Oldskooler Ramblings

the unlikely child born of the home computer wars

Archive for April, 2009

Back from Block Party 2009

Posted by Jim Leonard on April 20, 2009

It is a cliche to say “this year was the best Block Party ever” so I won’t even try to claim it.  But they have all rocked mightily in their own way.

When I was younger and childless, I had tons of free time to write long party reports.  I don’t have that luxury any more, so I’ll summarize my Block Party experience in many little bite-size chunks:

The ride to/from BP with Virt and Necros exceeded my wildest dreams.  I don’t normally suffer from rampant fanboy-ism, so I kept it cool, but I did pinch myself once or twice.  I got a lot of answers to some game industry and musicology questions I’d been meaning to ask for a long time as well.

Gargaj was a very welcome addition to BP; big thanks to Jason for flying him over.  His talk on how to bridge the gap between the North American and European demoscenes was enlightening, especially with what the main fears of a party organizer are (here, it’s “will we get enough money to do this properly”, whereas over there it’s “will someone else take over the party when I’m not looking and turn it into a gamerfest”).  He also took time out of partying to help me with me compo entry, and helped keep me on track when I was starting to go nuts from exhaustion.

Speaking of which, I brought a Tandy 1000 and coded an intro completely at the partyplace, bringing only a PCjr assembly book (for graphics reference) and my old CGA rotozoomer routine.  I coded a scroller (and spent way too much time optimizing it when I should have gone for a new effect) and submitted it to the oldskool demo compo.  Phoenix / Hornet entered as well.  Unfortunately, there weren’t enough entries to hold the oldskool demo compo, so those entries were rolled over into the wild compo, where Phoenix won 1st place and I won 3rd out of nearly ten entries.  While I’m happy Hornet won two out of the three places, I am somewhat disappointed that some of the other entries didn’t.  I spent about 18 hours on my entry, but there were some really awesome hardware entries (a hardware NES/SNES tune player, an implementation of Milkdrop on an FPGA) as well as creative ones (complete foley and soundtrack on Turkish Rambo!) and I feel all of those were much better than mine.  They deserved to place and/or win instead of me.

1am Saturday Morning, Virt and Necros and The Fat Man were jamming in the demo lounge.  In case that isn’t awesome enough a thought for you, Fat Man was jamming on some little nearly-toy hardware, and Necros was using Ableton on his laptop (literally using his laptop keyboard, which has one octave and a 40ms delay!).  In case that wasn’t surreal enough, there was the experience of Virt playing (on a piano keyboard) one of Necros’ tracked tunes back to him.

Jason pulled his usual trick of packing a ton of information and context into a presentation that he barely prepared for.  When I prepare for a talk, I spend about a month getting ready.  This is how he gets ready:

jasonprep1

Instead of gaining weight at the partyplace, I lost 1.5 pounds.  Crazy.

The entire mobile blogging thing is just too clunky without a full-size keyboard, so I don’t think I’ll be doing that again.  And cell-phone pictures generally disappoint.  Still, if you’d like to check out some pics, here’s my Block Party set.  Don’t forget to check out Jason’s Block Party Set (much nicer).  Val has a Gallery too.

If I remember more (I’m a bit rushed at the moment), I may go back and edit this post to expand it.

Posted in Demoscene | 17 Comments »

Blogging on the move at Block Party 2009

Posted by Jim Leonard on April 15, 2009

I’m headed off to Block Party 2009; hopefully I can see some of you there, and maybe meet some new sceners.  I am going to try to enter the oldskool demo compo, but no promises.  (I am a very slow coder, because I am overly paranoid careful.)  This year, I’m part of a four-man party bus with virt, necros, and Ubik — a #traxing good time should ensue.

This year, I’m going to join the 21st century and attempt some mobile blogging.  I recently got a Blackberry Curve, and it has this newfangled internet connectivity and positional stuff, so I’m going to try to use it.  I’ll be taking pictures (automatically geotagged, of course) and posting them to my Flickr photostream, and I’ll also be updating where I am and what I’m doing on hopefully a sub-hourly basis on my Twitter account.

So, let’s recap how to follow me:

MobyGamer’s photostream

MobyGamer’s twitter feed

God help me.

Posted in Demoscene, Vintage Computing | 4 Comments »

Nikki and me

Posted by Jim Leonard on April 1, 2009

In 1994, when I was 23, Melissa and I adopted a kitten from a stray that someone from work had taken in, and named her Nikki.  She was more neurotic than playful, more stupid than smart, more heavy than svelte.  Her fur was dull, with a dander problem.  Once she was no longer a kitten, she didn’t like being held or scratched for very long.

She turned into a crotchety old woman in about two years.  She now wanted scratching, but only on the sides of her face — and if you weren’t doing it right, she’d bite you as a reminder of the proper technique.  She complained every time you brushed her, making her the only cat I have ever encountered that doesn’t enjoy being brushed.  She no longer purred, even when given a favorite food or scratched in an acceptable manner.

No matter the outcome, time heals all wounds.  It took the both of us about a decade before we had each other figured out.  Some examples from the last six years:

  • At night, I would sit down at the computer, and she’d bug me to scratch the sides of her face (complete with impatient biting).  Sometimes she’d stand on her two hind legs just to reach something to bite.  Then she’d lay back down, either at my feet or under the nearby table.  Clockwork.
  • I could call her name; like a dog, she would come from anywhere in the basement.  (She preferred to live in the basement, even though she had full run of the house.)
  • When guests visited, she was abnormally affectionate and purred loudly.  To mock me, I suppose.
  • When I tried to record video of anything, she made sure to get a word in edgewise to ruin the shot.  You can hear her at the end of the 8088 Corruption google video, for example.
  • When I got up and left the computer room, she pretended not to notice.  Yet whenever I returned, she’d be at the doorway.
  • When we developed a mouse problem one year, she left me mice under my chair until I got the hint that the mounting corpses were not an isolated event.
  • Amazingly, she learned to teleport.  At least, I think she did, because whenever I sat down to watch some TV, she would somehow appear next to me on the couch without me noticing how she got there.

I also found out that if I held her very tightly, as in preventing-her-from-escaping tightly, she would actually enjoy it, settle down, and start purring.  This, after 13-odd years of not purring.  Crazy.  The world’s first autistic cat.

A few months ago, we noticed that the common pet water bottle in the kitchen was getting emptied at nearly double the rate it had the previous year.  We discovered we had a raccoon problem (let that be a warning to those of you with pet doors), and we took care of it… but the water usage continued to be high.  It turned out to be Nikki, who was escaping the comfort of the basement to get additional water when hers ran out.  We then found her pooping outside of her litter box.  Then the pooping slowed to one movement a week, while the wayward urination grew to such volume that it saturated her litter box every day.  I didn’t want to admit it, but recognized this as chronic renal failure.  We’d been through CRF with a previous pet.  CRF is terminal.

Two days ago, I made the heart-wrenching decision to put Nikki to sleep.  My decision was made to spare her the later stages of CRF, which include severe pain, wasting, uncontrollable vomiting, and convulsions, all of which can last for weeks before death.  I wanted her to leave this world in comfort, with dignity.  I spent last night with her doing whatever she wanted to do, which was mostly laying on me and watching TV.  (I am fortunate she enjoyed watching UFC and Adult Swim as much as I do, so we didn’t have to fight over the remote.)  I dragged a string around the floor, which she chased, even at her age.  I let her eat some of my cereal.  She took a nap while I read a book.

We said goodbye this morning.  I had to pull over driving back.

She was 15 years old.  She witnessed my marriage to Melissa, then the birth of my two children.  She was that unique type of cat who acts more like a dog than a cat, as she was somehow always in the same room you were in.  In fact, I think that’s why she preferred to stay in the basement:  Not to avoid the dog, but to be around someone with consistent patterns (me).

Most owners would prefer that their cats not bite their fingers.  I am already missing it.

Nikki in 1994

Nikki in 1994

Nikki in 2009

Nikki in 2009

Posted in Family | 51 Comments »

 
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