Everyone Stop Being So Mean To Nintendo!

23 04 2014

There’s been a lot of talk lately about how Nintendo, specificially the Wii, rides the metaphorical short bus to school. The controls are non-standard and glitchy. The hardware is iffy at best. There’s little-to-no online gameplay. The graphics aren’t great, which is probably good because it’s not high-definition. But you know what? I think Nintendo rules. And I’m ready for everyone to stop being so mean to it!

 

Nintendo is awesome because it has stayed true to what made it into a runaway success years ago. It gave us Mario, Zelda, MegaMan, Donkey Kong, and almost all the other iconic characters we still recognize today. And nothing about those characters is realistic.

 

To quote the amazing Wreck-It Ralph trailer, “When did video games become so violent and scary?” That’s exactly how I feel. If I want to watch humans being killed, I just need to turn on the news. Moreover, I am totally uninterested in participating in the killing. Humanoid-on-humanoid violence makes me really uncomfortable. I’d much rather jump on a koopa and fling the shell at a goomba than take a firearm and fire it at very realistic-looking human, shedding blood and bits of brain.

 

The complex controls and runaway hardware on systems such as Xbox and Playstation allow for a degree of realism unattainable by Nintendo. Similarly, non-Nintendo games can be much more complex. Choices you make in early in the game affect the outcome. You can use sex to manipulate characters. You can lie and cheat to get ahead. …Seriously. I play games to escape from the real world, not to experience it undiluted! I’d so much rather round up the Kakariko Village’s chickens in exchange for a glass bottle than enter into a polyamorous relationship with a mage who picks people’s pockets.

 

Another beef I have with the Xbox/Playstation/PC community is their inability to come up with unique ideas. They all run the same games! What’s the point in having three systems that are essentially identical to each other? I understand that this is a simplified point of view. Each system has a different dashboard and a different saving method, as well as downloadable games. I strongly suggest watching the movie Indie Game for a peep into the lives of the independent developers. But when it comes right down to it, it’s the games like Skyrim, Mass Effect, and DragonAge that attract the attention of the gaming world, all of which can be played across a plethora of systems.

 

My point is that Nintendo does things totally differently with a different set of priorities. We all play games for the same underlying reasons. Just because I find that colorful, simplistic, non-violent games are my preferred way of escape, why does that make me a half-hearted gamer, and Nintendo a sub-par platform?

 

Some of what Nintendo has done hasn’t worked that great. But they were innovative, not just making cloned hardware that can run every Bioware game ever made. Maybe some of their experiments have failed. But they tried didn’t they, god dammit. At least they did that.





I’m kind of ready for zombies to just die already.

23 04 2014

The Zombie Apocalypse is something most nerds take very seriously. Zombie-proofing one’s residence is nearly as important as raptor-proofing it. I’m really not sure where this fascination began. Was it Night of the Living Dead that breathed life into zombie allure? Was it Bruce Campbell announcing the existence of his boomstick that ignited the preoccupation? Or is it something completely different of which my ignorance will cost me nerd points?

 

Whatever the reason for the modern-day fascination of zombies, I’m kind of ready for it to be over. At this point the demand for BRAINZZZ is simply overdone and cliché. This siren call can be heard from primetime TV to the summer blockbusters, from iPhone games to best-selling parody literature. “BRAINS” is to the 21st century what “Take me to your leader” was to the 90’s.

 

One of the differences between an alien flick and a zombie thriller is the circumstances often featured in the film. Most alien movies illustrate an invasion of sorts; normal human life is disrupted by cerebral beings destroying landmarks. Zombie culture almost always portrays a post-apocalyptic setting. There are a few remaining humans who must avoid being caught by zombies for fear of turning into one of them.

 

In my opinion, a post-apocalyptic society without zombies is much more frightening than one that contains the undead. I think watching the degradation, and subsequent rebuilding, of society is more fascinating and terrifying than running from various forms of rotting flesh. In books like The Stand, the very nature of humans is exemplified by the circumstances. Experiencing the undiluted rise of good and evil is so much more frightening than watching various characters decapitate the undead. Some zombie shows/movies/books do address societal issues, and when they do, I resent the zombies for distracting from the truly good stuff.

