I Miss Austin

I’m feeling a little maudlin today.

I’m sure this will come as no surprise, but I miss the hell out of Austin. We’ve been gone for three years now and it feels like an eternity.

Our move to Michigan could not have been more ill-advised. I’d been out of work for months and we were getting kind of desperate but I still shouldn’t have done it. The company I went to work for was well-respected and making interesting games and I still shouldn’t have done it. I should have held out.

Because there really is more to life than money.

I didn’t realize how good I had it in Austin until I left. Michigan is a cultural WASTELAND. Dragon’s Lair? Nothing like that in the entire state of Michigan. Alamo Drafthouse? Nothing like that in the entire state of Michigan. All those quirky little shops on South Congress? Nothing like them in the entire state of Michigan. Half-Price Books, dozens of quirky different restaurants, the Broken Spoke, Einstein’s Arcade, the beautiful UT campus, Barton Springs…not only does nothing like these things exist in Michigan they sure as hell don’t all exist in the same city. Austin has so much awesome crammed into it that I’m surprised it hasn’t spontaneously combusted.

Hell, Michigan only has one game development house and I’d already been fired from it so after the first year I didn’t even have that.

And you may say, “Well, Austin has a lot of that stuff because it’s a college town.” Nuh-uh. I went to Ann Arbor several times for job interviews; it was just as sterile as the rest of the state.

And let’s not even go into Detroit. I sure as hell wish I never had. On the day we moved in someone broke into our house and stole both our TVs, my Xbox and my PS3. Welcome to the fucking neighborhood, suckers!

But now I’m in Boca Raton; that’s better, right? Well, yes. I’m employed. There aren’t any more gunshots outside. I don’t fear for my family’s life. I don’t feel like our house could be broken into any time. But…

Boca Raton’s a retirement town. It’s beautiful and the weather is temperate but it’s almost specifically designed to not be overstimulating. So all that stuff I mentioned earlier? Boca doesn’t have anything like it either.

So I’m seriously homesick. It’s gotten to the point that I’ve taken to using Google Maps to zoom around Austin and look at all the places I’m missing.

And then I realized…

This must be what it’s like to be dead.

You yearn. And you can look down from above and see, kind of. You can hear what certain people are saying and doing, to a limited extent – especially the people you really care about.

But you can’t participate. And as hard as you might try to pretend, you aren’t really there.

So to all of my friends who are – enjoy it. Please. For me.

PTFSD Update: Week 1

Weight Loss: Week 1
Previous Weight: 403.4
Current Weight: 395
Loss: -8.4 Pounds
Total Weight Loss: -8.4 Pounds

This week was probably the toughest I’m going to have, and it wasn’t THAT tough. The really bad part was when everyone else got to eat Boston Market last night. But I persevered and I feel like I was rewarded for it.

Nothing Comes From Nothing

So. Can’t afford a PS4 or Xbox One, or even a Wii U. Nothing is coming out this Christmas that I actually care about. So I honestly don’t have anything to talk about on that front.

Things are happening with Planitia…slowly. There’s just a ton of work that I have to do just to get the OpenGL version to parity with the DirectX version. The problem is that the DirectX version has frame rate problems that I just don’t seem to be able to diagnose, so I am wary about just dumping code straight over.

So nothing really on the gaming news or indie project front. On the family front, I’m feeling fine, my kids are fine, my oldest daughter passed her GED and is starting her job search.

So…things are going. Waiting for something big to happen that I can really talk about. Bear with me in the meantime.

Ginger Apple Cobbler

A couple months back, I was invited to participate in a potluck dinner here at work. I provided two dishes, a duck concoction that was okay, but not great, and an apple cobbler.

The apple cobbler was the big hit, so I thought I’d provide the recipe.

The base recipe is here; it’s a simple-to-make drop-dough cobbler. But when I made it for the first time, the apple/ginger pairing just spoke to me. I thought it was far more delicious than apples and cinnamon, so I modified the recipe.

Ginger Apple Cobbler

This recipe will make one 9×9 or 8×11 baking dish worth of cobbler.

FOR THE FILLING:

6 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and diced
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of salt
Pinch of ground nutmeg

FOR THE TOPPING:

2 tablespoons butter, soft
1/2 cup self-rising flour
1/2 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
Pinch of ground ginger
1 egg

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter the baking dish.

Mix the apples, sugar, brown sugar, AP flour, vanilla extract, ginger, cinnamon, salt and nutmeg. You can mix them directly in the baking dish. The resulting mixture should taste sweet, tart and gingery.

When making the topping, you can use a hand mixer or your food processor if it has a dough blade. Put one egg in the bowl and beat it well. Add the butter, sugar, flour, salt and ginger and beat until smooth.

Taste the topping. It should be delicious and you should be tempted to just eat it right out of the bowl. If not, you did something wrong.

Spoon up some topping and dollop it on top of the filling. You want to get the dollops as even as you can, though it doesn’t have to be perfect. The topping will spread as it bakes. It will also absorb moisture from the filling, which is why you don’t have to put a lot of liquid in it.

