Flotsam and Jetsam
I often think about how my life today compares with my life in the past as it pertains to the technological differences. For example, if I could go back 10 years and show myself my iPhone, it would blow my 10 years ago mind. Lately I’ve been thinking about how social media has changed my life.
I’ve had many discussions and probably written about it here before as well. While I think there are 2 sides to every issues and I can certainly see the negatives that come with it, overall I am extremely pro social media. Facebook has allowed me to stay in touch with people and foster friends and relationships that probably never would have happened otherwise. More than that, I realized that it just makes me feel “connected” to other people and the world at large so much more. We can all participate in conversations that as we have the time and will that we might not be able to otherwise. It is certainly not a substitute for real human contact, but I know most of us just don’t have the time to meet up with, or even call and catch up with all the people we would like to. I can’t sit down one Saturday afternoon and call my 20 closest friends, but we can all converse at will online and carry on conversations over the day or days as we have time.
I’ve particularly appreciated this during difficult times. It’s strange remembering that there was once a time that I didn’t have this luxury of constant connection. The only connection I had was if I called someone on a land line and then maybe arranged to see them. Apart from that, I was alone with whatever I might be going through at the time. That seems so incomprehensible to me now. Just the thought makes me feel so cut off and isolated. I fire up The internet, Facebook, whatever and I instantly feel at least a tiny bit better. At least a nano-increment more in touch with the world and people and energy of the universe.
Of course I also wonder if this constant connection also makes us not make real and in person connections as much. Do we sometimes allow it to be substitute? Would we maybe see people more or take a friendship to the next more real, in person level if we didn’t have the luxury of this constant virtual connection?
Like anything, I think it can be used for good or bad. It is a tool for you to use as you see fit and you must be vigilant to see how it’s affecting you and how you are using it.
It’s great that my life is full of so many amazing people. It’s a shame that the vast majority of those relationships are fairly shallow with only the most tenuous of connections.
I am a night owl by nature. When things are normal and going well, I prefer the night. I feel more alive, energized and uninhibited. However, I’ve noticed that in times of strife, the night becomes oppressive and filled with an acute loneliness but that the sun seems to chase away the shadows both figuratively as well as literally. It’s nourishing and recharging. I find it interesting how they have such different effects depending on my mental state.
Many, many years ago, I remember reading some kind of online personality survey. One of the questions was about whether you walk with your head down staring at the ground or head up looking at the world around you (and maybe another option or two). I don’t remember much else but I know I have this weird ingrained feeling of not wanting to be someone who walks around, head down, staring at the ground. I don’t know why, but I want to be someone who walks with my head held high looking at the world around me.
However, every time I take notice, sure enough my head is bowed and I’m staring at the ground. Even if I correct myself, 5 seconds later I’m back to my default state. I do wonder if this says something profound about me.
The online super hero MMO game “City of Heroes” is shutting down. Much like many of my friends, I find myself very saddened by this despite the fact that I haven’t played in many years. This game has a very special place in life.
CoH wasn’t the first MMO I played, but it was the most impactful due to many circumstances which all aligned to make this particular game a very magical moment in my life. I had played some Earth and Beyond, Everquest, and WoW but CoH fell right in the sweet spot before my personal MMO bubble kind of burst. It was the most fun I ever had in an MMO. We had an awesome guild full of amazing friends, old and new. I had characters of every class, complete with full origin stories. We had a guildmate who died who most of us never met in person and yet we all felt the loss. When Andy, one of my best friends since 4th grade, got married, we had a LAN party for his bachelor party with many of our guildmates. Several guildmates built a computer out of spare parts so my wife at the time could keep playing when hers quit working.
When we moved to Austin, and were looking for jobs I set my sights on the company that published CoH. When my friend Andy soon came to Austin as well, I told him I’d seen an artist position open there. He was the first of us to get a job there. Then through him I heard that one of his co-workers was casting a play so Jess and I both auditioned and got cast in the first show ever at Richard Garriotts’s Curtain Theatre. Through that we became friends with several people who worked there which eventually led to me getting hired there as a QA tester (though not on CoH). Later, I helped Jess get a job as receptionist.
Eventually everyone moved on to other games, most going to EQ2 or WoW. After CoH, it was never the same for me. Everyone was split across different games and even different servers within the same game. I didn’t play enough to justify a monthly cost and just never felt that same magic again.
I eventually got the axe in one of the big layoff waves and spent the next 5 years as a freelance actor and musician. The company moved most of its operations to Seattle but Andy still works there as senior artist and Jess is now a lead content writer.
When I read the news of CoH “sunsetting,” I felt almost that same feeling as when you hear about the death of someone you once knew. Even though you may not have spoken to them in 20 years, you still feel the loss, like there’s something gone from this world. Just the lack of that presence and energy. Most people probably won’t understand this feeling and think to themselves that this was only a video game. However, for those of us that were there, together in Paragon City, we will undertand each other’s heartfelt eulogies and know that just as a bunch of atoms make a person, a bunch of 0’s and 1’s on a distant server somewhere can create a world of magic that brings people together and forms real, lasting impressions and relationships.
