Posts Tagged work

Review: Whistle Stop Ale House

There’s a restaurant near Wizards, I’ll call it a “classic lunch-style diner,” called Whistle Stop, which can essentially be described as the Wizards’ cafeteria.  I have certainly frequented it a bunch, and it’s been my go-to place for a burger or sandwich or salad or soup (of the day).  I know a fair number of people at work who also enjoy it, but recently a few of my friends have decided it is actually crappy and are boycotting it.  What is going on?  I intend to dig up the truth of the matter… in this review!

Whistle Stop’s got a large delta in its serving staff; that is, some are great and some are terrible.  I don’t want to name names (also I don’t really know their names), but I am very appreciative when I frequent a place and when I sit down, they already know my, e.g., drink order.  About half the staff at Whistle Stop does that for me.  Now, granted, the other half extends the meal by about half an hour because of delays in service, and that’s frequently a problem. So this is a hit-or-miss proposition, and that can often be a dealbreaker for lunchtime choices when you need to be sure to get back by a certain time.  I can see this being an argument for crappitude, and recently it seems like more of the bad staff are present and less of the good staff (bad trend).

Also one of their waitstaff is a dead ringer for Amanda Peet.

On the other hand, I have never had a problem with quality of food there, and one of Whistle Stop’s great triumphs is that everyone I know is capable of finding a (good) meal there.  Vegans, vegetarians, can’t-eat-bread, only-eat-meat — all of them have options, or at least a good option.  The food is also good every time.  It’s also the kind of simple restaurant fare I enjoy – maybe it’s my upbringing, but I’m not a fan of like, Thai or Indian frequently.  Once a while, sure, but I’m a burger/sandwich kind of guy.

Overall: B- (B+ for medium sized groups)
Guskingestion Factor: A-
Service, Averaged: B+
Service, Recently: C+

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Marcella Kallmann

Marcy and I actually met a number of times in the hallway on the fourth floor before we started chatting and becoming friends. Over time, especially over the course of many work events in far and away places, we got spend more time getting to know each other. Marcy’s got a busy busy job in office, but luckily while we are at events, she has time to chill – kind of silly that the most time we hang out is when we are thousands of miles from the workplace. Just like me, Marcy takes on a little too much to do and gets stressed, but she is usually cheery and wonderful with people while on the job, despite how stressed/tired she is – a skill I wish I had myself!

Marcy seems to be the kind of person I wish I could be with respect to friends – focused and devoted to a small number of them, with really strong friendships. When we were in San Juan, she graciously joined me and a crew of other friends to go out for dinner on my birthday. This was great because not only is she wonderful with new people (despite her complaints to the contrary, Marcy is *amazing* at making friends in my experience!) but she also kept me cheerful and laughing because she’s a goofball and a excellent socializer. Marcy’s also super cute and happens to be shorter than me, which is a big positive in my book because I so rarely get to be (comparatively) tall! :)

Marcy is a wonderful friend and I love hanging out with her. She’s got the perfect mix of sass, kindness, devotion to others and sense of responsibility, and really the only strike against her is she stays too busy for me to corner any of her time. 😛

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Kellen Abel

Kellen’s a local Seattle Magic player, but hilariously I didn’t really have any clue who he was (even having shown up to multiple events at the local competitive game store and to Cube drafts) until very recently. Kellen’s totally awesome though, and I am very happy I know him. Not only does he have an amazing sense of humor – the kind that when you’re worried you have a stupid joke and nobody will laugh at it, but then Kellen does honestly and you feel much better! – but he’s apparently some sort of acrobat (which I still don’t believe, because he *clearly* doesn’t backflip everywhere) and also just a sweet, nice guy. I basically can’t stop smiling when Kellen is around.

Kellen and Joe recently did the storefront work in Amsterdam for local card store CardHaus, and despite their extreme exhaustion due to jet lag and running around doing errands, Kellen still found time to come and say hi and give me a hug. It’s a small thing (I mean, the hug was nice!) but it really indicates to me the kind of gentleman Kellen is: dedicated to what he does and to his friends. I regret we were unable to battle the Magical cards, and in fact, I’m not sure I have ever played Kellen, but man that sounds like a hilarious and wonderful time!

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Worth Wollpert

Worth is a good man. Not only is he devilishly handsome, he’s intelligent and fun! Worth and I don’t actually have too much time to hang out together, but everytime we do (various drafts at Wizards, company or Rosewater events when applicable, and the once-in-a-while party like Worth and Ryan’s Black and White party [which was totally sweet!]) it is very good times. Worth’s been a part of Magic a long time, and has certainly directed its course for the better over that period – something I greatly admire and respect because (1) I too am trying to help it to be better, and (2) I love Magic as a player. Beyond work, Worth’s dedication to his personal pursuits like DJing inspire me, and his strong strong bond to his friends from ye olden times (which comes up here because he is sometimes away visiting them and thus I cannot spend time hanging out with him!) is admirable.

