Stargrace/Silverstep tapped me for the whole “five things” blog meme. I bet I could come up with a lot of things most of you do not know about me, but I will try to pick five that are either interesting, on the gaming topic, or… neither.
1) Gaming Background: Despite my adherence to the high fantasy MMO genre of late, I did not get my start in gaming playing D&D or any similar rpg. Instead, I played war games, primarily of the Avalon Hill variety (AH’s Tobruk, is my all time favorite) along with some miniatures gaming. I was a kid though, so I could not afford all those little lead tanks, so a friend and I made due with squares cut out from a supply of surplus manila folders. War games and Star Fleet Battles were the staples of my youth until my sophomore year of high school. Then the rpg stuff began.
2) Soviet Studies: In college, in the mid-80’s, I decided to go down the Soviet Studies path as a major, giving up on my partially completed business degree in the name of patriotism (and a bit of boredom). I started in 1986 with a couple of classes on Soviet History and Economics. The history was fine, but the economics part rapidly became a series of courses in current events, since the economic situation under Gorbachev was in a constant state of flux. I moved back to business when it became pretty clear that anything I learned in one semester became history or trivia by the next. I still read a lot of Soviet history, but unless they come out with a Trivial Pursuit: GOSPLAN Edition, what I learned about the Soviet economy is not very handy. (Now you know why I have the unabridged Gulag Archipelago as an audio book, it was my way of reading it again.)
3) You Have Used My Product: While I started in shrink-wrapped consumer software, I now work on enterprise level software, specifically IVR software. You know, those annoying automated systems that keep you from speaking to a live agent? That is what I do, though I have specialized in the speech recognition variety for quite a while, the ones that do not understand what you say AND keep you from speaking to a live agent. Chances are you have used the product I work on and do not even know it. Two major cell phone carriers, two of the three major game consol makers, two major airlines, numerous banks, credit unions, utility companies, libraries (ever received an automated call about an overdue book?), a major computer company, and the retail giant you are probably thinking of even as I write “retail giant” all use the software I have spent the last nine years working on. (And “retail giant” is actually a choice of a few, so you probably thought of the right one even if you changed your mind.) If you have called them, or any one of a couple thousand other companies on the phone and have gotten an automated system, that was probably, in some very small way, my fault! Hah!
4) Should Have Been A Writer: Maybe I should have been. In college I had two very supportive English professors both of whom told me that if I worked on my mechanics (spelling never interested me, much to their dismay, so cheers for the modern spell checker, though it rarely helps with my habit of changing tense mid-sentence… or digressing in these asides) I might be a writer some day. One of them was one of those terrors who strikes fear into freshmen, so hearing that at age 19 was a big deal. I took that advice and sat on it, thinking I would get to it at some later point in life. Then I suddenly found myself past age 40 and realized I never write anything but email and technical documents. A writer writes every day, so among my motivations for this blog was the desire to start writing again. I might never be a real writer, whatever that is, but I certainly will never be if all I ever write is product release notes that nobody every reads.
5) Silicon Valley Native: I work about a mile from where I was born, I am married to a woman with whom I went to high school, and I give very annoying direction because they always include references to landmarks that have not been around for the last 15-20 years. In many places this would be common, but in Silicon Valley it seems like everybody here is from somewhere else. It can be strange working down the street from your grandparents old house, knowing what used to be at half the retail locations around you, remembering how everything looked 20 to 30 years ago, and working with a bunch of people who have only been in the valley for 5-10 years and do not remember that the place was mostly orchards when I was born. Such is life!
Now I get to tap a person or two, though I have to figure out who has not been taken yet. Let’s see, how about the Chinese News Farmer, Alaph the Tired EVE Pilot, and, in a shot way beyond my reach (though well within driving distance) I am going to pick Jeff Green of Gaming For Windows just because he did that article about loading up EverQuest again.