"The growth of understanding follows an ascending spiral rather than a straight line." ~Joanna Field

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

MineCraft and Parenting

So today is Wednesday, and there are only three more days until I move back into Residence.
That being true, it seems logical that I would be hopping onto my keyboard to stomp out an excitement filled post about how much school will rock, and how I wish summer weren't over yet, like my keyboard were some kind of hand-pump train car from a cartoon. And while I reserve the right to do so later, right now this post is going to be about MineCraft.

Yup, I finally bought it (or, more truthfully, my Paypal finally caught up with my desires).

And what I wanted to do for a minute here was try and explain why I, and people like me, enjoy MineCraft to the point of squealing.

Being a sandbox game, there is no win condition. Which sounds really stupid to chronic SHUMPers, because without a win condition, how do you know you are done? How can you get satisfaction?
Some people make their own win conditions, like building a 1:1 scale model of the Titanic. Others, like me, are content without a win condition; we are more interested in exploring, trying new things, and building randomly. We don't want a win condition, because that cuts the play-time.
There is no rush to try and finish because there is no finish.
And yeah, you can play, say, Super Mario over and over, even after you have won. Find a few new secrets and such. But the game doesn't change. You get better at it over time, yeah, but the game is the same, the goal is the same.
MineCraft lets you change the goal as often as you can fire neurons. Every world offers different challenges (to a degree). Mods bring this to a greater point of truth.

And I feel the need to make an analogy here. It's a lot like parenting.
Now hear me out.
There is no win condition in parenting. Yeah, yeah, you could say "getting the kid alive to adulthood" or "raising someone who is not a complete dick, or a murderer, or listens to Rebecca Black" or any myriad of things. But the truth is, those aren't win conditions,

The parents whose child died at seven from a car crash or leukemia didn't lose, weren't bad parents. The kid just dies.
And that's because there is no guarantee.
The worst parents in the world; letting their kid smoke, drink, drive ATVs, encourages mullets -- these people can still have a kid who against the odds becomes the CEO of a multi-billion dollar company. Likely? Not really. But it could happen.

And the reverse is true. The best parents (whatever that definition is); encouraging reading, school, say no to drugs etc. -- those people can, and do, still raise druggies, drop outs, total dick-wads, and worst of all homosexuals.
Nah, I kid, but the point still stands.

And I guess what I'm saying with all this is that I'd hate the pressure of being a parent because if the kid fucks up, you get blamed for doing 'something' wrong, no matter what you do.

And this does relate to Minecraft, I'm just easily distracted.
Why then, knowing the odds, do people have kids?
Why, knowing their kid is reasonably likely to be a complete asshole, do people continue to procreate?

For the same reasons people play MineCraft.
It's genetically hardwired? Gambling is fun? Who cares if there are more jerks in the world, it's funny?

Okay, no.
It is because people are interested in how things develop over time.
Same reason for plants, pets, stock folders.
I won't say it is a primary reason, but it is in there.

This all made sense as I was typing it, but now it seems a little hard to follow, so I appologise.
Anyway. Sandbox games are interesting to a subset of people who want the ability to control things. You get to see how things grow and mature, but you can control how they grow and mature.
So really I guess I'm saying we players of sandbox games are just control freaks in disguise.


Sunday, August 21, 2011

Some favourites to share:

Around when I mentioned The First $20 Million a while back, I thought I'd take some time to think about some favourites I have in the filmographic world. I finally got around to finishing that.
Maybe we have similar taste. Or maybe you just need something to watch and figure my suggestions are as good as any. In any case, here's a list, in no particular order:

Based on a Roald Dhal young adult novel, this is the story of Matilda, a telekinetic 6 1/2 year old whose life kinda sucks. How it sucks and what makes it better is, of course, your choice to pursue.

A young man quits his job as he finds it unfulfilling and goes to school at MIT hoping to make the world better or some such thing. The "coach" of the robotics team doesn't like him, so saddles him with the trashcan project of the PC $99. The young man and a trio of other.... less than desirable guys tries to make this happen, and save it in turn.

A Robin Williams film. The man loses his children, and then dies. As he tries to navigate heaven he learns some unpleasant things about his wife's fate, and tries to rescue her. This film is visually stunning, and makes you want to believe in an afterlife.

