GX notes - December 199923/12
The latest toy craze sweeping the office - Zap scooters. $450 buys you a solid metal ride with stripped down rechargable electric putputt action! Kirk bought one at Costco (probably with some of the respectable pile of money he won playing BlackJack in Vegas) and 12 hours later there's now three, Matt and Wayne joined in. Parts of the office have been designated part of a D-shaped track and there's calls for races and regulations. Every ten minutes some new face cracked in a giant grin goes zipping through the editorial office giving the scooter their try.
This morning I discovered most all of the exact remedy to my bitchings of yesterday - Pacific East Mall/Ranch 99 Market - a giant cheaply thrown together Californian convergeance of six cultures and all their shopping options. Pineapple buns in Chinese bakeries, Ranch 99 grocery store with imitation Lobster balls, Ten Ren's tea shop with balls you can suck through a straw. There's boutiques with dried meats I've never seen, orchids, sushi, hotpot and pho.
hank just gave everyone holiday presents - a pokemon pencil, pokemon pen, and a mint stick covered in chocolate.
we just moved yesterday into Richmond (Richmond CA not VA - near Marina Bay)
so much more space - it's astonishing. We can throw a football between our desks now, the whole place is expansive feeling. We don't have cubicles yet, so there's an open feeling, but we're very spread out ("to increase productivity" say the CEO and CTO). I can't really see out too many windows, but sometimes when Dennis leaves his door open I can see my little blue Honda since I got the good space this morning.
My initial feeling at this desk is one of slight frustration - because the commute is mentally longer - twice the distance on 4 or 5 lane California highways, and pulling into a blank office-barn in the middle of a foreclosed industrial shitdump. We got a great deal on real estate and space here, but you can't really walk to get any food and if you want to drive less than 10 minutes your options are either sandwiches or sit-down suit-up expensive Italian. There's no neighborhood, no personality, no character.
Actually, scratch that - I saw a character last night pushing his shopping cart after dark and looking at me suspiciously because I'm the newcomer here, and until we set this office up this place was deserted after dark and so it still hosts some drug deals and places to sleep for people without places to sleep. Which I don't mind except that there's not much visible joy in Richmond where I drive, there's evangelical churches, which reminds me of the last place I lived with a lot of evangelical churches - West Oakland. They got double barrel religion where they got people who need it.
And we're so far into the boonies that all of our cellphones get mostly shitty reception.
I'm trying to be optimistic, because I know I'll learn to love it and I like working here, and now our location and our identity and our company are fused. We have so much space, Wilda and Hank got me a remote controlled car and Nat rigged up a hamster-holder on it, so we send our hamster buzzing around the office - which is now big enough that you aren't even sure whether people are here or not. There's relative quiet - I've arranged myself so my screen is relatively unseen and I can see most everyone. Well, at least everyone in "editorial" or "production"
It all foreshadows the direction of things - hiring more people so you have the number of people in your section that used to be in the company, and you see the old favourites on the way to the bathroom maybe but otherwise you're more isolated so you can be more productive but you're more and more like a commuting worker which is the alienation of the information age.
But everyone here is still a professional distraction maker, we study games and everyone here is still brilliant. I like talking to people and I'm entertained. Productivity has taken a hit since everyone is sharing four 56k modem connections.
We've moved from the celebrated several year cramped founding home of the company into the offices of a bankrupt biotech firm. In the back corners of the unused spaces are darkrooms, labratories, bunsen burners and crematoriums for tested rabbit remains.
Nat has turned the RC Car into a kind of mobile target for the vortex guns.
At least on my way to work in Berkeley I drove by Reel and Berkeley Bowl produce, so I saw the stores I felt like shopping in. I'm sure it's only a matter of time until I understand the landscape here - it's just more highway driving time - five lanes each way of the gray future California fantastic.
and eventually I realize it's 6pm and half of the office has commandeered the main hallway for a group game involving a foam football, a remote control car, and some flourescent rubber bands. A little while ago Dennis mentioned some investment bank dudes coming by.
Nat is starting to build obstacles for the RC car to tackle. I've looked up RC cars on Toys 'R Us for Nat to have his own - or at least for the office to have two. Can we expense this?
gotta love this catalog copy for toys:
Witness the cyclone steerin', stunt wieldin' freak-out frenzy of Tyco's Radio Control Tantrum - bigtime ouch!
"try not to use much bandwidth - we're trying to figure out what's wrong with the servers."
Between the fire hazard space conditions at the last place, and the unthinkable bandwidth constraints here, I like to think I'm with an internet company in the midst of a great depression. "We were here when we had to [insert stupidly difficult way of doing something simple]." But then I realize the myth of the entire era here is that there's a million companies doing stuff stupid and fast to try to make bucks. But our idea is better than theirs! Yeah!
