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Saturday, July 24, 2010

mid-summer crazy times

Our last week has been filled with trademarked insanity! 
Last Thursday we left at an early hour of the morning for two days in Portland. By 9 AM, when we were supposed to be at the seminar in a northern part of the city, we were well and thoroughly lost in a warren of streets that tended to turn into other streets, change their names, or disappear entirely. 
We kept a harassed eye peeled for a coffee-shop in hopes of wifi, to attempt to further complicate our directions with Google Maps accessed via the trusty laptop. We finally got hold of the conference director who proved to not be from the area, and said he’d call us back. 
The coffee-shop materializes in the guise of the Three Friends, on the corner of 12th Avenue. We eagerly trot inside, toting the laptop [in a discreet bag]. It is a sunny morning, there are patrons sitting outside on the sidewalk and more queueing up inside. I size up the situation and make my way with the unerring female homing-instinct to the restroom at the back of the building. This proves seedy in the extreme: the cloth-towel dispenser is covered with graffiti, but it is artsy Portland graffiti. “Read Days of War, Nights of Love”; “natural pear oil soap” and corresponding website; a lot of similar material. 
I come out and find that Dad is only just now succeeding in gaining the upper hand at the cash register. There is in fact wifi and we set up shop at a table. 
There is a nice collection of velvet-paintings on the wall opposite the bar, including the obligatory likeness of Elvis. The furnishings are done in bright colors and there is just as colorful a selection of patrons: tattoos, former hippy-type greying hair, leather, and so on. 

I am looking up the directions: almost immediately my friend Levi observes that I [unwittingly] came online, and sends me a chat message: I respond with a panicked and indecipherable indication that ‘we’re lostin P-TOWN ack!’
Then the conference director calls back and confirms our now remedied directions. We head off back the way we came, towards the infamous Sandy Blvd. Sandy turns into another street at a critical point. 

We got to the conference without further incident. We were not even late...we headed into the building [on a small Christian college campus] and encountered half a dozen persons of the male persuasion. The gaming community is overwhelmingly male: the game developers’ community, even more so. 
The conference was small, maybe 30 people at any one time. But awesome. The CGDC [Christian Game Developers’ Conference] is going into ten years and there were attendees from all over. Colorado [‘you should seen all the empty bags of pork rinds! It was a long drive!’], Florida, and England. A homeschooling mom who has been working on a game for seven years with a volunteer team. A graduate from DigiPen Institute of Technology in Washington State [I really perked up when I heard that]. 

The conference addressed some issues I/my parents have had with game design as a career choice. Although I would have liked to hear further thoughts on video game addiction. 
But the consensus, which I had also previously come to, was that Christians should respond by becoming involved in the industry, not putting up walls around one area or another. Similar to the film industry. It is not going away, so there is nothing to do but take the chance to change it for the better. And this may not mean making ‘specifically Christian’ video games [or films], but rather games that honor God in the way that the rest of creation does, without a specific message being forced through.  
It seems also that the game design industry is not hostile to Christians. My amazing ESP skills [:P] had already come to this conclusion. Someone said that Hollywood tends towards license, while the game dev. community tends towards anarchy. Something I’d already thought subconsciously. 

The keynote speech finished up with a memorable call to action: ‘We’re giving them the love of Jesus, but it doesn’t look like love, it’s Gears of War and meatcubes....’

There were a lot of technical workshops too. In between those, lunch, and retailing every detail to a long-distance friend, I made contact with the DigiPen graduate. That night in the dorm lobby, whilst there was a large contingent gaming by the monitors, he and I and my dad talked for at least an hour, as recorded in the previous post. Finally Dad and I migrated back to the rooms: I was in hot pursuit of a shower. [This was after we got back from the FLL mentoring workshop, by the way.] Dad left saying he was going up to the lobby: ‘There’s this game I want to try out...’ This coming from my distinctly non-gaming dad. When I meandered back upstairs [hair wet, laptop bag over shoulder, clad in signature black] he was still at it...I collapsed on a couch and updated the ole blog. Conversed with peopleses. Dad was still gaming at 1 AM...he was horrified when I told him what time it was :P

Next day we had more workshops [kicked things off with a talk on getting started in iPhone app programming] and headed for home so as to be back in time for me to make my 5 PM meeting at the daVinci Days grounds, to collect my media pass and so on. 

