Sparky Awareness Month

Some crazy stuff has been going on with me lately and I thought now would be a good time for a quick update to let people know (meant to do it last week but I'm lazy). April was a very busy month. It started with trips to see my family for Passover and the usual trip to Pittsburgh for booth. We missed Hirsch but that gave me the current longest unbroken streak of 10 years. Then last week happened.

First, last Monday I ran 8 miles of the Boston Marathon. details )

Then on Tuesday I started a new job at Harmonix, the makers of Guitar Heroes 1 and 2 and currently the Rock Band series. details )

On Thursday I got a pretty shady invite to see a sneak preview of the new Star Trek movie. details )

Keywords:Jobs | Movies | Exercise
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I've procrastinated writing this for a week but I guess that is long enough. For anyone who doesn't know, I spent most of last month in London. I would have written more from there but I had webserver issuez (which should be fixed for good now), so let me summarize the trip. I was there to work on a project, it was pretty crazy, I saw a lot of London, the tube is cool, made friend with and hung out with some locals, went on a crazy road trip to Scotland and all over England, my bag got lost... Ok, maybe a little more detail than that.

too much detail for the front page )

All of my pictures
Keywords:Travel | Projects | Jobs
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Meet Splash! the first interactive fountain

Wow, my journal went empty for four months. I'm sorry about that everyone. I was really busy and with stuff that at the time I couldn't talk about, so it kind of reinforced my posting laziness. Let's see if I can do a quick recap before I write the next 3 or so posts about just the last few weeks of awesomeness.

In May I graduated with my Masters of Entertainment Technology. That means I'm done with school for good! In my job dilemma I decide to try my hand at freelance consulting (more on that later) rather than take the full-time offer I had. For the summer I had a consulting job, along with my designer friend Lenny, working on the worlds first interactive fountain in Atlantic City.

Thinkwell Design and Production was hired to create a fountain show for The Pier at Caesars, a new mall being built on the boardwalk in Atlantic City. They created two seven minute shows that play on the hour combining music, lights, and tons and tons of water (19,000 gallons). It is really spectactular. However, to fill the rest of every hour, they hired Lenny and me from the ETC to make the fountain interactive. It had a library of 3 games that it will attempt to play with unsuspecting guests. For starters, when you walk around the egg shaped fountain, the water will follow you. This project was a lot of fun, had a lot of ups and downs, was a lot of work, and was overall a crazy, busy, exciting, once-in-a-lifetime summer. Unfortunately I wasn't allowed to talk about the project until we were finished, otherwise there would have been all sorts of stories in this space about corrupt New Jersey state employees, annoying mall patrons, trips to Ocean City to play mini-golf, fountain jets named Gustav, the best and worst hotels, and much, much more.

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Keywords:Summer | Jobs
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Missing March

Happy April everyone, (and happy daylight saving time). It is now officially too late for me to post anything in March making it the first month I've missed entirely in two years. I thought I'd fill people in on what I've been up to.

Picking up from where I left off last time, the rest of my Florida State Fair trip was just as crazy as it began. 12 hours or more a day, outside, when it's in the 30's in Tampa, FL, babysitting a robot. The state fair was even more like the stereotype than I expected with all the animals and hicks and carnies. All the food was either deep fried or on a stick or both. I had a great idea for a fair stand, called "Deep Fried on a Stick" where you could have anything you bought anywhere else deep-fried and put on a stick. We didn't get a lot of sleep getting up in the morning to shoot spots for local news and various other things. We had a lot of fun though playing with the kids, renaming people, Quasi amassing his staff to take over the world. A trip I won't soon forget. I took a lot of pictures.

Since then I have been working full force on the fountain project for Atlantic City. I can't officially say too much about it now, but there's nothing else like it you've ever seen, it's fun to work on, and it will be really cool. Because the place won't be ready to open by the time out semester is over it is likely that Lenny and I will get hired for the first month of the summer to finish the test and adjust.

