Why I love PAX (and why I won’t likely go back)

When I first attended PAX in 2009, I had already been a fan of the comic for around six years. The business model that Mike and Jerry had of creating content and giving it away for free was inspiring to me, I loved their response to Jack Thompson, I was a staunch supporter of their charity, and I just generally wanted to meet them. I had an absolutely amazing time, and I knew I wanted to go back.

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Going back to school

Almost a year and a half ago, I graduated from college with a Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies and a minor in Creative Writing. It took me eight and a half years, and it was sometimes hard to find the motivation to finish. My job at the time only required an Associates or equivalent number of college hours. I had learned everything I needed to learn. There wasn’t any reason to finish other than to get the credentials.

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Blogging at PAX

I’m flying out to PAX in Boston in a mere seven and a half hours, and the only electronics I am taking are my Kindle and my iPhone. I’m going to try something new this time around and blog exclusively through my phone, but I won’t be doing it here.

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PAX Plans

As many have noticed, I’m not at PAX. It’s a sad state of affairs, but our finances just didn’t make it this year and we’ll have to pay higher taxes next year, so a big trip right before tax-time seemed unwise.

Despite that, I’m already making plans for next year. April and I are charting a vacation in March over Spring Break that will take us to Oostberg, Wisconsin. From there, we’ll hit Chicago, and then we’ll hop over to Boston for PAX East.

Some friends of ours just moved to Oostberg so the husband of the duo could become the pastor of a church there, so we’re going to fly to Milwaukee, take a bus to Sheboygan, and see if they’ll pick us up there. On the return trip, after they get us to Sheboygan, we’ll take a train to Chicago where we’ll spend a couple of days. Flying from Chicago to Boston is only $100 a ticket, so we’ll hop on over a few days before PAX to explore the city.

I’ve got some work stuff going on that might result in a raise, so I’m hoping to manage both PAX East and PAX Prime next year, though attending Prime will be just a quick jaunt to Seattle for a three day party. The last time I attended PAX Prime it was a two week vacation for me, but since we’ll be doing Boston in March I won’t be able to afford two long vacates. A lot of people I met at PAX only attend Prime, so I’d really like to go there, but the timing is more difficult. PAX Prime is right after our fall semester starts, and since I work at a University it’s hard to get away. Spring Break for PAX East is a bit more convenient.

For those of you at PAX this year, I hope you all have a blast. I’m sorry I couldn’t be there, but hopefully we’ll see each other next year in the holy land. Have fun and stay safe!

So long, Heartbreak. Hello Dreams!

My frustration about school and the attendance thereof has only become more pointed as this year has progressed. We’re barely a month into the semester and my two classes have been infuriating. One is Children’s Literature and is essentially, “How to teach literature to children between the ages of two and five,” which is definitely not how it was described in the course catalog. The other is The Life and Thought of Martin Luther King Jr. and we have yet to discuss the good doctor, let alone his life and/or thoughts. We have instead been treated to many rambling and often racist stories by our professor, unclear expectations and assignments, and a litany of “extra credit” opportunities that often manage to involve attending his church.

The real issue is that these classes, and most any classes for that matter, prevent me from pursuing my dreams in the here and now. I can’t write when I’m taking two classes a semester. There are two reasons for this:

  1. My work requires a lot of time dealing with people, particularly in management situations. For someone as introverted as me, this is mentally and emotionally exhausting. I already have a regularly scheduled game night on Fridays that takes some of my energy, and when you add in two classes for a total of three days a week, each requiring twelve to fifteen hours of extroversion, I’m wiped out. Deeper thought and the writing that would come out of it aren’t reasonable in those circumstances.
  2. Because of the previous issue, I use class as an excuse to not do work. Part of me recognizes that I’d completely burn out and have a nervous breakdown if I pushed myself much harder than I do and forced myself to do a lot of work and writing during my limited downtime, but I can’t ignore that this an excuse, not a reason. Ideally, I would be able to do everything, but that’s not feasible in real life. If I try to do everything, I’ll fail at everything. Being in class keeps me focused on the problem, not the solution. The solution is simple, but I’ve been too wrapped up in the problem to admit it.