 

When nerds talk about preparing for the zombie apocalypse, I always quietly judge them. In the event of a real apocalypse, the survivors who have the ability to rewire power plants, to set broken bones and deliver babies, and successfully cultivate food will be the ones who will live. Why isn’t that way more interesting than wielding a machete? I think the premise of using “boring,” everyday nerd skills to lead and survive is much cooler than the video-game concept of a one-shot-kill.

 

I think Sean of the Dead got it right. It exemplified the ridiculous nature of zombie culture. It should have ended there while it was still a novelty, rather than a predictable plot device. Now, that which makes zombies frightening is so commonplace that they’re not terrifying novelties anymore.

 

By all means, keep doing the zombie pub crawls as an awesome form of cosplay. Keep the Plants Vs. Zombies updates coming to my iPhone. But maybe now that the world has Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, the fascination could slow down before we get something like To Kill a Mockingzombie.





Fantasy Football is just D&D

23 04 2014

Fantasy Football, D&D

 

I saw this meme some time ago and it has me in quite a lather. It’s supposed to be funny and point out the ridiculous nature of fantasy sports, and it does do that. But what it made clear to me was that “cool people” participate in activities that are not so unlike the pillars of our nerddom, but when they do it, it’s “fucking sweet, bro.”

 

I’m so tired of being ostracized because I experience life through a different paradigm. When the “cool girls” dress up in ridiculous, hand-made outfits and travel around the country to show them off, it’s called New York Fashion Week. When I do it, I’m at a nerdy convention and am therefore a loser.

 

Similarly, according to many non-nerds, Friday nights are for going out to bars, getting drunk, and finding someone to take home. We all know that alcohol is an efficient way of letting loose and being yourself through a lack of inhibitions. However, a growing field of people find that they can truly feel comfortable with themselves and others through Live Action Role Play. Imagine telling a popped-collar douche-bag that you prefer LARP-ing to getting sloshed on a Friday. Both activities are about having fun and finding comfort, but one is socially acceptable and one is not.

 

And what about video games? In college I watched fraternities host Halo tournaments and Madden NFL parties. These are video games, but because they involve sports or realistic warfare, they’re A-Okay by the meatheads. Granted, anyone who uses the exact same systems to play an RPG is a nerd. RPGs contain emotional, interpersonal content and require the the player to use deductive reasoning skills. Really, it’s okay. I understand why that’s totally “faggy,” but watching men in tight pants roll around with each other on the digital ground while grabbing your fraternity brother’s keg-standing ass is manly.

 

Sex. Sex is something we all have in common (except for me, Mom and Dad, I promise). Most everyone does it, and while there are unconventional ways to do the deed, it comes down to the same premise for everyone, nerd folk and cool kids alike. Now, I read a very interesting article about how geeks tend to delve into the kink realm of sex more than your average non-nerd. Kink is considered taboo; we don’t talk about leather, whips, and role-play. However, many jocks out there envision sex as a sequence of domineering postures, a la every “traditional” porno ever. Classless “fuck yeah, girl” despotic sex is normal, but consensual make-believe is filthy.

 

I could go on endlessly. You can play football in your backyard even though you know you’ll never be in the NFL, but playing RPGs is for losers because you could never actually fight dragons? I’m pathetic because I named my dogs after Sci-Fi characters, but you’re cool because you named your dog after your favorite whiskey? You have three posters above your bed that say “Live, Laugh, Love” to remind you to be yourself. I have three posters from the What Forces Shape You; Star Wars Identities Exhibit for the same reason.

 

We all have obsessions, fantasies, and guiding principles. There are striking similarities in all of our passions, yet some of those are stigmatized as geeky, while others are socially acceptable. But you know what? Madden games are abysmal, Fashion Week is for people even more insecure than me, and “Live, Laugh, Love” posters suck.

 

Go ahead. Pop your collar.





