I wrote this short little piece in around a half-an-hour after a late night class a few weeks ago. Thought I’d post it here for anyone to read and maybe motivate or inspire. If you have any questions or comments or anything really just leave a comment and I’ll do what I can. I should note that I didn’t really proofread it or go over it too much so it may not make a lot of sense or have some odd sentences/English so bear with me.

“Passing through the hallways I watched their faces, each a deep skin-coloured porthole, sliding by each with a slight bob of vertical movement. And as I moved farther along, the waves of portholes continued. One after the other, an infinitely repeated marquee. Even the slight bobs repeated over and over with minute differences in timing, keeping steady to the rhythms of some sort of natural movement. Only the walls behind their porthole faces changed, first from the rough edges of greyed-out brick to the sharp extensions of dark metallic siding and then returning to more greyed-out brick and onto new colours of plastic and metal. Intermittently each wall was broken by a short quadrangular pane of glass. The smoothed surface owning a dual-purpose, letting the outside world permeate in and reflecting back the images of the inside.

Stopping for a moment, my mind wandered off in the direction of one of these large window-mirrors. Looking straight into the glass I could see the waves of portholes that passed me by. Yet myself, my own body, standing still was not moved by the current of these waves. I was merely the spectator to the sea, a buoy, chained at my feet.

It was then that I realized what made them all seem so alike. Their portholes, these faces all bore the same underlying emotion. One smile, tight and sharp. Eyebrows raised, bridging the forehead with a dark line. Eyes, intentful and lofty and bright. Each and every porthole, the same.

In between each pair of eyes lay the same emotion, deep beneath the surface of that porthole. It was happiness. It was contentment with life. It was the belief that what they had right at this moment was good enough for them. Not that they would not pursue greater, but that they had enough to sustain them for the time being. Whatever it was, they had it and they knew it.

Though maybe happiness isn’t for us all. Maybe we were not all intended to receive that present. At least for myself, I knew I wasn’t there. What I would’ve given to be among these waves, to flow with them and to be taken away by the same current that controlled their lives. Instead I was that lone buoy, chained in place. A spectator to the masses.”

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So yesterday was a fun and exciting day for myself, a big change from my normal routine. I was invited to help arbitrate a local scholastic chess tournament at a nearby elementary school. This was offered to myself and a good friend of mine since we both are members of the Brock University Chess Club and both of us had worked with some of the kids in previous programs offered by Chess Nation.

So there we were in a elementary school gym with approximately 155 kids ranging from grades 3 to 8 along with parents and teachers. Our job was to basically answer any questions from the students/kids and to ensure the games moved smoothly. It was definitely fun but quite exhausting, especially when similar questions and issues came up over and over again. In particular, it seems a decent number of the younger students (think grades 3 – 5) were having trouble using the en passant rule whereby the pawn-take-pawn rules change slightly. Many were confused about when it can occur and others believed it could be done against other pieces, ie a bishop or a knight. Frankly, I don’t even use the en passant rule much at all when I play so I think maybe these kids need to slow down and not worry about such a move just yet but whatever. The other top question was asking me whether a certain position was indeed checkmate, stalemate, or not at all. As an arbiter, I’m not really allowed to tell you whether some position is a checkmate or not so I had to try and force the kids to think about it and make a logical decision themselves. There was one moment where a parent somehow got around to their child’s board (the parents were supposed to stay off to the sides) and suggested that some position was not a checkmate as had been decided on by the two students playing. Obviously in those circumstances I have to just explain that if the two players agree to checkmate or stalemate or a draw even if it wasn’t exactly such, the agreement stands. This was a scholastic tournaments so there was no ratings or even recording of the moves played (that would have been Hell!) so it’s really on the more leisure side of things and just for fun.

Regardless, I made it through the exhausting 5 rounds and all the noise and rush of youths running around and yelling and screaming. Thankfully, it wasn’t too bad though so I enjoyed my several hours (9am – 2pm) and even got a free lunch out of it, woo! What I did enjoy the most was watching the grade 8’s play. The grade 8’s, although not massively skilled at chess, were playing a lot more sophisticated when compared with the lower grades (as to be expected). I was able to talk with several of them and watched as one of them who I actually taught chess last year, play some excellent games for their level. The dude I taught last year even got second place, which I thought was awesome as he went 4/5 that day, only losing his final game. It got me thinking about how I wish I had these sorts of opportunities when I was younger. Due to constraints at the time, I never was able to do after-school sports or activities like so many others had. Although it didn’t seem like that big of a deal at the time, I think it did kind of hurt my social life. But hey, too late to worry about it now, just gotta work with what I have. I also mainly wish I played more chess and was more serious about chess when I was younger, I might have grown to be a much better player than I am currently. Again, oh well nothing I can do about it now.

