Friday, December 30, 2011

Since You Ask

Are video games art?

The answer I usually give is "I'm so tired of that question," which some might argue is no answer at all. But I respond that way because long ago I learned an important lesson about questions, and it goes like this:

"The question is not the question, the question is the questioner." In other words, answering a question is about more than simply providing a solution, it involves looking to what motivated it in the first place. "Games as art" has a lot to do with a generational gap, and the passing of creative torches, and no well-reasoned argument can make a dent in such large, emotional movements.

But if you're interested, here's what I think.

Are video games art? Well, let's first recognize that "art" is a word, and, like all words, it's meaning is a fluid, relative thing. You could pull down a dictionary from the shelf and find a listing for it, but dictionaries do not tell us what words *should* mean, they tell us how words are used among current speakers (and as such, they are regularly revised with the linguistic ebb and flow.)

So when you ask if games are "art," I need to know what you mean by that.

Are games a valid form of expression? Yeah, they are.

Can they make you feel things, can they make you cry? Can they move you, change the way you see the world,  give you new perspective on the events of your life? I'm here to tell you, on behalf of a generation that grew up with games in our homes, that they can.

And when you look back on your life, can games be an integral element that shaped who you are for the better? Yeah.

And if those things are not art, then what a stupid thing "art" must be. What a meaningless distinction, what a sad, unimportant little idea.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Pandora's Blocks

When you really break it down, wrapping paper represents a kind of psychological torture.

It's a perfect tease: allure and obstruction in a single device. At once, it indicates that this is a gift, something good that was bought with the intent of pleasing, while simultaneously acting as a barrier to that very thing. It inspires intrigue about what the contents could be,and holds the promise of something that will be yours-that is yours actually. By all rights, the tag on the outside secures this object of mystery as your property. You can take it, even carry it with you if you like.

But you can't open it.

If you open it, you're a bad person. To have that thing that's yours before an communally agreed upon time would make someone sad, the same person that chose to do this nice thing for you/force you into this trial of human will. And the icing on this cake, what we can now recognize as some sort of devilish butter cream, is the knowledge that wrapping paper is so easy, and so fun, to remove.*

*And sometimes then there are Legos.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Level of Investment

If you're going to be a gamer, you have to make peace with certain realities.

"I am going to manipulate this piece of plastic so that I can make an imaginary elf man kill imaginary monsters. And I'm choosing to believe that this represents an acceptable use of my leisure time."

This bargain becomes more difficult as you come to understand more about the underlying technology.

"I am going to inefficiently edit a save file using an elaborate visual interface."

But its even worse when the game has no noble hero, and no grand conflict. Games with stories are one thing; people have been getting overly invested in stories for a long time. But in a game like Animal Crossing, or Minecraft, even seasoned virtual puppeteers have difficulty reconciling their choice of hobbies.

"I am going to design and construct an imaginary farm, then meticulously harvest imaginary wheat, so I can then feed it to imaginary chickens* so they'll pretend to lay imaginary eggs. I am going to pretend to do something that is in all ways toil."

*What the hell is wrong with you stupid things? I've built you a huge pen, why do you insist on crowding into one tiny corner?

Friday, December 2, 2011

And

Simple question:

Well, okay, it's actually not a simple question. I'm just setting you up to think of it as a simple question so we can then hold it up to the light and find out whether or not it is so. Course, I probably shouldn't have told you that, since it kinda spoils the whole thing.

Sometimes I over analyze things, and have trouble getting to my point.

*ahem*

What is the world like? (the human world, not the natural world)

An individual's answer to that is a pretty telling marker of his personality. Is the world evil? Is it full of idiots? Is it just fine? Those are all divisive perspectives. But I think it's a mistake to mentally group people by their answer to that question. Many may stand in the same spot, and see the same thing, but more important is what direction led them there. Take, for instance, "The world is bad."

"The world is bad, and there's no hope for anyone."
"The world is bad, and that's why we're going to change it."
"The world is bad, but it'll be better once I'm in charge."
"The world is bad, so I'll make for me and mine a place that isn't."*

Same idea, vastly different implications. 

*We might call these Eeyore, Obama, Dr. Horrible, and Malcolm Reynolds.




Friday, November 25, 2011

Cycles

Now that cellphones, and most especially smartphones, have become so common that they seem like a clumsy, halfhearted Borg assimilation plot, the full force of their resulting cultural shift is beginning to crash on the shores of the general public.

The marker that everyone points to is the generation of children, now old enough to understand the mechanisms that drive their world, who cannot grasp how a society might function without each person having constant access to worldwide communication. In time, however, I think you'll find that the more difficult concept to explain is this: there was a time, kids, when purchasing a new phone wasn't a gigantic ordeal.

Three major operating systems, several carriers, and hundreds of phones that range in price from zero dollars on-contract to "we priced it this much so that you'd never think of buying a phone not-on-contract" dollars. And the whole ecosystem is underlined by the (when you stop to think about it) super weird contract phenomenon itself: something like getting to purchase a car for 1/3 the price if you agree to only buy gas from one company for two years.*

So not only is the decision itself difficult, but there's a real sense that you'd better not screw it up-because otherwise you'll spend those two years kicking yourself and watching the great upgrade clock count down once again. Someday we'll mark time by our phone contracts, noting our distance from a big life event by what device we remember checking facebook on while it was happening.

*Don't tell anyone I said that, it might become real.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Investments

I should really (read: I probably will never) create a list of the most important things I've read. Not the Bible, the Declaration of Independence, or anything "important" in a grand way, but the things that have stuck with me personally, popping up in my thoughts again and again, perhaps having a lasting impression on the way I think.

A surprising number of these writings will probably be about video games. Like this one!

In case you don't feel like investigating the whole thing, here's the short version. Among gamers, there's a subset that are enthusiasts for flight sims: highly accurate simulations of actual aircraft. And within that community, there's another subset that simulate air traffic controllers, using headsets to keep virtual pilots from crashing into one another. I should also mention that the air traffic software isn't a commercial product, but a fan-developed free add-on.

If the idea of people simulating another person's in-no-way-glamorous job in their leisure time sounds crazy*, then allow me to correct you: it actually isn't. It only sounds crazy because it's probably not you, or anyone you know. It is a sliver of a sliver of a chunk of society, but it's there. And that's why the post has stuck with me, it's a great example of how very broad the range of human experience is.

*I could never do this without insisting on using the crazy phonetic alphabet from the Hot Shots movies.


Thursday, November 10, 2011

I don't know what you just said

For some reason, I've been thinking about Batman a lot lately.

