Saturday, March 25, 2017

GDC 2017: Kate Edwards and the Temple of IGDA

This is Kate Edwards, the Grand Poobah* of the International Game Developer's Association.  If you don't know her, she's had a pretty amazing life.

In her childhood, she met Stan Lee, the author of many of Marvel Comics' principal characters (Spider m\Man, Fantastic Four, etc).  According to Lee's autobiography, he considered turning Thor into a recurring villain for Hercules to fight, but he didn't seem right.  Traditionally, Thor was crude, boorish and...  Well, see for yourself:
The traditional view of Thor
But after a few hours meeting with young Edwards, he came up with a new design:
Edwards is on the left.
Sometimes we make fun of her by pointing out how much Marvel's Thor looks like her.  However, we make fun of what happened with her and Lucas even more.

Edwards went to college and graduated with degrees in cartography, geography, and anthropology.  She gave a talk on an ancient Hovitos artifact that was attended by George Lucas who later made...  Well, see for yourself.
Edwards is on the ri-  Left?  Yeah, left.
She takes all of the jokes at her expense with poise and grace, which brings us to the present.

Edwards said she was going to Cairo, and I asked her to pick up something for me so we could re-enact the most memorable scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark.

No, not that one.
No, not that one.
No, not that one.
I mean in the beginning when the bad guy (Belloq) steals the statue from Jones.

That one.
So, yeah, she went to Egypt.  And, yeah, she bought me something.
When's the last time the head of your professional association got you something from Cairo?
We meet up at GDC and I grab the statue from her:

Me: So, Doctor Edwards, we see once again there's nothing you possess that I can not take away from you.

Edwards: It's too bad the game development community doesn't know you like I do.

Me: It's too bad you don't speak Unity.

And then she shot a guy who threatened her with a sword and my face melted off.  
Edwards is the statuesque blonde on the left.  I'm the short, fat guy on the right.
Next year, she'll get me something from Asgard.

* Poobah isn't her actual title.  It's Supreme Exalted Commander.

Friday, March 17, 2017

GDC 2017: Setting My Hand on Fire

I've been doing wacky things for my birthday for a few years now.  I re-enacted a scene from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (on my 42nd, of course).  I jumped out of an airplane.  I donated to charities.

You know, weird stuff.  Also things I've always wanted to do.

A few years ago I went to Hawaii and attended a luau.  One of the entertainers was a fire-knife dancer from Samoa who set himself on fire.  On purpose.  Part of his act was to set his palm on fire and try to get people to shake his hand.
"Hi, my names Joe. Pleased to m- AAIAIAIAIEEE!"
I assumed he was covered in some kind of flammable, protective gel and wanted some for myself. Sadly, I couldn't find it (and the government of Samoa stopped answering my calls).  Then, one day, I noticed Oded Sharon's Facebook picture had him setting fire to his hand.

You know Oded, right?  Oh, come on, everyone knows Oded Sharon.  He's a game designer.  He's the King of Parties (or, perhaps, Prince Regent of Parties) at the Game Developer's Conference.  The most important thing is that he can set parts of his body on fire!
You know, this guy!
I messaged him:  How do you do that?  Is there a gel I can buy?
Oded: Are you going to be at GDC?  I can teach you if you'd like.
Me: EEEEEEEeeeeeeEEEEEEEeeeeeEEEEEE!!!!!!!!
Oded: Is that yes?
Oded: Are you okay?
Me: EEEEEEEEEEEeeeeeeeee.  Okay, I think I'm better.  Nope.  EEEEEEEEE!!!

He told me what equipment to buy (I had to something called a "bucket").  Then he came over and...  Well...

And, here's one with me setting my hand on fire and then lighting a candle with it.

Not sure what I'm going to do for my birthday now.  Something even more crazy.  Like... Cake.

Next week: Stealing something from the head of the International Game Developer's Association, because there's nothing she possesses that I can not take away from her.

Friday, March 10, 2017

GDC 2017: Booth Babe Report

Two years ago, I got a call while I was on vacation from a writer for the San Jose Chronicle.  She was doing an article on the treatment of women spokes-models at game development events and saw I did an annual blog post.  

I told her that, unlike the E3 Expo, the GDC had slowly become more welcoming towards women, and the numbers of women in degrading outfits had diminished to nothing.  Sexism was (practically) a thing of the past.

I didn't get into her article.

Last year, I told this story to a woman at a conference.  

Her response:   "Half an hour ago a guy grabbed me and tried to massage my shoulders without permission."

Me: "Right there?  In front of everyone?!"

She nodded.  I guess it isn't over.  Therefore my annual report isn't over.