A questionable choice, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. It is one of the only films I've seen that pulled off the backwards narration thing. A piecemeal film to say the least.
The main guy has amnesia that resets as soon as he is distracted from a thought. He is trying to figure things out and find the murderer of his late wife.

An animated movie from Japan, written by Hayao Miyazaki (Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, Howl's Moving Castle, pretty much every anime movie that became popular over here). A father moves with his two girls to the country side, I think to spare them some of the grief of their mother being ill (cancer?) and probably for cost. The girls meet some forest spirits (Totoro) and have fun with them while exploring the area around their house and school.

Anthony Hopkins is in this, which immediately makes it watchable for me.
Serial killers, FBI agents, psycho thriller. Yup, my kind of movie.

FBI agents, serial killers, psycho thriller. Did I mention this is my kind of movie? Some FBI agents were called in to help with a brutal murder that happened in the country side. No one is telling the truth, and the murderers are pretty twisted. (But in the way I can relate to, if that doesn't scare you) It also helps that I guessed the killers in the first ten minutes, which made it surprisingly more enjoyable.

You've probably seen this, or at least heard of it a half-dozen times.
An alien world is being mined to the degeneration of the locals, big fight, romance blahblahblah.
I wnet into this movie thinking the story would suck, but it would be visually amazing, and maybe I'd hear a bit of professional conlanging.
I was pleasantly surprised, not disappointed and thoroughly disappointed respectively.
An okay story, very good visuals, but not enough dealing with the conworld/lang.

Future-y sci-fi-y. The police figured out a way to catch criminals before they commit a crime (which seems great for emotional attacks like the first one shown. Can you imagine living with that sort of guilt?) Tom Cruise then has to prove his future-innocence.

Very neat with lots of twists and retribution. Good if you like figuring out who did what when.
Set in sorta present (kinda past) maybe '99-2000? With some set in the '70s. Some dude is trying to live his life, borrowing his friend's apartment, when he gets caught in a gang war. Then things just get loopy.

Another one with lots of twists. Some police officer is on a creepy island that houses an asylum for the criminally insane, back in the '50s. He slowly works out more and more odd things about the hospital, conspiracies and plots. His life might be in danger.

It is gory, yeah. But it is less of a horror movie than some. Some guy is trying to mete out justice in the most violent ways possible. But the why and the who keep changing. So lots of twists there too. Eight movies that got compressed into seven (including SAW 3D). Everything is very well planned out, obviously from the beginning. the last few seem a bit rushed.

Bit different tone here =P
This lizard (chameleon, Johnny Depp) finds himself suddenly in the middle of desertville, nowhere. As he finds a place to stay, he also finds trouble and plots and hilarity. It is a kid's movie after all.
Surprisingly enjoyable.

The most recent thing I've seen in theaters. About a girl pressed into an asylum by her abusive father, who presses for a lobotomy to keep her quiet.
Lots of good music, though the movie itself is a bit ridiculous. Has a very good ending though.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

A more life-y update

As of the airing of this post (Which should be a Sunday, if I've set the advance thing right, and don't think of anything else to post between now and then) there will be three weeks until I head back to school.
As of the writing of this post, I am set to move in on the 4th of September.

Since I don't expect much of the life-changing nature to happen between now (last Sunday) and next (this) Sunday, I figure I'll make a post of what has happened since I left school in April. It's not much.

After exams my mum picked me up from residence. Long drive home, yeah. Once here I spent a few day relaxing, waiting for Queen's to tell me when they wanted me to start working. They didn't, so a week or so in I emailed, got some shifts, and the trudge of this summer began.

I had decided to come off my anti depressants in February, and was fully off them by the time I got home. Combine this with a bit of new-found confidence and self-esteem and a step-father who is... eh, less than all there, and we had problems.
We don't really get along well a lot of the time, through miscommunication and his abhorrence of being wrong. About anything. Ever.
Anyway, a few blow-ups later and things are kinda worked out on that front now. Sort of. As long as I don't say much.
Oh, and it didn't/doesn't help that every time I have an emotion other than cheerful I am told I am depressed and should go back on my meds. But whatevs, right?

I applied for OSAP later than I would have liked because, despite my nagging, my mum didn't remember/had no time to get the tax returns filled out. Yay.
That led to getting my fee deferral forms in at the last moment (Quite literally), raising panic and illness from stress in me.
Not to mention a $1000 fee from residences I overlooked.
But that's all worked out now too.

