Monday, February 27, 2006

Gotta Type Fast

Holy mackerel I've been a busy boy, and thus not blogging much. I have a moment or two to actually breathe some air, but I'm going to sacrifice the time in order to do an update here. I'm turning blue for you, people! Show the love!

OK let's see. I'm not gonna talk about real estate today, so I'll move on to work. Work has gotten crazy busy for me because although The Game I Still Can't Name Yet is winding down for me a bit, that only means that our excellent and industrious Business Development Department is shifting into high gear, dare I say with Turbo Thrust added, to procure new work for the company. This is after all exceedingly important if we all want to stay employed, yes? So I and my concept colleague Kevin are now cranking out dozens and dozens of pieces to be used in pitches for no less than four new games, with more on the way. The Game I Can't Tell You About is aiming for release October-ish, and the Pirates game is being released in May or so before the movie comes out, so we need to get another game in-house shortly. This shouldn't be a problem though, as we have plenty of great ideas and the industry knows we're solid.

Of course with two major games coming out this year, we're not going to be short of cash, oh no. We should be just fine thanks. It's good to have a diversified company that can do many things well. If you don't, you wind up like Oddworld; they had a fabulous property and made some great games, but they only had the one property, Oddworld, and they only did one game at a time. The problem with only having one game and only doing one game at a time is that if you release your game and it does poorly, you're screwed, and that's exactly what happened to Oddworld: The Stranger. For some reason it didn't do well - I only played a demo and I thought it was cool, but I didn't buy the game, and I guess most others didn't either - and with that failure, Oddworld Inhabitants closed its doors. Previous success is no guarantee of future success, but you can hedge your bets by having your irons in several fires. I'm happy that this company is being really smart about things. I like being at an up-and-coming company that has some business sense.

So that's what's kept me off the blogging for a while, just working a lot more than usual.

Otherwise life is going along fine. Some updates on things previously discussed: Finally got the Camaro registration back, so I was able to take it out. Started right up after I tweaked the throttle a few times. Gotta love that old-school Chevy reliability! On the down side, I got the bill for the red meter light ticket: $351.00, YIKES. Apparently the violation was also in a designated "work zone," though no road work sign was up at the time - but it's there now, so I get ripped off for double the fine. And this is not including the "traffic school" fees. Well, I shan't be blowing through that light ever again, eh? There goes my video game budget for the next 6 months, and no "present" for the Camaro's birthday either. I was going to get a new high-torque starter for it, but that will have to wait.

There are other significant developments in the offing, but I'm going to keep quiet on those for the moment. :)

I guess that's about it really. I have an assignment for this morning so off I go...

Friday, February 17, 2006

Reinforcement for my No-Condo-Buying

Here's a lovely site which details yet an entirely different set of reasons why I'm not gonna buy a condo in Riverside, ever.

Interest-only subprime adjustable-rate mortgage? Wow, I can afford a $500,000 house! Yeah sure... for two years until the mortgage adjusts and my payments more than double...

Yeah, that's really friggin' bright. And something like 10 million people have loans like that running right now. Beyond insane. In 2007-2008, the number of home loan defaults is going to be terrifying. Which means the housing market will go crashy.

And then maybe I'll buy a house. At a ridiculously-reduced fire sale price. Of course the interest rates will be more like 15%, so maybe not.

I found out recently that houses in my ZIP code average well over $900,000 in price. Well, I'm not surprised since the next block south is all $4 mil plus mansions. But even the little 1,100 square foot houses on the block behind my apartment building are $930K, $960K, even $1.2 mil or so. Ridiculous. I wish I'd been able to afford to buy a house there when I moved to LA and they were still going for $350K, because I'd sell the damn thing now and have a half-mil in the bank, tax-free. That would change things some, huh? :)

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Thursday Thought Stream

It's been kind of a difficult week. Monday I got pulled over by the CHP on my way to work, because I blew through the "traffic meter" red light signal getting onto the 10 freeway. I didn't argue about it, I did blow through the light. Thing is there was no traffic in front or behind me on the onramp, so there's no safety issue involved, and really the traffic meter light is a joke.