Worth’s also a great example of a person who respects and encourages intelligence and wisdom in the people he works with – which is doubly awesome, because it means he infuses his organization with those values. A ton of the people I interact with – maybe all of them! – in his Magic Digital organization (I say “his” but it’s really a combined effort of many manager/director types) are totally great to work with and get the job done, and that’s a credit to Worth as well. If I ever end up trying to bootstrap my way in managerishness, I hope to follow in Worth’s example because I think he does it very well. Of course, like many of my friends, Worth’s got a mischievous streak, and I definitely enjoy that persona as well.

Tragically (for the rest of us), Worth’s time is often devoted to his wife and son, who also seem like amazing people (so I don’t blame him!) Still, every once in a while, we do get to shoot the shit together, and for that I am quite happy!

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Lee Sharpe

Lee and I work together at Wizards; we actually started working for the company basically around the same time. We’ve collaborated on some projects, we have been on teams together, and most importantly we have had a lot of sweet discussions about morality, philosophy, economics and people. Lee’s a sharp guy (heh) and like me, loves to apply his logic and wit to various topics.

Also like me, Lee is extremely principled. There aren’t many people I know who are strong enough in their convinctions to both say and do something according to their moral/ethic code in the face of tons of peer pressure / monetary or social incentives /etc. Lee is one of those people. The even more amazing thing, however, is that though we share this principledness, we are so different in our perception and incorporation of economics that we have quite the lively discussion about how the world might be better! I have a grand time thinking up ways to convince Lee that he’s wrong about “the fundamentals” of philosophy that I believe – free will, the goodness of humans, better futures than the free market, etc. – and then trying my hardest to hold the line against his equally well constructed and reasoned positions.

Lee is also a great guy to just go out and hang out with. He and I have been attending karaoke pretty regularly, which has become a totally awesome “thing,” but even before that, Lee is always up for a friendly dinner or a night out at a bar or club. I would not have guessed how social Lee is, but I am super happy that we are friends in a way that lets me see and appreciate his suaveness! Lee is the best kind of friend: the one who holds deep convictions, enjoys talking about them, doesn’t overly judge you for yours, and (despite differences) is just fun to chill with.

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Mark Gottlieb

Mark and I work together, but I’m not sure we’ve ever been on the same team for a project.  He and I have talked quite a bit, though, and worked on various tasks apart from our project stuff.  Although we often get snippy with each other and debate a bit heatedly, I think it’s because we are *too* similar, not that we have too many differences.  My theory was borne out a bit when we roomed together recently in Amsterdam and it was totally fine.  Mark is very very smart (even though he wrongly believes his alma mater MIT is better than Caltech – pffft!), has an analytic mind, doesn’t ignore and often is prey to his emotions, and is a genuinely good person.  Remind you of anyone? :)

Mark has an excellent capacity for fun – he’s one of the people who work on Magic who enjoys playing it for its own sake, something I very much appreciate.  Mark doesn’t seem to appreciate stupidity, but has no problem educating others and helping them to understand.  Like me, even when he feels certain about something, he’s willing to listen and maybe even change his mind.  I have laughed quite a bit with Mark, even when stressed about work and what-not, and I really appreciate that.  He likes LOST (like me) and he likes crazy theories (also like me).  He and I, along with Greg, also had great times doing 1v1 Winston Cube in the past, which is in essence a fun design/gameplay experience with Magic.

I think he’s still off gallivanting around Europe (which is uncharacteristically slackerish of him!) but I am looking forward to working and laughing with him in the future!

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Jonathan Loucks

Jon is kind of a young’un, and I haven’t known him that long, but in our short time of acquaintance, I’ve found I’m quite happy we’re friends.  Jon, along with his roommate Brian, do something I really enjoy doing when I have a group of friends in an area – they encourage people to get together at their place to play games, in this case Magic and usually Cube Draft.  Jon’s always a welcoming host, and to his credit, continues to invite me to come over to game with them despite my frequent out-of-townness.

Jon really loves Magic, and it shows.  He is the kind of player I admire the most – striving to become better (even though he is quite good!) and trying to play good Magic rather than getting all super tricksy and play a “metagame” kind of game.  He’s written articles, which is basically trying to share knowledge and enjoyment with the community at large.  And he’s recently made top 8 at a GP, so I’m proud to be his friend too. :)

Despite our gap in age, he and I have good talks about game design, because both of us are so motivated to do a good job designing games.  I know he’ll do extremely well in any design-type job he takes, so I hope one day in the future the two of us are doing more than just playing side-by-side… I hope we’re designing side-by-side too!