I've also been working on my resume and portfolio for getting a job. Anyone need a freelance technology developement coordinator?
Keywords:Worlds Fair For Kids | ETC | Jobs
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Career Plans

At IAAPA I thought a lot about what I'm good at and what I want to do. In fact this whole project this semester has made me think hard about that. I've always thought I was clear on what I wanted, just not very specific. Now I think specificity is required and I never knew to begin with. All this cutting edge interactive stuff, I think I've been distracted from my original purpose. Sure it's interesting, this stuff I've been doing since I joined Stage3. If you think about it though, maybe I've been led astray. That seemed to be the case when I went to MIT and realized that it wasn't for me, that I took a big leap in that direction. But even back here, I'm starting to remember when I was in High School and a freshman here and when I knew that the technology I wanted to master was for putting on a show. And that's what I'm thinking about now. Show control might be what I'm interested in. I mean, sure I'd like things to be interactive, but maybe I should be a little more conservative. The kind of stuff I've been known for might be special to me. I can make people's crazy ideas work. Sort of. But all these things aren't solid enough to be used for real or taken seriously. I can't take them seriously. Sometimes I don't think I'm any good, but maybe I'm just working on things that aren't ready to be any good. If I'm not willing to develope them in an academic setting maybe I should back off. I want to make real shows. I want to design and manage and program and not always be afraid of the frailty of my work. I want to do something solid. I think I'm realizing all this a little late to really do anything to turn around my portfolio and get myself where I want to be.
Keywords:Jobs | Worries
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The Fate Of the Semester

Next hard decision. What to do next semester. Greg has asked me stay at PlayMotion! for a co-op. He wants me to decide by the 15th. I'm having a hard time.

On the one hand, I could use the money. I didn't really make any this summer, so my savings is going to go bye-bye this year if I go back.

On the other hand, the logistics of either still paying for my room at school or finding another person that will be OK with Adam and getting my stuff out of there and either in storage or down here and also finding a place to live down here that I can get for only a couple months (that aren't summer) and then having to find a different place back in Pittsburgh for the Spring, seems like it might invalidate the money savings. Plus I just don't really want to do all this.

Pety issues aside, I'm not sure which I want to do more. On the one hand I really would like to see some of these projects though. PlayMotion! is doing well, and I really like being part of it. We have some stuff coming up and I don't want to be left out.

On the other hand, I'd be leaving in the Spring anyway so I'm going to miss out some either way. I can always decide to go back for the Spring if they'll let me, or when I graduate.

Since I'd be paying for school anyway, I feel that perhaps I should go back there. I've gotten the PlayMotion! experience and if I want more I can do that later. At the ETC I can do some new things. I can also take some classes I really want. I can TA BVW for the last time that I'll have at that experience that I like.

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Keywords:ETC | Jobs | PlayMotion!
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More Odds and Ends

Two more weeks have gone by and much has happened. Eek, why can't I update this more. It makes it so much more daunting a task when I do. Then again, if something gets left out or under-discussed, who would care?

Yes, I have been keeping quite busy. Most of that has been time spent at work. I won't bore anyone with the details of my battles with DirectX, HLSL, and OpenGL, but I do want to make a more general point. It is amazing how mysterious, difficult, and impressive things that other people can do seem before you spend even five minutes learning them. Some things which seem like magic that I could never hope to understand can become simple and routine once a small amount of time and mental space is given to them. Oh yeah, and we now have a drink fridge including Yoohoo. :-D

A week and a half ago I went to a Braves game where they won. I also went to another game night where I won my very first game of Settlers of Catan. Despite the way I feel about the CS lounge with which I usually associate the game, it was actually pretty fun. Tigris and Euphrates, on the other hand, was ridiculously complicated.

Last weekend I flew home for Jackie's graduation from Brown. Coincidently I bumped into my friend Gil from CMU and his girlfriend Diana there. I was suprised to see them, but his brother also was graduating. Brown's graduation was a bit strange. They had student speeches instead of the usual commencement speaker, but what was strange was that the speeches took place at a church off campus that only fit the students.

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Keywords:Summer | Jobs
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My Atlantan Adventure

I'm writing this on May 21, but I've been in Atlanta for a week and a half by now. I only now have my website up again so this is my first chance to update my journal again. Since so much has happened, I'm going to break it up into several sections.

The Drive

It all started with the drive. In total it took about 12 hours. I wanted to get there at a reasonable time so that I could get set up, so I woke up early and left at 4:30am. I like driving at night when the roads are empty and you can just set the cruise control and go. But the short sleep and early start backfired. Doing the drive alone was tough and several times I felt like I would fall asleep. Other than that, the drive was good.