Bake for about thirty minutes. When the topping is light brown and firm, remove it from the oven. Let it cool thoroughly before serving or you will burn your tongue off.

Enjoy with vanilla ice cream.

I tripled this recipe for the potluck and served it in one of those big catering pans. Like I said, it was a huge hit.

Fixing a Laptop

So, my Asus 1215n netbook stopped working. This is currently my children’s computer so this was a crisis because now they would be bugging me to play on my computer, which is Out Of The Question.

I put Windows 7 on a USB stick so I could do a fresh install; unfortunately the problem was that the hard drive had finally given up the ghost. Fortunately I had a replacement. Unfortunately, this is the procedure for changing the hard drive on this model:

You have to rip it all the way down to the motherboard to get at the hard drive. Fortunately, care and strict tracking of which screws went where made it doable.

The internals of the laptop were…frankly, it was the most disgusting computer interior I’d ever seen. This is what I get for letting my kids use it. I used a ton of moist wipes and canned air to bring it back to an acceptable state and got the hard drive replaced.

And while I was in there I noticed that one of the memory chips wasn’t fully inserted.

Ever since I bought this computer I had assumed that it only had one gigabyte of RAM in it. That’s what it says on the specification page! But it doesn’t. It has two. Reseating the other memory chip made it work perfectly so now the laptop actually works better than it ever has before.

At least until my kids get their hands on it again.

Now Arriving At Your Destination

So, last Friday around 5 PM we pulled into The Lakes at Deerfield Beach, an apartment complex here in Florida. Weary, exhausted, we went inside and signed some papers and handed over a huge wad of cash…and became the proud renters of a beautiful new apartment.

Then we just had to get all the stuff inside. We had called ahead and hired some movers but we’d told them that we would be there at 1 PM and we were really, really late.

But they were still there and they moved us in. I tipped them big; it was a lifesaver.

Then it was a matter of juggling finances (and ending up having to borrow some money) so we made our March rent on time. Then it was just time to wait until I started working.

And yesterday I went to my new job for the first time. Everyone there seems very nice, the corporate culture seems laid back (and I need that after General Motors, honestly). The work looks like something I can do.

Here’s a thing though…I hadn’t slept much the night before (I do have an anxiety disorder, after all). So by lunch I was dragging.

So I had a Coke.

(gasps from the audience)

Yes, I deliberately drank caffeine for the first time in over four years. Other than the small amounts of caffeine in chocolate, I had not consumed any since my heart problems started in October of 2008.

Now, I had already asked my doctor years ago, and he had said that a caffeinated soda a day wouldn’t hurt me. In fact, a doctor once put me on modafinil, a much strong stimulant than caffeine! (I didn’t realize what it was at the time.) But I was afraid to do it until today. Today, I felt like it was necessary for me to be at my best.

And the worst part was, it worked. I felt great! I got lots of stuff done. I felt like things might be okay now.

I was kind of half-hoping that it wouldn’t work, so I could tell myself, hey, I tried it, it doesn’t work, no need to be tempted any more. But it did.

I guess programmers really are machines that turn caffeine into code. So I guess I’ll be having a (single) soda each day to fuel that.

I just have to be careful. Now, there is still no clinical research showing that stimulants cause heart attacks, but when you tell the paramedics that you drink a lot of caffeine and are taking pseudophedrine and they look at each other knowingly, that’s evidence enough for me.

Wow, this got off course. The upshot is, we’re here and it looks like we’re staying. My first-day jitters are over and it looks like, for a while at least, I’m going to be working for a living and we’ll be getting back to what normal people consider normal.

Thank you to all my friends and family who helped us. It really does feel like waking from a nightmare.

Travellin’ Family Circus

Today is moving day. We spent all last week finding a place and late Friday we finally got one to accept us. We finalized the deal yesterday and since we wanted the earliest move-in possible (for obvious reasons) we need to be there on Friday.

That means we are leaving today. The big stuff is packed but there’s lots of loose little stuff (like there always is). Fortunately the movers don’t get here until 10:30.

Then it’s off to begin a twenty-hour-long trip to Flowida, baybee!

At Last

This must be what it feels like to make parole.

This evening, I found out that I passed my background check and I will be starting work at Pace America, in Boca Raton, Florida, on March 4th…two days before my birthday 🙂

We got a bit of money from our tax return and hopefully it will be enough to get us down there. If anyone knows any good & cheap apartment complexes near Boca Raton, please let us know!

A New Possibility

Remember that interview I went on a few weeks ago, to Florida? You know, the one I was sure I bombed?

Well, they called back and made me an offer.

This…should be Happy Times, but it’s not yet. For one thing, it took them about a week to actually get me the offer letter, which I sent back last week. Now they are running a background check on me, and presumably, if I pass, they’ll finish the hire. I don’t even know what my start date might be yet.

I wanted to wait until I knew for sure before saying anything, but at this point it could be another week before I know for certain that the hire will go through.

Of course, even if this does go through we still have the problem of getting down to Florida. We’re hoping that our tax return might help out a bit with regards to that; we’ll see.

Still, it’s a possibility. One that would not only get me working again, but would get us out of Detroit.

Wish us luck.