Tag Archives: work

Flashbacks

I remembered today what it was like to be really tired, the kind of tired that hangs over you like a cloud, that works its way into your skin, like a suntan lotion or sweat from working in a summer field all day.

I’m not there now, but a little dazed and wandering by the water in Hornstull I had a flashback to that kind of fatigue.

It was the first office we had in Nakameguro, probably around 2006. I was stressed from constant pressure on the job and hadn’t been sleeping much. I worked overtime, some weekends; didn’t have a day off. I was so tired then that the only thing I could do during my lunch break was trudge across the river to the small municipal park, and lay out on the grass to drift in and out of consciousness for half an hour. This was as close to rest as I got those days. I yearned for noon when I could disappear from the office and roll around on the hard, dry earth, prostrating my body under the Japanese sun.

At first you fight it, the fact your environment is grinding you down like this, but in time you forget why you’re fighting and eventually that any other way of living existed.

Now it’s just a salty, creased memory that bleeds into the edges of feeling when fatigue and the afternoon sun mix together in just the right amount.

Changes

I think I have at least one other post with this name already, but it is not practical to go looking for it now since I am on the phone.  Changes was the name of the last Monkees album before the group broke up, at that point it was just Micky and Davy left to fulfill their contracts.

Anyway, this year, at least thw last seven months have been rocky.  From the great kanto earthquake the normal flow of my winter ended.  I went from thinking about where I would go skiing next weekend to which flight I may have to take out of Japan.

In a matter of weeks everything was different and I was on medication to just make it through the day.

And now I am living with someone, not just physically but emotionally.  I yearn to go home just to be with someone I can no longer stand to be without.

At the same time we wore through one of the most difficult parts of our company’s history, and my sense of responsibilty took consumption of my life to ne w levels.  Only this time my heart was stronger and I held fast, almost too well.  At the expense of my art and my personal life, I am in the process of another lost year.

It is tough for those below as it is for those above.  It is tough on everybody.

A Summer Wasting

So, the year moves on and another project at work swallows all traces of time.  While 2010 was an artistic rennaissance for me, 2011 is a wash.  For reasons I cannot fully grok, I have been pouring mind, body, and soul into work in and our of the office for practically the whole year.  I am not quite sure what I have to show for it but advanced knowledge and skills in my profession, which oddly is supposed to be fifth on my list of priorities, but has been running close to second or first.  Such is the nature of my ennui.

The project I am on now will mercifully be over in a month or so, but in the past where a small break was the only interlude before another big project’s start, this time I have four or five to look after.  To be honest I am not really that concerned about it now, because regardless I have many plans for the fall.  Raves, camping at Fuji Lakes, and a trip to Europe to say the least.  As well as scrambling to get something artistic put together by December.

I will not go quietly into the third quarter, I’ve sacrificed enough already.

Walking tall

There comes a point where the mind can no longer deal with so many tasks, pressures, and concerns, and extraneous thought is all culled subconsciously. It’s no longer about winning, losing, or fighting, normal operation is put on hold to keep sanity together until the siege passes.  This is the time where you experience the most memory loss during development.  ‘Where did those weeks go?  I don’t remember doing anything that season at all.’  You do not remember anything because there wasn’t anything worth remembering, you’re just a machine that replies to emails and ticks off tasks.  I don’t know if this is what they call burnout, it’s probably just north of burnout, somewhere in the moors of primordial coping.

It’s a little bit like being on a mild depressant, novel at first in the unique perspective you gain temporarily– walking straight up, your focus drifting vapidly between objects in the mid to far distance.  There is an odd sense of calm unbefitting of such a tragic erosion or one’s most precious resource, time.

Everything outside of work is sacred, and the slightest hint of compassion almost drives you to tears.  It makes me wonder what kind of man I am to live like this.

To the artist I hope to find something beautiful and more significant than all the hours in and out of the office I spend worrying about that kind of nonsense.

To loving the rocking of a train, the dew that collects in the backs of my elbows, to some kind of magic always around me that I am too foolish to see.  To finding some meaning and something truly worth investing in.

Night Shift

Silent Hill 3?

I’ve been thinking about moving recently, to Shimokitazawa, perhaps, to be closer to an active community of young, frenetic artists. However, since I’ve purchased an amazing Presta valve-compatible foot-activated pump for the Trek, I’ve been immensely enjoying riding up and down the Yamanote Line. This bicycle is a golden chariot nimble as a scalpel when slicing up smooth pavement. And the roads at three in the morning are blessedly barren of traffic, so I dart through intersections with the whistle of the wind in my ears.

