Do or Do Not.

Archive for May, 2010

100-Word Review: Food, Inc.

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Robert Kenner‘s documentary pulls back the ugly veil surrounding the industrialization of food in the United States — and man, “ugly” ain’t even the beginning of it. Kenner demonstrates that it’s not only ugly and disgusting the way animals are treated, but also the way workers, farmers and even consumers are treated. Kenner’s clearly not concerned with presenting both sides of the debate fairly, but since I was already heavily leaning toward the side he’s advocating, that didn’t bother me. Thought-provoking, stomach-churning, heartwrenching and ultimately life-changing — I think it’s finally time to kick off my long-considered conversion to vegetarianism. Grade: A-

Written by Allen

May 17th, 2010 at 10:00 am

Posted in 100-Word Reviews


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She falls asleep on my chest: growly little snores escape her body, the first two fingers of her right hand take their preferred place in her mouth, increasingly long pale legs seemingly stretch off to the horizon, fine red hair tickles my neck. A cool breeze and soft afternoon light spill through the window behind the couch we rest on. Her sister is away at a campout and her brother is himself asleep, so we have some rare quiet time in our apartment and she sleeps soundly.

It’s not often I get these times anymore — she’s six and her sister is eight, and naptimes with Daddy happen rarely. My monkeybrain fights me: I feel as if I should get up and do some work or check my email or do any of dozens of other small tasks I use to distract my restless mind.

But I ignore that buzzing and I stay right there on that couch, the weight of this amazing, beautiful, fiercely intelligent (and just as fiercely stubborn) six-year-old on my chest, and I try to remember this moment, for I never have any idea how many more of these moments I’ll get the opportunity to savor.

Written by Allen

May 15th, 2010 at 10:45 pm

Posted in Kids

On Work

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I recently sought out suggestions on subjects I could write about that I don’t normally, and my friend Kate suggested I should write more about tiny slice-of-life sorts of things — which I think is a fine idea, and one I shall try to implement — but also noted that I don’t much talk about my work. She’s right, and I find it funny that I don’t, given how much of my time is spent here and thinking about my job and my career. So Kate, thanks for the suggestion! Here, have a blog post…

What do I love about my work?

Honestly, I love the where I am more than the what I do right now. I’m feeling fairly seriously burnt out on the what — I’ve been doing essentially the same thing (though with increasing degrees of competence and difficulty) for the last decade, and I’d like to expand into something new. I have to fight though boredom (even when really busy) more often than I might like.

But I love working for Harmonix an awful damn lot. Not only does the corporate culture agree with me and not only do I really like the people, but the benefits are the best I’ve ever had. The people who work here are almost without exception phenomenally talented at what they do. And I have a platform for the work I do far, far beyond anything I’ve ever had before — the stuff I work on gets seen by anywhere from hundreds of thousands to millions of people per month (even if none of them know I had anything to do with what they’re looking at).

There’s a lot of pressure to be excellent working here. We have high standards — Harmonix doesn’t release crap, and our team holds itself to those same standards of quality that the game teams do, even if the company as a whole doesn’t always recognize it. Well, didn’t recognize it; I think the Webby win really raised our profile with everyone else here.

So I realize that most of what I just said is what I love about my job. What about my work, then? What do I actually love about what is I do?

I love problem-solving, figuring out how to do some pretty complex stuff with websites. I love building things, knowing that sites exist and people can do things with those sites because of work I have done. I love manipulating code — I’m completely anal when it comes to my code. I love learning new technologies and new techniques and new ways to do the things I already do better. I love reworking other people’s substandard code and making it work better and more efficiently (and making the code itself prettier). I even (sometimes) love fixing bugs, especially when doing so actually makes my site more usable.

I love that I work somewhere with enough name recognition to get nominated for — and ultimately win — a Webby.

What bugs me about my work?

As I sort of alluded to above, the actual day-to-day of what I do isn’t thrilling me right now. I’m burning out on building web applications, even somewhere as phenomenal as Harmonix. I don’t have a good answer for what to do instead; I’m not sure what else I could do which would be as interesting (when I’m not feeling quite so burnt out) and pay me as much. [1]

I don’t like feeling looked-down-on by the “real” (read: non-web) programmers. That’s a problem I’ve been facing for years and I don’t expect that’s going to be solved anytime soon (though I will say I believe it’s gotten better over the last few months, as the other web software developer and I have gotten more visibility).

I don’t like crunch, but that’s just part of the industry and we on the web team don’t usually have it as bad as the game teams do, so I can’t complain too much.

But really, those are some pretty minor negatives compared to the amount of love I have for my job right now. Nowhere’s going to be perfect, but Harmonix is as close as I’ve found yet.

[1] It’s not always about the pay, but at this stage in my life as the primary bread-winner for a family of five, it is about the pay, at least in large part.

Written by Allen

May 14th, 2010 at 5:52 pm

Posted in Personal

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100-Word Review: Up In The Air

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George Clooney has this amazing ability to overlay the same charming, often smug mask over the top of a number of different characters; he looks like a Movie Star, but actually, he’s an Actor. I expected his Ryan Bingham to be a douchebag underneath the Clooney Smirk, but (spoiler!) he’s not. Instead, he’s just a scared, lonely, good-hearted guy with serious commitment issues. Director/co-writer Jason Reitman (Juno) continues his hot streak, playing against story beats he seems to telegraph. Strong performances from Clooney, Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick, all of whom were nominated for Oscars (as was Reitman).

Grade: A-

Written by Allen

May 11th, 2010 at 9:03 pm

Long Time No Write

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When I started writing this post, I opened up my text editor, switched it to full-screen view and was presented with twenty-one diagonal inches of pure, gleaming white. And I thought to myself: “Wow, that’s an awful lot of white space. That’s… a little bit intimidating, honestly. How am I possibly gonna fill that up with words? I don’t have to write this thing tonight, right?”

But I did. Do. Whatever. Those scaredy-cat thoughts popped up mostly because I’m so thoroughly out of practice writing. My brainmeats are so far out of the groove that even writing emails have become difficult for me lately. This blog hasn’t been updated in more than eight months, and my other more private online writing spaces haven’t been updated much more than that. (Hell, it had been so long since I updated this site, I couldn’t remember my password.) I can blame some of that on the arrival of Young Master Rockstar, of course, but honestly it’s not all because of him. It’s not even mostly because of him. He got here in October, so I hardly think it’s fair for me to keep blaming my lack of writing production on him six months later.

(Laurel likes to place the blame for anything she was supposed to but didn’t on “But the baby’s cute!”, as if being distracted by his adorableness is a good excuse for… well, anything. But if I won’t let her get away with that excuse, then I can’t use it, either.)

The thing is… I miss writing. I miss the thinking that goes into it (yes, please feel free to insert your own “what, you actually thought about that tripe you usually write?” joke here). Writing is how I figure out exactly what it is I feel and/or think about any given subject, so if I’m not writing, that means I’m not processing. It means I’m taking in experiences both profound and banal without giving them much (if any) consideration.

Well, it’s time for that blithe glossing-over of life to stop. I want to think about Things more, about my life and the stuff I see, do, and hear. I want to get back to writing reviews of movies and music and TV shows and books and performances and and and. I want to write more about my happens with my kids and my wife and my friends and my job and the world. I want to write about sports, though not that many of the people reading this thing give much of a shit about sports. Part of me even wants to write about politics, even though it’s inviting drama, and I freely admit that I’m not the most knowledgable person on political subjects — but again, that goes back to the “using writing to figure out what it is I think” angle.

Am I setting myself up for failure here by proclaiming my desire to write about Big Things, or with the somewhat implicit promise to write on a regular/frequent basis? Eh, maybe. If there’s one thing about me and my interests that’s proven itself to be true repeatedly, it’s that I seem unable to stick with any one project for too long. I’m sure eventually I’ll wander off and stick my head into something else… but I’d like not to stay away from writing for such a long damn time in the future.

(Oh, hey, I should probably mention: I won a Webby! Well, my team did — we won the Best Games-Related Website Webby for the site for The Beatles: Rock Band. For those of you unfamiliar with the Webbys, what we did was roughly the equivalent of winning, say, the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. It’s a pretty damn big deal, and I’m thrilled that we were honored. I’ll probably have more to say on this point later, as I think it deserves more than a tacked-on paragraph at the end of a post, but I wanted to throw it out there now. Go HMX WebTowne!)

Written by Allen

May 10th, 2010 at 10:51 pm

Posted in General