Posts Tagged yesterdave

Running Focus

When I run, for exercise, I find myself needing to put my mind into focus on something *other* than the running itself.  I don’t know if this is common among people – I’m sure some people can just let their minds wander and not really focus on anything, and others can focus specifically on the running (like monitoring themselves for performance and stamina).

Over the years, I have received some advice on what to think about while running.  One of my coaches bombarded me with math (I think it was first-year calculus) while we ran on the beach training for cross-country, another told me to focus on imagining that I am holding a potato chip in each hand (making a game of it).  I also blast music at full volume when I have my iPod on a run – when there’s a song to sing along to, I have about a 50/50 chance to focus on that rather than get worked up about the workout.

But recently, I have found that considering game design problems is a great way to make the time in the workout fly by.  This is probably my obsessive nerdy brain at work, spending all of its attention on the cerebral problems of games (e.g. like staying up all night playing Starcraft) and ignoring physical concerns (e.g. like staying up all night).

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Thoughts before Inception

I’m about to leave for the evening to go see Inception at the Pacific Science Center IMAX here at Seattle Center.  I’m pretty excited – this is the movie I’ve been most looking forward to all year.  The review I heard this morning gave it very high marks (second best the reviewer had seen this year) and I’ve heard great things from friends.  What this experience is reminding me of is when I was in college, regarding The Matrix.

When I first heard about The Matrix, I was a freshman at track practice with my friend Tom.  He mentioned he had seen this kickass movie and he couldn’t really describe it.  He mentioned stuff about time slowing and action/Mission Impossible type stuff, and I was convinced.  Sure, I hadn’t heard of this movie, but I was kind of disconnected from the movie scene at college.  I rounded up some friends and we went into Hollywood to see it at the big (Grauman’s) Chinese Theatre.

I can still remember the audience’s collective intake of breath in the first scene when Trinity does her leap and rotate thing and kicks tons of butt.  Many times, when there is a unified audience reaction like that, people will cheer and I can get annoyed if I miss dialogue.  But this time, everyone was just speechless and it was wonderful.

Woo hoo!  I’ll review tomorrow.

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Three Decisions, Three Daves

I had an interview for an internal position today, and I got to thinking about other situations in the past that I was nervous about (yes, I was a bit nervous about the interview!) and how I got through them.

1. When I was in high school, I was much more introverted. In my freshman English class, my teacher enjoyed my writing and was always pushing me (in a kind way) to participate. One evening, he called my home and got my parents to put me on the phone. “Dave,” he said. “I want you to join the school newspaper.” He told me I’d be great at it, but I wasn’t sure – would others like my writing? My friend Aaron convinced me over the course of the next few days that I’d have fun, though, and Shy Dave was defeated.

2. In college, I thought I had a really good shot at being our House President. Unfortunately, I was mistaken – there were other candidates with better people skills and better qualifications than me (hi Tory! :). …by the time that election was finished, I had missed the other position I wanted to run for. :(. My friends Joe and Todd both convinced me that a different position (code of conduct committee secretary, basically) would be good for me to try. Again, their encouragement overcame the self-doubt of Mopey Dave, and I ended up getting the position and doing well with it.

3. When I saw the position at Wizards, I was stoked – it was exactly my qualifications. Sure, I had applied there many times, but this was so perfectly on target that I knew I would get it. Sure enough, after many interviews, I was offered the job. However, I was unsure about leaving Los Angeles and all of my friends. We had a dinner where I made delicious burgers and they all convinced me I was crazy to give away the opportunity to work on a game (Magic) that I cared so much about. The Outward Dave, who was more concerned for his friendships than for himself, was therefore made to see the value of doing something for oneself (once in a while).

The obvious moral is that my friends are amazing – sometimes they are the only thing that keep my overthinking brain from drowning itself!

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Event Journalism

When I was in high school, one of my English teachers convinced me to go join the journalism class, which was responsible for our newspaper The Flagship.  I had a great time working on it, so much so that I took on editor-in-chief at Caltech as a freshman.  Oops!  It was tons and tons of work for very little payoff… but I still had fun.  So when I joined Wizards and realized I still had a desire to write about things happening, I talked with Greg, the events coverage coordinator, and he agreed to let me try.