Despite Christopher Nolan's best efforts to bring that universe into something resembling reality, there's no doubt that the villains are pretty ridiculous. However, as with Tolkien's Mt. Doom, those characters are now so well known that no one seems to notice how fairly stupid they are. I'll let you mentally run through the roster on your own, but here's a preview: one of them is a PENGUIN MAN.*

That being said, Batman's little circus of evil weirdos has taught me a lot about what makes a good villain. In terms of storytelling, the purpose of an enemy is to reveal the hero-to challenge the champion in interesting ways, force him to make interesting choices. The way you equip a good enemy to do that is by making him a foil for some virtue of the hero.

Riddler - Intellectual foil
Catwoman - Physical/Stealthy foil
Mr. Freeze - Technological foil
Scarecrow - Foil for Batman's use of fear
Joker - Foil for Batman's will, his capacity for taking actions that other people don't.

These enemies all do something that Batman does, but usually better, and that keeps Batman's abilities from seeming unstoppable, while also forcing him to use the rest of his arsenal in new ways.

*And another one is a ventriloquist. Yeah.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Pop Rally

Does it seem weird to anyone else that marching bands commonly play "Paint It Black" at sporting events? Isn't that song, which seems to be about consuming depression following the death of a lover, at an odd juxtaposition with "The Hey Song"*?

"I look inside myself and see my heart is black"

Ummmm, Go Team?!

"No colors anymore I want them to turn black"

Woo, Touchdown!

I guess you could argue the same about "The Imperial March" (aka, Darth Vader's theme), but that at least has an ominous, threatening vibe you might want to instill in your opponent. "Paint It Black" isn't threatening, though,  so unless your goal is to really bum the other side out I don't get it. Seems like when you're trying to rally a crowd, a song commonly used as the backdrop to Vietnam War movies shouldn't be your first choice.

*Fun fact: Some part of your mind is always listening to "The Hey Song," over and over.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Circular Arguments

I know you like candles. I like candles too. For their time they were a very effective technology that served us well. And I know that the prospect of light bulbs seems scary to you, and you don't trust new-fangled, high-tech solutions to problems you thought were already solved.

But just listen to me for a second.

I've been following this light bulb thing for a while, and using them for some time. So I'm in a good position to say that there's something to it all. And sooner or later, you're going to have to accept that they are better. And no matter how many light-bulb drawbacks you produce or how many arguments you make for the superiority of candles, it won't make a bit of difference.

I'm not saying your candles are going away completely, mind you. They certainly won't be our first choice for lighting needs, but they'll retain a certain place in our society. But if you really were to follow through on what you're saying now-that you'll never use light bulbs and only stick to candles-you're going to look like a crazy person in the long run. And that'll be appropriate, because you will be a crazy person.

Think of it this way. Used to we transported goods with wagons and horses. Then someone came up with railroads. And I'm sure that there was a certain amount of resistance to that too, from people who pointed out the expense of laying all that rail, how they didn't need to ship that fast, how cold and unromantic the rail cars were compared to a good, old fashioned wagon. But looking back, all that seems silly now. And it's clear that those detractors were fueled almost entirely by a fear of change.

So horde your candles if you want.* I'll won't even laugh when you grumpily accept the future, and enjoy it.

*Actually that's a good idea. Once they become a quaint anachronism the price will skyrocket, so long as you can make them smell like baked goods.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Class Struggle

When you play games that let you choose your class (knight, thief, wizard, etc.), it ends up being a sort of personality test. Melee characters tend to be the more aggressive, sports loving types. Clever people who enjoy a more technical role go the wizarding route. Those with a strong protective instinct often role Healer classes. 

It's not that cut-and-dry, mind you, human being simply don't sort that cleanly.* But there's definitely something revealing about it. The problem for a serious gamer is that, over time, you eventually get tired of the kind of class you usually play, and start to branch out.

At least, I think that's all it is. 

But it could also be a signal of personality change. As life forces you into new roles, perhaps your self shifts a bit, and your class choice moves accordingly. If that sounds like an interesting idea, let me assure you that it isn't. It's terrifying. What if I wake up one day, and all I want to do is swing a sword at a guy? What if I don't want to sit back inflicting status ailments with my bow, or cast a buff on my teammates? *shudder*


*Except thieves and rogues. They are always troublemakers.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Demolition

Water is really a very precious resource. Especially clean, fresh water for drinking. It's an essential component of all life that we know of, and the areas where it chooses to flow have etched out the mapping of our existence on this planet.

The idea of a machine that seems to produce drinkable water infinitely, at no cost to the drinker, is amazing. It's a miracle. A device like that would, outside of our modern technological feats, be a thing of incredible value. We should all be in awe that it exists.

So why, cat, do you insist on destroying it?

Why does this flowing river of life so offend you? Why can't you just get up, take your morning drink, then sit back and think, "Holy crap, that's awesome"? Why do you insist instead on pushing the fountain around so the water sloshes out*, then pawing at the little dome of clear, delicious water until it's set at some useless angle? What about being so well provided for angers you so much?

How about a little gratitude?

*Plus you hate getting wet, why would you want water spilling out all over the place?

Friday, October 7, 2011

Strapped

The reality is that Velcro makes a lot of sense.

As a kid, Velcro shoes were a revelation. No more hassles of tying laces, then having to stop everything you're doing to tie them again. And for people like me, who prefer their shoes pretty snug, Velcro provided a highly adjustable fit that didn't get annoyingly looser as the day wore on. It was, in all ways, superior to the rather clumsy method of interweaving a thin piece of cord through tiny, pre-made holes and knotting them together at the end.

But once you become an adult, you can't wear Velcro anymore, not unless you're very old, or in some way physically or mentally challenged, or that weird guy who wears Velcro shoes all the time. And why? No one knows. It's that way because it's that way. It's as though our society required a daily dexterity test, and if you can't pass it, that fact needs to be constantly advertised on your feet.

Except for sandals. There Velcro is okay, even though sandals have always used straps and buckles and lots of other perfectly good non-lace mechanisms. Let's toss those out and use Velcro. But on anything else, unacceptable.*

*Go to an athletic shoe store. Look at what's on the shelf. Is Velcro going to make them really look that much stupider?


Friday, September 30, 2011

Phoenix Downs and Phantom Trains

Video games have changed over the years, and if you're not a regular follower of the medium you may have missed the subtle shifts at work. Let me explain it to you.

Modern video games: "Hey what's up! Okay, here's how the controller works, here's what this button does, now this one, now those two together. Did you die? It's okay, I saved for you when you entered the room!"

Old video games: Go **** yourself.

You notice the difference when a more casual gamer (aka, normal person) attempts to play  . . . say Chrono Trigger, or Final Fantasy VII. You hear a lot of "So I have to do all that again?" and "How was I supposed to know that?"

And the answer is that, yes, you have to do all that again. And you were supposed to know that because the designers just assumed you were familiar with the mechanics of this genre—or that you'd get desperate enough to look through the manual*, which was a larger part of the experience in those days.

The problem for those of us who've been playing for a while is that we don't fully trust the modern design. We've been trained to hunt for that next save point (see kids, before there was autosaving you only got to save your game at certain points. If a boss battle left your party a wreck, you healed up afterwards, immediately. Otherwise, you might get randomly attacked in the 5 steps to the save point, die, and tear your controller in half.**) and now the idea of turning off the system without selecting a save slot is like trusting a random person to deposit your paycheck.

*And sometimes you'd rent a game, and in that section at the back for "notes" that no one used some guy would have copied down every level skip code. And you knew that, wherever that guy was, he was awesome.

**That was FF7, by the way, and the boss was Alexander.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

History Lesson

Far be it from me to grumble about "these kids today," or their lack of understanding about . . . whatever. I don't think those kinds of criticisms are worth much, other than to highlight the speaker's level of irrelevance. 

But it's come to my attention that there's an entire generation who doesn't know about WinAmp.*

Before there was an iTunes to complain about, there was exactly one music player that anyone cared about, and it was called WinAmp. It was a light, versatile piece of software that simply did what it was supposed to.

Like the honey badger, WinAmp does not give a ****. Winamp does not manage your collection of music, scan your hard drive for music, or do anything else with your music-unless you tell it to. You can run multiple instances of WinAmp at the same time. You can play different songs on those instances all at once. I mean I don't know why you'd want to, but WinAmp doesn't make the assumption that you wouldn't. 

And it's still there. Even though it's been largely forgotten, WinAmp is still around. Try it. You might just find that there's comfort in a tool you can mold, rather than one that molds you.

*Also, Apple did not invent the mp3 player, or even the hard drive based mp3 player. I was using one of these when you were putting a cushion under your CD player.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Ready When You Are

I understand why getting television shows through the Internet is so difficult.

There are a lot of parties involved: ones that make content, ones that deliver it, ones that attach their dreaded advertising onto it. And all of them stand firmly on a groundwork of laws, business models, and methods that weren't designed with the Internet in mind.

But for a moment, TV execs, please consider how frustrating the whole thing is to me as a consumer.

I like some of your products. They're good. I enjoy them, and I'd like to purchase them from you. And you won't let me. Oh I know you've got episodes on Amazon and iTunes and such, but that's not good enough. Selling me the product I want with conditions on exactly how I can get it is not what I want. It's like selling me a piece of cake, but only letting me eat it if I wear handcuffs. And I know you've got ad-supported shows on your website and Hulu, but that's . . . let's see . . . that's kinda like spitting on the cake. And that's gross. What a terrible bakery you run.

Just let me buy my episodes, commercial and DRM-free, and watch them. Is that so hard? Doesn't it tell you something is drastically wrong with your industry that you have a customer in your shop, money in hand, ready to buy a product that you make, and you're completely incapable of selling it to him?*

The terrible reality is that pirates understand your audience, and the future of your industry, much better than you do.

*In fairness, this is true at a number of physical stores as well.

Friday, September 9, 2011

This post is worth8.75/10

At some point I stopped reading reviews, for anything. Actually that's not exactly accurate. I stopped reading anything in a review except the last paragraph. That golden bit of text is where most any author give me what I want: a quick summary of what he thought, and whether he feels this thing is worth my time.

I realize this policy might be an affront to people who write reviews for a living, and consider them valuable, but I stand by it. The fact is, as a form of communication I think reviewing is incredibly weird for a couple of reasons.

1. Experience is inherently a partnership between the viewer and the viewed (a bad way to phrase it, since there are usually more senses involved, but you get my meaning). As a separate entity from myself, you can't infer much at all about my reaction to the same thing. It'd be like if you tried on clothes for me, or (when I was single) dated a girl on my behalf—very little of what you'd find would have any relevance to my experience.

2. Most anything that gets reviewed I can investigate on my own for a nominal fee. I can try electronics out at a store, rent movies or see them in the theater for an (arguably) small price. Video games do have such a high cost that a bad review might save me a considerable amount, but that's why I use Gamefly and buy PC games on the cheap.

In fairness, there are things that a good reviewer can do:

-Provide perspective from a very knowledgeable person who can evaluate a product against its competitors, or a book/movie/game in terms of his experience with the medium
-Offer a discussion of a thing's merits, so that I think about it in a different way or notice elements that I might otherwise miss.

But both of those benefits are more useful after I've had direct experience, not before. They are elements of academic analysis, not a purchase recommendation.

So what do I need before direct experience? I need to know where to invest my time. Don't tell me what's "good" and "bad." Tell me what's interesting and boring. Direct me toward things worth looking into, give me enough data to recognize something that's not. And by all means keep putting it in the last paragraph, its as good a place as any.*

*Don't bother saying that you skipped to the last paragraph of this post, I've beaten you to it.

Friday, September 2, 2011

This is a joke. Please don't try it.

For hundreds of years, people have been trying to lose weight, but no one has ever found a way to do it!

Now, thanks to the marvels of modern science combined with ancient Chinese weight loss secrets, at last you can get the body you want. Immediately! Like, tomorrow!

How? Simple! BurnFlex Turbo 44x*!

BurnFlex Turbo 44x is the ultimate and only way to strengthen your abs, arms, legs, ears, face and kneecaps all while becoming more attractive! The key to BurnFlex Turbo 44x is it's asymmetrical power design that shocks your body into destroying itself, taking the ugly fat along with it!

A BurnFlex Turbo 44x workout does it all. First, push-ups until you collapse, then a run in 90 degree sunlight until you're severely dehydrated. Follow that up by doing more push-ups with your hands in vats of ice water, and then eat a handful of salt! That'll teach your body to be fat!

Once you're done, the dieting takes care of itself, since your digestive system will now be shocked into "health mode," and be unable to process anything at all. It's losing weight the natural way!

*Brought to you by PowerSauce.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Nevermind.

I always think, "I'll get my writing done at the airport." But the problem is that, by the time I get there, my entire day has been spent preparing for, thinking about, or getting to that place.* So I'll get this post written, all right, but it's going to be about exactly one thing: airports. My brain is fully flooded with that topic.

What's with the people that don't make it to the flight? The ones they call out at the terminal? It's not like they forgot, they must have checked in or no one would bother asking for them repeatedly. Of course, I have missed a flight before in one of the most stressful travel experiences of my life, so I know it can happen. But sometimes they read off like ten names. And those names are never "Gary Jones" or anything like that, but always something just a little weird, so that you wonder if it's actually an obscure Harry Potter character.

I know Arturias Lovewell and Elexia Roycroft are probably stuck at security after hitting a lot of traffic, but I like to think they simply got to the gate, looked down at their boarding pass, and decided to go bowling instead.

*Except of course when I walk through the terminal, where I  make a mental game of analyzing the incredible cross section of human life before me. "That guy seems like a jerk. That lady's hair is crazy! Hey mister business-y man, what's been going on with your smartphone in the last two minutes?"

Friday, August 19, 2011

Two meters wide

Let me assure you, your car is actually a quite capable machine. It was likely designed by smart people, and tested extensively before going to market. Moreover, the paved road you're on and currently favorable weather conditions are both quite conducive to driving.

In short, there's very little reason, person-in-front-of-me, that your simple right hand turn would necessitate slowing down to a near stop, swinging out into the left lane, and hooking back as though you were squeezing a firetruck into a one-car garage.

Trust me, the turning radius of your Civic can handle getting into the Kroger parking lot. I'm quite confident on this point. Just turn the wheel, you'll be fine.

All though I would like to ask something. If you're taking all that trouble to make the turn, why not use your turn signal too? If you misjudged the angle of attack, at worst you'd wind up with a little scrape on your bumper. But the signal drastically reduces the likely hood that someone won't anticipate your sudden deceleration and crash violently into the back of your car.

Thanks,

Sam

Friday, August 12, 2011

Drink Coke

In the brief period between tragically breaking my generation 1 Kindle and ordering a new Kindle 3, there was a moment where I considered a "special offers" model. At a decent discount from the Wi-Fi version I ultimately purchased, the idea of seeing sponsored screen saves (arguably an improvement, the normal ones are images of famous authors who, I'm here to tell you, are much better suited to their non-visual medium) and banners on menu screens sounded reasonable.

But the second I saw an "Oil of Olay" ad in a reviewer's screenshot, whatever mental antibodies patrol my conscious mind turned in mid-pass, assembled in attack formation, and struck it as one*. It doesn't matter if the ads are small, or if they're relevant, or if they provide discounts. Somewhere I decided that advertising-fueled media was bad.

I suspect Netflix Instant had something to do with it. I've been away from cable TV and its 1:3 ad-to-content ratio for so long, I can't imagine enduring it on a regular basis. It's as if we sat down to have a lively conversation, but once every 15 minutes I'd suddenly talk about 4-5 bits of inane garbage for 30 seconds each.

*And yet they can't do anything about the mixed metaphors.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Expectation

Remember that time when you were a kid, and you made the mistake of biting into a block of baker's chocolate?

The good news is, it wasn't just you. A lot of other people did it.* It looked like chocolate, it smelled like chocolate, it was even in a package that clearly said "chocolate." How were we to know? I mean sure, our moms told us not to eat it, but they said that about lots of candy. The only clear road available was trial-and-horrible-horrible error.

So where's that warning label, huh? Where was Mr. Yuk? I know he's got more important things on his plate, what with keeping people from ingesting deadly poisons, but come on! Take five minutes to say "Listen kid, I know all the experiences in your short life say that this package contains pure, sweet deliciousness. It doesn't. Contained beyond this warning is bitterness distilled, its textural similarity to proper chocolate only highlighting its terrible shortcomings. You'd be better off chewing an unground coffee bean. Walk away."

*In fact, consider yourself lucky. For some people it was unsweetened cocoa powder.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Many roads to every city leads.

In the great book of common false assumptions, #2,959,848 reads: "The people do the things that I do, are fundamentally similar to me."

It's an easy mistake to make, since the things you do ARE often directly related to your personality, background, motivations, etc. But it's the aggregate of those things that brings you to a particular profession or hobby. And as it turns out, the same result can be equated from many different combinations.

It's like if you were a hawk, and thought: "I can fly. I know what flying is, anything that flies has got to be pretty much like me." And then you encountered a humming bird, and after that an airplane. And suddenly it dawned on you that flight is a much broader thing than you assumed.




Friday, July 22, 2011

XPerience

A lot of people have been wondering if Windows 8 is going to be awesome, and let me be clear: It isn't.

And the reason it isn't has nothing to do with tiles or tablets or anything of that sort. It's simply a matter of history. Here, let me show you:

The Windows Odds-and-Evens Rule:

Windows 95- Amazing. A dramatic shift from 3.1 that shaped every OS they've launched since.

Windows 98 - And then they broke it. Essentially it's like 95, just with more blue screens! A complete waste of everyone's time. It was mostly an excuse to shove Internet Explorer down more people's throats.

Windows 2000 - Rock solid. Did everything the old versions did, but cleaner, faster, and without crashing as much.

Windows ME - I get a little sick to my stomach every time I think about it. I actually had to do support on a few of these, and we used to dread getting a Windows ME call. It was so bad, it didn't even last a year.

Windows XP - A complete breath of fresh air. People loved it so much it's still the most popular version a full decade later.

Windows Vista - As ugly as the devil's face. The main feature seemed to be a digital overprotective parent who always wanted to make extra sure you really needed to do anything, ever. Windows Vista once dinged as I was trying to leave the house, turned out it was asking if I really thought I should go out without a jacket.

Windows 7 - Installing Windows 7 is like giving your computer a shower. It looks great, it runs great, it has truly useful new features, and it's better about auto-installing hardware than any past version.

Windows 8 - Destined to be garbage. Face it. Microsoft has to get one really wrong before they get one right, that's just how they roll. Cling tight to your 7 install disk. Ignore anything you hear. I'll see you when 9 comes out in 2014.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Renewals

If you want an education in multiculturalism, you don't need to go to another country.

And you don't need to read books by foreign authors, or sample foods from around the world. All you need to do is go to your local tag office, or any other government building that nearly everyone has to visit once in a while.*

See, paperwork has this wonderful way of not discriminating. If you're going to have a car, there are certain forms you have to fill out, end of story. And that wide cast net made of red tape drags together daily assortments of local walks of life, then makes them stand in line.

Did you think that everyone was pretty much like you? They aren't. Like, not even close. Half that guy's head is shaved. That woman appears to be wearing monk robes. Yes, that old man is carrying a garden hose, and you probably shouldn't spend too much time thinking about why.

Also, that lady in the corner? She's looking at you that way because she's thinking about how weird you are.

*Or Walmart after about 3AM.

Friday, July 8, 2011

By the numbers

On one-two, nothing and everything happens.

It's like drawing back the string on a bow: the most gentle part of the whole process, really, but it defines everything that comes after. The lead rock-steps back, letting his arm extend just slightly to avoid pulling her forward at all. She's following, after all, and responding is like breathing. She reads every movement, pulling back when he pulls, pushing back when he pushes, matching him point by point. She even translates the slight right-left bob of his hand into full swivels, like a tiny stone rippling an entire pond. Neither of them has moved yet. It's pure anticipation.

On three, it all snaps. The coiled spring between their arms pulls, and she fires straight forward. He moves just slightly out of her way, catching her back with his other hand, letting her momentum spin him around. They are using one another to ride a wave of kinetic energy.

-and-four: the arms they started with are relaxed now, their job done for the moment. Knees bent, upper bodies pulled back, individually they are completely off balance, but together they're stable. The arms they started with are completely relaxed now, and the energy they imparted is now rebuilding elsewhere. She's sending her weight against the right hand on her back, and it's stretching his right arm like a rubber band.

On five, it snaps. He's stepped behind himself, preparing to be out of her way. She explodes past, and six does nothing more than absorb the blast.

Seven-and-eight, some will tell you, is where it all resets. But if she knows what she's doing, she hasn't let all that energy out just yet, and rides the last little bit until the very last second before they begin again.

It's a storm. Not elegant or pretty, not polished to a shine. It's not civilized. A hurricane made just to generate the peaceful place in its eye.

And one . . .

*See?

Friday, July 1, 2011

Errrrrgh!-onomics

It's amazing how much BS we put up with when it comes to . . . just about anything. With any given product, service, or aspect of life, there's a certain amount of "stupid crap overhead" that's simply assumed as part of the equation. 

Your computer will sometimes get viruses, which will need to be removed. Sometimes the software on it will lock up, and you'll need to reboot it. Someday it may not come on at all. These are not uncommon events, they're known quantities. 

And it's not just that new-fangled compugizmo-jabber-jabber either. Several times in your life, you'll go out to your car, turn the key, and nothing will happen. Even though you just drove it the night before, suddenly it will act as nothing more than an elaborate statue, or highly inconvenient furniture.

We accept these things. We get mad about them, sure, but ultimately we're not surprised. The reality is that when things don't work, that's actually the natural state. The bizarre part is that any of it ever worked in the first place, that a long history of human beings raking through the physical world* has yielded crap that lights up and moves on it's own.

*Now back to Minecraft, where we've built a virtual system for starting back over at the beginning. 

Friday, June 24, 2011

It's dumb and you're dumb for liking it.

Fellow nerds, I need your attention.

Actually, I need everyone's attention. But for reasons I'll lay out, you're my main audience.

I need you to tell you something important, something that you should in turn teach others. It's a great lesson in being a cool person, and it goes like this: "Let people have their stupid thing."

Now let me explain what I mean.

If someone you know likes to play video games, board games, live action role playing games, fantasy football, actual football, collect clothespins, shoot guns (at targets), watch Doctor Who/Firefly/professional sports/reality TV . . . in short, if someone you know likes doing something that's not harming them or anyone else, let them have it. Don't crap all over it just because you don't happen to like that thing. Accept that their amusement is not the result of some vile corruption inside them, but just a preference.

Nerds, here's why this is especially important to you. As a natural enthusiast, you've probably been highly subject to negativity from people (by which I mean *ssholes) who don't understand the objects of your obsession. If you've had time to get well clear of high school, you know by now that those people were wrong, and too boring to understand you. If you're not free of school yet, memorize the previous sentence and bind it to your heart.*

But if you've known that burden, you need to be especially sensitive toward it. What you don't need to do is repeat the mistakes of others, calling out fellow nerds for being ever so slightly nerdier than you. If you don't get it, aren't into it, or can't see what's so great about it, then just let it go. Everybody's got some stupid thing they like. Just let them have it. Support their right to enjoy their leisure time.

*With a sonic screwdriver.

Friday, June 17, 2011

I bite my thumb.

I can't watch Hamlet anymore.

It's good, I like it. It's got sword fighting, political and social intrigue, a ghost-all sorts of hooks. And the writing ain't bad either. And as I said, I like Hamlet.

I liked it when I read it in high school, and in freshman English during college. After I read it each year of college thereafter, though, I was getting a little tired of it. And now I'm done. No more. The man wrote other plays, let's move on. The only way I'd watch Hamlet again is if you do something completely crazy with it.

Generally speaking, I think it's weird whenever someone decides to do Shakespeare with a clever spin, like setting it in modern times. Those plays are remembered for their dialog, so either you drop the best part completely, or you leave it sticking out like an anachronistic sore thumb.

But with Hamlet, I'll give some leeway. Go nuts.* Same story, but Hamlet's played as a woman, all the actors are over 75, and the whole thing is set on Mars. Have at it. How about all the characters are superheros, and Hamlet's dad appears in the form of a giant spider? And it's underwater.

*Oh wait, someone already did.

Friday, June 10, 2011

I just wanted to watch a movie

Years ago, I thought that home theaters were the one gadget-y thing I'd never understand. Wrapping my head around different combinations of TV, receiver, and device settings gave the pit of my stomach the same feeling it gets when I try to learn a foreign language or musical instrument—both vast depths of tedium that give me cognitive vertigo.

Then the time came when I actually needed a receiver, and after working with it for a while I realized something: It's not that home theater setup is complex, it's that a particular rig only really makes sense to the person who set it up. Someone else could learn the basics, like how to switch between the PS3 and Wii, but trying to explain the intricacies (like, for instance, how you can hook up a PC to my home theater by setting the TV to HDMI2 and the receiver to VIDEO 3, then uncoiling the spare HDMI cable and attaching the DVI con . . . see I've already lost you.) is a fools errand. Running someone else's home theater is like trying to use someone else's brain, which as we know always ends with "dude, can't handle it."

But although I now have a much better grasp of A\V equipment, one mystery persists*: why do receivers have to be so hot? What, exactly, about the process of routing video and audio signals requires a device that operates at three thousand degrees, on average? You may not realize, but the #2 most popular reason people buy new receivers, right behind "still don't have enough inputs, somehow," is currently listed as "Old receiver got so hot that it glowed red, melted through my floor, then through the earth below, and continued down until it hit groundwater. A plume of steam shot out of the new hole in my living room, which according to the manual's troubleshooting guide means that my old receiver is gone forever."

*Actually two, if you count "Why does the Nintendo Wii have to be 5 times louder than any other device?"

Friday, June 3, 2011

Checkmate

Conflicts are a natural part of daily life, and often arise even when different parties are working toward the same goal. Though the following exercise, you'll learn techniques to resolve conflicts in the most efficient manner possible, while still getting exactly what you wanted without compromising at all. Simply follow the steps below to begin working through your differences.

1-Find a Mediator

Not all conflict resolutions require a mediator, but they can be useful tools. A good mediator is someone who's already on your side, or who has a close personal attachment to you that will sway his or her judgement.

2-Choose a time

You can begin a conflict resolution session at almost any time, but the best choices are when the other person will be caught off guard.* Think about how the other person is feeling, and try to pick a time when he or she will be stressed, hungry, or sleepy.

3-Voice Your Feelings

Take a moment to determine the nature of your conflict. You will find that most disagreements can be summarized as one person (Person A) wanting a certain thing, and another person (Person B) not wanting that thing. Once you've determined which person is which, proceed with the following steps

Person A: Turn to person B, and say "yuh-huh."

Person B: Consider person A's point, and reply with "nuh-uh."

Continue in this way, going back and forth, until one person gets tired and gives up. The person who does not give up is declared the "winner," and gets to have his or her way.

