Jul 272012
 

Four months!

A great deal has happened. 38 Studios closed, meaning the beautiful and amazing game I spent the last two years working on will never see the light of day. The studio’s closure hit some employees very severely, since it happened with essentially no notice and every expectation that the situation we were in was something we could emerge from. We couldn’t, we didn’t, game over. Cody and I don’t tend to be extravagant spenders, and her benefits are equivalent to mine, so we simply rolled onto her plan with no interruption.

We finally got a dog! We adopted Crichton (named for John Crichton, FarScape’s astronaut protagonist) from a rescue shelter that operates out of New York. He’s a German Shepherd mix of some kind (strongly resembles a Rhodesian Ridgeback, too), born tailless. He chose Cody immediately, and that was basically that. He’s been an amazing addition to our lives and it’s actually hard to imagine what life was like before him. He’ll be six months old on Cody’s and my second wedding anniversary.

I had the excellent fortune to work with many amazing people at 38 Studios. One of them, with whom I worked very closely, made mention to me that his wife’s company was looking for a PHP developer. “Why, I’m a PHP developer!” I thought. I’ve been paid for PHP work in the past (when I worked for Northeastern while attending school there, and when I worked for Blue Fang), I use PHP on a regular basis in my own web projects, and I have a technical mind as a result of working on software for the last six years. A month after 38 Studios laid us off, I started work at Surf Merchants in Boston. So far, it has been amazing. The people are awesome, the company is fantastic, and I get to work in PHP every day–and get paid for it! I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop, probably as a result of spending six years in a very volatile industry.

Ashes is making steady progress, thanks in part to my new commute that has Cody drop me off at the commuter rail in the morning for a 30 minute train ride into Boston. I use that time to continue working on the third draft, and have hit the troublesome middle section I mentioned several posts ago. And it is, indeed, troublesome. I thought I was nearing the end of chapter eighteen, only to realize that I was going to have to re-re-tool chapters fifteen through eighteen to make everything flow correctly. This is what happens when you think you remember your story treatment, but don’t actually double-check.

Joined Pax Gaming, to which Cody already belonged, and have started playing both The Secret World (due to Cody’s exhuberance and a desire to play an MMO together again) and Star Trek Online. I was very pleasantly surprised by STO. Cryptic did a great job capturing the feel of the Star Trek universe. Kudos to them. TSW is a blast, too, and I really dig the flexibility of their system, and the general ambiance of the world–except for all the damn zombies.

Why is everyone so into zombies? I mean, I guess Ashes sort of has zombie-like creatures in it, but not really. It seems like zombies are part of the modern zeitgeist, and I do not understand the appeal at all. I suppose the same argument could be made about vampires, but vampires don’t bother me nearly as much (or, at all, really; I enjoy vampires). I wonder if there’s an element of appeal to the monster. With a vampire, it’s a creature that has power, that has traits that are desirable despite the drawbacks. Same with a werewolf in some ways. But a zombie? Where’s the draw there? Why would you want to be a zombie? Why would you want to live in a world populated by zombies? I don’t get it.

I mentioned it briefly above, but Cody and my second wedding anniversary is coming up in a bit under two weeks. Last year, we went on a cruise. That’s not so feasible this year, what with Crichton and all, and it’s left us somewhat stymied as to what to do instead. Every time we think of things to do and look at the cost, it seems so inefficient compared to the cost/benefit ratio of a cruise. Instead, we’ve talked about doing something smaller for our anniversary (a nice dinner, for instance) and something larger later on.

I came across a fun little program called Manic Time, which tracks your application usage and document/website usage by time. I want to use it as a motivational tool to show myself how much time I waste that I could be writing. With actual metrics staring me in the face, I think that’ll be a decent motivator to not spend so much time idling.

That’s about it for now!

Constricted Posting

 Posted by at 16:16  No Responses »
Jun 242010
 

Hey, a new look for the blog! This change in decor precipitated by upgrading to the latest version of WordPress.

Our wedding invitation

Invitations have been cast to the four winds at this point. Cody and I plunked down and cooked up a design we were both happy with, had ’em printed, and mailed ’em off as we accrued the needed addresses over a period of a few days. We re-tooled the website slightly so that all of our invitees could RSVP online, via a fun little form that also invites them to supply song requests. Additionally, Cody and I can now see at-a-glance who has RSVP’ed in the affirmative, in the negative, and who hasn’t RSVP’ed, as well as our total guest count, and other fun data like that.

