Monthly Archives: June 2014

Student Loans Suck

So I woke up on this glorious Monday to an email from my student loan company. “Alright,” I thought, “nothing unusual about that. I usually get one this time of the month, telling me how much money I owe them if a few weeks. Let’s just click this open and WAGAGABA!”

To make a long story short, I had the dubious honor of seeing my monthly minimum payment double.

Now I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t been paying much to my loans. Because I’m making so little working retail, I signed up for an income contingent plan that would calculate my monthly payment based on my meager paycheck. But I have at least been dutifully paying that minimum amount. But now it turns out that that minimum payment wasn’t enough.

True, I’ve been making more money than I was while in grad school, but that surplus has been going largely to paying bills, like my backup credit card that I use for things like car insurance and repairs. I figured that that one was more manageable, so I’d try to pay off that debt first, all the while (hopefully) chipping away at the mountain that is my student loan debt. You know, from that expensive architecture degree that’s been oh-so-useful to me since I received it.

As it turns out, my minimum loan payment wasn’t even covering the interest as I had hoped. I now owe more than I did when I started paying. How’s that for discouraging? I’m guessing what happened this month is that the interest I thought I had been covering finally got rolled into the principal balance, which means I’m now paying interest on the interest. Talk about discouraging.

Needless to say, I’m a bit upset. Sure, there’s probably more I could have done, things I could have researched to avoid the situation I’m in, but that just makes me feel even worse. I know I wasn’t paying much, but at least I felt like I was finally getting ahead. And now this happens, and I feel like any progress I’ve made has slipped from my grasp. It’s enough to make me wonder if I’m ever going to get ahead financially.

And what’s worse, is it’s not like I’m irresponsible with my money. My parents taught me well, I don’t spend more than I make, and I pay my bills on time. But somehow, I still ended up shackled by debt and stuck in a job I’m overqualified for. Hey Baby Boomers, are you listening? This is why my generation is so cynical about their future! The cards are stacked against us before we even start.  We can do everything right, and still fail.  IT SUCKS!

Oh, How I Myst You

Today, I finally did something I’ve been meaning to do for years. Something that, time and again, has slipped out of my grasp for one reason or another. Today, I have finally beaten Myst.

Myst and I go way back. It’s one of those games that’s captivated my imagination, on and off, since its release over twenty years ago. It’s also been tantalizingly out of my grasp for much of that time. I can’t fully recall, but for one reason or another I didn’t play it when it originally came out. Maybe it was my family’s lack of computer (we started with Windows 3.1), or the fact that I wasn’t big into PC gaming yet. But for the longest time, all I could remember about the game was an image of a rocket ship, perched on its side and shrouded in mist. I even forgot the game’s name.

That's the one.

That’s the one.  A;though I seem to remember more fog. (via Let’s Play Archive)


Aside: for those of you who don’t know, Myst was a point-and-click adventure game released back when CD-ROM drives were first becoming popular. You wander through scenic vistas, solving puzzles and using books to travel to other fantastical Ages. The graphics were pre-rendered, with live-action actors spliced in from time to time. While they may not have aged well, they were amazing at the time. You wander these places largely alone, with no direction or tutorial to point you in any sort of direction.

Years later, with appropriate Internet access, I rediscovered the game. I even came across an old copy in the “free” bin at my local library. I was elated! I rushed home, plugged it in to my laptop and… discovered it was incompatible. Apparently my version of Windows was too new; but hey, I got a cool strategy guide as well, so that had to count for something, right?

Eventually I did find a copy of Myst: Masterpiece Edition that would run on my computer. But for one reason or another, I can’t remember if I ever beat the game. Then the discs went missing, never to be found again. I also received a copy of Myst III: Exile as a birthday present, but got stymied in the puzzles, and have also never completed it. Such was my lot in life, it seemed.

But then I picked up yet another copy, realMYST, during the (still ongoing) GOG Summer Sale and finally sat down to play it. And guess what? I finally worked my way through it! Not only that, but I managed to play and finish a game I bought! I do remember the game being more difficult, however. Maybe it’s just that I’ve played it before and thus have some recollection of what to do with the puzzles. Or maybe I’m just older now, and the logic seems less obtuse. It was fun to have to keep notes on a scratch sheet, though. A real blast from the past.