John had cause to meditate on my role here:
Audience Development or like a Liason or something
you work with the audience kinda
but you turn that into content
but that gives you more leeway kinda cuz you can branch out or something
Today is my birthday. BIRTHDAY QUAKE!
being in the newspaper, being on TV, these are all signs you've become a big deal. but having your URL munged into porn! That's arrival. www.gamrs.com takes you to:
Brandon is a serious sort of rebel here. He "doesn't eat Asian food."
At first, I was flabbergasted. How could you write off so many disparate cuisines? Besides accounting for the many tasty options within them, it would seem there is enough variety for anyone to find something to enjoy.
Rather I've come to think that Brendon is just defending himself from the total alien culture he's come into, moving to the Bay area. I caught him at his desk the other day eating a sandwich of wonder bread with baloney and mayonaise. Youch!
Joel's got an accoustic guitar near his desk and he's strumming every few hours now. it's mellowing.
we're moving today, had a big meeting about our relocation to Point Richmond and how we pack up Tuesday. After the meeting Derek and or John kept tapping my wrong shoulder and getting me to turn around and finally everything degenerated into a office mosh pit and suggesting new hairstyles for people.
one of the rare delights of my job is sitting next to Brandon and listening to him shouting screaming and uh-huhing through Quake 3 every few nights. There's something uniquely Texan in his profanities: "How'd you like that shit, bitch?" and "fuck you I fuckin' fragged your ass"
I've expressed some problems with my sound card, and different softwares, to our MIS guy Chris. He gave me suggestions that I could do to try and fix it - some problems went away, some remained. Whatever.
Then today I asked him how I could up my FPS (Frames Per Second) in Quake 3. "I can optimize you if you let me sit down." Fifteen minutes later he's changed my refresh rate in Windows 2000, set me up with command line loading options, tweaked my graphics settings through the game's console - he was all over it.
This is what he put in my Q3 shortcut:
C:\games\Quake3\quake3.exe +disconnect +set r_intensity 1.34 +set r_displayrefresh 75
And a whole bunch of other stuff!
If I didn't mention it already, the average age here is 23.8 years.
i have this sudden inexplicable craving for eggnog.
Today I spoke at Galileo High School in San Francisco, as part of a "career pathways" program for young folks who want to go into media technology professions. Between that and talking to a reporter from the Washington Post about Thresh's fame and violent videogames in our society, I'm beginning to remember how much I like the sound of my own voice (as amy reminds me).
Someone here found a coupon deal, or maybe a bug, at Staples.com (office supplies online) that allows you to reuse coupons repeatedly. Everyone here is ordering $200 leather chairs for 20$. 5 layer stacking shelves for their garage and file cabinets 300$ worth for 11$ plus tax. Some people ordered Palm V's but they didn't receive order confirmation, so the furniture seems like the best goods to exploit.
meeting today across the hall to discuss new features and priorities for extending our site. I'm sitting here reading over interviews and turning them around. I'd rather be across the hall.
Bob just brought in a Nerf WildFire - a chain-gun like projectile apparatus that powers 20 darts with a short pull of the trigger. It makes a tremendous noise. Strategically it's too slow to reload, but before it's fired it strikes fear in our hearts.
I forgot to call my grandfather - i didn't reach him on his 92nd birthday yesterday, and then today it just slipped my mind.
Last night's Quake 3 Arena Capture the Flag match was between Edit and Dev. Edit was screaming "Fuck! I had the flag!" and "Shit! I died!" at the top of their lungs. Dev was a batch of quiet focused victorious players barely cracking a joke every few minutes. I'm getting better I think. Last night I played until my hands clenched up into a dried monkey paw shape. Then I decided to relax.
It still feels good to work here. Got a Christmas tree, Joel got it, stuck in in the "lounge/conference room/game room/sleep chamber" outside. It adds a touch of comfort somehow, I wouldn'ta thunk it.
I like this interviewing thing. After a week of 20 year old boys, I finally have some interviews with young women coming up. A few friends, some people who've emailed me through the site, and I'm really excited to interview Van cuz she's got opinions and insights and she's witty and she's a friend too.
I started quoting from the introduction to Prince's "Let's go Crazy" ("Electric word, life, it means forever...") and no one knew what I was talking about.
Hank sends this link: Britney loves Quake. "Tomorrow she becomes legal?" "9pm pacific time, tonight."
I'm transitioning from PlayStation coverage into full time interviewing - Gamer of the Day. I tried interviewing Roger Ebert:
Hi Justin,So someone suggested Ben Affleck instead - it turns out he plays Starcraft.
Actually, I don't play games. Too busy. Spent 20 minutes on Myst once...
Part of my job is working with 15 and 16 year old guys. One such young man, Aaron, goes to Berkeley High, we were talking about fashion the other day, he told me kids at his school are wearing sweatpants inside out. Fashion is crazy!