Monday, December 31, 2012

Books and Movies from 2012

I read 26 books this year. My 2012 reading list is once again at LibraryThing. The most remarkable title in the entire list is Ulysses, which took me a good three years to finish. I blogged about my Ulysses reading experience on Posterous.

I watched 25 movies this year (seven inside a theater). My 2012 movie list is at IMDb. I really liked the remarkable Indie Game: The Movie, but out of all the mainstream releases this year, I liked Looper.

Monday, October 29, 2012

A Year of Mining

I spent most of this year enthralled by a little game called Minecraft.

I downloaded this game just after New Years Day 2012, and ever since then I have been constantly engaged and delighted by it.

When you first play Minecraft, you find yourself in a natural area (blue sky, green grass, trees, water). Your character can break blocks of wood, and dig up blocks of dirt. You soon realize that blocks can be collected. You soon realize that these blocks can be built into other things, which in turn can be used to build yet more things. Finally, you find that night time is fast approaching, and you must seek some shelter. If you are up and about at night, a monster may come to attack you. Or not.

In Minecraft, you can turn off the monsters from appearing. You can, in fact, enter a "creative" mode where you can call up any particular block that you want, and with this capability you can build practically anything. (The blocks in Minecraft are like Lego blocks, and unsurprisingly Minecraft and Lego are building off that similarity.)

There's only one "rule" in Minecraft: you can only sleep at night. Other than that, you can do practically anything that you want. You can run a large farm, you can grow chickens, you can build a boat and travel the ocean, or you can climb the highest mountain, or explore the deepest mine. You can make maps, write in books, make a large railway or dig for gold.

I enjoy exploring Minecraft's seemingly endless world. Unlike most video games that have pre-defined maps or territories, Minecraft generates its world as you enter them. When your character reaches an area you haven't visited yet, the game produces a new territory for you to explore. It can be a desert, a wintry forest, or a vast plains area. It can be rainy, or snowy.

It's a game that caters to your imagination. I love walking around in Minecraft, getting lost, and building small areas so that I can sleep at night. I pretend I'm "the last person on Earth", except I often play with my daughter on our local server. I love exploring abandoned mine shafts, and climbing mountains. I pretend I'm an intrepid explorer. There's no time limit, so I don't have to rush anything.

Most video games are goal-oriented, but in Minecraft, the only goals are those that you set for yourself. Because of this, everyone's attachment to the game becomes deeply personal. Not everyone plays it the same way, and as a result the game becomes a reflection of you instead of a reflection of its creator. Think of Minecraft like a musical instrument: everyone knows the notes, but everyone plays them differently.

To say that it's my favorite video game is an understatement: it's one of the best things in my life.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Rules I Follow for Social Media

No complaining. The book How to Win Friends and Influence People contains the number one principle for dealing with people: "Never criticize, condemn, or complain." This is an incredibly hard principle to follow in real life, but online, I try to stay by it. If I find myself starting to compose some kind of whiny rant, I step away. Everyone has complaints, so I'll spare you my daily aches and whines.

No family posts. I try not to write posts (or Tweets or Facebook statuses) about my wife and daughter. Yes, I blogged about Mia's first year, yes, I regularly posted pictures of her until kindergarten, and yes, Jenn and Mia occasionally appear in my Tweets, but you won't see posts that start with "My daughter today did this", or "My wife said that." They can post their own stories. They have their own voices.

No privacy settings. I don't expect any. My Facebook profile is open. My Twitter is open. The fine-grain "privacy" settings offered by Facebook is admirable, but I don't want to be in the business of managing my access, locking down my pictures, or separating friends and strangers and acquaintances. If I want to write 'privately', I use a diary.

No living online. The purpose of social media is to share your life, not to live your life. To that extent, I live my life out here, where there's air and water. I don't worry or apologize that my status is not accurate, or that "I haven't posted in a while." The online Rick exists so that people looking can find the real-life Rick.

No audience but me. I write for myself. I tweet to amuse myself (more specifically, my 'future self'). When I put something out there, I try to come back to the question "Would I want to read this in the future?" Today, the answer is yes.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Books and Movies from 2011

Last year, I managed to read 34 books. The full reading list is on LibraryThing. My favorite books were Faith by Jennifer Haigh, Life by Keith Richards (and James Fox), and Between a Rock and a Hard Place by Aron Ralston.

Also last year I managed to watch 17 movies. The full list is on IMDb. I really enjoyed The Town, The Fighter, and Morning Glory. My favorite though was one I saw in the theater: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.