Dispatches, thoughts, and miscellanea from writer Jon Konrath

Kitchen, Commodore, Spider-Man, Dead JCP

Kitchen is done. Four weeks took seven, but it looks good, and everything works. I posted an album over on Flickr if you’re really interested. I’m just glad to not have the plastic walls anymore, although if we ever make it out of second summer, it might be nice to have my office twenty degrees warmer than the rest of the house.

* * *

In a fit of dumb nostalgia, I bought a C-64 Mini. It’s a cute idea, although it seemed a bit silly at the original price point of ~$100. But now they’re going for $40, so I bit. It is a tiny machine about half the size of an old-school Commodore 64, containing an ARM processor system-on-a-chip that runs the VICE emulator. There’s HDMI video output, two USB ports for joysticks, keyboards, and memory sticks, and a USB power in. No legacy ports, no cartridge slot, not sure if anyone’s found a way to hack that stuff on. Also, the keyboard is a dummy non-functional thing, although you can use a modern USB keyboard .

I like the idea of these modern all-in-one game machines, in theory. One of the shortcomings of the various Atari/Genesis/Nintendo ones is you get what you get, and the packaged game assortment can be hit-or-miss. And the C-64 mini comes with fifty games, but maybe only a dozen I’ve played, and only half of that are games I’d really want to play again. (For example, Winter Games is cool, but I’ve already got RSI, thanks.) But, the cool thing about the mini is if you update to the newest firmware, you can fill a USB stick with .D64 files downloaded from the internet, and play nearly anything out there. So I loaded up a stick with a dozen or two games I fondly remembered, and tried it out.

The biggest shortcoming of C-64 gaming is that the controls were all over the place. So when I first plugged in a joystick and no keyboard, I suddenly found games wanted me to press F1 or Return or Space or type my name or whatever. And there are two USB ports, and I’ve got a joystick in one, a USB stick in another… time to get a hub. Also, the Commodore keyboard had all those weird keys like Run-Stop and Restore and the C= key and whatnot, so I wasted a lot of time trying to remember how that’s mapped. Also, the joystick that came with the unit is really sub-par, and there’s a limited number of USB joysticks that work with it, and my Logitech is not one of them. So, I’d have to go buy some other gamepads that would probably cost as much as I spent.

…Or, I could just run an emulator on my real computer. Or I could dig my real C-64 out of storage. So, I’m bored of this already.

* * *

I was driving on 580 to Pleasanton today, and this junker truck pulled up next to me from an on-ramp. I looked over, and the driver was wearing a Spider-Man costume, including the mask. And it didn’t look like an official Marvel-licensed costume, like the eyes were off, too big or something. It looked like the costume you’d see in one of those weird Mexican Spider-Man knock-off movies on YouTube. Not sure what was going on there.

* * *

There is this weird strip mall next to Stoneridge mall that is called Stoneridge Annex or Stoneridge South or whatever. It’s an outdoor strip that looks all Sixties with poured concrete painted brown and stuff. I always like walking there because it’s half-abandoned, and had a big Chinese seafood restaurant with the fish tanks in the dining room that looked like it would never close, and an old karate school, and a bunch of other half-baked dying businesses that dropped out one-by-one. Like there was a Taco Bell that looked like 2004 that died and I got some pictures of the labelscar and abandoned interior before they turned it into another random taco place which has since failed also.

The big anchor of this strip was a JC Penney home store. It always fascinated me, because it was two stories tall, and sold pretty much everything they do not sell in malls anymore: appliances, draperies, rugs, linens, and so on. Walking through it always reminded me of walking through a Lazarus or LS Ayres store in like 1993. Plus the place had funky tile floors and stairs and looked totally Nineties. It was in stark contrast to the main Stoneridge mall, which is pretty normal and somewhat boring modern Simon mall blandness.

Anyway, I walked there today, and of course it is closed. Almost everything in the strip is closed, except for a hearing aid store and a Cost Plus that never has anyone in it. So that’s a bit sad, but expected. I really should stop mall walking, because it’s so depressing. But, there’s always parking, and they have restrooms.

* * *

Not much else. Still in food jail. My cats are not fans of the Blue Angels. I’ve been reading all of Don DeLillo’s books, but paused to read a Ronnie James Dio biography. That’s about it.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *