Monday, August 31, 2015

I'm A Total Space Cadet

Well, actually a Commander.

I'd known for at least a year or so now about the development of two upcoming space sim games, namely "Star Citizen" and "No Man's Sky" and excitedly kept up with their progress towards completions via interviews, E3 presentations and fanboy YouTube vids. But quite unexpectedly I recently learned of another space sim that had also been in development and had been actually commercially released months ago. Elite: Dangerous,

Now I consider myself a pretty savvy gamer and the most important attribute I bring to the table, especially if I'm going to compare my skills to those of the thumb-twitching, video-game weened Millenials (and younger) is the wisdom of experience. Unlike wet-behind-the-ears little twerps too young to have experienced, at the time of their release, iconic games like the ones I praise in these posts...1, 2, 3...I have lived the entire spectrum of the era of video gaming. I've seen them all come and go.

Or so I thought.

To my recollection, before Elite: Dangerous, I'd never heard of the first Elite games starting with the original one way back in 1984. The '90s editions also eluded my sharp eye for news in the industry, even though I had a beloved subscription to PC Gamer at the time and meticulously scanned the shelves of many a computer software store every weekend. Could I have read about it and forgot? Could be. But based on what I've found recently, these games would have been right up my alley. I'm totally weirded out as to why I've apparently not only not heard of them but I know if I had, I would probably have bought them.

It took me only a bit of research to determine this new game was the right one for me and so I bought it and I'm so freakin' lovin' it.

This awesome game is "open world" (though in this game it's "open galaxy" since the entire Milky Way, and its billions of stars are procedurally generated and accessible...wha!), first-person perspective, space flight simulator. It forces you to learn to pilot your ship manually, for the most part, dealing with tricky Newtonian physics, and gives you free reign to determine the best outfitting of your ship (for good or bad) and what tasks you undertake with it (trading, mining, missions for hire, political combat and intrigue, exploration, piracy or bounty hunting.

As you can see in the clip below, I'm currently engaged in bounty hunting. Pretty darn lucrative if you ask me. I can rack up a half million credits in about an hour or so. And not too horribly risky...the security forces you see flying near me keep me relatively safe.



I could go on and on to talk about how addicting this game is. It's so immersive! I have my room darkened and I'm up close to the monitor to pull myself totally into the setting.

If I had the balls to dole out about $350 I could get an Oculus Rift Dev Kit 2 to REALLY get immersed. Videos of players playing with this setup are so exciting to watch as you see how fucking mind-blowing the experience of piloting an actual spacecraft in virtual reality is. Oh it would be nice to buy right now but I'm waiting for the commercial version to go on sale sometime next year. It's reportedly gonna cost as much as $1,200! Ouch! But it would be soooo worth it, I think. Too bad all the millions I have in the game can't be converted into real money.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Fuck, I Jinxed It!

I knew it! I knew the second I hit "publish" on this previous post that I'd see some Karmic reaction to my bloated boasting. "Oh look at my gains! Aren't I a stock market wiz? Ho ho ho!" And so this shit happens...


Honestly though, the whole DOW saw big losses over the past few days and only yesterday has it rebounded after a slide, much mirrored in the performance shown here of my 403b funds. On Monday, my account was in worse shape, having dropped to just $14,599!

I've learned my lesson. Let me lick my welts and hopefully this total will climb back to where it was. I don't want to have to live in a cardboard box when I'm 65 just because I was a show off.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

I Think His Koyo Killed Him

1968 - 2015
Marshall is dead.

It happened over two months ago but I only found out a day or two ago by taking a glance at various walls timelines of my Facebook friends. I'd thought I was a more frequent follower of his Facebook posts but I guess he had gotten a bit too Jesus-fied for me. Or, more likely, my overall use of Facebook in general has dwindled to nearly nothing.

Marshall had been in the midst of a particularly nasty Koyo. Like mine, he lost virtually everything but unlike me had had a large network of caring friends who loved him dearly. Problem was, he'd moved thousands of miles away from them all and was struggling almost alone.

I wasn't really among these hundreds of dear friends, I hadn't known him long enough to develop our acquaintance into that. But from the first day I met him, there was something in me that clicked on. A need. A need to love him.

I wrote about him, of course, as our paths crossed at a time when I had pretty much just started this blog. In the two and a half months he was around I actually wrote about him a lot. Perhaps more than I did about Ric.

I wasn't physically attracted to him. He wasn't really my type. But I really did want to be friends with him and had he stayed in Central Florida, I would have given it my all to establish that. Since we seemed to click well in regards to our interests and outlooks I think it would have happened. Who knows, he was good-looking and seemed a sensitive romantic...we may even had gone there.

There was just a magnetic quality about him. And if you looked in his eyes for more than a few seconds, he looked like a cold, wet puppy abandoned in the street. There was such longing there.

I've literally spent the last couple days reading through every post on his Facebook account (which his sister says will remain open) and reading back to my posts here about him. I can't put my finger on it. But let me tell you, when I looked over to his Facebook wall two days ago and saw condolence message after condolence message I literally felt gut-punched. It was just like that night back in '98 when I found out that Lisa had died a few years earlier.

Re-reading old posts reminded me that I knew Marshall was dealing with some demons even back then. He'd told me a little. Not much, he hardly knew me, but enough. He was very open and honest. He wore his heart on his sleeve and you knew he was the real deal. No wonder he had so many friends.

Marshall grew up in rural Mississippi, his father, though he didn't talk about him, must have been a real man's man, working a man's job, no doubt. Marshall mentioned his relationship with his family had been strained and he only connected a bit with his sister. He was brought up in a strict Jehovah's Witness home and his family remained wholeheartedly Bible-thumpin' though I think his siblings gravitated as they grew older into a less fanatical denomination. Like Southern Baptist. Just as whacked in my book.

When Marshall graduated high school he enrolled in community college and jumped on the opportunity to enter into the Disney College Program. So in the late 1980's he left Mississippi to live and work at his dream job, here at Walt Disney World.

He told me he loved working there and made a ton of life-long friends but I guess he found opportunities there limiting. After a few years in management there, he left for hopefully bigger opportunities in the call center industry. He talked to me of the fun times he had working night shifts at a company that provided directory assistance and later he transitioned over to AT&T as a team supervisor.

But something happened to that job, and, from what I gathered from my digging through his Facebook timeline, to a lot of other jobs in between. Whatever it was, it brought him to the point of taking a job as a temp customer care rep at Symantec in April of 2006 and was placed in the same office with me, a fellow former call center manager now back on the front lines.

Marshall wasn't long for our team though. Other shit was apparently going down at that same time. He talked about his dysfunctional housing situation...apparently he and another guy owned the house he lived it together and they were now in the midst of a break up. I'm not sure if this guy was his lover or just a friend. Marshall seemed closed down about discussion of only one subject, sex. I got the distinct impression it was a complicated thing with him.

Oh, don't get me wrong, as I posted back then, there was no question he was gay and he didn't seem at all closeted about it, but he didn't talk about ex's or dating or anything of that nature. Reading through his Facebook timeline, it might have been that though he didn't try to outwardly show it, he may have had more than a few conflicts of conscience over the contentious nature of his orientation and his apparently deep-rooted fundamentalist religious beliefs.

And let's not forget his self body image.

From pictures, and his stories of his past, Marshall was always a big boy. But in his early twenties he started to get REALLY big. Over 400 pounds big. His weight might have been one of the reasons for leaving Disney. I would expect even in a supervisory role, a Disney cast member needs to be relatively fit. Disney, even just one park, never mind the three others and all the other surrounding Disney resorts here in Florida, is physically demanding due to its size and, especially, its volume. Over fifty million visitors a year.

Sometime in the early 2000's though, Marshall opted to undergo gastric bypass surgery and by the time I'd met him in '06, he'd lost over half his body weight. So his shyness about the subject of sex could also have been due to either a lingering fat-hating self-identification or the undoubtedly persistent flaps of loose skin around his lower torso.

So the housing thing had him looking for new digs and I don't think he had a lot of capital or credit to find something comparable in the then booming Florida housing market. And I think his home's co-owner screwed him out of his due share as well. He somehow got it in his mind that he'd find a better life out west and made seemingly half-thought out plans to move to Arizona.

I think he was going to room with either a former Disney co-worker or perhaps school mate from Mississippi. I'm not sure. I know he didn't have a lock down on a job though. He was talking about possibly being an amateur poker tournament organizer.

Well he instant messaged me (Remember Yahoo Messenger back when cellphone texts were expensive?) and told me he got hired at TeleTech, a well-established call center provider. He was a scheduler (a person who uses statistics and call volume predictions to maintain optimal staffing) so he didn't have to be on the phones and was hoping to break into management again soon. I wished the best for him but I was a little jealous. I knew he was on his Koyaanisqatsi journey and unlike mine, it looked like he'd land back on his feet in a relatively short period of time.

Well he didn't get management there after all and when I got a Facebook friend request from him about a year after we lost touch he was positive about his prospects and seemed to be much happier.

But then, a few months later, something happened. I don't know if it was a sudden thing or things had gradually built up to a head. He lost his job at TeleTech and was kicked out of his apartment. I remember bitterness about the woman friend he was living with and I don't remember which came first, the loss of the job or the housing. And digging through his timeline on Facebook now reveals nothing since I think he deleted a lot of what was going on then.