To  me, every one of these vests is the same.

You all are wearing the exact same thing, in different colors!

The new daunting task is finding something to wear. You’d think finding a slightly atypical waistcoat wouldn’t be that hard, but apparently everyone and their mother only makes the one sort of waistcoat. Yes, I realize that “buttons down the center” isn’t technically a single type of waistcoat, but it may as well be. I want something that doesn’t look like every other thing out there, which is much the same way I felt about finding a suit when I was still looking for one.

I recently bought a three-piece suit for a friend’s wedding. One piece among the triad is a waistcoat. It’s an interesting design — it buttons diagonally rather than straight down. I returned yesterday to the place from which I had purchased said waistcoat, only to have them show me three essentially identical waistcoats and then inform me that they couldn’t help me. Bull. At this point, I’m tempted to try and find something unique at a costume shop and then have it replicated by someone. Costumers, I suspect, will make more interesting clothing than tailors.


Blogging is a weird thing. I want to get to a point where I’m posting something of vague value every day. However, doing so is complicated by several unrelated factors. The bulk of my time is devoted to work, which I can’t talk about. I also spend a good chunk of time playing WoW. Self-indulgent flights of fancy aside, most people won’t care about my latest WoW exploits. I also want to talk about my story ideas and other things of that nature, but keeping those sort of under wraps is the prudent choice, so that nixes that subject. That leaves wedding stuff and other life events to talk about, which are more sporadic topics with bursts of information. I could wax poetic about mowing the lawn or taking out the garbage, but…do you really want to hear about that?

I didn’t think so.

Oct 122009
 

No, really.

This weekend, I decided to put some extra work into mowing the lawn. The first change was bagging the grass, which was a mixed blessing. While the lawn looks better for it, bagging works out best when your clippings are small. I hadn’t mowed in a couple of weeks. My clippings were not small. I have an awesome pile of grass behind my shed that must weigh in excess of 200 pounds.

Anyway. Our front yard has a pair of maple trees spaced about 15′ apart. Instead of the usual up-down pattern, I moved the mower to the base of the tree and mowed in growing spiral pattern. Once I hit the half-way point between the two trees, I moved to the base of the other tree and repeated. The result was a nice water ripple effect on the lawn, with the trees acting as the ripple source. I’m pleased with it.

In other news, I need to start devoting time every day to the various skills I want to improve—writing, drawing, and playing guitar. I haven’t drawn in ages. I last picked up my guitar weeks ago. I don’t know how to get into a good pattern with it. Any ideas?

Writing and Ideas

 Posted by at 14:13  No Responses »
Sep 012009
 

It’s an old cliché that aspiring writers* will often ask established writers where their ideas come from. The equally cliché answer is that their ideas come from all over, which leaves the poor aspiring writer wondering why they are so defective, since they do not appear to have the same wealth of ideas from which to pick and choose. The truth is, they do. Everyone does. It’s a matter of recognizing it, tapping into it, and executing on that idea once you’ve identified it.

I’m being presumptuous here, not being an established writer myself. In the course of attempting to become one, however, I make habit of reading the personal writings of several authors (namely Gaiman, Scalzi, and Lisle) and have also read a number of books concerning the craft. The authors of these books always bring this particular question up, and always express how flabbergasted they are when they hear the question. The barrier between the two is that one party has a wealth of ideas, knows how to access those ideas, and has the skills to hammer the raw material into something that a publisher will buy, while the other doesn’t realize that their deep pool of imagination is right there, waiting to be used. If you’re capable of reading this blog entry, you have an imagination equal to the task of inspiring a work of fiction. “I don’t have any ideas,” is the mantra of those who don’t know how to recognize their ideas for what they are.

Any idle thought can turn into a story. Walking into work today, I saw a tall, thin post with a hole through the top emitting smoke. I can only assume that this post, with its hole, was meant for cigarette butts. But that image can be enough to inspire an idea. Perhaps it was the start of a fire that consumed the building. Perhaps there’s a story about a guy trapped in this fiery building. Maybe this pole is part of a laser security grid, and it just vaporized the last person to try and walk in. Maybe it’s one of several exhaust vents for a fire-breathing dragon that lives beneath the building. Any of these could become a story.

