alexxkay: (Bar Harbor)
Though the weather cannot seem to make up its mind, it is officially (if intermittently) Spring. The time when young men’s fancies turned to thoughts of love – and also not-so-young men. This particular man is grumpy about it.

True, the poly aspect of my marriage has always been observed more in theory than in practice. As Kestrell so memorably put it on a button, “Poly, but I’d probably rather be reading.” It takes time and effort to build up a new relationship, and those are rare resources. But it was exercised on occasion. And just having the option available was often very gratifying. It’s fun, when talking with someone attractive, to think, “If I turned up the charm and put in the effort, there’s a decent chance that they would have sex with me.”

But these days… that train of thought goes more like: “If I did manage to get this relationship onto a sexual level, would it even be remotely worth it?” Except in rare cases where the sexual chemistry is as compatible as the personality chemistry, it takes a while to get to really good sex with a new partner. There is a learning curve as you adjust to each other’s particular quirks and kinks. Any new partner I got at this point would face a particularly steep curve, as so many of my body parts now respond to almost any stimulus with “OUCH!” And my ability to give pleasure is just as compromised as my ability to receive it; my once-proud ‘gamer fingers’ can no longer in repetitive motions for extended periods. And my stamina in general has gone to hell.

It’s not the worst problem in the world, but it is One More Thing. I feel kinda pathetic for whining about it. But I figure that there are enough people among my friends who either have this problem now, or will face it in the years to come, that it’s valuable to talk about it.
alexxkay: (Bar Harbor)
So, the good news is that today was my day in court. I explained to a seemingly sympathetic judge why I think that I count as disabled. I think I did a pretty good job.

I say “I think”, because of the bad news aspect: I don’t find out the actual decision for some indeterminate time yet, when it will be mailed to me. Back in fucking limbo…
alexxkay: (Bar Harbor)
It’s been a while since I wrote anything of substance here, or indeed, at all. Been a low-spoons kind of winter. I hope spring will improve things.

Chronic pain is chronic. My right arm hasn’t been bothering me much, but only because I’ve been so limited in activity by the pain in my LEFT arm. Saw my orthopedist recently, and got a referral to start a new round of physical therapy. That starts Monday.

Down to about nine hours of “productivity” per week. I put that in scare quotes, because a great deal of that time lately has been devoted to XCOM 2. (Which, by the way, I recommend highly to fans of difficult, immersive strategy gaming.)

Haven’t been able to see my mental therapist since early February, due to computer upgrade chaos at Codman Square. But that seems to finally be ending, and I have appointments scheduled in a few weeks. My low energy lately has led to depression the spikes, and not having a therapist to vent at has been trying.

The legal side of things is a classic case of good news, bad news. I finally have a court date for my appeal to the Social Security Disability Determination people (mid-April). On the flipside, I’m starting the whole disability determination process all over again with Mass Health. And I have every expectation that that, too, will end up being denied and having to be appealed. I expect that, like the Social Security people, Mass Health do not have a ticky-box anywhere in their paperwork for “capable of working, but only for a few hours per week”.

Intermittently doing work on the Providence annotations. I have also been reading Providence to Kestrell. I like sharing stories with people who understand their intertextuality.

Frustrated

Jan. 15th, 2016 09:50 pm
alexxkay: (Bar Harbor)
I am SO frustrated right now.

In the last week, many of my projects have suddenly acquired new urgency. In itself, this is exciting and good. I spent several days of increased productivity, spurred by exciting new (or recently revived) opportunities.

Then, yesterday evening, the pain hit. I hurt too much to do keyboard work, and even too much to do therapeutic stretching.

This chronic pain is infuriating. There is SO much to do! And I WANT to DO it! But if I don’t rigorously pace myself (i.e. only a few hours per day), it all comes crashing to a halt.

Yesterday evening, despite wanting to do active work, I ended up just trying to distract myself (with limited success) in a tablet game. Luckily, before bed I remembered I had a few issues of Squirrel Girl saved up, so was able to finish the night with a few literal LOLs.

Slowly recovering today. Mostly I like to focus on the positive, but some days I just gotta rant. Don’t worry; I’m doing my ranting into a dictation program.
alexxkay: (Bar Harbor)
One of the foods I like to eat frequently is Campbell’s chunky soup (various flavors). Part of why I like it is that it’s dead simple to prepare. Put it in a bowl, cover the bowl with wax paper so as not to spill, microwave for three minutes, eat. The soup being somewhat thick, and the heating happening very quickly, sometimes odd pockets of pressure build up, and I will hear a BANG noise from the microwave. I’m used to it, it doesn’t mean anything other than perhaps a minor spill.

Just now, however, I heard a much louder bang than normal. I quickly got up to stop the microwave. Opening it up, I discovered that the bowl had managed to overturn itself!

Oh well, the microwave was due for cleaning anyway…
alexxkay: (Bar Harbor)
The wildebeests have been and gone. I took a few photos, which I’ll be posting on Facebook somewhat later. Most popular superhero was Iron Man. There were also many Spiderman costumes; curiously, the vast majority of those were seven-year-old boys wearing heavy coats over the costume, so you could just see the Spiderman mask through the hood. Batman seems to be going out of fashion among children; while there were many Batman costumes they seemed to be worn only by babes in arms or adults. I counted three Supergirls, though I may have missed some. Somewhat more Supermans. A moderate amount of Hulks and Captain Americas (including two adult women!). One Thor, complete with hammer. Only two Wolverines; how the mighty have fallen. One adult woman wearing an excellent leather Catwoman outfit.

Lots of Power Rangers. LOTS of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, including one group that had green face makeup. Many of the classics: witch, princess, random serial killer, clown, cat girl, fairy, skeleton, vampire. Several Red Riding Hoods. About a half dozen Minions, one with a light saber. A nontrivial number of quarterbacks and SWAT members. Many ninjas. A few aliens and werewolves.

One teenage girl dressed as a credit card!

Just down the block at number six, they were scaring the HELL out of the kids, well done! Sound effect records played loud, much set dressing in the yard, and about a half dozen costumed people wondering about the yard and driveway looking creepy and occasionally actively attempting to scare passersby.

We didn't *quite* make it to 8:00 this year. Tom (with help) handed out a bit under 1600 full-size candy bars, making for an average of approximately one every seven seconds. Due to Charley's tweet, Supergirls got an extra bar, but there weren't that many of those...
alexxkay: (Bar Harbor)
The place where I get my physical therapy usually has a radio playing. Sometimes, I am doing my stretches close enough to hear the lyrics.

Some of these lyrics seem appropriate to what I am experiencing:
Oh yeah, life goes on
Long after the thrill of livin' is gone
Others, however, seem wrong and insulting in this context:
What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, stronger
No, actually, quite often what doesn't kill me nonetheless leaves me significantly weaker and in chronic pain.
alexxkay: (Bar Harbor)
A recent post from [livejournal.com profile] siderea included the sentence The whole Protestant work ethic thing is based on the notion that you can tell where you stand in God's eyes (and your neighbors') by how "prosperous" you are. This reminded me of some thoughts I’ve been wanting to write about for a while now.

A year and a half ago, when it dawned on me just how much my colleague Shane was willing to commit to our joint project, I had an unusual (for me) set of reactions. Gratitude, of course, but also a sense of disbelief and unworthiness, mixed with wonder. I was deeply grateful that it was happening, but I did not (at that time) understand WHY, nor did I understand what was going on inside my own emotional world.

As I struggled to find language to express these feelings, I kept returning to phrases like “blessed” and “by grace of God”. As a near-lifelong atheist, I noticed something odd was going on. I was experiencing emotions that didn’t seem to map to any prior models EXCEPT explicitly religious ones. This didn’t actually change my (non-)belief in God, but I do recall thinking “THIS is what they mean when they talk about ‘grace’.”

Then, being who I am, I integrated this into my existing moral framework with reference to a 20-year-old computer game :-)

From the mid-80s to the early 90s, the Ultima series of computer games spent an unprecedented (and never-yet-repeated) amount of effort on mixing gameplay with serious explorations of moral systems. These explorations were in many ways very limited, but the degree of engagement caused by mixing them with interactive game systems led to some uniquely powerful lessons. For me, anyway.

1992’s Ultima 7, the last one to deal with morality in any organized way, had one particularly cogent lesson.U7 introduced a new religion to the fantasy world, called The Fellowship. The Fellowship would ultimately turn out to be bad guys. Their moral principles had been carefully designed to make intuitive sense on a cursory reading, but to have distinctly regressive effects when actually put into practice.

One of The Fellowship’s principles was “Worthiness Precedes Reward”. Humans (primates) are hardwired to seek out “fairness”, even when we have to invent it. When positively valenced, this finds expression in ideas like “I worked hard to get where I am today” and “self-made man”. But it has a darker side as well. “You brought this on yourself.” “You must’ve been asking for it.” And so on…

This brings us back to where we started, with the Protestant work ethic. If you are poor, sick, or otherwise disadvantaged AND we live in a “fair” universe, then you must DESERVE to be in such a state. (And those who are better off, of course, have no reason to help you out.)

