Hey Harvey!

Posted on Nov 14th 2011 at 05:57:27 AM by (slackur)
Posted under Personal, Update

There are so many actions done on a daily basis which, I believe, are designed to teach humility.

Took off the upstairs toilet a while back, opened up the bathtub drain, snaked and cleaned a few drain lines, got rather filthy, and otherwise occupied my time in ways that made me seriously disappointed I didn't catch whatever small kids toy was likely swallowed up in a whirlwind of flushed water.  As far as I know, there is no such thing as action-figure proof commodes, and were I a different, more industrious type, I'm sure I could utilize the market potential there.

I'm not opposed to having to get dirty or do disgusting things.  I got my hands gory as an EMT in the back of an ambulance, I've worked with (cleaned up) MR adults at group homes for a living, and would come home with new and interesting substances clinging to my skin after my industrial instrumentation college training.  For crying out loud, if nothing else, having three kids under five means getting mucky is in the job description. 

This puts me at odds with my nature; I'm no grease monkey. I don't like oily things touching my skin.  If the sun were in the process of going supernova, I would still prefer igniting spontaneously to the use of sunscreen.  But one has to do what one has to do when one has to do it, and loosing the use of one bathroom in my household means Jes the Slackur has to take care of 'business.'

The purpose of this lovely introduction is partially an explanation as to what has preoccupied my time lately (house projects), as well as segue into some random thoughts about how much, er, crap we gamers put up with in order to simply enjoy our gaming experiences.

I love Battlefield 3Love it.  Now I'm a Halo guy insomuch as I like the feel of said series, the gameplay's speed and rhythm seem closest to matching my personal flow, although I haven't escaped the middle of endgame rankings since the original.  The Call of Duty series are, to me, above average and well produced, but even though I understand many of the reasons COD MP is the hottest thing right now, it is not at all my personal preference.  (My K/D is rarely in the positive, although I'm very much a fan of BLOPS Zombies.)

But back to Battlefield 3.  Here's a game that doesn't strictly punish me for not mastering the head shot with three different guns.  It understands that sometimes I just want to chase a tank around with a blowtorch for half an hour.  And the game rewards me for it!  The constant addictive progression of steady unlocks and tweaking customization that is the modern gaming de rigueur is at its best here.  This is largely because the game is designed to parse out what you are trying to accomplish and then scan a huge digital scroll, Santa-style, until it determines how many points you get for firing every bullet in a SCAR at the general vicinity of the enemy.  (I will now be officially disappointed at every FPS that does not employ a suppression mechanic.)

There is but a single albatross around the neck of this experience for me thus far, and it has nothing to do with bugs, exploits, server issues, weapon nerfing, or ejecting from a jet moments before impact in order to sail across the map.  No, it comes down to a personal preference, but a big one: language.

?Que?  Well, even before I traded off my gaming time for toddlers, I wasn't a fan of coarse words.  I've have the same constant exposure to it as any modern American, and while I've enjoyed Kevin Smith movies and the occasional South Park episode, it doesn't negate my personal preference to not hear constant swearing if given the choice.  And although I don't intend on placing v-chip headphones on my little tykes' ears, I do try to monitor their exposure to things I don't want in my own home as reasonably as I feel appropriate.
I'm one of those weirdos that leave the gore on but enable the language filter on the Gears of War games, a wonderful feature that has played its own small part of keeping the series heavy on my rotation.

Battlefield 3, in an attempt to capture that all important  'realism immersion' element, lets the f-bomb and other choice grandma-wincing words fly as common comm chatter.  These canned phrases are wrapped around maintaining field and objective awareness, such as position and objective changes, so they can be somewhat important to hear, especially in a game where mics are as rare as people who care about foul language.

There's no filter options for it in the audio, (and yes, I know it takes a bit of extra effort to include such a feature for so few who use it.  Yer telling Mr. Southpaw this?) and no way to volume adjust the voice-overs, just global levels.  And so, as I enjoy playing on our 360 LAN and this multiplies the frequency of hearing said audio, BF3 gaming became nights of intense fun punctuated by extreme annoyance. 