If this was a review, I guess this is where I would say you should definitely check out Myst. If you haven’t already, that is. But this post was not really a review, is it? It was more of a look into the past, a brief overview of my interactions with a game over the years. I’m not sure it’s what I had in mind when I started, but then again, I’m not sure what I set out to say. If you take anything away from this post, I guess it could be this: Myst is a fun game that still manages to hold up after two decades. It can be beaten in about a day, and if you decide to play it, do yourself a favor and avoid walkthroughs. Take the time to enjoy the virtual sights and sounds.

Now, on to Riven!

I Said No Today

This week has been pretty hellish at work. There’s been too much to do and not enough people to do it. My manager has been stressed out, which in turn puts me in a not-so-great mood. Oh, and my availability isn’t being honored. Again. Needless to say, morale is low.

Since the new store manager arrived a year or so ago, we’ve been facing what I can only think of as an austerity approach. My manager has ended up having to stock the department by herself, even though that was supposed to be a temporary thing. She’s also been told not to combo-schedule people from early mornings to the sales floor for most of the week, which makes it hard for me to get the hours I want/need. Whenever there’s a shortfall in another department’s stocking ability, it seems that ours is the one that gets picked from.

This has resulted in the lack of any significant safety margin, meaning that things are stretched so thin that if anything goes wrong, the results could be catastrophic. Need to do a big move and stock a bunch of product? Choose one, because you can’t do both with one set of hands! It’s also making it difficult to keep up with tasks like organizing valuable merchandise for pickup. After all, it’s kind of hard to spend a significant amount of time off the sales floor if your usual help isn’t there.

Couple these with the fact that there seems to be at least one key person on vacation all the time and you can see how exhausting work would get. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like being given impossible tasks and not enough time to complete them.

Which brings me to the title of today’s post. Normally, I’ve been happy to stay and work extra hours when asked; my meager paycheck can definitely use the boost. But I’ve been feeling less and less helpful lately (being forced to work during the few times you’re unavailable, having it implied that it’s your fault it’s not being honored, and being generally overtaxed does not exactly instill company loyalty). So inevitably, I was asked to stay a full eight hours today. But whereas my usual response is something along the lines of “I guess I can stay if I need to,” today I actually said “No.”

I don’t know about you, but that’s a pretty big deal for me. Normally I’m all too eager to please others, often to my own detriment. I also could have used the money (not being combo’d did a number on my hours this week). But I decided that my mental health was more important than any benefit that the company might have gained from my presence there. After all, I can’t make their problems (under-staffing, etc.) my problems. That sort of thing is way above my pay grade.

So what have I been learning? I’m coming to realize that working retail is not the two-way flow of loyalty I naively assumed it was. If you let them, the company will take and take and take until you’re nothing more than a desiccated, lifeless husk. They don’t care about you. To them, you are nothing more than a meat popsicle, a cog in the machine that prints them money.

And if they’re not going to be loyal, then I see no reason to be either.

Now With More Filler!

I don’t know what to write about today.  I’m tired.  I’m a bit too warm.  And the afternoon has gotten away from me.  So I’m just gonna head on out, run some errands, and try to enjoy myself at fighter practice.  I’ll leave this here, because it creeps me out:


Hopefully your night ends up more productive.

Yay, I Did Stuff!

I was actually productive today! Yesterday may have been a wash, but – no, scratch that. Yesterday I did a very good job of not feeling bad for doing nothing. But today, I was almost disciplined and crap. I came home, sat at my computer, and the next thing I knew it was after 2pm and I had forgotten to eat lunch.

What did I do? Well, I ended up redoing my resume. The one I’ve been sending out to companies is something I hodgepodged together in LibreOffice, and while it got the job done, it wasn’t exactly elegant. It was filled with odd formatting, like empty lines in 4-point font and other hacks to get the look right, all while staying on one page.

But I remembered that I had access to InDesign, the desktop publishing part of the Adobe Creative Suite. Then I realized that I could probably do a much better job using the proper tools for the job, to say nothing of getting in some practice on a program I advertise myself as knowing. So I sat down at the computer, avoided Facebook and Tumblr, and got to work.

And it was really quite fun. Even more so when I took the time to do things properly, setting up appropriate paragraph and character styles and everything. Sure, I could have probably done it faster. But that wasn’t the only purpose of this exercise. The others were a) to feel useful and b) to brush up on using the program.

Was this work that needed to be done? Probably not, regardless of how good an idea it may be in the long run. But it was a fairly easy project, self contained, that let me ease back into being creative and making design decisions. Or so I keep telling myself.

So I now have a spiffy new resume. It looks pretty much exactly like the old one. But I’m okay with that. And yes, it’s late and I don’t know what else to write about. But this beats complaining about work or pining over a job application.