Of course, despite what our primate wiring would have us believe, the universe is NOT fair, not even close. Yes, there is such a thing as cause-and-effect, but the web of causality is so interconnected and complex that that really isn’t any help. Unfair stuff happens all the time.

I had been used to thinking about the unfairness of the universe when BAD things happened to me, but it was new to me to realize so viscerally how, sometimes, the unfairness could happen in a GOOD way. We are stuck with the bad breaks and no way to avoid them. When unreasonably GOOD things happen, we must accept this as well – with “Grace”.
alexxkay: (Bar Harbor)
By "drug run", what *I* mean is a 3-block walk to Walgreens. Not sure that's what everyone else meant by it tonight... During that short walk, I counted 5 patrol cars, 1 police van, 3 unmarked police cars, and 2 police bicycles. And I probably missed some. Luckily, I seem to have ventured on my errand *after* the main part of the fuss was done, as all those police seemed quite calm. Something about "shots fired", but I don't know any details...
alexxkay: (Bar Harbor)
In the 1980s, my dad went to work at Computer Security Institute. My major memories of him during this time are of his absence. He worked long hours, and when he *was* home, he was often passed out on the sofa. His boss was a workaholic, and expected the same level of performance from his employees.

What this did to dad, and to our family, upset me a lot, and I swore to never do that. As it turns out, of course, in our late-capitalist society, pretty much anyone who gets to be a boss got that way by being a demanding workaholic, so it wasn’t really feasible to avoid them.

Going through dad’s papers of the period, I found out that dad’s relationship with his boss was even more creepy/abusive than I had thought. I’ve been posting scans of the docs on facebook, if you’re curious.

The boss tried to get dad to lose weight on a specific schedule, with monetary bonuses for meeting milestones. Naturally (or so it seems to me from my current perspective on Kay male behavior), dad failed utterly when presented with this sort of structure.

After dad had been at CSI for about 4 years, his boss went so far as to have a psychological profile drawn up for dad! What I find most fascinating about it is that it could easily have been written about *me*, word for word, if one of my workaholic bosses had ever had such a thing done. Not to say that I *agree* with it all. All the business about “untapped potential” is, IMAO, bullshit. The mind structures that give Kay men their intelligence are the exact same ones that continually distract us, and make it difficult for us to focus on things like ‘career’ and ‘job performance’. We’re package deals, not fixer-uppers.
alexxkay: (Bar Harbor)
So, now that the neck injection is over, I'm allowed to take Ibuprofen again. Yay! (The injection itself isn't expected to 'kick in' for 3-5 days.)

So why am I awake right now?

Sentinels of the Multiverse released a new build to the beta testers this morning. So I got a *little* sleep, but I *literally* dreamed about obscure rules combinations, and eventually the uncertainty woke me up completely and I spent a few hours posting questions on various online forums.

*sigh*

Time for a snack, more drugs, and then sleep attempt, take 2...

OW.

Nov. 9th, 2014 10:10 am
alexxkay: (Bar Harbor)
Tomorrow, I go in to get a neck injection that may help with my chronic pain issues. But in the biting irony department, for 48 hours beforehand, I have to stop taking ibuprofen. Last night did not feature much actual sleep. And what sleep I did get was punctuated by dream featuring such restful topics as "wandering around awake because I couldn't sleep from pain" and "watching really bad Star Wars sequels". It's gonna be a looooong weekend, and not in the good way.
alexxkay: (Bar Harbor)
Thirteen years ago, on this date, [livejournal.com profile] kestrell and I were wed.

It's a cliche, but thinking back on it, that may legitimately have been the happiest day of my adult life so far. Asking Kes to marry me is absolutely the number one all-time cleverest thing I have done.
alexxkay: (Bar Harbor)
[livejournal.com profile] kestrell, [livejournal.com profile] teenybuffalo, and I visited [livejournal.com profile] gyzki today, on his not-quite-deathbed-yet. It was both good and bad. He's still recognizably himself, but he's fading. It is a bitter irony for such a great storyteller to lose control of language in his waning days.

If you knew him well in better days, please visit him if you can. He's still happy to have (and capable of recognizing) visitors, but you'll need to supply most of the talking yourself. More details may be found in C.'s post here.
alexxkay: (Bar Harbor)
Today's my 47th birthday. Been a roller-coaster year.

Started off unhappy with my work life, and generally unfulfilled. Also, dealing with chronic shoulder pain, that wasn't helping with the whole work situation.

In September, my work situation cleared up drastically, when Irrational laid me off.

I took a few months to chill out. But when I started actively looking for work, there wasn't much out there...

My father's health continued to decline. leading to his death, just before Christmas.

