Why I am Losing Faith in Nintendo

Why I am losing faith in Nintendo

If I wasn’t already disappointed with Nintendo handing out DMCA’s like it’s candy for Halloween, I must say that I am really feeling it now with the announcement of Metroid: Samus Returns. This is after Nintendo shutdown the popular Another Metroid 2 Remake (AM2R). Look, I get it. Copyright, it needed to be done. I’m not saying AM2R isn’t copyright. However, Nintendo is creating a PR fiasco in my opinion, one that is really hurting my desire as an indie developer to make games for a Nintendo product.

Here’s how I see it. There are hundreds if not thousands of indie projects out there that are using copyrighted material from Nintendo games or products. The issue that is presented here is that clearly Nintendo doesn’t care if you copy their material unless your project gets stupid popular and could threaten their own development projects.

Seriously, it wasn’t until the game was nearly finished and nominated for The Game Awards for best fan creation. The Game Awards are one of the largest industry events acknowledging the greatest games developed. AM2R and Pokemon Uranium were both DMCA’d right after being announced as nominees for the event. Keep in mind they were both labeled as “fan created” projects. AM2R started out as a project “that I [Milton Guasti] started working on to learn Game Maker Studio.”

I have always told people who I’m teaching how to make video games that the most important thing you can be doing is to be working on something. For my personal struggle in learning how to program, I learned the most by reverse engineering video games. So, I will admit that AM2R really resonates with me.

It is just too damn coincidental in my opinion that AM2R was DMCA’d at the height of its success. Then the following E3, Nintendo releases a surprise: Metroid: Samus Returns. What about all the other “fan” projects? What will be DMCA’d next that threatens Nintendo?

Forever Changed

At 5:37am, my life forever changed. I knew the time was coming, but the moment hadn’t “caught up” to me yet. I had always imagined what it would be like once the time came, and let me tell you, I don’t think you can truly be prepared for it. As he came into this world, it was the most surreal experience of the life. Becoming a father literally took my breath away, which was followed by unexpected tears of joy.

Connor James Schnase, I hardly know you, but I will love you forever. I already can’t wait to see what kind of man you will become. I know that there will be joy and pain along the road ahead, but we’ll get through it buddy. I will forever be by your side, even if/when this physical body fails. Holding you for the first time, and watching you as you sneezed for the first time… words cannot describe the feeling. But, I knew immediately at that point, that I would do anything for you.

What I can’t even begin to define, is that feeling I received that I could only call it as a divine order. I knew immediately, with such a strong fire, that you are my responsibility. And, let me tell you this, I am eager to step up to the challenge, even though I know I will horribly fail you. I am not good enough, and I surely am not perfect, but I will do my absolute best to do right by you.

I can’t thank God enough for the blessing he has put upon me, my wife, family, and friends. It definitely takes a village, and I am so very thankful to be surrounded by so many people that will help keep me accountable, so that I truly can do my best to do right by you. The world can be a dark and scary place, but man, what a ray of blinding light you have brought with you.

I love you Connor James, CJ, Schnase. Welcome to a whole new world, for both of us.

Connor James Schnase

Well, I didn’t start a fire…

It’s been a while since my last post, but it isn’t because I have been lazy. As I mentioned previously, I have been studying to learn Japanese. It’s been a difficult but fun and rewarding experience thus far. Lately, I’ve been wanting to do something a bit crazy, according to my wife, but creative, according to me.

My sister-in-law, Jennifer, has been obsessed with Korean culture, and so we’ve made an interesting pair sharing different things we’ve discovered across our Asian interests. Which is to say we don’t stick to either Japanese or Korean based media. It’s also been fun to see similarities across the different Asian languages. To promise for instance, in Japanese it is yakusuru, and in Korean it is yagsog, which phonetically sound quite similar.

Anyways, I decided to make my own kotatsu, a Japanese heating table. It’s similar to our American coffee tables, however, the Japanese often sit at these tables in their living rooms. Their TV’s are often nearby on a stand of some sort, and that is usually where they socialize and entertain guests. They can often be found with zaisu’s, legless chairs, that can fold out to become a sort of bed cushion for sleeping on.
japan-kotatsu-heated-table-bed-2-600x480 kotatsu
make-your-own-kotatsu-diagram
Designing my kotatsu was a little bit of a challenge. Not surprising, there aren’t a lot of options for us in the US for purchasing these tables, so finding schematics to build one were also a little tricky. I found a few people recommending coffee tables from IKEA that they re-purposed for their kotatsu’s. I didn’t even bother considering this option because not only was this a “close approximate” to the real deal, it was going to be a bit of a purchase for low quality wood.

ikea-table

The next issue came about was the heating element to use. You can buy kotatsu heaters, but like I mentioned previously, living in the US doesn’t give you a lot of options. The largest issue is that in Japan, their electricity is rated for 100v AC, where as here in the US we are rated for 120v AC. There is a good chance that plugging in a kotatsu heater into my outlets would blow the heater from the power surge. So I would have to purchase additional equipment like a voltage regulator to allow for the difference there.

So, I found some basic measurements, and decided that 32” x 32” would be a good sized tabletop, and that ~15” in height would be about what I wanted. I decided what size wood would work where and why for the table, and had most of it planned out before going to the store to buy my materials. I even had my notch joints and corner joints figured out, and roughly how I wanted to pull them off.

The biggest issue remained, and that was the heating element. My wife was skeptical about this part, but I had this space heater lying around in my basement. It worked fine, but I decided that it would be perfect for what I needed. It has an LCD Screen to boot, which if I could figure out how to incorporate that into my table, it would add a little extra flair to it’s finished design. I opened it up, and got a basic understanding of how it is wired. Surprised, it really wasn’t that complicated of a setup. I’d be curious about buying the parts individually. The unit cost me around $35 if I remember correctly.

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I went and purchased the required materials I would need, the only ones not pictured would be the dowel rods I used and the jig I purchased for drilling them.

I didn’t include all the wood, as I started cutting my materials, and then remembered to take a picture.

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So, I broke the table down to a few different groups: the interior support which would end up holding the heating element; the exterior support, which would hold the legs, and connect to the interior support, and the tabletops. I made my first cuts in all the wood, and prepared for a loose fit to see how it was looking thus far.

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As I was preparing the loose fit for the interior notch joints, I caused my first casualty. Thankfully, I had enough leftover wood that I had enough for one spare length. I was much more careful about the fit the second time around! I then prepped the notch joints for dowel joints that would connect to the exterior supports

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Once I finished with those, I worked on the exterior support, and loose fit the exterior to the interior supports.

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I then started working on the heating element housing. This was probably my favorite part of the project. I also cut out the LCD Screen and figured out a way to mount that safely to the wood.

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I tested to make sure that it works!

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So now I’ve finished the core of the table. The supports are all connected the first table top has been fixed into place. I also, organized my cords, and made a little bracket for my power switch.

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Then next challenge was to install the table legs, and to my surprise the table was pretty darn level! I then loose fit the second table top and took a sample shot of it.

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The stain turned out better than I expected. It really brought the detail of the wood out. I ended up dowel jointing the second table top, and it turned out good, but the seem is kind of noticeable. I think I will eventually upgrade to a single piece if I am able to, or more appropriately, care enough to. But the finished product turned out pretty great.

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As I mentioned before, Jennifer and I enjoy watching Asian shows together, which we refer to as “nerding out.” So, now we can nerd out, while nerding out!

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Research: Online or in a Book?

When I started my new job as a copier technician, I discovered I enjoy playing with electronics. I’ve always been fascinated by them, but never really understood why. In theory, on some nanoscopic level, all data is in the form of 0’s and 1’s. The words I’m typing now, from the keyboard to the motherboard to the hard drive, the operating system, back out to the graphics card happens instantaneously in the form of 1’s and 0’s. But, whether I am studying game development theories, learning Japanese, researching the basics for electronics, or whatever currently suits my fancy, I feel that starting out online has been the wrong way to start. Furthering my thought, I was researching some books to read and came across The Life of Kenneth, who had this quote, Books – Online references will get you far, but the internet still can’t beat the cohesiveness of a well-put-together book.”

I found this really quite fascinating as I was on the verge of saying this myself. But, I’m an avid techno-guru, so I should be able to figure this out. I made this comment about a year and a half ago about programming. I was considering going back to school because there is only so much you can teach yourself. You need to have a structured curriculum that is designed for learning. It takes you through the annoying baby steps, and even though you’d like to skip ahead, it is essential to build a proper foundation to expand from there.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t start by researching online, not by any means. I just think that all of your research shouldn’t be dedicated to any one medium. When I start out learning something new, I first go online to see what kind of reference materials I should start collecting, which most of the time will be books. I say books because I want to get two or three on the same topic from different authors. I feel that you learn more that way because most often everyone wants to push “their” way on you. But, I’m just trying to find “my way.”

