Thermal Selfie

I haven’t written much in a while.

Life gets the best of me, and work has been such a giant part of my life that I neglect to write. Or do anything but work related stuff.

I hate that. I need to change that.

I’m working on some more longform stuff, but before I go, a picture.

Here’s a selfie I took of myself against a metal wall using a thermal camera I got to mess around with. Just my body heat reflecting off of a metal elevator wall at work.

Thermal Selfie

dj orta dot com.

I’ve been holding off on launching my own personal website for a few years now.

And when I mean launch, actually launch and use the fricking thing. I had installed WordPress on it a millennia ago, importing everything over from my livejournal upon it. I started double posting things on both livejournal and WordPress at the same time, actually, using MarsEdit as an intermediary (I seriously can’t say enough good things about that app- buy it if you do any sort of blogging on more than one site. Hell, when I posted on insulinfunk years and years ago, I would keep all my drafts on MarsEdit before I published them on the site proper) before I gave up on Livejournal a few years ago. Since then, I’ve been posting things to my original URL ( from time to time, when my mind actually remembered to post things to it.

The biggest problem I’ve been facing is my own satisfation. I’ve been trying to get something off the ground, something I can be proud of. And I’ve tried- time and time again. I’ve tried multiple ideas and designs, and honestly, I’m sick and tired of the whole process. I finally have a simple, clean design I’m satisfied with.

So in short- I’m relaunching my website, now here, at DJ Orta dot com. It’ll have a small version of my portfolio work (done so far) along with some other goodies.

Revisiting the Library

I went back to my old job a week or so ago. I was once a proud librarian/librarymans, working basically weekends at this job that offered me my first real experience at a position I sought myself (I was promoted from page to library clerk during my stay there). It was the first time I dealt with the public, dealing with problem patrons and the library fines they incurred over time. It’s been about 18 months since I had the job. I had stayed away for being bitter for being laid off. There were a lot of things I didn’t agree with, especially in upper management. I had plans to lash out at them, but with some time quietly gave me the chance to ponder the choice and decide against it. Visiting my old job. Former librarian.So on my day off, running errands had me passing by my previous job. I went in and visited the library and my former coworkers. There were previous visits, sure, but this day, I spent a considerable time talking to people and observing my former workplace in a different light- from a workplace to a patron. And its as if nothing has changed. Well sure, it’s only been about 18 months, but I had expected to see something… more to be changed since I was laid off. It’s as if it lived in a snapshot of time, and I was simply revisiting the snapshot, looking into it as if I were Alice peering into the looking mirror.. It felt like I had been laid off only a few days beforehand. It felt eerie, in a sense, to see the regulars still visiting the library, the same people picking up books, reading magazines, or using the computers there. As if nothing happened recently. Children I remember seeing had grown older- but the same patrons still were there, greeting me as if nothing had happened. I went back to visit a chapter of my life that never changed, or if it had, I couldn’t see it my brief time visiting there. And I still don’t know how i feel about it, to be honest. It’s frustrating to see what was a huge part of my life stagnating, but at the same time, almost welcoming to see it never change. I went through the stacks I used to organize as a page, getting a sudden urge to organize a western book that had been placed in the fiction section. I ultimately did, out of courtesy, but it was ultimately my own mind reverting to a much quieter time in my life. In the end, visiting the library so far out gave me closure. I came into work the next day eager to tackle the day’s challenges, knowing that in some way, the previous chapter of my life will always be there in one form or another. Because, in the end, it’s rare for changes to occur in such a sleepy little place.

Gaming Avatars

With the latest generation of video games, the ability to create virtual avatars have become commonplace. The Xbox 360 has its avatars. The Wii has its Miis. And the PS3… well, it has its Home Avatars (that’s almost a second thought behind the first two). All of these avatar creation systems have the same damn problem. Curly hair. They can’t do curly hair. Not one goddamn bit. I have natural curly hair- a byproduct of my Mexican heritage. It’s always something I’ve been proud of. I would drive my straight haired mother crazy as i would show off the locks as they naturally occur (I’ve only straightened my hair only once, and that was for my sisters amusement. I love my curls, and never want to do it again, but knowing my sister, I’ll probably have it straightened again for her joy.) My mother would curse me as I’d put heavy amounts of gel in my hair in the morning to shape said curls perfectly. This hairstyle is one thing I’m rather proud of, but unfortunately, It isn’t very well quite reflected in these virtual avatar creation systems. In fact, trying to find any curly hair style (outside of an afro) is virtually nonexistent. And god only knows how I’ve tried. Fallout 3, Fallout New Vegas, The Sims, The Sims 2 (although that might have been the exemption, I remember being quite happy with the results there), Saints Row 2… the list seems to roll on and on, finding myself frustrated with the lack of curly hair and ending up creating something completely crazy instead. Go to your favorite game with a create a character system. Go on, do it. The choices are utterly normal or crazy, with nary a curl in sight, to the dismay of myself and my curly haired compatriots. In the meantime, I’ve found a worthwhile substitute for Playstation Home and Xbox Live.