I am now at my fourth Pro Tour doing coverage, and it’s awesome!  It’s a lot of work, and the hours are a little… weird.  And the particular context in which I am doing event coverage – of Magic, and of Magic players – can sometimes be frustrating (Magic players are very opinionated, for example, and not very hygienic sometimes).  But it’s still awesome, and I am very happy to have the opportunity to write.

Writing about Magic games is an interesting balance between play-by-play and story.  It’s pretty important to have a narrative thread to keep the reader’s attention, and except for the very best players, you don’t want to flood readers with game states.  I have found it is way easier to write down the play-by-play while sitting there watching them play, and then revise into a real story afterward if I can.  Oftentimes, when you look back to do a first and second edit of your work, you can feel themes emerging.

Maybe it’s silly to think this way about specifically articles about Magic games, since they are so inaccessible to an uninformed audience, but I have definitely appreciated seeing my writing in new light from doing event coverage.

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Image 2

Frantically trying to finish work for the week so that I can jet for Oregon to see Jeremy and Rose!  I was, however, pondering self-image again in the shower this morning, so I wanted to write that out a little more.

Nate suggested that the correct thing to do is to align your outer self with your ideal self – that is, behave like who you want to be.  I think it’s a very admirable goal, but I also think it is the opposite of easy.  The reason I believe that is that I think one’s outer self is very volatile in response to control – both from inside and from outside.

Here’s an (appropriately themed for the month) example:

In my Junior year, when I was still kind of recovering from Katharina telling me she definitely didn’t want to be involved with me (in a relationship), I turned to running as a way to get my mind off of it.  Well, to be clear, I wanted to find something to get my mind of it, but couldn’t.  It took a good friend, Robin, to convince me to get my butt in gear and get running.  And even then, as I continued to run each morning, I was unable to keep my mind from returning to the Katharina “problem” (only really a problem in my own head) whenever I (a) saw her or (b) saw something that reminded me of her or (c) happened to think about any experience involving her.

I don’t think it’s impossible to do what Nate suggests, but the pressure of emotions (and emotional response to what’s happening around you) does a ton to shape your outer self sub/unconsciously.  This is the danger of utilizing the outer self as a tool to change yourself – it cleaves in both directions.  There have definitely been times in my life (like, now, for example) where my outer self is emotionally turbulent and it is dragging me around with it.

It seems a much safer, if much more difficult, method to work on the inner self while maintaining some measure of stability in one’s outer self.  Or, at least, make small changes rather than large ones (advice that could apply to lots of scenarios, not just those about image!)

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A Tale of Two Risks

“Hey,” I said into the phone.  It was an evening, early in my Senior year of high school, and I had Megan on the phone.  My (attraction? infatuation? something else?) with her had been growing pretty fast over the past few weeks as we did student leadership type activities, and I couldn’t stand it anymore.  I needed to tell her.  “So, uh, I wanted to say I really like you.  Like, more than a friend.”

(Quotes probably misremembered to protect the naive.)

“Oh,” she said.  “Thanks.”

I’m not sure I said anything for a good minute or two afterward.  Babbled, yes, but said anything?  I doubt it.

—-

Katharina was a really good friend.  Other than Jeremy, my roommate, I doubt there was anyone in college I had hung out with more.  And when she and I were sitting in the library, and she said she liked me (like, more than a friend), I felt my heart leap.  But I was still so shy around women.  I told her I liked her too, and decided I wouldn’t do anything to screw it up.  I mean, she was seeing someone, so it’s not like I *could* do anything until she decided she wanted me more than him, anyway.

That’s what I told myself.  I, being still naive and knowing next to nothing about relationships, applied constant low pressure for her to decide – probably more than I should have, but then, maybe not even close to what I needed.  I was stuck in limbo.  Eventually, she decided she wanted to stay with him and I couldn’t let go.  I know for sure the next year or so, I had only myself to blame for not understanding when I was supposed to rip myself away from my emotions about her – because I didn’t, and they dragged me down, down, down.