So you’ve gone online and you’ve obtained your books. As you go through those books, you’ll have questions come up. Which you can follow up with by researching those questions online. If you can’t find the answer to a question online, rather than asking a professional know-it-all, I suggest you keep it written down and continue reading your books. There is a good chance you are asking about something that just hasn’t been explained yet. If you ask a knowledgeable person about something you couldn’t get an answer for, you may end up getting overloaded with information about stuff you aren’t even close to understanding yet. That results in confusion and doubt about whether or not you are cut out to learn this stuff. I’m going to say this right now, “YOU ARE CUT OUT TO LEARN THE STUFF!”

I don’t care what it is, but you need to know that you are capable of learning anything you wish. But, you need to start small and work your way there. It’s not the matrix, where you just download whatever to your brain. It will take time, and it will feel like work some days, but you can do it! I was a low B student in high school who didn’t view school as being important. I wish I had today, but that is talk for another day. But, once you start creating good study habits, self-teaching becomes a real, tangible, rewarding system.

When you want to start learning something, take the time to get yourself started right. I have become a huge fan of going to the library and taking a look at their non-fiction section. There is a lot of stuff written down in those books, and will help you get your feet wet. From there you can do as I mentioned previously and start looking online for further discussion on specific topics, as well as find videos of people explaining related information about your topic.

I’m not sure who the first was to say this, but it goes something along these lines, “Reading one book a month will make you a top expert in your field.” From my self-teaching perspective, I have to be inclined to agree. I’m not an all-star by any means, but I have adapted the ability to remember what I’ve read. Which has helped me a lot in my current line of work. There have been a lot of computer based training (CBT) courses I’ve had to take over the past few months, and my manager tells people I have a “computer-like” brain. I can read something once and it’s locked away for recollection later.

I wish I could say that is the truth, but I can’t help but notice that I seem to recall information much faster or easier than the other techs I work with. Not to mention it has evolved my game development ability from designing on paper to programming on the computer. I am working on a second language, and have also picked up pyrography and became an amateur electrician. It is a lot of fun, but can also be extremely frustrating sometimes. However, I can’t help but think it is helping my abilities in some way, shape, or form.

Question of the Day: How do you approach research? Do you find books helpful at all?

Looks Like We’re Going Back to Transylvania…

I mentioned previously that a couple friends of mine were interested in joining me on a grand adventure. We are going to explore some of the best rated games of all time. Looking at each console, we are going to prepare our minds and attempt to play these games as intended. We will also share any notable facts surrounding each game we decide to play. A few days ago, Kyle and I decided to start off on a high note with DuckTales for the NES, or as it was called in Japan, わんぱくダック夢冒険 Wanpaku Dakku Yume Bōken which literally translated to, “Naughty Ducks Dream Adventures.” (*giggles*)

After a few attempts, we were able to get the game loaded and running. Good old NES cartridges! Overall, I have to say that despite the game being quite difficult, it was a lot of fun. There are only 5 levels in the entire game, and I counted 45 deaths to beat the first two levels. What makes the game even more difficult is that you have to start all over when getting a game over. Kyle and I agreed that we’ll “unofficially” beat the game. We spent roughly five hours on it, and our best attempt we died at Duck Dracula, the final boss. We played on normal difficulty as well, so maybe we would had better luck if we tried it on easy mode. We did note that there was an even harder “Difficult” setting we could have chosen.

DuckTales for the NES was actually Capcom’s first licensed product that they personally developed. Using key developers from the Mega Man series. The game also has a Mega Man feel to it as most of the game used Mega Man’s framework. One of the things that really stood out was the non-linear level design. There were often many different paths throughout the level, and you are able to explore each one on the same play through if desired.

The game would go on to becoming a best seller, and finding its place on many “greatest games” lists. The game was ported on to the Game Boy in 1990, a year after it was originally released in the US. The game was originally released in the US in September of 1989, which is interesting as the US received it before Japan a few months later in January of 1990. In most cases, it was usually the other way around and was that way for most of my childhood. DuckTales was never brought to the Wii’s Virtual Console, an emulation software Nintendo developed for players to buy older games and play them on their Wii and Wii U consoles, however, it was remastered for the PS3, Xbox 360, and Wii U. The remastered version received decent reviews, most placing it around 70% or higher. However, GameSpot was the harshest at 4.5/10.

The Story of DuckTales revolves around our greedy hero, Scrooge McDuck, who sets off to recover the five legendary treasure hidden throughout the land. Along the way he will also receive help from his friends. Launchpad is most notable here as he will sometimes help you get over a large chasm, or will take you back to Duckburg to stockpile the money you’ve collected.

The game played incredibly smooth, living up to its reputation as having “tight controls.” We only noticed a few spots that the system would get bogged down from having too many sprites animating on the screen at once. What became the most used mechanic was Scrooge’s cane, which players could use as a pogo stick to get around the level. He could also use the cane when against an object.