These meter lights are an attempt to govern the number of cars that can get on the highway within a given amount of time, which should ease congestion and backups, in theory. The problem is that it doesn't work at all in practice, because once all lanes are full of cars and going slowly, nobody ever leaves enough space between them and the next car for anyone to merge in anyway. I'm sure the meter works for a certain range of traffic load, when traffic is moving at some decent speed with space between the cars, but that range is very, very narrow along the westbound 10. Every day when I get on the highway, traffic is bumper-to-bumper at 10 mph from that ramp all the way to the 405, about 4 miles, and is usually backed up all the way to downtown behind me. The meters are completely ineffective, because there's just too many cars on the roadway.

Traffic has actually reached the saturation point most days here, where the roads are carrying all the cars they can possibly carry at any given time. When traffic is saturated, even the slightest little problem - just one person realizing they're about to miss their exit, and braking hard to try to get across 3 lanes - can cause a feedback effect that builds to a full traffic stop for miles behind the incident. I've seen this happen a lot on the 5 between San Diego and LA, where almost everyone on the highway is not getting off anywhere in between. Traffic there can be zipping along at 75 mph, then suddenly slow to a crawl that lasts for 10 miles, and when you get to where the traffic speeds up again, there is absolutely nothing visible to cause the problem, no accident, no police activity, not even a dude changing a tire. It's just feedback from some bit of bad driving that people do all the time.

Anyway, so I blew through the meter light and there was a CHP cruiser sitting where I couldn't see him, probably just waiting for someone to blow through that light, because it happens all the time and they know it. So I got a ticket, I'll have to pay a fine and go to "traffic school" to avoid getting a point on my license. Ah well. First time I've been even pulled over in more than 10 years.

Yeah, I'm going on about the traffic, because it's been a big problem this week. On top of my ticket, it put a big dent in our Valentine's Day, so I'm even more unhappy with how the entire system of driving cars everywhere on freeways etc. is completely broken here in SoCal. It's so bad that what most of you would call "rush hour" lasts roughly from 7am to 8pm. Yes, it lasts all day. There can be massive bumper-to-bumper traffic really at any time of day or night anywhere on the freeways in LA, Orange and San Diego counties. It's the worst during commute time which is about 7am-10am and 4pm-8pm. I think that sometime soon there's going to come a day where all the major freeways in LA just flat out stop for a couple hours, a total regional gridlock. That will be so much fun! I'll be zipping through it on my bike, but I'll be really frightened that someone will shoot me out of frustrated rage. Hm, maybe I'll just stay the hell home that day.

Enough about that, it's riling me up.

Apparently, turning 40 years old is a major "advertising demographic" shift, judging by the changes I see in my junk mail. Of course I still get about a dozen credit card offers a week, which I promptly shred, but I'm now getting real estate pitches at a rapidly accelerating rate.

I'm being exhorted mostly to buy condos, which is actually commensurate with my actual home-buying power, so clearly their research is pretty accurate, but they've got a couple of assumptions WAY off. They're offering me some of these condos in Riverside. Riverside? What the hell are they thinking? Riverside is about seventy miles away from where I work. If the roads were completely traffic-free, it would take around 90 minutes to make that trip. And as we've discussed, the roads are never traffic-free here. I'm guessing that commute would be minimum nearly three hours each way, every day. Three. HOURS.

Are they completely insane? Hey, I'm all for home ownership, but holy crap on a cracker, there is not the faintest chance in hell that I'm going to buy into that one. Obviously there are people who do - there were folks at my last job who commuted in from 90 miles plus, and a few here at this job who come in from more than 30. I think they're completely nuts. Six hours a day in the car just to commute has got to be the biggest, most demoralizing waste of time I can imagine for a human being. Sitting alone in the car for as long as it takes to drive from New York City to Washington DC (on a Saturday) just to get from home to work... who the hell does that? Just to have a house with a white picket fence in suburbia? I'm sorry, but if that's the price of the "American Dream," I ain't buying it, and I feel extreme sadness for anyone who does.

Again, it's all about the traffic.

The closest ones I'm being offered are in Pasadena, which is still 30 miles from here, and would be 90 minutes to 2 hours each way every day - the traffic is the worst within about that 30-mile radius from here.

The only place I'd even consider buying a home and commuting from, maaaaybe, is the area up around Oxnard, because the commute on the motorcycle down Pacific Coast Highway is both beautiful and nearly traffic-free, about 45 minutes or so. But even that seems like an eternity to me. It's just not worth it to me to sacrifice a ton of time commuting.