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Dylan Mayo

I met Dylan during a Thursday night Draft Club draft, which is to say during an evening where we played Magic after working on Magic.  Dylan was quite forward and friendly – introducing himself and claiming he had in fact spent all week on introductions.  He was exactly the right combination of interested in what you had to say, and interesting things to say, and I later discovered also has a razor sharp instrument of sarcasm on him.  Even now, despite my conscious awareness of his legendary sarcasm, I get taken by it when we are conversing.  Dylan is also one of the few friends who just “get” me when I’m geeking out on gaming references, possibly because he’s more of a geek than me. :)

Dylan and I have a lot in common – we are both devastatingly handsome, we both think too much, we both loooove games and playing games with friends, we both enjoy teasing Bill Stark (we kid because we love!) and we both care a lot about our friends.  Dylan also has more experience in the games industry than me, and cares more about the “real world” than me (as in, he’s formally studied economics and such).  We still have really interesting conversations all over the place, though, as good friends with varied interests should.  It is Dylan’s model of a manager – the kind that holds his people up to others when they accomplish something great, and protects them from outside influences while they are doing their work – that I admire most of the friends I have seen as managers.

Although it was a sad day for all at Wizards when a bunch of excellent people were let go with the dying breaths of the Gleemax initiative, I don’t think I miss anyone’s company quite as much as Dylan’s at Wizards.  We just clicked so well, and also had enough to argue and disagree about, that I was always interested in spending more time chilling with him, and I am sad I don’t see him every day anymore!

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Zac Hill

I only met Zac months ago, but I probably spend more time hanging with him now than basically anyone else I know.*  Zac’s very intelligent, and very charming, and very talkative.  He’s very wise in some ways, and very young (I’m actually looking for a word that means “opposite of wise, but not foolish” here) in others – he’s got so much more wordly experience than me, for example, and yet holds some beliefs I feel are obviously flawed so tightly.  Zac’s got a penchant for debate that I admire, because I am myself often opinionated and love talking/arguing it out with people, and he’s got the right combination of talent and determination when he’s doing work.  Zac’s got a lot of good qualities.

But those are not the major reasons I’m so glad to be his friend.  It’s because Zac is open-minded when encountering people and ideas.  I have frequently been in discussions with him about religion, or impossibility, or what-have-you, the kinds of conversations where I expect to be suggesting ideas against brick walls, and he’ll go, “Huh, I didn’t think about that.  I’ll have to think more on that.”  And although I have heard something similar from many friends, I find he really means it and sometimes we return to the discussion to make further progress later.  This is not to say he doesn’t dismiss some people and ideas as being dumb – he does that too!  Still, he is willing to accept insight from people he meets, and welcome those he doesn’t know on the way to becoming friends, and I salute that.

Probably the worst (least gas) thing about Zac is that he is a supervirus of DI lingo that infects all who converse with him, la.  But it’s hilarious to me anyway, so I’ll give him a pass on that one. :)

* – This is because Zac is awesome to hang out with, loves to push people to go out more (an admirable quality in a gamer, honestly), and because Bill is so often out of town, Kelly and Ryan have significant others with whom to spend their time, and Todd, Tim, Nate and Jeremy don’t live nearby.  Ideally, everyone on the aforementioned list, Zac and I would all hang together – a man can dream.

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Playing Ball and Expectation

I saw a few really interesting behaviors at the company-sponsored outing to today’s Mariners game. They were illustrative of sone neat crowd-participation effects.

The first situation was with the big screen camera. Lots of people in the stadium are holding signs and making signals at the (supposed) cameras watching them. The interesting part comes when people realize the camera is looking at them, since if they are paying attention, they’ll be able to see themselves on the big screen. The moment of realization comes with huge excitement, of course, but also a bit of regret at not noticing earlier, because subconsciously they hadn’t really been expecting it.

The crowd in front of me, in the section to the left started a wave – where everyone in succession throws up their hands. As they wave rolled up toward the back of the section, some people in my section also did the wave. The next section over from us – to my right – thought that meant the wave was propagating over toward them. So it did! The crowd itself refracted the wave, because the outer crowd saw it, and expected it to propagate to them.

Finally, there was a silly audience participation game where three Mariners hats up on the screen performed the shell game with one baseball. Ryan and I carefully followed it until the three big numerals – 1, 2, 3 – went up on the screen. We stopped paying attention, shouting out the answer (#2, of course) and then the hats started moving again! Ryan thought it was a brilliant piece of misdirection on the part of the game designer, but I will admit I was frustrated when the game bucked my expectations.

Player expectation can be such a huge part of game (or any experience) design. Observing this audience gave me a bit more respect for the scope and impact of that expectation on the quality of the game at hand.

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