The Summer Sales Are Upon Us

Repent! The hour of doom is at hand! Creeping through the darkness, They will come. Come for your wallet. Come for your free time. Come for your self-discipline. It is fruitless to resist! Join Them, for this is the season of our undoing!

In other news, there’s a bunch of video game summer sales going on right now.

I’ve written about this before, and if you’ve read my past musings on the matter of deep discounts and bundle sales, especially when combined with limited durations, you may realize how tough this time of year can be for my budget. To make matters worse (in a wholly “first world problem” way, I will readily admit), there are not one, but two different gaming services having sales right now. With discounts anywhere from 50% to 80% off. That’s danger territory for me, as it’s much easier to drop a couple bucks on something that looks slightly interesting than it is when at full retail price.

Oh, and to make matters worse, one of my friends got me a Steam gift card for my birthday. Cursed be his name, vile black-hearted enabler.

It is interesting, how different companies take different approaches to the same basic idea. Steam sticks with their usual method, having daily featured deals supported by shorter duration flash sales and community-voted specials. It’s a tried and true method, and oh boy does it work. I haven’t spent that much more than my gift card so far, but the week is young.

GOG , on the other hand, has done something interesting. They have two featured bundles every day, and then a bunch of two-hour deals running concurrently. But they’ve thrown in a twist: you can see what games will be selected for the two-hour deals before they go on sale. It’s quite effective at bringing you back to the site several times a day. I have noticed them start to repeat, though, which kind of cuts back on the “I must buy this now” effect.

What have I written about today? I don’t know. The afternoon got away from me, and not just because I kept checking sale pages. I also binged on some video games, thank you very much. And yes, I’ve been buying stuff. Not too much, so far, but then again I’m not exactly keeping meticulous records. I am at least trying to resist buying games that my computer can’t run. After all, if a game is popular enough to go on sale once, it will likely happen again further down the line. You know, whenever I finally get around to upgrading/building my own PC.

Whenever that may be.


The sun pulses in the turgid sky, as black helicopters fly low over the sand wastes. An otherworldly keening can be heard in the direction of Desert Bluffs, but they deserve whatever unspeakable horror is about to be birthed upon them.

Welcome, to Night Vale.

Man, I seem to be on a review kick lately. But rather than talking about video games, I want to take some time out of our current shared hallucination to talk about Welcome to Night Vale.

Welcome to Night Vale is a podcast. It is also a segment on community radio from the titular small desert town. It lies somewhere in the American desert, and it is a quaint, pleasant town.

Most of the time.

For you see, Night Vale is unusual, or maybe even hyper-usual. The town seems to inhabit a world where every conspiracy theory is true, where unspeakable horrors lurk just out of view, and strange hooded figures frequent the dog park, as well as the rest of town. The sheriff’s secret police maintain the rule of law, and the Town Council governs with an iron – well, I don’t know if they have fists anymore. But you get the idea.

In other words, it is a darkly humorous, surreal piece of fictional world-building narrated in excellent deadpan fashion. Each episode is about 25 minutes long, and at the time of this writing, there are about 50 or so episodes. I haven’t worked my way through it all yet, but I’ve definitely been enjoying myself. It reminds me a bit of The Atrocity Archives, where Lovecraftian horror intersects with the banality of existence. Except imagine a whole town of people raised in this not-quite-right environment.

I mentioned the world-building. I also find it neat that, even though it’s an audio-only podcast, you get the sense that Cecil (the presenter) is talking about a living, breathing (well, at least the latter) community, where things change ever so slightly over time, and people mentioned only by name become more fleshed out as characters than you thought possible.

Also, there’s a five-headed dragon named Hiram McDaniels.

So yeah. If you need a new fix for absurdity and dark humor, definitely check out Welcome to Night Vale; it’s delightfully weird. You won’t be sorry.



Because the events of recent days have me at risk of feeling like an actual, productive adult member of society, I decided that today I would counteract that by playing video games all day. And what did I play, you may ask? I played Spore!

Spore, for those of you who don’t know, is a game designed by Will Wright, the infernal mind behind timesinks like SimCity. But whereas SimCity puts you in charge of a single town, Spore puts you in charge of evolution itself.

The game starts at the cellular level. You swim around in the primordial ooze, eating bits of plant or meat (depending on whether you choose to start as a carnivore or herbivore). From there you creature evolves legs and moves on to land, where you progress through various stages of civilization, like tribes and city-states, until you take to the stars and begin exploring the galaxy.

