Category: video games

Resolutish

Resolutish

Intellectually, I’m not a huge fan of new year’s resolutions—heck, I’m not even sure about how you capitalize and punctuate the phrase. :) I like to think that the time of year shouldn’t have a massive impact on deciding to make improvements in your life, you know?

But I’m in a weird spot this year. My part-time tech writing contract comes to a close at the end of January, which means I’ll be circling back to working on The Heartographer full time. I’m launching a few new products and initiatives soon that just happen to be coming out in Q1 2015. And I have a medical procedure coming up in March that will go much more smoothly if I can get a better handle on my physical health in advance.

For me, January 2015 will end up being a time to spark change and transition, whether I meant it that way or not. And while the philosophy of “make improvements independent of the new year” is a sound one, I never actually implement changes. Like, ever.

Discipline and follow-through have long been huge weaknesses for me. But as I prep for business and life shifts over the next year, it’s increasingly important that I get a better handle on the part of me that resists working hard to effect positive change in my life. It’s time to start actually trying instead of pooh-poohing the whole idea.

On La Dolce Vita, Paloma Contreras shared a few thoughts about how to make 2015 the best year yet. First on the list was setting intentions instead of resolutions. This totally jibes with me—on the one hand, I’d love to not give myself wiggle room to bail on what I set out to do, but I’m self-aware enough to know that the whole fear of failure thing would make me drop all my firm resolutions as soon as the going gets tough.

So, in the spirit of actually following through with some intentions, even if the outcome isn’t as drastic or simple as I’m hoping, I’ll share with y’all some of my intentions for the new year and beyond.

Learn

I’ve been wanting to get savvy with photo and graphic software for ages, so I can better self-help when I need to create a quick visual asset for my business or one of my many sites. I’ve made my poor husband (who is a video game designer, NOT a graphic designer) create and modify SO MANY business cards, ad graphics, logos, header images, you name it.

Photoshop is top of the list in terms of learning to create my own stuff, but OmniGraffle is next, as well as learning a bit more about actually manipulating a camera to take better pictures.

And this may sound frivolous, but I’d like to get the hang of applying false eyelashes. I’ve read how-to guides online and grilled every makeup artist who’s ever applied them for me, but I think what I need more than anything is a few extra pairs and some dedicated time to practice.

Falsies (I swear they’re called that) make a huge visual impact in the videos I produce! Of course they’re fun in social settings too, but I really mainly wear them for business. God, how weird and boring is that? You’d think I was a burlesque dancer or something! :)

Ship

I’m working on an iPhone app with Brandon, who does 99.9999% of the actual coding. While he’s helplful in teaching me some stuff, I can only have a certain impact in how much progress we make—but if I stay motivated, ask questions, meet regularly with him, and generally keep the marketing and production balls rolling, we tend to do more actual coding work too. I’d love to see a working app prototype on my device by the end of this year, even if we don’t actually get a smoothly tested version for sale on that timeline.

I’ve been writing a book since 2009, for Frey’s sake, but I finally started making true progress this fall after applying a sort of GTD-like system to the project. I’d like to either get that book fully self-published this year, or have a firm deal with a traditional publisher.

I’m launching some video courses soon, which have been in the works since last summer. I expect those to ship in Q1 of this year, yay!

I’m also FINALLY launching a podcast soon. If everything goes as planned, it’ll be out in time for Valentine’s Day. Woohoo!

I’m also launching another blog at some time this year, which will be a more personal but specific venture. I’ll post here when it goes live.

Monetize

What a douchey word, right? But I need to make it a greater focus in 2015 and beyond. I spent the first seven whole years of my business under-charging, partly because I love what I do but also because I wanted my focus to be on great service and customer experience instead of great profit. But I’ve grown up and come to learn that those things aren’t mutually exclusive. It’s OK to make a decent living doing something you love.

Now that I’ve laid that foundation, I need to have a firmer focus on monetization with every single business decision I make. Heck, even that new personal blog I mentioned is going to have ads, something I’ve kept off my other sites for the most part. The advent of sponsored content makes this so much more OK for me—I’ve seen poorly integrated sponsorships as well as amazing ones, and I’m confident I can find a way to make good money on a blog and still provide unquestionable value to readers. I’ve never ever tried making a blog profitable before, but this year I’m going to make it a focus and at least see how it goes.

Limit

We need to lose weight. Especially me. We’ve needed this for a while, but it’s particularly urgent as I have a surgery type thing in March that will go better if I’ve lost even ten pounds.

The problem, in many ways, is that my weight is HAPPY weight. I met the love of my life, found a love of video games, and have been slowly getting fatter as I enjoy sitting around doing stuff I enjoy with someone I adore. The only times I’ve ever drastically dropped in weight were both when I was living abroad, isolated, and terribly ill to the point of hospitalization. NOT a good association, you know?

We also need to limit our expenses. We’ve never made or stuck to a budget; we barely even try. But as we plan for our future, it’s more and more crucial that we not overspend. We’ve kept our heads above water and been delightfully debt-free or close to it except (now) our house, but we don’t really save and plan ahead.

I’d like to have a fund for home décor splurges, as well as unexpected repair projects. I’d like it to be no big deal when we’re confronted with astounding hospital bills from unexpected medical issues. I’d like to save up for vacations we don’t even know we want to take yet. But I need to get much more serious about seeing this desire through. Now’s as good a time to start as any.

Use

I have a ridiculously massive wardrobe, and yet I tend to get stuck wearing the same 5% of my clothes over and over again. That sort of makes sense to a point, since they’re items I love and feel great in, but it’s a bit silly and limiting. I also want to “shop” from my previous wardrobe by trying on stuff that I haven’t been able to fit into in ages—weight loss will give me a guaranteed shopping spree.

I have tons of craft supplies for cool projects that we just finally started unearthing when we cleaned out our basement. I’m excited to, say, check my Artsy Drawer (or Dresser) before I drive my ass all the way to Michael’s.

I feel the same about home décor and hardware—sometimes, we already have the right curtain rod that would look fine in a given room if I could just set my hands on it. I’m hoping that our Giant Basement Cleanse will assist.