I saw my dad one weekend, and even got to see Lee and meet her new(not really, just haven't met him since she met him in January) boyfriend. Seems like a nice guy, I guess. Kinda hard to approve of someone in such oddball circumstances.

Upon coming home I was told I would be moving my room out of the basement as it would be becoming a spa for my mum to work out of.
My aunt was going to rent our family room once we made it into an apartment.
Then she was going to rent the basement, but we needed to put a bathroom in.
Then she decided to go move into a seniors apartment complex.
So we started the construction of the spa/clinic/massage therapy rooms in our family room.
There is now no one in the basement, as I moved upstairs in preparation for this kerfuffle.

Work was/is boring and hot. I wake up every morning debating the worth of that extra $48 gross.
I missed a lot of work through illness, construction, transport issues and plain "idunwanna"s.
But I've still managed to make close to my goal for this summer.

Last weekend was the Verona Cattail Festival. It was also when a friend came down to Kingston. Brought one of her kids and her new(not really, just never met before) boyfriend (I see a trend here) from Australia. Nice guy for sure. Putting up with kids that aren't yours is a draining thing to do, and he seems to handle it well.

Now I'm practically counting the hours (not yet, though I am counting the days) until I can get back to my home port and be a bit freer to do things of interest.

I have been playing Minecraft (don't tell anyone, I'm still saving the money, so I'm being bad and illegal. Very soon though I will have the total and then I can stop the icky feeling in my gut) and reading. I should have a book review of one of the books up soonish.

Oh oh oh, and, a classmate contacted me about making some hats for her. She does baby (and probably other) photography and wanted cute newborn hats. So I have a bit of money coming my way from that, as well as a possible in to a market. If people ask her, they can buy sort-of through her. This could work out well. -nodnod-

I think that is all the excitement so far, but I have a week to add to this post (through the magic of delay~), and you'll never know the difference!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Story Fragments pt. 2.

Hey thar~ I have a few more for you! I've actually typed up about 14 pages of 11pt. font, so I think I am making headway.
Anywhos, have another two bits:


I stand, walk, live in a city that is decaying, crumbling and falling apart. As all cities are. Every city everywhere is in a constant state of ‘fixing up’, regeneration and decay at the same time. Or more, they were.
My name is of little importance, but if you must, you may call me Xell.
That’s ‘Zell’ or ‘Cell’, depending on how you feel like saying it. It doesn’t much matter to me how you say it, I just wish I had someone who could.
Ever since the Descent people have been few and far between.And by that I mean that I haven’t seen any humans since my parents, who likely left me as the sole heir to the human race.
I don’t count the demons below. They call themselves by all sorts of new names, in tongues descendant from the human tongues of old. But I don’t recognize them as human, despite their claims of being the future of the race. However it’s looking like I’m losing that argument, considering how many of them there are, and how few of me there is left.
Night is the worst. They can see in the dark, the Hums. And the Micken’s’. All of them, really. I’m running out of candles to keep the light during the night. The surface raids are coming more frequently now. It seems their ‘civilizations’ never really forgot the bounty of the surface.
But it wouldn’t take them long to steal me. Or kill me.
He stood silently against the backdrop of my burning home. I was only seven years old. I walked up to him, his back was to me. The path was steep and rocky, but I pulled my broken bones up anyway. When I finally stood next to him, on the over hang so high above the village I once called my home, he turned violently and tore down the hill. I turned painfully to watch him leave. A solider, perhaps the only one I would ever see cry in my life, for my life.
That’s all I remember from my dream after I wake up. I wake up whole and safe, warm in my bed. Turning over, I pull the covers up higher, trying to recall anything more of the dream I had been having every night for the last nine years. Pulling up the sleeve on my nightgown, I see nothing more than my arm. No branding burn, no scars from hard labour under the hot sun. No broken bones, nothing that would prove that the night in my dream had ever happened.
I wouldn’t even entertain the idea if it weren’t for my one big secret. My Secret, the one even my parents don’t know all the way through is that I died once. When I was seven. The foster home took me in, and I have no memory of any time before that, except the snags I can pull from my dreams.
What I’ve put together is that I was once a child in a small, remote village in a war-torn country. My village was taken by soldiers who branded us as slaves, then burned our village to the ground. My parents fought, so they beat me to bring them to submission, and then left me to die when they would not complied and had to be killed. One of the soldiers regrets the whole things. He still cries at night.
No one would believe me if I told them, because the night I was found, I had no broken bones, no scars, nothing like that. No tot mention I was found in the heart of San Francisco, thousands of miles from where I believe I was born.
I had a psychologist once, when I was twelve. He said that in my hypothetical situation, as I had posed the question to him hypothetically, I could be repressing my actual past and only allowing myself to see a stylised version of it that my mind could accept. Something to do with post-traumatic stress disorder. He didn’t understand. This isn’t a fantasy, a dream. It is the truth. Somehow, I really was once her.
There you have it mon amis~ Expect more at some point maybe.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Story Fragments

