Printer Bliss

I finally have a printer that connects wirelessly to my network and prints when I’m in a completely different part of the house. The print quality is great. Plus, it scans — to USB stick, email, or FTP (dude). It’s got a document feeder. It’s huge. And it was insanely easy to set up. And the whole deal only cost me $200, which I originally expected would buy me a pretty mediocre machine.

It’s a Brother MFC-6490CW wide format all-in-one; the link is Amazon, because the OfficeMax price has gone up since I bought mine and Amazon is now less expensive. We’ll see how it holds up, but damn, I’m impressed so far.

I am one happy camper, I’ll tell you.

5:15 am

5:15 am is the solution to so many problems.

5:15 am means that I wake up insanely early, in the quiet dark, and have an hour or so to wake up and see straight even before the sun comes up. It means that by the time it’s light, I am itching to get out and run—so I do. And 5:15 am means that because I run so early in the morning, I take my shower early in the morning. Therefore, 5:15 am means that I’m ready to leave the house for the rest of the day; I’m awake, I’m clean, I’m alert and happy, and I’m probably at least mostly dressed. If anything requires me to go outside later on, I don’t need forty minutes to get ready. I’m ready right away.

5:15 am means that by the time 7 rolls around, I’m already present. And I’ll tell you what that means: Being present by 7 means that most of my work is done by noon.

You heard me. Noon.

And so for the whole rest of the day, I feel almost no stress, none. Because I’ve already done most of the work I needed to do that day, and I can either keep working or fuck around as I please. There is no pressure to push myself further than I feel I can go. If I want to read or take a nap, fine. And you know what I usually do?

I usually keep working. Just because I want to.

It sounds idyllic because it is. I knew it in January when I did it for a month and felt fantastic. Yes, it had its drawbacks. Yes, it meant going to bed earlier. Hell, maybe doing it will cycle me back to polyphasic frustration again. But I just have to try. It was so freaking good.

Home Sweet Hyatt

I love staying at the Hyatt. Mostly this is because I associate it with Dragon*Con, but the hotel design is always so lush, and I’m uber-relaxed there. It feels like a good place to work and think. The Hyatt Regency in Dallas is just as good, smooth and comfortable and aesthetically pleasing. The unwashed masses of friendly AnimeFest freaks echo my Dragon*Con tradition and make it somehow more familiar, more like home.

There are definitely a few peculiarities that I’ve noticed this time around. If they happened in any of my Atlanta stays, I failed to notice them (or maybe just don’t remember). In my mad search for an electrical outlet I discovered that they were all cleverly hidden, and almost entirely inaccessible. When we pulled the topsheet back from the bed, all the under-linens came with it. Things in this hotel room are made to be beautiful, but they don’t stand up to inspection (or use). It’s actually sort of fascinating. They do such a brilliant job of creating a lovely environment, but it’s really just a lovely facade, and it doesn’t stay that way long. I’m sure ugly electrical outlets ruin their design, and they’re happier when we don’t use their wattage, but yow it was a pain to charge my computer!

A weird addition is that most of the staff is deadpan, nonchalant (and sometimes dense). I told Marty that I wasn’t sure if the Hyatt staff were just worn out from convention crowds, or if they truly didn’t care that much. We think it’s probably the crowds. I’ve never stayed at a Hyatt without a convention.

Itches and all, I have to admit it’s hard to really mind. We have a bathroom the size of a train station—a shower head like the bastard child of a tropical rainstorm and a 17-star massage. I had to think hard about whether I wanted to spend the entire weekend under the torrent of that glorious water pressure. The view from our window is fantastic; we have front row seats to the downtown trains and the huge, looming Dallas skyline. The picturesque city through that window looks like a giant walk-through miniature. It’s hard to remember that it’s real when it’s so perfect. The soap smells of lavender and citrus… heavenly. When the train blows its horn, it rings across the city in layered echoes. Since I’m not trying to sleep, the sound is beautiful.