Oh, and I love skincare and makeup, but I barely use most of my cool products. (For someone with an entire blog about this stuff, you’d be amazed how many nights I go to sleep without washing my face and then wake up annoyed that I have irritated skin.) I always want to spend more time and energy with my fun grooming products, because they really have an impact on how I look and therefore how I feel about myself. Why the hell am I just letting them expire under the sink? Let this year involve more masques and whatnot. And eyeliner. Use it or lose it.

 

So yeah, that’s my summary. What are YOU resolutish about this year?

Quit lying about cords and cables

Quit lying about cords and cables

Something has really been bugging me lately. As I’ve become increasingly obsessed with fancy shelter magazines and blogs in my quest to beautify our home, I’ve come to realize that those publications totally bullshit their readers.

The glossing over of cables and heaters and vents is as maddeningly deceptive to me as celebrities Photoshopping out their imperfections. I feel like all these helpful make-your-home-nice guides are presenting a completely unrealistic standard by hiding every cord and cable in their perfectly uninhabitable but elegant spaces.

Emily Henderson offered a helpful peek into that world in her recent post. I’m OK with some tweaks to sell a pretty magazine—like Photoshopping out how that one console thing totally bowed in the middle (I guess). I’m also fine with contrived styling for a perfect shot—I mean, I like when Emily posts realistic shots side by side to give a dose of reality, but I accept that a stylist and designer is mainly going to post designed and styled images.

Right = truth, left = LIES. (All images via Emily Henderson’s blog.)

But I dislike LIES (which were clearly at Domino’s behest, not Emily’s. I don’t fault her, I fault the industry!) Little beautifications I get. But removing unsightly but NECESSARY elements like heaters and cords pisses me off on principle; it’s like pretending we don’t have electricity or indoor plumbing. These innovations have an aesthetic tax. Admit it, embrace it, and show me how to work around it, dammit!

Anyway, in my reality, heaters and cords exist and it sucks. Heaters can be hard to work around, for sure. I’m glad we now live in a home with forced air vents instead of baseboard heaters—those are both ugly and a major fire hazard! We just have to get stuff that sits up on legs and allows heaters to flow air underneath.

But oh, the cords. THE CORDS! Cord management is my single biggest annoyance in the two rooms I care most about, appearances-wise—our living room and my office.

Here, for example, is my new media console solution, complete with the consoles that mainly belong to my video game designer of a husband:

Trust me that this is the Extremely Pretty version.

Looks busy but decent enough, right? (Try to ignore the giant white cable on the right; I refuse to/have no idea how to Photoshop it out. It’ll be gone once we rewire the outlet because blah blah 1947 house.)

And here it is in relation to our TV, in case that helps explain the context of the entire space and its constraints:

Bonus points for noticing the crooked Wii sensor bar!

But here’s my secret efforts to make it look even this okay:

Don't even get me STARTED about how no blogs ever show rooms with honeycomb blinds like these.

See? There’s a huge mass of cables I’ve only somewhat concealed. You can see them if you look at the whole console at a fully level height, but it’s so low that mostly you can only see the tangle back there when you’re sitting on the couch and deliberately looking for cords. Possible, but not super likely.

Oh, and here’s my other sneaky trick: be careful with those curtains!

HUZZAH!

Yeah, these lightweight silk curtains are kind of puffed out from the wall because they’re basically concealing an entire R2D2 chassis width of just cable knots back there.

If I lived my life in the Domino Universe, I could just magically wish away these sorts of mortal tech-loving concerns. Instead, I spent hundreds on curtains plus hardware for the entire space in part to disguise this sort of cordage. I obsessively measured and fretted for months and pinned media storage solutions that were low-profile and kept that space feeling light and airy enough but still offered enough storage to fit all our consoles, somehow, yet breathed enough to let them all vent sufficiently (a real problem that glass-doored media consoles fail to address, FYI) and allowed our heater to heat. I stacked books and arranged lamps and pretty baskets filled with DVDs to conceal the worst of the cords. And it’s still nowhere near as schmancy as a magazine would tolerate. Which I’m OK with, but I wish they were, too!

I would MUCH rather buy a magazine that showed me expensive but insanely clever tricks for, say, building cord-management conduits directly into your walls, than faking that they just didn’t exist. Hell, I have this entire board of TV and media console disguises. I ought to start a board just for managing cord concealment options. Domino sure as hell isn’t going to do it for me!

TV above the fireplace

TV above the fireplace

Ever since flat screen TVs took over the old cathode ray tube models, people have been mounting them on the wall, causing the earth’s interior design community to have a collective cow. Wall-mounting is so practical, though! It saves valuable floor and furniture space since TVs no longer have to rest atop a bulky media cabinet, eating up precious living room real estate. 1 When we toured a zillion homes before settling on this one, we saw living rooms with no TV or a wall-mounted TV, often above the fireplace, and an increasing number of finished basement dens with the “big” non-wall-mounted TV. People are changing the way they use their homes and view their TVs, and I think interior design is foolish to resist this shift. 2

We subsisted mainly on the projector in our finished den for two years, but then we sucked it up and bought a living room TV, mainly for parties and entertaining. We’re SO GLAD we did; we spend way more time on the main floor of our house now, enjoying natural light and sunsets and open windows while still being able to consume the media we love. I kind of can’t believe we waited this long; having a TV upstairs has really made us happier homeowners, and everything about our upstairs living room feels friendlier and more welcoming now. A TV also helps us figure out better furniture placement, and it just generally dictates how the room is used. And we spend more Couple Time there, since now we can play co-op games in the same space without me feeling like I have to slink down to the basement-cave. 3

After researching the right tech, size, price point, and features, we got our TV at Best Buy and paid them to mount it above our (functional, brick, wood-burning) fireplace.4 I know hanging a TV above a fireplace is a design sin to many, but it really is the only space that makes sense in our living room. I styled it in with a bunch of little knick-nacks that help hide all the cords and that blend it in a bit. We eventually hope to get hard-wired sconces flanking it, but given how pricey the rewiring and drywall is, for now we’re happy to just suck it up and use these lamps I got at a consignment shop. 5

This may sound insane, but aside from thinking ahead about how many HDMI ports we would actually need (answer: more than two, eventually) here’s my only TV purchasing regret: I actually am constantly bothered by the uneven bezel width around our LG model, and I wish we’d paid the several hundred dollars more for a similar Samsung choice that had a thin but even bezel all the way around. I realize that’s not a logically sound way to spend money, and that no one but me and Grant will ever notice or care about this, but it bugs me and next time around I think I’ll lobby him for the better industrial design aesthetic. 6

A larger shot of our TV and surrounding elements.