Over the course of the next few months he posted about being in financial ruin, having a huge legal issue to deal with and having to move to Wisconsin to stay with his sister and her family who may or (likely) may not have really wanted a sinner homosexual living among them. I gather from reading back that they too were strapped financially but with kids to feed. You know it must have been freakin' stressful as all hell. Probably making my awkward stint living with my father while my mother was dying back in '03 look down right cozy.

Eventually after jumping from one low paying job to another, and then finding nothing as the Great Recession swarmed over us all, he was out on the streets. Or close to it. He took housing in a revivalist Pentecostal-style (speaking in tongues and shit) halfway house program in the ghettos of Milwaukee.

Not sure why he was out of his sister's house. Inability to contribute towards rent? Perceived laziness? Differing spiritual outlook on life? Oh, that was all the stuff Ric tossed me out on my ass back in '03 which led to my sucking up to my father during the height of my Koyo. But it well could have been the same for him. Although his sister and her family may have had the added animosity about his orientation to boot.

Though its not established or corroborated by any hard evidence in his Facebook account, I think another Koyo similarity was in play with Marshall, mirroring my experience...addiction.

I think he mentioned back when he was in Orlando about his choice to not drink. He didn't say it was for any reason like alcoholism and I kinda assumed it was because after bypass surgery you really lose the capacity to be able to drink much anymore. But I do recall that a big catalyst that led to his break up with his Florida home's co-owner, according to him, was addiction. His partner couldn't stop. I don't remember if he was talking about booze or drugs or if he revealed to me the abused substance or substances at all. But if his relationship with him was similar to relationships in my life, Marshall may well have been a co-participant and codependent in the addiction.

This would explain a lot of course. Unable to hold onto jobs, jumping from one thing to another on the spur of the moment, wandering around the country searching for a home and never finding it, all the while feeling like you're in a vast downward spiral about to be swallowed up whole into some great and dark abyss. Helpless. Helpless. With the only apparent relief; the faint glimmer of ephemeral solace found at the bottom of a bottle.

As his situation deteriorated he reached out to his Facebook friends for help by starting a social media fundraising campaign. He raised only about $150. With some friends giving but cautioning him to use it the right way. We know what that means.

In photos taken and posted to his timeline Marshall shared a few of himself. He was consistently and steadily re-gaining the weight. By the last picture of him on there, he was probably back in the mid-300's and his face was puffy and beat-up looking. He looked like someone in his 60s, not in his mid 40s.

He'd gotten all "holier-than-though" as well. Probably as he was desperately searching for a better way out of his nightmare than whatever he was "using." He was frustrated by his illogical, inconsistent and comically fanatical halfway home staff and roommates. He mocked their aberration of the "true meaning of Christ" and their hypocritical ways. But he started to get preachy to his Facebook friends, quoting all manner of Biblical scripture and trying to convince his audience that he was in synchronicity with the true mind of God.

To me, its pretty much the same as the kooks he derided though, of course. But I know when you're as low as you can go, you start to grasp for whatever straws you can. And if you grew up thinking that God was your only salvation, then it's likely you'd follow in the footsteps of our poor Marshall.

His sister, who had maintained, seemingly, only an occasional Facebook relationship with him after he left (was thrown out of?) her house, announced a day after her revelation as many of his Facebook friends were perplexed by Marshall's sudden death, that "He had an enlarged heart."

His estranged brother had the gall to post that he felt saddened by the loss of his brother but let it firmly be known that he felt Marshall had made some wrong choices in his life and would never agree with them. (I would assume one of those "choices" was to be a sinning homosexual.)

I have to close this very long post now. I'm kinda thrown by how much Marshall's death has affected me. I've actually had a couple pillow-hugging bawling sessions over all this. It just sadly reinforces my unshakable belief that all of life is just hopelessly meaningless. We're born, we strive, we struggle and eventually, without fail, just die. It is the one thing that endures. Love, hate, peace, war, good and evil. It doesn't matter. Even the very definition of those words subtly change over the span of time. But death...death is forever locked in a meaning that never changes...in that it, like its counterpart life, ultimately has no meaning.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Reprise Of The Circus Music

The rusty calliope is cranking out that old tune again. And no need to "send in the clowns" 'cause they're already here.

Homefront:

Even after installing a clean start of Windows 10 on both 'puters it looks like my internet woes continue. Dropping pages, halted streaming and now my desktop even shuts down randomly after being in sleep mode for a while. I use it too frequently for that...it needs to stay on perpetually. Ugh.

On a positive note I'm expecting delivery later today of my new video card for her. Gots to get me ready for Fallout 4, bitches!

Oh, and I guess I re-signed my lease yesterday. It was done online and was really quick and easy. Hopefully I won't be pissed when I review it later. It should be the terms I originally agreed to with the acceptable increase (ugh, $50/month...but rents locally are jumping up fast lately...I guess $50 increase isn't too bad) I'll have to keep an eye out. They're shady in that office. Downright shady.

