Gametap

Last night I was really feeling the urge to play some video games (probably driven by my immense powers in the lazy side), but my xbox is currently in the shop. I don’t own any of my old consoles anymore; they’ve either gone to the great flea market in the sky or were traded (along with everything else with any possible value) to pay for my xbox. I’ve got a computer, but the only game on it is World of Warcraft, which is a great game, but I wasn’t in the mood for it last night. Not to mention, I’m pretty cheap and didn’t feel like paying the $15 a month to renew my subscription. Paying a monthly subscription for a game makes me feel dirty — just a desperate John paying the pimps that own World of Whorecraft.

So I began to search around for some fun online games, perferably free ones. I found a downloadable demo for Doom 3, which I had never played, so I decided to go for it. But the download was going to take about an hour, and I needed a fix right then!

So I decided to check out Gametap. I had seen their ads online before, but never checked them out. Turns out they’re not free, but they were offering a deal where the first month only cost $.99. Well, that appealed to my inner Scrooge (more importantly, I knew it would be cool with Lauren, who is much more… um… frugal than I).

As fate would have it, I still waited a while before I could play anything, but at least I felt like I was doing something. I had to register, enter my credit card info, etc. Then I had to wait for the download. I had expected Gametap to be the kind of service that you play over a browser… just sign in, pick a game, and play it right over internet explorer, or whatever. Instead, you download an interface (which is pretty cool, and well designed), and play through it.

Last night, I played Street Fighter 2, 1942 (which kicked my butt, I’m ashamed to say), Altered Beast, and maybe one or two others. I’m also planning on hitting some Castlevania 2: Simon’s Quest this weekend.

It was really a lot of fun. I can see why people would get hooked on Gametap (although I’ll still probably cancel my membership before the month’s out). There are some really cool games on there: RPG’s, racing, fighting, puzzle, adventure, etc. Some of them aren’t even very old… just within the last couple of years, actually. But it’s a lot of fun to sit around and play titles that you haven’t seen since you were a kid (although Dragon Warrior wasn’t on there, Jason đŸ™‚ ).

Anyway, it was a fun experience, and one that I’ll probably repeat a good bit over the next few weeks. At least until my xbox is back… And if any of you love the old school games (Galaga, Asteroids, PONG) and don’t mind shelling out $7-10 a month, then I suggest you check out Gametap. I don’t think you’ll be sorry.

Lazy Radio

So Birmingham has a new rock station, 105.5 The Vulcan, which I’ve been listening to lately. They specialize in new rock, but have a heavy focus in stuff from the 90’s. Obviously, that’s something I really dig; I mean, it reminds me of high school, college, and endless frivolity (which often equals stupidity). But it’s made me a little concerned too…

For instance, I was listening one day and heard the song “Burden in my Hand” by Soundgarden. Great song. I hadn’t heard it in years. But two days later, I heard it again.

And that’s ok too, but I think you see where I’m going with it. There are several great songs from the 90’s that they’ve brought back out, but they’re starting to overplay them. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard “Yellow Ledbetter” by Pearl Jam or “Self-esteem” by The Offspring. Those are great songs too, but don’t overdo it! There’s such a vast and wonderful catalog of material out there, you should almost never overplay anything.

So, why would they do that? Why would they focus on a handful of songs and play them into oblivion when there’s so much great stuff out there? At first, you might assume that they are strong in the lazy side of the force. After all, what could be lazier than picking out a selection of songs and never replacing them with anything else?

Well said. It sounds like you’ve really been trying to embrace the lazy side. And perhaps, that is why you fail.

The lazy side can’t be embraced. It eludes embracing, because embracing is action. Instead, you must treat the lazy side with indifference. You must sit back on your couch and act like you don’t care about the lazy side at all. Maybe eat a few chips, or ask someone to get you a drink (but don’t get it yourself…). Yawn a lot. The lazy side will draw ever closer.

See, the lazy side will never fail you. Let’s go back to our example of this new radio station. When using the lazy side, one concentrates on maximizing and sustaining enjoyment. Playing good songs on the radio is enjoyable, and if you own the radio station, it’s also lucrative. The lazy side likes “lucrative.” A lucrative life-style enables laziness.

Therefore, a true lazy side master wouldn’t just pick out a few good songs, then let them run continually. No. Instead, he will (using minimum effort) periodically change up the song selection so that no tune gets old. Thus, people continue to listen to this rocking station, and money continues to pour in.

Truly, the lazy side IS powerful (and I would have added an exclamation point there, but I was feeling too lazy)

And Now for Something Completely Different?

So… today I looked into going back to school. Yeah, I know, it surprises me too. I mean, that’s not exaclty “embracing the lazy side,” is it?

I graduated from UAB over four years ago with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management. When I shot out the doors there for the last time, I was psyched and ready to go. I mean, I finally had that elusive, illustrious piece of paper that was supposed to unlock the doors to every dream I’d ever had, right? Not only that, but I already had several years of good work experience – management experience, no less!

As luck would have it, things hadn’t been going well with the company I was with at the time, so I bid them adieu and waited for the deluge of offer letters I was about to receive from prospective employers. And I waited. And I waited. Until I finally realized that those offers weren’t going to come as easily as I had thought.

But hey, that was cool. I was young, smart, and relatively good-looking, and I knew that having that magical degree was sure to land me a great job in no time.

Two months after graduation, I was still looking for a job when my wife found out she was pregnant. I couldn’t have been more excited. Lauren, however, being a little more down to earth than I, felt rather worried that I still hadn’t procured employment. By the time another month or two had gone by, I was pretty worried myself; I couldn’t find a job doing anything.

Finally (I won’t bore you with all the odd-jobs and interviews I endured), after over six months of looking, I finally found a good job. The salary was good, the benefits were good, and it was work that I was already familiar with.