I fell into a black depression, the worst in literally decades. I tried various drugs and therapy, but to no significant improvement.

In February, Irrational Games shit down. Weirdly, this marked the point where things started getting better. My earlier layoff stung a lot less in retrospect. And there were all sorts of opportunities flying through the air. By early April, I had committed to a startup with my old colleague/friend Shane Mathews, and my depression magically lifted.

Things are pretty good, now. My shoulder is still an issue, but I can get some work done every day, at home. I'm doing work that I love, and that I think has a good chance of being Important, at least in a small way. It's not yet clear whether this situation is financially sustainable, but I'll know that better by this time next year, and the financial drain has shrunk to the point where I have no worries about my credit lasting that long.

Looking forward to this year!
alexxkay: (Bar Harbor)
Spent the bulk of Memorial Day working on The Dad Project. About a month ago, I went to the storage unit containing all his worldly goods, and salvaged things that I thought might have some sentimental value. Since then, I've been slowly but steadily going through them. I've mostly been trying not to get too obsessive about it, but Memorial Day seemed like a reasonable exception. So I took a deep dive into the photo archives.

Ye gods, dad took a lot of pictures. And seems to have kept most of them. If you thought I posted a lot of his work before, that's only the tip of the iceberg. Of course, the iceberg is too huge to fully deal with, and now largely stripped of its original context. So phase 1 of the project is, sadly, doing a cursory check through, and throwing out about 3/4 of it. Yes, those are pretty (trees | birds | waves | flowers | landscapes | sunsets | boats | mountains) -- but how many such pictures does anyone need? He even kept all his negatives from the 1960s.

Once I finish the first cull pass (itself a big sub-project), I'm going to see which formats of stuff I can scan myself. Other stuff will need to be sent to someone like ScanCafe. I'll definitely need to outsource the few reels of 8mm film I found in one box!

My plan is to spend an hour or two on the Estate every Monday. Indefinitely. At that rate, it's going to take many months to get through Dad's stuff. But that is, itself, only a sub-project. Once that's done, the focus will move to my *own* estate. Seeing the remains of someone else's life in such detail has brought some things into sharp focus that I had already sort-of known, but am becoming more serious about. I had already internalized that I should be evaluating my own possessions in terms of "Will I ever use this item again?" But now I add to that "Will *anyone* ever use this item again? If I get hit by a bus, will the existence of this item just annoy or confuse my inheritors?" So a lot of my own stuff is going to be getting thrown out, given away, or sold.

Other bits of wisdom:
* If you can't find it, you don't really own it. (Lots more organizing in my future.)
* If you're young, poor, and setting up a household, find an estate sale. People die with an amazing amount of basic household stuff that the heirs don't need and would happily sell to you cheap.
alexxkay: (Bar Harbor)
Last night I went to an event at MIT's Stata Center. It's the first time I've ever actually been *inside* it. From seeing the outside, I was pretty sure that it embodied all that I find objectionable about modern architecture. Which it does. But it goes so far beyond that. This is the first time I've been in a building that actually felt *evil*.

Kes (who had been in it during her student time at MIT) had told me that it was made of Lovecraftian Non-Euclidean Geometry, and probably had an Elder God in the basement. I thought she was exaggerating, but no, it totally has that vibe. It's not *just* confusing, wasteful, and ugly. The acoustics are unsettling. The walls induce vertigo, and look (to one's hindbrain) as if they are about to fall on one. The most often repeated 'decorative' element is origami swans, thus invoking souls devoured in nuclear holocaust. It's a giant Fear Machine. The notion that there is Something Nasty in the cellar feeding on those negative emotions seems completely reasonable when one is inside.

(And I didn't even leave the first floor...)

Closure

Apr. 10th, 2014 05:38 pm
alexxkay: (Bar Harbor)
So yesterday, I finally finished playing the last bit of Bioshock Infinite DLC. The first time I've been able to play a Bioshock game with mostly fresh eyes in some years.

Not to get too spoil-y about it, but the story brought the "Bioshock saga" full circle in a way that I found quite unsatisfying. All the thematic development that was done in the full game was effectively UNdone by this DLC. IMAO, of course.

When someone leaves a game project before it completes, the standard industry practice is merely to list those people in the credits under "thanks". Irrational was at least a bit better. They put all such people (of whom there were *many* for this project) in a section at the end, with "Additional" next to their titles. So I'm credited as "Additional Design". That's the credit I had on System Shock 2, in 1998. Looks like I, too, have come full circle.