I get it.  I know this is how people, especially in extreme situations, and doubly so in the military, speak.  I know some people are drawn into the game's amazing audio even more because it comes across as a more realistic representation of the virtual scenario.  But that doesn't mean I have to like it, or 'get over' it.  I play games for fun; if, during the game, something happens that bothers me, and it persists on bothering me as long as I play, I'm naturally going to lose interest at some point.  I have to subject myself to all manner of 'crap' (see intro) during the course of any given day, and the last thing I want during my downtime is to be expected to put up with something I don't like just to enjoy an entertainment product.

Mind you, this is coming from a guy who loves playing Super Meat Boy, Demon/Dark Souls, and Trials HD.  Its not that I'm easily annoyed so much as I have a few things I don't desire to lower my personal standards on, and while I have no ability or intention to force those expectations on others, when it comes to personal time I feel I'm entitled to be picky about what I put up with to enjoy something.  As much fun as I was having with it, BF3 was coming close to crossing that line.

Then I discovered it had a Spanish setting.

Now, instead of being yelled at to "Get to the F-ing Line!!"  I hear something I equate to gargling followed by "Rapido! Rapido! Rapido!"

My high school year's worth of Spanish I took a decade and a half ago has yet to completely kick in, but I'm getting the gist of what's going on.  And re-learning another language!  Had I realized watching old episodes of Red Vs Blue could have used a roundabout way to give me a solution, I would have done that long ago.

Oh, but watch out.  That series is classic, but it cusses quite a bit. Wink

Posted on Oct 21st 2011 at 05:08:27 PM by (slackur)
Posted under Personal, update

Greetings, programs!

I knew buying a house and spending time with my beloved through her traumatic health condition would take up most of my writing time, but I really didn't intend on it taking me over half a year to get back here.  I can state all manner of excuses, but the reality is that if I'm serious about pursuing my writing career, I need all of the outlets and avenues I have available, and neglecting them only sets me back.  Not to mention, I've missed you guys. (Aaaaawwwwwww)

While Adam and I plan to kick the podcast up into higher gears in the near future, I hope to use this blog to not only grow a personal presence here on the site, but to treat it as a developing process of accountability for progressing my intended profession. 

I remember how blogs were before Twitter, Facebook, even before LiveJournal; not just articles and thoughts ready for publishing, but personal thoughts, updates in life, and fun social portals.  Now that these other services have largely splintered what was once more concentrated (although in the name of speed and functionality,) having a blog lost interest to me, even though I don't use those other media services.  I know some have never treated their blogs differently even in the wake of our integrated digital lives, but I suppose I lost interest in treating my own blog in the same fashion as some would a Twitter or Facebook account because i assumed those who would want mini updates or social connectivity would prefer them in those such better suited, more modern methods.

Nevertheless I've come to the conclusion that I can, by nature, be somewhat selfish in a blog if I know the priorities I have for writing one.  I need practice in writing, in any format, and if that is the foremost stated intent of this device then I can feel a bit more freedom in the content.  Whereas before, I only wanted to write here if I could really build an article in which I both felt a sense of worth in writing and potentially polish for later use.  The more 'frivolous' entries felt more like excuses in wasting space and time, a notion I will still have to work to dispel.  Now that I have a different intent on my entries, I hope it will liberate my availability, in time and content, even if I perceive the quality or relevance to suffer.

Write what I want to write!  That pretty much sums it up.  If I develop an article worth front page reading, it may be caught and elevated, and if not, I have no objections.  And even though I'm not overtly concerned with critique, I hope any input gained from readers will simply work to forging my skills, whether I agree with such advice or not.

Mentioning such, I will make a comment on one particular aspect of my writing here that I know annoys readership; what could be be colorfully described as 'Block-o-text' Jes writing.
Why such long winded sentencing?  Why not more pictures that break up the ongoing literary assault?  Why make it unnecessarily harder for folks to read?

Believe it or not, this result is intentional, and not because I simply don't care or wish to accommodate those interested.  One of the first lessons I find in teaching material for writers is to write what you would want to read.  Would I want to read a wall of text?  Actually...

Here's what happens to me; I'm reading an article online, the typical two or three simple sentence paragraph, punctuated by pictures, links, and graghs, and my eyes spill over it, searching to gain the gist so I can popcorn my attention to imagery and corollary links of similar interest.  I quickly get through what I imagine to be the important components and then jump to something to keep up the pace.  I end up with a dozen tabs and windows open, jumping between what I'm interested in that minute or so.  It's like when a gamer first discovers emulators: downloading hundreds or thousands of games, then tinkering with a few dozen for a few minutes, rarely investing in one for much time.  Sure, I read plenty of articles in their entirety, but my attention has been split, and I don't digest the content as I would sitting down with a good old-fashioned book or magazine article circa '89.