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DuckTalesNES-Controls 2

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There are five levels to choose from, each with different enemies and elements the player must overcome to find the legendary treasure hidden away in each one. The most interesting level I thought was the Himalayas, which was covered in snow and prevented Scrooge from using his pogo stick.

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What I immediately loved about this game started from the first level. I didn’t look up the game’s manual until I started writing this review. And you know what? I didn’t need to have it to play the game! (*gasp*) That said, there was no tutorial for the game either. The player was able to get right to the action with intuitive controls, and learn the rest as they went. We quickly discovered that large and small gems were added to our total money, and if we got a game over we had to start all over. Ice cream is a great way to heal your missing hit points should have taken damage throughout the level, and little scrooge duck figures gave you extra lives. Cakes were highly valuable, as they would restore all missing hp, instead of just one. The most important one to discover is the X shaped star item. This increased your HP by 1, to a max of five. I assume it is five, but I could be wrong here.

DuckTalesNES-Items

DuckTalesNES-Items

DuckTales had a lot of neat little tricks to keep the game fresh. Each level featured new enemies that had new behaviors. While predictable, the player still had to find a way to defeat the enemies, or decide if it was worth to fight them. I think Kyle and I will have PTSD from the goats found in the Himalayas for some time yet. I’ve included a couple of my favorite little design features about the level design.

On the left you can see how you need to hit the rock, which then hits the chest, knocking it down and killing the enemy snake. This feature was found a couple of times throughout the game, and you can’t help but smile when you come across it on the screen. You know what’s about to happen, yet the enemy does not. On the right, the player has to destroy the block preventing the boulder from moving. As soon as he does he needs to move out of the way, and jump over the boulder. If the player destroys the bottom block after the boulder, he would get hit by the boulder as it made its way back from hitting the wall on the right. It nice little sense of urgency never hurt anyone, right?

DuckTalesNES-Amazon Interesting Level Design 1

This one is pretty classic Mega Man, however, I still love these blind paths. What you can’t see, is that this image is actually two screens. The player would have to climb up the left rope to the second screen, where he can’t see the bottom of the vine on the right. He would then fall to the right, passing back to the first screen, and hope he made it over far enough to grab the second vine. It’s just interesting how such simple level design adds a degree of skill and problem-solving to overcome.

DuckTalesNES-Amazon Level Design

One of the things that made me a bit giddy involved mine carts. Granted, I grew up with the Super Nintendo, so it is only natural that I immediately thought about Donkey Kong Country each time I see a mine cart in a level. However, DuckTales featured them as well! Not to the extent of which DKC used them, but you still had to expertly time your jumps, or fall to your death.

One of the things that made this game the hardest involved hit boxes. The game seemed to employ large hit boxes, so you had to be extra careful. However, in the first level, there is a stupid bee that you might as well just bend over and be prepared to take a hit.DuckTalesNES-Bee Bend Over

DuckTalesNES-Hit Boxes

I really only had two major complaints about the game. 1) Sometimes the cane swing was a little too slow to activate. It would often result in missed opportunities or death, which can be a bit of a bummer when on your last life, forcing you to start over due to one of the game’s major mechanics. And 2) the Magic Coins that gave you temporary invulnerability were often placed in poor spots that couldn’t utilize the coin’s power effectively. In Transylvania there was a part in the level where you receive the coin, yet, you’d be lucky to kill a single enemy with it before time ran out.

DuckTalesNES-Cane Swing is a little slow

We had fun with this one despite it being pretty hard even on normal mode. The sad truth is, we know that this game is easy compared to some. Like Ninja Gaiden for instance, it’s on our list to play, yet is supposed to be one of the hardest games on the system. However, I would have to say that this game was a great success in my experiment. The game is single player, so Kyle and I switched off of each level or death. And due to the difficulty of the game, we both got to play a lot. It was fun to sit and watch as he played because as he was reacting to crazy enemies (blasted goats…) I was able to look around the screen for possible secrets that he may have missed. Not to mention the little jokes and stories we’ve now created playing this game.

I’m going to leave you with two “Thug Life” funnies. In the amazon level, you get to a point where a statue tells you to give him $300,000 to get to the next part in the game. I discovered that I really don’t need to pay him the money to get by. Also, in Transylvania, where I think we died the most, Webby can be found at the beginning, and will tell you that Huey has been trapped by a monster! Which is fine, but after 30+ deaths in that level, we really didn’t want to listen to her anymore. I accidentally found out you can jump over her, and still say Huey if you really wanted to.

