Monday, September 29, 2014

Not Your Kind Of People

Tonight's soundtrack is provided courtesy of the Gangsta-wannabes staying two rooms down. It sounds like a lovely party, with plenty of Natural Light (Well, judging by the empty cans outside there was at some point) and Cypris Hill and Sisqo for all.

Today was spent breaking in members of other crews who've slowed down to the point where they will only be getting 20 hours a week if they don't work with us. Given my crews reputation as general mischief causers (thanks to our first former supervisor, who was fired after some... expensively destructive "incidents"), I'm sure it wasn't an easy choice. Respect is something that seems to be lost upon most people nowadays, but in my line of work still very much exists, and is a bit like cigarettes in prison in terms of value. You must earn it in order to survive the culture.

In this culture, the alphas prey on the fresh faced "weak", as with most animal kingdoms. They are bullied, betrayed, and forced into absolute shit tasks because that's the way the "elders" were brought up. Much like a parent, it worked when they were being brought up, so it still must work. Being the new guy is rough. You very rarely make any true friends, and you will always be the focus of all jokes and pranks. But endurance earns you respect. And as the respect grows, things get easier for you. People will very rarely talk about any of the things you do right in my line of work. Your good deeds, perfect attendance, and positive attitude will be ignored by anyone who is anyone. But fuck up ONE TIME and everyone will know across all 50 United States. But if you've one person that can say: "I know him. He's a good guy, always shows up, does his shit, then goes home. Fucks with no one." you will survive.

I am not saying this is right, nor am I saying I follow this unwritten culture code. I pride myself on treating everyone equally, new or seasoned. I remember being the new guy, and I promised myself I would never put anyone into situations I was put into, or that I've seen others put in. And if a person is worthy of my respect because of how they treat myself, others, and the job, I show it. And if they're not, new or seasoned, they don't get it. Respect is key, and it's one of the few things I admire about our culture.

So it was an interesting experience bringing the new flock up to speed in the ways of "that shoddy group that destroys things", as our 2nd former supervisor said we were once called by others. Another thing about this culture is it's all about safety in numbers when it comes to "swimming with sharks". They will look you in the eye, person to person, and tell you they're comfortable and enjoying the work, and boy-howdy is this crew great! Get a group of 2 or more of them around each other, and it's all: "Fuck these idiots! I'm just here for a paycheck! Fuck the integrity it's not my project!".  Today we had 6 of them. Guess what we were all hearing just barely audible when we had our backs turned? Of the days annoyances...

I fell in love with a zippo lighter at a cigarette shop the other day. No idea why, but I saw it and just had to have it. So I picked it up. Being a somewhat believer in superstition and (to an extent) faith, I engraved a couple of good luck saying/blessings on it in runes. Call me stupid or foolish if you like, but I do a dangerous job, with my life in jeopardy sometimes. I'll take all the luck I can get. Anyways, passed the lighter to a co-worker today when he asked for a light. My new nickname is "The Satanist" thanks to the runes. I easily forget that most people I meet do not posses the knowledge about some of the things I do, and are probably not the kind of people to look into such things anyways to dig beneath the surface. And it still takes me aback when that is thrown into my face, after all these years.

But at the same time, I am never really shocked by it. Stereotypes are stereotypes for a reason...

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Dopes To Infinity

Had the afternoon off as there was nothing to do at work, and too many people to do it. One of those days where you clock in, look at the activities for the day and ask yourself why the hell you even bothered getting out of bed. The thing about doing construction is there are a lot of those days in the beginning of a project. You always at some point end up waiting on other trades to finish up this or that so that you can go in and do this or that, and then have to rush to get it done on time because the other trade holding you up took too long. Always happens, it is unavoidable.

So I took the advantage and washed cloths and went to the next town over, 45 minutes away, to go to Lowes and replace some tools of mine that've come up missing over the last few weeks. That always happens as well, and it always pisses you off. Thankfully I've rarely had any single item over $40 stolen from me. It's always little things that when purchased together cost around $120 that get nicked. But I am once again the proud owner of a chisel bit for my hammer drill, so all is well. And I now have an engraver down here (I left mine at home) so soon I'll be able to provide proof of ownership. I am coming for you, construction clepto...

