Friday, February 14 2020

subway stories, omelets, and the valentine's game contest



Dear Journal,

Good morning, everyone! Hope you’re doing well today. I played a dangerous game waking up this morning, snoozing my alarm and taking an extra ten minutes to snuggle with the dogs in bed. Maybe it’s the long week, or maybe it’s the subzero temperatures this morning, but whatever it was, it kept me in bed a little longer than usual, and I was feeling pinched for time in the rest of my morning routine. But from experience, I’ve found that as long as I start typing by 7:30 AM sharp, things turn out just fine. I’m showered, dressed, packed, and I have a fresh cup of Collectivo House Blend rolling around in my empty stomach with a tall glass of water.

Yesterday was a wonderful day. I had a productive morning, hacking on some code and wrapping up my project for the week. It felt great to send a final, polished patch over to the Interface team. I take great pride in being thorough with new code, especially when working with another team’s code base. I made sure to update the related documentation, integrate the new system into their existing build tools, and left good instructions for how to use the new tools I added. These days, our team is working a lot in the realm of typed configuration languages, which for as boring as it sounds, it has really captured my imagination and re-invigorated my interest in my work. In short, good things are happening in Zendesk tech, and I’m grateful to be a part of it.

For lunch, I snuck away to Subway across the street and waited in line for a sandwich, then walked back to our building with my spicy Italian in hand. “Hey did you all check out that new sandwich place Subway right by us? That place was packed, I think they’re going to do really well here,” I joked while returning to my desk. A few people on my team rolled their eyes. The Subway, of course, has been on the square for a really long time.

A teammate of mine, Alex, used to work at Subway, and whenever I bring back a sandwich, he usually has a good subway story to offer. “One time this really nice old guy came in, and it was clear he had never ordered Subway, but he was being really friendly about it. ‘OK, what is all this? How do I order Subway’,” Alex shared. “But it was a terrible day, and I wasn’t having it, and I snapped at him and went off about how I didn’t have time to just give him the complete Subway training he needed and that he should just read the menu. My manager was really upset with me the next day, and I got written up.”

We laughed, then I submitted my own Subway story to the group. “I had bad Subway ordering anxiety, but I used to order from them every day when I was home from college in the summer. Every now and then, on my way out, my family would ask me to pick up sandwiches for them also, but instead of going to one Subway, I would go to a different Subway for each sandwich, since I didn’t want to hold up the line. I wasn’t convinced I could handle simultaneously answering questions about toppings for each sandwich.” My team shook their had and laughed. Admittedly, the story was a bit of an embellishment, in that I only actually did this once, and it only involved two Subways. As there was a Subway on pretty much every block where I lived, it didn’t even take a lot of extra time.

I met with our tech lead in the afternoon to plan work for our team in the coming weeks, then went outside to catch the bus home. Marissa was napping on the couch, and I joined her on the chair. “I set my alarm, feel free to fall asleep,” said Marissa beneath a pile of blankets and dogs. I shut my eyes and nodded off for fifteen minutes, awoken by Rodney coming down the stairs.

Marissa made me an omelet with bacon, mushrooms, and peppers. On the way out the door, I chased it down with a cinnamon roll. No matter how long I spend in the kitchen, I think she will always be the reigning champ of making omelets - it’s truly an experience.

I joined four other volunteers in the library setting up for Kids Code, and kids started to trickle in and work on laptops. Earlier in the day, I had bought a king sized chocolate Hershey bar, planning on holding a contest for the best Valentine’s day themed game of the evening. The promise of a giant chocolate bar for the best game created a palpable buzz and excitement in the room that caused people to busily and quietly work.

Freddie re-drew the sprites of an old shooting platformer he had on hand. You were a bright red heart defending yourself against dark hearts that would swarm you in a fighting circle. Some swung chains, and others could move quickly like ninja’s. “What’s this game called?” I asked, waiting to write it on the whiteboard. Freddie paused his game and read the filename he had typed, laughing at his typo. “I guess it’s called valentins,” he said.

Mo and Kyle presented a hilarious demo of a tiny naked cupid flying around, shooting hearts that flew out of a giant cartoonish mouth. Along with a silly theme, they came up with a very fluid arrow aiming mechanic that was pleasant on the eyes and made for a fun demonstration.

Owen showed off a surrealist take on the theme with a Scratch game called Untitled. “He calls all of his games Untitled,” explained Chord as Owen trudged up to the podium and plugged in his laptop. At first, Untitled appeared thrown together and sloppily sketched by hand, but as he controlled a heart bouncing around the screen, the game started to show its depth. “I just use the default scratch color for everything, I like it.” Pale grey hearts blinked in the background, bringing depth to the frame. As he bounced around collecting hearts, the music, randomly generated from stock Scratch assets, grew into a cadent, steady cacophony of drums, cymbals, and cat meows. Freddie came forward to try the game. “It’s hard to control,” said Freddie.

“I made it nearly impossible to control,” said Owen. “Every two seconds, the axes on the player are inverted.”

“Owen, I think you may have an interest in surreal gaming, and it’s definitely an interesting genre,” I added from the back of the room. “Some game developers would argue that a game doesn’t actually need to be playable to convey it’s message.”

Lastly, Eli showed off a game called Defeat the Ugly, in which your character would fire hearts at menacing, swarming squares. “You lose love if you shoot a heart and you miss,” Eli explained.

“There might be a lesson in there,” I said. “Sometimes when you love people, they don’t offer you the same love you.” I was going for humor, but it led to a surprisingly poignant discussion.

The kids voted for Freddie’s re-skinned zombie game. Despite the new concept games in the running, at the end of the day, I suppose everyone just wants to play a zombie game.

Hope you have a wonderful day today, and thanks for reading. Happy Friday, and happy Valentine’s day!