The Other End of Sunset

Sunday, April 05, 2009

In the last 2 minutes, you gotta let your quarterback call the plays

OK, so the tagline on this blog refers to things you just passed in a taxi.

Seriously, have you ever tried to catch a cab in LA? Other than the Roosevelt, and LAX, where are the taxis?

I may have to change the tag.

I can smell machinery
--Thomas Dolby
SL & I watched the final episode of "Saving Grace" the other night (spoiler alert). I don't know how you feel about the death penalty. I am conflicted. In the abstract, I think I'm ok with it. However, in the specific, I always fall against it. I'm apparently inconsistent.

As the guards came to get Leon Cooley and take him to the execution chamber, SL let out a gasp, and said "But wait! He didn't get to finish his last meal! Wait! Please!"

She's right. He didn't.

It sucks to run out of time to do something. Jeanne ran out of time before she got to go to Paris. I ran out of time to whisper in her ear.

I'm going to try and make time. I'm riding to Death Valley next week. Baby steps, folks, baby steps.

Mystery is a thing not easily captured
--Dan Fogelberg

My nephew (more or less) stayed with us for several days this week. He spent a lot of his time playing Halo 3. We also visited pretty much every amusement park in Southern California, but that's not relevant at the moment.

When I played Halo, I was totally focused on the mission; I didn't do anything that didn't lead to the goal of the game. I wouldn't even bother shooting the bad guys that I didn't need to; if they weren't in my way, I just went past them.

My nephew played totally differently. He wandered around aimlessly. He kicked downed bad guys to see what happened -- did you know the shells pop off of the little bad guys if you shoot them after they are dead? Me neither. He wandered around the rooms, exploring, searching for nothing in particular.

It was so random that I found it frustrated to watch -- I kept wanting to hurry him up, get him through the next checkpoint, to win the game. He was having a great time, but making slow progress towards the finish. But he understood the game way better than I did. He noticed details like the way ammunition changed if you picked up a second weapon. He found a way through a hard room by clambering through the pipes. He found strange inexplicable behaviors that must have been added to the game as a joke.

He was remarkably good at the game. It makes me think about the educational value of games. I studied it at RAND. One of my oldest friends has a book arguing that gamers make better employees and generally debunking the notion that computer games are intrinsically bad for kids.

One of the features commented on by Mitchell, and in loads of research, is that exploration is a good way to learn (assuming you get feedback on mistakes quickly enough). My nephew's strategy gave him a great understanding of the game, and I should have been able to predict that it would.

And yet, I can't play the game in that manner. I've become totally goal focused. Is it a side effect of growing older? Or a learned behavior from corporate jobs? I wonder.

Shut up and put your money where your mouth is.
That's what you get for waking up in Vegas.
--Katy Perry

I spent Easter weekend with a friend in Phoenix. We went to see Jeanne. We argued about international finance. We went to mass.

He said "Practice Electra,
you might need me someday"
--Megan Slankard

The Easter homily was heartbreaking. The priest told a story of a close friend of his who died of pancreatic cancer at a very young age. (Hmm, similarities?)

As the friend was coming to the end of her personal novel, the priest took her on vacation for a weekend in the country at a house in the mountains. Saturday night, before they left to return to the city, she stood outside, unaware that he was behind her.

She thanked the mountains for being so beautiful. She thanked the stars for twinkling. She thanked the river.

She told them all "I'll probably never see you again, but I wanted to thank you for my life".

She died a few days later.

I can see my life before me
Running rings around the way it used to be
--Crosby, Stills, and Nash

My weekend in Phoenix was fun and diverting. "Nothing" came of it - I didn't get tan, I didn't read any new books, I didn't learn anything.

But sometimes the joy is in the act, not the goal. My nephew reminded me of that, through a very violent first-person shooter game. The homily reminded me of it.

One can learn from the strangest things.

Don't run out of time. Eat the meal you are offered. Thank the stars. Ride through Death Valley, fearing no evil.

Have a good taxi ride, if you can find one.