Monthly Archives: June 2014

Hot Sulphur Springs

So why wasn’t there a post on Friday? Well, because my girlfriend and I were out of town. We had somehow ended up in the possession of a free weekend, one where I didn’t have to work and where there wasn’t a local SCA event. So what did we do? We went to enjoy some hot water!

We ended up spending the weekend at Hot Sulphur Springs, a natural hot spring about two hours away from Denver. We drove up Friday afternoon, and came back late Sunday morning. In between, we didn’t do a whole lot of anything aside from soaking in one of the resort’s wide selection of pools in varying temperatures.

The resort is set up as a series of small pools, ranging in temperature from 98°F to 112°F, with most hanging in the 106°-107° range. The water is quite mineral-enriched, and ranges from clear to cloudy. The pools are generally small enough (and there are enough of them) so that, even though they are open to the air and boardwalk access, they can feel quite private. We very rarely had to share anything but the largest pools, and even then, the other people were friendly. It was relatively uncrowded except for Saturday afternoon, which we guessed was a result of hikers and mountain bikers coming in off the trail for a quick soak.

When I first started researching this spring, I was a little concerned by the mixed reviews on sites like Yelp. But after my experience there, I can’t help but wonder if the reviewers just didn’t understand what “natural hot spring” entailed. No, it wasn’t a day spa at the Hilton. No, it wasn’t Ten Thousand Waves. The water was cloudy, and there were the occasional sulfurous floaty bits in the pools. There was algae, and an infernal stink permeated the air. But that’s what you get when you take a source of hot mineral water and pump it into pools.

The rooms we stayed in were also quite enjoyable. Sure, the “queen” bed was more like a double, but the room was clean, warm, and even had its own bathroom. There is an active train line that runs through town, so the night was punctuated with the occasional loud horn, but it was easy enough to roll over and go back to sleep. There also isn’t much in the way of services in the nearby town; while the milkshakes from the shack down the road were indeed tasty, we ended up driving the 10 or so miles into Granby for dinner both nights.

If I had one complaint (aside from the aforementioned trains), it would be the mosquitoes. This may be a personal problem, but mosquitoes love me. In fact, if there are any in the area, my getting bitten is pretty much a foregone conclusion. I concede that they probably do try to keep the population down with spraying, but however inevitable this sort of thing is around standing water, it was rather annoying. After dinner Friday night, we headed back out to the water, and actually had to go inside after an hour of attempting to fend off the little buggers.

But overall, I can heartily recommend Hot Sulphur Springs. The water was warm, the prices were reasonable, and the facilities provided quite the beautiful views of the surrounding mountains. We may try to head back later in the year, as I can only imagine how enjoyable it would be to soak in hot water up to your chin while snow gently falls from above.

This Post Does Not Exist

There’s not going to be much of a post today.  Let’s just say that having to start work at noon really puts a crimp in my usual work flow.  At least, that’s the excuse I’m using for why I ended up having only 5 minutes to write a post, pack a lunch and get dressed.  I did get some good time in on Spore, though, so that’s something.

I’m sure you can fill in the blanks of this post yourself.  If not, here’s some prompts:

  • I’m tired
  • I hate my job
  • I’m overly concerned about something I’ve been thinking too much about lately
  • I don’t know what to write
  • Video games are fun
  • I feel bad for taking care of myself, and am trying to work through it in writing.
  • Half-thought-out philosophical musings

That should cover the bases of my usual writing, right?  And yes, it’s supposed to be tongue-in-cheek: if you can’t laugh at yourself, you end up missing a lot of jokes.

Oh, and there might not be a post tomorrow, either.  Depends how the day’s relaxing goes.

Writing, Writing, Blah Blah Blah

It’s been a weird week. I keep feeling like it should be later than it is, like Monday was Tuesday, or that I should have gone to fighter practice last night. Needless to say, it’s been weird.

This happens to me sometimes, but I have no idea why it happened this week. Maybe it was the weekend? I did go to an SCA event at 9,000 feet, running around and generally gasping for oxygen that wasn’t there. And I did have to work in the morning beforehand. Hrm.

In case you couldn’t tell, I have no idea what I want to write about today. But, it’s getting to be that time where I need to write something before I get dinner and head to practice. So perhaps I should have called this a “Bad ADD Week” instead of just a Bad ADD Day.

What did I do today? I’m not really sure. I worked; we had visitors from corporate come to our store, so the management was running around trying to get everything just so in time for their visit. I sanded; I made progress on the camp bench I made… way too long ago. Don’t worry, I laid a tarp down on the basement floor, and my girlfriend said it was okay. I re-installed Spore, a galactic life simulator from the maker of SimCity; this was more of an ordeal than you might think, since the game lets you create content (creatures, buildings, spaceships, etc.) and doesn’t really seem designed to be uninstalled. I ended up having to pull stuff off my old laptop hard drive, the one that’s failing. There may or may not have been some rounds of Giant Boulder of Death mixed in as well (there were). Oh, and I checked Tumblr and Facebook!