The immortal question: Han Solo or Malcolm Reynolds?

23 04 2014

“A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away… I don’t care, I’m still free. You can’t take the sky from me.” What’s that quote from? Lord of the Rings, right? Okay, okay, I’ll stop purposely inducing hate. Go ahead and hate me, but not for my bad jokes, deal? Though that first sentence was a crude, cheap amalgamation of two very different catch-phrases, I hope it set the tone appropriately. Because I want to talk about Han Solo and Malcolm Reynolds in a cage fight. 

 

Settle down, ladies, I won’t be testing my skills at composing erotica. I merely found myself musing over this immortal question: Which beloved rogue is the most badass? Han or Mal? 

 

The two characters are remarkably similar. Both aren’t really fugitives most of the time, but they fly under the radar for good measure. They’re straight-forward hard-asses who always are looking to make a buck. They both have a “shoot first” mentality (though George Lucas administered Han Solo a serious handicap when he gave Greedo the first shot in the Mos Eisley Cantina. Fucker.) With all their similar strengths, the pair would wage an impressive fight. But it’s in their weaknesses that differ. 

 

Both characters are vain. But for Han, image is everything. You don’t like the Millenium Falcon? Well, “it’s the ship that made the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs.” You say I love you, he says, “I know.” And the immortal, “who’s scruffy looking?” never fails to personify Mr. Solo. Han thinks he’s bigger, badder, and smarter than what he’s truly revealed to be. Malcolm Reynolds is self-assured, but never to the point of denial and oblivion. 

 

Mal cares more for others than he does for himself, which in a cage fight is a significant flaw. He fights for Inara’s honor. He buys Kaylee the pretty pink dress for a ball. He nearly sacrifices himself so that his crew can possibly find help and oxygen. I can’t see Han buying Leia a gown, and, although he ends up being the hero, I don’t think Han’s first choice would have ever been self-sacrifice. 

 

Han lives in a world that contains The Force, yet he exercises no understanding or control over it. The Force isn’t a shaping factor in Mal’s universe, therefore, unlike Han, there is no innate defense he is missing. 

 

Mal depends on his shipmates to pilot, defend, and fix his Firefly-class ship. Han depends only on Chewbacca, and he pretty clearly could do everything on the ship himself if so inclined. However, being pals with a wookiee could also lead Han to a false sense of security, whereas Mal’s only wookiee is Jayne, and he’s halfway a traitor.

 

I love Han. I love Malcolm. I would carry their babies and have little badass children. However, I’m forced to conclude that in a fight to the death, Han would win. Malcolm is kind-hearted and reasonable. Deep down, so is Han. But where Malcolm might want to stop and philosophize about the inadequacies of cage fighting, Han would shoot first and toss a coin to the bartender later.





Crafty and Geeky: they go hand in hand

23 04 2014

I really don’t like the word “crafty” when it is used in ways other than as a synonym for “tricksy hobbitses”. When used to describe people who are into crafting, the word alludes to overweight women with frizzy hair who like Kathy cartoons and scrapbooking. God knows I could lose a few pounds and it’s only by the loving mercy of my Chi hair straightener that I don’t look like a Pomeranian, but the rest of the crafting stereotype doesn’t apply to me. 

 

I think being crafty and being geeky are remarkably complimentary to each other. The sheer number of smart, interesting, different people who are embracing the DIY culture is really pushing the boundaries of the crafting community. There are so many reasons it’s natural for geeks to craft, and I think it could be one of the best-kept secrets of the nerd community.

 

Being able to turn your visions into a reality is a valuable asset for the cosplaying/renaissance festival community. Not only does knowing your way around a sewing machine make for fabulous, one-of-a-kind costumes, it also tickles the logician that lives inside most nerds. Sewing is kind of like putting together a puzzle, but in multiple dimensions.

 

Knitting was my first crafting passion. I taught myself in hopes that it would give me something to do when I felt restless. I had no idea how mathematical and versatile it is. A knit swatch can easily be mapped into pixels and thusly nerdified. And hand-knit items are wonderful gifts, especially when they come in the form of Jayne Cobb hats (I’ve made probably 2 dozen of them). 

