SMICK.NET | Website of Mike Smick Graphics and Web Developer

False Nostalgia

I ran across this piece of writing at the Huffington Post:  I Miss the Village.  The attempt by the author was to lament a loss of community, but it comes across as a false understanding and a potential call to action was wasted.

I miss the village I never had. The one with mothers doing the washing side by side, clucking and laughing hysterically, tired in body but quick in spirit. We’d know each other so well: annoying one other from time to time, but never staying mad long because the truth is, we need each other.

washing-clothes-river-philippines-nostalgiaYes the same village where 300 people share a water basin and risk of deadly flu, cholera outbreaks, black death, etc. at any moment. I can’t stand selective false nostalgia pieces like this.

I consider myself very lucky never to have had this life.  Despite how it may feel, a sense of community is always at people’s grasp. But if anyone disagrees, and they want this fiction, plenty of villages exist around the world where everyone knows your name and you can do the washing in the contaminated creek/sewer. Where people spend so much time on repetitive activities that they never get above water to solve bigger problems, because they can barely fend for themselves. Where superstition is rampant, and lack of access to education and medicine.

The photo I’ve included here is misleading too. It’s present day Philippines, where this idealized location with a beautiful waterfall and kids playing. Most people don’t live by a source of fresh running water, and even if they did, there’s always somebody upstream putting something into it.

If you’ve ever washed and dried your clothes outside (I have many times) you can’t quite get that comfortable in a shirt that’s been drying in the humidity all day.  It’s crusty and wrinkled and never really smells clean. The author is correct, you do it because you have to.  Well, I’m glad I don’t have to. I’m glad a system is in place where I can attain mechanical and electronic tools that I could never make on my own has been designed and fashioned and shipped to a place that I can purchase it, even on a low salary.

People from that long ago would gladly trade places with us for our access to food, education, supplies, and abundance in general.  It’s true that many of us have squandered our abundance and broke away from our community, to the point where we might not even percieve it’s still there. We’ve bought into the 9-5 rules made up by richer people, we’ve upgraded our automobiles and forgotten how to fix things and ask for and offer help. We’ve taken the easy and cheap way to do things and caused damage and pollution and hardship for the future generations. Still I wonder, why would anyone dwell on a fictitious past?

The other cliche I often encounter in writing and from people, “Oh I long for the days when you could let your kids walk on their own without fear” People seem to think it’s because of the breakdown of community. That you don’t know and no longer can trust your neighbors and those who lurk in the woods.  Maybe partially, but no, you can’t let your kids walk on their own because they will get murdered by a 2,000 lb car at any given moment. A car that somebody sleep-deprived and angry is driving to get to and from job they hate. Somebody who forgot how to regard and pay attention because they can’t seem to get distractions of earning and attachments of possessions and lack of free time off their mind.

Today , we have more choices than we’ve ever had but haven’t attained the courage to make them. You need a lot of courage to trade one lifestyle for another.

We’ve traded a communal task environment for a complex machine that can do 1000% of what we need to survive and thrive. A machine that can provide us with amazing things, created mostly by people we don’t know. But a lot of us haven’t quite been able to grow up inside this massive cooperative environment and learn to feel satisfied and balanced within it.  In other words, even with the best grass the world has ever seen, somehow it must have been greener 200 years ago. I can say that, and I can say this:  If anyone want community and a sense of well being, they have to look first at how they are helping and interacting with others, what actions they are taking at any moment. Because community and friendships are only a conversation, or an invitation, or a kind gesture or a favor away from our grasp.

July 23, 2014 at 10:21 am | family, inspiration, nostalgia | No comment

You have to love the St. Louis Arch

Monument to the Dream is a 1967 documentary about the creation of the St. Louis Arch. The 30 minute film has all the charm of the best National Geographic films I grew up loving. That and the Modern Marvels Episode about the Arch made more recently really make you proud of your industrious human family and the kind of risks it takes to do something at this level.  Watch below.