I will say it is much harder to find costumed (revealing or not) women at the show.  I almost gave up looking, as the only one I could find was Mini-T:

The sad thing: he had better hair than me.
Then, on the last day, I came across two women dressed as fairies.  Here is the actual conversation we had as the pictures were being taken.

Me: I'm going to look like an idiot being very happy to be standing with you, and I'd like you to look disgusted by being next to me.  Then I'll post it on my blog, if that's okay.

Blue Fairy: Awesome.  I'm so tired of smiling.

Green Fairy: Wait, what?


Green Fairy: Sorry, I didn't do that right.  So you want me to...

Me: It's okay.  Just look disgusted.  Pretend I'm-


Green fairy: This is so hard!

Me: Women don't usually have this much trouble showing me their disgust.

Green fairy:  No.  I got it.  I got it.

Me: Okay.  One last time.  My face is starting to hurt.


Passerby (showing the proper level of disgust): Hitting on the booth babes.

Photographer: No, he's always like that.

Me: I am never doing this again.  I will, however, set my hand on fire.

More on that, next week.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Screenplay

There are few who love the book The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy more than I.  You can imagine, then, how disappointed I was at the terrible movie.

I have always hoped they'd do a better version, one that kept to the source material (preferably the original radio scripts) more closely.  Here's what I would do:

               FADE IN:

               EXT. THE MILKY WAY

               The entire galaxy turns slowly beneath us.

                                   THE GUIDE
                             (A calm, authoritative,
                              British voice)
                         Far out on the unfashionable end of
                         the western spiral arm of the
                         galaxy, lies an unremarkable,
                         yellow sun.

                                                                CUT TO:

               EXT. THE EARTH

               The world circles the distant sun.  It turns so we can see

               A line of programming code appears below it: OBJ

                                   THE GUIDE
                         Orbiting at a distance of roughly
                         90 million miles is a little blue
                         green planet called Earth whose ape
                         descended life forms are so
                         primitive they still think smart
                         phones are a pretty neat idea.

               EXT. SIDEWALK - DAY

               We ZOOM OUT to reveal a young woman, FENCHURCH, who has been
               sitting on the sidewalk, looking at the world on her phone.

                                   THE GUIDE
                         The Earth had a problem: nothing
                         that ever happened ever made the
                         slightest bit of sense.

               There is a loud SQUEAL and a CRASH.

               Fenchurch looks up.

                                                                CUT TO:

               EXT. STREET - CONTINUOUS

               A CAR has run over a fire hydrant and stopped directly on it. 
               The DRIVER and a CROWD stares as water squirts out through
               the tailpipes, grille, and sunroof.

               The CAR and DRIVER are labelled with code.

               The car says $HYDRO_Vehicle: int = H20++;

               The driver says TriD.TV (Descendant)--;

                                   THE GUIDE
                         And lots of people were mean, and
                         most of them were miserable, even
                         those with smart phones.


               FENCHURCH is still watching with fascination from the
               sidewalk.  She's father away, so we can see she's sitting
               under a window with a sign that says

                                        IPHONE 93

                                   NOW WITH 1 MILIMETRE

                                      BIGGER SCREEN

               She's been camping out, waiting for the newest thing.  On
               either side of her is a line of others doing the same.  One
               has chairs and another has a small tent.

               She realizes something.  A line of code appears over her

               While (6*9 == 42);

                                   THE GUIDE
                         Then, one day, a woman sitting in
                         line for the latest smart phone
                         suddenly realized what had been
                         going on all along.  She finally
                         knew the answer to the world's
                         problems. (a beat)  This is not her

               At her shocked indignation at not being the main character,

                                                                CUT TO:


               Intro music starts.

               ARTHUR DENT -- the born loser, wearing nothing but his
               pyjamas, bedroom slippers, and a nightrobe (he wears this
               through the entire movie) -- walks up to a large, impressive

               His code is: if (Dent_Arthur) return 0; 

               He glances down at a SIGN with equally impressive writing:
               PLANNING OFFICE.

               He walks in through the front doors.

                                                                CUT TO:

               INT. LOBBY - CONTINUOUS

               The title appears: THE HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY. 
               Music continues.

               ARTHUR DENT walks in and is horrified to find the room is
               filled with dozens of men and women waiting in line to talk
               to a single man behind a window.

                                                                CUT TO:

               INT. LOBBY - AN HOUR LATER

               ARTHUR is dreary with waiting, but he's finally at the front. 
               The woman behind him nudges him and points to the man behind
               the window.  Arthur jumps up and walks over.

               We can barely hear their conversation above the music.

                                   ARTHUR DENT
                         Look, someone came by and told me
                         they're going to knock down my
                         house.  Well, first he cleaned some
                         windows and-

                             (interrupting, he's got
                              better things to do)
                         You want demolition.  Third floor.

                                   ARTHUR DENT
                         Oh.  Uh.  Thank you.