With the conflict resolved, you may now proceed to enjoy your temporary sense of superiority. The winning party should keep in mind that losing parties are free to pursue conflicts further, usually by going ahead and doing whatever it was they wanted to do anyway.

*"Can't this at least wait until I'm washing my hands?"

Friday, May 27, 2011

On Edge

The other day I had to go to the hardware store, and while I was there I bought a box cutter/utility knife.

It's not the first one of these I've ever purchased, in fact I have two others already. But as I've been moving all week, both of those were lost somewhere in a fortress of cardboard. Even if I could find them, though, I still would have been up for buying a new one.

Because most utility knives are garbage.

This is a tool made to do real work, yet manufacturers use flimsy plastic casings and poor designs that leave the blade loose in its socket. So when I bought my new knife, I wanted to get something better. I went into it willing to spend a bit more to get a quality product. And there it was. Below the rack of cheap $3 products, there was another row of what looked like the real thing-solid metal casings, and a design that seemed like care had gone into it.

And I was right. But I didn't know what I was getting into. This is a real utility knife. Maybe too real. It is easily one of the sharpest things I've ever owned, like a samurai sword you can hook onto your pocket. While opening a box, I went from cutting tape to cutting through the side of the cardboard to cutting through the end of the cardboard without noticing any change.

Conventional southern wisdom says that a dull knife is more dangerous than a sharp knife, since it's more likely to slip. There's some truth there, but only up to a point. In skilled hands, I'm sure the sharp blade is best, since it will follow those trained motions exactly. But I'm just opening some boxes, here, and doing it with the closest lightsaber equivalent I've encountered in everyday life.*

*Grasp it carefully with your remaining fingers.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Sisyphean is the word

Every time I empty the lint trap on my dryer, I think "Aren't I just throwing my clothes away very slowly?"

The vacuum cleaner isn't much better. I track in all this dirt, use a machine to clean it up, then clean out the machine so I can take the dirt back outside again. It's as though daily life is the tide, and we're determinedly trying to beat it back with a stick.

"Sooner or later," it seems to say, "That floor is going to be a filthy. You can clean it, but it's gonna be dirty again soon. Oh yeah, go ahead and do the dishes too, I got more dirty ones coming. There's a glass on the other side of the couch that you don't even know about-used to have milk in it too."

But it's oddly comforting. Clutter on a desk tells you that work has been done there, a dish in the sink that food has been eaten. All of them are marks of a thinking mind, one that can cobble together disparate artifacts into a single thread, without needing them arranged just so. A mess tells you that life is nearby, strict order always comes off sterile. 

Does seem inefficient though.*

*Let's start with the bathroom. I'm gonna need a whole bunch of plastic wrap and a couple of pressure washers.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Singularity

I think most people have a sort of "thesis," a single idea that can be seen in how they approach the world, and which things they enjoy doing.*

I have a friend, for instance, who likes chemistry, has done a lot of cooking, and enjoys extremely difficult platforming games (ones that require jumping with exact timing). His thesis is "precision." Something in him loves to work in very precise ways. 

Another friend keeps his DVD's in like-new condition, has a lot of action figures, and plays those same sort of platforming games, often with the first guy. His thesis, though, is "physicality." He finds something important in the physical nature of objects.

I chose those two examples for a reason: they have that one element in common. Often we assume that people who do the same things are, themselves, similar. In reality, any number of personal theses can draw people to a particular job/hobby/cause. Some people make cakes because they love the taste of things, others because they love the aesthetics, still others because, for whatever reason, using an oven is incredibly fulfilling.

The problem is that most people never know they have a thesis, because they naturally assume that everyone thinks basically the same way that they do.

*My thesis is that I'm always trying to figure out the workings of things, sometimes to the point of oversimplification. 

Friday, May 6, 2011

Things that work are boring

I really don't like the iPhone. Never have, probably never will. But I'm not hating, I understand why many people love the device. But I expect I'll be an Android guy for a long time.

Fact is, I like things that are a little bit broken.

Mac interfaces are extremely refined, and I think that's the problem. It's just too clean for me, too polished. It's creepy almost, like using a hospital to check my email.

I'd rather be out on Google's experimental edge-it doesn't always go as smoothly, but I get to watch the product iterate toward refinement. There's something honest about a product that's just kinda there-no implied claim of perfection*, just "here's a handful of incredible ideas, and we'll keep working on it."

Failing that, I'd easily go to the Microsoft philosophy-"pack in the features, let the users figure out how to use them." But then I like learning to use a device. To me the learning process isn't a means to an end, I enjoy the discovery and mastery process.

Hey, my laptop didn't crash the whole time I was writing!

*It's well intentioned, but the practice of wearing nice clothes to church is a mistake, I think.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Search Your Feelings

What's the most terrifying thing about becoming an adult?

It's not that you have to find your own way in the world.

It's not the process of learning to navigate vast social, political, and economic structures around you.

It's not the difficulty of trying to decide who you will be, what you will do, and what really matters.

It's not the problem of balancing different aspects of your life.

It's not the acceptance that you are subject to forces you have no hope of controlling.

It's not coming to grips with the mistakes you've made.

The most terrifying thing about becoming an adult is looking back on your childhood, and realizing that your parents, just like you, were largely making it up as they went along.*

*YEAH

Friday, April 22, 2011

My Self-Help Book Would Be Short

"Lack of Motivation" is one of the most common things people beat themselves up over. We look at the successful, the brilliant, the talented, and know deep inside that such heights would be within our reach if we only had the discipline to pursue it.

Only I don't think that's quite true. 

The kind of motivation you need to work at the same thing, day after day, can be fueled by many things—and not all of them are as positive as iron will. Profound emotional damage, for example, will do just fine, as it's a constant push to lose yourself in work. Desperate, gnawing lack of self-worth is another common one, since it can be temporarily beaten back by personal accomplishments.

And let's not forget OCD. Nothing makes you perfect your craft like the inexplicable feeling that you have to.

So maybe the reason most people goof off so much is that they're relatively well adjusted. The person who's happy, healthy, and fulfilled doesn't need to conquer the world.*

*They just need to pretend to.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Relax

The idea behind a vacation is that it's a time for you to relax, and get away from the daily pressures of work. And that would make sense, were going on vacation not incredibly stressful. 

Not only do you have to arrange all the things which are normally handled by your established patterns: food, lodging, transportation, etc-you also have to manage all the little stuff that you can normally put off, like laundry and dirty dishes.

Oh, and you have to do all this with a deadline. And coordinate it with anyone who's going with you. And prepare for any rain/traffic/other delays that might occur. Also you didn't clean out the cooler last time you used it, so now you've got to go rinse it with bleach. Don't forget anything.* Who's feeding the cats, again?