—-

I put myself out there essentially without preamble in the first scenario with Megan, and I rel ied on events to develop essentially on their own in the second scenario with Katharina.  Different kinds of risk, but both flawed in a fundamental way, one that over time I have come to recognize and understand.  Timing is so important in relationship development, but it’s also paradoxically the element on which you must focus the least.  Focus is a double-edged sword: it is very powerful at allowing a thinking feeling individual to explore possibility, but it also prevents that individual from making intuitive leaps.

I am reminded of a line from Michael Crichton’s Journeys (his nonfiction book about his life experience – I highly recommend it, I am still digesting its lessons) where he is talking about the mystical art of spoon-bending.  In it, he claims one’s concentration must be in a very specific place.  “It’s like walking carrying a full coffee cup.  If you pay too much attention, you can’t walk.  If you don’t pay enough, you spill the coffee.”

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PTQ Geneva

When I won my first PTQ, I was kind of buoyed up by this intangible feeling of accomplishment.  I have very rarely won anything – usually, like for positions, I am assigned rather than elected, and for talent-based competitions, I am sabotaged by my own mind into shooting for lower than first.  But that day, I did everything right (or right enough :)) and won.  It was Time Spiral limited, and my UG tempo deck was both unconventional and powerful.  It took me to the top 8, where I again drafted a bit unconventionally, nearly mono-B with giant fatties and my personal sleeper card, Traitor’s Clutch.  Some made fun of me for it, but then they got smashed.  It was pretty Clutch, let me tell you. [end Magic strategy content]

I had not planned on attending more PTQs that season – I had tried my luck at the enormous Los Angeles (Costa Mesa) one and failed to get anywhere.  It was Thanksgiving weekend, and as I was musing that I didn’t have anything to do (and most of my friends were out of town), my friend James invited me (kind of out of the blue) to his place in Phoenix, Arizona.  On a whim, I looked and saw there was a PTQ there on Saturday.  The drive was something like 6 hours.  But I decided spending time with James and his family would be fun in and of itself, so I took the trip. And ended up one free trip to Geneva, Switzerland (with a France/England extension afterward) richer.

All through the ride, and while hanging out with his family, and while at the tournament, and even in the celebration afterward and the drive home… I kept myself in the moment.  It’s something I have an extremely difficult time doing – my mind just wants to hang out thinking about possible futures (and anxiety), and pondering alternate pasts (and regret).  But somehow, that weekend, I was able to cast aside those mental states.  Recently, I have felt those states consuming my mental energy, and this memory came up to remind me that I can get past them and back to the “precious present,” somehow.

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Ditch Day 2002

It’s about four in the morning, and I am listening to some Dave Matthews song with a beat on repeat.  Wedge is there, trying to help me finish clues, but I am so spaced out I am unable to give her sufficient direction.  The hours seem to be accelerating by.  How ironic, considering the time-manipulation and futurism themes of Hyperion, the novel series on which we are basing our puzzles.

It’s about six, and Todd is rushing me out of the room with the clues.  I think I have all of them – check my clipboard again, yeah, think this is all of them – and we take the truck around campus.  Since Ditch Day is literally in two hours, it’s not like anyone minds us just riding roughshod in the truck around campus.

It’s about seven, and I’m checking on the breakfast for our two groups.  Sure, doing two full sets of stuff for a past- and future- themed group was rough, but I’m hoping it’ll all turn out okay.  In about thirty minutes, I will change my tune on that.

It’s a few minutes to eight, and all Seniors need to be off-campus or the duct-taping-to-trees tradition (every underclassman’s favorite) will commence.  I can’t find my clipboard, which means I can’t be sure everything is where it is supposed to be.

Wedge, great friend she is, begins to laugh at me as the clock strikes 8 and some relatively quick underclassmen see me standing there.  They rush me, she shouts she’ll meet up with me later, and I take off.  I was in shape.  They were not sprinters.  I wasn’t even loaded down with my clipboard.  I escape.