I'd much rather live like a mile from work so I can walk there, even if that means only renting. And don't give me any of that crap about oh, you need a big house in the suburbs to raise your children and send them to good schools. It's crap. You can raise a family in a nice apartment in the city and have it work out fine. Talk to anyone from Manhattan about that. That whole big house/white picket fence thing is unsustainable in the long run, which you'll find out pretty soon if you're doing it, an empty dream of "country house" isolation that's only been made possible by some interesting accidents of resource allocation, which won't last much longer.

If I'm gonna raise a family, I'd rather have those 6 hours of empty, meaningless, isolated commuting time to actually spend with my family doing loving family things. Even if it's just me with no family, I'm not going to waste 30 hours a week sitting alone in a steel box doing nothing.

If any of you who are reading this do that, you have my pity and sympathy, and I submit that you really ought to re-think that whole situation, because it's probably making you very unhappy. Since so many people do this, it's no wonder so many people are on antidepressants and have high blood pressure and diabetes and all those other stress ailments. Don't you get it? It's the way you're living that's doing it to you. You've been sold a lifestyle that is nearly devoid of anything truly good and healthful, and you're being sold on the idea that buying more and more "neat stuff" will make you happy. It won't.

So shove it, condo salespeople. I'm not falling for the hell you're trying to sell me.

Hm. Yeah, that was ranty. Well, what are blogs for if not to rant? It's time for lunch, and I'm gonna give the Empire At War demo a whirl.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Dear All Non-Californians:

Please do not move here to Southern California. No, really, stay away, go somewhere else. Phoenix is supposed to be nice, and the houses cost less than half as much (though I wouldn't want to live in the middle of the desert). Seriously, there's just too many damn people in Southern California.

I can tell this because the traffic has gotten so horrifically bad at commute time that even on the motorcycle I'm getting slowed down. On the traffic map on TV this morning pretty much all the major highways, including the ones both The Girlfriend and I use to get to work, were mostly shown in red, which means traffic is going slower than 10 mph. There are too many cars on the road, therefore there's too many damn people.

So, unless you are planning on commuting via motorcycle, bicycle, bus, subway or on foot, and choosing your living space accordingly, just do us all here a favor and stay the hell away, okay? Trust me, you can't afford to live here anyway.

Thank you. This has been a public service announcement on behalf of the Disgruntled Commuters of So Cal.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Ah, Sweet Victory.

Yes, this is what I was looking forward to seeing:

Happy Cowhers come from Pennsylvania:

The Chin of Joy!! :D

Yes, there's a lot of controversy about the officiating team, and that should be addressed for the future. However, I think they still would have won even if the officiating was perfect. Seattle messed up at least 3 legitimate shots at the end zone because Hasselbeck's passes were off just enough that the receivers couldn't come down inbounds with the ball. That is the tiny difference that makes a quarterback legendary, putting the long bomb in the exact spot for a perfect strike and score. They couldn't score when they had the chance, and thus even though they played much better overall, they lost.

So now begins the long dark sports vacuum for me, which will only be partially assuaged by a bit of hockey here and some NASCAR there. No big deal really, I'm not a huge sports fan, only NFL Football. Actually I'm glad to have my Sundays and Monday nights back, I have a lot to do.

Must type fast as Blogger is going down for maintenance in 15 minutes... weekend was nice, spent most of it with TGF again, which is really how things are supposed to go when one has a GF, and it is a good thing. :) I hit up IKEA on Saturday for a new kitchen "table" (actually a kitchen cart that will serve well as a table in my small kitchen) and a couple of barstools for sitting on. So now I have a kitchen in which 2 people can actually have dinner, how about that? And I can eat breakfast there too. Also, much progress made in trying to rearrange the storage situation in my apartment - I have too much crap so it's time to purge. I want my place to look like an apartment, not a collector's warehouse.

Still don't have my registration back from the DMV. They are slow, bleh. I want to drive my car, dangit!

I thought I was going to Wumpskate for caricatures tonight, but it's next week, so I happily have a night off that I didn't expect. I will continue the storage purge and rearrangement, and get started drawing this week's comic too, I expect.