From my ideally located command center in Yoyogi, in fifteen minutes I can get anywhere from Takadanobaba to halfway between Ebisu and Shibuya on this baby, every sinew loving the efficient euclidean bond between my feet and the Huret drivetrain.

Tonight I left work around nine-thirty, tried to take the Enjoy to Cosmos Cafe in Shibuya (but had to leave it in the parking lot with a flat), taxied up Miyasamazaka to see the Kawaki sisters’ dance, and then sped home to print up more flyers for the show. Around one-thirty I pried myself away from Beer Fest and beat up Meiji Street to catch Mayu’s DJ set at Emotional Signal in Waseda. Now it’s past four and I am almost exhausted. The standard fair six hours’ sleep, and tomorrow I help Okada-san move. Ah, joie de vivre.

Professional software engineering

I don’t usually write about work anymore, except for the occasional, “Gee, I’m busy”, but I had some insight in the shower this morning, so I thought I’d send it out to the ether.

I was thinking about it over the past several months I guess, in the back of my mind, but this morning in the shower it bubbled its way up to the surface of my consciousness.

An important part of being professional is detachment. We build software. We’re software engineers. We need to evaluate the software we write and the software we use clinically, and do what we can to improve upon it– as it currently stands and in the future when we write new software. This has to happen objectively. It’s not about who wrote it, or what the person is like. Because I think a lot of my frustration for a long time was about “he/she keeps screwing this up, and that’s why I’m here now.” I didn’t think this actively, but I think the feeling was inside of me somewhere. Whether it was a team member’s code, or the incomplete spec coming from design, or whatever. All the frustration grew out of there being a victim and a perpetrator. Though they most certainly didn’t intend to cause this kind of hardship, by what was produced that’s the atmosphere that developed. Even without the intent though, it was the fact that someone else created this condition, and I had to deal with it. I didn’t sit around actively thinking these things, but those kind of tones were in my frame of mind, and it frustrated me, which in turn made me stressed and tired, which led down that negative spiral.

But you can’t think that way. Not just for your own good, but for professionalism’s sake. And when you realize that it’s not about who did what at all, that actually it’s just about the job at hand, then it’s easy. There is no guilt, no victim, no perpetrator, no right or wrong. It just is. We analyze the software in question, try to improve on its current weaknesses in a symptomatic (bugs) or theoretical (refactoring) aspect and move on. Experience brings better judgment and refined sense. If we can just open our minds to this truly detached mindset of appraising and using software, then there is no cause for worry.

Maybe that’s what my senior meant when he told me years ago that I needed to work without making it personal, without being emotional. I still like to see people have fun, to be able to allow them to have fun. I can feel that, and that’s ok. It’s actually very important when you’re in the entertainment business. But when it comes to the method of my work, of engineering, then there is no feeling, no emotion. It’s just critical evaluation and corresponding action to improve the entire game development process.

“Easy” is a relative term. Everyone has their standards for difficulty, success, and merit, but for me software development has gotten much “easier” since I stopped looking at it as a high school drama of who did what to who and just saw it for what it really was, simple engineering.

Variable bit rate

I planned on writing more in March, especially since I was on the road so much, but in the end the advent of a notebook that could compile made little else possible. Probably through stress more than anything, I’ve managed to run myself down to a lot less robust level than usual. I tire easily, waking up is a problem seven days a week, and there’s a constant blunt ache in my body. The weather has improved dramatically in recent weeks, however, and the sunshine and fair temperatures are starting to recharge me (like Superman).

Still, things are a mess all over and my priorities are all out of whack. My photography class starts tomorrow, I need to decide what kind of pictures I’m going to take with me to show since we’re supposed to start with that and self-introductions. I bought a license to FL Studio in February, but I haven’t made much use of it yet since I’ve been sucked into Resident Evil 4 (again), and seasons 10 and 11 of ER. I think that I need a schedule again for off-time, even though I don’t have any exhibitions on the horizon. I’ve let communication with too many important people slide in the name of short-term release. Thankfully, rave season starts in two weeks. A return to reflection, to sound and to quiet, and to good people all around.

So many twisted dreams going on now involving all the people I have issues with. ::sigh:: Work is never-ending and it’s nothing but responsibility I cannot manage without significant pain.

The L.A.

So my business trip to Los Angeles ends as quickly as it began. Fifty-one hours of Pacific Standard Time. It was educational, warm, fully of tasty things to eat, and garnered a few more memories to weave into my sterling silver bachelor’s band.