When I first got here I was a bit upset about my living situation. I had arranged to stay in the GA Tech AEPi house over the summer, because it would be cheap. When I moved in, I started to have second thoughts. I knew that fraternaties are messy, I lived in one for 3 years. I thought I'd be find with that but I found out that I'd gotten pretty used to not having to deal with it over the past 2 years. And someone else's mess is always more disturbing than your own.

I was going to stay here just until I found a new place which I began looking for right away. I actually had 2 options that I looked into. One option was a friend who graduated from the ETC's place. I would have had it all to myself and it was very nice, but it was expensive and not in a very nice neighborhood.

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Keywords:Summer | Jobs | Movies | Travel
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Summer Plans

It's about time that I speak about what I'm doing this summer, since it officially starts in only a few days. I know previously people heard me whining about my troubles finding a summer internship. My friends were not inclined to hear it since they just assume that I'm awesome and should have no problem getting a job. I won't go into right now some of the problems I think there are that prevent me from doing well at a job search. But those reasons aside, part of the problem was a lack of effort. I started my search a bit late, didn't apply as many places as I should have, and wasn't prepared enough to show all my best work and have it make me look good.

Well, I was lucky enough to land an internship opportunity with one company that I'm pretty excited about. I will be in Atlanta working for a relatively small startup company called PlayMotion. I met the founder of the company at the IAAPA trade show back in November. They work on projection systems that allow people to interact with their whole body creating a fun installation for a museum or other public space.

This will be my first real internship, but also my first summer not living in some place I'd call home (if you don't count my summers at camp when I was younger). The logistics are tricky I'm still working it out. A new city, new people, and a new job. All things that both scare me and make me excited. I am someone who doesn't like change or to do anything different. I've spent the last 4 summers living in Pittsburgh and working for Randy at Stage3.

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Keywords:Summer | Jobs | Projects
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Shaping Up

I know I've been pretty despondant lately, but things do go in waves. Right now it seems to be turning up. I was very stressed about all the things I need to do, but there's been progress. On finding a job, I haven't had much success but I wasn't doing enough either. Now that I'm putting more effort into it, things seem to be going better. I still don't have enough time to do all I should, but I think I'll find something.

AEPi Booth is starting to work out. I was worried about how much was done but now we're ahead of schedule. We've got the high stuff painted and the roof done before we put them up high. Amazing. Plus we've got a really slick move on plan that does not require lifting anything on top of anything else. As far as games go, I talked to Jason Small today who is brilliant and together we figured out how to make the flight sim game work. It should be pretty amazing if I pull off what I want to.

For my other booth things are going pretty well too. We got approved, we've got plans, and we start tomorrow. There's a lot that needs to happen but my heart is in the work.

The task list for the ORB project is the most daunting, with a lot of things I have to do. I'm worried but I think if I put in the hours, even if that is all crammed into the week between booth and soft-opening. I might do ok.

Lastly, I have been shaping up. Not really, but since the weather has been so beautiful out, I took to running again, Wednesday and this morning. If I can keep doing things like that I'm sure to improve my mood and productivity.
Keywords:Jobs | Booth
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My Cardboard Box

I have to bring this up. More and more lately I'm worried about not finding a job. I haven't really gotten an internship ever. I've worked for Randy at Stage3/ETC for four years. I worry that if I don't find some kind of internship this summer I'll never find myself a job ever. This is a persistant nightmare I have almost every night before going to bed and sometimes more often.

I'm trying to finding an internship, sort of. I wish I could spend more time, make a better portfolio, and send out more resumes. I haven't had enough interviews yets, but I still want to find more. I'm just so busy with work I don't have time to find a job. It is really stressing. I fear that I don't come across right or that I do the wrong things and companies won't see why they should hire me. I just can think of so many reasons that I would not get offered an internship, not that I don't think I'm definately qualified.
Keywords:Depression | Jobs
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How did your interview go?

Not a question I particularly like. I don't like interview. I don't think I'm very good at them. It really is the impediment standing between me and jobs that I know I'm good enough for. I just don't know how to express it. I'm not good with questions on the spot. In every interview there's some question that later I think of some so much better way I could have answered. But when people ask me how it went, what should I say? I mean none feel so bad that I should say that, but I never get a very positive, I'm going to get the job feeling. The waiting to hear back sucks because I'm never sure if I'm going to hear or what the outcome will be, and I don't like the anticipation. However I guess even getting an interview is always good, so there's always some enjoyment in it. The optimist in me wants to say that it went great. We'll just wait and see. I'll know how it went when I get an offer, or not.
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Good Day

Today was the most excellent day and yesterday was great too. Today I received a phone call from someone at Walt Disney Imagineering to set up a phone interview for an internship position. If you know me you know how excited that would make me. It is only the #1 place I'd want to work. And with all that has happened and how competetive it is to begin with the get a job there I'm very happy to even get to interview. This is just a first round, but I'm still very nervous.

I often express my worries about finding an internship position. I really need to find one this summer because I need this experience I haven't had before. Unfortunately I don't feel that I am very good at the whole job search and interview process. Not being able to well answer the basic question, "What do you want to be doing in a few years?" doesn't exactly set me up for success. I know that I'm really good at a lot of things. It isn't that I don't feel qualified to do any sort of job I'd be interested in, it is just that I don't feel that I'm qualified to get the jobs. I don't think I look that good on paper. I haven't had any internships before, I don't have any major accolades, I'm not an expert at any one thing except maybe learning to solve just about any problem put in front of me. A problem solver is what I am, but how do I sell that?

I had another interview with an amazing company yesterday. Yesterday two guys from 4orty 2wo Entertainment came to the ETC. In standard ETC fashion they gave a talk, took a tour of the project demos, and then interview students who signed up for slots.

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Keywords:Jobs | TV | Worries
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West Coast

This past week I was with the ETC first year on the west coast. We visited LA and San Francisco to see some entertainment companies to learn a bit about what they do. The places I saw include Thinkwell Design, BRC, Walt Disney Imagineering R&D, IWerks, Rhythm and Hues, Pandemic Studios, Pixar, ILM, Electronic Arts, and Reactrix. A few places I didn't see include Rockstar Games, Naughty Dog, Disney VR Studio, and Jim Henson's Creature Shop.

Seeing these companies was a lot of fun. Some of them were really cool and we saw some neat stuff, most of which I'm not allowed to talk about. Seeing how cool places like Rhythm and Hues, Pixar, and ILM are makes me questions if I wouldn't want to do movies after all, like I believe I did when I was younger. On the other hand I don't think I'm well trained enough. Computer graphics hasn't exactly been my focus. I don't know DirectX really, I haven't written my own renderer, or anything. I've not graduated from baby game engines like Alice or Panda. I took Graphics I but I don't even remember that much. I like to say that I know enough to know what kind of questions they'd ask me in the interview and I know that I don't know the answers. The more I think about it, if I try to answer what my specialty is, I don't think I have one. What have I been doing for the past 4-5 year? And how am I ever going to get a job with such a mediocre skill set? So although the trip was fun, it does leave me a bit diappointed about my chances of getting a job at any top tier place in any business.

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Keywords:ETC | Travel | Jobs
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Doomed to failure

Sometimes I feel like I am worthless and I'll never succeed at building a decent life for myself. Specifically I'll not be able to get a good job, or even any. Today is one of those days. Today a bunch of the visitors we had at the BVW show are here to interview people. They gave some nice presentations this morning. There's someone here from Imagineering who I would have loved to interview with. Unfortunately I spent so much time working on Randy's BVW show, that I didn't get a chance to sign up, so I couldn't. There were a few open spots with game companies. I don't want to work for them, but maybe I should at least practice interviewing, but how could I do a good interview with absolutely no interest in what they do? I still haven't been able to email the few contacts I got at IAAPA. I'm just worried that I'll never be able to find a job and certainly not a good one. I know I have the skills to work for a number of places, but I don't have the skills to get the job and I don't know what to do about it.

What is particularly depressing is that I know the one place I definately want to work, Disney, and according to Randy I'm not allowed to. Although I think that saying no Disney is a bit of a stretch, I agree that it probably would be a bad idea to try and apply to the VR Studio, which is frustrating because I would be happy there and Jesse was complaining that they had received few resumes from ETC students. They want to hire us, few people want to go there, I do, I'd be good at it, I should be a shoe-in. I should already know that is where I'm going this summer but after the fiasco last year (which frankly I think I take more of the blame than I deserve) that is all ruined. It is just moral crushing looking for a job when you are forced to overlook your most desired option, particularly when it otherwise might have been your most likely to get option.
Keywords:Depression | Jobs
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