The Modern Marvels film feels as bold as as the arch itself. It taps into the history of St. Louis back when it was a village of a thousand people, onto it’s status as a way station during westward expansion  and up to the period after the Great Depression and the downward turn of the economy and the city itself.  The project or the kernel of the idea that would become the Gateway Arch was an idea for the riverfront, something big that would improve and uplift St. Louis again.

What I love about the arch is that it’s not just something you can talk about or stare at. They had the foresight, the motivation to make it something you could ride up to the top in. What would become a sort of ferris wheel on tracks to a cozy lookout room.

April 11, 2013 at 10:09 pm | inspiration, interesting, nostalgia, philosophy | No comment

Farewell Steve Jobs

I have kind of hidden the way I felt about Steve Jobs’ death over the past couple weeks. But it’s been on my mind a lot. I didn’t know Steve Jobs and maybe it’s silly to have so much emotion or interest over somebody I never met. I mean I know all the stories about him being belligerent or cruel. And I know yet another article about him is just going to make people roll their eyes.

It’s just that I keep finding myself going back to all the writings and the videos that I’ve looked at over the years. My first computer was an Apple IIc. When my parents brought it home, I just about fainted. I do believe it was the best present they’ve ever shared with us. I think of how expensive it was and I know at the time my dad stretched his money to get one of the better ones from the shop. They got it for all of us and they chose a special combination of components. They put thought and effort and money into it and I deeply thank them and love my mom and dad for that. Back then computers were so new, most people didn’t really have the mindset that it would be obsolete in a few months. That wasn’t a notion. Computers were a new experience and you wanted to squeeze it for all it could do. You weren’t regretting or thinking of your next computer really. I wanted to dig in, figure it out. I saw them walk in with those boxes and I seized on them. I hooked it all up myself with all the confidence in the world at age 10 or whatever it was. My life would never be the same.

Around that time, I read an article in some magazine about Apple and Steve Jobs too. It was probably at the dentist’s office or maybe my parents’ Reader’s Digest. In that article it talked about the beginnings of Apple and while reading suddenly I was transported in that garage with Steve Jobs.  Even though I was still a boy, I was suddenly feeling like that young entrepreneur. For the first time I saw this image in my mind of how new important things were invented and that stamped something onto me permanently.

After a short while, I learned how to use the word processor, I copied little BASIC programs I saw in pamphlets or library books. I played the little physics and history games, I programmed the turtle and played the hell out of the action games. My friend Eddie and I would play at his house and we shared all the games we had, whatever we could copy. I’d save up the $10 or $15 every couple weeks and buy new games. In seventh grade I went on a double-date to the mall. What would have been my first date, I was actually stood up, so while my friend and his date went to the cinema, I bought myself an awesome Karate game with my movie and popcorn money.

In working with my first computer, I became more technical about things over time. I started paying attention. I learned that when things don’t happen as you expect, to go back and see what you did. You look at the links in the chain of events. And making mistakes there’s no mess, just try again. I remember and appreciate the simplicity of the computer that I started off with and how I found it easy to learn these fundamentals that I use now everyday in my life and job. The same way I’d lie in bed going over how to solve a problem in a game, I do to this day just on different sets of challenges. I don’t take these tools for granted and I find myself feeling a bit sorry for others who don’t seem to have the ambition or interest to try new things and look problems right in the eye.

I thought as a little tribute to Steve and his company and their inventions, I would list a few of the many lessons I gained from that little computer my parents gave me. They’ve come a long way since that Apple IIc and so have I.

I’m grateful for Steve and Steve starting Apple. When I learned about them, I had a new feeling of pride in inventiveness that I didn’t have before. I connected real people with the inventions that I loved. Before me, young men probably would have started their journeys on the stories of Ben Franklin or Edison and many great fictional characters. I truly did grow up with the story of Apple as my adventure began.

I’m almost ashamed to tell you this lest I ruin a good stream of thought, but for a really long time, I really couldn’t stand Apple products. I was mad because they were always getting media attention despite all these mistakes I could see, things that I would never let get by. I wanted to tell people, “No! Stop listening to the propaganda, look at this, why would anyone ever do this?” And I would point out something mundane but that mattered to me. I think of that and I am reminded that we all can embrace our preference and taste and our expression of that makes us unique. And it took me a while but I see in my work that an intense fixation and follow through is the only way certain things will be shaped as they must to meet your approval.

It’s quite nostalgic for me to think of Steve Jobs. Back then and now I can always imagine that when you have a massive undertaking that’s never been done before and is so scary and intimidating, it’s like Steve is speaking to me…”Mike, just take it into the garage. What seems impossible now to even understand, soon enough you’ll control, master and then refine.”

I’m also inspired once again by Steve Jobs.  His genius and his flaws are coming clear and creating a connection for me again. It helps me forgive myself and others for our flaws and just continue. Intensity or abrasiveness doesn’t always mean what you think they mean. And I’m inspired by the real notion of impermanence. It’s one thing to hear from the Dalai Lama or in a book, but Steve was this hero that I didn’t really know I had until he was gone. And then I realized that’s exactly who he always has been. And as a hero, in some ways he was better than I even understood because he tells us we’re going to die and we better not waste our talents. And we better follow what we love. His new message to me is don’t let yourself be satisfied or dissatisfied for too long.

I suppose now Steve’s story is one I can pass onto my son. And just maybe I can forge that nostalgia of mine into a little inspiration for him. And happily, it’s Steve’s computer that enables my son to talk to his grandparents thousands of miles away across the oceans every single day. Our family computers are mainstays and that’s what Steve imagined long ago. He might not have been the only one, but he was one of the few who really pushed and built it into the culture even when he certainly must have had doubts about it. He must have been lost at some point in all the problems and complexity. But Steve and the team at Apple persisted. And then Steve was smart enough to usher in the era by inspiring all kinds of people. A great product still needs the right kind of charismatic leaders to show us the way, make us suddenly see the potential in something new and unfamiliar. The vision had to be planted everywhere. Steve did that.

So to close up this goodbye to Steve Jobs, I just wanted to say the reason I write this is that I believe we should take note that inspiration is as priceless as it is simple. And we need the simple to get through the most challenging times and inspiration to help us embrace the things we don’t completely understand.

October 25, 2011 at 2:17 am | computers, inspiration, nostalgia, philosophy | No comment

Death Sword and other Apple IIc Games I used to love

Long ago, I used to have the Apple IIc computer, which I did everything with.  I wrote little programs that did text effects on screen. I told the turtle where to move.  I typed out crappy school papers on U.S. Presidents from which I printed dot-matrix style.  I explored the web (just kidding, no web then (unless you had an overpriced steampunk accessory that  you hung the phone receiver upon)).  And If I had that, then what? Jump through a thousand hoops so I could chat with somebody on some BBS, I’ll never be able to find again? No thanks. I’d rather just stick to making run-of-the-mill prank phone calls.

But most of all I played games lots of games on the Apple IIc.  I pirated a few games back in the day. I think I even pirated a game about pirates once, BUT I bought most of my games in a box from a store.

One game that I had bought and forgot about for a long time was called Death Sword. It was a game played exclusively to cut off peoples heads. Yeah you could take them down slowly by hacking and stabbing away at them whilst knocking them over with tumble rolls, but really you wanted to cut off their head, let’s face it. I had forgotten the title of the game and about playing it until I was just reminded of it from this Boing Boing feature on Classic Arcade Game Deaths.

As I recall, I beat the game. I cut off all the heads. Yay!   There were quite a few games like that I had. And of course I’m going to list them, because some how I long for the days sitting in a crappy chair at a crappy desk playing any kind of crap I could get my hands on.  With that, I’d like to thank Mike Kurtz, Eddie, Arandela, Joe Mount (who gave  me Leisure Suit Larry but probably doesn’t remember), Cory Kurtz and of course my parents for contributing to my early days of playing computer games growing up.  And now, here’s the list of things that kept me from having girlfriends during my tween years.

