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Vesicular

CPUs [Sep. 23rd, 2013 | 12:06 am]
This winter I'm going to be doing a massive update to my arcade cabinet, which next month turns 10 years old (crazy when I think about it). I worked a bit this weekend on parting out some of the hardware, and tonight I worked on CPU's for the new rig I'm going to build.

CPU's are interesting because min/maxing them really depends on the task. The newest Intel chips came out a couple months ago (aka Haswell) and didn't go over so well for gamers. Haswell wasn't a very large jump for games over Ivy Bridge (the previous gen Intel chip) because Haswell is mostly a power consumption upgrade and thus it doesn't overclock as well as Ivy Bridge.

At first I thought, well, less power is nice, but I'm building this for a MAME cab so I need POWAH! Ivy Bridge is cheaper so I figured since the results are similar and the OC potential of Ivy is better I'd just go Ivy Bridge.

But not so fast. What I should have done is not read about _game_ use, but _emulation_ use. Different things! See, one thing Haswell adds is faster single core speed. This actually takes more power but the increase is fairly large. Given most emu's run single core, this greatly benefits emulation. So much so that the increase between Ivy Bridge to Haswell is about 20% for emu's. Much more than the flatline that normal gamers would see with the same setup.

And that makes it very worth it for me. Research time well spent.
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RIP Cooper (2003-2013) [Mar. 8th, 2013 | 11:17 am]
We had to put Cooper down today. We woke up and he was sitting by his food bowl but couldn't move. His entire lower half of his body was limp and wouldn't move. He was also having issues breathing.

He's had various issues this year, but this was by far the worst. We rushed him to the Vet, who gave us the news that there was not much they could do. It was most likely a heart issue and a clot in his arteries cutting off blood to the lower half of his body. The likelihood that they could get it removed and save his heart was only 10%, and that the likelihood of it returning was very high. They also said it's very painful for the cat. We had no other option.

We were with him when he passed. It was very hard and continues to be. I miss him a lot already.

RIP Cooper. I love ya buddy.

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I'm A Rock [Oct. 3rd, 2012 | 11:36 pm]
In WarGames there's the quote "the only winning move is not to play". I now feel that way about social media. Apparently the cardinal sin of social media is "unfollow" or "unfriend". I find this interesting for a couple of reasons.

One is that it's become equivalent to not caring about someone in real life. A simple virtual flag, cleverly named, now has a similar weight to turning your back on someone in real life. I find this a little weird and disconcerting.

Two, it's apparently better to never have friended than to friend and then defriend. Or, to friend and then ignore all (or most) posts. This I can somewhat see, as few people tell others in real life that they are boring to their faces. They smile, nod and bare it until they can find an excuse to remove themselves from the situation.

That said, #2 only makes sense if you assume #1. If, on the other hand, you see social media as a way to curate and pick and choose who and what you want to listen to whenever you'd like to in whatever way you want, and not some form of social construct, then #2 makes no sense either.

It's as if we as a society have never lived without social media. 5 years ago nobody was on it. The world worked fine and we found out about all the things that those we care about were doing. When did the real world and real relationships and real communication take a backseat to the virtual?

I gotta hand it to the companies that are making millions (billions?) off of all of this. They've tricked our psyches into believing all of this *really* matters. And I don't mean that it doesn't matter or have influence. But when how you view someone is dictated by their FB status or whether they follow you on Twitter, as opposed to how they are to you face to face, well, I tend to question it all.

If it's not obvious I've gotten lots of crap recently for removing people from my various social media sites. I don't see it as anything personal, I just want to use these sites in a different way after my month off the internet. That doesn't fly well.

I expected some of this. I got just as much (perhaps more) crap for wanting to take the time off in Sept in the first place. Many thought I was weird or dumb for wanting to do so. Nobody really understood the point or why I would want to do that. Most thought I must just like torturing myself.

But what I didn't expect was that nobody really seems to understand, at all, my viewpoint on this, even after the fact. I don't see following as being equal to actual friendship. I don't see companies taking advantage of human psychology to be a wonderful thing. I don't think the transition of physical social norms into the virtual world is a 1:1 relationship. I *do* think that everyone should use the internet in any way they see fit.