Anyways, that’s my post for the day (meant to be posted on Saturday but here I am in the wee hours of Sunday morning finishing it up lol). I’ll probably post more stuff soon, just gotta get around to it.

It’s never easy to go through a personal struggle, especially when you do it alone. Within the past month I’ve gone from great to good to terrible to decent to terrible (again!) and then back to decent. I’ve seen a very dark corner of my life and had some wretched days that I hope to never return to again. As of right this moment, I’m doing alright but I know it can change at any time.

Probably the hardest and most frustrating part about going through adversity alone is the fact that you are fighting yourself at every corner. Every single decision, every single thought and feeling is against yourself. You try and figure things out, analyze things, explain the reasons for events and actions but you have no second objective entity to bounce ideas off of, all you got is yourself. And being you, you almost always come to the same conclusions quickly. And before you know it you’ve just reassured everything you first proposed, only throwing out the truly insane ideas (or maybe not?).

Instead of returning down that path (I’ve done it before and it is not pretty) I’ve decided to ignore searching for “real” answers and just take what I’ve been given as the answer. Though not always applicable to all personal struggles, mine in particular should be easier this way. To be honest, I cringed right there when I typed out “easier”, because frankly it’s not easier. A better word for it might be salvageable, or carry-able? Regardless, I basically mean that in not trying to analyze too far and to go out and get that answer that I need to move on. Instead I’m taking what I’ve been given and working with that and using it as the answer to move on and to try to clean up the mess that has been made.

Anyways, I’ll be making more posts more frequently on a variety of stuff and I’ll be updating the blog itself so hopefully everything goes to plan this time (:

*Cough* https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=InHtHX3l-sQ *Cough*

Hello All!

I’m back, once again! I haven’t forgotten about this place, but I just kept pushing back any attempts to write another post until now. I woke up this morning feeling like I had to sit down and at least try to write on blog post and I’ll try to continue doing this at least once a day even if it is a short one.

For today’s post I’ll be getting into some programming and game development I’ve been working on lately. More specifically, I’ve jumped right into Gameboy Advance (GBA) development. The reason I chose this was due to three main things. First, my brother just recently received a GBA for Christmas and with my assistance, bought a flashcart for it. This means that I can test out my programs directly on the actual hardware and not just an emulator (boo!). Second, programming for the GBA is done primarily with C (and touch of ASM for speed), which is my favourite and my primary programming language! And lastly, I know of probably the greatest, and I mean it, the greatest introduction/tutorial/bible of GBA development out there. This awesome GBA development resource is called Tonc and can be found here: http://www.coranac.com/projects/tonc/ . I actually found this site years ago but I was never comfortable enough in C to actually make use of it. So now I’ve been slowly working my way through it taking in as much as I can and spitting out as much code as I can.

I should note that GBA programming isn’t for the faint of heart, this stuff can be a mental struggle, or at least it is for me. This is due to the programming being so low level, way farther than I’ve ever really done. For the GBA I’ve had to re-learn the bitwise operators and force myself into thinking about bits and bytes. In some ways it’s really cool but in others it becomes really daunting as it’s new. So for example, when working in a “bitmap mode” on the GBA, to turn a pixel to a certain colour you need to find it’s location in the video memory array and then turn that group of 16 bits into 15 bits of colour. Again, for those savvy with this low level stuff, they are chuckling right now but it’s a big change for me.

So far I’ve only been playing around in the “bitmap modes” with changing pixels and just getting used to changing and modifying the different registers to get different things on screen and viewable. But it’s still pretty fun and exciting, especially when I was able to get it onto my brother’s GBA to test on the actual hardware! In some ways this reminds me of my university programming course where we played around with a drawing program in Java which was kinda fun at times.

Anyways, I think that’s enough for now, I’ll just leave you with a small showing of my GBA drawings and/or tests that I’ve got working properly.