So here's what's happening:
I am cleaning out my old basement room, and have finally decided to do something with that avalanche of paper I have. Burning the depressing crap, organizing the drawings, marveling at my usage of English.
Annnnd typing up story fragments. Those paragraphs and pages of unfinished, unpolished first drafts. So I figure I'll put some up as I get them typed. This seems a better place than my Facebook notes for some reason. If you see a set of three hyphens (---) it means that fragment is done, on to the next.
I make no guarantee to the quality or length, though I will try to keep the ones that are complete crap to myself. If you get frustrated with my past-self for leaving something unfinished you can feel free to go back in time and yell at me. Also, ask me. I probably can give you the jist of the missing stuff.
Here goes:


Fear. Fear. Fear.
Avoid the cities. Danger. Danger abounds in the cities.
Rot, mold, disease. It is all there. But worse, worst of all of it… the people. They stand exactly as they stood for so long. Many had been stripped, the clothing taken for usage long ago, and stood more exposed than any of them would ever have allowed while they were alive. Not that they were dead now. They were just… stopped. But despite the dangers the city exudes, it is where you will find me.
I have lived for far too long, seen far too much, and lost so many to the sea of time. No, not a sea, for the sea is too calm. The storm, the tornado of time.
My life since the Stop has been, in a single word, full. Full and hectic, busy and lonely. Oh, I had many people pass through. And many people stay, for a time. But the dangers and horrors of the city push all on, eventually. And yet I stay.
I made a home in what was once a loblaws, though no one alive today but I would have even the slightest clue what that means. I ate the produce first, and the bread, in the days of my grievance. Then I set to work. I moved the bodies, for I shall ever refer to them as bodies, until, that is, the awakening comes. I moved the bodies outside, using a trolley I found in the hardware section. I was weak then. 150pounds of human flesh were too much for me. I tried to lay them out as well as possible the first day. And then I gave up. I stacked them five high in small pyramids in the parking lot. Then I moved cars. I learned to hotwire on the internet, for in those days the internet was the only connection I had to the world, dead as it was. I set them up in a barricade around the doors, learning to drive as I went.
I was an obsessive apocalypse nut before this all had happened.
I followed the layout in my mind quite subconsciously, using the work to escape my grief. Next were the raids. Still early in the Stop, the other markets had some produce still fresh. That was a treat. I loaded an SUV full of water bottles and trailers hitched ten long to the back. Water was my first concern. Always. Next, every piece of non-perishable food I could lay my hands on. Then I ate through as much fresh food as I could, and started a garden. I had still yet to see any living people. I was scared, scared I was the only human left, until the awakening. I cried every night until finally there were no tears left. The shelves where great for making a room for my bed, my nest.
The world around him started to flash, brilliant colours, monotones, high buildings, open fields. All he could do was keep pushing his dream, or have himself wiped away into oblivion by the tides of the world. He heard a loud cracking noise, like an electrical wire on wet pavement, smelt smoke, and saw a blinding flash of light all at once. Then suddenly, all was white. He felt like he was floating, until he hit the ground. Hard. He tucked his limbs under himself and rolled to a stop. Kneeling, and then standing up, he saw a small group of six or seven men and women in white lab coats standing before him. None of them were smiling, and the large black man in front was positively scowling. Behind himself he heard a large shuffling of feet, and some small sobs and sniffles. Afraid to look away from the ominous group of white clad adults, he turned a half turn and saw behind him

