Thirty-Nine / 三十九

Year thirty-eight was pretty strange, y’all.

I went to look back at last year’s birthday post so I could address my successes and failures—and I didn’t make one. I suppose that’s basically 2018 in a nutshell. Some thoughts about the last year of my life, though:

My thirty-eighth was a year of professional growth.

I hit some personal milestones I’d set for myself in my career last year, and it feels pretty great. I’ve been working on an important and long-term project at WordPress.com VIP, and seeing that progress has been really good. I feel respected and valued, even when I’m not feeling great about myself or my abilities.

I’ve also been able to continue to build a reputation as a hard-working and dependable volunteer at fighting game events in the Midwest, and have been recognized with staff positions at Frosty Faustings and Combo Breaker, the two premier events in the Midwest.

Having teenaged kids is pretty fun.

I now have three teenagers, and I’m constantly interested in how fascinating it’s been to watch my kids grow up to be young adults. It’s challenging at times, and I feel old a lot more than I used to, but I really enjoy engaging with them and finding out what they are interested in and who they are going to become.

My health continues to be problematic.

I’ve really failed at this one, yet again. I’m still around the same weight I’ve been for several years, and what started as a fairly dedicated gym routine at the start of the year ended up being months of just not going and putting in the work. I have no-one to blame but myself on this one. I just haven’t been able to turn my diabetes around and get ahead of it.

Here are my hopes for year thirty-nine:

It’s time to learn JavaScript.

I’ve been neglecting this professionally for too long. JS is becoming more and more the language I’ll have to work with on the web, and not being at least somewhat proficient with it will eventually become a deficiency. I’m spending some of this week at work on experimenting with JavaScript and trying to learn how it and other modern front-end technologies work.

I’m using NodeCG as a bit of a starting point, because it has a lot of crossover with my hobby life, and presents interesting challenges I can attack that will teach me the concepts I need to continue to develop my technical skills.

I’d like to hit 250 pounds by Combo Breaker.

Can I lose thirty-some pounds in the next five months? I’m invested in finding out. I need to lose some weight. It holds me back in so many aspects of my life, and is a prime indicator of how well-managed my diabetic condition is. I know that weight can be just a number, but this is just a part of my life I feel I need to conquer before I’m 40.

And in the end, the only person I can be accountable to is myself. It’s going to be hard work, and I’ll have to give up things I really like—such as being lazy and a number of food items I love—but I need to get back to physical activity and pair it with controlling my carb intake properly.

I want to start streaming local events.

Last year, I came back from Frosty Faustings and my first work on stream direction alongside Will English with goals to establish myself in the St. Louis area as an event streamer. I have most of the gear I need for the job, and really enjoyed helping run the stream at Frosty. For various reasons, this never materialized.

There’s a possibility that the opportunity will present itself again this year, and if I can smartly approach it, I plan to. I’m still not going to stream anything where I’m unable to attach my name or channel to it in some way, and I hope attitudes towards that have changed here in a way that will allow for me to get more event experience. We’ll see how it goes.

I’d love to be able to engage with the FGC outside of those two specific events every year, but it’ll take some effort and luck.

I’m going to conquer learning Japanese.

Some of you know that I started down this path last year, a bit too late to take advantage of the yearly sale at WaniKani. I managed through the first two levels of learning kanji, and put my learning on hold around mid-year so I could purchase a lifetime membership to the site once the sale came back around at the end of the year.

I purchased my lifetime membership a couple of weeks ago, and I’m already back to where I was when I stopped (I reset my progress back to level one when I purchased the membership).

I’d like to be at level 20 by the end of the year, and start working towards speaking proficiency as well. I’ll be reading through some grammar within a few months, and I would like to be able to take the test for N5 proficiency in December.

So I begin year thirty-nine.

It surprises me sometimes when I think about how much stuff in my life is now significantly far away, temporally. Lots of things have been over for a while now—high school was two decades ago and change, my career change is now over a decade old, and my children are approaching the age when I went off to college. We’re officially done with the “little kids” stage of our lives, and there’s an uncomfortable inevitability to that notion.

I recently listened to a recording of a performance I was part of when I was only two years older than my oldest son. It was sobering to consider.

I’m by no means done with, though. My life didn’t really have solid direction until I was thirty, and there continue to be opportunities that will present themselves as we continue to forge along in life. I count myself amazingly fortunate to be accompanied on this journey by my wife, who supports and encourages me along the way. And we are likewise enriched by the presence of our children.

I’ll try to check in on this stuff every so often throughout the year. And I’ll be streaming live on Twitch later today, as well! It’d mean a lot to me if you’d stop by on my birthday.

Be seeing you.

Video Game Things Your Kids Don’t Understand

This morning, for their allotted video game time, my two oldest children (9 and 8) decided to play the NES Super Mario Bros. (they have been enjoying New Super Mario Bros. on both the Wii and the DS recently). I wanted to be part of this, as I figured they might have some trouble with it—if you haven’t played it in a long time, as with many older games, it’s actually quite difficult.

What I was not ready for were the barrage of questions about very basic things, most of them related to changes in how games are designed and play between my childhood and theirs. I’m still watching them and other than an adventurous warp zone expedition to World 4-1 by my son (who had seen me do that the other day) only one of them has managed to make it past World 1-2 in the last 30 minutes.

So here’s the list of things your children won’t understand if you try to get them to play Super Mario Bros.:

  • Neither of them knew of two-player alternating as a concept. They certainly were unfamiliar with the alternation taking place when one player died rather than when one player cleared a level.
  • The idea that a game would not permit you to continue and would force you to start over if you lost all your lives was alien to them.
  • So was the idea that you couldn’t save your game and had to play through in one sitting.
  • They had never played a game where once you scrolled to the right you couldn’t go back to the left.
  • The stinginess of this game in handing out extra lives is shocking to them. Games from about Super Mario World on (maybe Mario 3) started handing out extra lives like candy.
  • Things Mario and Luigi can’t do compared to their experiences:
    • butt stomp
    • wall jump
    • slide (no slopes until Mario 3)
    • go from Fire to Super instead of small when getting hit
    • spin jump
    • pick up shells instead of kick them right away
  • They started whining and complaining in the way I am certain my brother did when I was a kid when I would just keep playing and playing and playing and he wouldn’t get to be Luigi for a pretty long time.

If you’ve done this with your kids or can think of any other likely things they don’t understand, post a comment and let me know. I doubt these two know anything of what a password is to continue a game, either.

On the other hand, there are some things that are still pretty masterful about this game and that play well. The jump “feel” is still awesome and they picked it up without too much trouble—I’m still watching them get a grasp on the acceleration and air control. They both knew about holding B to run and had a good understanding of the basic rules and physics of the game, and in that way I don’t think Mario has changed all that much (which is part of its appeal for me). They both knew 100 coins earns you another life.

What was most interesting to me was that other than the complaining about how they weren’t any good at it or that the other child was getting to play more—and both of them did this at different times—is that they had fun. As limited as the technology was at the time and as rough as the game looks compared to contemporary games, they still found aspects of it interesting and fun to discover. Joshua just warped to World 2 instead of World 4 just so he could see what it was like and how it’s different.

They’re even commenting on influences they see that went more or less directly into New Super Mario Bros. It’s interesting to think that in a small way the Mario series, with games separated by two decades, has provided us a shared language for games.

Body Image Jokes = Not Funny

A GraphJam from today.

As a father of two girls, I unfortunately don’t find this to be funny. I worry that they will someday stop listening to me when I tell them they are beautiful or pretty and they will end up feeling like this.

(Their future boyfriends/spouses are already in trouble. They just don’t know it yet.)