Workfront:

Here's where the volume knob playing the circus tune is turned up to Number 11!

Scrunchy Yoda (Suzy) is out. Fired for negligent disregard of keeping meds in supply. Well, not officially, I'm sure, but that's how the Coven (previously the Gestapo) sees it I'm certain. Oh, the Coven has a new member now...Miss Fiddle-Dee-Dee herself (Jessica) has been promoted to essentially 3rd in command. So the three witches stand over their boiling cauldron brewing up a batch of vitriol and vileness.

I'm watching from my on-far perch in the dark of night as the 3-ring spectacle unfolds. What do I care? Think I'm gonna make waves? Haven't up to now, and with the April pay raise still in effect, boosted by the 7% differential, I'm making more than during that springtime fiasco. So I remain steadfast in the shadows of the night, drawing not one discerning eyeball towards me.

Like Salieri at the end of "Amadeus" says:

Mediocrities everywhere...

I absolve you.

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Patience Is A Virtue I Don't Have

For months we've been fed the hype...

Windows 10 is fabulous! Windows 10 is the best OS ever! Windows 10 is better than sex!

AND IT'S FREE!!!!!!

So "release date" comes 'round just this past Wednesday and though I opted to request it through the task bar icon weeks ago, nothing happens. At work, Kym is at the other desk and she's got both her laptops chugging away, upgrading to Windows 10 on both within a couple of hours. I click on the icon...and I get a dismissive message saying I needed to wait my turn patiently.

Wednesday turns into Thursday turns into Friday and still nothing. At home, my desktop has evidently tried to upgrade and failed according to the Update History Log. More than once! But it too just says I should wait. Just wait your turn you entitled fuck, it mockingly flashes to me.

But I am entitled! Microsoft and I go way back. Back to DOS 5.0 and 6.0 then Windows 3.0, 3.1 and 3.11. And waiting to get into CompUSA in Cranston, RI at midnight with John Chiafalo at the Windows '95 release event, seeing a big screen projection TV live broadcast of Bill Gates announcing the launch while the store employees let us stark raving geeks bust through en masse grabbing those sky blue boxes as fast as we could. Yes, we go way back...

But wait a minute...

Maybe the relationship wasn't so good for Microsoft as much as it was for me?

I mean, of all those software titles above I just mentioned, I paid legally for exactly how many? Um, none. That's right, I had bootleg copies of all of them. Even the Windows '95 event John and I attended...well, heck, we weren't there to actually shell out a hundred bucks for any of those pretty blue boxes. We just wanted to be witness to the spectacle! Of course we waited a month or two and hit up the Chinese guys and their wide assortment of jewel-cased $10 homemade CD-ROMs at the next tech fair.

Sick of waiting for them to come around, I decided to force the upgrade last night on my laptop. It crashed during download after over two long painful hours of downloading, then it crashed an hour after that during installation. So now I'm on the desktop, at home, downloading the ISO file to a flash drive so I won't have to endure the unbelievable slow download again. Yes, even here at home with my Lightning 75 Mbps it still took over two freakin' hours to download!

But about 20 minutes ago it finished its download and it started mounting it to the USB drive.

And just now...it finished. Finally!

The final message says to remember to have my licence key when ready to install. Of course that's for a clean boot install. I'll be installing from within this Windows 7 environment so it'll actually be an upgrade and, according to everything I've read online over the past week or so, it won't need a licence key and will be FREE!

Let's cross our fingers! Getting ready now to continue the long legacy of getting free shit from Microsoft! (This time legally though!)

Saturday, August 01, 2015

I Want My...

...MTV!

On this date, August 1st back in the oh so long ago year of 1981, when I was just 17, MTV debuted and the era of music videos began.

Today, the channel still exists but in no way does the current programming have any similarity to the format of the early years.

It's amazing to think how simple the times were back then. I remember spending hours watching video after video, especially if up late at night when nothing else was on TV but infomercials and old movies, even on other cable channels.



I love the VJs in this clip of the first few minutes of airtime on that momentous day introducing America to the concept of this daring new network. They probably were so cool looking back then with their faux-relaxed stances and attempted laid-back attitude. They actually look nervous as hell. I remember reading a lot of criticism about MTV thinking even kids my age, the no-doubt target demographic, would soon bore watching nothing but video clips filmed to a pop or rock song. They thought the network would fail within a few months. Instead, the "fad" became a sensation and teens like me loved seeing creatively shot visuals to go along with the songs we'd traditionally heard by way of the radio or physical media like records, cassettes and 8-track tapes (Yep, 8-track was still a thing then. True, a dying thing, but still available.)

Happy Birthday MTV. Though I personally stopped watching by the mid-eighties, you were a memorable and comfortable rock in my life in those topsy-turvy late-teenage years of mine.