So I forgive you, Hyatt Regency. I know cons are rough on you, and bedspread mechanics are hard to decipher. And electrical outlets are evil zits on the otherwise immaculate face of interior design. Just keep doing your thing and we’ll get along okay. (Those parking rates could come down a little, though. Dude.)

Braid, or How I Attained Nirvana

I read Penny Arcade pretty regularly. This week they mentioned something called Braid, using phrases like “something that really matters,” and “even within its circumscription their minds are shattered and remade,” and “genuinely huge concepts that hum with stradavarian fullness.”

Like, whoa.

So we bought the game.

It cost $25 to buy enough “Microsoft points” (oy. whatever.) to download it from Xbox Live Arcade, but Marty used the rest on something else he liked, so Braid cost us just about $15. And I’ll tell you something. This is one of the most fantastic games I’ve ever played. I can’t stop playing this game, and I’m not the same since I started.

It’s incredibly simple. It’s a mind game, about moving forward and backward through time and solving increasingly more challenging puzzles. It reminds us a lot of the dinky Flash version of Portal (that we loved so desperately and obsessed ourselves with conquering). But Braid has the basic problem-solving structure of Portal, the brilliant (and sometimes borrowed) humor of the original Mario games, the simplicity of a Flash side-scroller, the depth and beauty of a tragic romance, and the musical-visual high art genius of a mad Aphrodesian heaven.

For it is the artwork and the soundtrack that just blow my mind to pieces.

I loved Yoshi’s Island for the game art, but Braid is Yoshi’s Island for grown-ups. Braid has real brain puzzles and illustrations with the sophistication of oil paints—not vectors or crayons. The mystery and aching of its storytelling alters you in some impossible, unidentifiable fashion. This game, it plucks at your heartstrings; you move through pages of a book, pieces of a puzzle, you feel deeply emotional but don’t know why, the music really moves you, the lush landscapes—vast green meadows with sun-streaked clouds and city skylines billowing sunset flame—reach inside you. Change you.

God, why don’t they make more games like this?

I’m dying to know if a version will be released for Mac. I want to throw money at the creators of this wonderful work. Braid’s website is here; a list of songs in the soundtrack is here, and you can see screenshots here. But there’s nothing, absolutely nothing like playing the game and experiencing all these things moving together, in synchronicity. It’s breathtaking.

Guys, buy this freaking game.

30,000 Unmarked Smooches

We attended a pie party Tuesday night. There wasn’t quite enough silverware, so we toted some along to add to the pool. Wednesday evening, I received this message sent from Crow’s email address. It was obviously co-opted by terrorists:

We have your forks.

If you cooperate, they will be returned unharmed.

We demand 30,000 unmarked, non-sequential smooches.

Inform the police, and it’ll be the garbage disposal…

I want to make a joke about dye packs, but it’s just not coming to me.

Adam and Jim

All the way through grade school—from Kindergarten or First Grade until Sixth, when I was twelve years old—I had two friends who were boys. Their names were Jimmy and Adam. Each was the other’s best friend, and the two of them were a great constant of my grade school education. I don’t remember much, but I remember a few things. Comic books drawn on ruled notebook paper, magic shows with newspaper palm trees, and strings of cheesy punch lines at long lunch tables. (And that makes me remember cafeteria hamburgers, plastic lunch trays, cafetorium stage carpeting in red. Do I really remember the plastic lunch trays, or did I make them up?)

Although my interaction with and knowledge of them mostly ended after we graduated Sixth Grade, moved on to new schools (and new states), I found them by bits and pieces over the following years. An email address here, a website there. A college, a new project, a fiancee, an IM handle. There isn’t any consistent keeping in touch, but there has been keeping in think; and I have dreams about them.

The dreams are always a little sad, or a little lost. I almost always wake up feeling like I misplaced something, or neglected an important connection. Of course, these weren’t friendships that deteriorated over time—we were twelve. We went to new schools. We grew up and made new lives. We became new people who (mostly) didn’t dwell on elementary school. But isn’t it odd… and kind of wonderful… that they come to mind so often? Individually, and together. For some reason, they were important. Well, they still are.