Then suddenly, it was after 5pm.

So that was my day. Tweaking and tinkering and getting distracted. Oh, and writing, technically. It’s not much, but I’ve written today. Internal Monologue, the great and unstoppable Avatar of Guilt and Remorse has been silenced for now. It shall return, in all its squamous and decadent “glory,” but I will deal with that later. Right now, it’s time to go get myself a Frosty.

Chocolate, of course. I have yet to try a vanilla one, and barely acknowledge their existence.

Design Is Cool

I have a degree in design, specifically architecture. I don’t think about design very often, not least because it reminds me of my less than ideal work situation. But every once in a while, that part of my brain that was rigorously trained and developed by grad school will kick back on, and I’ll be fascinated by little details in a way that only a design nerd can understand.

One of the things I love about design is that there’s a reason for everything. If you look close enough, or think hard enough, you should be able to figure out why something is the way it is. And I find that comforting. I have a strong need to know why, to be able to articulate the methods and reasons behind something. I always have, even as a little kid. As such, not knowing why (or not being able to know why) can be a little stressful for me. And there’s so much in life that doesn’t make sense, or doesn’t seem to have a logic that can be understood. Emotions, for example. It’s something I’ve written about before.

And yet, despite all the things that don’t make sense in our world, there is also so much that is designed. In fact, it’s probably safe to say that design is so ubiquitous that we can’t help but take it for granted. Think about your favorite game, for example. Every piece of that experience was (hopefully) carefully crafted in order to elicit a specific response. If you’ve tried Giant Boulder of Death, I’m sorry for the death of your free time. But it, and other free-to-play games like it, can be a great example.

A free-to-play game is just that: free to play. But the developers want you to spend money. As such, there are multiple design decisions made to encourage the player to do so. Sometimes they are subtle, other times… not so much. In Giant Boulder of Death, the clearest example I can think of is the pre-roll spin screen. You get a free spin every 10 minutes, or you can spend gems (the games premium currency). Each spin adds upgrades to your run, like filling up the multiplier bar quicker or reducing the number of boulder-killing spikes on the map. If you don’t have a free spin, it takes a second or two for the “Play now” button to show up, while the “use gems to spin” button is there from the start. It’s very hard to ignore the reflex to push the first button you see, but gems are rare (unless you pay real-world cash for a virtual bag of loot).

Anyway, that didn’t go nearly as deep as I thought it would. In summary: design is cool. I find it comforting when I recognize the logic behind something. I wish more stuff was like that.

Bad ADD Day

Have you ever had one of those days? You know the kind. The ones where no matter what you do you just can’t seem to get going. Where you sit down to do something productive and the next thing you know it’s three hours later and while you haven’t started that project, you’re pretty sure you’re as caught up as you can be on your social media feeds. But you’d better check one more time to be sure.

Guess what happened to me today!

Yeah, this blog post is later than usual. I’m also feeling pretty fried, so it’s not going to be super deep or anything, either. Turns out running around and hitting people with sticks at 9,000 feet really does a number on you for the next day.

But, I told myself I’d blog daily. I’m just taking the easy way out again, and writing about how I don’t have the energy to write. Notice, though, that I am still writing. And that does count for something, at least in my mind. And since this is my blog, my mind is the only one that matters. Besides, better late than never.

So yeah. I’m tired, more than a little punchy on Facebook, and feeling the urge to start watching a new series on Netflix. How are you?

The Honeymoon Is Over

The less I think about work, the happier I am.

Now, this may not seem unusual to you. A lot of people don’t like their jobs, or are at least stressed out and annoyed by them. But for me, at least right now, the act of thinking about work actively makes me unhappy.

I noticed it today. I had the day off, and had passed the time with a mixture of reading and gaming, as I usually do. And believe it or not, I actually felt good! Maybe it was not having to get up at 4 in the morning the past few weekends; maybe I was actually well-rested enough. Maybe it was the fact that I was able to do things I wanted (relatively) guilt free. But for the most part, I’ve been in a relatively good mood today.

One of the consequences of that, however, is I realized how much of a not good mood I’ve been in lately. Working early mornings keeps me fairly exhausted, and the schedule shenanigans I’ve been facing lately have me less than thrilled. And I noticed today that as soon as I started thinking about work, my mood started to darken.

When this happened, I reflexively backed away from that train of thought; I didn’t want to mar a good day off with dread of things to come. But intellectually, I found the effect intriguing. Now, I’ve had my share of mind-numbing and boring jobs, but for the most part those haven’t done much more than evoke feelings of apathy in me. I haven’t really had a job that has actively made me dislike it on a deep, visceral level.

