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Goodbye J.B.

Our friend, John Brian, died this morning. J.B. was one of my wife’s closest friends, one who was a Kleiss family friend and a man she knew for many years.

I can really only speak from the short time I knew him, but I miss him dearly. On a recent post I made, he commented about the priorities in my life and to not let things get me down. He had a way of doing that, even when he didn’t say anything, a way of letting people know that life is meant for living and not getting down about the insignificant details.

When Melanie and I first started seeing each other, J.B. was so supportive, so fun, I was very glad that we soon became friends. We shared a lot of the same interests: video games, board games, similar TV shows we liked…and we both loved Melanie. At that time, he was a cancer survivor. When Melanie and I moved away, on our visits back to the city, we always took time to visit J.B. and Jason.

But the cancer came back. J.B. fought it, God did he fight. It was different this time and the cancer spread and metasized. In the end, it was too much for his body to handle. Too short a life for someone like J.B.

In selfish way, I’m not posting this to eulogize him, but trying to get my own feelings in order. Life is so quick, I’m not sure any of us are prepared for when people you love move from our present to our memories.

J.B. knew this day would come. Indeed, he urged on his website for friends and family to not waste time.

Family and friends do not take for granted my presence here, it will not last. I will go with a seasonal change in the winds, and then the full moon will shine down only upon the ashes that once bore my smile. I say this not to invoke tears or to be cruel, but to wake you from any illusion you may have that I will succeed in my struggle for years and years in this rapidly weakening shell. Pay attention. Coming winds may catch you off guard.

On this day, the wind is an agreeable northern breeze, so subtle you wouldn’t notice it unless you were outside for too long and felt the gentle sting on your cheek. It’s a typical cold February day, and for the first time in the past weeks, the sun shines bright on a cloudless day. J.B. was right, I was caught by surprise by his passing. J.B. in his wisdom would remind me to not dwell on this, but celebrate the life we have with the people we love.

My wife arrived home and started sharing stories about J.B. Good, funny stories, ones that had big belly laughs. I think he would appreciate the fact what we’re reflecting on are not the last days, but the wonderful shared times.

God speed, John Brian.

Things You Might Not Know About Me

Thought this might be a bit fun to do. As we’re all different people with different things going on in our lives, sometimes you find out things about people you think you know really, really well and that one revelation changes your perception of them. So I thought I’d put up a short list of stuff that people probably wouldn’t guess about me for fun. Incidentally, this probably came up because I found out something about a friend I’ve known for around seventeen years–and I was shocked in a weirdly pleasant way. Here we go.

  1. For some reason, I cannot cook vegetables worth a damn. I find myself able to cook meat reasonably well, I’ve baked a good loaf of bread and make a pretty tasty pie. Veggies? If I can think of more than steaming them, it’s a good day…but they turn out pretty bland anyway. And I like veggies, I just have a hard time cooking them.
  2. Also food related, I’m incredibly anal about how things are in the kitchen, or as I like to say, my kitchen. I spaz out whenever I can’t find something that should be in its place. Nowhere else in the house, but the kitchen, it’s pretty bad.
  3. I have a hard time watching certain shows and movies because I am too easily emotionally moved by Hollywood. And what sucks is that even when I know it is happening, I cannot control welling up during certain passages meant to evoke that reaction. It is the primary reason that I don’t really like watching sad dramas and the like because I don’t enjoy feeling manipulated. My in-laws watch a lot of movies and I usually pass on watching them–well, this is the primary reason.
  4. I’m often riddled with self-doubt. Like right now, where I’m questioning whether I should even put this up (don’t worry, I will), but a lot of that self-doubt has some long reaching effects on my daily life. I overcome a bunch of it, but I really don’t like having it loom over me on a daily basis.
  5. The older I get, the more I wish I learned more science in school. Seriously, science kicks so much ass, there’s likely a calculus algorithm which will plot out the ascending curve of science ass-kicking over time.
  6. In the video games I play, when given a moral choice, I almost always choose the paragon side. Not sure why this is, but I would feel wrong choosing the evil (or slightly bad) side.
  7. I have a strong desire to eventually have a games closet much like you see in a scene or two from The Royal Tennenbaums.

That’s a good enough list for today. Enjoy!

My SOTU Response

…As I Experienced It Through Twitter

I did not watch the State of the Union last night, though it sounded fascinating. Obama can speechify with the best of them and it’s hard to deny he is a talented speaker. I did follow the SOTU last night through Twitter, so let me reflect on that nugget through the use of bullet points.