Did some phone shopping as well since there is a Verizon in that town. I've been eligible for a free upgrade for 4 years now, and my battery life on my once fashionable flip phone is fairly non-existent nowadays, so I looked. After explaining I wanted something small, durable, and somewhat dust-proof that I can take photos off of an put on my computer, I was told I needed an I phone. After explaining I'm not fond of being saddled to Apple products, I was still told I needed an I phone. "Ok, forget dust-proof. What can I get that's very basic, let's me call and text people, and will fit in my pocket?" You guessed it: I phone. After 30 minutes of the very pushy sales person, I wandered around and tried to wrap my head around the concept of smartphones. I get the idea of them, but fail to see the "must have" appeal. Didn't upgrade as I couldn't find something that fit my needs, and one that seemed easy to just jump in to.

Technology escapes me sometimes...

Asked if there was a bookstore in town while I was there. Got an expression like I'd just dropped from Mars. Nevermind, then.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Shattered Memories

Had another rain day yesterday, which meant another day of homework, then games afterwords. Call me a nerd if you like, I won't argue. "Refusal to grow up" may be a bit harsh though. "Pathetic"... meh, depending on the day, possibly.

I spent $20 on a voucher for the PlayStation Store last week so I could get a copy of "Lara Croft & The Guardian Of Light", another of the many games I've been wanting to try since it's release a couple of years ago. Bought the voucher on Saturday, tried to use it yesterday, it won't work. Try it again, it won't work. Try it 4 more times, still won't work. Look at the fine print on the bottom: "Code subject to change after period of inactivity, and without notice." Thanks, assholes. Next time stop by so I can hand you a $50 bill to burn to light your cigarette with in front of me.

Go out, spend another $20, use the code and it works. Get online to the store, and find the game for $4. It didn't heal the wound or calm the nerves, but it did help. And it's a fantastic game. It's traditional Tomb Raider, puzzle wise, but Contra combat wise. I've not played a game like it in years, and was surprised to find myself enjoying it as much as I am. I'm just not a shooter-game person. Most of them have no substance for me, and unless I'm fighting aliens I usually lose because I've shot my teammates on accident thinking they were the enemy. No, I don't even attempt online multi-player. I get called an idiot and cussed out bad enough at work, I don't need that shit when I'm not being paid to listen to it.

I do believe that it is a great game for hardcore Tomb Raider fans, as well as people who've never played a Tomb Raider game before. Definitely worth $4, and the not-on-sale price of $20...

Had my first aid/CPR refresher today. It's always awkward pumping a dummies chest and fiving it mouth-to-mouth (which isn't even the recommended method anymore, but is still mandatory) in front of a room full of strangers. You walk up to it, ask it if it's ok, then state you are a trained person and are just trying to help, then try and bring it to life. I always feel like I'm in a strange version of the movie "Mannequin" . It was a short class though, clocking in at just under 4 hours. Enough time to get back and play in a muddy ditch for the rest of the afternoon. It wasn't pleasant, but it also wasn't unbearable.

And the rain day yesterday was officially my last full day off until November. Unless of course it rains worse than Elizabeth Bathory in between now and then. Wishing myself "Good luck!" for it. I've not worked a schedule like this in years...

I find myself being contacted by a few people from my past I've not spoken to in years lately. It's been good to hear from them, but also sad as well because our youths are gone, and most of us are unable to have the kind of fun we once had together due to various adult responsibilities. I speak more for them in those terms then me. I've seemed to be stuck in some weird limbo for years now. The body and mind have aged, but most life situations have not changed as they should have. Not for lack of trying mind you, and I'm not moaning. It's just... odd. The more things change, the more they stay the same. And the Wheel of Time rolls ever onward...

It has been great reminiscing with them though, and I have missed them all. Some more than others, yes, but I've still missed them. And probably always will.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Another Warm Body

Spent last week at home for classes, which is always a nice change of pace. But thanks to being stuck side-by-side with a sick co-worker the previous week, I spent my first four days home in I don't know how many weeks laying in bed, moaning like a freshly neutered cat (and probably smelling like one as well) trying to break a sweat and watching "Rescue Me" on dvd. To call it a disappointing trip home is an understatement.