You can see my TV and fireplace here as they relate to the rest of the room—our front door is to the left, with only the storm door closed right now, and then a big blah but functional table/shelving unit house our DVR and consoles to the right. Beyond that is a corner window obscured by an enormous cat tree I promised not to move until Trumpy kicks the kitty bucket someday. I hate that black cabinet, but we needed something for the DVR and XBox 360, and this was $20 at our local thrift store. It’s solid, it already had a hole in the back for cords, and I don’t care if humidity or moisture from my plants screws up the already crappy finish.

Since we don’t really have a proper foyer/entry area, the spot just past the front door is where we put the mirror that used to be above the mantel. This works really well to have a sort of “check yourself” area before leaving the house. And while the TV above the fireplace isn’t perfect, I think/hope I worked it in OK. You don’t see it at all when you first walk in, because it’s behind you. Many clients don’t even notice that we have a TV until they leave, if at all.

A picture of my TV, styled in with antiques and other decorative objects.

The other day when I was rearranging the knick-nacks to add in some new antiques, I realized we are like the opposite of the Islamic design principle of aniconism. We have SO MUCH flora and fauna! Let’s see, there’s a brass owl, a ceramic rabbit, a steel larch tree, a glass hedgehog, a porcelain cow, a crochet cat, a jade dragon, a brass apple bell, and a ceramic foo dog. And that’s just the ones I can obviously identify in this photo. Plus there are subtler things like the floral pattern on one of my Voluspa candles, a ceramic vase that looks like a weird seed pod, and a viney pattern to the photo frame. And behind the Kinect upon which the kitty rests, there are some glass birds and some floral cream and sugar porcelains just to make it not look weird and bare back there. We are veritably obsessed with nature at House Roberts.

I also keep thinking maybe I should blend the TV in better by painting the fireplace bricks a dark gray or black. Ever since we bought the place I’ve been uncertain what to do with the fireplace. Redoing anything with actual stone/masonry seems insanely expensive and pointless since trends cycle back around and we may end up hating something new and wanting to go back to this original 1947 brick and wood look, ya know? Plus, while I dislike the terra cotta floor tiles, they do blend in pretty subtly and I don’t mind the actual brick or the wood mantel now. I maintain Pinterest boards for both TV disguises and fireplaces, and I keep thinking about what I could do to snazz this up, but I haven’t been inspired to inject change into this particular area of our home. I think I’ll wait and see how things look once we get our lovely gray Farrow & Ball paint up on the walls before we go too crazy! My dream fireplace would be in a marble like Carrara, but not too mod and not too traditional, and probably something with a little tan or gold veining in it too to tie in with all our warm wood floors and trim. I just don’t see it being worth the expenditure when this one feels fine enough to me, and we have loads of more functional and urgent updates like windows and a deck.

Anyway, the whole reason I bothered putting these ramblings into a blog post was because Jenny of Little Green Notebook posted about how she’s putting her TV above her fireplace. The woman is a professional interior designer, with a massive blog following, so clearly she’s got hecka great taste. If she can do it, so can we! :)

  1. This presents new challenges, though, since most of the “smart” TVs out there aren’t all that smart yet, so we still have to connect one or more bulky devices to our TVs with annoying unsightly cables. At least devices like the Apple TV are small enough to be worked into a typical mantel; not so with consoles like an XBox or with most physical disk readers. I expect this to change over the next five to ten years, removing the need for any media cabinet at all eventually. But it’s a slow process and it’s expensive to adopt all the new tech.
  2. I also think a TV hung up high is subtler than one shoved in a corner looming at you. And we don’t find the viewing angle at all troublesome, ergonomically; if anything, I think it encourages better posture/neck angles, and is easier to view when lying down on a couch.
  3. I get so sick of the misguided “Kill Your TV” mantra I received as a kid; TV is so much smarter and sharper and higher quality than it ever has been. After all, we’re watching incredibly creative projects like LOST and Breaking Bad and Orphan Black and Archer, not Hoarders Who Horde or The Real Housewives of Shut Up Already. (And lest ye feel judged, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with watching that stuff, it just doesn’t speak to me at all. And I don’t really get TV as a zoning out mechanism for the most part, because I prefer to zone out in other ways. But whatever works, man! Quit whining about killing TV and go find some super high quality program that captures YOUR interests!)

    Also, we can entertain our friends better. Whether you admit it or not, cartoons and games are GREAT for calming a fussy kid, and now that we have a TV with a couple gaming consoles hooked up in our living room, we can capture the attention of babies on up to five year olds who would otherwise find it boring when we tried to interact with their parents. I assume our TV will come in handy when we have kids of our own, too. ;)

  4. This was a complicated, stupid, expensive process, fraught with insanely ineffective bureaucracy BS and numerous hidden fees. I managed to get them to knock off a couple hundred bucks for being such incredible nitwits about the whole thing, but I urge you to not do what I did. I’m not very handy or confident when it comes to big structurally dependent projects like this, but I would absolutely DIY this process if I had to do it over again. If you DO hire it out, save every single receipt and get written quotes with names and employee numbers for every single aspect of the process if you have a big box retailer do it, and tell them you want the wood-only installment but you want the team to bring masonry tools just in case, and that you’ll pay for the masonry upcharge at that time if and only if it’s truly necessary. Also, insist on waiving any kind of consultation appointments. It’s a totally unnecessary upcharge, like gold-plated USB cables.
  5. I paid more than those lamps were worth to get modern drum shades put on them at my local lamp shop, because I can just never find ready-made lamp shades that look anywhere near as nice as the hand-made ones do. I consider this expense totally worth it. If you have a lamp whose shade is irking you, I urge you to visit your local lamp store and look into this. They tried on multiple harps until they found the right one, and they adjusted everything perfectly so everything sits at just the right height, lighting up the room but not blinding anyone with an inadvertent glimpse of exposed bulb.
  6. I literally still haven’t bought a single humidifier because none of them look like this.
Animal Crossing décor inspiration

Animal Crossing décor inspiration

Grant and I have been playing Animal Crossing: New Leaf on his new (pale pink) 3DS. I’m the mayor of the town, because Grant’s a sweetheart, and he’s just a citizen. We have tons of pals who are playing, too, so we’ve really enjoyed it. He played the original GameCube version, and maybe a bit of the prior DS one I think, and I worked in linguistic QA at Nintendo during the several months before the Wii version of the game was released in 2008. I’m pretty sure that’s a legally acceptable way to get my experience with AC across, haha. I’m having much more fun this time around, for what it’s worth!