Saturday was more good times. First thing in the morning I headed off for a meeting of the crew to be filming daVinci Days, our town’s celebration of science, art and innovation. It is a cool place. Well this year in addition to participating in the FIRST Robotics demonstration and scrimmage, I was on the crew from the local community-access TV station, filming the event. It actually worked out so that I was able to film the robotics event myself. 

After that I headed off to the park where the 6 local teams participating in the event were having a barbeque. Hung out with awesome-peoples! Including a New Recruit for our team [courtesy of me] who declared himself remarkably enthused for robotics after the day was over. 

Discussed the glaring lack of any YouTube presence for the epic conga line at regionals: this was declared a shocking omission by all who had been present :D 
Someone had brought some foam and PVC pipe swords and a lot of the lads degenerated into swordplay after lunch...from thence we carpooled over to the competition area. Unloaded my dad's car, which was carrying all the baggage, robot, tools, etc. I was laboring under a few pieces of luggage when two lads from Team 997 came up and toted it all over for us. 

Our team has attended daVInci Days for quite a few years but we've never been this prepared and organized. We forgot to bring a tent for shade, but were able to use a spare one that another team had  ^.^    We trotted forth our awards, a table to display said awards on, and our NASA/team banner, among other things. In addition I had a sizable video camera and massive tripod. There was much use of duct tape, both for setting up our team flag, and for building the competition field [a mammoth undertaking]. 

We played a few rounds of friendly scrimmage more than competition, and our bot was gratifyingly unscathed despite the regional competition and another off-season event. The general public was present and there was an endless line of kids waiting for a turn to drive the robots. Fortunately they did not manage to slam ours too hard into the sides of the field, hehe. 

There was this one epic kid, looked like he was about eleven or twelve, wearing a baseball cap with a tiny solar panel mounted on the top, and a hole cut in the brim with a little fan going through it..he had designed it himself, soldered a few wires together and stuff...he said it didn't work very well...when does it ever work the first time :P  I tell ye, that enthused me no end...
Also I got to rendezvous with some friends from other teams that I don't get to see very often. Good times all round. At one point I was filming from one side of the field, and looked round at the six or so teams behind the drivers' stations and doing MC and watching from the sidelines, and felt an overwhelming affection for these people, half of whom I barely knew. My people....I've said that before...

Various of the students gave their personal FIRST testimonies. Scott, team captain for 997 [the team I went to Championships with: we're really good friends] was talking about the stress and fun of regional competitions. He sez, 
'We get to bed at midnight, and get up at 5 AM,' [he remembers] 'And some of us don't sleep at all.'   [Three things happens at once: he catches my eye, I give an enthused thumbs-up, and Dean [a member of another team, who's doing most of the MC stuff, sees me grinning, remembers how I'd been talking earlier today about no sleep, and pumps his fist in the air in my direction.]   As a friend summed up: 'So, basically, he mentions that SOME people don't sleep, and everyone looks meaningfully at you...'

After the competition most of our team [all three of us...] meandered around daVinci Days. I more or less subsisted on the best BLTs I have ever had in my life, as provided by a local and organic food seller. 

Sunday I worked with CCAT Channel 29 to film some of the music and other events on stage at the festival. That went very well indeed...working a long and intense day with constant attention on a heavy camera but it was good. 

Tuesday my dad and I attended a training session for a part-time job doing phone work before the election. We'll be doing that every day of the week for 3 weeks starting August 9th, and then for 5 weeks in October. The pay is good and I've done the work before, but it is going to be hard to juggle that with school....yeee. 

I have also dealt in grant-request forms, meetings with Important People, and so on and so forth. And college decisions. I'm still wavering between DigiPen and Oregon State U.  
Happy news! We got one of the grants we applied for to go to our FIRST LEGO League teams [for 4th-8th grade students]. Was very enthused to hear that. 
And got to visit/chat/catch up/do the girly squee thing [LOL] with one of my friends who I hadn't seen in WAY too long :)

AND tonight some friends from North Carolina are arriving, passing through on their road trip :D  Yesterday we prepared heroic quantities of foodstuffs for the oncoming hordes [all 6 of them...hehe] and I raced around frantically. Was 'in meetings' all day. Including one with our collaborating partner for the Junior FLL program. 

