Monday, October 13, 2014

Dealing with Disappointment

It is a cold, wet Monday morning and my wife is at home recovering from surgery. In the grand scheme of things it was a minor surgery. The removal of some tissue for diagnosis. I was out of town when she went under. If ever she feels the need to divorce me that fact alone would be valid enough in my mind. She encouraged me to go. She told me everything would be okay. It was rational. It made sense. It still felt wrong. It is possible that this was a good thing. It still feels wrong. In that moment, in that place, her mother may have been the greater source of comfort. I couldn't say what shape I would be in. Being over a hundred miles from something makes the process of dealing with it different. Maybe easier.
I wore contact lenses that day. To give my red, watery eyes an alibi. Dealing with dozens and dozens of people and wearing a smile is easier with an alibi.
The problem is that we started giving in to the excitement. Getting carried away by how well things were going. Loosening our guard and letting friends and family in on our secret joy. Now comes the brutal task of slowly rolling out this new development. To watch their eyes turn puzzled and their smiles slipping when my cold eyes show no excitement. No relish in presenting the latest news. Enough people knew that we had been due to get an update to casually ask "how did it go?" If I'm lucky a slow sad shake of my head is enough. If I'm unlucky they need me to elaborate.
My wife knew exactly what she needed to see. To me the screen was filled with graphs and numbers and acronyms and a shifting landscape of greys. I watched the small form fade in and out of focus, but the room was silent except for the radio playing softly in the corner. The nurse, to her credit, stayed stoic, until my wife whispered "there's no heartbeat." The critical line, the sole focus of her attention, stayed still. And then the dam broke loose.
I hugged her as best I could on the table and stroked her hair as the nurse confirmed our fears again and again. There was no mistake. No malfunction. Only a quiet form. The room was a whirl. My wife was sobbing. At some point the doctor and another technician came in to confirm again. They asked a question. I couldn't speak. I couldn't control my breath or mouth or eyes. I stood there in mute desperation trying to rein in my body enough to gasp out an answer. My mind screamed at me that it was a stupid question, but I knew they had to ask it. Perform a procedure to take the tissue to test for what might have gone wrong, or wait for it to purge naturally and maybe lose that opportunity. My wife's eyes turned up to look at me and that questioning look was a dagger to my chest. A mixture of pain, fear, and what might have been a plea for a decision... "Data." I finally managed to say, breaking the gaze with my wife and turning to the doctor. "Get the data."

Is this too personal for a blog that no one reads? Probably. It certainly has a "Dear Diary" quality to it. I can leave it as a draft, or share it elsewhere, or just click Publish and deal with any ramifications as they come.
If I'm posting this then I need to add the capstone: In my nightmares I can see this play out a dozen different ways. My hesitation in binding myself to anyone has always been the inscrutable nature of how we will react under pressure. I know without a doubt that I married the right woman. Unfazed. Determined. Lady, you make me proud to be your husband. I love you.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Dealing with Fame

My picture was published in the local paper. Hold your applause. No, please. Sit. Thank you. Thank you! Luckily I wasn't the person wearing the Oculus at the time, but not only do you have a clear shot of my hairline and beard, you can see my personal computer's desktop in the background. None of the work-machines were beefy enough for us to be comfortable demoing the headsets, so I volunteered my own machine. One of the fringe benefits of being a gamer is that my tolerance for outdated hardware has a much lower threshold than normal humans.
It's a little hard to tell with the program windows that are up, but I'm rocking a Minecraft 1.8 screenshot as my background. I've probably mentioned this before, but Minecraft is fantastic.