               The man gives him a cheerless smile.  Arthur looks around. 
               The elevator is marked OUT OF ORDER.  He walks to the stairs.

                                                                CUT TO:


               ARTHUR is standing in another line in a nearly identical
               room.  His name is called and, again, someone nudges him
               before he realizes it.  He goes over to a woman behind a

               The music and titles are still playing.

                                   ARTHUR DENT
                         Hi.  Look a man came over and said
                         they were going to knock down my
                         house to build a bypass-

                         You want the construction
                         department.  Fifth floor.

               Arthur bites back his anger and heads for the stairs.


               Music and titles as before.

               ARTHUR is fuming now.  When his turn comes he jumps forward.

                             (not even giving him a
                              chance to speak)
                         This is the industrial construction
                         department.  You want residential
                         construction.  Eighth floor.

               STAIRS. AGAIN AND AGAIN.

               INT. TOP OFFICE - HOURS LATER

               Music and titles 

               ARTHUR is at the end of his rope.  He pushes past several
               people in line to shout at the woman managing it.  He screams
               at her, raving mad.

                                   ARTHUR DENT
                         I've been here all bloody day
                         trying to find out if the bypass is
                         going through my house!  Now tell
                         me how I find out!

               There is a horrible silence as everyone takes in the fact he
               dares to yell at this minor functionary in her lair.  The
               music and titles stop.

               Arthur realizes he made a terrible mistake, but the woman
               just smiles terrifyingly, and taps her long fingernails

               INT. SUB-SUB-BASEMENT - LATER

               It is COMPLETELY DARK.  After a beat, a smart phone
               flashlight shines painfully ahead.  There's a door with a
               sign that used to read MEN'S LAVATORY.  Someone taped a page
               over it, which reads BEWARE OF LEOPARD.

               ARTHUR (who is holding smart phone) enters.  Sitting
               awkwardly in a stall on top of a grimy toilet is a filing
               cabinet.  He pulls on a few drawers before finding the bottom
               one opens.

               He takes out a giant WHITE-PRINT ROLL.  He awkwardly unrolls
               it, revealing a map that shows a path of planned destruction
               through a town between two highways.

               At the top of the page is the date: THURSDAY, MAR 2nd - 1 PM

               He puzzles over the date.  Wait a minute...

               He looks at his SMART PHONE SCREEN.  He's installed TINDER,
               MATCHMAKER, AM I HOT OR NOT, and something called THE GUIDE. 
               He holds the phone up so he can see the dates together.  It's
               currently March 2nd at 12:55 PM.  He has five minutes.

               He rushes out.


               ARTHUR, still in his bathrobe, lies in the mud in front of a
               giant, yellow BULLDOZER.  He's managed to block an entire
               CONSTRUCTION CREW who are waiting with disgruntled

               Behind them is a path of destruction.  They've bashed through
               a number of homes like a tornado.  Through the debris between
               the remaining houses, we can see a freeway.

               PROSSER, a foreman who uses a simpering smile to cover a
               barely controlled desire to kill Arthur, is trying to reason
               with him.

                         Come on, Mr. Dent.  You can't win,
                         you know.  You can't just lie in
                         front of bulldozers forever.

                                   ARTHUR DENT
                         Can't I?  Let's see who rusts

                         You can't stand in the way of
                         progress.  This bypass has to be

                                   ARTHUR DENT
                         Why has it got to be built?

                             (completely stunned by the
                         Well.  Uh.

               We pan up to see a man in the house next door open his window
               shade and blearily look out.

                                                                CUT TO:


               FORD, an odd man with wild hair, has just woken up.  He's the
               kind of guy who drinks heavy all night and sleeps through the
               day.  Every day.  He stares angrily out the window like a man
               with a hangover looks at a loud noise outside.

               He shakes his head.  He's not going to get any more sleep. He
               turns and goes into his bathroom.


               FORD looks in the mirror.  He pulls his eyes wide and sticks
               out his tongue.  There is a buzzing noise and Ford realizes
               it's coming from his 


               It's lit with a flashing icon of a flying saucer.  The gears
               click in his head.  This is important.  This is what he's
               been waiting for.

               He grabs the smart phone and taps it.  It displays the image
               of a yellow, slab-like, alien space ship.  It's labelled

               Ford is stunned, horrified.  The phone slips from his numb
               fingers and falls into the toilet with a plop.  He shakes
               himself out of his torpor and runs out.

               A beat passes.

               He runs back in, grabs a couple of towels and runs out again.


               ARTHUR is still arguing withe PROSSER from the muddy ground.

                             (finally coming up with an
                              answer from before)
                         It's a bypass.  You've got to build

                                   ARTHUR DENT
                         Then build it somewhere else.

