally scheduled to be in Burlington. Its actual status was up in the air for a few months until I was notified that no, there was in fact no place for me at their Burlington office, but they would remain true to their word and offer me an internship.

In England.

Exeter, England to be more specific. For two months I am going to be staying at the University of Exeter and working for a company generous enough to provide me this opportunity. I'll have two months to see whether the sky looks any different in Europe than it does in America and whether cars driving on the wrong side will faze me. Two months to collect as much foreign currency as I can, since it seems to be the most popular souvenir requested so far. Two months of a five-hour time difference from my friends. Two months alone being somewhere I never thought I would be compelled to be by myself.

But for you, my readers, it will be two months of posts and pictures, of pining and preaching. And for me, at the very least, two months of preparing for off-campus life next school year.

22Apr/088

Unfortunately, rule lawyers are even less liked than regular lawyers

I like technology.
Technology needs documentation written about it.
Those proficient with technology are typically not as proficient at writing.
I am proficient at writing.
I like writing.
I like manuals.
Manuals need to be written.

Let's recap:

  • I like technology. - Very common.
  • I like writing. - Not quite as common paired with the first.
  • I like manuals. - I am the only person I have ever known who likes manuals.

I love reading documentation. Before playing a game I will gladly dive into documentation and written resources headfirst, absorbing everything I can and getting a feel for the setting. I strive to find out what works and how to do it, what is worth doing and why they were worth including. I do everything I can to make sure that I know everything that pros know, that I'm at no disadvantage for my lack of experience. I spend the time climbing so that I can stand on the shoulders of giants.

Technical writing is perhaps the lamest job that fits my skillset, even lower than writing flavor text for games. But god, do I wish I could do them.

Filed under: General, Life 8 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.

12Mar/082

Incorrect predictions

I thought that I would absolutely love fencing, find rock climbing interesting, and dislike drumming. Instead, I am passionately missing drumming, eagerly awaiting rock climbing, and only mildly looking forward to fencing.

Filed under: General, Life 2 Comments
12Mar/084

Becoming the earlier and forever kind

Spring break isn't anything remarkable to blog about this year. I didn't decide to to go some island with wonderful weather or abroad to some place with lax alcohol or drug use laws. Despite this, this spring break needs to be one of the most remarkable. The past few weeks have seen me at my most unproductive and most unmotivated, behavior that would only lead me back down a well-beaten and much-hated path, and I need to elicit change in order to keep me on a more desirable one.

Becoming a morning person would be exactly the change I need. Or at least, stop being a night person. It just isn't working out. Many nights recently have illustrated that very point. I love the worker's high that I get from being productive, from coding and seeing things work, from poring over and finally understanding concepts. I used to associate these moments of heightened concentration with late nights illuminated by my monitor and my desk lamp, but recent experiences have proven contrary. They've left me at the wee hours of the morning with little to show but a pile of fatigue on my eyes.

But I randomly decided to rest my eyes a couple weeks ago, and as with almost all instances of me resting my eyes during the school year, I didn't wake up for some time. This particular nap was particularly lengthy, and some would even call it sleeping. Yes, I think there's an unfamiliar but more fitting term for it, sleeping early. I slept at 8 and woke up at 4.

Now even for a normal person, waking up at 4 is like what the fuck are you doing you crazy bastard. I surprisingly didn't feel that way at all. I felt...energized. Refreshed. Better than I had ever felt even with 10 or 12 hours of sleep. I worked and coded in perfect contentment. It was a sight to see, and it is a sight I want to see again.

It will mean I will have to abandon all those late night friends, forsake all those late night conversations. They were what perhaps cemented me in my role as a night owl. I enjoyed the company, the support, the mutual understanding of our situations and the comraderie forged because of our similarities. Does this mean that I'm trading friends for sleep? If so, here's to the nights we felt alive, and here's to goodbye, because if all works well, tomorrow is not going to come too soon. It's finally going to come right when I want it to.