  1. I follow a bunch of smart asses on Twitter who are hilarious especially in the context of following a Presidential speech. Did I miss actual content of the speech, the red raw meat of vague governmental policy spoonfed to the base of each party? Of course I did. But a loss on “facts” was a net gain on laughs from people mocking the whole thing. Few people were spared the drawn rapiers of comedy. Is that a bad metaphor? Who cares, we’re moving on.
  2. The whole mixing up the seating thing? Yeah, a nice gesture, but let’s see Congress actually talk to each other without donning their Impenetrable Shield of Rhetoric (in either Gingrichian or Carvillian flavors).
  3. The Republican response? Well, at least he talked about some specific stuff. I always thought it was a bit unfair to have a response to the President’s speech, especially when the text of the speech is available to the other party beforehand, essentially granting the last word to the other party. But on the other hand, less people watch the response, so I guess there’s a trade off. It just doesn’t seem like the bully pulpit seems so big this way.
    • As pointed out in a Slate article today, the GOP hopes to cut spending but not touch the four top economic drains in the government (Defense, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security). Proposed cuts don’t even cover the cost of the extended Bush tax cut, so what the hell. Riddle me this, Batman. How the hell do you hope to make any progress on the budget by gutting everything else, leaving little left but an empty shell of a nation? Research? Education? Transportation? Doesn’t this seem awfully short-sighted to gut infrastructure and investment? I know, it’s tough to make big-boy decisions about stuff when the results won’t be seen for years and your constituents want everything for free NOW. But when can we expect a grown-up response to budget troubles?
  4. Oh, Michelle Bachmann…what crazy fun we can expect from you this next two years. Love how you have assumed some sort of leadership mantle of the strangely unguided Tea Party Caucus. How you must be driving GOP leaders up a wall by causing such divisiveness in your own party. After all those years of getting all the Republicans to toe the line giving their party a legislative cudgel they constantly use on the Democrats, you flit in claiming the Tea Party tiara and hold your own response, confusing the GOP message and pissing off other Tea Party adherents and your own party. Fun!
    • On a side note, let me say how thrilled I am that she’s back in Congress throwing herself in front of every camera she can find and not walking up and down the streets of our good streets of the rest of America, getting kids to eat the crazy candy with her. As a recent father, I’m happy that she is locked up in D.C. where Fox, CNN and CSPAN can keep a good eye on her, letting me know it’s safe for my child to play outside.

As a final note, I’m not looking forward to the next two years. Presidential campaigns have already begun (*sigh*), chances are we’re going to have a lot of gridlock, little legislative movement, and lots of GOP crowing about how the economy is recovering–which was more the result of convenient timing rather than actual policy. I hope it’s a quiet two years, but I really doubt it.

Why I’m Not Playing DCUO

In one of my last posts of 2010, I discussed six games that are on my radar this year.  In the comments, I was twice recommended to think about DCUO (DC Universe Online).  To be sure, there’s something about a super-hero game that has that aura of cool radiating.  When I played City of Heroes long ago, I enjoyed it for the most part but had difficulty because of the game’s eventual failings.  DCUO is tempting, but I’m going to list off some pros and cons and attempt to explain why I’ll be taking a pass on this game.

First of all, the pros.

  1. DCUO is a game in a recognizable universe.  Superman, the Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, the villains Lex Luthor, the Joker, Poison Ivy, Mr. Freeze…the list goes on and on.  These are superheroes and villains that you don’t play (except in certain arena settings), but they are there to set the mood.  You know who these guys are and their general histories.
  2. Top notch voice talent.  Mark Hamill (Joker), Kevin Conroy (Batman), Adam Baldwin (Superman), Gina Torres (Wonder Woman), James Marsters (Luthor), Jennifer Hale (Zatanna), Dwight Schultz (Flash), Wil Wheaton (Robin).  That’s a damn good list.  Hamill and Conroy themselves are a huge win (Hamill’s Joker is brilliant).  The rest of the cast looks pretty amazing and from my small interactions with the game, used very nicely.
  3. Some unique gameplay involving PvP.  Not that I particularly like PvP in games like this, but DCUO had some interesting takes on what you can do and what their customer base would like, which I have to say I liked.
  4. Movement powers immediately at start.  One thing that was quite annoying in CoH was the fact that before you could get your top level travel power, you needed to get up to level 20.  And the first several levels, you’d be hoofing it until you got your first underwhelming travel power.  For example, if you wanted to fly, in CoH you’d first get this power which was a weak form of levitation, useful for having to not take the stairs but worthless as trying to get anywhere as running was almost certainly faster.  Then you got a second slightly more useful travel power several levels later before you could max it out.  DCUO avoids this.  You have a travel power right off the bat.  Very nice.
  5. It’s possible that some good friends of mine will play this game, which is always a nice incentive.

How about a short list of middling things?

  1. Sony announced that there will be monthly content updates.  But there’s so little actual news coming out of Sony that the question is will this be another empty promise?
  2. I’ve read on a number of forums that the game has changed significantly in the last few weeks in terms of gameplay.  Beta is a time where you usually hammer out the bugs or start to balance the classes a bit, not make wholesale changes.
  3. No crafting to speak of.  Not a huge problem for me, but some people like it.  Star Trek Online’s crafting was so poorly done it was a waste of time to even try, so maybe not having crafting is not so bad.  However, you can’t say that it won’t drive people away.

Here’s my list of cons for the game.