Windwalker – Loved this, an epic quest with ninjas, thieves the supernatural. I beat it through sheer persistence.
Bruce Lee – my first pirated game. The levels if you analyze them are quite interesting. It’s fast paced and fun.
The Chase on Tom Sawyer’s Island – My cousin had this on IBM, I’m not sure how I found it for Apple
The Goonies – My second pirated game ever. Why? Because I couldn’t buy it anywhere. The Goonies walkthrough says it all. Great game for kids.
Earl Weaver Baseball
Hard Ball! – Just add the exclamation point to the title, it will sell the game (said the publisher)
Impossible Mission – Some levels you think, ‘Ok I have a chance at winning this’, and others it’s “What the hell you sadists!”
Defender – fun, not enthralling by any means
Karateka – One of my best games ever
Battle Chess – The only way to make chess fun for me, unless it was naked or something
Wings of Fury – Between this game and Star Trek Next Gen,  I learned the word ‘Ensign
Kung Fu Master – Meh, no cutting off of heads.
Bad Dudes – Nothing like the Arcade, but still pretty cool
EPYX California Games – Loved it on every system I ever played
EPYX Summer Games – Awesome, you can get really good at this
EPYX Winter Games – Another great Epyx title, I had all these Games on Atari too.
Kings Quest – who doesnt love entering a screen and then dying instantly having to start over.
Space Quest – Witty or sarcastic doesn’t equal funny but it was amusing enough I guess. Nice visuals for that time.
Police Quest – Better check those tires on your patrol car or you die. Ehh.
Renegade (at wikipedia) – Just exhausting fights with street thugs. I think it has an ending but mostly you just tire of it.
Leisure Suit Larry Original – Borrowed from a high school friend my freshman year and was changed for ever from this Coming of Age Epic. Ha!
Where in the World is Carmen San Diego (Came with a world Almanac and was needed to play. Haven’t read one since.)
Test Drive – fun but mostly meh.
Spy Hunter – kill me now
Mines of Titan – My friend Mike loved this game. He loves building points in games I never understood why.
The Oregon Trail – Who didn’t play this. We all got the dysentery eventually didn’t we.
Rescue Raiders – This and Choplifter were pretty sweet for some quick action
World Karate Championship – One of my best games for sure. Way better than Karate Champ, which is why they got sued. Check out this game play. For Apple IIc, this was as sweet as it gets.
The Last Ninja – Very interesting level design on this. There were a few hidden items that for me, hints were essential.
One on One – Dr. J. Vs Larry Bird Basketball – Broke many a backboard into pixels
Dungeons and Dragons Pool of Radiance (I never could get anywhere in this ridiculous game)

March 25, 2011 at 10:59 am | computers, nostalgia | No comment

Had a great time at the 2009 Kansas City Japan Festival

Once again, I was fortunate to participate in the Greater Kansas City Japan Festival. For years, I’ve done a lot of the website and communications materials for the event. This year instead of driving across town, I had to drive across the state to attend it. I enjoyed it immensely because I could reconnect with old friends and colleagues. Our friend Carole Owsley was gracious to let Juri and I stay in her lovely home overnight. It was the perfect place to be. She made the best breakfast we could have ever hoped for. She also treated us to a light dinner and her own Strawberry shortcake, from which we can’t wait to steal the recipe.

My friend Fran Lemery is the Executive Director of the festival. He started getting involved in the Japanese community in Kansas City something like ten years ago when he decided to try to put in a smallish Japanese garden his backyard. As with much of the projects he took on, both his garden and his community participation blew up in a way that few people would consider. I’ve admired his attitude, his generosity and his ability to lead so many people to represent Japanese in the community. I just found out at the festival that he was nominated and will receive a special award from the Ministry of Japan for his cultural efforts for so many years. Absolutely outstanding. I can’t wait to know when I can come in and see him receive it. I’m just so happy he’s the guy I can call any time about anything and having him as a special friend.

I’m in St. Louis now, but I still have these strong ties to Kansas City. I enjoy seeing my good friend Fran there, my old colleagues and getting updates on how things are going. I only got to attend the actual Festival for about three hours out of the entire 11 hour day. Despite that, I got to help out with some A/V issues for the more presentation, and to take some photos and video. Both my favorite things. I’d like to extend to the hardworking groups there in the festival my appreciation to them, it was a great time, and the crowd grew by over ten percent because of Fran and other’s attention to detail and their labor of love.

