I have a lot of time on my hands these days. I’m still teaching myself C. It’s hard because I don’t have anything but the reference books. This would be a lot easier if I had some way of looking at some example programs. The library doesn’t have any books to help me. I don’t know if the book store has any books that might help, because I don’t think to check.
Still, I’m making progress on my own and figuring out this 3D rendering business. I’ve written a program that is pretty much identical to the “3D Flower Box” screensaver that Microsoft will give away with Windows 98, six years from now. The only real difference is that my program draws the stuff in wireframe, because otherwise it would be too slow on this 7Mhz machine.
It’s Sunday, and I’m enjoying a rare weekend off. Patrick and I are really into this game called Starflight 2. The game is simply gigantic. It fills up two 360k floppy disks. I’ve encountered two-disk games before, but most of those were titles that were just a little too big for one disk. Starflight 2 completely fills both disks. To start a new game, you make a complete copy of both disks. This copy is your entire save game. Amazing. If this trend continues, then someday we’ll end up with videogames that take up a whole megabyte.
This game has a lot of content. You fly around the galaxy, meet aliens, explore planets, mine for resources, have space battles, and run trade routes between the alien species. Each alien race has their own artwork and dialog. You can even upgrade your ship and purchase training for your crew.
“Okay, it’s your turn,” I tell Pat. I’ve just flown out of Starport. The ship is loaded with trade goods, and it’s time for the long trip to the other side of the galaxy so we can sell this stuff. Pat sighs and takes over.
Upstairs, little Ruthie and Danny are in the living room, having another argument over the TV. Ruthie is in second grade. Danny began kindergarten this year, the year after I graduated. That means there was never a time when all four of us were in school. It will be a total of twenty-six years between the moment when I entered kindergarten and the day Danny graduates.
I play with the two of them. I tickle Ruthie and wrestle with Danny. Then I make myself a sandwich and head back downstairs.
Pat has spent the last ten minutes holding down the right arrow key, and is just now arriving at the trading port on other side of the galaxy.
“Okay, my turn,” I tell him.
Another day at McDonald’s.
I seem to have figured out how to deal with people over the course of the last year. I don’t know if it was due to leaving high school, or getting older, or the circle of friends I made at ICM. Maybe this is a natural result of the slow revelations at Seven Springs. In any case, I’m no longer a nervous stumble-mouth. At some point I noticed that some of my funny thoughts were amusing to others, and some were only amusing to me. I’ve learned to filter out the latter, and I’ve learned to avoid laughing before I tell my joke. This does wonders for my social life. As far as I can tell, the key to saying witty things is to say them as if you don’t don’t find them funny yourself. You throw the joke down and walk away like you don’t care.
I’ve gone from social outcast to being almost universally popular. People don’t just like me, they seek my approval. This forms a positive feedback loop: The more people like me, the more confidence I have. The more confidence I have, the better I am socially.
I’ve begun flirting, and this has changed my entire outlook on dating. Before, I didn’t really date because I was nervous to the point of terror when approaching a girl. Asking a girl out on a date has a binary outcome: If it fails, you feel shame and rejection. If it succeeds, you go out on the date and maybe encounter shame and rejection at a later time. I’m naturally risk-averse, so this deal never looked very attractive to me.
This flirting business is much better. If the flirt is rejected, it’s no big deal, because I was just kidding, right? If it’s accepted, then I flirt again and see how she responds. A consistent loop of positive feedback is the signal that it’s probably safe to ask someone out on a date. In fact, it’s almost a test drive of what a date will be like. If she’s not laughing at my jokes and smiling, then I can forget about her. We’re obviously not compatible. This is a far better system than trying to marshal the courage to ask for a date up front.
As I enter the store I nod to the pair of guys working grill, “Mister Thompson, Mister Brady.”
This is a thing I do. Fast food company culture requires that everyone be on a first-name basis. Our boss isn’t “Mr. Lastname”, he’s “Mike”. If Ray Kroc himself were to drop by to see how his stores were doing, we would be expected to call him, “Ray”, not, “Your Grace, Master of all Things Hamburger, Lord Kroc”. I’m not sure what the reasoning is behind this. Perhaps letting us call our bosses by their first name is supposed to make it feel like we’re all buddies or peers? In any case, this false Egalitarianism bugs me, so I have decided to thumb my nose at it by referring to the other crew members formally. This has caught on.