After the credits ended, and it brought me back to the main menu, I selected exit. "Are you sure you want to exit game?" Yes, I am. I've never been more sure. There are so many levels on which I am not playing that game ever again. That chapter of my life is OVER. There were lots of good times, but also way too many bad ones. Time to move on, and build something new.
alexxkay: (Bar Harbor)
So, my chronic depression is in remission. I'd like to claim to be cured, but I think it's a lot like alcoholism – I get through *today* without misery and self-loathing, and that's a victory. That's a big part of why I haven't posted much in the last while, and I feel like filling y'all in on what’s been going on.

I've been having increasing troubles for roughly the last two years. It peaked in January, as my father's death sunk in. And the ongoing physical health issues certainly aren't helping. But in hindsight, neither of those factors was at the root of my problem.

I have lots of people in my life who regularly reinforce the notion that, socially, I am a Cool Person. This is necessary to keep out of depression, but not sufficient. What I *didn't* have for most of the last two years, but have recently regained, is having people in my life who assure me that I am a Worthy Professional. (It turns out that friends who are not in the games industry are no good for this purpose, even if they are gamers, because I just don't trust their opinions in this matter.)

[Digression: It seems that depression (especially Imposter Syndrome) is endemic in the games industry. People at mainstream companies don't talk about it in public, for career reasons, but a lot of them suffer. And tons of indie game creators have "come out" about their issues. Hell, there are at least three games out there *about* the experience of depression.]

Irrational Games (my old company, who laid me off last September) was not the most sanely-run company. I don't want to dwell on the details too much, but for my last few years there, I was feeling increasingly unappreciated and unvalued. This led to what I now acknowledge to be depression, though I was largely in denial at the time. And, unsurprisingly, being depressed negatively impacted my productivity, which made me valued less, which made me more depressed...

This was made even worse in the final year, when there simply wasn't enough work to go around. I'd sit at my desk web-browsing for hours on end. I tried to start writing my own game project a few times, but I found that just don't have all the necessary mojo to do that on my own. When the layoffs came in September 2013, it wasn't much of a surprise.

In mid-February of 2014, Irrational Games shut down entirely, which had a number of interesting effects. For one, it made the stigma of having been laid off earlier sting a lot less. For another, it meant that suddenly there were tons of HR recruiters pinging me on LinkedIn, which lifted my mood a bit. But *most* importantly, it started a number of people deciding to start up new indie gaming companies in the Boston area.

One such 'group' contacted me. It turned out eventually that it was mostly one slightly crazy guy who was trying to put something together based on charisma and business contacts, rather than a concrete plan. But he *did* have at least that much going for him, I liked him personally, and I didn't have anything better to do, so what the hell. He asked me if I knew anyone else who might be interested, so I sent out a few feelers. Most didn't nibble, but...

Flashback to about five years ago. I'm working on a small sub-project with a single programmer, named Shane Mathews. We click really well together. We think similarly, but our skill sets only overlap a little, and we produce work we're really proud of when we work together. In reference to things that were going on a lot in the industry at the time, I said to Shane "If you ever decide to split off and form your own studio, I am *totally* in." But that never happened, though we worked together at Irrational on and off over the years.

Last September, just after I got laid off, I got a note from Shane expressing his regret, and mentioning that he had (unrelatedly) just served notice, as he was joining a small financial software company that had a lot of ex-Irrational people at it.

So in February, I contact Shane about this new group, and he apparently had been missing the creative life, *and* working with me specifically, so he came on board part-time, though keeping his day job.

By early March, it became clear that the 'group', as such, was disintegrating. But Shane, mirabile dictu, *really* wanted to work with me. I had tossed out a dozen or so game 'design sketches' as proposals for the group to discuss shortly before we fell apart, and Shane was excited about one of them, and thought that the two of us could probably pull it off by ourselves (with some contract Art down the line). So we're going for it! Shane's keeping his day job, putting in some time on nights and weekends (or while waiting for compiles at work :-) I'm living on credit, plus an annuity from my dad's estate, plus a small stipend from Shane, but I can do that for a year or two. With luck, within six to nine months we can get the project to a state where we can start getting some income via Kickstarter and Steam Early Access.

(I'll write more about the game itself in another post.)

As soon as I was fully committed to working on this project, and also believed that Shane was as well (which, given my depression, took a lot of repetition on his part), I started feeling *tons* better -- even though, from a financial, career-oriented perspective this is a pretty insanely risky move. But it's the only path I see that has a real (if, realistically, small) shot at giving me long-term sustainable Bliss. And that makes the risk seem totally worth it.
alexxkay: (Bar Harbor)
Pursuant to the whole "all-in" thing, I'm cutting *way* back on Facebook and LJ. If you think I need to see something, tag me or contact me directly.

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Alexx Kay

June 2017

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