I often wonder what became of people I knew when I was a little kid. Just these more than most. Adam is teaching music, I think. Jimmy is Jim now—I don’t know if he’d lynch me for using a childhood nickname or not. (I can only plead fondness.) Is this entry a half-assed attempt at getting back in touch with them? I suppose it’s just as much a soft-hearted attempt at letting them know that they still mean something to me, if you can mean something to someone you only knew till you were twelve.

Well. I think you can.

Once More, Jon Says It All

Once again, the Daily Show jumps right to the crux of the thing—and puts the smack on some seriously moronic behavior by mainstream media. Gawd. It kills me. But wow, do I love me some Jon Stewart.

Pickle Juice

Marty: How attached are you to not having pickled garlic pieces in your vacuum cleaner?
Me: Attached!! This attached!
Marty: How attached?
Me: THIS attached!!

This attached, as in, “I just caught a hyoooge fish” attached.

You know, he’s been saying funny things all day… But I couldn’t let this one go.

The Puppy List

So far this morning I have made delicious fry-like baked potatoes, perused four high school notebooks, and half-assed a kickboxing video. What have you accomplished since midnight? ;}

One of the things I found was a list buried in the back of the last notebook I picked up. Here is the list:

Monday June 15 1998

Very big, not too marked:
Archibald, Oldest, 12:00 PM (big, almost no spot)
Otto (VERY LOUD!), Third, 3:00 PM (big, bigger marking)

Slightly smaller:
Fergus, Seventh, 5:40 PM (middle marking)

Big girls:
Cassandra, Sixth, 5:30 PM (3 spots – little ones)
Elektra, Fourth, 4:30 PM (“7” marking)

Itty bitty girls:
Mina, Fifth, 5:00 PM (bigger marking)
Isabel, Second, 1:30 PM (littler marking)

Gregory, EIGHTH, 7:10 PM (big, marking to right of chest, very small)
Zeno, NINTH!, 9:00 PM (bowtie sorta mark)

Liesl’s puppies were born on a pile of blankets in the corner of the master bedroom on Warner Road. I was all alone in the house when it started, and it was incredibly scary and awesome.

Archie, Elektra and Gregory sold when they were small. Cassandra was sick, and Mina was too very tiny; though we tried to get them to eat from a bottle, they died soon after they were born. Dad buried them in the back yard, and played Amazing Grace on his bagpipe chanter. Fergus survived for longer but he was weak; he stayed very little and, as it turned out, had a congenital heart problem. We gave him a big, strong name to disguise his size. He stayed and got loved for awhile, but eventually moved on.

Zeno and Isabel were fluffy throwbacks, and we dispensed with all delusions of selling them—we like throwbacks. We always have.

Otto stayed with us, too. He was always a big scaredy. His list designation of “VERY LOUD!” refers to the constant yowling and whining of his puppyhood. He (mostly) grew out of it, into a great-looking dog. All dogs should be as brilliantly handsome as Otto, and as eager to please.

Isabel stayed with us for many years, Zeno’s bestest pal and partner in crime. We think she got something out of the garbage that made her sick. We were so sad to have her leave. It’s easy to remember the moments when she was the sweetest possible dog—but her mischief and sheer ability to vex others are also a credit to her memory.

Now Zeno and Otto live with my parents in Ohio. Zeno’s the youngest and maybe the best of them—but the biggest left at home and definitely the one in charge. He’s full of clever and awesome. He asks politely before climbing up on a couch to snuggle the people there. He’s a great dog. Otto’s constant companion is a stray Emily brought home in high school, Hopey. And a few years ago, Marty’s little sister picked up an adorable little dog we later named Goliath, and Emily took him home to New York with her. It wasn’t too long after that she went on tour, though, so Goliath came back to Ohio and became Zeno’s new buddy. Far more vocal, I’d say, and more obnoxious than Isabel… but it’s nice for Zeno to have a bud. You know?

Even if they do make a racket!

Hey. I miss my dogs.