Oh yeah, and pretty much all the content (creatures, vehicles, music, etc.) is customizable by you.

One of the big attractions is that you get to not only decide how your creatures will act, but what they look like. Using a selection of parts, you cant create pretty much anything from scratch in the in-game editors. It’s like virtual LEGO for biology. As you progress, you can also create (and share!) your own land, sea, and even space vehicles.

Each stage of the game plays slightly differently, too, like a series of minigames based on larger experiences. They can sometimes feel short, but they’re fun nonetheless. The Cell stage, for instance, plays a lot like Pac-Man or Snake, where you eat the pellets to grow bigger. Creature stage sees you piloting a member of your species around the land, making friends or driving rival creatures to extinction. Tribal stage dips into Real-Time Strategy stage, using a group of your now-sentient creatures to either charm or annihilate other intelligent tribes. Civilization, believe it or not, plays a lot like Civilization, with a dash of SimCity thrown in. Your creatures now mine the world for Spice, and as we all know, he who controls the spice controls the universe. Space stage has you roaming the galaxy, building your interstellar empire and terraforming and colonizing worlds. You can even make contact with other spacefaring races from your other save games!

I feel it’s important to mention that when this game first came out, there was a lot of controversy surrounding its DRM scheme. Originally, the DRM system (SecuROM) prevented you from installing the game more than three times, even on your own computer. This was a deal-breaker for me at the time, even though I was really excited about the game before it came out. Luckily, that seems to have been largely patched out since launch.

If any of this sounds intriguing to you (aside from the insulting DRM stuff), I can highly recommend Spore. It may not be the deepest of gaming experiences, but there’s something to being able to see your own creation march all the way from the sea to the stars.

That Was Fast

Have you ever had an experience where you decide do do something, and then all of a sudden things start lining up and progressing, often before you’re even ready? Well, I had an interview today.

I don’t want to say much about it, in case it doesn’t pan out (like the others I’ve had). But it’s thrown me for something of a loop, since I had to shift from “Yeah, I have an architecture degree that I’m not using” to “ZOMG ARCHITECTURE LOOK AT MY PORTFOLIO!!!1!” in about 24 hours. Including sleeping time.

So whereas I was planning to write a blog post or two, or maybe start redesigning my portfolio after work yesterday, instead my time has been spent more or less mainlining information about the firm, my own work, and the four years of education that hopefully still lie dormant within my gray matter.

It’s been an interesting experience, to say the least. One that has left me rather fried. I spent a lot of the past day oscillating between wanting to get excited about being able to finally escape retail and not wanting to get my hopes up too much in order to shorten the time I spend in a depressed malaise if it doesn’t pan out.

And yet…

And yet this seems like a really cool firm. Several of my fellow students are already working there. It would be so nice to be able to finally move away from retail, to say nothing about finally getting my foot in the door of the architecture world. And no matter how hard I try, I can’t help but get excited about that.

Wish me luck.

A New Start?

As I’m sure many of you know, I’m not exactly happy or content with my current job situation. I have two degrees, and yet find myself working part time in retail, stocking shelves and attending to customers. This is not what I’ve been trained for, and definitely not what I want out of my life. But rather than complain and gripe yet again about my situation, I come to you today to tell you that I have (at the risk of sounding grandiose) taken my first steps in a while to digging myself out of the hole I have stumbled in.

Today, I start looking for architecture jobs again.

What motivated this, you may ask? Well, the jerking around I’ve been getting at work definitely had something to do with it. But I also finally got around to meeting with the internship coordinator at my former school. We had a good discussion, about what I can do to increase my chances of getting a job in architecture.

It’s not going to be easy, of course. In fact, it’s probably going to take a lot of soul-searching and hard work on my part. And while I’m feeling pretty motivated right now, I’m not sure how well I’ll be able to sustain that drive after a little time has passed, or when The Funk comes slouching home again.

And so I’m putting this out there, my intention to finally find a job in architecture. By doing so, I hope that I can somehow make it a real thing, or at least a project that other people know exists. I’ve found that far too many things are easy to start and set aside after a little while, especially if no one knows about it. So I give you permission, my dear friends and readers, to pester me, to ask for updates and details, to help me make sure I stay on task. If being held accountable to some outside party is the only way I can motivate myself, then so be it. Let’s try it, and see how it works. I don’t quite believe all these words yet, but hopefully that too will change.

What’s the worst that could happen, right?