– Notice the well formed parabola and square 😛

-AlphaRed

Over the last little bit of the summer I decided to see if I could play through some retro games that I’ve never had the chance to play before. Games that either I didn’t own the system (console) to play on or even just games that I never cared for or were too difficult to keep me going. Currently, I’m working my way through Final Fantasy as I never owned a NES (my first console was a PlayStation) and I have never been that big into RPGs.

So why would I play an RPG game if I’ve never really enjoyed playing them? Well, part of the reason is I’m bored and I need to keep my mind busy and working on something and trying something new is excellent for that. Plus, I have a brother who is crazy about RPGs and I wanted to beat him to playing the first Final Fantasy (he beat it shortly after I started 😦 ).

So after a very rocky starting (failed to equipped my weapons or armour LOL) I finally got a good save where I wasn’t dying every second battle :). This is my current team: Ahab (fighter), Vij (red mage), Tisq (black-belt), and Ofeb (thief). I should note that I made up all the names (except Ahab => Moby Dick reference) and that’s mostly because the game only allows for the names to be four letter long and since my name is five, it got shafted. Of course I’m playing it on an emulator (JNES) since I lack the time to go on a wild goose chase to find a working NES and reasonably priced Final Fantasy cartridge.

My Team in Final Fantasy I

In playing this game, I’ve come to realize a couple of things about the gaming industry. This game, whether you deem it as a flaw or not, doesn’t really tell you anything. Granted, I don’t own the manual, which as I understand it actually tells you about the spells and what they do which would be mighty helpful :). Regardless, the game makes no attempt to actually tell you how to play or really teach you too much about how to succeed. At the end of the day, you actually have to put in the effort to play and figure some stuff out. For instance, I didn’t even realize that I never equipped my weapons or armour until I actually tell the game to. Putting the stuff in the guy’s inventory isn’t enough and you have to actually equip it. Although probably not the best example, as I may just be a huge dunce at RPGs (I will admit to it) it wasn’t so obvious to me. Other things, such as getting poisoned and realizing you’re still poisoned after you healed up at the inn. How was I supposed to know that I have to use a Pure potion to get rid of the poison? Again, this doesn’t make the game bad, just a little frustrating in the beginning. Though I do feel that the game could be a touch more friendlier in pointing me in the right direction sometimes. But then I get thinking that this is exactly what Egoraptor was talking about in his Sequelitis video.

If you haven’t seen it, you should. Egoraptor goes into great detail about why the games are so different from today’s generation to the NES/SNES generation. He primarily talks about how games teach the player how to actually play the game. I won’t go repeating what he said, cause he said it so well already…HERE. So in essence, Final Fantasy to me at least is actually fairly good at teaching me while playing or, as Egoraptor calls it, Final Fantasy has solid conveyance. I learned most of the game through actually playing rather than googling FAQs or guides (which I hate doing and consider it just a touch below cheats). Of course, as I mentioned before, there are a few spots where they could improve on the conveyance in my opinion. But some of it may be just that I’m a newb at RPGs, which I can totally see ;).

Anyways, I hoped you enjoyed this post and I hope you take a look at Egoraptor’s Sequelitis videos (unfortunately he only made three 😦 ) and maybe let me know what you think. Have you ever been in the same situation? Or have you even encountered a game where you had no idea what to do? If so, give me a shout. I’d love to see what other people think.

Oh and as usual, here is my song for the week ==> The Strokes – What Ever Happened

-AlphaRed

Been a few months since I last posted so I thought I’d have a go at it.

Since May I’ve finished my spring/summer semester at university, passing all my courses (thankfully!) and was even able to find accomodations for the fall semester. Turns out that finding a room/apartment for four months is nearly impossible as every single landlord wants at the minimum eight months, which I completely understand. Especially given that most students that they rent out to only need the eight or 12 months. I, on the otherhand, am only at the university for the fall semesters and I head back home to my co-op placement/job. So an eight month lease/rent is of no use to me.

I also started digging into more C programming during that time. I even got super confident and tried my hand at modding the Quake 3 engine. Only to find that it’s not as easy as I thought, so I went back to square one. Started learning the SDL API so that I could start cranking out some graphical games, even if they are only 2D to begin with. Built a crappy Tic-Tac-Toe game, I say crappy because it had some major flaws to the program if you knew how to exploit it. I keep saying that I’d have to rewrite it to fix all the problems but I’m a lazy programmer and it kinda scares me to have to rewrite it all. Currently, I’ve kept at the SDL and C programming and I’m writing my own blackjack game, though it isn’t turning out exactly how I’d like it to. I can say for a fact, that I’ve learned plenty from writing both these programs and realize that I’m only gonna learn more.