I seem to have become somewhat obsessed with the design and furnishing of my house in the game. I never cared much about that before, but something about being a real-life homeowner makes it deeply satisfying. Most people go nuts with the many outlandish and brightly colored sets you can collect, but I’ve found myself drawn exclusively to extremely realistic and traditional design schemes. However, Animal Crossing only lets you customize your exterior in limited ways, so I’ve found myself incorporating elements of design that might be more appropriate outdoors into my AC rooms. Here’s my castle-style outside (new door and mailbox to come):

My "castle" exterior house in Animal Crossing: New Leaf.

For example, in my bathroom, I have a pair of these statue thingies called “Merlion(s).” I don’t know if that’s sort of like the Capricorn half-goat-half-fish thing or what, but I saw them in my Happy Homes showroom and went nuts and bought a pair immediately. Pretty sure they’d make more sense in a garden or courtyard, ya know? Perhaps you can’t tell, but water is continuously streaming out of their mouths, unless you face one and press the A Button. ;) Don’t worry about where the water goes. That’s not important in Animal Crossing. (Oh, and isn’t the parquet floor amazing? I would never have something that busy or frilly in real life, probably; we never saw a single detailed floor when we were house-hunting in Seattle. But I love the look especially with that wall; very Downton Abbey.)

My Animal Crossing bathroom, with a pair of Merlions.

Here are a couple more obsessive symmetry things that possibly belong outdoors, my maneki nekotachi (no idea if that’s how you pluralize it). I love the paw-raised kitty, and I used to have two with their right paws raised (which is more traditional) but Grant spotted a left paw one in the HHA and bought it for me. Yay! Proper symmetry: deeply pleasing. I know these are kind of a weird scale to have in an indoor home; they too look outdoorsy to me. But there WAS that big trend a few years ago of giant white ceramic animals that just sit on your floor and do nothing, so maybe these sort of fit into that category?

A pair of Japanese lucky cats (maneki neko).

Either way, now I kind of want to get a pair of these for my home office. After all, the right one is supposed to bring money/prosperity, and the left paw one is supposed to bring customers (according to this). What more perfect motif is there for my growing  business? I’m going to try to find a set that’s made of matte white, cream, or black ceramic with no colorful adornment, since I find the more traditional colored ones can look kinda gaudy. (And they also don’t go with my cool turquoise office décor.) There’s a local Japanese noodle restaurant called Boom Noodle that has some gorgeous plain matte white ones of various sizes on display in their foyer, so maybe they’ll share their source. After all, I can’t just run to Timmy & Tommy Nook in real life. Bummer!

Another matchy-matchy AC thing is my two Rococo Sofas, currently dyed Gothic Yellow but probably to be changed back to their original Gothic Brown at some point. (Oh, and matching Rococo Candlestick sconces on the wall, obvs. And yes matching fireplaces shut up.) I’ve actually been dying for two matching sofas in our real life living room (RLLR, LOL) but we’re having trouble finding two of the right dimensions and price point to work in our smaller living room/entryway, so I was pretty tickled to be able to scratch that itch in game. These are WAY more traditional and feminine than anything I’d put in my real-life house on purpose, but I think they’re charming here and the detail makes them that much more recognizable in the small scale of a DS game, even on an XL device.

A pair of matching Rococo Sofas and Rococo Candlesticks in Animal Crossing: New Leaf.

And yeah, I have not two but FOUR matching Peacock Chairs, because those too are lovely and feminine in game, and I also have two coffee tables instead of one because there aren’t many four-square coffee tables and SYMMETRY MATTERS PEOPLE. That probably should’ve been my post title, haha.

I used to have just plain cream sofas in my living room instead, which I liked a lot and now have in a weird upstairs den-like room because I’m smitten with the cowhide rug and retro TV. (The rug doesn’t scale well in a bigger AC room so I can just never ever expand this one, haha.) Even though I complained about retro legs in this long design post, I find them cute in this specific room, and somehow in AC all is forgiven. And I LOVE the look and idea of cowhide rugs in real life, but I don’t know that they’re all that practical in our home, and I don’t think Grant likes them that much, and I get the feeling I’d be “over” that look too soon for it to be financially viable. Again, AC to the rescue, letting me play with design elements I love in a safe space, haha. I actually love the look of two light sofas too, but in our household with a black cat already and with hopes for kids someday, cream sofas just wouldn’t fly. But something really clean and minimal with the arms the same height as the back is my favorite sleek look, even if it feels less functional. Aaaah, AC.

Cream sofas and a cowhide rug in Animal Crossing.

The one thing I really wish AC let you play with was window treatments. (Or maybe they do and I just haven’t gotten there. No spoilers, please!) Can’t you imagine big dramatic swags and valances and whatnot to fool around with? It is sort of a bummer that if you expand your main room, you lose the window along the middle of the back, and the only windows in any of the auxiliary rooms are also on the sides, so you have to manually move the camera around to view them. Maybe that’s why they didn’t bother with drapery options. But I’d go NUTS if I had that choice, especially since that’s an area I’m toying with at home in real life, too!

Oh, and I looooove my bedroom, with the matching Exotic set. I just learned the other day that you can dye it, so I’ll probably start experimenting with that next. It’s way more Asian inspired than most of my home furnishings, and while I do love getting multiple pieces of a matching set, this much feels like overkill. But you get points for having multiple pieces of a set! Which remind me of the satisfying joy of obtaining set bonuses in World of Warcraft raiding gear, haha. Since there’s no way I’d turn back to such a hardcore MMO between my current time management and tennis elbow concerns, it sure is nice to feel like a semi-competent fire mage as mayor of our little town.

IMG_5089

Last stop is my kitchen, which is pretty boring but still kinda fun because I used the Kitschy Tile and the Kitchen Wall in there. I would never normally put something so patterned up in a real house, but it’s kinda charming and reminds me of Spanish kitchens in Barcelona and Madrid that almost all have granite countertops and ceramic Moroccan-inspired patterned tile on the walls and usually a different larger-scale tile on the floor. This isn’t exactly a replica of that, especially given that there’s no countertop to speak of, but it’s a sort of chaotic, pattern-filled yet traditional retro vibe that reminds me of living in Spain.

My Animal Crossing kitchen.

So there you have it! My basement is boring, so I won’t show you that… oh fine; you’re right. We might as well. Gotta store those gyroids somewhere. Here it is:

My Animal Crossing basement full of gyroids.

LOVE that Library Wall, but not as much as I love the Ivy Wall that’s brick covered in creeping ivy vines. That’s in my museum exhibit (aka closet) now. It was perhaps my only treatment that’s truly strange for an interior; I like to keep my AC houses freakishly realistic but the ivy on the brick was too pretty to pass up. It sort of made no sense with this Modern Wood Floor, but I might reinstate it here in my basement if I can find some sort of outdoorsy-looking alternative at some point. Something that looks like a temple floor all in ruins with vines running everywhere would be perfect, right? ;)

As part of my Animal Crossing In Real Life ordinance, I actually wound up buying two matching indoor topiaries to flank the entrance to my kitchen. They’re no giant white cats, but they’ll do nicely! Check ’em out:

Matching topiary kumquat trees.

They’re kumquat (fortunella marginata nogami) trees that were grown at Monrovia and sold by Lowe’s for mad cheap; the gal marked them down from $60-something to $30 because they’re no longer flowering (even though the left one has two little green fruits!). I’m not sure if they’ll survive happily indoors, but they seem a bit hardier and less sun-desperate than the Meyer lemons I’ve managed to kill over the years, so I’m hoping I can at least keep them alive and happy-looking, if not fruiting.

I know they were still staked here, and I know I could ideally remove that annoying white cable for a more staged shot, but REAL LIFE ISN’T A VIDEO GAME YOU GUYS. I have to pay an electrician to make it so I can unplug that cable. For now, you get the idea. (The matchiness of the left hutch is new, too.) I’m quite pleased with this much symmetry; after all, I’m learning that matching identical pieces placed like this offer a sense of polish and formality to an otherwise casual and kind of haphazard collection of furniture from over the years. If I ever find me a real-life Cyrus to dye them up all custom (read: please send me Seattle upholstery referrals), I’ll let you know!

Back the f*ck out of Marco Arment’s finances

Back the f*ck out of Marco Arment’s finances

This is one of those TL;DR scenarios. I’ll do my best to sum it up quickly.

Yahoo bought Tumblr for a boatload of money.

-Marco Arment used to work for Tumblr; he weighs in on the acquisition in depth and eloquence, with a small passing mention of gratitude for the generosity of his former employer and the deliberately vague and modest description of a decent safety net if he’s prudent with how he manages his finances. And I quote (emphasis mine):

As for me, while I wasn’t a “founder” financially, David was generous with my employee stock options back in the day. I won’t make yacht-and-helicopter money from the acquisition, and I won’t be switching to dedicated day and night iPhones. But as long as I manage investments properly and don’t spend recklessly, Tumblr has given my family a strong safety net and given me the freedom to work on whatever I want. And that’s exactly what I plan to do.

-Anil Dash, whose technical background is questionable to some*, was pissy about something else and in response to that flippantly tweeted this snotty message to Marco, with vaguely racially-loaded tones:

EDITED: Apparently, Anil’s dick tweet wasn’t specifically in response to Marco’s financial mention, like I originally thought it was. But that’s how I misinterpreted it, because Twitter. Regardless, the following rant remains valid to me, because attacking Marco’s finances, even as a tangent in response to some other beef, is a shitty and immature thing to do. Thanks for the correction, Tweeps.

Marco got understandably annoyed with Anil’s tweet, and flamed him a bit, with other members of the tech community chiming in.

I was bothered by Anil’s tweet too, because I’ve been paying attention to Marco’s adventures since I first heard of Instapaper and Build & Analyze. So I tweeted up a storm, and a Twitter buddy asked me to blog it (probably in jest, but I did) so here you go:

Why am I so up in arms about the finances of some software developer across the country? Because this shit is PRIVATE, people. The fact that Marco has EVER mentioned ANYTHING related to ANY of his finances on ANY of his projects is a GENEROUS GESTURE on his part, because he clearly takes some stupid shit for it. We really are like paparazzi in this weird little nerd world, and it’s uncomfortable to share figures and income. Heck, when my husband and I bought our home in 2011, I was incredibly uncomfortable with the questions some friends posed, and the fact that plenty of them raced off to Zillow or Redfin to look up the exact purchase price.

There is SO MUCH context to any financial aspect of anyone’s lives. You don’t know how much we had saved up, how much we were loaned or gifted, how long we scrimped, how many dollars in closing costs or repairs we were awarded in that one little transaction, or how long we’ll have to wait before we feel comfortable booking air travel that isn’t with rewards miles, or how scary it was for me to part with an Amazon income to try out my own venture, or how often home cost paranoia keeps me up at night, or what a pain in the ass the entire process is. That misguidedly public transaction record is none of your goddamned business, and neither are the details of Marco Arment’s stock deal from a company he worked at four years ago.

So please, everyone. Appreciate that we get ANYTHING more than a canned “No comment” response from this young, smart, talented guy who’s bombarded with inappropriate and deeply personal questions as if he owed entitled jackal world an answer. Just back the fuck off, go focus on doing your own awesome work, and appreciate that Marco has offered up ANY insight into what you might aspire to or expect or be able to pull off if you spent your time focusing on your own accomplishments. Sheesh! ;)

*Anil’s tech expertise level is not my business to explore, nor does it interest me much. But I assume he’s more technical than me based on his self-identity as such, even though I’ve worked at/on and been recruited by some pretty fucking major software companies and projects myself. I’m not trying to brag here; I’m saying I’ve had quite a bit of first-hand experience within the tech world on paper, but I don’t consider myself an authority on projects with which I had absolutely no involvement. So regardless of how technical Anil is, he too should shut the fuck up sometimes and focus on his own shit more, in my not remotely humble opinion. OK I promise I’m done yelling at everyone now!