 

The number of alternative-type people who enjoy knitting is really remarkable. Take Joan of Dark who published Knits for Nerds. She’s a roller derby girl who owns an independent coffee shop and has crazy hair, very often pink-toned. As a fellow pink-haired alternative knitter, I love her. Love. She is certainly not your typical grandmotherly knitter. 

 

For geeks who are addicted to the art of creation, but who don’t thrive with the more structured knitting and sewing, do not despair. The book “Anticraft: Knitting, Beading, and Stitching for the Slightly Sinister” contains instructions for creating a duct-tape corset, a yarn flogger, and chainmail earrings, among many others. Intermingled is satirical observations of varying facets of the occult.

 

For more traditionalists, the Star Wars Craft Book contains instructions for creating gems such as the Admiral Sackbar hand puppet and a Jabba the Hut body pillow. 

 

The creativity that lies inherent within the geek community is finally finding an accessible outlet, and that’s within crafting. Perhaps it’s because the things we like aren’t particularly mainstream so we have to make them ourselves, or perhaps we’re all quirky and logical enough to enjoy assembling bits and pieces to make treasures. Whatever, the reason, I think it kicks a whole lot of ass that the stereotype of “crafter” is moving away from the frumpy, fanny-pack adorned housewife, and towards pink-haired girls who like wearing thigh-high boots.





Why Pi?

14 03 2014
This is my Mazda π. Wave if you ever see me!

This is my Mazda π. Wave if you ever see me!

Numbers change everyone’s lives. Some people are changed by the number of children they have, others by the number of deities they recognize. Some people are changed by four years in college, others haven’t changed until all 93 years of their lives are spent. Yet when I say my life was changed by π, no one understands. At best I get polite nods, at worst I get mocked for being a math nerd.

There is no better day to explain my passion, or perhaps obsession, with this innocuous transcendental number than “Pi Day.” On March 14th, nerds in America applaud our date convention as it yields the magical combination of 3/14. It’s one of my favorite days of the year (along with May 4th). So here goes.

When I was 11 or 12 years of age, my mom received a package in the mail. It was labeled with strange markings. “Amazon.com… what could that be?” Hidden under this now-familiar packing label were two books. Contact and Cosmos, both by a man named Carl Sagan, which whom I was totally unfamiliar. The books were for me! I’m still not sure why my mother thought I should have them (Mom? any insight?) but with my first exposure to amazon.com came a different life.

This is Jill Tarter, the woman on whom Ellie is based.

This is Jill Tarter, the woman on whom Ellie is based.

I devoured Contact. The movie is remarkable but the book is ingenious. It follows a woman named Ellie, who showed an early aptitude for mathematics, as she grows up and becomes a recognized scholar in astrophysics. She works on a project called SETI, which is now widely known as the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence. She pushes past bureaucracy, politics and religious intolerance to keep funding available for those who sought alien life.

Her project succeeds, and she intercepts a radio signal from a star called Vega that she knew couldn’t be natural in origin because it came encoded in prime numbers. She works with a team of experts to decode the message, ultimately revealing architectural plans to send five humans, of which she is one, to Vega.

Anyone who has seen the movie can tell you that much. But it fails in truly showing what a remarkable human Ellie was. I read that book and I thought, “wow! I want to do this. Ellie did it. Why not me?” Growing up in the 90’s, women were becoming more commonplace in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) but there weren’t the programs to entice young women to go into those fields like there are today. When boys had only recently metamorphosed away from being infested with cooties, it was daunting to think of pursuing a field that they “owned.”

Even with role models like Ellie (and Sally Ride and Ada Lovelace and many other amazing women) I might have let it slip away. But something else in Contact stuck with me. π. There are allusions to this amazing number throughout the book. In the pages of Contact I learned that it ties together all circles, all triangles, and all waves, not to mention the implications in highly advanced mathematics that I’d discover later. It was one simple number that tied the entire universe together. One commonality.