I got into town at eight-thirty Tuesday morning, seven hours earlier than when I left. Having a good amount of time on my hands before I could check into the hotel, I took a cab to Venice Beach and walked up Santa Monica to enjoy the weather. Along the way I met a pair of recently discharged Japanese office workers from Kyushu, and stopped at Big Dean’s for a ginormous double burger with fries and a pint of Sam Adams at the lovely body clock time of five a.m.

In between meetings I picked my way along the walk of fame and spent a good deal of time in the hotel conferring with coworkers back east. In some ways I think I could get used to living on the road: my room was about three times the size of my apartment and had a pretty decent view of the sunrise and Hollywood Hills.

Oddly enough my good high school friend Adam who I’d seen once in the last twelve years lives about five minutes’ drive from my hotel. We walked the dog, talked about old times, and his fiancee made us some lovely Cuba cuisine.

It was a short trip, but well-balanced and even had a good degree of intrigue and romance. Ah, the two carry-on lifestyle.

Coloured awnings

Tokyo is a city of endless fascination. The rivers and sandlots, the storage rooms and offices, a sea of billboards and dingy katakana signs. Houses apartments are packed together like a tacklebox, an endless array of multicoloured plaster, concrete, and tile. I could devote a lifetime to exploring it all and never discover a fraction of its secrets. Families and grocery shopping, torrid affairs and love hotels, a panolpy of rust, plastic, sin, and perservance all under the bleary eye of a tired sun.

I board the train to the airporte at Shinjuku and impulsively swallow down an inari and tarako onigiri set with takuan. Wrestling off the cap of my blythe green tea I take a few strained belts. Muscles still coiled from the rushed disarray of morning, I put on m hopelessly broken headphones and try to calm myself down with some Final Fantasy piano concertos. The start of a journey and so much angstful longing for the good old wandering romantic me, I wish I were riding the train in the other direction, back to my ramshackle commuter bicycle. But this is the start, thirty hours of travel and forty-nine in Los Angeles. Four days of a businessman’s solitude.

Events, places, muishiki

Hirota-san says that when you’re really buried in a project, you not only lose track of time but reality as well. Riding on a crowded train, or walking through the city, you don’t pay attention to anyone. Your mind is so involved with work that nothing else even exists.

Hoka no hito ga ittemo, imi nai; kankei nai.

Even if other people are around, it means nothing. They are not related to what you’re doing and might as well not exist.

It’s not an intentional thought, or a position of haughtiness. Your reality simply collapses to the minimal set of conditions required to achieve the goal, whatever it is. (Most likely having lost all meaning in the process, you probably couldn’t explain it even if someone asked.) I think this tunnel vision is some kind of instinct, a primitive defense mechanism to conserve energy and prevent one from going insane. If you actually stopped to contemplate about how your mortal coil is all but evaporating out from beneath you, you’d probably literally get sick.

I’ve come out of one of these tunnels now… my entire summer was devoted to an already ridiculously intense project, and I have not a single summer memory aside from the one time I went to Enoshima for a few hours on the first train after pulling an all-nighter. Now, everything is nothing, and even coming close to thinking about it incurs some sort of queer cloister phobic-like panic. All of the unused tickets, the skipped concerts, the people I never called back… Now I’m twitching in withdrawal from that unhealthy work addiction, staying at the office doing almost nothing but feeling reluctant to leave. Almost unconsciously, I filled every single weekend for six straight weeks with multi-day events. Hertzberg on the 27th of September, Toyama the weekend after that, Gentenkaiki this weekend, Natural Smile the following weekend, a photo exhibition at Drop, eight days in Europe, and then Design Festa in the beginning of November. I supposedly have a birthday somewhere in there, but I won’t be near anyone who knows me for it so I don’t really think of it as happening.

Sitting now on a bench cross legged in the massive east wing of Messe and looking out into the vacant dusk sky, it’s pretty much still as Hirota-san says, hito ga ittemo, imi nai. Kankei nai.

Even if we’re together, I’m not there.

Partners and competition

Today I’m at the Tokyo Game Show, the first I’ve attended in four years or so. Makuhari Messe is a convention center way the frick out in Chiba, past Tokyo Disneyland and near the end of the Keiyo Line. It takes at least a good forty-five minutes to get to from anywhere in the center of the city, a long, noisy train ride rolling through vast, unbroken stretches of warehouses and danchi (apartment complexes) below an eternally overcast sky. But, it’s a work day.