I suck at Photoshop

I suck at Photoshop

I’m trying to learn to become more independent in graphic design. I’m not remotely trained in any way. I’ve got an increasingly defined sense of design, although I’m just as susceptible to trends as the next blogger who suddenly decided that rounded corners were over yesterday. I finally got a copy of CS6 of my very own, but with no training or experience whatsoever, I of course suck at using it. And I’m constantly paralyzed by that. And since Grant is the one who’s been doing most of my image editing up until like right now, he’s the only one with access to the .psd versions of anything at all.

Beyond sucking at the actual tools, and not having assets, I’m just kind of clueless and/or thoughtless about the actual content I want to create. Sometimes I build things dumb or ugly just to not have to rebuild an entire other thing, you know? I understand this to be a common problem in software development; it certainly was in the game companies I’ve worked at. No one eeeeever designs the UI to be big enough for German terms, for example! Take that sidebar, to the left. The text “my day job” is not an effective or eye-catching way to link out to what I actually do in my online dating consulting business. This is a really, really important part of my identity; I’m trying to do it full time after leaving Big Tech and it’s scary and I’m broke and I’d like to generate more traffic and more paying clients. So you’d think I’d want to really make that stand out, right? But my stupid, stubborn sense of aesthetics dictates that everything in that sidebar (custom built by Grant, and tweaked with some help from John Hardman) should be the exact same height/font size and roughly the same width. So instead of rebuilding the sidebar to allow for some different copy, or reworking it so that all of the link-images were larger and could contain more text, I just came up with “my day job” placeholder and asked Grant to tweak it into place and now it’s stupid and doesn’t tell you to please go hire me for the fascinating weird thing I actually charge money for. Sure, you can get there if you’re curious enough to click, but I don’t trust you! :)

Anyway. I got this new Mac recently too, and am sitting on a post about my process adjusting to Mac after fifteen years of PC. I got this idea to make an iPhone app and I’m sitting on the process of really figuring out how I want it to work and learning enough fragmented bits of how to program to understand how to formulate reasonable requests to the very kind folks who have expressed an interest in helping me make something functional. And I got a copy of Photoshop and I have no idea how to use it. Sometimes I just feel so stuck by all the things I’d like to learn more about and can’t justify taking the time to learn more about, ya know? Not that I’m always using my time well (self-subtweet to this blog post) but I feel guilting spending money and time on a Lynda course when I should be doing more things to generate Heartographer leads.

I’ll get there; don’t worry. And I’ll come up with something catchier than “my day job” eventually. Maybe you can help—what do you think I should put there to drive people to The Heartographer? (Oh, and I turned off comments à la Marco and John but I’m not coding-savvy enough to know how to hack my custom theme to turn them on for certain posts only, so I guess you’ll have to tweet/FB/App me your response. Which you were probably going to do anyway, because it’s 2013, right? (But I still get blog comments on my other blogs sometimes, and I LOVE THEM when they happen and aren’t spam or dicks. So maybe I’ll go back.)

You thought this whole rambling post was going somewhere, didn’t ya? GOTCHA!

Oh wait, I was going to post something. This is some of my incredibly unprofessional art-attempts that I’ve made in my pre-Photoshop days whenever I needed content for a blog post or an ad campaign and didn’t know diddley about image editing or computer drawing or anything like that and I just needed to GO already. I think my Shlok Crest inspired me to at least feel semi-competent at creating stupid little doodles that other people might find amusing, and it was just so much easier than trying to learn an entirely unfamiliar software program to get something simple out the door. Sometimes you just have to ship it instead of really making it great, you know? Which I hate. Anyway. Enjoy!

Questioning Kitty
I believe this is the one I used in my Facebook campaign, because I am a professional. I believe the copy was something like “Is your cat worried about you? It might be time to start dating again.” I don’t fucking know. It helped me break 100 Likes which was the douchey goal from a friend who’s a marketing consultant. Yay confused felines?
Happy Birds
This was a part of the one we used for my Stranger (local alt weekly) ad. The birds are supposed to make you jealous, I guess? I drew it with ballpoint pen on paper and Grant scanned it and futzed with it in Illustrator, I think.
Sad Bird
The sad bird represents you, single person who wants to pay me money to help you find love online. Also for the Stranger ad.
"Copy This Bird" - that's all I have in my notes
This bird was an early attempt. You can see me experimenting with avian eyebrows. I have no idea what I’m doing. Pretty sure this was in MS Paint, and I tried to make the body out of smart shapes. Bad call. You can totally tell where “circle” ends, huh?
Lovelorn Kitty
This was an earlier attempt at a kitty for the FB ad. I’m partial to him even though I’m not sure why his face is curly and his body hair is straight. Also not sure why he’s a he, nor why he lacks whiskers. Life is full of mysteries. I did this on Paper on the iPad I think, just the free pen setting.
Another Lovelorn Kitty
Another lovelorn kitty for FB attempt. Sorry for the failure to crop, but this is just gonna get slapped in here all speedy-like. He didn’t look sad or confused enough.
Concerned kitty
This cat is concerned about your love life. This is more the direction I was going in, and I like the colors, but after I did this guy I realized the dimensions were off for Facebook’s very rigid specs.

Anyway, there you have it. I have no idea what I’m doing but these were kind of fun and I didn’t have to buy anything, pay anyone, or violate copyright. Yay.