Right! Off we go...

Friday, February 03, 2006

Biggest. Weekend. This Year.

That's my motorcycle helmet (well, one of them). It has the gold stripe down the center, too, but I couldn't get it into the picture and keep the logo big enough. So if you live in LA and you see a guy on a motorcycle with this on, that's me. :)

Wow, Super Bowl XL - extra large! Number 40! I can always tell what number the Super Bowl is, because it's the same as my age. Super Bowl I was in January 1966, the end of the 1965 season; I was born November 1965. Dude, I'm old. Nah, not really!

Anyway, it's gonna be a great game. I think the Steelers can win it, and I think they will win it. Sunday will be a great day indeed! I'm going to spend it with some Steeler fan friends and we will share the joy (or the pain, tho I doubt it) together.

And that will be it for my only serious sports season. I like hockey but I don't follow it religiously, and NASCAR's easy to keep track of even if I only watch it once a month.

Tomorrow will be a bit more sedate. Many errands to run, cleaning up and reorganizing my apartment somewhat, oil change for TGF's car, and other sundry odds and ends. I suppose I ought to start on drawing next week's comic, which I've already written. Hm that reminds me, should hit up the art store for a couple of new Rapidos (or maybe a set) and some Speedball nibs.

This week has been pretty mellow. Went up to TGF's last night for dinner and quality time, which was excellent. Today she is at Disneyland (LUCKY! grumble grumble) with friends, and won't be home until very late, so I'm going up to her place after work to take care of her dog and have leftovers from last night (Chinese) for dinner.

Boy, ain't life exciting? Well, I think it is, so :P

We had an art review yesterday, as we do every week, and wow, this game is really looking great. There has been so much advancement over the last two months, after quite a while where progress was slower because there was a lot of redesigning going on. Now that the layouts are all nailed down, things are just exploding with awesomeness. People are going to appreciate how rich the environments are, all sorts of little details which make the places seem real, lived in. There's a lot of great lighting going on which blows me away, that's really the touch that turns a good-looking model into a spectacular one. We really have some top-notch talented 3D artists here. This game visually will be an order of magnitude improvement over Fantastic Four - which is a really good-looking game! All this reminds me, lots of work to do, I have a character due on Monday which I'm just starting, so I'd better get to it.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Yeah yeah, I know...

Y'know, it's hard for me to blog from home, because when I get home I don't usually want to sit at the computer and write. Also, I usually have a bunch of domestic-type stuff to get done, and sometimes social things I want to do. This week so far in two evenings I've done some work on a flyer for a friend and then gone to karaoke with TGF til midnight, then done more work on the flyer, did some cleaning up, visited Marty and Rock, gone to the grocery store on the way back and finally found and digitized one of my old song demos (details and mp3s in Musicblog). That's a couple of busy evenings, and I didn't even count dinner time!

Tonight I have to do my bill-paying and the laundry that I blew off yesterday to go to Marty's, and maybe get a vocal track down for the song I'm working on. I think I'd better try to do that first, before doing the other stuff, because I don't want to disturb my downstairs neighbor John, as I did last Friday when I was recording bass with the sound through the speakers. Didn't know he was home at 11 on Friday night! He thumped the floor, so I yelled "sorry" and switched to the headphones. However, unlike recording guitars which I can do with no amplified sound, recording vocals involves me singing out loud. And I sing pretty loud. So I should do it early. I usually get home about 8pm, maybe I can get out of here a little early today and get dinner done by 8 and then sing 'til 9. That way laundry will be done by 10:30 or so and I can do the bills while the washin's on.

Anyway, I was trying to illustrate why sometimes even though I'd like to get more than one post a week up, it's difficult unless I do it from work... and of course I'm usually pretty busy at work!

Sunday: Super Bowl. Steelers. Steelers. STEELERS!!! Yes, that's right dammit. AFC all the way. America's colors for 2006 should be black and gold, not uh, darkish gray and... teal. Gah, teal. Puh-LEASE. They deserve this Super Bowl, Jerome Bettis deserves a ring to top off his sensational career, all of which I've had the pleasure of watching. Cowher deserves it even more with 14 winning years at the helm. GO STEELERS!!

I now return you to your regularly scheduled solipsistic reality.