                             (who has reached the end
                              of his rope)
                         Mr. Dent, do you have any idea how
                         much damage that bulldozer would
                         suffer if I just let it roll
                         straight over you?

                                   ARTHUR DENT
                         How much?

                         None at all.

               FORD, now dressed and carrying an ungainly satchel, hurries

                                   FORD PREFECT
                             (not registering what's
                              going on)
                         Hello, Arthur. Are you busy?

               ARTHUR, PROSSER, and the entire CREW stare at him.  Arthur is
               the first to react.

                                   ARTHUR DENT
                         No, I've just got this bulldozer to
                         lie in front of.

                                   FORD PREFECT
                         Good good.  Nice day for it.  Look,
                         we need to talk. Let's go down to
                         the pub and have a drink.

                                   ARTHUR DENT
                         Ford!  This man is going to knock
                         down my house!

                                   FORD PREFECT
                         Can't he do it without you?

                                   ARTHUR DENT
                         I don't want him to!

               Ford finally gets it.  He turns to Prosser, who is standing
               to one side, talking grumpily to a worker.

                                   FORD PREFECT
                         Er, excuse me.  Mr... Uh.

                         Prosser.  Has he come to his

                                   FORD PREFECT
                         Let's assume he hasn't.

               Prosser turns back.

                                   FORD PREFECT (CONT'D)
                         I have to tell him the most
                         important thing he'll hear in his
                         entire life, and I have to tell him
                         right now and I have to tell him in
                         that pub down there.

                         Why there?

                                   FORD PREFECT
                         He's going to need a stiff drink.

               Prosser decides Ford is a loony and turns away again.

                                   FORD PREFECT (CONT'D)
                         Look, you're going to be standing
                         here all day.

                         Because he'll be lying there all

                                   FORD PREFECT
                         But it doesn't actually matter if
                         it's him, does it?  As long as
                         someone is lying there...  So,
                         could you...  You know... Lie there
                         for him?

               Prosser stares at him, blankly.

                                   FORD PREFECT (CONT'D)
                         Of course, it goes without saying,
                         you wouldn't knock his house down
                         while we're away.

                             (gets it)
                         Of course not. The mere thought
                         hadn't even begun to speculate
                         about the merest possibility of
                         crossing my mind.

               We cut to PROSSER LYING IN FRONT OF BULLDOZER.  Ford and
               Arthur (still covered in mud) are heading away.

                                   ARTHUR DENT
                             (looking over his
                              shoulder, nervous)
                         Can we trust him?

                                   FORD PREFECT
                         I'd trust him to the end of the

                                                                CUT TO:

               INT. LOCAL PUB - CONTINUOUS

               FORD and ARTHUR walk into a small, homey pub with a long
               counter, a few taps, and friends chatting at tables.  The TV
               ON THE WALL shows a pre-game a football (soccer!) program. 
               The BARMAN -- a cheerful, portly man -- waves to them. 
               They're regulars.

                                   FORD PREFECT
                         Six pints of bitter.  And quickly,
                         please, the world's about to end.

                             (in his own world)
                         Nice day for it.  Here to watch the

                                   FORD PREFECT
                         No.  No point.

                         You figure Arsenal doesn't have a
                         chance?  They'll get creamed?

                                   FORD PREFECT
                         No.  It's just that the world's
                         about to end.

                         Yeah.  Good thing for Arsenal.

                                   FORD PREFECT
                         Not really.

               The Barman finishes pouring.

                                   FORD PREFECT (CONT'D)
                         And six packets of peanuts

               The Barman lays them out on the bar.  Ford scoops them into a
               pocket and dumps all the money in his wallet in front of him. 

                                   FORD PREFECT (CONT'D)
                         Keep the change.

               The Barman stares at the money, then stares at Ford.  He
               finally gets it.

                         Are you serious?  Is the world
                         about to end?

               Ford checks his watch and gathers up the overflowing mugs.

                                   FORD PREFECT
                         In about five minutes.

               He turns to go, but the barman grabs his sleeve.

                         Is there something we can do?

                                   FORD PREFECT
                         No.  Nothing.

                         I thought we were supposed to lie
                         down or put a paper bag over our

                                   FORD PREFECT
                         If you'd like.  Excuse me.

               He pulls free and rushes off to where Arthur is sitting.  The
               Barman, seeking comfort, goes back to the only thing he

                         Last orders, please!


               Arthur is sitting near a window, looking out to make sure the
               bulldozer isn't moving.

               Ford puts the mugs down and starts drinking with abandon. 
               Arthur sips one.  Ford makes an impatient gesture at Arthur's
               three pints.

                                   FORD PREFECT
                         Drink up.  The world's about to

                                   ARTHUR DENT
                         Three pints?  At lunchtime?