A note (or novella) on harassment

A note (or novella) on harassment

On The Crossover Episode 8 today, a very important conversation happened. Sarah Parmenter and Whitney Hess joined Dan and Haddie to speak about serious harassment that both women have experienced. Sarah’s story in particular was harrowing, in that someone specifically targeted her by faking porn pictures of her and going out of his (come on, it’s a he) way to try to expose those photos to everyone in her large and prestigious professional circle. She wrote a recent blog post about the issue, which Whitney followed with a post of her own, and both women were very eloquent and amazing as they told their stories. I urge you to go consume all of that content for yourself, in this order: Sarah, Whitney, Crossover. Go back and do that before you finish this post! Or don’t, but you should. :)

I’m not a stranger to harassment, but I’m lucky. I haven’t been nearly as harassed or harassable as most of my female colleagues at most jobs I’ve worked at. I don’t know exactly why; I expect it has something to do with being naturally tall and loud, both of which are things I can’t change about myself (at least not easily). I hope part of it is my personality, too, but I honestly don’t know. I used to attract harassment when I was a teenager, but only from random strangers when I’d walk around the city, etc. Never from people I interacted with on a regular basis. That came later in life, and in a subtler costume.

I was harassed at my first “real” job after college, as a legal assistant for an attorney who turned out to be a Red Flag Elemental. I didn’t realize it until I’d been there a while, but his harassment of me was much subtler than anything I had learned to spot as harassment, even though I grew up surrounded by hippie feminist liberals. I was more skeeved out by some of the questionable law practices in that office than by any of the potentially inappropriate harassment-type stuff, and I booked it pretty quickly even though I didn’t have a good exit strategy, because I just didn’t want to be around that vibe even if it meant I was broke and desperate and totally alone.

That drove me to a different law firm job, for a high-powered attorney who was both feminist and old-fashioned. She always wore below-the-knee skirts with nylons because you never knew when you’d end up in court, and some judges are old school enough to believe women shouldn’t wear pants in their courtrooms. (That thing that happened to Alicia Florrick on The Good Wife? Totally happens in real life.) She was a very ethical senior partner, but shady things still happened out of her line of sight. After I left the firm, and I believe after my former boss passed away, I heard through the grapevine that a female legal assistant was let go after sticking up for herself when a partner (later disbarred for unrelated reasons) smacked her rear with a newspaper in the copy room. I like to think such a thing wouldn’t have happened on her watch, but I think lesser things must have.

Then I moved on to jobs with a more subtle type of harassment; the ones where you’re denied opportunities for growth because you’re female, or you inherit a higher-powered position without inheriting a commensurate salary bump, or you’re spoken to in different ways than your male counterparts for the same types of offenses, or mansplaining is inescapable. Those are standard rate at almost any place of work, and you have to learn how to advocate for yourself in those circumstances. There’s discussion I don’t care to expand upon here about how that’s partly gendered behavior; about how some men face those same challenges. I don’t doubt it. But all that was minor league stuff compared to what I encountered when I entered the video game industry.

Working as a female in games is a blessing and a curse. So many amazing women are entering the field more and more often, but I get why they’re reluctant. I get why the #onereasonwhy phenomenon struck. Women who are comfortable wearing attractive clothes are slobbered over; inappropriately joked about or to. Women who are not conventionally attractive are the subject of some seriously messed-up conversations and jokes. It doesn’t help when you work on a product that has a minimum cup size of approximately Z for all its female NPCs; I hate to think of what the entertainment (or adult entertainment) industries are like. The most wildly inappropriate things have happened at the allegedly-AAA places I’ve worked at, though I have to say it seems like working in QA is truly the dregs. Testers and people who work in testing somehow seem to have a massive overlap with people who either lack appropriate social graces, or choose to override them to deliberately harass, belittle, demean, and disgust the women in their workplace. This is insanely frustrating as a tester who simply loves being picky about errors and making things look better. I didn’t ask for the stigma that accompanies a burning perfectionist core and a devil’s-in-the-details eye. (Watch me make like nine typos in this post.)

I don’t yet feel like I have enough distance or legal protection to get into the specifics about the things that have happened to me and to my female coworkers. But you know the strangest thing? Big Tech jobs are where I’ve felt by FAR the least amount of harassment thus far. Big Tech is where everyone was professional to me, where there was a decent balance of women vs. men (even if the women tended to be more PMs and the men more SDEs), and where I generally felt that there was less homophobia, bigotry, and inappropriate expression. It wasn’t gone, but it wasn’t nearly as rough as when I worked in video games. I felt more of a dev/business animosity than any kind of male/female animosity. But I also wasn’t in any Big Tech role for long, and I was always there primarily as a linguist for hire, and not a lasting asset.

I’m grateful that I haven’t gone through the types of things that Sarah and Whitney (and yes, even Haddie) have experienced. But you know what? I suspect it’s coming. I’m prettier than I used to be (neither fishing nor bragging; I simply know how to put myself together better than I used to). I’ve gained a bunch of weight, which in some views makes me less attractive, but of course I’m curvier as a result and that invites a different kind of harassment. I’m also likely to become pregnant at some point, which will invite a different kind of creepiness, I hear. And I’m growing my business. My Twitter following has more than doubled in the past few months, and my Facebook page is growing slower but will probably take off if I do things right. I’m trying to scale up a very public business that involves very personal and intimate interactions, and I don’t know how far it will go, but I aim to become something of a minor media figure someday kinda soon.

I’m sure that unacceptable trolling and harassment  is something I’ll face again even though I don’t work in game studios or law offices any more. Stories like the ones Whitney, Haddie and Sarah shared help raise awareness, help women everywhere stand up for themselves, and help educate and encourage men to stand up for an environment free from sexism, harassment and nastiness. Please go peruse their stores, and please pay it forward in whatever way you can by impacting your own circles with an understanding of the fact that it is absolutely not okay to tolerate harassment, even the minor kind. Women everywhere need your support. (Including me.)

PAX recs for out-of-towners

PAX recs for out-of-towners

Here are my PAX 2012 tips for out-of-towners, since I found myself giving them verbally to many people. Hope they’re useful! Stay sane, well hydrated and fed, and above all enjoy your PAX experience. And wash your damn hands!

