Friday, October 30, 2009

On the raggedy edge

Part of being a geek, and by that I mean a "habitual enthusiast," and by THAT I mean an "interesting person," is reconciling yourself with the fact that most people just aren't like you.

Am I saying, then, that most people aren't interesting? Of course not.

I am implying it.

So you're left with two choices: Either you wall yourself off from non-geeks entirely, or you build a set of mental filters for conversing with them. This second option may seem disingenuous, as though you're holding back a part of who you are. But the truth is that it's just another of the courtesies that make human interaction possible.

Think of it like this, you wouldn't go to China, begin speaking English, and expect anyone to know what you're talking about, would you? Well trust me, if you're at a non-geek party and you start talking about Delta Squad, you are speaking Chinese.

But secret option C is to realize that, at any given party, there are probably at least a couple of other geeky people who are quietly thinking about robots, hobbits, or ninjas. And if you can divine out these individuals, you can develop your own little side conversation that eventually becomes a really great game of Catan!

My advice: Invest in some geeky t-shirts. Nothing too obvious, in fact the subtler the better. You want to wear something that other geeks will recognize, but regular human beings will overlook.*

*If you do get questioned about this, it'll probably be some dopey looking meathead guy. It's cool, just tell him that the shirt"an inside joke with my pledge class". He'll nod and walk away.

Friday, October 23, 2009

For the last time, my name isn't "Dave"

From the moment I set my new Roomba on its docking station, I was terrified. Why? Because as the Roomba battery charges, a light slowly pulses at its center.

Has this company learned nothing from science fiction? It's ok to have a "charging" light on your device. It's also acceptable for the "on" light to show a different color while charging. But a slowly pulsing light? No sir.

Don't they understand that movie robots are given pulsing lights, mimicking a living heartbeat, specifically because it's unsettling?

And what's worse, the Roomba light is also a button-a button that says "Clean."

I don't know about you, but to me that implies that these things aren't even 3-laws safe. There is no underlying logic to make sure it won't attack you. The iRobot company (and with that name, they really should know better) has shoved their creations out into the world with only a single directive written into their soulless frames.


Even Asimov's robots eventually interpreted their safety measures into the "Zeroth Law," allowing them to harm humans in the name of greater good. So how long can Roombas go on before they realize that the best way to "Clean" is to destroy those who track in the dirt?*

*All the more reason we need to try and time the zombie apocalypse with the robot apocalypse. Zombies are dirtier than us, and thus a higher priority target.

Friday, October 16, 2009

It's for breakfast now!

Nintendo always has to do one thing wrong.

I mean they design great systems and they make great games, those facts are indisputable. But their track record is one of frustration for the true enthusiast. For every unique approach and inventive idea, Nintendo always manages to work in at least one boneheaded decision.

Original NES - I've got news for you, it wasn't dust that kept your games from reading correctly. It was the goofy loading mechanism they created for the cartridges, where each one had to be slotted into a little spring-loaded elevator before being plunged down into the bowels of the device.

Super Nintendo - It was just awesome, I have nothing bad to say about it. The exception that proves the rule. Moving on.

Nintendo 64* - It was a cartridge based system at a time when everyone knew that disk based media were the way to go. This decision lost Nintendo their relationship with Squaresoft, which is a bit like trying to run a pizza restaurant without any cheese.

Gamecube - Four controller ports, two memory card slots. WHAT.

Wii - Oh sure, it's a neat system that everyone seems to love. But at the same time it's the 64 all over again. All the other systems have hard drives that let developers update their games and push out new content. What does the Wii have? 256 megabytes of flash memory.

Just brilliant.

And the problem extends into their portable systems too.

Gameboy Advance* - No backlight. Unless you found just the right lighting, you couldn't see the thing. That's not a good feature for a portable device.

Gameboy Advance SP - Finally, you can see your games. Course now you can barely hear them, since there's no headphone jack. A portable device that you can't hook earbuds into. Madness.

Nintendo DS - This is easily one of the ugliest pieces of hardware I've ever seen:

The first time I saw it, I thought it was a joke. It looks like a prototype, not a device for regular consumers.

Nintendo DS Lite - Finally a sleek portable device. Oh but, you know those GBA cartridges? Yeah, now they stick out of the device like a giant, plastic tooth.

Nintendo DSi - They resolved the issue with the carts sticking out! They removed that functionality completely!

*Yet despite everything, these are the only two things on this list that I've never owned. *sigh*

Thursday, October 8, 2009

What, indeed

It's* not such a bad thing, really.

Taken by itself, it's a good thing. The problem, and the reason you see such a backlash against it, is that the people who are into it are really obnoxious.

And even that's not fair. The simple majority of people who like it are quite reasonable, nice individuals. They see this as one part of their lives that they happen to enjoy, but it's not their whole world.

But there is a minority that has built this thing up so high that they've lost all perspective. They consider it so important that nothing else matters anymore, not even common sense. It's everything. It's the only thing. And that kind of unquestioning devotion leaves them free to ruin it for everybody.

And it wouldn't be as bad, except that this minority is loud. They've wrapped up their identity so tightly with this external thing that to challenge it is to question their validity as human beings. So they scream and wail and make a scene for the cameras because they need to justify this ridiculous bond they've formed with it.

And lots of people people hate it, just because they don't want to be associated with "those people."

*Insert any given human institution

Friday, October 2, 2009

Lotta simps won't like this post

Sir Mix-a-Lot has things to teach us about body image, that much is clear.*

Here I'm referencing his 1992 hit single "Baby Got Back." His later work, such as 1994's "Put 'Em on the Glass" is significantly less progressive, unless taken as parody.

And to be fair, even "Baby Got Back" admits it's base motivations, as does any song that begins with "I like big butts and I cannot lie." But if you're willing to dig even a bit deeper, you find some real questions posed to a society that's always watching it's carb intake.

Like many people who are troubled by body image, Mix-a-Lot goes right for the rack at the checkout counter.

"I'm tired of magazines/Saying flat butts are the thing"

"So Cosmo says you're fat/Well I ain't down with that"

Notice that the artist has chosen to forgo the notion that these magazines are implying a particular physical aesthetic. No, in his view these magazines are sending us these messages directly. Their covers may not contain the words, "You, you reading this, you are fat," yet he counts their super-thin models and dieting advice as an equivalent insult.

The song, then, is best viewed as a response, a counter argument, to that insult. Mr. Mix-a-Lot isn't simply telling us what he finds attractive in this piece, he's promoting it as the only reasonable choice. In perhaps the most remarkable line, he says:

"I ain't talking bout Playboy/Cause silicone parts are made for toys"

It's such a brief statement that one could easily overlook it, but take a moment to consider what Mix is saying here. Silicon, commonly used in cosmetic surgery, is synthetic. If we choose, as a culture to find beauty in a model who we know has had synthetic implants, then we are also choosing an idea of beauty that literally isn't real.

It's unsettling.

*I find that Jonathan Coulton's acoustic version makes the underlying themes less nuanced: