2009.04.29 in thoughts

The last day of Sophomore year (for me) just ended; instead of thinking any more about that, I thought I'd write about a handful of material(ish) possessions of mine that came at small monetary cost (to me or my family), but have since proved to be worth it time and time again. Most things don't stand out in this regard; they integrate themselves into my life, but they aren't something that I actively remember and enjoy every second of. These three, however, are things which have a value far greater than their price for the entertainment and experiences I've derived from them:

Firstly, our Firefly box set. At the time, it was a somewhat off-the-cuff purchase. Dad, Amy, and I had seen an episode or two on TV, had heard about it on the internet, and were awaiting the movie, but had no emotional attachment to the show. Now, a few years later, I can't begin to count the number of times I've watched and rewatched these fourteen episodes, nor can I possibly estimate the enjoyment I've received both during and between these watchings. Mom commented long ago, while the three of us were quite quietly caught up in the world of Malcolm Reynolds and Co., that those four DVDs were possibly the best 40$ she'd ever spent. I can't say I disagree. (Indeed; all three of my main computers at the moment are named after Firefly characters!)

Next, the Orange Box. I know this is a strange one, because I'm not a gamer; in fact, I only just finished playing through Half-Life 2 and the two episodes for the first time within the last week or so. However, this collection is more or less my only connection to the gaming world that many of my friends and colleagues so adore; I was introduced to it about a year ago by Mike and Nate, who insisted I play Portal. I sat, for five or six hours, without moving from the chair once, and finished the game — my first introduction to gaming post-PacMan, WASD+Mouse, and probably my single most enjoyable computing experience until Half-Life 2. Now, the story of Gordon and Alyx echoes in my head quite constantly (possibly because I only finished episode two a few days ago, but I hope it stays this way), and provides me yet another world in which to construct thoughts (both in my head, and in my occasional screwing around with the Source SDK, which I hope to soon resume after a few-month hiatus). In any case, this is another 40$ very well placed.

Finally, my Arduino. I've progressed on to breadboard- or PCB-mounted ATmega designs at this point, but this is where I got started again. About a decade ago (what!?!), Dad and I spent great deals of time playing around with Parallax's Basic Stamp, making various small devices, teaching me how to program with the then-obvious choice of language, and providing a platform for a young me to experiment. Robb convinced me to pick up electronics again last semester so we could build guitar-related stuff; while this particular reason didn't come to fruition, I invested a significant amount of money getting together anything I would need to complete any sort of small electronic project. I chose to grab an Arduino Diecimila while I was at it, so I had a microcontroller to tie things together. Since then, I've spent loads of time learning the ins and outs of the platform, building small things (and designing larger things), and in general trying to get acquainted with the internet's favorite microcontroller. More importantly than my own work, though, I've helped a countless number of people here at RPI on various little Arduino-based projects, providing experience, parts, or programmers — most significantly, Connor, with his various IED projects (one of which is turning into a summer job!). All for 20$.