CLOSE
Noc Noc (Goth-ish bar) for drinks. Try the chili; surprisingly edible.
Cupcake Royale for sweets. If you’re stuck just go with salted caramel like everyone else; popular for a reason.
• City Target for a weirdly NYC-like shopping experience.
• The crêpes in front of the con are way better than Subway and the line is always shorter, silly. Branch out!
• Food at the Internet-eschewing gyro place on Pine between 1st and 2nd is totally solid and cheap, but runs spicy.
Market Grill for a grilled halibut sandwich. Ask the Chukar Cherries people if you can’t find it. Worth the $15; skip the chowder.
Le Pichet and the Virginia Inn are yummy, low-key, and less overloaded than closer places. Don’t be a wuss because of the Frenchy menu; it’s delish.
• If you want the market guys to throw a fish, it helps to buy one. Chat up a local who will take it off your hands for a discounted price.

LESS CLOSE
Pink Gorilla and Kinokuniya in the ID are kind of (y)our mothership. Don’t take photos of merch. While there, hit Beard Papa and/or Samurai Noodle. Worth the cramped conditions.
Local 360 for fancy foodie fare. Try the rabbit anything.
• Gamma Ray Games in Capitol Hill wants & deserves your business.
Shorty’s has legit pinball machines, rad hot dogs, and grown-ass drinks.

NOT CLOSE
• If you have a car, get thee to a Full Tilt Arcade—pinball, beer and local ice cream. Multiple non-downtown locations.
Homegrown makes the best goddamn sandwiches you’ll ever eat (and I don’t even *like* sandwiches). Skip the soup.
Card Kingdom is like it sounds; heaven for tabletop geeks.
Brouer’s is another Goth-vibed joint with a mind-blowing beer section. Daytime darkness, too, if you’re into that. Close to The Troll by car so you might as well drive past it.
• If you wanna drop some dough on a really amazing meal, try to visit Canlis. Get the prawns (non-cocktail) appetizer.

REALLY NOT CLOSE
• If you’re doing any scenic WA drives anyway, make your way to Bandy’s Troll Haven. Worth the minor detour, and you needn’t even exit your vehicle. No spoilers!

MISC. TIPS
• Restroom best bets near PAX are Macy’s, Nordstrom and Pacific Place.
• Pay phones still exist in the bus tunnel underneath Macy’s and in the lobbies of hotels. You might just need them when the networks predictably crash and you can’t call or text anyone. Figure out how to dial in to your voicemail remotely and get quarters.
• Don’t get peed on by the freak tenants in the apartments on the SE corner of 2nd & Pine. For reals, look up & think fast.
• Wash your hands. Seek the free Purel swag on day 1 and use it often. There’s a Walgreens and Bartell’s and Target and more all within a couple blocks if you lose it or run out. Down with crowdsourcing plagues!
Fox Sports Bar, Taproom and Cheesecake Factory all have cold cold AC. Said AC is the only real reason to patronize these establishments. Better yet, make friends with someone who works for a downtown dev studio and go cool off there. (Works best on Friday when normal office facilities are on.)
• Stay away from Pioneer Square itself. Just… you don’t need that. Belltown should be explored for overpriced fancy food/drinks, but not for nightlife. These two neighborhoods are not for us geeks, trust me.
• Look both ways, dummy. Cross when it says to or when it’s for real clear, INCLUDING CYCLISTS. They will cut you. Use your signal. Walk on the right. Don’t sidewalk or car text. Wait for everyone to exit the elevator/bus/streetcar before you enter. Everyone here does all that shit wrong all of the time, of course, but there’s an assload more people in town right now so please aim to be smart and courteous.

BONUS ROUND
• You unlock a Seattle achievement if you sneak into the ladies’ room of the Columbia Tower Club (75th floor, members only, no spoilers for the tourists plz).

Custom retinae-searing backgrounds

Custom retinae-searing backgrounds

I recently wound up with a need for a custom background showing different possible desktop resolutions, but I was shocked when I failed to find something pre-made out there on the Internet. (It’s possible I just wasn’t querying the right thing, as I kept getting stuff more geared to television-specific aspect ratio options.) So naturally, what did I do? I got Grant to solve the problem. :)

He whipped up a couple of custom backgrounds to use at work for MMO UI testing, with the specific resoutions that I needed (and the one I use most often in bolder text). I found these to be really well designed and kind of charming, even though the colors render so brightly on some monitors that my coworkers are constantly crying about it.

There are two versions, depending on the dimensions of your monitor. And obviously, these aren’t going to work for all games or all monitors, but I think they’re optimized to cover most hardware options and PC (or at least MMO) gaming resolutions, though you may have to trim to fit. (Click on it for the big image). (If you run in 1680×1050 and don’t need 1600×1200, you’ll need to use the top image; if you run in 1600×1200, you’ll use the bottom image and have to trim off the side to make it fit with your desktop perfectly.)

Anyway, I found these to be very helpful and actually kind of elegant, at least with my color display. Just thought I’d share this tool for other software folks out there who want to easily drag a window to see how stuff displays at different resolutions — enjoy!

Ten reasons I haven’t blogged lately.

Ten reasons I haven’t blogged lately.

1) I got married. That was kind of busy.

2) I have a new job. It, of course, takes up a lot of my time, passion, energy, and tennis elbow quotient. But it’s loads of fun! I’m the French Linguistic QA Specialist at NCsoft, and I primarily focus on French-language text in Aion, a Korean-developed MMO.

3) I’ve been consulting more, helping people write ads or tweak their profiles. Check out my consulting page at www.loveb.ug for more info, but basically, between that and my full-time day job I’ve had less leisure time and less inclination to blog.

4) I’ve been blogging elsewhere. Namely, at heliotro.pe, about beauty. Occasionally at my lovebl.og. Not nearly enough there.

5) I’ve also been Tweeting elsewhere. Mostly @heliotro_pe, sometimes @loveb_ug, and rarely @ginnielizz.

6) I went to Japan, which required the learning of some Japanese. And because of #2 I’m also learning some Korean. And we’re also learning some Brazilian Portuguese for a friend’s upcoming wedding in Rio. Whew!

7) Oh yeah, I changed my name. (See #1.) That was kind of a pain in the ass, truth be told. All done now, hence the new URL!

8) The aforementioned tennis elbow. It sucks. It makes typing and mousing lots really, really hard.

9) I’m trying to work on a book relating to my consulting practice (see #3), but #8 is obviously interfering. While there are entertaining tools to help with this, they don’t work so well on the go!

10) Turns out I only had nine reasons. :)