“Mister Young!” they shout in return as I breeze through the grill area. I love this. It makes it feel like we’re fellow crew members of a sailing ship. We only do this between low-level crew members. Shift managers and store managers are all first-name people to us.
I’m working grill today, which is good. Sometimes I work drive-through, and drive-through requires a certain degree of mental investment. People outside of the fast food business are always making jokes about how hard it is to understand the people taking your order in drive-through, but they don’t know the half of it. On my end, the microphone is an inch from my mouth. On the other end, you’re sitting about four feet above the microphone in your towering pickup truck, and trying to shout over the roaring engine. You don’t even know where the microphone is. You sort of just shout in the general direction of the menu board like you’re addressing the Wizard of Oz. Your kids are arguing in the back seat, you’ve got the radio on, and you have no idea how to pronounce half the stuff on the menu, but when you drive away you’ll make fun of me for our mutual inability to communicate.
It takes brain power to decipher what people are saying, and I have to pay attention to what I’m doing while I’m making change. At night, the person taking orders in drive-through is also in charge of dishes. I’ll send an order along, and wait for a second. Is that it? Is there another order coming? No? Okay, back to dishes then. Then I stick my hands in the water and get another ding on my headset. All too often, someone begins rattling off their order before I can dash to the register.
This is why I prefer working grill. I can unhook my brain from my work and run on autopilot. I can keep my mind busy on interesting things (videogames, stories, code) while my hands assemble hamburgers on their own.
I have dropped out of ICM. I had to go in for some surgery during the second semester at ICM, and I needed some recovery time. I used that as an excuse to take a semester off, which turned into not going back at all. This allowed me to quit school without having to directly confess what a blunder I’d made. This is gutless, but I’m too ashamed to confess how badly I mucked things up.
Now I’m in a new bind. I have become convinced that I won’t be able to get the job I want without a degree. Having just quietly dropped out of school, I can’t very well ask for more money for another school. I’ve already made it abundantly clear that I have no idea what I’m doing when it comes to selecting schools. Moreover, I don’t even want to go to school.
I have a dream and I can’t get there, so now I’m flipping burgers for a living.
McDonald’s has put a girl into the grill area with the boys. This is unexpected. Up until now, females worked the registers, and males cooked the food. (Taking orders in drive-through is one of the few positions open to either gender.) There isn’t a rule, and nobody ever insisted that things needed to be this way. It’s just how it’s always been. I don’t know what caused the change, but here we are.
Heather is an adorable, round-faced little imp. We’ve flirted in the past when I was working drive through, but it’s hard to do a lot of that when you’re assigned to two different areas of the store and only speak in ten-second intervals. Now we can actually have conversations during the slow moments. She makes fun of my name. I call her a “Care Bear”, due to her cheerfully over-sweetened demeanor.
One day Heather asks me to her prom. I may have mastered the art of being funny in a group of people, but I’m still a bit of a clod socially, so I immediately ask her how much it will cost. (I’m a bit broke these days.) I only realize how rude this is after I’ve said it. Someday I’ll learn to not blurt out things like this, and I’ll learn to be more diplomatic about it when I do open my mouth. I’m learning, but this interpersonal stuff is murderously complex compared to simple things like computer programming.
I stammer out a reluctant agreement, which puts her off. See, Mandy dumped me in senior year and took someone else to prom, and I moped around like a wounded animal over it. I was overcome with ridiculous teenage angst, and just the mention of prom fills me with all kinds of confusing emotions.
Over the next few days Heather brings it up now and again, and eventually we decide to go out on some regular dates before prom. This solves all kinds of problems for me.
My career is stalled, but at least I have a date.
Gamers Aren’t Toxic
This is a horrible narrative that undermines the hobby through crass stereotypes. The hobby is vast, gamers come from all walks of life, and you shouldn't judge ANY group by its worst members.
Artless in Alderaan
People were so worried about the boring gameplay of The Old Republic they overlooked just how boring and amateur the art is.
Silent Hill Turbo HD II
I was trying to make fun of how Silent Hill had lost its way but I ended up making fun of fighting games. Whatever.
Revisiting a Dead Engine
I wanted to take the file format of a late 90s shooter and read it in modern-day Unity. This is the result.
Silent Hill Origins
Here is a long look at a game that tries to live up to a big legacy and fails hilariously.