September 21, 2009 at 4:51 am | inspiration, Japan, nostalgia | No comment

What to do on your birthday

There is a speaker guy named Seth Godin. Everybody likes him. Me too. And I read his site today, about birthdays. He was asking, what should we do on your birthday? Because mine is this coming week, it got me thinking about how I’ve been the past few years. Gifts have been really difficult to give and receive. I don’t take giving lightly in most cases. It’s hard for me, because if it’s going to be a thing I give, I want it to be special because it really will represent something, it acts on my behalf when I’m not there. Certainly I’m not better at receiving, because people ask me what I want for my birthday and I really can’t bring a certain object I want. I really just want to be better than I am. I want to see continuous improvement both slow and steady and through wild bursts and revelation. Projects I want finished, objectives I want conquered. Because it seems that when these things have happened, all the other gifts just flow in. But I don’t just want them done. I want to be engaged throughout the process. Nobody can do that for me, can they?

And yet when I think about that. It sounds like I want to rush through a segment of my life to get it where I expect I should be. As if I’m not quite complete yet. Not good enough. Analyzing that is kind of fun at this moment, because it’s a good reminder of how ridiculous it is. I’m happy that I don’t really believe that. And I’d be sad if others did for themselves.

If someone’s birthday is a day to be celebrated, it’s because of a person’s uniqueness and celebrating it because before that date, they weren’t here. The world before them didn’t enjoy their personality and contributions, their silliness, their ideas, and the things they do for others. At their moment, the pebble struck the water’s surface and the ripples began. The sequence of events in our world without their existence is difficult to imagine. Maybe even lonely.

And because they are here, often so briefly, it is one day a year where we remind them that it has been important that they are here, important to us, many of us. That’s the best thing we can probably do for people. And if we are all too distracted on that day to know or remind ourselves of the reason, that’s ok too. Because even if we realize it on another day, it’s that moment we appreciate somebody for who they are, we are bigger, we have grown.

So how do you celebrate someone’s uniqueness? I wish I could give a perfect answer, but I’ll try. I think the best you can do, is knowing them, you know what they like, what they do, want to be, or accomplish. Do your best to imagine what it takes to get there or to do that. And if you find your own personal way to help them do that, that day, I think it would be a hero’s gift, without a doubt. If you are close to them and already doing that, then maybe just a small surprise is something that’s needed. If you are far away, a card sent or a friendly phone call, can encourage and help and just tell them how much you and the people in their world appreciate them. You can also try to engage in their world a little more too. If you only saw them twice this year, try for five times over next year.

July 4, 2009 at 9:18 pm | family, friends, learning, nostalgia | No comment

Why having an international marriage is easier now than ever

The other day, my boss said, “Mike I don’t know how you do it, being married to someone from another country, with the language barrier. Communication is hard enough for married people from the same town and background. It has to be tough!”

It’s hard to address that kind of comment or compliment when you’re biting into a burrito on a work lunch. Later, having digested it, the statement I mean, I truly believe it is easier to have a relationship like mine (with someone from another country and culture) than it ever has been in the past. In my case an American mutt in the Midwest, making a life here with a Japanese wife.

You must have that personal time to be who you really are

Personal space can be created quite easily from the coldness of computers and the internet. No matter what size your home his, I think that you can create personal space from having separate computers. It sounds terrible doesn’t it, but it does work. Juri can research her own interests, such as crafts, Japanese news and celebrities and comedy. If you think Youtube and internet videos were just a way to waste time, but don’t provide real value, you are very wrong. It is new to us and many others over the past year and a half that Juri can watch uninterrupted streaming Japanese TV programs in short and long clips. This simple flash video technology gives her her own Japan space. It’s relief from the exhaustion of being someone else all day. She has to play the role of an english speaking teacher in real life, but at home, she can go back to Japan and laugh at Japanese comedians, see popular dramas and of course read blogs or email family and friends in her own language. As I’m writing this, she’s in that space right now, just as if she was 5,000 miles away at home. Twenty years ago, she might be able to acquire a good book collection, or a video cassette library of Japanese movies, but this isn’t the same as connecting to her culture in real time with the Internet. Almost as good as being there.