  1. I did manage to get a beta on a PS3 and try out the game.  It is awful on a console.  Graphics are sub-par, the controls are clunky which turn the game into little more than a button masher, there’s a general lack of responsiveness in the controller, menus are not intuitive to navigate, travel power activation is inconveniently located (I kept on activating my flight power when moving around one of the joysticks), it takes forever for the game to start, game updates took hours to download…it was just a rotten experience on the PS3.  As an MMO player who is used to the immediate responses of a keyboard-mouse combination, it was a complete failure to try and create a limited control system.  Plus, how are you going to do chat with a PS3 controller?  Basically, I couldn’t help but feel I was experiencing a gimped version of this game on the PS3.
  2. PS3 notwithstanding, I was not impressed with the character creator.  Honestly, aren’t we past the ala-carte selection methods of creating your character?  I had assumed that the technology was there where you could change items through the use of sliders and not a pick and choose method.  Not that I was expecting a brilliant character creation experience, but come on, do better than what they currently have.
  3. Menus are not very intuitive themselves.  It took me a long time to learn how to change the color of my pre-picked costume and get it to save properly.  Why should this be hard at all?  Why does the UI feel like it was tossed together by a monkey?
  4. Initial missions were predictable.  Kill/defeat x number of villains, collect x number of so-and-sos, report back to quest giver, upgrade items.  I know, I know, it’s the typical MMO formula but it’s not working for me here.  I got bored very quickly.  Once you found a winning combination of button mashing, there was little else to worry about.
  5. Character power setup is underwhelming as well.  And it also fits into the familiar tank, DPS, healer, controller classes.  There’s nothing remotely new about this formula.  Sorry if I feel like I should desire something new in a game.
  6. Sony doesn’t exactly have the best track record lately when it comes to MMOs.  Everquest is likely an exception because it was on the vanguard and it seems they didn’t fiddle with the formula to much until WoW came along and took over the big boy on the block crown.  Star Wars Galaxies, Planetside, Matrix Online, Pirates of the Burning Sea…each of them had their issues.  The NGE patch for Star Wars Galaxies is one the biggest controversies that happened in all of the MMO world.
  7. No chance I’ll get Melanie to play with me.  That’s a bigger factor than you would think.  Having said that, no Mac port either.

I want to like this game, I really do.  I like the whole superhero concept as an MMO, but I’m feeling this isn’t the one for me.  Maybe it will change in the future, but I think I’ll need to have a trial of the game again before I drop any actual money on what seems like a poor MMO experience so far.

Five Goals for 2011

Of course it’s that time of year again.  You will note I said goals and not resolutions.  Resolutions can be nebulous and for me, it has an aura that those things you set out to do would be nice, but if you don’t get there, oh well.  Goals to me seem more concrete, more tangible.  Let’s start off.

5) Improve Health

Hockey has helped quite a bit actually, plus I walk the dog once a day.  I’m not carrying any extra fat and for being forty, that’s something.  But I’d like to improve my cardiovascular so it’s a bit easier to breathe, so I’m not so winded after a hockey shift.  Also, Audrey keeps growing and I’d like to be able to carry her for a bit yet.  On top of that, I need to eat better than I have been.  I don’t get my three meals, usually settling for two and fueled by a bunch of caffeine.

4) Regular Blogging

I did okay this last year, but was inconsistent.  That’s not such a big deal and I’m pretty happy that I didn’t drop off the map for months at a time.  I’ve got time set aside to do more blog posts, but I’ll likely not blog on the weekends again.  I like spending time with my family and weekends are the only times that I can spend hours at a time with them on a regular basis.  We’ll see though.  Part of this also includes a blog update to make it a bit more personalized.

3) Learn Something New

I like learning.  I’ve got a few things in mind this year when it comes to things I would love to understand.  I’d like to get my German language courses back on track.  I understand a fair amount of words, but I’m not fully conversant.  I’ve got the tools for it, just need to set aside some time to get it done.  I’d also like to learn more about Calculus, strangely enough.  Y’know, bone up on some nerd cred.  It’s not just that though, I’m really interested in it as hopefully I can better understand some of the cool science that’s happening out there today.

2) Positivity

This may be the hardest one that I may need to really put a lot of work towards.  It’s not that I’m not positive about life.  I find that I’m optimistic about a great number of things, but I do let little idiocies get under my skin.  Many of these just don’t matter.   They are minutia, barely even deserving attention, but yet I let it bother me.  It happens most apparently when I’m driving.  I’m kinda vocal about how I think other drivers are pretty selfish and moronic on the road, but why do I let it bother me?  There are other things that I’ve let trouble me as well, but on the whole, most of that aggravation is unneeded.

1) Publish

Yeah.  This is tough.  But I’ve got a plan.  And the point isn’t just to publish for the sake of publishing.  The point is to work on something, make it as best as I can and then release it and see if it gets out of the slush pile and some editor smiles upon the work enough to want to include it in their publishing schedule.  Like I said, I have a plan, I’ve got the will to do it and God willing, I think I may have the talent.

So there you go.  Down on paper, as it were and of course, we’ll revisit how I did in a year.

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