                                   FORD PREFECT
                         Muscle relaxant.  You'll need it.

               Arthur drinks, trying to catch up to Ford.  He has no chance.

                                   FORD PREFECT (CONT'D)
                         How long have we known each other?

                                   ARTHUR DENT
                             (panting between gulps)
                         Five years.  Most of it made some
                         kind of sense at the time.

                                   FORD PREFECT
                         What would you say if I told you I
                         wasn't from London after all?  What
                         if I told you I was actually from a
                         planet in the vicinity of

                                   ARTHUR DENT
                         Why?  Is it something you're likely
                         to tell me?

                                   FORD PREFECT
                         Drink up!  The world's about to

                                   ARTHUR DENT
                             (big gulp)
                         This must be Thursday.  I never
                         could get the hang of Thursdays.

               LOUD CRASH.  Arthur jumps and looks out the window.

                                   FORD PREFECT
                         Don't worry, they haven't started

               Arthur relaxes.

                                   FORD PREFECT (CONT'D)
                         They're just knocking down your

               Arthur does a spit take and rushes off.

               EXT. SPACE - CONTINUOUS

               Earth, a blue ball in dark space.

                                   THE GUIDE
                         On this particular Thursday, things
                         were moving miles overhead.

               Something impossibly large and yellow and ugly comes into

                                   THE GUIDE (CONT'D)
                         Huge, yellow, slab-like things. 
                         Large as office buildings.  Silent
                         as birds.  They hung in the air
                         exactly the way that bricks don't.

                                                                CUT TO:

               EXT. ARTHUR'S HOUSE - DAY

               They've already knocked a hole all the way through Arthur's
               house and are on the other side, smiling the way you do when
               you get to break something on purpose.

               ARTHUR is screaming in impotent fury.  As he screams, his
               anger increases and he jumps up and down, frothing at the

                                   ARTHUR DENT
                         You pin-striped barbarians!  I'll
                         sue you for every penny you've got. 
                         I'll have you hung, and drawn and
                         quartered, and whipped, and boiled,
                         and chopped up into little bits! 
                         And then...

               He falters.  Even that isn't enough.  What else could he do?

               A loud rumbling noise starts to build as does the wind.

                                   ARTHUR DENT (CONT'D)
                         And then I'll take all the little
                         bits and I'll jump on them!  And
                         I'll keep jumping on them until... 
                         Until you've had enough.  And then
                         I'll keep on jumping on them until
                         I get blisters or-

               The noise and wind are too much.  He looks up to vent his
               anger at the enormous yellow ship roaring slowly by.

                                   ARTHUR DENT (CONT'D)
                         What the hell's that?

               Ford runs up, rummaging through his satchel, not even looking
               at the sky.

                                   FORD PREFECT
                             (yelling a little over the
                         It's a Vogon constructor fleet.

                                   ARTHUR DENT
                         A what?

                                   FORD PREFECT
                         It's a fleet of flying saucers. 
                         I've been trying to tell you.

               Arthur's phone rings, as does the phone of everyone on the
               construction crew.  They all take their phones down and look
               at them.

               Arthur's phone says: CALL FROM VOGON CAPTAIN.  He answers and
               the face of a horrid, squishy, green alien with tiny eyes

                                   VOGON CAPTAIN
                         People of Earth, your attention

               Ford finds what he's looking for and takes it out.  It's a
               black metal rod.  He flips it and it unrolls into the air
               like a segmented party horn that stretches far longer than it
               should for its size.  A light blinks at the end.

               Ford shakes Arthur.

                                   FORD PREFECT
                         Arthur. Arthur!

                                   ARTHUR DENT
                             (hysterically calm)
                         Ford, I'm going to go lie down.

                                   FORD PREFECT
                         There's no time.  Grab a hold of

               He does as he's told and they both vanish.

                                                                CUT TO:

               EXT. PARK - DAY

               Dozens of people are standing around, watching their phones.

                                   VOGON CAPTAIN
                             (v. o.)
                         This is Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz of
                         the Hyperspace Planning Council.  

                                                                CUT TO:

               INT. SUBWAY - CONTINUOUS

               The crowd is looking at their phones, oblivious to the fact
               their train is waiting.

                                   VOGON CAPTAIN
                         As you are aware, the plans for the
                         development of the hyperspace lanes
                         in your area of the galaxy require
                         building a bypass through your star


               The green captain, sitting on something that looks
               disturbingly like a squashed deer, continues his speech. 
               He's talking at a screen showing the planet moving under

                                   VOGON CAPTAIN
                         Sadly, your planet has been
                         scheduled for demolition.

               INT.PUB - CONTINUOUS

               The patrons are staring at their phones.  The BARMAN,
               watching and holding his with one hand lowers a paper bag
               over his head with the other.

