Fear of failure

This weekend, I’m doing something foolish. I’m taking part in the Hell and Back. It’s a 10k race up and down the Little Sugarloaf, with a few obstacles thrown in for good measure. There’s a lot to be scared of. Never mind the cold, I’ve also got to haul my fat ass over a 7 foot wall, and deliberately subject myself to an electric shock. And then there’s the very real possibility that I will injure myself, badly.

But the thing that’s really got me scared — the thing that’s actually keeping me up at night — is the fear of failure. Of not finishing the course at all. Or worse, coming dead last. This is scaring me more than serious bodily harm. I can handle physical pain. Anyone who knows me knows I can’t handle emotional pain.

Ze Frank has some comforting things to say about this. Especially this line:

Let me think about the people who I care about the most, and how when they fail or disappoint me… I still love them, I still give them chances, and I still see the best in them. Let me extend that generosity to myself.

If my wife did anything like this, if she even signed up for something like this, I would be so proud of her. If she came dead last — if it took her eight hours to finish the course and everyone else had gone home — I’d still be at the finish line, cheering for her like she’d just out-run Usain Bolt. Can I do the same for myself?

On second thought, maybe I should be watching clips from Rocky instead. Much less likely to make me cry.


The Shining board game

“The Shining” is a game based on the Stephen King novel of the same name. One player controls the evil and sentient Overlook hotel, the other the Torrence family, winter caretakers of the haunted estate. Using ambiant hedge animals, terrifying phantoms and possibly human possession, the hotel tried to claim young, psychically gifted Danny as it’s own – by killing him!

This sounds amazing.


Herp Derp YouTube Comments
Speaking of stupid comments, I recently installed the Herp Derp extension for Chrome. It turns every YouTube comment into “herp derp derp“, and it has dramatically improved my experience with that site.


Glee rips off Jonathan Coulton
They even left in the “Johnny C’s in trouble” line. If this is real, then it’s really shameless.


I made this

Most videogame writing is shit.

And don’t give me any bollocks about objective vs subjective, or “yeah, well, y’know that’s just, like, your opinion, man.” It’s true. More than any other entertainment industry, videogame writing is dominated by churnalism — press releases repackaged as news or editorial. Most videogame writers could be replaced by a Markov Engine and I doubt many people would notice the difference.

Rab Florence’s Lost Humanity series on Eurogamer was something special. He wrote with wit, humour and passion. He wrote with honesty. He wrote the kind of videogame writing I wanted to read. Then there was a bit of a kerfuffle and he stopped writing for them.

Remember what I was saying about digital entropy? I didn’t want that to happen to this writing. It’s too precious to allow it to crumble away to nothing.

So I made a book of it.

I took all Rab’s original Lost Humanity articles — screenshots and all — and some of the post-kerfuffle articles that were written on other sites and dumped them into LaTeX using Zed Shaw’s learn-x-the-hard-way as a basic template. I added an index. I wrote a little introduction (I don’t know why). From all this, I generated a PDF, which I sent across to lulu.com. And for less than the price of a decent cocktail, I had a hard-copy of some of my favourite game writing.

I’m really happy with the way this turned out and it’s something I can see myself doing a lot in the future. Or at least, I could see myself doing it a lot in the future if I can sort out my LaTeX workflow. I haven’t found a decent/reliable tool for dumping HTML/XML to LaTeX, so it takes a good bit of manual futzing to get it to a print-ready state. There’s also Blackstrap, which will generate a book of your Instapaper/Pocket queue, which seems like it’s scratching a similar itch.


We should retire Aaron’s number
This is something I’ve thought about a lot. What will happen to all my accounts after I die? Will my digital legacy just lie dormant while slowly being eroded by entropy? It’s a sobering thought. All the gold I’ve been dispensing on this blog and on my twitter account — gone. That would be sad. But for this to happen to Aaron Schwarz? That would be absolutely tragic. Dave Winer proposes a solution: that the internet at large takes a role in curating Aaron’s content as important historical artefacts. A lovely idea.


Crossword master Araucaria reveals in puzzle that he is dying of cancer

Quietly, ingeniously and, of course, cryptically, the beloved – and sometimes feared – crossword setter Araucaria has used one of his own puzzles to announce that he is dying of cancer.
Above cryptic crossword No 25,842 sat a set of special instructions: “Araucaria,” it said, “has 18 down of the 19, which is being treated with 13 15”.
Those who solved the puzzle found the answer to 18 was cancer, to 19 oesophagus, and to 13 15 palliative care. The solutions to some of the other clues were: Macmillan, nurse, stent, endoscopy, and sunset.

This is very sad, but also strangely uplifting. I hope when my time comes, I can face death with the same playful, pleasant attitude.


Little Differences

Reading (or is it re-reading? I can’t even remember if I ever finished it) Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and, being someone who works with computers for a living, I keep catching myself using it as an analogy for how I respond to computers and computer maintenance. It’s like I’m doing a mental search-and-replace as I read the book — ‘s/motorcycle/computer/g’.

This piece, in particular, grabbed me

A friend who owns a cycle of the same make, model and even same year brought it over for repair, and when I test rode it afterward it was hard to believe it had come from the same factory years ago. You could see that long ago it had settled into its own kind of feel and ride and sound, completely different from mine. No worse, but different.

Macs aren’t renowned for their customizability. In fact, it’s part of what I love about them. With a Linux/Unix machine, it’s possible to spend your entire time tweaking your system and not actually get any work done. Macs are limited in this regard, each one is pretty much alike, so the operating system effectively disappears and there’s almost no friction between you and your work.

All the same, I have still managed to modify my MacBook (through a combination of Moom, Alfred and Keyboard Maestro) to the point where someone using my computer will eventually go “whoa” and back away from the keyboard. But it makes total sense to me. It’s the way I work. The same as yours, but different.

There’s something nice about that.