Anyways, I think I’m done for now. I’ll try and post sometime soon (end of week maybe?) but until then I’ll leave you with a song that has grown on me over the past few months…

Interpol – NYC
-AlphaRed

“Life has taught us that love does not consist in gazing at each other but in looking outward together in the same direction.” – Antoine Saint-Exupery, Wind, Sand and Stars

This quote from one of my favourite French authors/writers is one that I find most extraordinary. Antoine Saint-Exupery is probably best known for his childrens literature entitled Le Petit Prince, or in English, The Little Prince. A childrens book that is probably so much deeper than one realizes but it indeed is. If you haven’t read it, I suggest you take a look. Having read it in both the translated English (which isn’t too bad tbh) and also in the French (thanks goes to my Grade 12 French teacher, Mrs. Robertson) I must say that is goes far beyond what you would expect.

Anyways, back to this quote :P. This quote is taken from his biography that Antoine wrote in the 1930s (just before his disappearance in 1944) entitled Wind, Sand and Stars. Though, I haven’t read this book (yet) I have taken a look at bits and pieces of it. In particular, this quotation strikes me as a very important piece of advice that anyone could take into account (and should).

At first glance, one would easily pick out the meaning. I’ve heard a few interpretations. Some people say that Saint-Exupery was merely saying that love isn’t about appearances, hence the “gazing at each other” and that it is more about looking forward or moving forward. Others suggest that it is more about working together to move forward rather than “butting heads” and facing off against each other.

Though both of these are valid interpretations, I’d rather look at it another way. The way, I believe, Saint-Exupery intended it to be seen. If I have learned one thing in my 20 years (coming up to 21 soon ;)) of living, it’s that one must always check the context of what one is reading/looking at. In this case, I decided that I would look at the English translation (all his books are in French) of the quote along with the surrounding paragraph. With a bit of luck, the book was located in my University’s library (along with online PDFs) so I’ll paste the whole section here.

No man can draw a free breath who does not share with other men a common and disinterested ideal. Life has taught us that love does not consist in gazing at each other but in looking outward together in the same direction. There is no comradeship except through union in the same high effort. Even in our age of material well-being this must be so, else how should we explain the happiness we feel in sharing our last crust with others in the desert? No sociologist’s textbook can prevail against this fact. Every pilot who has flown to the rescue of a comrade in distress knows that all joys are vain in comparison with this one. And this, it may be, is the reason why the world today is tumbling about our ears. It is precisely because this sort of fulfilment is promised each of us by his religion, that men are inflamed today. All of us, in words that contradict each other, express at bottom the same exalted impulse. What sets us against one another is not our aims-they all come to the same thing-but our methods, which are the fruit of our varied reasoning.

A few read-throughs of that paragraph will make his intent very clear. What Saint-Exupery was really talking about was how people love those who share the same vision as them.

This becomes almost 100% apparent once you read the quote again. Saint-Exupery was jsut saying that those people who love one another have to share the same goals, the same “effort”, the same “ideals”. He talks a great deal about comradeship, or comraderie and specifically between pilots. This it because Saint-Exupery is actually a pilot himself. There is a great story in his biography about where he was lost in a desert with a co-pilot after they crash landed. Amazingly they survived and I think this experience lended itself to what he’s writing here.

Recently, I was able to experience this sort of love that he talks about when I was dating a friend. I can say, that in many ways we certainly “gazed at each other” but in many more we looked outward together. Unfortunately, for reasons I won’t disclose (tbh it’s hard to understand) the relationship ended about a month ago. And it’s been rough, but what makes it even harder is this quote. To know that we had so much “outward looking” troubles me every day. Maybe I’m just some sort of manic depressive or someone who just can’t give up. All I know is that everytime I think of her, I think of all the outward looking. I think of everything we had going for us. Of course I think of the bad stuff too, but it doesn’t seem to compare.

I’m sorry, I probably shouldn’t rant about this. Not my place to really talk about it. So I’ll just end this here. Hope you all are having a good day/week/month/year, cause tbh, the last month (for me) has been a battle and a half.

-Alpha Red