DuckTalesNES-Amazon Extorting Money DuckTalesNES-Thug Life 1 redo DuckTalesNES-Thug Life 2 Still DuckTalesNES-Thug Life 2

I’m not going to score this game on any kind of point system. My preferences may not match your preferences, and by me scoring it, you may have an unnatural bias when you go to play the game. The best I can do is explain what I found good about the game, and how I felt about it. If it appeals to you and you then want to check out the game, then I feel I’ve done you a better service than telling you that I think this game deserves a B- or some other arbitrary grade.

References:

DuckTales (Video Game) on Wikipedia.org

Game Manual found on GamesDatabase.org

Question of the Day: Have you played DuckTales for the NES? What were your thoughts? How do you feel about my idea of not “grading” this game?

Culture Shock

As promised, here is my experience visiting Orange County, California. TL;DR Beautiful area near beach, stupidly expensive cost of living.

I got in late Sunday, so I didn’t do much aside from get my stuff ready for the next day. I knew that my hotel was an upper class hotel, but I have a stigma in my head that these kind of hotels come with a slogan, “The more you pay, the less you get.” Which may be a bit of paradigm I need to just get over, but it seems that these kind of hotels try to sell you on a “This is what Heaven is like” scheme.

One of the most frustrating parts about this hotel was the lack of information. I even had to guess my way to accessing their internet… There was an implied, I should know what this hotel is willing to do for me. Often times asking any question to the staff, they appeared annoyed that I would ask such a thing. They had my number on file, and had called me a few times throughout the week. My flight didn’t leave until 3:57pm Friday, so you think they would have been sincere enough to be like, “Hey, you forgot some stuff in your room. Would you like us to come bring it to you?” Or something to that extent. Where I was for training as well as the airport in regards to the hotel would not have inconvenienced at all.

Whatever, let’s move on… to the lamp. Ok, how do I turn this bloody thing on? I can see there is no visible switches, so it must have some sort of touch sensor, right? After a few quick moments, I feel like I need to look over my should to see if anyone is noticing me violate this lamp… Damn, no luck. Well, it is late so I’ll just try again in the morning.

When I got up, I found out that my hotel does not offer a free breakfast. Which sucks, as I sure as hell won’t be using my per diem on hotel breakfasts. Thankfully, I found out later that my company will reimburse me my breakfast costs for the remainder of my stay. Ok, on to that lamp… Still no luck, and things are starting to get a bit awkward between us. So I called the front desk… to figure out how to turn on this stupid lamp. I had to withhold my laughter as the front desk lady didn’t know either. (“Yay, I’m not the only dumb one!”)

Maintenance ends up coming to my room, to show me how to turn on this lamp. And I shit you not, you have to stroke, yes stroke a sensor near the light bulb. I even joked to the maintenance guy, “I didn’t know it needed that kind of foreplay to get going.” We had a good chuckle to which he then showed me the different features of this lamp. Yeah, it also changes “moods” (color of the light) based on how you stroke it. I can’t make this up… The maintenance guy also admits to me that they’ve changed a lot of these lamps to switch models for “guest convenience.” I almost hugged him to beg for one of those lamps.

Anyways, now that the most awkward part of the story is done, I had to finish getting ready and figure out if anything special needs to happen with my shuttle. (Hopefully it isn’t electric with unique activation patterns.) Thankfully, I had the same driver every morning, which was cool as I got to know a little bit about him through out the week. I feel bad because I forgot his name, and didn’t find out until I was back in Fargo that I really should have tipped my drivers every time they took me somewhere.

Training went well, we had a good diverse group of people from different ethnic backgrounds. I had fun talking to one of the other techs who has a small family and dreams to move into their own house. Right now they rent a one bedroom space from his aunt. I couldn’t believe that he and his wife with twins and a 9 year old could share such a small space together, but they make it work. His jaw hit the floor after inquiring about the housing market in Fargo. Compared to the bay area of California, we got it pretty good. I would have to double my salary, and have my wife make the same amount just to get a small run down house in Orange County.

The whole, “Everything is more expensive,” quote came at me quite often during my stay. I had to eat out every meal, and often times my lunches cost the same or more as a supper does in Fargo. Obviously it is dependent on where you eat for the comparison to work, but it wasn’t like I splurged every meal either. But 18-25 bucks, tip included is not uncommon for lunches.

So, with that, “Everything is more expensive” mentality, I ordered myself breakfast the next morning. I received two eggs, 3 strips of bacon, a small (half a cup) serving of potatoes, toast, orange juice and milk (about 6oz of each) all for the low (not!) price of $32, which includes my $2.84 tip. Can you believe that? I can literally go to a Denny’s and get the same meal for under $10. The next day I skimmed down the list and removed the milk, knocking off $4, but that was still near $27 after it was all said and done. By the end of the week, my cheapest meal (with tip) was $25. And the food wasn’t even that great, but I wanted breakfast and my work was footing the bill.