My Gaming Avatars


the best compliment

One day at work, where i was being my usual crazy self, a customer observed to a fellow coworker (who later told me) that I was a “character out of a movie” and “I couldn’t be real”. I stopped in my tracks after my coworker told me this after the fact- I couldn’t think of anything to say to that. It’s probably the best compliment I’ve ever received. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing still, but I’ll take it at face value and honor it nonetheless.

The Last of LaFonda

So I got attached to my car.

Who wouldn’t, after all the weird adventures I’ve had with it?

LaFonda was a 1992 Chrystler LeBaron- or as I liked to call it, “The Pimpmobile past it’s prime”. With it’s roomy red velvet interior, it looked like it tried to capture the same style of those giant boats of yesteryear. Either that, or I was driving a Russian tank with the turret removed. (I can’t take credit for that joke- I got it with some inspiration to a Simpsons episode where Homer’s pink sedan was described as being built out of old Russian tanks. With the way my car handled, it may have been true in my case.).

And I had so many memories with said car. I recall driving down the 101 freeway with five other friends, bobbing our heads up and down in unison to Haddaway’s “What is love”– so much so that the suspension jumped up and down roughly, making me swerve slightly to compensate for the abuse I put on the live axel suspension. It was a ridiculous thing to do, but as it was the first time i had people in the car, and as such, it became my first big memory with the car.

And of course, who could forget my incident with the Joystiq crew. It was my choice story to tell others what had happened with the car. Every E3 since then, I’ve told the events time and time again to members of the industry- most of which still don’t believe me (this past year, I’ve told the story about five separate times, each person still looking incredulous as I describe the events. Best thing is- only a select few still know who it was who had thrown up in the car).

LaFonda was always a choice car to be pulled over- with the peeling paint and well- overall shadiness- I have been pulled over more than once in the car in some more, quiet, suburban neighborhoods. In one occasion, I made it a point to ask the police officer if, well- my car looked shady. All he could do was to smirk nervously before wishing me a good rest of my evening.

But the good times had come to an end. The car had blown its gasket (literally). With a failing transmission, I was quoted at roughly $2.5k to fix everything. And even then, it was an old car. Parts were hard to come by. I couldn’t even look my mechanic directly when I asked him if it was worth it. And when I could, all he could do was to shrug his shoulders. It was a clear enough message.

I donated the car to charity- it was my only choice at that time, donating it to to the Convalescent Aid Society, a nonprofit that had supported my grandma by lending her a wheelchair when she first broke her hip (it’s a fantastic organization and honestly, it’s the least I can do for helping her). By the way, if you think of getting rid of an old car, donate it to charity- I found a nonprofit by the name of Cars4Causes that made the process as simple as it can really be.

When the tow truck slowly pulled away from the mechanic’s shop, all I could do was to record video of the last time I would see her.

Call me nostalgic. Call me a fool. But being attached to a car that treated me right- gave me so many memories- who wouldn’t be that… despondent?

LaFonda’s Interior

LaFonda interior

A picture of my car before I had it taken away by the tow truck from the charity. Used the AutoStitch app on my iPhone. I miss the car already- I’ll be writing a small retrospective of my time with my car.

Before that, I’ll be doing a writeup of my experiences at E3, 2011! I got in this year! Expect that next week.