Seeing what the competition is doing is helpful to a degree; games are on display here a good several months to half-a-year before they are released to market. For me mostly it’s a reference to see how well other companies’ developers are taking advantage of the hardware. My job is to be sensitive to the representation of light and motion in particular. Jagged lines and rough approximations of shadows aggravate me, partly because I know it can be done better, but mostly because these are vivid reminders of the pressures of game development in general, and how many sacrifices in quality are made along the way due to project management blunders and an unskilled staff.

More or less though, it’s the same every year. Implementations of the same interaction systems pile up, most of them chaff. The truly excellent titles still stun, but these are usually the ones that show up at least three or four years in a row, a painstaking exercise in dedication and stamina. Sometimes I’m a little disheartened to think of what it takes, and how little appreciation and understanding there is for the art. But, it’s arrogant to think that most industries aren’t like that. Almost everyone has to work this hard to make an honest living, and that’s what’s really depressing.

Time flows like a river, and where will you end up?

Though the particular date often escapes me, summer always brings the terminal feelings associated with my anniversary of living in Japan. Another cycle is spent; I’ve been here five years. I don’t know what is right anymore; I act but with so much less anticipation. I’m so tuned and adept at certain things but so blind to a myriad of others that I used to entertain. It’s like being in a crowded room with hundreds of people talking all at once but over time you unconsciously develop the habit of filtering them out one by one, until it’s as if you’re the only person for miles.

The first place I lived was a weekly mansion in Takaido. I bought a used mint green Ralph Lauren oxford for five hundred yen and I wore it to work the first day after nicking my Adam’s apple shaving in the morning. The photographs I took then were beautiful to me, but now looking at them I can hardly believe that they’re mine. It’s like seeing yourself at a party as a stranger.

I am exhausted, completely exhausted: physically, mentally, emotionally– in every way imaginable. A single pint of beer makes the following day almost intolerable. It seems that 85% of my life is muscle memory, and my brain is eternally drugged. I keep thinking to myself, if I just eat a little healthier, if I just change the position I sleep in, or how I hold myself when I walk, it’ll all come together and I’ll feel like I used to, like I barely remember.

I’m learning, but how much and at what cost I can’t keep track of any more.

Too tired to sleep…

[I just noticed that this is post 700. Seven hundred in just a little over five years; though the last nine months the rate has really slowed.]

Zatsuryoku

The summer that never was continues and life passes me as I sit in a puddle of convenience store sandwiches, canned coffee, and unshaved Fridays.

I will be working like this for probably another five weeks. I am stalling on using the GPU to export pixel shader contents directly to memory. Thread safety and frame rates follow me into my dreams where I ask my artists once again, are they _sure_ that the alpha is cleanly feathered in all of the UI textures?

Sample photographs are back from the ST801, and unfortunately it seems that the iris blades will not close, leaving the camera perpetually locked at F1.8. This did cost me a roll of Centuria 400 and I should have checked the mechanics of the camera before taking any pictures. Now I have the task of dismantling the lens in hopes of repairing the aperture control.

I am going to try very, very, hard to get to a highly talked of party at the end of the month, which as my good friend Futoshi says will provide, “some really great photographic material.” It is the weekend before _the_ milestone though, so my hopes of making it are waning.

A significant period off is rumored to occur in the next two months. The thought I could stop working and actually go somewhere seems unreal; I am hesitant to believe and even if it did manifest it would most certainly fall dramatically short of my expectations for the fabled multi week time off game developers supposedly get after a big project. Nevertheless, I am starting to study Italian again…my first instinct was a multi-country crawl through central Europe.

Today I am going out to the east side of town to get some precision tools for the Fujinon lens, and see an exhibition of the Japanese master painters. I also need some honest to goodness epiphany for planning my next collaborative show. We meet today and hopefully will make some significant headway towards a concept we can be invigorated by.

So…tired…natsubate.

Spicks and specks

I promised myself I’d go to bed as soon as I came home tonight, because tomorrow is going to be another very long day. However, I do so little outside of work, I have to spend a few minutes doing something, just to break it into two pieces, you know? So this post is really nothing more than filler to you, sorry. It means a lot to me though, to be and and say. Hopefully I’ll have a day off this weekend and I can catch up on some production.

One might try to paint a picture with water colors on the blue sky, but it is impossible. And it is also impossible to dry up a great river by the heat of a torch made of hay, or to produce a crackling noise by rubbing together to pieces of well-tanned leather. Like these examples, people should train their minds so that they would not be disturbed by whatever kinds of words they might hear.

They should train their minds and keep them broad as the earth, unlimited as the sky, deep as a big river and soft as well-tanned leather. — from The Way of Purification