I’ve found that my love for technology and games means that I get better results when something is made to feel like a game. I like checking into places on Foursquare and getting badges and mayorships. I was more likely to do pushups and situps when I downloaded the apps for “100 Pushups” and “200 situps” that auto calculate your sets based on your initial test.
Yesterday I downloaded Fitocracy, which I really like. You basically get points for any exercise you do. For this means that instead of facing the daunting task of trying to find an hour and using it to work out, I just periodically drop and do 10 pushups, or some air aquats, or walk around the building and a little robot awards me points for it.
I found myself thinking that Fitocracy would be even more compelling if I could add things like “resisted bagels” or “walked away from the snack machine.” That’s when some co-workers told me about the app, “Epic Win.”
Basically it’s just a To-Do List app but it allows you to turn anything into a fantasy quest. Choose an avatar and then make quests, assign them points and a stat type. For example, I just made quest for “eat a healthy breakfast” which repeats Sunday through Friday is worth 50 point and affects my “Spirit” stat. If I wanted to, I could make a one-shot quest (or recurring quest) on the fly for “drink water instead of Diet Mountain Dew” and watch my character level up and get loot as I accomplish this quest.
These types of things may not work on your mindset, but for they somehow motivate me and make chores into something potentially fun.
My girlfriend told me she was kidnapping me for two days for a secret trip. So today she navigated as we drove a very scenic drive to Bandera, Medina, Vanderpool and Leakey.
We found some geocaches along the way (an excellent way to have fun, explore and find new places), rescued a butterfly from the Medina river (fished it out, dried and unstuck its wings until it flew away), saw lots of awesome scenery, ate at a cafe in Leakey, and ended up renting an awesome cabin at the Frio Pecan Farm from the lady working at the Leakey Mercantile store. It was a nice night of relaxing, singing and finishing off that awesome chocolate meringue pie from the cafe.
Plus we had much fun at the expense of the name Leakey all day. Like the fact that the school here is the Leakey Eagles. And that there was a Leakey Beverage Barn. And while driving, we passed a sign that said “road prone to flooding next 12 miles” and I said “well of course, the next town is Leakey.”
We also laughed like juveniles at the fact that omg the way there were two political signs that often appeared next to one another for “Butts” and “Payne.” or sometimes “Payne” and “Butts.”
Tomorrow it’s onward to Utopia and possibly Concan, then back through Bandera and home. It’s the first trip we have taken together purely for fun that was just the two of us and not for a band gig or family trip. And as Paula said to me in regards to our travel compatibility, “I haven’t wanted to kill you once!”
I was walking to the store today when I suddenly felt so far away from my dreams, like they were so far out of reach. On the way home I took a moment and just truly felt the sun on my face, the breeze blowing across my skin and remembered that same feeling throughout my life, as a child, a teenager, walking to a friend’s house in my home town. For a moment I found the happiness in that moment, not worrying about the future. It’s something I’m working on but that is very difficult for me. I have a mind that is always racing at light speed and exists in a thousand different places at any given moment. Quieting that beast is not something I’ve been very successful at yet. It’s all part of my ongoing journey, I suppose.
Vending machine 1 has the drink I want. Unfortunately it does not seem to be taking dollar bills. I concoct a wily plan. I go to vending machine 2 which is taking dollar bills but does not have the drink I want. I put in my dollar then press the change return button and I am given 4 quarters. Score!
I go back to #1. I insert a quarter. I hear a sound in the coin return slot. My quarter has been returned with several more. I insert a quarter again. This time it sticks. I insert a second quarter. It is returned to me along with my previous quarter and several more. Further attempts see my quarters just returned to me. I leave without a drink, but with a pocket full of quarters. The vending machine basically paid me to not have a drink and leave it alone.
While walking to get some breakfast this morning, I was just enjoying the gorgeous weather. The perfect temperature, the gentle breeze, the shining sun, the sounds all around me, the smells in the air. Then for some reason that I couldn’t quite get a hold of, it all triggered memories of my childhood, walking around my neighborhood, my home town, my elementary school. I remembered a book that I checked out from my elementary school library. A compilation of Science Fiction stories. I only have the vaguest memories of it now but I’ve always wanted to track it down and read it again. About the only memories that remain are vague recollections of some crystalline, large flea-like creatures on another planet and another story about a robot (that’s certainly no help).
I wondered if the school has records of what was in the library back then. It’s strange but wonderful how some magical combination of sensory input can suddenly transport you for reasons that aren’t quite clear. It’s a beautiful day. We only get a handful of these here in Austin! I’m going to enjoy this precious commodity!