Ideas are everywhere. You just have to let yourself see them. The hard part isn’t coming up with an idea; it’s turning the idea into something other people will want to read. For that, you have to push beyond the paralysis associated with the desire for approval and just write. See where the idea takes you. If it starts off rocky, with turgid prose and flat characters, that’s okay. Keep going. Writing something is better than writing nothing at all.

* “Aspiring writer” is a bit of a misnomer. The second you put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), you are a writer. An aspiring writer implies someone who has yet to actually write anything. Aspiring published writer would be more a accurate phrase.

Aug 062009
 

Been a while since my last post.  Since then, a ton of stuff has happened.

  • We fully moved-in to our house (though we’re still only about 25% unpacked).
  • We set a date for the wedding (8/7) and have picked a location for the reception, which may double as the wedding site too.
  • We selected/customized Cody’s engagement ring and matching wedding band
  • My company laid off about 25% of its work force (a layoff I rather miraculously was not a part of).
  • The Vampire game has resumed.

I’m probably forgetting a few things, but those are the big highlights.


One of the reasons I haven’t posted often of late is that it seems a bit of a chore to go to the blog page, log in, write up a post, etc, etc. I’ve recently implemented an easier method of posting that I think should make posting a more frequent occurrence. I’ve also got to get over my internal reluctance to post a battery of short posts as I think of things to say. If Twitter has proven anything, it’s that people enjoy hearing about the exploits of others in short bites. I don’t think I’ll ever hop on the Twitter bandwagon, though (famous last words…).


I finally got LaTeX-style rendering working on my wikis. It’s not that this is particularly difficult to do, but rather I had never had a server setup that would allow me to make the necessary changes to support it before. The particular implementation I’m using right now is MimeTeX. I had to do some custom hackery to make it work (specifically, my server did not seem content to create image links with some of the formatting required by TeX, so I wrote a PHP “middleman” that stands between the MediaWiki math engine and the MimeTeX CGI to properly handle formatting), but it’s great fun.


The major motivating factor in getting the TeX support to work is that I wanted to explore the idea of “damage potential” in EVE Online. Because of the way damage works in EVE, specifically with turrets, a given ship using a given type of gun is going to do the most damage at close range, and then see that damage falloff gradually as the target gets farther and farther away. This isn’t accounting for aspects of the target, which also play a role. The formula for this falloff is known and can be calculated, but I wanted to see how different ships stacked up to one another when they were compared.

I decided that the best way to do this would be to integrate the falloff curve (i.e. find the area bound by the DPS graph for the ship). Of course, this led to about 15 hours of wrestling with a truly atrocious integral. After consulting with Wolfram’s online integrator, engineers at work, the think tank at SDN, my dad, Cody, and Dr. Math,it became clear that the only way to solve the integral was via approximation and a computer.  I wrote up a Python script to do the integral and started getting good results.  I’m not really sure how valid they are, though.  Mathematically, they’re sound, but I’m not sure about their practical application.


I think that’s about it for now.

Jan 262009
 

At work, I make very frequent use of 3ds Max’s native scripting language, Max Script, to create a number of tools for the art team and to facilitate my own work.  Before coming to Blue Fang, I didn’t know any Max Script at all.  Now, it’s part of my daily routine.  On the flip side, I’ve made occasional use of Maya’s native scripting language, MEL, to accomplish a few things in the past.  I openly admit that I haven’t done nearly as much with MEL as I have with Max Script.

Last night, I ran into a situation in Maya where I cut the position coordinates of every object I had selected by a factor of 0.05 (i.e. 1.0 cm becomes 0.05 cm).  Here’s what it would look like if I needed to write this script in Max Script:
for o in selection do o.pos = o.pos * 0.05

Here’s what it takes to do it in MEL:
string $selection[] = `ls -selection`;
int $i;
for ($i = 0; $i < size($selection); $i++) {
    float $translate[] = getAttr($selection[$i]+".translate");
    $translate[0] = $translate[0] * 0.05;
    $translate[1] = $translate[1] * 0.05;
    $translate[2] = $translate[2] * 0.05;
    setAttr($selection[$i]+".translate",$translate[0],$translate[1],$translate[2]);
}

It’s no wonder Maya started to include Python support! Of course, while I’m very familiar with Python, I’m not at all familiar with the Python-Maya interface, so I stuck with muddling through via MEL. Still, talk about an unintuitive approach.