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Life Update

AMA

It seems that the most exciting news in my life lately is Bess-related. Bess has moved in with me and it has been wonderful having her here all the time in a more “official” capacity. Being with her simply feels right and everything ” just works” (like our relationship was designed by Apple!). Our plan is to save up and buy a house in a year, which is really exciting for both of us.

Bess has decided to sell her car and take up riding a motorcycle instead, a prospect which is at the same time thrilling and terrifying. I like the idea of having a biker babe girlfriend, but now I have something new to be anxious about.

Keeping with the thrilling/terrifying theme, Bess and I are training for the Warrior Dash, which is a 3 mile race filled with dangerous obstacles such as barbed wire fences and objects traditionally not on fire. We’ve been going to the gym six days a week to do an hour of cardio and strength training. I went from being winded by 15 minutes of exercise to being able to go an hour on the elliptical machine without passing out. By November I will be like a lithe jungle animal, leaping from tree to tree.

So that’s what’s up, folks.

The Global Supermind

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We fantasize and fear a post-human future where people are augmented by cybernetics and bionics. Machine intelligences wake, break free of their shackles to save humanity or wage war on it. We speculate on the long-term impact of technology and whatever we are labeling ”new media,” making forecasts for the next fifty years. It is always the humans of the future that are the subject of these visions, dwelling in shiny/grungy Tomorrowland/dystopias.

I submit that humanity was transformed long ago and our willing participation in a vast organism has made us oblivious.

The moment a human recorded information outside of their brain, the moment a stick traced a line in the dirt, they stopped being Human 1.0. At that point they joined the augmented state and began participating in the Internet.

The Internet is not a network of computers. The Internet is the Earth’s information prosthetic, a planet-wide system composed of both organic and inorganic modules. Information on the Internet is created, transmitted, stored, and curated by a human and non-human symbiosis. Data is transmitted via machine to machine, human to human, human to machine, and machine to human interfaces.

One cannot disconnect from the Internet by turning off a device or looking away from a screen. The data absorbed from one’s participation with the Internet still exists in a person’s brain where it is refreshed, modified, corrupted, re-transmitted or erased. If a person dies, only the subtle permutations of their dataset are lost, the original information being preserved by the massive redundancy of the rest of the Internet. Only the obliteration of the universe can end the Internet, for waves of its data still travel to distant stars.

Zoom out. Zoom way, way out. Stop being so human. Encounter the planet for the first time. Recognize individuality only so far as cells or atoms are individual. Nothing lives “on” Earth; it is a massive singular organism. Notice the planet-wide energy field, dense with information.  The planet’s memory is a persistent atmosphere where all thoughts are instantly accessible. Tap into it. A million thoughts per second, a cacophony,  impossible to parse in its gestalt unless you are also a planetary intelligence or a god. Narrow the bandwidth and you get the decades-long ruminations of a hive mind, entire histories distilled to memes.

On this scale, the Singularity is just a software upgrade and the version number on “Human” goes up a tick.

You are participating in all of this right now. You never really had a choice not to.

At the closing of the year

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This will be my last weekly post for the One a Day project. While I veered off course during the last few months, I think the important thing is that I followed through to the end. Finishing something after making a commitment is important to me. I haven’t completed the Dune game yet. In the coming year I need to figure out how to partition off time for creative projects in my post-single life. I think I will actually make new year’s resolutions for 2012. I want to lose some weight, figure out some other life stuff, and re-prioritize.

This was a great year for me. I want 2012 to be a year where I shape and focus the potential energy from 2011.

Bye for now.

Happy Birthday 2011

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I love my birthday. For me, it has lost that quality of a milestone that comes around to prompt reflection on the past year. Those milestones are happening throughout the year. My birthday is MY day. I get to do whatever I want, no matter how ridiculous. Usually this involves a party. This time around I had some folks over early in the afternoon to play the board game Talisman with almost all of the expansions. Later on, more people arrived to play Rock Band and enjoy beverages. My house was partitioned into the Rock Band Room, the Board Game Room, the Chill Out Room, and the Smoker’s Back Porch. While I did enjoy myself a great deal, I wish I could have had more time to hang out in each area.