The shuttle was fun though. To the hotel, it was brand new, maybe a couple weeks old. My colleagues in training teased me about being dropped off in a nice looking Mercedes Benz every morning. It felt weird being driven every where like I was somebody important. The only real issue I had with the shuttle involved a night where there was a corporate event going on. I had the shuttle drop me off at a restaurant (not knowing about this corporate event), and went to enjoy a nice supper.

Afterwards I decided to walk around the mall the restaurant was attached to. About an hour or so later I called the hotel to let them know I was ready to be picked up. “I’m sorry sir, due to a corporate event, the shuttle will be unavailable tonight.” Well, I have no problem with the hotel catering to a “corporate event,” what really bothered me was lack of foresight. If they knew there was an event going on, they could have given me some forewarning, “There is an event going on, so the shuttle may not be able to pick you up later.” Even if the shuttle would have been available, it would have been nice to know ahead of time.

I’m realizing this is quickly turning into more or less a rant on the hotel, but it does point to my concern about, “the more you pay, the less you get,” idea. I have a few more rants to get off my chest about this hotel and then I’ll be done… but I’m not promising anything. I really felt like the front desk staff weren’t “with it upstairs” if you catch my meaning. The concierges didn’t have any idea what was “good food” in the nearby area. How the hell are you a concierge if you can’t perform that kind of menial task!? And one night they forgot to tell the shuttle to pick me up. I was already waiting on it, and it dropped some folks off and then took off. Lastly about the shuttle, you’d think that if you drove around the area often enough, you’d know where places would be. I often used my GPS on my phone to help the shuttle get me to where I was going.

Oh well, my last rant will be about their showers. I mentioned before in another post that I’ve been enjoying waking up at around 4:15-4:30am lately to get ready for my day, and to have some “me” time. Every morning I would take my shower, and not once did I receive a constant temperature. It was never “just right,” and would often be not hot enough to enjoy. But, every 6-10 seconds I would get a burst of hot water. It was barely too hot for me, which kind of sucks when it happened so many times over the course of one shower. And with that, I’m done yelling about my nice, shitty hotel.

If it wasn’t for a fun training class, and having a lot of free time, the hotel could have really bothered me. Thankfully, it ended up feeling like a little personal vacation. I had to do only a little bit of work, which really revolved around trying to keep myself awake during lectures. I got to see the beach, and some of the prominent shopping scene in Orange County. I’ll save my thoughts on shopping for another post.

My departing thoughts about Orange County are this,
It is stupidly expensive to live/eat here.
The area really was a beautiful place to consider living or spending time in.
I enjoyed my time there, even if I didn’t do much.
I probably couldn’t ever live there myself, small town kid here.
I’d be interested in visiting it again sometime.

Question of the Day: Have you had a bad experience with a hotel? How did you resolve it? Should I have raised my concerns with management?

Japanese Keyboard

Short post today, I am back from California, and today I go back to my regular job. However, in figuring out what I wanted to talk about, I decided to share what got me excited this morning. At the start of 2016, I decided to finally get off my butt in realizing a bucket list item. I’ve always wanted to learn Japanese, particularly because there are video games out there that are Japanese exclusive that I would love to play.

It is very different playing a video game, and understanding what the hell you are doing in said game. Also, being a game developer myself, if I ever get the opportunity to meet Shigeru Miyamoto, I would love to honor him by speaking with him in Japanese. *crosses fingers* There are many game dev legendaries that to meet anyone of them would be phenomenal, and I think it would be awesome to speak to them in their own language.

Along with video games, there is a ton of anime and manga I would love to watch and read in raw Japanese. Like most languages, translating from the original language often results in contexts being left out. Sometimes, one word in another language could take an entire paragraph to explain in English or another language. I remember getting a book for my brother one year that lists a bunch of German words that take a few sentences in English to describe their meaning. In either case, it makes an obvious impact when trying to read a story from another language.

So, flash forward to today, I have picked up quite a few Japanese words and phrases, but I still am like an infant in regards to my learning. This is due to laziness, business, and really not prioritizing it as much. However, I do have a study partner that I found online through a vlog that we both enjoy watching, which has really helped me step up my studies.

Which leads to today, and why I’m so excited! I discovered a neat way to add a keyboard in any language for Windows 8.1 and Windows 10! I’m really looking forward to this as I am able to switch to a Japanese keyboard as fast as a simple hotkey! Here is the video I found that showed me how to do just that. Thanks to Tara Nico for making this video!

