Makes ya wanna think.

Doug’s Life

Canine Improv Theatre: Timmy Falls into the Well for the Very, Very Last Time

Travis is great at improv acting so long as his part is that of an enthusiastic dog. Trav-trav is a Collie/Shepherd/Something mix.

Travis is an enthusiastic kisser.

Today he looked particularly Colliesque so I called him Lassie which devolved into this piece of Canine Improv Theatre:

Travis delivers great news about Timmy.

For those of you too chronologically deprived to catch the Timmy/Collie reference, here is the opening of one of the best TV shows ever: Lassie.

The Lassie Theme Song is burned into my DNA.

Timmy was the clumsiest boy on Earth. His inability to avoid falling into wells stressed out poor, sweet Lassie day after day after day.

Travis and Mika and I evened the score.

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Icebreaking–Last Canoe Trip of the Year

Last week Martel Lake froze and I thought canoeing was done for the year.

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This week we got a warm spell – temp in the 40’s F – so I decided to give canoeing one last shot.

I love icebreaking in a canoe. The ice was crumbly around my dock and along the shore so I was pretty sure I could make it to open water.

I wanted to get some crunchy icebreaking sounds so I stuck my trusty Zoom H2 in my jacket pocket and got this [crunchy ice with intermittent narrative at 2:00; best crunching sounds start at 4:05]:

I was too busy breaking through the ice to take pix until we hit the open lake.

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My dock is in the distance just right and up from center. We paddled through the thin shore ice and then broke through the white patch above.

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It felt good to break through to clear water. Icebreaking with a canoe is great arm exercise because you need to chop into the ice with the paddle and haul the canoe forward up onto the ice, breaking it with the weight of the canoe. Repeat until clear of ice.

Thin ice you can just cruise through. It makes a tinkly sound as it shatters.

Mika and Travis were not happy with our expedition. It’s Wisconsin’s Annual War Against Deer and gunshots in the distance kept them nervous.

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After our icebreaking adventure I tied Mika to a tree and put away the boats and accessories for the winter. I hung lifejackets from the rafters of the screen porch while Travis watched, amused:

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I pulled my canoe onto the bank, where snow will soon cover it.

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The next time I canoe I’ll hear loons.


Stuff and Nonsense

Tony Santucci and I enjoy a gorgeous dusk paddle.
Tony and I enjoy a dusk paddle on Martel Lake.

The Pad has been a social whirlwind this month. Tony Santucci camped with me on Ogre Island. Myrna and Paul took good care of me.

Angry Robot just signed their first two authors from their Submissions Open Month. I’m still waiting (im)patiently to hear from AR about whether they’ll publish Channel Zilch.

Snow expected Saturday so I’m stacking the last of my firewood today.

Next week is my dogs’ least favorite time of the year: Wisconsin’s Annual War Against Deer. I’ll play lots of loud music to mask the sound of gunfire.


14 Years

Fourteen years ago I had one of the coolest, funnest, hectic-est jobs in my life: Demo God for Microsoft Research’s Virtual Worlds Group. I worked with coders, artists, writers, interns, and musicians to put together and run demos to show off our amazing Virtual Reality platform. I love to collaborate and the VWGers were a passionate, talented group to play with. At its best my job was exhilarating.

Demos are fickle beasts. Software in development is notorious for breaking when you demo it to anybody with clout. I remember frantically sprinting to my office to recompile a tearful intern’s project for an internal mass demo. I got it working and she was able to demo the work she’d spent months creating.

I had a blast in the Virtual World’s Group. Management politics was a mess but the geek troops made an amazing Virtual Worlds platform way ahead of its time.

Kevin Goldsmith and Doug Sharp in Doug's MSFT office celebrating Halloween

Before becoming Demo God I was co-leader of VWG world-building tools with Kevin Goldsmith. We had lots of laughs and did good work.

Fourteen years ago – October 17th, 1997 – I sat at my desk trying to code. I’d done no work the previous day although I’d tried hard. My epilepsy pre-seizure symptoms had been bothering me for days and on the 17th I had to admit that my Brainrot was back. I couldn’t work. Every time I forced myself to code the symptoms got worse. I was sad and afraid.

Doug Sharp as Himself

My MSFT office door.

At age 25 (1977), while student teaching for my Elementary Ed certification at the UofMN, I had some strange, nasty spells and was diagnosed with temporal lobe epilepsy. While teaching my first 5th grade class I took Phenobarbital  for a year, which controlled my seizures. I hated the drug – I called its effects “living in a baggie” –  and when my symptoms abated I got off Pheno with my neurologist’s permission.

In 1988, while working on my biggest game to date for Activision – called Future Cop at the time – Brainrot hit hard. For 3 1/2 years (88-91) I was extremely sick and on massive doses of various numbing anti-seizure meds as we tried to find one that worked. By 1991 I was a candidate for brain surgery. Luckily the symptoms started to abate. Although I still had infrequent seizures and tons of pre-seizure symptoms I threw myself into completing the game, now called “Free D.C.!” Due to time pressure from company investors (release by Xmas or die!) the game was released before it was finished — the only one of my three games that wasn’t a hit.

In ‘93, through an insane sequence of events, I was hired as a programmer by Microsoft (not too likely with only a degree in El Ed.) I had 5 good years at MSFT although none of the projects I worked on made it to market.

Every time Brainrot hit me I’ve been neck-deep in highly collaborative, exciting work: Elementary Ed teacher training and big collaborative software projects. I love to collaborate with passionate people but it’s kryptonite to me.

Fourteen years ago today I sat at my desk with a head full of sparks, unable to code. For the next months we tried to find tasks I could do for VWG but I was too sick to work. From 1997-2003 I had frequent seizures (I don’t black out but am incapacitated by them.) By the time my neurologist found effective anti-seizure meds (Lamictal and Keppra) my seizures had caused brain damage which resulted in my Central Pain Syndrome and cognitive losses.

Since 1997 I’ve tried, when well enough, to work. I had a brief clear spell in 2007 and coded a very playable version of ChipWits (Margaret did a great job creating the art) but was too sick to polish it to my satisfaction for commercial release. In the last few years I completed Channel Zilch and now Angry Robot is giving it a good long look.

For 18 of my 59 years I’ve wrestled with brainrot. I hate the pain and the years lost but I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished.


Rhythm of the Seasons: Stacking Firewood

This is my 8th autumn at The Pad, the 8th time I’ve stacked firewood for the winter.

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Six face cords of oak: $390. 3 canisters of propane: $240. A winter’s warmth.

The Wengers, local firewood barons, dumped the wood outside my fence 2 weeks ago.

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I’ll try to haul 12 wheelbarrows of wood to my shelter every day—over 160 split logs. That’s about 1 row of logs in the small wood shelter.

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Travis “helps” me every year by walking in front of the wheelbarrow and grinning at me while I stack the wood.  My dogs appreciate a good Stupid Human Trick.

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12 loads takes a nice bite out of the pile.

Next autumn I hope to stack wood at my new cabin in Washington state.


Big Decision: I’m Moving Back to Washington State Next Summer

As much as I love The Pad I’ve decided to return to Washington state next summer. I’ve known for a while that the next stage of my life will be set there.

Daisy, Margaret, and me exploring our favorite camping area in the Cascades – the Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie River.

I’ll be looking for a cabin within two hours of Seattle. I’m centering my search Highway 2 just West of Stevens Pass. It’s fun combing zillow.com for cabins near Skykomish and Index.

There are many good reasons for my move. Being closer to Margaret is important. I hope my future is writing science fiction and most of my sci-fi friends are in Seattle and points south on the West Coast. I lived in Washington for 11 years, 93-’04 – working at MSFT and disabled with brainrot. I love  the state. Mountains, ocean, Seattle, lots of fun geeks, and Archie McPhee—what’s not to like?

I’ll miss my Wisconsin paradise. The seven years I’ve spent here were incredibly healing. Martel Lake will always be a part of me. I will try to savor each remaining day. This autumn’s leaves make that an easy task.

