The Blog of Ryan Foss

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Archive for November, 2007

Learning is for me

At first, I was frustrated with my class. I didn’t like the book, thought the discussions (online forum) were lame, and the class was silly and a waste of time. But what I’ve found is that I’m actually thinking and reading with comprehension. Something I havn’t done in a while. I’m actually learning something I’m interested in.

Anyway, I had to write a report, a game concept document, where I basically pitch an idea. It was a lot of fun. I even made some artwork.

Frustration Engine

About a month back my wife and kids went to Costco and I found this cool box. Inside the box was over 100 classic arcade games. I wanted one. But at over $2k, its out of my pocketbook. So I started a little research and found MAME Arcades. The do it yourself arcade construction. You just need some handyman skills, a computer and monitor or TV and time. So I’ve successfully made this one of my projects.

The first stage was done, get MAME and figure it out. Easy, tested, done.

Second stage is to resurrect an old PC to live inside the arcade cabinet and this is where everything goes sour. I’ve spent over 10 hours fixing and testing and rebooting this antiquated 733MHz bastard but I finally got it running. Its video and sound was working, two hard drives (a total whopping space of 30 GB) and CD drives working, with Win 98. No network, but whatever. My son even plays some Ninja Turtles on it, you know, the old arcade Ninja Turtles. The next day, the system is frozen and frozen hard. Reboot, reboot, reboot later and its back. Whew… right? Wrong! About 10 minutes into playing more TMNT the thing makes this pop-flash-pop and goes black. Reboot, reboot, reboot, nothing. I give up for the night. That leads me to tonight.

I go to the computer and press the on button ever so gently and what do I see but the tell-tale signs of a computer actually booting up. It gives some Windows choice which leads to BSOD. Reboot, safe-mode chosen and to Windows credit, it reports something nasty happened to the registry and it fixed it, reboot. Comes up, I get MAME running, grab the camera to take this picture with TMNT glory for the world to see. I house clean a little to spruce up this ugly space and whoosh, monitor goes black.

30 minutes later, dozens of things tried and the computer just doesn’t come back. So instead of victory, I’ve got what is probably a R.I.P. PC.

Work, work, work

Quiz was easy, super easy. The report on the other hand took me a while, partially because I was actually very interested in the subject. I had to write a 1 page report, double-spaced, on the history of video games. The tough part was keeping it to one page.

Work has me traveling to DC Sunday for an early Monday morning meeting, what fun.

What am I doing now?

I’ve realized how busy I make myself. I have so much going on that I don’t write about but think I should. My intention is really to start curbing myself and focusing more directly on particular things of interest. That, apparently for me, is difficult.

School calls. I have a report to write and a quiz to take.

Maelstrom of Awesome

In my previous post I hinted at my desire to do “projects”. I don’t know about you, but I really like making things. Well, at least thinking about them.

I have ideas all the time. I write them down when I can because I think many of them have potential. They might be an idea for a book, a movie story line, a video game concept, a 3D model or something to build out of butter. I’m all over the map. They all interest me and I consider them all something I would enjoy spending my time on. Problem is my time is very, very limited. More and more so as my children wear me out (I mean that in the most positive way.) So its time for me to decide what I really want to do with my time and that means deciding if projects are really worth it or not. Perhaps some of my ideas should just stay ideas. They often are more exciting that way anyway.

For me, its the pre-start of a project, the imagination phase that is really exciting. Then there is the doing phase, which often is less exciting and more frustrating because it’s not happening as fast or as easily as I imagined. Then there is the completion stage, the part that really feels good, the part that makes it all worth while. I want to get projects that maximize this. The potential for feeling good, for getting done, and for being worth while. Going back to school is one of these projects where the ends justify the means in so many ways that it has to be done.

My decision to go back to college is questionable for most people, my wife included. Most can’t understand why someone like me, a 32 year old with a BA in Mechanical Engineering, with a good job already in Modeling and Simulation, would consider getting another Bachelors degree at DeVry (in Game and Simulation Programming). I can understand their confusion and my reasoning is complicated but I’ll give it a shot. Work hasn’t been as fulfilling as I want it to be. There hasn’t been much (if any) on-the-job learning the last few years. My skills are specific and hard to market (or find a job anywhere somewhat related) for equivalent pay. Things are changing at work (new owners, new ideas) and I don’t feel as “safe” as I should. If I lost my job, I’d be hard pressed to get a job of equal pay. I’m almost 10 years out from my Mechanical Engineering degree and I haven’t worked a single ME job. I’m scared, I’m tired, I’m interested. I think the video game market is the perfect place for me. I enjoy movie making, I enjoy 3D modeling and animating, I enjoy story telling, I enjoy photography and videography. Video/Electronic games seem to put all this together in a maelstrom of awesome.

An image to look at.

Something my blog is missing is images. I hope to add them every once in a while when appropriate. Right now my class is boring, so nothing related. However, on the personal front, here’s a model I recently made and put up on TurboSquid.

It’s a laptop. Yes, its low polygon (less than 100 faces) and perfect for a game. Special feature is that it is two texture; the laptop and the screen. This is good because the screen texture can be replaced easily with appropriate content.

Why blog?

OK, so I’m not a very good blogger. I’m just not used to sitting at my PC and writing. Yet!

Personally, I could care less if you are entertained by my musings, that isn’t the point. The point here is for my own edification. And thus comes the mandatory, “Why am I blogging” blog. My purpose for blogging is two fold.

Firstly, to improve my thought to word process; to help me hone my writing skills. I often think I’m kinda long winded. I like details. I try very hard in my life to not talk so much and to keep my writings short. “Brevity is bliss.” I really think that. It applies to the art I like (simple) and the design of machines (simple solution often is the best solution). I think the hardest type of writing is the concise, yet all encompassing phrase that sums it all up. I want to optimize my time, my 3D modeling, my programming, etc., and I think it can also apply to my writing, but it needs exercise.

Secondly, to help me keep track of my goals, my personal goals. Of course I want to PASS my classes, that’s an obvious goal. What I’m more interested in is curbing myself into projects that are actually worth my time and energy. My family is very important to me, and because of that I don’t do my “projects” during normal family hours (unless its a family or for family project). I don’t think its fair to me or my family if I spend family time working on personal projects. Something I think my wife under appreciates (I know you’re reading this now wifey!). My problem is that I think I’m the sort of person that is crazy, crazy driven. I want to do things all the time. I want to make this or build that or learn that. For example, I have blueprints to build my own grandfather clock, I still think that would be fun and cool, but I doubt I’ll get to it anytime soon.

Additional benefits to my blogging is historical tracking, discovery documentation, and perhaps recognition?