And I’m not sure what to do about that. Sure, “get another job,” you may say. But that means exposing myself to the pain and disappointment of rejection, of going in for an interview and not hearing back for almost a month. It means looking at listings for entry-level positions where I meet less that half of the qualifications. I can’t exactly go out to the Job Orchard and pick a Fresh Job off of the Job Tree to put in my Job Wagon to bring back to my Job Garden.

But I’m sick of working retail. I’m sick of waking up before dawn just to go toil away stocking pallets. I’m sick of not being able to hang out with my friends. I’m sick of my schedule changing from week to week. I’m sick of not having my availability honored. I’m sick of having to ask permission to have access to my weekends. I’m sick of having travel plans torpedoed because I’m so low on the totem pole there’s no way I’m going to have any seniority unless someone retires.

At the same time, I’m too principled to just up and quit. I need the money; I make roughly enough money to support myself, and my girlfriend doesn’t make enough to support both of us (to say nothing about student loans). While the stress of hating your job may be better than not having one, it’s not much comfort. I just don’t know what to do. I feel stuck, and searching for a job just feel so futile.

Happy Friday, I guess.

Giant Boulder Of Death!

Once again, the deep, philosophical essay I was planning to write just isn’t coming as easily as I’d like. So rather than diligently buckling down and churning something out, I’m going to take the easy way out and write something that doesn’t overly tax that thinkie-thing in the middle of my head.

Let’s talk about Giant Boulder of Death.

Giant Boulder of Death is the most recent time-waster that’s taken up more of my free time than I’d like to admit. The concept is pretty simple: you’re a giant boulder. Roll down the mountain and crush everything in your wake. Get points. Unlock stuff. Become INVINCIBOULDER. ??? Profit.

For me, it scratches the same itch that launching games like Burrito Bison or Hedgehog Launch do: if you play just a bit more, maybe you can see what’s beyond the last screen. It also has shades of Katamari Damacy, but rather than picking stuff up you’re knocking it down.

The controls are also pretty neat. It’s a smartphone game, so you can use the built-in accelerometer and steer the boulder by tilting the device. I find myself leaning into turns, much like I did as a kid with the console controller. Periodic challenges keep thing interesting, like knocking over a certain number of animals or making it a certain distance down the mountain.

Of course, being free, there’s tons of ways to pay real-world money to unlock various upgrades and alternate settings. I’ve managed to avoid spending any money, but I can see the little design tweaks they’ve made to encourage users to do so. Like giving you the option to use gems (the games rarer, premium currency) to bypass challenges or to continue rolling after hitting spikes or homing mines (this is where I’ve spent most of mine). While you can earn them in-game, they are slow to appear. Although you can always watch an ad or two to make a quick gem.

I can’t really explain why games like this intrigue me so much. But for whatever reason I spent most of my day off yesterday sitting at my computer, staring at my phone as I crushed my yodeling enemies under my spherical boot.

Go play Giant Boulder of Death. It’s fun. You didn’t have anything productive you needed to be doing, right?

Crafting A Thought Experiment

It’s my day off, and I don’t feel like thinking about work any more than I have to. So I’m going to write about something I haven’t talked about in a while: Minecraft!

Unsurprisingly, I go through periods where I don’t play Minecraft much, only to stumble across something that makes me want to play it again. This can be problematic, since I have a number of other games/books/projects/chores I’d like to play/read/work on/complete. But whatever. It’s my day off, and my only task today is to not feel guilty about slacking off.

This time, it was this week’s episode of Extra Credits that piqued my interest. In it, they talked about how every once in a while a game will come around, often out of nowhere, and completely alter the course of gaming culture and history. This is often observable through the number of clones that crop up after a game’s success (Mario, Doom, GTA, etc.). But interestingly enough that doesn’t seem to be happening as much with Minecraft. But what it is doing is sowing the seeds of gaming in the younger generation, and those seeds may be very different than what has blossomed so far.

I touched on a similar issue last year. Gamers of my generation are ones that grew up on reflex-based games. Mario games, for all their colorful graphics and cute sound effects, often required pixel-perfect accuracy. It’s the reason so many people can probably play World 1-1 of Super Mario Bros. with their eyes closed, why “Nintendo Hard” is a thing. And as we’ve aged and moved into the industry, this background influences what kind of games we continue to play and make. Extra Credits mentioned that this may inform some of the popularity of the first-person shooter genre, and I have to agree with them.