                                   VOGON CAPTAIN
                         The process will take two of your
                         Earth minutes.

               EXT. STREET - CONTINUOUS

               Dozens of people staring at their phones.  FENCHURCH, the
               woman from earlier, runs through the crowd, the only person
               not looking at a phone.

                             (furious she can't get
                              their attention)
                         I figured it out!  I figured it all
                         out!  The whole planet is just one
                         big com...

               She stares up at the sky where the ships are aiming giant
               weapons, crackling with energy, down at them.

               A line of code appears over her head:

               return ($Answer_To_Ultimate_Question);

                                   FENCHURCH (CONT'D)
                         Oh, shit.

               EXT. SPACE - CONTINUOUS

               The Earth explodes.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

A Trip to the Book Store

I once sold my book through a book store.   I used to visit the store and stare at them, sighing like a father staring at his daughter's first bowling shoes.  Then the store's owners told me to take the rest home.

They made excuses, of course.  Something about it not selling.  Something about it being the worst piece of modern literature they'd seen.  Something about protesters and boycotts of their store.

Nice try, pal.  You entered the lion's den.  You tickled the sleeping dragon.  You killed John Wick's dog.  You spat in the wind.  You stole the Lucky Charms.  You ate the Taco Bell burrito.

Where was I?  Oh, right.

It's payback time.  And this time it's even more personal than payback usually is.  I devote one weekend every month to bringing that bookstore down.  One weekend every month, I begin my subtle campaign of terror.

Below are excerpts from my war journal.

Saturday the 14th:
I went into the kids section.  They have a series of books on who each US President was and what their importance was.

Did you know Kennedy was the first president to cheat on his wife?
I leaned over to a mother looking at Who Was Millard Fillmore?  "You realize there'll be a Who Was Donald Trump book some day?"

She grabbed her kid and rushed out of the bookstore.  Score one for the revolution.

Sunday the 15th:
I headed to the science fiction section where I saw someone looking at signed copy of The Martian.  

OMG!  It was signed right here!
I leaned over to him.  "So, Andy Weir just signs his books to nobody in particular then leaves them on the shelves? Are you supposed fill in your own name so it can look like he signed it to you?"

The man laughed.  Disgruntled, I tried again.  "Is that his signature?"
"Who is Lry Zni?"
"What is that?  It looks like a drawing of two dinosaurs.  Or maybe a pair of baboons kissing.  Whatever it is, it certainly does not look like the words Andy and Weir.  You could probably save time by buying blank copies and drawing squiggles on the title pages yourself."

The man put the book down and, careful not to make eye contact, left the store.  Got suspicious look from man behind the counter.

Monday the 20th (President's Day - Part of my "Long Campaign of '17"):
I wandered over to the New Releases section, grabbed a book, and flipped to the last page.
Fournier is one of my top eight serif typefaces named after obscure engravers!
I held the book up to a teenager.  "What's with the 'About the type' sections?  Are there font buffs out there who buy books just for the explanations of the letters?  Is there someone out there who rips out all these sections and tapes them together to form whole books about type?  Is that like Silence of the Lambs for fonts?"

The teenager told the owner.  The owner told the police.  Am now in lockup and using my time for a "private call to a lawyer of my choice" to pen this account.

The war continues...

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Two Inches

Still the top stars.
When I was young, my family got Dynamite Magazine.  Dynamite was full of all the posters, fold outs, and tween pandering you'd expect from a kids magazine.  Nowadays teens have their internet, they can Tweet and Tumbl all they want, but nothing compares to the joy you got from seeing Shields and Yarnell on the cover.

Dynamite Magazine also had puzzles and toys to punch out and a page or two with drawing lessons.  Now, my artistic skills are weak, but they would have been stronger if I hadn't given up practicing when I was a kid.

Me, trying to draw my own hand.
I just never saw my work as good as my peers'.  For example, when asked to draw a picture of a monster, my classmates drew weird creatures with bone-shaped heads and extra legs.  I drew something I saw on Johnny Quest.

Remarkably, this looks an awful lot like my ex wife.
Shortly after I abandoned art, I saw a drawing page in Dynamite.  It described a world where the air was only two inches off the ground and instructed the reader to draw what the aliens on that world might look like.

I scoffed.  What would the aliens look like?  They'd look like any aliens who didn't need to breathe.   Or maybe wendigo-like monsters who could withstand the cold of being without an atmosphere.  Or very small creatures who lived within the atmosphere.

I enjoyed thinking about what I'd draw, but never had the confidence to draw it.  Every few years, I'd think back on that drawing task. This week, I tried to do it.

A large furry creature that has a trunk to get the air.
Tiny, bug-like creatures who live within the atmosphere.
I kind of like what I did.  Makes me think I should go back to an assignment I wish I'd done differently in grad school.

What do you think; should I make a catalog of cybernetic body enhancements?

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Winchester Mystery Rumor

The Winchester Mystery House is the spookiest old mansion in the country. 

If you're not familiar with the Winchester Mystery House, it has a spooky history.  It's a 161-room mansion built by Sarah Winchester, who inherited much of the Winchester Repeating Arms fortune.  She was a strong believer in spiritualism and was convinced by a medium that the ghosts of everyonekilled by Winchester rifles were out to get her.

The medium, who was married to a contractor, convinced Mrs. Winchester that the only way to evade their revenge was to build a house and keep adding on to it, and so she built like mad.  She didn't care what the house looked like and had her team of contractors build stairways that went nowhere, rooms without floors, windows blocked by other walls, and doors that opened up to open air. So she continued to build rooms on to the house until the day she died. 

Her story is a warning to people to not trust psychics.  It's a reminder that hucksters will take advantage of the credulous.  It's a sad tale about the treatment of the mentally ill.

It's also complete bullshit.

I recently went on the Winchester Mystery House tour and they took us to something called The Seance Room.  It was a room with secret doors she used to sneak away from pursuing ghosts.  While our guide showed us how she could sneak out through a hidden window, I asked how we knew the story about the medium was true.  Was there any documentation?

How do you know she was crazy? Count the coat hooks!
No, seriously, that's their evidence.
"It's not written anywhere," he said.  "It's a rumor."

I was floored.  The great, compelling story I'd been fascinated by, with all its curses and ghosts, was a fable created by newspapermen to generate sales.

The truth is, she just liked making rooms.
Yeah, but fun.
At first, she had an architect, but he quit after working with her on just one room (probably because she insisted on adding another candle to a chandelier so it had 13 candles, her favorite number).  After he left, she became her own architect, sketching what she wanted on a piece of paper and handing it to the workers.

The workers, meanwhile, were paid and treated very well.  She even installed extravagances (such as indoor plumbing, heating, and toilets) to make their lives easier.

In the end, it seems she used her wealth not in a terrified quest to avoid evil but in the eccentric fulfillment of what gave her joy.  She built for fun.

From the looks of it, she had more fun than anyone else.

Friday, February 3, 2017

My Addiction and Recovery

Leader: Who's next?

[I step onto the stage.]

Leader: And what's your name?

Me: Hi everybody.  My name is Matthew, and I'm an addict.

Leader: Really?  Well, now, what are-

Me: What are they?  I just got over a coke addiction.  Really a My Coke Rewards addiction.  I desperately saved rewards points hoping to get the big prizes.

Only it was a scam.  I'd save up almost enough, only to find they'd made them cost more.  I'd beg friends and family members for their codes.  I'd dig them out of the trash.  Sometimes I went so far as actually drinking Coke!

[The audience gasps in horror.]

Well, I finally kicked the habit.  Or, really, they cancelled my account because I hadn't logged in often enough.
I just threw all of these away.  It hurt.
Leader: How awful! Well, if that's all-

This circle should be all blue.
Me: I'm still addicted to arguing with strangers on Facebook.  It usually ends when someone insults me.  Then I respond with:
Insulting a stranger through the safety of the internet is the lowest form of cowardice.  I'm not sure if you got this way because of the sexual abuse you suffered at the hands of your parents or the men who pay you for sex, but it reflects badly on your character.  Whatever the cause, you are no longer worth my time.
Audience: That's hysterical, and I bet it shuts them up, too!

Me: I'm addicted to not finishing my novel.

Leader: That's not an addiction.

Me: Well, I've been working on my current novel for a couple of decades.  I keep rewriting it because it's awful.

My last novel
Leader: Well, maybe you should try working on it right now.

Me: If you think so.

[I leave the kindergarten auditorium.]

Leader: Okay, back to the school talent show.  Next up Mitzi and Craig singing I'm a Little Teapot!  Give them a big hand...

Thursday, January 26, 2017

GDC Gift Poll 2017

Every year since 1997, I've gone to the Game Developer's Conference.  I hang out with game people, have game conversations, and go to game talks.  I also get the spokes-models to take ridiculous pictures with me.  Mostly I collect all the weird, random things the companies are giving away.

Two years ago, I decided I'd start giving things away, too.

I stocked up on tiny stuffed animals and handed a few out.  Then a few more.  I gave away almost a hundred, having to make several runs to the local party store to get enough.

The next year, I went with PlaDoh.  At first, I thought it would be a huge flop.  It wasn't.  Let me tell you, there's nothing like handing someone you respect a jar of PlaDoh and having her face light up.  Again, I had to run to the store to buy more.