When I find a wall of text in my own reading, it presents itself as a figurative wall to my racing conscious.  I slam against it, and have to make a decision; I'm going to focus on this, or not bother with it.  With no pictures to paint the mental imagery for me, and sentence structure that may be overtly complex but requires attention to follow, I either focus or ignore. 

As pretentious as I freely admit this purpose is, the last thing a serious writer wants is someone to scan their words and not form meaning or worth from them.  Focus is the most valuable gift a reader can give an author, and we writers have precious few tools left in the era of hyperlinks and flash animation.  Presenting material in a way that forces such attention can be annoying and frustrating; I know I certainly don't always stop to read it.  I didn't read Doonesbury for years because it took so much more work to glance over than Far Side or Garfield.  Now I ignore it for other reasons, but that's material for another time...

I write in this style because even though those who get through it all may not care for the style and format, it is much more likely they will have thought about what was written.  It's not that I don't care about the reader whom I loose because they see that wall and want to move on; I honestly do.  I'm not trying to use some obnoxious trick to separate intellect or intent.  I don't pretend that anything I write has any special relevance or meaning above any other author.  On the other hand, my goal for writing is not to collect the most readers, in this or other formats; it is for conversation.  I have found this method produces the best results for the fulfillment of that desire.  So, at the known risk of coming across as pretentious, I build these walls so once scaled, we have something to chat about on the other side.  Will it be of any more worth or importance than any other chat?  Not necessarily at all.  But hopefully we'll at least be holding a conversation instead of nodding, shaking our heads, or shrugging before moving on.

Posted on Dec 21st 2010 at 02:58:06 AM by (slackur)
Posted under personal, absence

So this is the part where I pop my head into the office for the first time in a long while, give a half-smile and nod to some surprised faces and a few scowls, and begin stumbling over my apologies for not being around and fulfilling my site duties (blog writing, podcast, etc.)

The last quarter of this year has taken so much out of me due to unplanned and unavoidable circumstances, and for the sake of venting a bit I'll mention a few.  Not to give excuses, but because I hope it will deflate the internal pressure and I will manage to get on top of things again and return to the community here that I cherish and desire to support.

My family placed a great deal of resources toward a short-sale house purchase back in September.  Never do this.  (The short sale part.)  In four months we have not heard from the bank holding the seller's property we were trying to buy, and despite extending the contractual obligations for a return reply, we've gotten to the point that it is costing us too much to continue this pursuit.  The last deadline is fast approaching, and the severe weather around here has since begun to visibly damage the now vacant home.  To say my beloved and I are disheartened is quite the understatement.  We've gone through meetings and phone calls and emails and banks and countless pages of paperwork, taking up a great deal of time and energy.  If we don't hear from the other party before the end of the year, we will not buy the home we've been preparing to move into for all this time.  My wife and I know that if this is not the house for us, God will close the door, and if it is meant to happen, He will open it.  It will be pretty obvious which within a few days.  In the mean time, we've made sure to do everything we can on our end, and it has just exhausted us.

The weather here in Pennsylvania struck early and hard, dumping a near comical amount of snow in short order, and it has taken its own toll on time and energy.

The biggest difficulty, and the one that I'm the most limited to discuss for detail, has to do with family issues.  Blessedly my own immediate family is doing very well, and for that I am truly thankful.  But over the last few months a few situations have come up with other family members that simply defy expectation and shake one down thoroughly, making a person question long held assumptions and wonder how to move forward.  Some decisions do not carry the weight of morality as much as simply a weight of consequence.

I've already received criticism for divulging more detail to others, so I shouldn't really explain further.  But what reserves I had remaining from other scenarios have been completely drained from this last one.  Wrestling my wonderful rug-rats at the end of the day has just left me spent.

I do not intend on further sabbatical or delay from what I ascribe to be my duties here, though I do not intend to be ambitious for a little while longer.  Hopefully the wonderfully patient Bickman and I will get an end-of-the-year podcast out and I can finish up with a blog entry or two.

Any prayers and thoughts sent our way are greatly appreciated, and your local Slackur should be up to better running capacity in short order.

In the meantime, I'll be around, and once some of this is cleared up I plan to be pushing more content than ever. Wink

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