And for those of you like me, I am also including the image I pulled off of Wikipedia.org for a printable image. I can keep this with my laptop, which I can then practice typing in Japanese. I’m super excited to move forward with this stuff!

Question of the day: Do you have a language you are working on studying for? How is your progress going? Are you like me, who learned a language in high school, but overtime forgot it? Leave a comment for us to discuss!

Alien: Anthology (Alien, Aliens, Alien 3, and Alien Resurrection)

I talk about the movie series Alien as a whole, and include spoilers about the movies. To see the spoilers, hover your mouse of the words *SPOILER ALERT.*

So I bought Alien Anthology off of Amazon earlier this year (http://goo.gl/N5v2bF). I’ve always loved the mythology of the movies but never really watched them myself. And, after finishing the 4th installment, “Resurrection,” last night, I must admit that it is a bit sad that I never watched them sooner. Overall I loved the series, not to mention being able to entertain my little nerd-crush on the impressive Sigourney Weaver. I also had a nice surprised to see Joss Whedon wrote the Resurrection!

I watched the movies in their theatrical release version, which went pretty well, except for the first movie. The first one felt incredibly slow, but aside from that I still enjoyed it. I could see why a cult following quickly formed around this story and its mythology. Out of all four movies, I would instead recommend watching the director’s cut of the first one, unless you are interested in seeing how it was originally released in theaters first like I was.

What I loved about the series as a whole was our hero, Lieutenant Ellen Ripley. She was a real person, a human, and very mortal. She had flaws, and emotions that dictated her decisions and behavior. In the first one she wants to get home to see her daughter, and in the second one, *SPOILER ALERT*

I’m going to take a moment to share my thoughts on the best movies in the series, which would be Aliens (Alien 2), Alien: Resurrection (Alien 4), Alien, and then Alien 3. I would still recommend watching the series from 1-4 as the movies were written chronologically, however, Alien 3 I thought was the weakest of the four.

*SPOILER ALERT*

Following up with another *SPOILER ALERT*

So, what I loved about the series was mostly about the character of Ripley, and how she had to evolve character wise to get through the trials she faced. She’s a glorified bad ass, and one of the strongest heroines I’ve seen. But, the important factor is that she was not invincible. Physically, emotionally, and mentally she had flaws throughout the movies. And by overcoming the trials she faced made her strong But she still wasn’t invulnerable.

If you haven’t seen the Alien Anthology, I would definitely recommend them to you. It is great science fiction writing, and for the times at which the movies were made, shows some amazing special effects. I’m sure I’ll be looking to watch these movies again and again. But, I think my first step is to see about any books or video games that can expand on the genre further.

Question of the day: Have you seen these movies? What was your favorite part?

The Title of What

So I’m working on what to start writing about and nothing is really coming to mind yet. I have a few ideas pending, but they aren’t quite ready yet. Either I want to be home so I can organize some photos and such, or in reference to my culture shock story, I still have today left for that one. So, here I am forcing words onto the paper to see what comes about. Sometimes that is half the battle right?

I guess I’ll start off with this, I’ve enjoyed going to bed around 9pm and waking up around 4-430am. I find this to be a personally odd sensation as I tend to be a night owl. Seriously, last year I was doing research on a rotating sleep schedule because I could stay up until 2am, and the next night 3am. I could keep doing that and end up spending a few days sleeping through the day. Which sounded like I could make that work, mostly… However, doing that research I found out that the majority of people who did that tend to be insane. Darn…

So yeah, this week I’ve been waking up at 4:30am, and have some personal “me” time. I think this will help with my endeavors with learning Japanese, electronics, programming, etc. Or I can choose to blow it all on a video game that I’m obsessing over with. Who knows, the world is my oyster or something like that. I think that shifting my sleep schedule like this will also be helpful for when our little T-rex (baby reference) is here. Here’s hoping I don’t lose much sleep if I’m already awake…

As we get closer to our due date, I can’t help but feel a little excited and terrified at the same time. There’s so much I am looking forward to, and also so much that I know will be a trial and a half to get through. Yet, we (as humans) continue to raise kids and do it over and over again. I remember watching a video where the pastor speaking explained that fatherhood is a white-knuckle, roller coaster ride. All you can do is hang on, and hope for the best. And in a sense that is quite true.

I had a discussion with a friend who was concerned that I would force my ideals on my child. If they (my children) chose to go down a road that I didn’t agree with, what would I do? Who can really answer that? The best answer I can provide is that I will raise my child according to their bend. I’ve enjoyed in being a pretty flexible guy. I played sports in high school as well as the violin. I played video games as well as worked my butt off helping on my grandparents farm. I read more books now than I ever did in school, and I go to the library often to check out books for further research on something. Most of these are inspired by my family, and they supported me in pursuing them.