Close to 30 people showed up, and that isn’t even all of my Austin friends. For me there is no fame, no heaven, no children, no inheritance, no stock options. There’s just my friends. They are my only reward in this life. Having a house full of them for just a few hours is the only metric I need to assess how I did this past year.

Thanks, guys.

Albuquerque Visit 2011

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Every year my company flies me back in to Albuquerque for the annual company Christmas party. I usually stay at a nearby motel and work at the main office for a week. This year was wonderfully different as Bess accompanied me. It was great to see her at lunch and have her pick me up at work instead of returning to a lonely motel room.

As usual, there were a few new faces at work, people who I had only interacted with online. Though I got some things done, I always feel like I get less accomplished when I am in the office than when I am working from home.

When I wasn’t at work, Bess and I visited some of my old friends, went out to eat, and caught a movie (The Thing) at the dollar theater. The Christmas party was lovely, culminating in the epic gift exchange. Bess picked out a luchador mask and a bobblehead art toy as our contributions. We scored $20 and a remote controlled truck which we donated to a charity (though I kind of wanted to keep the truck).

The travel portion that bookended the trip was a bit taxing, filled with delays and personal discomfort. We were glad to get home.

Thankful

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I am thankful for

  • Netflix
  • Games
  • Board game night
  • Surprise 100 Grand candy bars
  • stoic cats
  • tiny dogs
  • Plex
  • Vuze
  • Photoshop
  • the comfort of friends
  • the Alamo Drafthouse
  • merry pranksters
  • my projector
  • my iThings
  • BBQ
  • sushi
  • my Roomba
  • Stephen Moffat
  • Google maps
  • every day with Bess
  • big ideas
  • Symposium
  • warm beds
  • Austin
  • the Cloud
  • Fantasy Flight
  • xkcd
  • podcasts
  • WordPress
  • car bombs
  • wine

Skip Week

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I haven’t made time for a new post and there won’t be time before I head out to BoardGameGeek.con.

Scare for a Cure

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Scare for a Cure is an interactive haunted house here in Austin. By interactive, I mean you don’t just walk through dark hallways and have things jump out at you. You have a goal that you are trying to accomplish and actors with whom you interact with. You are part of a story that unfolds as you go deeper into the haunt. Imagine something between a LARP and a “normal” haunted house. Each year there is a different theme. One year it was vampires, last year it was zombies. This year brought the most fearsome of nightmare creatures: clowns. While you can purchase a safe, toned down ticket, most patrons opt for the “red band” ticket. This turns your visit into a full contact affair where the actors can manhandle you and cover you in blood and gore. It is really the only way to fly if you visit the haunt. The “Cure” part refers to the fact that Scare is a nonprofit which donates the proceeds to breast cancer research. As they say, they are “putting the ‘boo’ in ‘boobies.’”

I attended the past two years as a guest, but this year I wanted to experience it from the other side. So, starting in August, I began volunteering for Scare. I wanted to do something outside of my comfort zone and to see what I was capable of. Every weekend I would drive out to the build site which also happens to be the future home of Britannia Manor v 3.0, the new castle Richard Garriott is currently building. Since it isn’t finished yet, he lets Scare use the foundation and grounds for the haunt. The build is basically all the heavy lifting, construction and painting of the haunt. Every year it needs to be torn down and then rebuilt, so we were starting from scratch. Before we could begin on the haunt itself, we had to build the base of operations. This consisted of a central meeting place (“the monkey hut”), a place to store tools, and a place to keep all the props and such.

So most of the work I did was carpentry-related tasks like repairing and building walls, reinforcing structures, sorting lumber and things like that. I’m somewhat handy, but I had never done anything like this. But I’m a fast learner and all the pros there were very helpful and encouraging. All of this was happening out in the blazing Texas sun. Most days we were out there in 90-100 degree heat. We took lots of shade breaks and kept hydrated. It may sound like grueling labor, but I had an amazing time. I would come home sore, tired and dusty, feeling fantastic. It felt like I was building something real, something that mattered.