At one point Mom was on the phone with Grandma, who must have asked what Daddy-o and I were doing: Mum said, 'No, they're scurrying around....' which pretty much summed up our past week. 

Also I am not sure why I feel the compulsion to document each and every incident of my life on this blog. I guess it's the only journal I keep up with at this point. I'm not even going to read over this post for typos, hehe. 

Friday, July 16, 2010

CGDC update #1

We've been having some epic techie times here. Wednesday prep for filming at daVinci Days, with top-of-the-line video equipment, today up to CGDC in Portland [Christian Game Developers' Conference]: AWESOME stuff! Tonight the FLL workshop on the other side of Portland, I got ENTHUSED.....tomorrow more CGDC conference, then Saturday and Sunday home to Corvallis for the best science and innovation festival in Oregon: daVinci Days, where I'll be filming with CCAT TV studio all weekend, and Saturday I'll be with Eagle Cybertechnology and Spartan Robotics FIRST robotics teams at the local-team demo. Hope to see y'all there!!

And I am pretty much convinced that DigiPen Institute of Technology is the place for me. There have been some amazing opportunities lining up in the last few weeks: starting out with a new FLL recruit mentioning that his dad is the leader of the CGDC and is heading to the workshop this weekend, then us getting to attend the workshop, then the speaker on 'Women in Game Design', then the awesome contact we made with a graduate from DigiPen whose WIFE is the admissions officer at DigiPen.....

Spent a few hours this evening talking with this DigiPen graduate. He is enthused about the town [safe, a bit outside of Seattle WA], the school [TOP professors, lots of core classes], and the general education [I was worried about game programming being too specialized: it now appears that anyone who graduates from DigiPen will be overqualified to do just about anything else: they 'get lazy' and go to work for Microsoft developing big-name programs and all. In short, four years of pure insanity and then--you're MADE. [Oh and still mad, but that's collateral.]

Not sure at this point which degree to go for. The contact [Joseph Vasquez] is massively enthused [......] that I could become the first woman to get the degree [recently added] in Computer Engineering....still wavering between that and RTIS [more programming-oriented].

We also got the very interesting story behind DigiPen: a Lebanese man got snuck onto a college campus, got caught, said he was there to apply, passed the test and went on to take 19 years of college. DoD work in 3d [hush-hush, blowing things up..] then got ties with Nintendo....DigiPen shares a building with Nintendo....anyways companies were going round to all the big engineering colleges who pooh-poohed their efforts to find game developers. And DigiPen was born.... ;)
First a Lebanese immigrant....Now it might have someone who is failing to get her high school diploma from Lebanon High School, Oregon, in order to complement her insane test scores and mad skillz.....not to pitch myself too high. But I have to sell my skills or no-one will believe I can do anything....

I blame FIRST for all of this, just for the record :)

Monday, July 12, 2010

inner city

I'm in a coffeehouse close as it's possible to get to inner-city, around here. I came into town about three hours ago to ride the free wifi at The Beanery...our wifi was predicting '40 hours' for a software download [CAD program 3ds Max].  Got ensconced in a window seat at The Beanery and it said 1 hour  :)  I also took advantage of the fast connection for some file-sharing with a buddy, and sent a video which would have taken HOURS at I'm uploading the same video to Facebook. This really is a blistering fast connection...

I am finding it remarkably easy to concentrate here, despite the continuous hustle and bustle and coffee-shop noises. Good place to hang out. I was even able to study my alloted two chapters per day of biology. And joked about 'wobbling DNA' with a friend. And offered said friend's sister help with video editing [actually I wasn't much help, but my suggestion worked at least :)  ]

I just migrated over to a wall plug....laptop battery was getting low. This has the added advantage that my back is to the wall and I can overlook the whole place in a suitably imposing manner.

Love my town  :)

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Yoyos, fireworks, laptops, nerds, and other strange critters

Hoo boy have I ever been having good times! Busy....very busy.
Before returning the laptop to the studio yesterday, I spent quite a few hours editing the footage from Nationals. Robotics people, and robotics competitions, are so very photogenic! Hours of footage and it is all beautiful. The video is FINALLY getting close to finished.