Finding a group of your own kind to connect with

Finding a support group is easier. Every organized group, including the Japanese societies that exist in any locality have some sort of online presence. It might just be a mention in an article, or a phone listing, but more likely there is a little website for the organization. This means that finding a group of like minded people is easier than ever. You can find people around you with a short search on the web such as “St. Louis” + “Swedish organizations”. You must appreciate how creating your own island of your native people is valuable to a person who is away from their home. In our case, belonging to and volunteering with the Japan-America society, we go to more events and meet more Japanese people in a few months than we would grow to know over a decade, if this was 1960. Fifteen years ago, to find them, we’d have to luckily stumble across a flyer advertising an event that we could go to or meet someone who already knew about it. Now, anyone can subscribe to multiple online calendars getting notices via email of upcoming activities within a cultural group, from festivals, to nights out for beers or a dinner party.

Family Connections

Along with a personal space and time, Juri has the benefit of email, an efficient postal system between the US and Japan, and the ever valuable Internet Relay Chat. Replaced by Yahoo Chat, which was an important tool for the two of us when separated by the Pacific, Skype is now Juri’s tool of choice to see mom and dad weekly or daily. Skype gives a simple high quality audio and decent video chat that her and her mother and father can use for free. It’s common for Juri to fire up the computer at 5:30 in the evening after work and catch her parents online cooking breakfast and ready to say hello before they head to work. Her dad also will log in at his work and chat if time permits well into our dinner time and before bed. During family gatherings when Aunts and Uncles visit, the chat line is open and we can all say hello. To be able to see your family and talk to them through a computer and having that live video is absolutely priceless.

As I mentioned before, it was Yahoo Chat that worked best, but Skype provides a near perfect audio feed, so from being upstairs and eavesdropping, the voices often sound to me like her parents are her visiting the house. Surely 10 years from now, TV screens will be larger and the video feed, beautiful and fast, clear as a home movie. For now, Juri can connect with home, even having the arguments and fights that she normally would have with parents and brother. Trust me, I’ve seen them.

Access to products formerly out of reach

In some ways, it’s unfortunate because it makes hunting for unique gifts harder, but we are exposed to all kinds of cultural artifacts and common items just by visiting certain aisles of a supermarket, or even a Target store these days. You also have the World Market, which 40 years ago, might cater to a completey different group, but now seems to fit your average design conscious citizen looking for a new kitchen set or an exotic hot sauce. We don’t have a China or Asia town where I live, but we still have places we can go. Retailers have found that providing goods from other countries is another way to stand out and to keep shoppers interested. Consumers can tap into new tastes and decorative ideas. People like my wife, are able to see products from their home country and can comment on them whether good or bad. It might seem weird, but if she sees a really bad knockoff Japan product, we can laugh about it and use that experience to learn or reminisce. That poorly crafted knockoff sitting on a store shelf somehow provides value or appreciation of home, bringing home closer for that moment.

These are just the places that might be around town, depending on the area you live. But again with an internet connection, you can access all kinds of niche stores selling the items that you might miss, such as cooking spices, snacks, utensils and wares that you would just have to go on missing if it were 1957. If Juri wants to cook something she’s used to having, most of the items can be found. Probably everything but perhaps the rarer vegetables.

Ever since we met, we’ve had really good communication, so my bosses comment somehow went over my head, as if he was talking about problems other people have. For us, mostly it’s smooth. Whatever magic that is between Juri and I, be it a mixture of the right patience for one another and ourselves, or the simple knowing that we have outlets to be ourselves and little ways to retreat, we are making it work day by day, just like any international couple from the last century would. It’s easier for us I think than it has been for others because of our historical examples we can call up, and hopes toward the future. Come to think about it, the hope may be the real reason. If you can find hope in your life you conquer and live through anything.