It’s not the classes themselves, or even the six hours a week they take. It’s the poor state the entire schedule leaves me in. Six hours isn’t much, but the long days they lead to makes achieving my dreams impossible.

So I’m done. As of this semester, I was only enrolled for one reason: to be able to attend PAX ’10. I won’t be able to afford to go if I have to start paying on student loans, and if I’m not enrolled in six hours of classes a semester I’ll have to start paying. As much as it sucks to not go, though, I’d rather be happy and fulfilled 362 days of the year than have 3 days of revelry and good times with friends. My year and my life isn’t worth that.

I’ve already got the line item in and our budget balanced to accept this.

I’m not saying I’m dropping out entirely. When I see a night class that’s 300-level or above that looks interesting, I’ll take it. I’ll definitely keep an eye out for the 2-3 classes I have left to finish my major and minor. I’ll probably take some graduate-level courses too (since they satisfy the Upper-Division Credit Hour requirement), though never more than one a semester, if they look fascinating and challenging. But I’m done with playing the game, staying enrolled for no good reason.

I realized last night what I want to do with my life in regards to work. It’s going to take a few years to get that set up, but I’m good with long-term plans. I’m tired of not starting, though. I’ve been feeling dissatisfied with college for four years now, and it’s time to do something about it.

Winter 2009 Newsletter

I’ve been keeping up with blogging and publishing better this fall, even better than I had expected, but maybe you want to see some pictures, or maybe (for some reason we won’t discuss) you don’t check in often. It is for you that I carefully, gently, and with great love craft this newsletter.

If you’d like to receive this newsletter regularly, I’d suggest you drop your email in the bucket to get a copy when it comes out. Of course, they’ll show up here in the regular RSS feed as well, or you can subscribe to an RSS feed designed especially for them.

Download and/or view SilverPen News – Winter 2009.

Tie Association

“All I have left is to pack up my laptop and pick out a tie,” I said to the empty room, assuming April would hear me in the bedroom. I was pulling on my shoes in the office, hurrying to get ready so we could maybe leave early for once.

“Oh! Can I pick it out?” she asked. Sure, go ahead. No, not that one, that’s my power tie.

“What about this blue one?” April held it up to show me, a blue tie with a black swirl through it.

“Yeah, that’ll work,” I replied. “I’ve worn that tie to a lot of funerals.”

April and I are headed back to St. Louis today for a second funeral. Her grandfather passed away on Saturday, following her grandmother who died in late July, and the visitation and funeral are both today. After the burial tomorrow, we’re eating with the family and then potentially going to visit April’s grandparent’s home, which had a special place in her youth and which will likely not be visitable again for us.

We’ll return late Tuesday night, I’ll wash clothes and pack and a hurry, and then wake up around 4:30 a.m. on Wednesday so April can take me to the airport around 5. I’ve got a few things programmed into my phone for the Penny Arcade Expo and I’m reasonably certain I can get to the hotel. After looking at the schedule this morning (while also connecting into Missouri State via VPN to update some stuff for payroll and send out a ton of emails because of all the work I won’t be able to do today and tomorrow) I decided to cut out my trip to the Seattle Aquarium, freeing up some time and turning down the knob on the stress.

Nevertheless, I’m still very excited for my vacation on Wednesday, and I think we’ll have a great time. I wish I could write more, or more eloquently, but we’ve got to jet. Still gotta load the car and I wanted to be out the door in two minutes.

Google Calendar for PAX 2009

Late last week a fellow Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) attendee asked on Twitter about Google Calendar. She was having trouble figuring out how to organize a lot of different information in that interface, and since I use Google Calendar (GCal) extensively both for work and personal organization I asked what she was working on and how I could help. As it turns out, she was wanting to make a calendar for the Expo in GCal to make it easier for people and I jumped on the idea. I thought it brilliant and asked her if I could contribute.

