Even One Word

The Blog of Nathan St. Pierre


New Job, New Site, New Mind Sunday, September 1, 2013

So, a lot of things have changed since the last time I've updated this blog. That gave me a pretty decent excuse to go ahead and also update my site (in more ways than one).

Rather than just continuing the wordpress blog ad infinitum, I figured I'd leverage some of the stuff I've been working on, namely Cuervo. It allows me to write blogs pretty quickly and not have to deal with managing a database and all sorts of poorly conceived architecture (sorry to all my wordpress friends, but come on... you know it).

The more astute among you may now be wondering : what was the impetus for this sudden and rapid change? What could possibly be the reason for a drastic change in architecture and design? Is this some kind of 1/3rd life crisis?

To be fair, partly. I'm turning 30 this month, and to be perfectly honest with you I'm doing a lot of inventory-taking and asking myself "what it all means." But I've been blessed with a rare opportunity that not everyone gets during their third-life crisis: a new job. A really, really good new job.

Starting Sept 30th, I'll be working for Amazon.com on the Amazon Game Circle team. Never heard of it? I had, but only in passing. For more info, check out The SDK Site. It's going to be as a web development engineer, and they're relocating me to Seattle for the job.

I could not have asked for a better 30th birthday present. Seriously, I can't think of a better thing that could have happened. And there are a few reasons why.


When I originally got my music degree, which took a great deal of time and effort, it was with the hopes of writing scores for video games. Honestly, I didn't care if it was just for the latest edutainment abortions (See Math Blasters) or for an epic AAA release: I just wanted to give someone else the same goosebumps I got when I walked into a new area in a video game and the music built to this crescendo, locking you into the moment and completely dissolving the various apparatus you use to interface with the game. The keyboard, the controller, what have you: they disappeared and you BECAME the character.

Unfortunately, the same dream was shared by a lot of other people, most of whom are willing to accept next to nothing for their work. This was only one hurdle: as it turned out, AAA titles don't have to settle for a video game composer who sounds like John Williams: they just get John Williams. The same sort of thing is happening in animation. Voice actors who have given life to beloved characters like The Simpsons are being replaced by comedians and film actors. This could have been a huge crushing defeat for me, but I chose to see it was an awakening. The job I wanted was a very specific subset of all the things I can do. I can write music, but I also understand complicated computers systems. I am now fully trained in serial, set-based, and algorithmic composition as well as both sixteenth and eighteenth-century counterpoint. But I'm also a novelist, an artist, and a web developer.

But, you can never forget your first love. You always remember what made you who you are, and you always secretly wish you can find your way back to it. This is literally what happened.


Danielle and I spent our honeymoon in Seattle in 2006. We'd debated moving up there for graduate school, and so we took the excuse. Because of our (curious) choice of a Christmas-time wedding, we were up there during the coldest part of the year. Being from North Texas, a moist and windy cold was not really challenging for us. I actually grew up in Denver, but anyone will tell you mountain cold is completely different from coastline cold. Just ask anyone who has lived on the great lakes: that shit hurts. In any case, in spite of everyone assuring us that we'd be depressed from never seeing the sun and being surrounded by indifferent people, we had an incredible time. It was remarkable. We always wanted to come back.

We came back for my interview with Amazon in the Summer. It was very different, but it was incredible in a new way: the sun followed us all weekend and we even took a duck tour that took us onto the lake. It was beyond wonderful.

Now, the part that's a little harder to discuss: it's still based on the fact it's Seattle, but it also goes more into another factor:

NOT Texas

So, I've lived in Texas for 25 years of my life. Even though my parents moved to Midland, which made my "permanent" residence West Texas, I really lived in the DFW metroplex almost that entire time. I grew up in sleepy Aledo, TX, home of the AAA football state champions for the (before we moved there) past umpteen years. Then, I moved to even sleepier Prosper, TX. I went to college in Denton, and worked in Addison, Irving, Keller, and finally North Richland Hills.

When I say I know the metroplex pretty well, I'm not just saying it. When I say it's a part of me, I'm being completely honest. So believe me when I say the next statement is completely from the heart.

I am fully and completely DONE with Texas.

There are a long list of reasons to say that, and I won't dig through them all. It's home of some of the most genuinely nice people I've ever met, it's the place I first fell in love with the sunset. It's incredible in so many ways. And in just as many ways, it's impossible to live here for someone like me. Someone who was not raised to believe the earth is 5000 years old. Someone who honestly believes that the priority of the founding fathers in this nation was to ensure liberty, not to bring a specific set of beliefs to the natives and enforce their views on them will have a hard time making friends. Not impossible, mind you, but you will always be in the minority.