It was great to see my dog though. Sometimes it's easy to forget why it is you do what you do when you're out in BFE, breaking your back in the elements and coming "home" to an empty motel room that has probably seen more shenanigans than a security camera in a strip club. I just wish I'd been able to be more active with him. You worry about who will be waiting for you when you come home. People come, people go. Such is life, c'est la vie and all that. And with pets, you worry they will not care that you've come home because they've spent so much time with a sitter they think you've abandoned them and are accustomed to their new family. You just hope that somehow they understand why you are not there, and you lie to yourself and try to justify it everyday.

My dog is my child. And it breaks my heart that I am unable to bring him with me on this venture into classified territory. And he is getting old. I am terrified that one day my sitter will call me up and say he's gone to age (or worse) and it will have been weeks or even months since I'd seen him. You hope all is well, and you carry on, always aware that life (concerning pets as well as people) is very much going on without you. And you can either deal with that, or you can't.

But I recovered in time to pick up my Pelican album from the store where it's been waiting for me for eons. There was literally a layer of dust on it that needed wiped off when I picked it up from the clerk, along with the comment of: "We thought this order was a prank.". 'What We All Come To Need' was well worth the wait though. I've not enjoyed a record this much since Beyond Fear's self-titled. You do not get radio singles with a band like Pelican or Russian Circles. What you get are very well written songs that are very well arranged. And played excellently by stellar musicians. And where most bands that do an instrumental song or album would just let the guitar player veer off and do 7 minute guitar solos that make no sense and don't fit the overall context, a truly excellent musician will know when it is time to shut up, and let the melodies take lead. THAT is what you get with Pelican and Russian Circles. They know when to not have a wank-fest, and just let it groove. And that is why both bands will forever be "damned" to no more than cult-followings. Which is a damn shame.

Also had my yearly physical while in town, which is always amusing. A lady sticks a needle in my arm to check for aids, HIV, diabetes and whatnot, tells me to stop smoking, eat healthier, then tells me I am the perfect weight for someone of my height. Far be it for me to say "She's fucking clueless", but c'mon lady? Did you LOOK at me? I'm not overweight by any means, the exact opposite in fact. And I do try to put on weight, but I just can't.

Made the drive back to Oklahoma on sunday listening to Pelican and Russian Circles, as well as The Who's 'It's Hard' (terrible record), UFO's best of, and Halford's 'Resurrection'. Say what you will about the thus far un-musically-eventful return of Halford to Priest, but you can not deny his solo career. He never sounds better, his band is solid, and the songs are much more listenable than post 2001 Priest. Great stuff.  And it's easy to laugh off and forget how good UFO were. I've not kept up with them in years, but their first three records were just as good as anything Deep Purple did back in their heyday, just not as musicianaly sound or disciplined.

Pelican's "Glimmer"...

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck

After only two hours of work yesterday, and having Monday off for holiday, today was strange. Normally on Monday's we all arrive, have a meeting we feign interest in, go outside and have a cigarette, and mutually say: "Fuck this.". And today did start off the same as every Monday, only it was Wednesday instead. Everyone was excited counting down the days until they get to go home, including myself, and in an overall good mood. Work was flawless, and the time flew by. Fantastic Monday. I find myself now anticipating the downward slope of the rest of the week. Just 4 more days...

I've been trying to digest the new Seether record, 'Isolate & Medicate', over the last few days, but I just can't. In typical Seether album fashion, you get 2 good songs, then 45 minutes of pure crap. I just can't get into them that much, for whatever reason. Some people swear by them, though. I have an ex who saw them live 6 times in one year. But, she also swore when she'd been drinking that she could talk to trees and "feel their pain", so take that for what it's worth. And never date a "Wiccan".

Found this Sunday while flipping through my homework notebook. I've no memory of it whatsoever, but I found it interesting. Interpret at your own risk...