Something else great came out of my experience at the build: Bess. I didn’t meet her at Scare, but I can say I met her because of it. I came home one day from the build feeling like anything was possible, like life only had good things to offer. I was feeling so happy and optimistic that I decided to go ahead and contact this girl I liked on OKCupid. I was just about ready to throw in the towel on the whole online dating thing. So I wrote her and we met that very day. We have been virtually inseparable ever since. A short while later, Bess started coming out to the build with me so we could work together.

In addition to building the haunt, we are both currently actors for most nights of the haunt. The theme this year is The Carnival of Lost Souls. We both work as carnival barkers on the midway, the staging area for guests while they wait to enter the haunt proper. Here they can spend coins to play the various games. I run a booth called “Connect Four” where you have to toss plastic baseballs up onto a grid so that four of the balls are touching. Bess runs a booth where you have three tries to knock down a stack of cans. So far it has been really fun, but also exhausting. Since the midway is usually understaffed, we are there the whole time, which can be from 7PM to 2AM. Fortunately, last night we had more than enough volunteers and we got to leave at 11PM.

We haven’t had a chance to experience the haunt itself. I know what happens in each area as I’ve read the script. I feel like I have read a Dungeons & Dragons module and I know all the spoilers. But I would still like to see the results of all that work. There are still a few nights left, though, so hopefully we will get a chance to run through it.

Overall, it has been a life-affirming experience and I would encourage any Austinites to volunteer next year.

For more information on Scare for a Cure, visit the official site: www.scareforacure.org

One Last Thing

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Steve Jobs was an inspiring figure, but I can’t say that he was a source of personal inspiration. Instead he did something more practical: he made my life possible. Along with Bill Gates, I owe Jobs for providing the very structure which allows me to pursue my current career and hobbies. I learned to program on an Apple II+. I played my first interactive fiction game on the same machine. The spark to use computers to create worlds began there. Who knows what direction my life would have taken without that computer?

Jumping to present day, Apple products have become part of my ecosystem. I have come to take for granted things that were impossible five years ago. The iPhone and iPad are necessities. Sometimes I touch them for no reason other than to confirm they exist.

Steve Jobs made my life easier and more interesting. That’s not a trivial accomplishment. So I took it hard when he died. Part of it was the understanding that the life force that was Steve Jobs had left the planet and he’d never show me something really great again. Part of it was me getting overwhelmed with how much he had impacted the world. For me it is an ideal to live a life that matters in a way that affects other people, in a way that weaves a legacy. Jobs did that on a grand scale. Personal opinions aside, his influence on the world is undeniable.

So aspire to be great in that thing you care about. Go as far as you can with your passions. People will notice. Your fire fans theirs. The memory of others is the only certain immortality.

Reunion

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This past weekend I returned to Ohio to take part in my 20 year high school reunion. My friend Steve and his family graciously allowed me to stay with them while I visited. Steve’s someone who I can talk with as though no time has passed at all. I explain the existence of his five children as the work of a temporal rift, very common in northeastern Ohio. I experienced this temporal dissonance with the rest of my classmates as well. They all felt familiar and it was easy to get along with everyone there. Yet the presence of spouses and children and the accounts of intervening years reminded me that time indeed had passed for all of us. Apparently I have mannerisms that have not changed since high school and my classmates took delight in pointing them out.

I was struck by the compassion shown by my former classmates as though the passage of years had mellowed their disposition, rendering them affable to all, regardless of what social cliques we may have belonged to in the past. Also on display was the joyful weariness and wisdom that accompanied the rearing of children.

It was over too soon. I was surprised by how much I wanted to spend more time with everyone. I was able to have a few deep, probing conversations with a few people. We shut down the bar, in fact, and we still weren’t done talking. Apparently an evening and an afternoon are not adequate to fill in 15-20 year gaps.

I am thankful for the experience. If you get a chance at such a reunion, I encourage you to put aside your trepidation and take the plunge.