*If you forget your phone charger, you've remembered a paperweight.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Best I've Got

Once you get married, you occasionally get asked for advice on dating. The theory there is sound enough: if you want to know how to do something, ask someone who's done it. The problem, however, is that happily married people didn't "figure out" the dating world, and were likely just as bewildered and frustrated by it as you are, right up until the point where everything worked out.

But that being said, I do have a few notes:

For a single person who'd like to fall in love and get married, the club scene is perhaps your greatest resource. Why? Because it's a magnet for exactly the kinds of people you want to avoid. The loud music, alcohol, and mobs of people are a direct hit for any skeezy guy who's just looking for a hookup, and any boring girl who has little of interest to say.

If you're offended by this because you occasionally go out drinking, let me clarify: I didn't say that EVERYONE in a bar or club is like this. But by the same token, not EVERYONE at Disney World is a child. In both cases, however, it's clear that the experience is catered to a certain demographic.

So, then, we can think of your local "night life" area as a sort of magnet*, which draws all the crappy people into one spot. Now you need only avoid this place, and begin your search anew.*

*Unfortunately there's not a counter that goes the other way. Maybe you could walk around, and drop $5 bills with your phone number on them. A person who calls you to return it is probably worth a look.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Fine Diction

So you want to write a consumer product review. Well that's great! I'm sure that once it's completed, it will be the shining star among the other hundreds of unread reviews on the same site. But before you begin, how about going over a few pointers—some common mistakes that should be avoided.

1. There's such a thing as an "outlier"

"What a piece of JUNK! I plugged it in but nothing happened! Do NOT buy this it's a waste of money cause it doesn't do what it's supposed to! These people should be ashamed of themselves for ripping everyone off."

If you're writing a negative review because the product didn't work, here's a little insight: It's possible that it's an isolated incident. I know it's hard to believe, but it turns out that every manufacturer has to deal with bum units from time to time. So just because the thing you got doesn't work, that doesn't mean they all don't work, or that the manufacturer is a pack of monsters, or that their headquarters should be stormed with torches and pitchforks. Maybe you could return it, try another one, and then write the review?

2. Asking for help

"It worked at first but then I started getting an error message. Love the product but wish they would fix it."

In the event that you do have a problem, check the packaging! It's entirely possible that the manufacturer has teams of people on hand to help you for free! Call these people, you give their work meaning!

3. Not writing every single detail

"The product arrived at 6:15PM on 4/8/10 via UPS. I wasn't home at the time, so the delivery guy left it at my door. Once I got the cardboard box I immediately cut it open to reveal a smaller green box. Inside that I found several cardboard spacers, a pack of "do not eat" silica gel, the product itself inside a clear plastic bag, and several . . . (and it goes on like that)."

Hey, sum it up there, James Joyce. I don't need to know what you had for breakfast the day a product arrived. That's not actually important to whether or not I decide to purchase this product. See, my time is valuable to me, and you're wasting it. Cut to the chase already.

4. What is wrong with you?

"OMFG thiz is so dum why wud you buy this pize of crap thing it donnent wurk im returning it rite now and never buying anything from bestbuys again why wud you buy this piz of crap thng."

What corruption has happened in your mind to let you put this anywhere someone might accidentally read it? This and anything else that drips off your tattered thought process should be locked away with household cleaners and rat poisons, sealed tightly in a child proof container. No product* that can be purchased at "best buys" will ever be as broken, or as dangerous, as the language you have here produced. Unplug your computer. Put it in a box. Give it to a library. Then sit quietly among the books and think about what you've done.

*Except for the Kesha** albums.
**I refuse to acknowledge her ridiculous spelling.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Truth in Fiction

Someone I'm too lazy to look up once said "Writers don't like to write, writers like to have written." And after careful consideration, I have something to say in response.

That crap is TRUE.

"Having written" something that's good, or even worthwhile, is great fun. You get to be proud of it, hear people talk about it, and enjoy the incredible satisfaction of completing something that you didn't just build, you crafted.

And if a piece turns out really, really well, sometimes it's even good enough to make you forget that actual writing is like pulling teeth. Like pulling your own teeth.

You agonize over wordings. You kick yourself for repetition mistakes. You rewrite sentences over and over, sometimes breaking your constructions with over editing-and all the while you wonder if you should just scrap it and start over.

Someone else once said, "Do something you love and you'll never work a day in your life." And after careful consideration, whoever said that is a LIAR. Work is always work. Loving what you do just means you get to feel good about it when it's done.*

*I could have phrased that better.

Friday, March 18, 2011

You Again.

Oh, by the way, I'm taking last week off.

Wait . . . lets see, present progressive tense . . . but the adjective refers to a previous . . . mmmmm.

Oh well!

Moving on.

When you work or live in a place where you share a bathroom with lots of other people, you sometimes find a strange symmetry in your day. We might call this phenomenon the "pee buddy," were that phrase not entirely vile and prone to misinterpretation.

So let me be perfectly clear on what I mean. As you go through your day, and (hopefully) going to the bathroom a few times, you occasionally find that someone else is in there. The same someone else. Every time.

And while you're standing/sitting there reflecting (because what else do you do with that time), you begin to wonder why this individual always seems to be there when you are. Without fail, you come to exactly two possible explanations:

1. Due to an odd coincidence of personal biology, dietary habits, and discomfort endurance, you and this person have become perfectly in sync.*

2. This person is always here when you are because he/she uses the bathroom like 200 times per day, and there's got to be something wrong with him/her.

But how can you ever know? If there's some problem your buddy is aware of, you don't want to bring it up. And it's not like you can ask, anyway? "Maybe you should get that checked out" is not going to make the public bathroom experience any less awkward.

*The interesting thing about theory 1 is that it comes with the corollary: This person may be thinking theory 2 is true, and that there's something wrong with you.

P.S. There's an email subscription option now! Check out the sidebar.

Friday, March 4, 2011

oooooooo, burn!

I'm sure that fire code is important, and that it saves many lives. But on behalf of everyone who uses public buildings: Come the hell on.

Based on what I've been told over the years, I'm pretty sure that according to full fire code, no space anywhere ever is allowed to have anything in it. Or anyone. The preferred fire marshal design seems to be a metal frame with no walls or ceiling.

And no one should enter these structures. Or get too close to a tree.

Because in the event of a fire, every person in a hallway is going to immediately freak out and start tackling anyone nearby.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Go team

Dear Fanboy,

Can I ask you a question? Do you honestly think that Microsoft/Apple/Google/Mozilla/Sony/Nintendo/Republican Party/Democratic Party/any sports team/Amazon/Barnes and Noble gives a crap about you? Do you honestly believe that that institution is the "good guy," while all competitors represent some kind of evil empire that only a stupid, gullible person would buy into? Are you under the impression that you'll get some kind of prize when your side emerges victorious?

Allow me to educate you.