Unless Channel Zilch dumps a pile of money in my lap I’ll sell The Pad next summer after I hear the first Loon. I look forward to a hard cold winter.

If I make money in the future I’ll buy a cabin on Martel Lake and spend a few months here every year. As I hike my woods and canoe my lake I have the feeling that I’ll be back.


Itsu jitsu launches an album of remixes of my music: “5DBSSS One – tha ReeMux is”

I’m honored and delighted that eighteen musicians from around the world liked the first 12 tracks of my 5 Dozen Bite-Sized Sonic Sculptures enough to remix them. 19 eerie, harsh, gorgeous, irritating reinterpretations of my dozen tiny tracks.

Download or listen here:

I haven’t heard about half of the tracks and am listening and relistening right now with a big goofy smile on my face.

I am a social being and hermiting is unnatural to me. The last 6 months of getting to know Jason Kavanagh’s circle of musicians reminds me of some of the best times in the computer game industry and at MSFT – working and joking with a great group of passionate and talented people.

Thanks to all the musicians who contributed to this album. I promise to get cracking on the next dozen Sonic Sculptures as my health allows. We’ll do another remix album in a couple months.

Thanks, Jason!

Link to itsu jitsu release page here:

5DBSSS One - tha ReeMux is Artist: Doug Sharp & Friends Title: 5DBSSS One – tha ReeMux is Running Time: pu:re:ag:es Catalogue Number: 5DBSSSR1 Release Date: 5th September 2011 About: Remix album of 5 Dozen Bite-Sized Sonic Sculptures One Artist Details and Tracklisting: ARTIST: Dead Kid Harvester TITLE: Metal on Utensil CONTACT: http://www.bloopy.org/dkh.php COUNTRY: New Zealand ARTIST: Elizabeth Veldon TITLE: metal plates 3 (metal on metal remix) CONTACT: https://www. … Read More

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Ogre Island Sunset #396


I left the dogs at the cabin for tonight’s sunset, something I rarely do. I floated in silence as the sunset ripened from greys to intense ruby.

Three deer came to the shore to drink. Kingfishers chittered angrily at one another while it was still light enough to hunt fish.When the sky turned pink Nighthawks hunted bugs in the sky.


King of Chicago Box Pix

When you work on computer games you get to do fun, weird stuff. In the fall of 1986 I was working insanely hard on my game The King of Chicago. My publisher Cinemaware needed a designer photo for the box and since I was doing a gangster game I decided to dress the part by hitting up second hand clothes stores.

My buddy Sam Ross is a fine photographer so I asked him to take the pix. We found a grungy alley behind an abandoned train station which looked Chicagoish enough. We had a blast posing and clicking and got some decent pix.

Recently I’ve been acting as hitman for itsu jitsu so I thought I’d post these pix to strike fear in anyone who is thinking of crossing Jason Kavanagh.

doug king of chicago box pix 003doug king of chicago box pix 006king of chicago box pix 001doug king of chicago box pix 005king of chicago box pix 002doug king of chicago box pix 004Box Cover of Doug Sharp's The King of Chicago (Cinemaware, 1986)

Back Cover of Doug Sharp's The King of Chicago (Cinemaware, 1986)

The King of Chicago sold over 50,000 copies in 86-88. The Amiga version sold better than the Mac, Atari, or PC versions because of Rob Landeros’s amazing gangsters.

I’m proud of King of Chicago.


Slow Dusk Paddle around Martel Lake

Still getting used to the seizure meds. I rarely drink. Had a beer out on the lake which turned our dusk canoe trip into a long leisurely paddle.

2011-08-15 Martel Sunset etc. 028Three Trumpeter Swans have been hanging out on local lakes. They were sitting in the forest when we paddled around a point and startled them into the water.

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The Swans were between me and the sun so I drifted and let them swim east. Here they are just under the sunset.

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Travis swam after them when they neared the east shore of Martel. They avoided him until he tired and then they followed him to shore. He’s sleeping soundly by my bed right now.

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I wrote a draft of a Channel Zilch query letter today. Tomorrow I send it to an agent.