May 8, 2007 at 12:31 am | family, interesting, Japan, nostalgia | No comment

25 things I’m thinking about

1. I don’t introduce myself proudly enough or often enough. I can confidently say I’m a good guy.

2. removed (met that goal!)

3. Thoughout a month, I’m the most powerful and then the weakest person I know. I also cycle through being the most outgoing, fun, sad non-social, helpful, loving and off-the-wall. I think there’s no avoiding the bad spots, there’s no changing them, but I believe we all can change a state’s power and length. And though I read books from the self-help gurus, this one was actually from me.

4. I’m a pretty good video editor and animator, but I’ve become more of a perfectionist over time. Perfectionism can easily cause stress and procrastination. I do myself a huge disservice. If I would pay attention as a viewer more, I would notice that viewers are very forgiving or they just don’t notice the trees for the forest. Sometimes you have to just want to get it done.

5. When you start to wonder if having your own company is possible, just remember all the silly restaurants and shops and now e-stores selling things you’d never buy in a million years and WHO ARE DOING JUST FINE, or who might even be making huge profits!

6. I have an idea and I need some help with it. (thanks to those who have offered to help, but I can’t collaborate on it just yet)

7. Learn the art of revealing just enough, and letting people figure out your point on their own. This makes better stories. People love surprise and a chance for their brain to make the discovery. Don’t force it. Hold things back and see what happens. This is why poets deserve more credit.

8. If you ever take a friend or relative to a vacation spot or tourist attraction that you have already been, shut up and let them explore. It’s one of a few opportunities where you make the situation better by doing nothing at all.

9. A night of surfing webpages will never be as satisfying as learning to make something out of wood or paper.

10. omitted. I already figured it out.

11. The other day I called a company out of nowhere because I liked the way they created a 3D video rendering. I called out of the blue and said “Hi, you don’t know me, but I saw your video. I was wondering how you did special effect X in it. Is somebody there that might tell me?” What do you think happened after that?

12. Right now, it’s already dark outside, the ground is wet, and both are typical reasons why I would normally put off going for a run. As soon as I finish this, I’m going to run in it anyway. So there.

13. Dave Werner seems like an awesome guy. I’d like to work with him one day.

14. There comes a time in maybe everyones life they realize they will never be famous, ultra-important, or rich. This realization will depress some, and will be a huge relief to others. There are also the few that become famous and realize that it wasn’t all they thought it would be. Detachment can bring contentment I think.

15. I feel bad for people who listen to Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter. Whether right or wrong, they are toxic people and should be avoided. And it’s a good thing to be watchful of your government, no matter what.

16. There’s no reason why many people couldn’t choose to cut their workday in half and spend the other half helping others through charity, participating in government to make things better, or to simply to give themselves have more choices the other half of the day. Culture doesn’t understand this. That is why sometimes you have to be different

17. I’m almost 30 years old and I spent yesterday afternoon riding skateboards with the neighbors kids. Our conversations were more meaningful than all of the chats I had at work that day.

18. Join and organization to create a new view. A view is like a path you could choose to go down which would probably lead to a new opportunity. You don’t have to follow these paths or views. But it feels really good to have them, to know that if something doesn’t work out, you COULD take one of them if you wanted. I believe if people had more views in life, you wouldn’t see so much depression and suicide among young people.

19. Try something, even if people are going to laugh at you.

20. My dad smokes cigarettes and I hate it. I’ve hated it forever. I had an idea the other day that I would mail him a letter every week with a freshly printed article about smoking and tips for quitting and handling the difficult addictions. I could have written 2 letters by now and I haven’t sent him anything. Why haven’t I?

21. I think practicing being yourself in a mirror would be a valuable exercise. Or better yet, using a video camera. We all should be able to master our best looks and expressions. That way we can communicate in the way we want to. It’s not just for actors, everyone would benefit from critiquing themselves.

22. My wife will never know how special she is to me.

23. A small part of me hopes this list will lead to something. But the bigger part doesn’t care and has enjoyed it just for the exercise.