Subsequently I have filled in all of the PAX events I know of on two separate calendars, one for official events and the other for unofficial. At its simplest, I like Google Calendar for this sort of thing because a standard calendar is how my brain likes to see dates/times. I have trouble looking at an agenda, itinerary, or gantt chart to figure out what is happening and when. Seeing it on a calendar is much easier for me.

You can do a lot more with these calendars than just look at them, though. Allow me to demonstrate how these can really help you in preparation for PAX.

Subscribe to Calendar

If you have a Google Calendar account (and if you don’t, might I suggest getting one?), you can simply add these calendars to your own account by subscribing to them. First, under Other calendars, click on the Add button and then Add by URL.

Add Calendar

For the URL, copy and paste the following for the [PRIME] PAX 2009 Official Events Calendar:

http://www.google.com/calendar/embed?src=7ms9oarv06gp6pgrsau2lea8js%40group.calendar.google.com

And for the [PRIME] PAX 2009 Unofficial Events Calendar, you can use:

http://www.google.com/calendar/embed?src=quut4pcs63oajm9jpf9m52pg14%40group.calendar.google.com

url

You can also use those URLs to just see a web page with the calendar, if you prefer to avoid Google.

Update:: Not sure how I missed this originally, but an even simpler method of adding the calendar is to use the button on the calendar web pages. Just click on one of the links above and then the +Google Calendar button at the bottom right of the calendar.

Add Calendar Button

Add an event to your own Calendar

Now that I have the primary calendars in place, my plan is to go through and add the events I actually plan to attend to my personal calendar. For instance, I’ll go through and click on the panels I want to see, then copy them to my own calendar, a la:

Copy to my Calendar

Just click on the time bar (rather than the actual name of the event, which is a link) to pop up this box.

See Everything

Want the full details of an event? I’ve got everything in for official events and will add more to the official events as I read more. Just click on the name of the event to open up the full details.

Full description

Got an iPhone?

Google has very nice iPhone views for most of their applications and the Calendar could be quite helpful at PAX. A warning about relying on this though: the wireless, 3G, and Edge networks are sure to be pushed to their maximums and beyond during PAX as 75,000 of us descend upon Seattle, so it would be best to sync all this with either your iCal or Outlook calendars to have locally on your phone. Still, the web interface can be quite nice (if it’s working).

Check your schedule…

IMG_0120

or see the details of a specific event…

IMG_0121

Note about Time Zones

The time zones of the calendars are set to (GMT -08:00) Pacific Time. If you do not modify your Google Calendar time zone to match that, you will be seeing events in your local time zone. Therefore, for me in (GMT -06:00) Central Time, I see events happening at 9 a.m. as beginning at 11 a.m. I plan to just change my GCal time zone before flying out, much as I might update a watch upon arrival to match the local time. You ought to do the same.

Questions?

Just leave a comment and I’ll do what I can to help 🙂

Twitter is down and we don’t know what to do

From the Penny Arcade forum:

PeasantDave: Is twitter totally down right now?
Captain Tapole: It is for me. And I woke up early for no reason then.
awitelintsta:

PeasantDave wrote: View Post
Is twitter totally down right now?

I believe it is, indeed, totally down.
ukiyo e:
I’m not getting updates.
Don’t Panic!
dmmagic: Oh thank goodness I still have a source for updates. I tried to go to Twitter to find out if Twitter was down and IT WAS DOWN!!1!
GPIA7R: I want to tweet about twitter being down.

But I can’t.

From instant messenger:

(09:23:06 AM) spiritg21: How can I do work when Twitter is down so I can’t Tweet about doing work?
(09:23:06 AM) scorpius42 <AUTO-REPLY> : I’m not here right now
(09:23:13 AM) spiritg21: is what I want to know
(09:23:21 AM) scorpius42: lol
(09:23:26 AM) scorpius42: I can’t function!
(09:23:41 AM) spiritg21: What’s the point of life if I can’t tell my hundreds of followers about it?!

So, of course, I’m writing a blog post about it. You know, just to make sure everyone else knows Twitter is down.