Yesterday I decided to allow myself to be taken to a pumpkin patch thing. It was insane. Okay, so there's this place called Vala's or something like that. They will most likely have a website. I knew a little bit about it, but the actual scale of this place is hard to grasp. We went pretty early in the day, and there were hundreds of cars already in the lot with helpful police officers guiding us into place in a field. When we left that afternoon there were thousands of cars filling every field in sight. Not too shabby considering the entrance fee is fifteen bucks a head. The attractions inside were... I've deleted a few attempts at describing them. A lot of it seems like a disorganized jumble of concepts. We went through a Pirate themed maze and our first time through ended up finding the 'treasure,' literally two steps inside of one of the five starting doors. Later we found out that the maze has multiple areas once could enter, and some of them would guide you through with trivia questions, but it was never consistent. Some turns were marked, others were bare. Much like the corn-maze. It seemed that intrepid humans had seen fit to trample unofficial passageways, interspersed with what seemed like the planned paths, so our trip through, while enjoyable, was spent wondering if we had just cheated. It's a corn-maze. Cut into a field of corn. I can't really criticize, but it did seem a little slapdash. The park is interspersed with lots of low-budget animatronics, voiced by tinny loudspeakers. Quaint and charming in one light. The stuff of nightmares in another. So for a 'spooky' Halloween/Fall attraction: Mission Accomplished?

Regardless, a good time was had. The family pedal carts, and bean-bag horse-shoes, and kettle-corn, and camel, and pig-races, and being surrounded by kids and families having a great time made it all worthwhile. Well done Vala's!

A kind coworker gifted me a big shopping bag full of apples a few days ago. They are giant, delicious, and a half-dozen of them have been cored, sliced, and baked into a pan full of Apple Crisp. I followed an online recipe with minor alterations and it was a shocking realization about just how much sugar goes into that stuff. Delicious stuff! I also did the math, I will run out of sugar long before I run out of apples!

More soon!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Riding the waves

I spent far too much time thinking of an appropriate title for the maelstrom of stuff swirling around me at the moment. At the moment I still seem to be above the chaos and not in it, but some of those waves are looking pretty tall.
Long Term Projects: I have fleshed out several story tiers for my creative ventures. Maybe I'm the product of my environment. My parents visited us this weekend and I spent an hour or so describing the background and high-level story to my mother. Then, the next day, the book I'm currently reading flipped narrative directions and took the exact same approach I was describing, and there is an interview online of a guy heavily invested in the space-program espousing the exact philosophy I was planning to embed in my story. Equally disheartening and exciting.

As for the actual program. There were a few epiphany moments once I started breaking down some of the core concepts into actual processes and algorithms. Basically, the thing I want to begin with can be treated as a Board-Game with a twist. It sounds obvious, but somewhere in my head had been a voice saying "Well how the hell do you iterate through all the various options and keep the interactions straight?" Answer: Approach the logic as if it was a board-game with physical pieces. Once I started translating the things I wanted to happen into that space it helped me narrow down where I would need to limit abilities and how to define the 'rules' that will affect the 'board.'

 Exciting Technology: For the last few days I have had the opportunity to play with Virtual Reality equipment. An Oculus Rift DK2 paired with a Leap Motion Controller. It is extremely difficult for me to provide objective commentary. I've wanted something like this for as long as I can remember. Now that it is within striking distance I am recognizing just how far we still need to go before this will become 'better' than what we have now. Let me elaborate... What we're missing is a centralized, intelligent, low latency concierge of our various devices. Some kind of device or interface that recognizes the interfaces I have access to and binds them together seamlessly. If I start a game, and pick up a controller, the concierge should enable controller mode. If I start a program while wearing the Rift, the concierge should ensure that the program is started with the options and parameters necessary to display it on the display. Instead, what I have now is a situation where I have to manually add, drop, reorder, reconfigure my various input and output devices to trick the computer into treating the Rift as just another screen that just happens to be displaying content that looks 3D when viewed through the lenses. It's part of the fun of new technology for me, and to be 100% clear, the DK in DK2 stands for Developer Kit. What I am saying is that the Oculus will suffer along with all the other custom interfaces that PC users have had access to through the years. Some of them work great right out of the box, while others require some tuning, scripting, driver juggling, etc etc before it will be recognized by the program that maybe it was never intended to support. A low latency concierge could subvert that by simply mapping the input generated by the device the user is touching to the codes the program is expecting. The concierge would also be content aware. If I'm looking at a screen and a notification or other program wants to pop up a message it should pop up at the periphery of the screen I'm looking at, not smack in the center. Now I'm just daydreaming. The Rift, once it is running and humming along is fantastic. The sense of presence in a scene is shocking, and after showing it off to a few people around the office and at home the response has been overwhelmingly positive, despite the limited calibration and customizing for individuals I was able to do. More on this once I've had a chance to digest and process. But if this is where the future is going... sign me up.