I think that last one is perhaps most to the point. The internet was created on freedom. Freedom of expression, creativity, you name it. It was a place where anything could go, and nobody could tell you what to do because you, finally, controlled a virtual world that you may not have been able to control in a physical one.

But more and more that has changed. There are now rules, expectations, norms, etc that go along with not only the way we use the internet but how we even *think* about it. I've always believed that the beauty of the internet was that there were no real rules, or expectations, or norms. That it was whatever *you* wanted it to be.

But times change, people change, companies profit, and you can't go backwards from here. Please don't get me wrong (and I think many people have). I do not begrudge anyone for feeling the way they do about these sites, or the companies for giving them to us, or the actual benefit they do provide (and they really do provide real benefit). All I'm saying is...it's not the only way.

I'm an experimenter. I like to fiddle. As I say, "when everyone else zigs, I flamingo". I realize that's a huge character flaw, but it's also feel it's one of my best traits. I want to believe the internet that I remember and know is still out there. But I'm beginning to have my doubts.
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Ego Section [Oct. 1st, 2012 | 10:06 am]
Now that I'm back to viewing social media, I checked my FB account. The right hand side has a lot of "people you may know". Decided I should block that with my ad blocker so I don't see it. When selecting the div to block, turns out they named the div "ego_section".

Well, at least they're honest.
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Experimonth Over [Oct. 1st, 2012 | 09:18 am]
So the Experimonth is over. How was it? Overwhelming is the best way to put it. Never did I think the grip of social media and current news would be so great on my psyche. I have given up other vices before (fast food, soda, alcohol, caffine) and none have been as hard (fyi, caffine was by far the hardest before this).

Actually it was so hard that I'm not sure I'm done with the experiment yet. And while I tried not to, I did cheat a couple times. The pull to want to know how *others* react is pretty great it turns out. Now I know why so many companies want to get into the social realm. As far as addictions go, it's right up there (and socialy accepted).

However, lets start out with what I did not miss. I didn't miss Twitter or Facebook or Google Plus. Many of these quick "what are you doing now?" sites really didn't stick with me. After a few days I didn't miss them or think about them at all.

So what did I miss? Blogs, News sites, and especially forums. Not "forums" like Reddit, as I didn't really miss Reddit, but forums like the drummers forum I frequent or the Packer one or the emulation one. The communities I'm a part of that are niche where other posters "know" me. And while I missed them, I know I'm better off not being on them very often.

The forums that is. It's easy to spend way too much time having "conversations" with people you don't actually know about things that don't really matter. Blogs and news sites are a different story. They are more for consumption, tend to be longer in length and are something that I miss but also don't feel like is a massive waste of time. That's probably because their output is a trickle here and there instead of the flood of other social media.

Before I went on hiatus I had subscribed to a bunch of art and design blogs. Looking at them just now they are filled with so much awesome stuff, that I really feel now like I missed something this month being away. Looking at the normal forums I used to visit...well it's pretty much the same old thing. I don't get the feeling that I missed a lot or that anything major happened in the last month.

Looking at Twitter, FB, G+, et al I sort of feel like I did when I had my first fast food after about 3 months off of it. "What is this shit?!" I don't mean that to disparage anyone, but it really feels like empty calories now. It's weirdly unrecognizable.

So, how have I changed and what am I going to change? I've realized current events are important. Real news of the day is a good thing. I've realized well written blogs/articles about niche things I care about are also important. They keep me up to date on what matters but don't beat me over the head with it 10 times a day.

I've realized day to day posts or memes or random quips while fine on their own, in aggregate are a waste of time. I can think of only a few posts on Twitter, FB, G+, etc from the past year that really wowed me (or that I can remember). I can think of dozens of great blog posts, podcasts, and news articles. Not that everything needs to be of value, but there's a slippery slope here.

So yes I will be watching more football, playing more video games, and reading my RSS feeds. But no, I won't be on the social media websites or forums as regularly as I used to be, if at all. If I've learned one this this month (and it's something I want to continue into October), it's to *slow the fuck down*.

In an interconnected and instant society this turns out to be amazingly hard, espeically if your brain is wired to take everything in. There were several times this month, with a lack of things to do, that I felt like a kid again. Instead of feeling bored, I felt like I could do anything I wanted. That was not something I expected, but it came from a lack of distractions. And I did do a lot because of it. I was more productive in September than I have been in a long time.

This idea, "lack of distractions" is where I want to focus my time and energy moving forward, not just online, but elsewhere as well.
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Being A Design Pro [Sep. 28th, 2012 | 05:19 pm]
I've been a web designer for a long time now (15 years) and for some reason I still have issues trying to argue my design points to non-designers. This goes doubly for developers.

I'm not badmouthing developers (or anyone else) by saying that. I think part of it comes from a lack of understanding of the design process, and of design principles and best practices. That's expected, it's not anyone's job to know these things except the designer. But much like politics, when it comes to design everyone has an opinion that they in some way *feel* is right.

There's nothing wrong with this, it's human nature and sometimes it opens up insight into something that otherwise would be missed. But the hard leap for people to make seems to be what feels right for you doesn't necessarily mean it's right for everyone.

Now I used the terms "argue" and "right" when design "arguments" don't tend to be negative (or at least they shouldn't be) and there is much more grey area in design ideas than any one "right" one. But hashing through an idea or counter ideas to many people does feel like an argument, which then makes people feel "wrong" and thus defensive.

It's this defensive reaction during a brainstorming session that is still what I can't quite solve. I get that not everyone works like we did when I was at the Walker where you walk into a room, drop your ego and go at it for a couple hours. Best idea leaves the room and everyone is happy.

That last part, "everyone is happy", is where I want to end up, but I want it to be because we all agree on the best path forward, not because anyone "won" anything. And I'm still at a bit of a loss as to how to do that when many people (perhaps subconsciously) see brainstorming of ideas as Me vs You as opposed to Idea vs Idea.

I mentioned how this is a lot like politics above and perhaps that's the solution to a lot of this. Instead of just assuming that people will understand that this is a battle of ideas instead of a battle of *your* idea, some politicking is probably needed. I'm no longer at the Walker with people who understand the difference, and no amount of me educating them on how I work ever seems to make it any easier.

What's interesting is that the way I might debate with a developer over a design decision is very similar to how they debate with each other over a development decision. Perhaps this is a sure sign of a bad approach off the bat since most developers feel other developers have horrible ideas.

Part of this could be because these debates are about trying to *convince* each other of an approach instead of trying to see how each approach could be successful on its own. That can turn a debate of conflicts into a discussion of best practice.

This, funny enough, tends to make people want to defer to a designer for decisions instead of always trying to butt heads in the arena of ideas. But it's something I need to get better at and many times fail spectacularly at. Since I don't get "reviews" anymore, I need to do more introspection, so I think it's time to have this be my next focus area in the coming year.
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VidKids Logo [Sep. 20th, 2012 | 11:35 pm]
Also, I think we had one of the coolest logos:



I'm going to take this into Illustrator when I get the time and make a vector version of it. I'll post it when it's done.

Looks like after I cataloged all the column clippings I have it's around 180 game reviews. But from the looks of it I'm also missing about 55 weeks worth of columns. I know there were weeks it didn't run (especially towards the end) but I gotta think we missed a couple. Going to check with Rob's folks to see if they have any of the missing pieces.
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VidKid Chronicles [Sep. 20th, 2012 | 08:21 pm]
So during out house warming party this weekend the topic of the game column I wrote when I was a teenager came up. I then went to get the copy of all my columns from storage to show people. This has been sitting on my desk this week.

I decided to look through them and read a few. Besides the obvious badly written teenage prose, I was surprised by the shear number of games reviewed. There's well over 100, perhaps closer to 150.

Then I had an idea. Chronicle all the reviews for posterity. I then went out and found a good OCR reader and tested it out on some columns. Translated well! So I thought, ok, why not just OCR everything, make PDF's of the actual columns with searchable text and put it all up online?

So tonight I started a spreadsheet that puts every game and date into it. My mom cut out every column we ever wrote and was smart enough to write the dates on the back of all of them. So far there are only two I can't match dates to.