24. The past two years have really started to feel interesting, where we the human race may be starting into the future that actually looks futuristic. I just hope we can handle it on all fronts. We need bright people to make sense of it, to steer everyone in the right direction.

25. We can all have a new beginning at any moment.

March 26, 2007 at 9:47 pm | friends, general, interesting, learning, nostalgia | 3 comments

The few, the proud, the Nintendo Wii owners

I got silly, I’ll admit. I sat out front of the Target Store on the opening day of the Nintendo Wii sales. I got my Wii the first day it came out. I fell victim to all the internet buzz. I haven’t owned a game system since I was about nine years old. (Atari 2600) I’ve fancied a few PC games, so don’t think I have felt I was too mature for games. But owning a game console was something I just didn’t think I would do this time in my life.

So what’s up with the Wii? For me, I liked the idea of internet surfing in the living room and being able to get my old favorite games on it. I though the motion sensitive controller was the perfect direction where game technology should be headed.

When I bought the Wii that morning, I behaved unlike how I usually do. I spared no expense. I got all the accessories and games I wanted to get. I didn’t fret over the money whatsoever. This was my game system, a fresh new source of fun, a way to live in the future and the past at the same time. Why hold back? Sometimes you just buy the movie popcorn so you can enjoy it. You know what I mean?

Since then I’ve gotten more games and even introduced myself to a few great Nintendo Game Cube played. The Wii plays those Gamecube games. I didn’t realize how good the quality of graphics the Game Cube games have. In fact, I didn’t realize some of the titles that were available for it. Resident Evil 4 and a recent Tomb Raider title to name a couple.

The Wii has a motion control system with the infrared controller and sensor bar. Wii tennis works for example by you actually swinging the controller like a racket. And though I’m more of a gory scary game fan, Wii sports is the perfect party game. At least until the novelty runs out for most people.

I’ve been working on a big freelance project lately, so no nintendo time, but I’ve got a stack of games just waiting to be played once I’m finished. It’s great to be a kid, to get all the games I wanted for a long time and never had the money for. And I can appreciate it more too I think because I know the kind of programming and graphic effort that goes into these games.

By the way, Zelda was mindblowing. I never played that style game before, it was always boring to me. But the Wii Zelda is adventure through and through.

March 1, 2007 at 4:57 am | gadgets, games, graphics, nostalgia | No comment

I have no bookstores in my neighborhood

Waldenbooks Ward Parkway closed downFor whatever reason, the only bookstore in my neighborhood has closed up shop. They were given about fifteen days to shut down right after Christmas. It’s not a sad story of the small business being run out by a big dog, I mean it’s a Waldenbooks, owned by Borders. The store was in a mall that connects to the back of a Target store so surely it was doing enough volume to pay the rent.

How is the closing of a bookstore somehow news or significant? I suppose it’s not, but it’s just economically interesting because my neighborhood has every other shop under the sun, but is strangely devoid of places to buy books. Sure I can go down to the Plaza and hit the four story Barnes and Noble. But I just expect more considering we have about ten drugstores, just as many hair stylists, five grocery stores. I would call my area upscale Kansas City metro area. Am I the only one noticing this gap? Maybe Borders is looking to make a change of direction? They have their large scale stores with the cafe and places to site. Maybe the relaxing larger bookstore is what people have come to expect. Waldenbooks and B.Dalton really don’t have that kind of atmosphere whatsoever.

The closing was a good thing for me in the short term, giving me 40% off two books I had wanted for a while. The sad part being that I had developed a routine with my wife to visit at least once every two weeks or more often to look at the true crime, computer and magazines.

So I am extremely curious when and how the gap will be filled. It just has to be filled right? I really could use some reassurance, somebody or some company that’s going to realize the void and step up. I can imagine a Half-Price books fitting really well close by my house next to the Indian restaurant. I’d really love a family-owned store and cafe. I’ll entertain that my perfect world, within walking distance, I’d love a bookstore / smoothie / crepe dessert place. We don’t have a smoothie shop in town so I think we are ready for that too.

January 25, 2007 at 4:38 am | books, general, nostalgia, rants | No comment

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