Geeky Present

The best presents are those made just for you- those that people go out of their way to make sure it’s utterly right for you in every sense of the word. Everyone has had one of these, at least. One present I received this previous christmas could fall into this category- an utterly geeky present I received from a friend I only knew through the internet. Rebecca “Soap” Gunther is a talented artist, the artist behind multiple webcomics, most recently including Anathema and Amya. We became friends during my long winded stint as a webcomics reviewer, conversing with many artists on the Comic Genesis forums- where she started out her first couple of webcomics. She’s improved almost constantly on her artwork over the years and years that I’ve known her. You owe it to yourself to her work and see what I mean. Even after I had quietly left the webcomics scene (it wasn’t so much of a leaving of the scene- more of fading out from the whole usual hubbub and drama that surrounded many of the webcomics communities I frequented), we continued our friendship, mostly on twitter and other social networking sites of its ilk. There isn’t a site that I’m on that I’m sure I’ll find Soap close by (seriously, Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter… we’re friends on most of ’em). This line of communication continued through the holidays, when Rebecca would send out Christmas cards to all sorts of people she knew online. It was a tradition she did year after year, and I was fortunate to receive them time and time again, year after year during the holidays. sackkon.jpgOne year, Soap included a picture she drew and colored herself- a picture of my old online persona as a Sackboy from Little Big Planet (the character was originally Kon, a little stuffed lion toy from the manga Bleach. I have appeared as this character cameoed in multiple comics) . I loved the picture so much I had it on the wall above my desk. In response, I sent her a poster I got from a Resident Evil 5 release blood drive held in LA, knowing that Soap was a huge fan of the RE horror games. It was perfect for her- she responded in glee on Twitter, espousing words of thanks that I was more than happy to receive. This year, she expanded upon the gift even further. She made what was once a drawing into an actual sackboy (or sacklion, really) into an actual sackboy. It arrived during a freak string of rainy weather here in Los Angeles, which had soaked my room with water so much so that I had started moving myself out of the room. I was stressed from moving (and work) that I almost didn’t notice the box on my doorstep, soaked completely to the core. I was able to tear the box apart with my fingers to expose the small present within. I knew what it was the moment I saw just the arm sticking out of its packaging. I giggled in joy, and showed it to my sister, who admitted that while it was a great present, it was “still pretty nerdy” (living with a nerd, she’s become used to the random things that give me joy that she just doesn’t really “get”) But I didn’t care. It was a present perfect for me, perfect for what I was all about. I bounded off to work with a spring in my step. And when It came time for me to move everything out of my room, the original picture and the sacklion were the first to be packed. They were the first things I unpacked when I moved right back into my room- resting beside my game consoles. They were the best geeky little present ever. Thank you, Soap.

the littlebigplanet collection

Day of the Dead.

Today is (well, earlier today) was the celebration of Day of the Dead.I wrote about Day of the Dead before- about the celebration and the lack therof in my life. I wanted to honor those who had passed away to connect to my own lost roots as a Mexican-American- or at least, to my own heritage as a Mexican. I hadn’t celebrated last year. To be honest, I totally forgot about the celebration, the festivities. I had nothing to celebrate, or really- no one to celebrate. This year, I had someone to celebrate about. Taylor. Ofrenda 2010On Halloween, I set up the ofrenda– or altar to the dead. my sister bought some virgin Mary candles from the supermarket, and I set them up along the tabletop, along with other smaller items traditional to the national holiday: A picture of Taylor (along with some relatives and other people). Some skulls and festive skeletons to celebrate the occasion. An offering- Taylor’s favorite beer, Natural Light. I’m oddly proud of this makeshift ofrenda. Maybe next year, I’ll have to get a couple of those sugar skulls to make it truly authentic. Or perhaps I’ll have to put a little more effort into it- who knows. Teresa and I both went to Taylor’s grave to lay down the flowers early this morning, laying down the (again, traditional) marigolds upon the graves. Even then, early in the morning, we drove by past rows and rows of graves, some littered with the same marigolds. Just goes to show the tradition is still strong in the US.

goodbye taylor

*My friend Taylor’s funeral was today. I prepared a speech to say at his funeral, but with a lack of time, I was unable to do so. Here’s the speech in its entirety so I may share my final thoughts of a dear, dear friend. * For the past week, I racked my brain for hours on end trying to find a word that could sum up Taylor and what he meant to me. I spoke to friends who were also shocked at his passing, recalling our times with him, stories of his great character and his importance to us. I think I finally came up with the proper word- Taylor Thomas Nudo was nothing short of fantastical. Ever since I met Taylor in the sixth grade, I always knew he was unique- from the way he befriended so many different people or the way he spent an entire day at school asking everyone if he had a chin. He was my inspiration to become a writer, pushing me since middle school to continue writing scripts, even after we went to separate schools. My greatest joy was to finish a script, rushing to read it to him in person or over the phone- his laughter being the biggest satisfaction and approval I could receive from anyone. What I wouldn’t give to just hear his cackle of laughter, to hear him say “That’s AWESOME!” over the phone, just one last time. He was larger than life, one of those charismatic individuals that no one could speak ill of. Yesterday, I heard Tara describe Taylor perfectly- he was a ball of energy. Every time I was able to see him perform live someplace, Taylor’s energy never changed, his hair flying all over the place as his fingers moved across the neck of the guitar. He was that ball of energy on and off the stage, always flashing that impish smile wherever he went. In writing this speech, I researched eulogies on the internet, scouring for examples and ideas to make this speech memorable, to find the best quotation or passage that could encapsulate Taylor. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any that could do him justice. All I can leave all of you with are my memories of him. A classmate who supported me through the worst times of my life. A musician who I believed was a guitar god. My greatest inspiration as a writer. One of my dearest friends. I’ll miss you, Tay. You were nothing short of fantastical.