Minecraft, by contrast, is a much more methodical experience. It takes time to accomplish things, and instant gratification most definitely isn’t the name of the game. What will happen as people who were exposed to gaming in this format begin to express themselves creatively? Will it make gaming more open for those who didn’t develop their fast-twitch hand-eye coordination as children? It made me think of my girlfriend and people like her, who didn’t start gaming until later in life. I have to wonder if a less reflex-based entry to gaming might look less intimidating.

It’s really is an interesting question: what will gaming look like when targeted (and created by) at a generation that grew up with a less reflex-based background? I know I’m definitely of the “reflex” generation, but even I occasionally feel like playing something more relaxing. I for one would not decry the wider variety of gaming experiences this would afford.

Now, if I can just avoid getting sucked into TV Tropes long enough to scratch that Minecraft itch…

Stirring The Coals

I’ve been thinking a bit more about how I’ve been getting screwed over by my employer lately. For better or worse I’m still angry, although I think I probably have a right to be. But what is really upsetting me right now is how my own character and moral fiber seems to have been used against me.

Long story short, I’m a nice person. I try to avoid conflict whenever possible, to the point of sacrificing my own well-being just so things go smoothly. I’m eager to help, and my inherent work ethic compels me to do the best job I can, even if it’s something I’d rather not. As a result, I don’t have much practice saying “no,” or a well-honed ability to stick up for myself.

And what has being nice gotten me? A role as a doormat, apparently. Even when I try to present my case (for example, holding to my availability), I usually end up capitulating anyway. I’m so worry about not offending that in the heat of the moment I end up thinking the way the other person wants me to. I don’t realize that yeah, I really am angry, until it’s far too late to actually do something about it.

And you know what’s even worse? I’ve ended up at a point where I feel bad for even attempting to stick up for myself!

I’ve always been something of an idealist, I’ll admit. I believe in the inherent goodness of people, that they’ll approach a situation as calmly and virtuously as I would. This experience with work lately has been a rude wake-up call, to say the least. I’m starting to wonder if it’s worth my time to give as much energy, to sacrifice as much as I have if the other side isn’t willing to reciprocate.

I’m reminded of something I read online recently, where we’ve ended up in a working environment where the employees most likely to move ahead were the ones most willing to put in unpaid labor. Like the fast food worker who is given three hours worth of tasks to do in the one hour between the store closing and the end of their shift. And I’m sick of it. I’m sick of companies sucking their employees dry without any concessions in return. It’s not that these companies are evil. It’s that they just don’t care. The wants and needs (and rights) of their employees are so below their notice that it’s like a human worrying about what an earthworm thinks. Or Cthulhu worrying about the desires of a cute puppy.

I guess I hadn’t been forced to face this lack of concern before, and I’m not sure what I’m going to do about it. I just know I really don’t like people taking advantage of my caring, trusting nature. It makes me feel dirty, like trying to do the right thing is the wrong thing to do.

And I’m still angry.

The Needs Of The Business

Oh, how I hate those words. “The needs of the business.” An ever-so-slightly more polite of saying “Screw you peon, your desires don’t matter. Shut up, sit down, and be a good little cog.”

I think of myself as fairly easygoing when it comes to my work schedule. Sure, I ask for the occasional day off, but for the large part I’m there whenever they ask for me. About the only time I’m not available is Wednesday and Thursday evenings because of fighter practices. Those seem like those would be easy enough to get off, right? I mean, sure it’s retail, but those two nights can’t be that common a request, what with people wanting to go out Friday nights or sleep in on the weekends.

So it pisses me right off when I don’t get what little concessions I ask for.

Last week was bad enough. I had to work both Wednesday and Thursday night, thus missing both practices. This week, at least I only have to work Thursday. But I’m starting to get really annoyed with my boss when she’s making me work next Thursday evening as well.

Now having to work Wednesday, I’ll take the blame for that one. When I started working at this job, heavy practice was Thursday night, so I listed only that one as “unavailable.” It’s changed nights since then, and I didn’t bother to update my availability since I’ve been working primarily early mornings. But Thursday? That’s been on record as “unavailable” since the moment I started working there. I’ve had to fight for it in the past, too.

And the salt in the wound, the metaphorical cherry on top of this crap sundae? When I finally take a more hard-line stance with my boss about my availability, I get shot down. Apparently availability becomes nothing more than a guideline when it isn’t done for school. Even better, I’ve apparently sabotaged myself by the few times I’ve taken one for the team and worked even when my availability said I couldn’t.

So I’m more than a little pissed off. My boss at least seemed a bit more apologetic last time, and offered to take it up with the senior manager. Of course, what with me being too nice for my own good, I still have to work next Thursday; she wouldn’t budge. And sure, maybe it’s just a perfect storm of people’s vacation requests and me getting dumped on because I have the least seniority. But that doesn’t make it any less annoying. What little I ask for is apparently still too much.

At least I get to hit things this week.