Before I go any further with that, I want to make it perfectly clear: compared to what most people would call a liberal, I am REACTIONARY. I completely believe in the right of the individual to own as many guns as they want. I also think they should be able to smoke whatever substance they want and have sex with whatever (willing) participant they can find. Some will know this concept as being a "libertarian." I am in that I believe the rights of the people should always be based on the rights of the individual. In Texas, you'd think this philosophy would have a lot of friends: but it really doesn't. This state has passed some of the most restrictive legislation on personal freedom that any state has ever seen, and most of it in the past few years.

That being said, maybe I've just lived here too long. I spent the first five years of my life in one place, then the next 25 in another. No matter how you cut it, that feels like a rut to me. The laws are annoying, and hearing on a daily basis that I'm going to hell because I don't follow a specific subset of the bible (which, by the way, is different from the subset the follow in a church literally across the street) grates on your nerves.

It's really not affecting my day to day life that I can't do a lot of the things I was allowed to before: I am ultimately a relatively boring dude. I never even tried Salvia before it became illegal here, I just didn't see the value. But, you hear about this stuff happening on a daily basis, about people voting for the government to be a little more involved in your every day life, and a little more focused on what you can and cannot do, and it adds up. And let's be honest: multiple summers of over 110 degree weather in the almost northernmost section of the state? Another summer or two I'll be well done with Texas (badum-dum).

Anyway, never say never. Don't be the kind of person who assumes they'll never come back: you'll look like an idiot when it happens. And then, maybe because of the fact that I'm secretly a fatalist, I believe that by saying you'll never do something, you set in motion a series of inscrutable events that will DEFINITELY lead to you doing that exact thing.

But, who knows. I don't hate Texas. I'm just ready for something new.

A big company

I've never worked for a big company. Almost every company I've ever worked for has a roster small enough for you to conceivably know the entire company. Ironically, almost every company I've worked for also had such an extreme churn rate, it was ALMOST impossible to get to know everyone before they quit.

I'm not saying anything negative about these companies: it's actually been a really good experience. But to be perfectly fair, it's been the same experience, almost every time. The owner(s) have always been at most three levels of separation above you, and their ability to micromanage has always led to a state of affairs in which the bottom line eventually comes to rest directly at your desk, whether that judgment made sense or not.

I'm fully aware of all of the potential downsides to working for a big company, especially one that is publicly traded. I know there are things you have no control over and never can, but to be honest, I'm looking forward to that, if for no other reason than it's something new.

The best move for both of us

A lot of people know that Danielle and I have been doing a lot of work for our comic company, Odd19, and we've been involved directly in the nerdy subcultures as well as the art and literature crowds. As it turns out (big surprise), comic books, video games, and other things of that nature are more open-minded on the whole in Seattle, WA than they are in DFW, TX. As a simple example: we were able to get into four major comic conventions, all of which had attendance in the tens of thousands last year. The locations? Orlando, Pittsburgh, New York, and Denver. Dallas has multiple conventions, all of which have turnouts less than half the size of those, and we have attempted to get into them months before signup for two years. Both times, they were "pre-booked" by people who went to related cons. When we brought up that it seemed impossible to get in at this point, the people we contacted just told us "yeah, so that's how it is" and hung up with us or stopped answering our e-mails.

I'm not a "native" Texan, but I've lived here long enough to recognize that. It's someone being convinced that they're better than you: they don't need your business. Sure, this happens everywhere, but at least other places were willing to make space for us before being derisive about our business with them.

All of this being said, as much as all of this affects me, Danielle's life is a thousand times more dependent on the right people with the right mindset, and now she's going to be closer to them than ever.

In the end

It really comes down to one thing: our lives are simply going to be better. We can't afford as big of a place, we're going to have to deal with more expensive cost of living, and yeah we'll probably see the sun a lot less. But to be honest, we're hoping to simplify our lives and live in a place easier to maintain. The cost of living everywhere is increasing, and I'd rather shop at Whole Foods than Wal-mart (which is a little more feasible where we're going). And after 25 years of Texas, I've had enough exposure to sunlight to last me the next 25 years. So, long story short? Bring it, Seattle. We are coming!