I like πnk

I like πnk

The book ends with Ellie still searching for a signal. But this time the signal isn’t from the heavens, it’s right in front of her eyes. She’s looking for a message in π. If you go far enough out in the number and you examine it in enough dimensions, maybe, just maybe, it’ll show uniformity that can be decoded. Sagan really says it best,

“Mathematics isn’t arbitrary. I mean pi has to have the same value everywhere. How can you hide a message inside pi? It’s built into the fabric of the universe.”

“Exactly.”

This blew me away. Raised atheist, I scorned the thought of a deity. But this just made sense to me. It’s so perfect. It’s all tied together. How could this observation not be the sole topic of conversation everywhere? No one but me cared!! I changed overnight. I knew I had to pursue some magical world where people wanted to talk about this. 10 years later found me graduating college with a degree in Abstract Mathematics; the magical world was real.

Learning to believe in myself as a woman in a world that boasts such magnificently intelligent people was a lesson that π taught me. I like to think I’ve maintained that vision as I’ve continued to grow and understand myself. While I remain a rabid space and physics enthusiast, I now work in my dream job at my dream technology company. Still a male-dominated environment, I continue to push myself and never settle for “good enough.” I am unbelievably happy.

This is my one and only tattoo.

This is my one and only tattoo.

I’ve had amazing things happen to me; after reading Contact I naturally went on to devour all of Carl Sagan’s work and still mourn his loss every day. Cosmos, in both it’s literary form and PBS rendition, became commonplace in my house. Carl Sagan is my hero in the true sense of the word. I’ve been to the Carl Sagan Center and met wonderful scientists who carry out his dream at SETI. The character of Ellie is based on a woman named Jill Tarter; I’ve met her and was able to tell her how much she has meant to me. I’ve seen Space Shuttles launch and watched the Mars Curiosity Rover descent from a space crane.

I know that I’ve had these experiences because of this funny little number, and I don’t ever want to forget that. I have a tattoo of π (with the infinity symbol winding through it) in honor of Carl Sagan and Contact. I wear a π necklace that I never take off. I have a vanity license plate with “Pi” in it. I’ve “enhanced” the logo of my Mazda3 and added the chrome digits “141592653589793” so now I proudly drive a Mazda π . The number of π t-shirts that I have is frankly alarming.

One of my favorite tshirts. And my π necklace.

One of my favorite tshirts. And my π necklace.

Now today I watch as America rallies around this number that has changed my life. I’m so glad that mathematics are becoming exciting to people, but part of me resents the attention it gets. The Exploratorium hosts a “π Procession.” Hot Topic is co-sponsoring a contest with Her Universe to select a lucky entrant, who creates the most creative video about π, to win tickets to ComicCon (for which I’d do just about anything). I just don’t think these people can understand what monumental feelings someone can have for this number.

So that’s the story of how π changed my life. I don’t have 200 digits memorized and I don’t want to fight about “pi vs tau.” That’s not the point. The point is that it’s more than a number, it’s an idea and an ideal, and I thank Carl Sagan for giving it to me.





I’m moving; it’s irresponsible but the right choice.

23 11 2013

Today I made a decision that was both incredibly irresponsible, yet astonishingly grown-up.

I’m moving again. This may seem like small potatoes, and in many ways it is. I’m only 27 and I don’t own a home. Some people my age still live out of backpacks in developing nations, so moving from one over-priced, yuppie paradise to another really isn’t the end of the world. However, I’m in a tough position; the choice I made is a very irresponsible decision, while at the same time being a very mature choice.

About six months ago I moved away from downtown Campbell. I’d lived there for 4 years and I loved it. I felt like the “vibe” of the city was changing, though. Shops were closing, the bars were getting rowdier and full of the type of people who made high school pure misery for me, the prices were going up. I decided it was time to see what else was out there. I found an AMAZING apartment complex. I love living here. The units are high tech and luxurious (albeit very small). There’s an on-site dog park. It’s in a shabby-chic, trendy area not far from downtown San Jose. It’s really wonderful.