No one who wants your money is really on your side. When they play as though they are, it's in the hope that you'll give them money/more money than you already have, and not because they have good hearts. They see you as a money piƱata, and language is their stick.

And it's ok to have favorites, we all do. But you are serving no one by defending your champion to the bitter end. The one any only reason your guy does anything good is because he has to, his competition forces his hand.  If you like Playstation so much, you'd better hope Microsoft has a good quarter. If you use Firefox, cross your fingers that Chrome gains market share. Because a clear winner doesn't have to try very hard, does he?

In short, if you want good products, make the relevant parties fight for every last dollar you give them. Make them scrape and refine and innovate ways to get their money, and don't credit them any previous victories.

That's the only way we win.

Sincerely,

Sam*

*Who wrote this in Google Blogger, using Google Chrome, running on the Chrome OS laptop that Google sent him.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Soda Jerks

I get it.

I understand that restaurants need drink sales to make money. They represent a very high profit margin in an business where success is tricky. And I know that they can't afford to have people ordering water, then sneaking some coke into their cup. It's perfectly reasonable that water cups should be different from the other cups.

But do they have to be the size of a thimble?

Really Panera?

I don't think it's just a "making sure you don't get soda" thing, either. No, at this point you're making a joke. I've got to either buy a real drink, or suffer your water shotglass of shame. I can almost hear them laughing each time I go for a refill*, drinking a full glass at the dispenser so I can get enough.

*Oh yeah? Well in addition to the calories I'm saving, I'm also getting exercize from walking so much, so joke's on . . . still me, somehow.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Presents of mind

Gift giving is something of a fine art, and there are a lot of ways to get it wrong.

Even when you've known someone for a long time, and feel you have a fairly comprehensive model of his psyche, choosing something he'll like can be tricky. Of course, that's why nature produced the Amazon universal wish list and other such gift registries—For the long-distance relative who needs to just pick something, you can't do much better.

But the best gifts follow the desire/impractical measure, where the item is both A) something the person will want and B) something the person would never buy for himself.* If you can hit that target, you'll find the receiver in a particular state of joy, delighting in an item that for him represents true luxury.

Alternatively, you can also buy something incredibly weird, and send it with no explanation of what it's for, or why you chose it. Then you've provided on of the oldest gifts of them all, the gift of a new story.

*Example

Friday, February 4, 2011

Refried Beans-Salsa-tomatoes-Sour Cream-Cheese-Olives-Green Onion Day

I'm not really a fan of the Superbowl, just a fan of 7 Layer Dip.But as it happens, one of those seems to inspire the making of the other, so vicariously I guess I really like football.

Who's playing this year, anyway? I honestly don't know. Go whichever-team-the-guy-who-made-the-dip-likes!

And I think it's clear from the ratings that there are a lot of people like me. It's not like all those viewers didn't care that about football through the season, then suddenly it's the biggest thing in their world. No, most of them still don't care . . . but hot dogs are delicious, and by the middle of winter you probably haven't had one in months, so "WOOOO, SUPERBOWL!"*

So let's just put the whole thing on a Monday afternoon and declare it a national holiday. We could even call it something else, like "Family Day," so people wouldn't complain about it being just for football.

*(Psst, I think the actual sports fans know we're faking. They kept talking about stats, and I'm pretty sure they made a few of them up to see if I'd notice.)

Saturday, January 29, 2011

write blog post

This week I posted a funny status update which, normally, would get a few "likes" and fade into the constant chatter of the Internet. But because my friends are often as-geeky or far-more-geeky than myself, something else entirely happened: an old school text based adventure began in the comment thread.

http://d.pr/IXAz

Now, most anyone who knows me and has even a drop of nerdy tendency is transfixed, checking back multiple times each day to watch the narrative unfold. Meanwhile, I'm looking at the list of releases planned for 2011 and wondering if any one of them could come close to stealing the "game of the year" crown from this crazy social network experience.

But then I have a different criteria than most. GOTY awards usually go to highly polished experiences where the perceived value of the product was high. And that's fine. I like polished experiences. Yet I wonder if that's really the best methodology when selecting a year's highlights.

Cause I have news for you. When we look back in twenty years at the games which shaped the medium, no one is going to be talking about Red Dead Redemption.*

*Mass Effect 2, maybe. But it's a more polished iteration of what was so remarkable in ME 1.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Blanket Statement

Sharing a bed with someone can be one of life's great little pleasures. It's a constant comfort, and reminder of the intimacy and trust you have with another person.

It is also a logistical nightmare.

You've got different sleeping positions, light-level preferences, pillow arrangements—not to mention temperature needs. Thermal distribution in a two-person bed is a study unto itself, in fact. Some people want the room to be ice cold, while they are baked alive beneath a pile of covers. Other people require that a fan blows air across them all night, which they then counter by using an extra blanket. And I'm not calling out anyone, anywhere for being weird—by default I sleep with both feet outside the covers (because, for some reason, bed makes the bottoms of my feet go thermonuclear with heat) and a secondary pillow tucked under my right shoulder, taking a bit of my weight so I can breath easier.

Combining two of these weird sleep combination locks is an interesting process, requiring a lot of real time and dedication.*

*Pro-tip: Develop an automatic "anchor response," where you hold down your side of the covers whenever you feel the other person move.

Friday, January 14, 2011

A place in the sun where it's nice and warm

Songs like Gnarls Barkley's "Going On"* are, to me, in a class of their own.


It's a class I like to refer to as "music that I don't have to be ashamed that I'm listening to."

In addition to being catchy, Going On carries a really nice little message: Put more focus on others, less on yourself, and don't put up with people who won't do the same. That may not seem like such a big deal, but remember that a large amount of music:

1. Contains no redeeming values
2. Actively promotes really terrible lifestyles
3. Is so very funky, you just can't stop singing it

And that's the baffling part. Since most music is sold by including awesome beats and incredible hooks, and the lyrics are often nearly indecipherable, why bother to focus on negative ideas at all? Just make all your music about solid moral values, autotune it into an electronic paste, and make it sound like it's about partying. Most people won't know the difference, and I'll feel better about having your song in my subconscious.

*One note: the line in the second verse is: And to do what I want/and to do what I please/Is first *off* my to-do list. For some reason no one bothers to check the official lyrics, and puts it as either "first *of* my to-do" list (which makes no sense) or worse "first *on* my to-do list" (which is counter to the rest of the song.)

Friday, January 7, 2011

no.w on the webs!

i carry your phone everywhere
google
with me everywhere
and everywhere it takes me
i heart gps
but alth ough i   find    it
                                    a marvel
theres at least one po.int
i need to take up with you

the software k e y b o a r d
doesnt work with blogg er
and my hardware one
doesnt recognize capitals
or symbols

serious.ly
you have like tw e n ty ba
jillion dollars
get on that
thanks