That’s how I plan to raise my child. At our church we joke saying that it takes a village to raise a child. Looking at my own life, I know that to be true. I can’t do this on my own, and I am thankful that I don’t have to. I will be held accountable, just like my wife will be, in how we raise our child. But, I think we are both fortunate to know how truly blessed we are to be surrounded by people we trust who will be there for us. And with that, I thank you all.

Question for the day: What are you looking forward to in life at the moment? Any exciting plans for this weekend?

Gratuity

Something that has always bothered me was the system of gratuity. Only in the sense that there is a sort of universal requirement of how much to tip in addition to the meal. During my stay here in Costa Mesa, CA, I’ve gone out for every meal. My fridge is a mini bar, so there isn’t room for any leftovers, and there is no microwave in here, nor is one available through the front desk. I’ll have to remember to add that to my culture shock post coming up in the next few days.

Anyways, back to my topic, I’ve had to tip quite a few times, but I don’t do it according to the “universal requirement.” According to an article on USA Today’s website (found here http://goo.gl/lC4wCt), “at a sit down restaurant you should expect to tip 15-20%.” Which I can understand, however, it went further to explain that a server at a buffet “deserves” 10% due to bringing you drinks and plates.

What bothers me about this, is that it seems to imply that regardless of service, they deserve this kind of tip. And just like sales tax, the more expensive the meal, the larger the tip will be based off of a strict percent. Don’t get me wrong, I know that servers are paid poorly, and that the majority rely on tips for their take home pay. That to me points to two separate arguments. One, should servers receive a better standard of pay, without the expectation of a larger tip? Or, two, servers should view their job as a commission-based job that would be say for instance, like in a sales career?

For the first argument, waiters would be less inclined to offer incredible service if their take home didn’t result in a nice tip. Where is the incentive? I could go down a deep and scary rabbit hole talking about initiative and incentive, so I’m going to stop right there. However, to drive that into the latter question, servers wouldn’t need to worry about tips if they performed the best service according to their ability.

I may be different from the norm, and some of you who are servers may hate the type of customer that I represent, but this is how I view tipping. I start at 10%, bare minimum, I’ll give that much no matter how crappy the service is. However, I grade and critique how I felt you served me. I’m not looking for someone to grovel, or be at my beckoning call, however, if you took a few extra seconds out of your insane dinner rush to provide me with a little bit of dialogue, that will go a long ways for me.

The most I will normally tip is 20%, and that is for the server that nails it. They knew their job, and they knew their people coming through the front door. They took some time to get to know them, and get an idea of their personality. They engaged them in conversation, and to me, that promotes a welcome-ness that may bring them back through your front door.

That said, I went to the same restaurant twice, and not too surprising, had two different servers both times. The experience was night and day difference. I went around the same time, and both times I would say they were fairly busy. However, the second time I was there, I felt rushed. The restaurant felt noisy, and I felt that I needed to get out of there. We used to joke about needing a translator for a friend, that spoke so fast, it was hard to understand her. My waiter flew past my table, spouting questions that seemed to come even faster than my friend spoke. I never got the opportunity to get a sense of who my waiter was.

The first experience was completely different. I had a server that was calm and relaxed. She was busy, but that didn’t stop her from asking how my day was, or recommending different dishes for me. She would come and check up on me to see how things were going, and always made sure I had everything I needed. She represented a calmness in a fast paced time of day for the restaurant industry. I felt like I could take my time, and enjoy my meal. It all culminated into the reason I decided to go back there another day.

The point is, I received two different styles and quality of service. The calm server, easily got 20%, however the stress inducing server, I only gave 10%. What bothers me the most about this topic though is that when you receive the bill, at the bottom it says here’s what to give for 15% or 20%. As if these were your only two options, and if you don’t abide by them, there’s a sense of guilt attached.

I’m good with numbers, and can very quickly figure out what I’m going to tip. And even then, I’ll look at the bill, and consider to myself, “How did I feel this person serviced me tonight?” I guarantee, that if I felt like my business was appreciated, I’ll go above my norm, but I may also go below it. Usually I round up to the next dollar. A few extra cents can make the next dollar in their pocket. However, I may dip below 10% if I had to round down because I felt that the service was that bad.

Bonus story: I always tip my housekeepers for taking care of my room. I have a story attached to the reasoning for this, so if you are curious feel free to ask me!

Question of the day: Am I wrong? What do you think? How do you approach tipping?