It's funny looking through these as the paper we wrote for probably needed to do a better job at editing. There were two weeks they ran the same game review! There were a few times they put in a 4 1/2 star rating for something (our scale only went up to 4). Simple errors but I found them humorous.

It was also interesting to see that some of what we wrote in hindsight was spot on. For one we talked at length about how Battletoads is one of the hardest games ever made (still is) and how amazing the music in Streets of Rage is (again, still is). Other things, well, we weren't exactly correct on, like how great the Game Gear was over the Gameboy (oops).

I think this is a good project because it's historical, it has to do with games, it's a good site I can build for fun and it's something very few people have ever seen outside of northeast Wisconsin. Should be a fun project.
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Status [Sep. 14th, 2012 | 09:49 am]
One thing I've noticed about social media, it's not particularly hard to give up when you're ignorant of what is going on around you. If I don't know who has what drama, or what the latest news is, there is definitely less of a thought about it at all. Doesn't usually cross my mind.

But when events happen, that's sort of when you want to know more. Like when the Packers won in historic fashion last night, I wanted to see what the opinion columnists and pundits thought. When I got invited to a party, I wanted to see who was going and what people were saying about it.

The problem is, those things lead you down a dark path into the abyss of feeling the need to stay on top of everything. Though this could just be me. I know others who follow a ton of people and only read a couple posts every day. My brain just doesn't work like that unfortunately.
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Farming [Sep. 11th, 2012 | 12:29 am]
I suppose I haven't talked much about Jill since the funeral. Tom, her husband, gave a great eulogy and summed up her life well. The things that stick with me, and are very true, were that she was never a person to always give an answer right away. She would wait and think about things before she responded.

I think this is really missing these days. One of the reasons for my "hiatus" is to get away from instant knee-jerk reactions to things, to make assumptions or to always have an answer for everything.

One thing I liked about Tom and Jill's family is that there wasn't much of an assumption about much of anything. They knew what they knew and the rest they didn't pretend to have all the answers on. There is a level of genuine curiosity there that I think some other people, who only react, lack.

I found it refreshing and real. Much more real than those who, when you read between the lines, basically say "be like meeee!!" or "I know everything!!". I of course fall into these same traps too. It's part of why I'm experimenting this month. But the world is much better when people are different and first reactions are ones of curiosity over condemnation.

One other thing that was said about Jill was her passion for sustainable farming. This has always been interesting to me given that there are many rural farmers who just don't really care. I think Tom and Jill are different because they come from a tradition of family farms and they understand the changes that have taken place over the years.

Even their neighbors are into it. One of them sells the only certified organic fertilizer. Sounds odd (and I don't think it's just manure), but he's worked a lot to get it certified. His truck in big letters says "NON-GMO". Many of Tom and Jill's neighbors and friends are into non-GMO, sustainable farming.

One of them was taking about a client of theirs, in the sale the client talked about how his pigs were always sick, and he was spending $10k per month on vets because of it. The guy asked him what he fed the pigs. It was GMO corn. He told him if he switched to non-GMO that would solve the problem but the farmer wanted to hear none of it.

After an hour of convincing, the farmer reluctantly agreed to feed the pigs non-GMO corn. Lo and behold, the pigs got better and the increase in cost of non-GMO corn was offset by the fact that he didn't need to spend $10k on vet fees every month.

This was the typical story of this group and Jill and Tom have had many similar stories in the past. In this way, they actually are experts in their field, because they have the history to back up their case. But they still have the curiosity to see if it's still valid in the face of change.

I knew some of this before we ventured to Roseau, but I learned a ton just being up there. I should add that these aren't some hippies we're talking about. Many of them bragged about how many gun cabinets they had, not just how many guns. They strike me as "live and let live" types, but also have a rich community and history. It's admirable.

As sad as it is that Jill is no longer with us, I'm perhaps more saddened that she is not with that culture any longer. It feels like a dying breed. I'm just glad that it exists at all. It's easy to roll over in the face of progress when things seem easier or "better", but questioning the change is also a healthy bit of skepticism that is needed. Not in the "I know better" sense, but in the curiosity/due diligence sense.

We will miss you Jill.
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