I’ve been working in that same job for almost 4 years now, and while it’s been great, and the company’s been great, I’ve started to feel that itch. I’ve peered up the ladder and realized that I’m not too crazy about any of the positions up there. And even if I were, it would require relocation, which is something I’d rather avoid.

So, for quite awhile now, I’ve been thinking about what to do next. Not that I really plan on leaving this job any time soon, but I think it’s time for me to at least have some game plans going, in case I decide to stretch my legs and try something else.

School seemed like a possible answer. Maybe I could go back for a degree in MIS, or web design, or something. For a long time, I’ve been fascinated by programming. I especially like the graphic design stuff, but then again, doesn’t everybody? I think most programmers want to design the next highly addictive video game, so having that ambition isn’t all that original. It’s like saying you want to be an astronaut when you grow up. So maybe something more modest, like MIS, would be more realistic.

My friend Wes seems to think that I should pursue something in project management, perhaps for a tech company. That would give me the change of scenery that I’m longing for, but without having to necessarily go back to school. Definitely something to consider.

Anyway, it’s a lot to think about. I would like to learn how to do some programming, but tuition isn’t cheap, and it’s pretty time-consuming.

Hmm… I’ve really got some thinking to do. I’ll let you know what I come up with, and if anyone has any ideas, shoot.

Perusing (but not pursuing) the Past

I wish I could really write.

I just got through reading this great blog, and was very impressed. His writing style is magnificent, and it makes me wish I had stuck with English Lit a little longer.

Ah well, that’s life… Lauren (my wife) and I have been talking about that kind of thing lately (regret, in case I wasn’t clear). And maybe regret is too strong a word. I guess curiosity is really what we’ve been talking about. You know, what might have been, etc. Probably nothing too constructive to engage in.

We’ve been married for almost 6 years now. That’s really not that long of a time, but it’s definitely long enough to have some ups and downs. I think we’ve grown up a lot. I was 22 when we got married, and she was 19. When Lauren was 21, we had our first child, Madelyn. Two years and six weeks later, we had our second, Hailey.

You really don’t know love until you have your own children. There is absolutely nothing I wouldn’t do for mine, and the first time you see them hurt, scared, or upset is terrifying.

Not too long ago, I was home with the girls, while Lauren was at work. Lauren’s a nurse, which is obviously pretty handy. It keeps me from worrying too much whenever one of the girls is sick. Anyway, on this particular day, I was giving them a bath. They had some cups in the tub that they had been playing with and drinking out of. I know, I know… drinking bath water is pretty disgusting, but they seemed to enjoy it, and I figure it’s gotta help their immune system in some way, right?

I had been watching Hailey very closely because she’s still very young and I knew it would be easy for her to choke on the water. She didn’t. But Madelyn wasn’t so lucky. She started coughing and spluttering, waving her hands in front of her face, and looking at me as if I could do something about it.

I reached over to her, spoke kindly, etc, but I really wasn’t that worried. I mean, I had been a dad long enough to have seen choking before, and as my wife has assured me, “if they’re coughing, that means they’re getting air.” So, like I said, I kept cool.

But Madelyn really started choking. She wasn’t coughing at all; all breathing had stopped, and she just looked at me in shock, waiting for me to fix it. But I couldn’t fix it, and that became more and more apparent as the seconds ticked by. I picked her up out of the tub, oblivious to the water soaking my clothes, and patted her back, my mind whirring frantically.

Have you ever had a car pop out of gear while you’re driving it? You know, you’re really moving down the road, maybe going up a hill, and suddenly, the engine screams, and the car starts slowing down? That’s what my brain was doing. It was running overtime, but it wasn’t in gear; I couldn’t think of a single thing to do.

Luckily, I didn’t have to do anything. Madelyn finally took a gasp of air, coughed, then began sobbing. “I couldn’t breav, Daddy!” I think I might have been crying too. I had never felt such pain or terror in my entire life, or such relief when she finally started breathing again.

Yeah, the love you have for your kids knows no bounds. But that’s not really where I was heading a minute ago… seems I took a bit of a tangent.

Because no matter how much you love your kids, they are work. You certainly can’t think just about yourself anymore. As a matter of fact, your thoughts have to be more like 95% family/kids and 5% you (don’t let that freak you out too much. It’s not like I’ve done any scientific research on the subject, I’m just making stuff up).

Six years can see a lot of changes. When I got married, the World Trade Center was still standing, and the Gulf War still referred to the one in 1990. But MTV had already stopped playing videos. I haven’t been married that long.

I’ve changed a lot too. Some good, some bad. I think lately, the good have outweighed the bad. I’ve gained weight, lost weight, and gained a little back again (trying to lose it again, too). And I recently had my 10 year high school reunion, which I actually enjoyed more than I thought I would.

But still, after a while, you wonder what things would have been like if you had made different choices in life. What if I had gone away for college? What if I had really pursued a career in music? Blah, blah, blah.

It’s ok to wonder about that stuff sometimes. But you’ve still got to keep your perspective. For one, you can’t go back and change anything. So if you really find yourself regretting something, you’d best forget it and move on. Life lies ahead of you, not behind.

And ultimately, you’ve probably got it pretty good anyway. I know I do. I got very lucky in marrying Lauren. She has been someone to laugh with, cry with, and someone to pick me up when I’ve come undone. She’s made me a better person and has given me the two people I care most about in life.

Sometimes it’s fun to speculate about how things could have been different. But there’s really nowhere I’d rather live than right here, right now (to borrow from Van Halen [EDIT: I’m a buffoon.  Jesus Jones did that song, not Van Halen.]).

That being said, I will say that a little adventure wouldn’t be a bad thing. Ever read Glory Road by Robert Heinlein? You should.

Got any dragons you need killed?