I haven’t slept in roughly 40 hours.  I finally make it back to our house’s off-campus place and collapse on the couch.  Plenty of phone calls asking where the heck some of the clues are reach me over the course of the day.

Despite all the craziness, people love it and I think it turned out great.  The lesson, of course, is sometimes you just have to stop worrying and let go – generally speaking, life moves on with or without you.  When you are in the moment, without the perspective of looking back, it can be hard to accept that despite setbacks, things are going to turn out alright.

(EDIT: Here’s the picture from Nate:

Exhausted

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Drive

It was 1996, and I was 16.  I had just completed a tons-of-fun hands on driving lesson with my friend Jessica, and it was my birthday.  I was riding high, and I knew I was mere moments away from getting my driver’s license.  That is, I *was* moments away… until the driving instructor administering the driving test, friendly woman that she was, failed me outright for nearly getting us killed at a blind intersection.  That was her story, anyway.

I was crushed.  I was so expecting to be an independent driver by that evening, and it was gone in a flash.  There is a mandatory wait period of two weeks to retake the driving test in California, and I think in the intervening time I overcame my cockiness behind the wheel.  For the second test, the only negative note on my record was how slow and overly careful I was (having been burned before by speeding during a test) and I passed with room to spare.

I then proceeded to drive for about 45 minutes, just heading south on the freeway, in my mom’s car.  She was kind of upset (okay, maybe pretty furious) that I had just driven off like that without telling her where I was going, but I was so relieved and excited to be independently driving that I couldn’t help myself.

I really enjoy driving, and being able to get where I need to go whenever I need to (the few years I spent entirely on public transit in NYC and Boston was sort of a subtle downer on all the times I just wanted to get somewhere on my own time) — and despite becoming a much more aggressive driver in recent years (living in Los Angeles for any length of time will do that), I still feel quite serene while driving.

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A Day Away

So I think the experiment was a success – a good day overall, learned some interesting things about myself, and have a plan to treat my Internet usage.  I did use my phone a little bit — but just to find things in downtown Seattle while wandering around drunk, and to get down Emily’s phone number.  But I’m getting ahead of myself. :)

I got up and went to Wallyball, met up with a bunch of great work friends and had a great set of games.  I’ve been playing for maybe two years now off and on and I can definitely feel myself on the edge of “leveling up” and becoming a much better player.  After Wallyball, I went to get lunch at Eats Market (whose BLTs I have raved about in the past) and then took Max over to the Turians, where I rescued fellow beagles Tulip and Buddy from the impending bridal shower there.  We had a looong walk through the Cedar River area and a good few hours at the dog park.

That evening, I met up with Ryan and we went to a comedy show with Events and Adventures – a singles group that organizes tons of stuff in the Seattle area (and beyond!)  I was there as his guest, and we quickly hit it off with a pretty and funny woman named Emily.  She sat with us at the show, remarked on how Ryan and I were like brothers (i.e. both nerds), and then accompanied us to out-on-the-town afterward.  We tried a newish dance club (meh) and then an Irish pub (yay) and on the way out, well, I already mentioned that part.  It was a great day, actually.

So, what did I learn?

  • I don’t think I like being cut off completely from the Internet, but I definitely appreciate moderating my usage.  I think I will be closing down Gmail and Facebook during the day, and catching up at lunch and other free times.  Bonus: I’ll probably become more efficient at work!
  • I am very dependent on other people’s opinions of me, so when I mostly removed those from the equation, I realized I am not nearly as self-sufficient as I want to be.  I also have lower self-esteem than I would like.  Not sure what to do about this one except, well, worry about that stuff less!
  • I do a lot of outdoorsy stuff when I am not i-connected, but I also don’t really consider “stuff outdoors” to be progress toward a goal.  It’s a temporary escape, and I get frustrated with myself for not “doing anything.”
  • I need to watch that I am treating my friends properly in frequency of chatting and emailing.  When I cut myself off, my emotional brain rebelled at not hearing from my friends (even though my logical brain knew that’s because I told them not to) – it is selfish of me to demand my friends take interest in my life at all times (and it sort of feels like that’s what emotional-me wants), so I need to work on that.

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