Over the past few months, something happened. I don’t know if it’s the economy recovering or if shipping companies are favoring trucks these days, but the traffic has gotten miserable. When I say “miserable”, I mean it. It’s not unusual to spend three hours a day in my car. My commute is 10 miles. I have been actively unhappy as a result. It seems like a silly thing to let bother you to the point of unhappiness, but for whatever reason it’s really getting to me. It’s become apparent that I need to move either to the north bay (to get the reverse commute) or somewhere where I can take surface streets (for various reasons that’s just not an option where I live now).

Segue to more unhappiness…. Since my dog died, I’ve been trying to spend a lot of time with my remaining dog, Wampa. I’m all he has now. I took him to walk around my old stomping grounds of downtown Campbell the other weekend. When I got there, I was so stricken with homesickness I actually cried (oh god, I know… where’s Titanic when I need it?). The little town I loved so much has built itself back up. Sure the horrid frat boys might still have the run of the bars, but now there’s a tea bar! All loose-leaf tea, all the time. There’s a wine bar. There’s a homemade chocolate shop. There’s a restaurant that serves burgers and breakfast… exclusively. There’s a deli where you sit at a bar and eat sandwiches and drink bottled beer. Walking through the area I was actually heartsick that I was no longer a part of it.

Living away from Campbell, I have also realized how important some activities were to me. I thought I’d be able to keep up the same involvement living away from them, but I just don’t and it’s making me more and more unhappy.

My yoga studio, for example. Sure, yoga studios are a dime a dozen, especially out here. But my yoga studio is special. I’m not a particularly social person, and that was a place where I felt loved and (for lack of a better word) socialized. I feel like a lot of the anger and irritation I’ve been feeling recently is because I haven’t been able to practice yoga nearly every day I like I did before.

I miss the endless blocks of the Farmer’s Market. I miss the library book sale. I miss walking around with my dogs and judging the yuppies. I miss taking myself to breakfast with my book at Stacks. I miss going to the Campbell Community Center track. It’s a lot of little things and I didn’t realize how my life was really built up around them.

I love my current apartment complex; I’ve met the most amazing people. I will miss the Friday night wine at the pool very much. But with the hell that is traffic, and the revelation of how achingly-homesick I am for my old little town of Campbell, I have decided to move.

Enter irresponsibility: Moving is expensive. Especially when I moved so recently. Moving is a HUGE pain. Not only that, but I have to break my lease, which A) is expensive and B) makes me feel sort of shitty, especially being how much I do love this place. The new place I found is magical, but it is more expensive. It’s a two-bedroom house with a little yard (perfect for a little dog). Each bedroom has its own bathroom, and there’s another half-bath downstairs. There are skylights and there is a fireplace, and it’s bright and cozy and VERY Betsy-ish. Best of all, it’s about 2 blocks from downtown Campbell.

So I’m conceding defeat; I’m moving back to Campbell. I tried the San Jose thing, but it just wasn’t my scene. I don’t like not being able to have my windows open because the people next to me smoke. I’m not thrilled with the homeless people going through the garbage every morning. And the San Jose State kids are awful and need to go to a real school. I’m going to spend a lot of money during the holidays (just when everyone has money to spare, right?) to move away from a place that is perfectly fine, just to give in to whims of homesickness.

When I moved away from Campbell, I made quite the scene on social media about why I was moving. Since there is a pretty significant story/reason behind why I’m dropping $largeamount just to move back to a place that a lot of people think is frumpy and overpriced, I wanted to explain my reasons, if nothing else, just to get them straight in my head.

I shouldn’t be spending this money just to move to a more expensive place. Totally irresponsible. Yet realizing that it’s the dumb little things that are important to me rather than the high tech apartment with central air and lots of electronics is something that I feel is very responsible.

Bottom line… I will have a guest room and live two blocks from Aqui in Campbell. Who’s coming to visit?








No Pithy Phrase

I just like writing about geeky things...

The Bloggess

I just like writing about geeky things...

I just like writing about geeky things...

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.