"Cutting Strings"

When you call me you're terrified
And feeling angry
Screaming at the walls

You make me feel ugly inside
And always lonely
My summers turn to Fall

I can't help you anymore
No good will left
Time to turn and

Run, run, run, run far away
I can't deal it's
Too much for my heart
So see you on the otherside
You're far too gone now
All you were is lost

I never know who you're going to be
You're so confusing
A labyrinth of pain

You'll never know what you mean to me
'Cos I can't tell you
It just brings out my shame

Wrap myself in solitude
And mourn the days gone
You'll never be the same

You're giving up to disease again
And comfort blanket
And I can't go along
So see you on the otherside
You're far too gone now
All you were is lost

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Man On The Silver Mountain

The one "advantage" to working outside is the occasional rain day. When there is flash flooding all around you, you will rarely do a full days work. This is terrible for the paycheck, but good for catching up on rest. Which is exactly what I've done today, as well as a bit of homework revisions.

This also meant a bit of time for games after rest and homework were finished, which I was glad to have time to actually do. Stopped and picked up 'Metal Gear Solid 5: Ground Zeroes' this afternoon, after having re-played all the older Metal Gears over the last month or so. I can't say it was worth $30 (this is just a one level demo, after all), but I can honestly say I enjoyed it and am now looking forward to 'The Phantom Pain' even more. So, in a sense, Kojima is again victorious.

But I do nit-pick, and I do always find something to complain about (If I don't have something to bitch about, I'm not happy) and 'Zeroes' does give fuel for the fire. First off: Kojima is not a genius. He had a genius IDEA and like all creatives who have only one good idea, he rode it's coat tails to millions. Then did it again. And again. And again.

While 'Zeroes' does incorporate new gameplay mechanics and controls, which are fairly intuitive and make you wonder why they are only now new to the series, it does have it's rip-off moments. As Metal Gear always does, it harvests the back catalogue of Metal Gear to rip-off ("Homage" if you're nasty).

This is not a "He fucking RUINED IT!" rant, this is merely one little complaint, so do not take this as a whole as being negative. It's fairly simple, 3 letters, in this order: Xof. THAT'S the best you could come up with? I understand names like "The Sinister Six", "Legion Of Losers" (an honest to God group of Spider-Man villains. 'Spectacular Spider-Man' #260something if I remember right. Possibly 280's), and "Legion of Doom" were taken, but still.

But The Red Skull looks awesome. Fantastic to see him branching out of his "Captain America" gig.

Keifer Sutherland does a good job as Big Boss. I'm a die-hard David Hayter fan, he owns the role of Snake and Big Boss to me and always will, but it's Keifer Freakin' Sutherland. When has that guy done a bad performance? Bad material maybe, but bad performance?

After scrounging around just exploring the Cuban base to see what it is I could do and what I could find, my experience was somewhere around two and a half hours. Short, but fun. There are extra missions available upon completion, and they are a bitch from what I've played so far. It is raining and nighttime in the main "campaign", which suits Big Boss', er, suit perfectly. Black is the new stealth, and stealth is Big Boss. The "side missions", however, are set in full blown daytime, which is not complimentary to Big Boss' suit. It makes it a bit trickier, forcing you to really mind your surroundings. Which of course, can be it's own sort of fun or nightmare depending on the view.

The story is... meh. I'll admit to not finishing 'Peace Walker HD', so I was un-familiar with the characters and why I should feel compelled to rescue them. But it was refreshing to see Master Millar in a positive (and alive) light. I'd been looking forward to seeing him in action, and I was pleased. The ending tries to hard. It's a good ending, don't get me wrong, but it feels forced. It's as if Kojima feels he's "wasted" away his talents as a writer (one trick pony or not, he IS creative. Even if it doesn't make sense sometimes *cough*MGS2*cough*) as a "lowly video games are for kids" writer and is now trying to be taken seriously. This is my perception, I could be wrong. It feels as though it was made with the intention of starting controversy. Again, it's not bad, it just feels forced for some reason.

Harry Gregson Williams again returns to the score, and the sound design has been stepped up considerably, as it always does with a new installment. And it looks gorgeous, except for one little bit you will know when you see.

Overall, Big Boss has had a hard life. We know this. And it's going to get harder, which we also know. And we have the opportunity to control and navigate him through a few spells of hardships. And I for one am now looking forward to it more than ever. Is 'Ground Zeroes' worth $30? That depends on what you expect and what you enjoy in a Metal Gear game. Is it fun? Absolutely it is. And isn't that what we play games for?