Friday after returning the laptop we hustled out to school to collect the robot and batteries and so on.  That evening I scooted off to spend the evening at Eva's and go to the Philomath Frolic and Rodeo with her family. That was epic good times. I felt like I really hadn't seen any friends in way too long. Eva has a large and chaotic family and we all [minus two boys, and plus her sister's boyfriend, and the dog] were in the kitchen cooking dinner  :D Good times.   Then it was off to the rodeo, which was also great fun. I convinced Eva that she should to to Wyoming and get herself a cowboy :D  And a really nice fireworks show. I was told it was much better than the 4th of July show in C-town...glad I went to this instead.

Got home late and woke in less than six hours this morning, to head off to the Philomath Frolic parade. Our robotics team was there, and 997 [the team I traveled to Atlanta with] and 847 [the epically enthused team from Philomath]. We had a float, from which the robots were driven. Lots of waiting around and joking and talkin' nerd-talk. At one point there was a circle of guys standing around talking bout bacon-wrapped bacon...and then I looked over and saw one of the guys [code monkey AKA programmer] having a little spaz attack: and said, 'Eehee! I look over and Paul's randomly spazzing!' which another team member met with 'That's just Paul...he randomly spazzes...'.

 Then another group of awesome-people was discussing yo-yos. One of the students, 847's driver in fact, took out a rather awesome yo-yo and then told us about a prank rather well-known in the yo-yo community ['Where does the yo-yo community and the FIRST community intersect?' 'Um right here I think...'] about a fellow that got a bit of publicity...Zim-Zam yo-yo company or sommat...and just totally pranked the media...was 'displaying a nice yo-yo trick, but if you know anything about yo-yos you'd know he was faking it....he had about 8 yo-yos on his fingers and started waving them around in circles...' [he waves his hands around to demonstrate] 'and finally just starts flailing, the strings are all twisted up, he called it the Flaming Angel or something like that....' as the audience of five or so students busts up laughing.  There was a break for donuts...there was flag-waving.....I had pounced upon a hapless 8th-grader who wants to be on the lego team next year and so he came and we stuck a shirt on him and so on...
I sure am happy to be part of the FIRST community. It is like nothing else.  My people.  :)

Anyways the parade started quite a few hours after we started but fortunately we were moving away from the sun :P  Then we learned that the dad of the very 8th grader we'd recruited is the head of a Christian video game organization and is hosting a conference next weekend which I am signed up to take. DigiPen is the big gam design school, you will remember.  So I'll be in P-town for two days, and on Thursday I'll also be attending a seminar on how to start an FLL team...then Saturday it's back in town to film at daVinci Days with the TV station.....AND robotics scrimmage/demo on Saturday. Can't wait to hang with the robotics crew again  :)

Oh and my laptop came! I just installed an upgrade to the operating system: PerfectCritter, as the comp. is named, running Windows 7 Pro, Trend Micro security, with Autodesk 3ds Max about to be installed! And of course dear Macbook Eddie for everything else, because Macs still rule the universe.

Peace all.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Lost within my own mind

and that's the best place to be, I guess.

Happy Independence Day, everyone.

I've started writing again, a lot. JulNoWriMo. You'll remember that last November I did NaNoWriMo [National Novel Writing Month] and came up just short of the 50 thousand words in one month. But for those of us who are truly crazy, there is NaNo in July. I'm actually almost on top of my word count, but it's just a few days in. On the other hand I have way more time in summer. Or I like to think so. July is gonna be killer.

Last night I went to a rather splendid performance by the local AAA may remember my posts about their awesome amateur shows last summer, and at Christmas.

Today we had lunch with my grandmother, and then tooled around home until evening. Then my dad and I went into town to Red White and Blues festival....lots of good rock, blues, and etc music and other fun times downtown.

I am angry and feeling sorry for myself. I am trying to accept the fact that there is not really anyone in this town who cared enough about me to want to spend the 4th of July with me. And that's not entirely true, a few people were already busy.

The best thing to do is obviously make peace with this fact and even...embrace it. I can be the lone wolf when I need to. In fact, I tend to work better alone. If I have a job to do, no matter what it is, I am usually happy. And useful. I can do that again. Get through the summer and come September, there will be something to occupy every minute. Make the good grades, keep the FLL teams enthused, get the funding for our FRC team, get the scholarships, get admitted to DigiPen Institute of Technology.

I was all depressed and now I'm not. Yeah, I definitely just talked about God to one of my friends for about two hours. I can only say I'm thankful....that God can use me. That I can still help. That He makes things work out all right in the end.

It's a new day now, early on the morning of July 5th.