That's what I've got for now, but there will be more. Poems, sentences, plotlines crudely point-formed. Oh, my, why did I save this stuff?
I guess for the same reason I am now typing them up. Preservation of self.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Queen's Experience

So as some/all/many/none of you know, I work at Queen's University through the summer. It is the first real job I've had. This summer, as well as last summer.
As you may also know, I am not a student there.
So what I see from work is the view I get of this university.
Which would be great if everything ran smoothly. Of course, it doesn't. But it's not my place to talk badly of my employers, so I leave that there.
No, what I wanted to say is about what I've seen there, and some of the things I've learned from working there.

So, here is a taste of what I call my "Queen's Experience":

  1. Humans are packrats. I should know this through personal experience, but somehow coming into the room of someone who is staying for a weekend and seeing the sheer amount of stuff they bring, really drives it home.
  2. Humans are vain. Similar to above, how many body washes/soaps/cleansers/deodorants does a person need? I'd say about one of each, not six.
  3. People value odd things. They story of a person who called front desk because they had lost 13 cents and thought housekeeping had taken it makes this point for me.
  4. People have a hard time recognizing value. Much like above. The number of times things get thrown out as they look like junk, then are called for by students who left and forgot is amazing.
  5. People are forgetful when they are in a hurry. Ties once again with above. It seems to me that if you are an international student and you are taking a plane back home in 3 1/2 hours and need to get to Ottawa for that time, the first thing you would check is that you have your passport, ID, health card, and wallet and that they aren't in a drawer or under your mattress.
  6. Students are scary. Find one bullet under a bed and it strikes fear in you, lemme tell ya.
  7. Students are stupid. Why, why, why is there a traffic sign in the drop ceiling? With 40 pounds of concrete attached?
  8. People think they are important. Is it really necessary to sign your name, year and course indelibly into the drawers?
  9. Students are crazy. The "hat trick of hat tricks" (three weekends of drinking until blackout each day) is not something you need to write in your desk drawer. Worse is the guy who says he did it every night.
  10. Students are awesome. The number of closets with instructions to Narnia...
  11. Always ask directions from two different people. What is a simple "down this street, to the left" from one person is "First you take the east doors to, do you know where the east doors are?, okay, take the east doors, wait is it the south door?, well you take the doors and you'll see a statue of a monkey, though it could be a lion, I'm never quite sure... there's a statue, anyway, and..." from another. Learn these people. Avoid.
  12. Colour coding is your friend. If one door is Pink, you'll always know where you are. Except when the other three are near-identical shades of blue.
  13. Proper signage is a good choice. "A-wing is left. No, right, no, uhm... Directly across?"
  14. Elevators will break. I hope you weren't planning on getting work done today, because eleven floors is a lot to climb with a mop and pail.
  15. Even signage will fail in the view of stupidity. What is so hard to read about "Shower out of order, please use next shower" written in 2 inch letters? Especially when the only thing in that room is a shower?
  16. Transportation is a beautiful thing. Three people, three jobs and one car is not.
  17. People are mean. It is hard to know what will tick someone off, and it doesn't help when they over-react.
  18. People are kind. Sometimes you'll find a person who will just make your day over and over and over. Cherish them.
  19. Being the favourite sucks. Watching people getting put down and and told to do the worst jobs while you are favourited makes you feel squicky.
  20. Not being the favourite sucks more. Being put down and getting the worst jobs isn't fun.
  21. Getting demoted from favourite to not is the worst. People remember when you held that high seat, and aren't always forgiving.
  22. Scheduling's a bitch. 9-1, Monday to Friday is nice, 9-1, 8-4, 9-4, 10-2, 9-1 is not. Not even counting weekend work.
  23. Sometimes life is just a calamity of errors. "I won't be in as I am: sick, stressed, rescheduled without prior knowledge, helping with construction, the heat/humidity is too bad, sick, car was being fixed, parents were sick, other people need to work, no way to get home..."
  24. Five day weekends aren't that great. I'd rather a two-day weekend where I actually did anything, to a five-day one where I sleep.

So, yes. These are things working at Queen's has taught me. There are other things, I am sure, but this list is long enough, ne?

Here's a question for those of you who have/have had jobs:
What's the most important thing you've learned from them?