This year, I'd like to give away something again.  I'd like your help choosing.  Here's what I've got so far:

Silly Putty
This was the runner-up from last year.  I never got into it as a kid and had to look up what it did, exactly. Seems it bounces, oozes, and cracks.  It also picks up newsprint, but who has a newspaper anymore?

Party Poppers
Advantage: Big enough to put my name and number on them.
Disadvantage: Sounds like the beginning of a mass shooting.

Stuffed Dinosaurs or PlaDoh
Because I'm not all that original.

Spirit Levels
Not much fun, but I am going to a video game conference.  When I meet people, I could say "Hey, you met me!  That's an achievement.  Here, gained a level."

Ha.  Ha.  Ha.

Or just suggest something.  I'm game.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Inauguration 2017

When I was in sixth grade, I noticed some kids were part of a secret conspiracy.  During reading groups, they'd sneak away and return an hour later without any explanation.  I made a list of what they might be doing:

  • Cow tipping
  • Tractor pull
  • Sowing corn

You know, the usual stuff kids do when they live in East Central Illinois.  I read the list over and scratched out "Cow tipping."  There weren't any cows nearby.

After a while, I realized they had treasure when they came back.  They had hard candy.  I scratched out my previous list and wrote a new one:

  • Pick-pocketing
  • Beating up kids for their lunch money
  • Reading to the blind elderly in nursing homes.

You know, the usual stuff kids do in East Central Illinois.

It occurred to me that I could just ask where they were going.  However, I sported a terrible haircut and coke-bottle glasses, and as I was into computers, science fiction, and Dungeons and Dragons. Asking was likely to get me beaten up during recess.  Kids like me weren't allowed to talk to kids like them.

You know them: the ones who were praised for picking on kids like you.  The bullies.

One day the teacher mentioned a special reading group, and it all clicked into place.  These kids who picked on me, ridiculed me, hit me were all smarter than I was.  They went off to do advanced reading while the rest of us toiled away in our ignorance.

I decided to get into that class.  Once, my teacher noticed I'd skipped ahead in the math book and done some beginning algebra exercises (variables, easy for anyone who'd programmed), and she'd put me in the advanced math group.  I'd try that again.

But nothing seemed to work.  Not reading out loud.  Not correcting other kids when they mispronounced a word.  Not reading extra books.  I got nothing out of it (although I did get approved for additional bullying at recess).

Finally, I approached my teacher.  "I think I should be in the special reading group."

She picked her words carefully.  "I don't think you qualify."

I didn't give up.  There was free candy at stake.  Free candy your parents couldn't stop you from eating.

I fell back on the last refuge of the overly-pampered: I nagged.  I wheedled.  I begged.

Eventually, my teacher agreed to let me try out.  I was taken to the band room and given an article to read aloud.  It was about wooly mammoths and, as a lover of dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals, I plowed through it.  They asked me a few questions about the material, which I answered easily.

"That was thirteenth reading level," they said.

I smiled, proud of myself.

"You don't need to be in this class."

The smile fell.  They noticed my disappointment.

"Why do you want to be in a remedial reading course?"

These kids weren't sneaking out for advanced reading.  They were sneaking out for regressed reading.  The unfairness overwhelmed me.  They were worse at something than me, but were rewarded for it.

And the world clicked into place.  We reward those who are below average.  It rankles to this day.  Actually, it rankles more this day in particular.

Why?  Because we just made Donald Trump president.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Lily's Litter Litany: An Appraisal of Toilet Technologies

Lily is a white, ragdoll cat living in Northern California.  One of her owners calls her "Princess Lilykins," which causes her other owner to run into the bathroom and make noises like he's coughing up a hairball.  Lily's hobbies include sticking her wet nose in people's exposed skin and eating revolting things off the floor.

Hello cats of every breed!  I'm Lily!

It's time again for my annual review of the current toilet choices available to today's feline.  Let's get started, shall we?  First up is...

The Floor

Nothing beats the floor.  It's smooth, accessible, and annoys the fuck out of your owner when you go there.

Now, sometimes my owners try to make the floor inaccessible by taping aluminum foil down to make it feel wrong or stacking boxes along the walls so there isn't enough room.  If this happens, you may have to resort to...

Laundry Baskets

If I have to pee, I love the convenience of a laundry basket.  These are always lying invitingly around by the washer.  

I've used three varieties:
  • The Low Basket
    Old reliable.  Easy to get over the sides.  Plenty of white space to make into yellow space.
  • The Medium Basket
    I'd just gotten into a routine of taking a leak in the low basket, when they were replaced with these medium baskets.  Much higher sides.  Much narrower bottom.  It was quite a challenge to go in
  • The High Basket
    As you can see, this is the basket with the highest sides and the smallest space at the bottom.  I'm still trying to take a leak in it.  I'll let you know when I manage.  Really, my owner will let you know (there'll be a lot of shouting).

Let's go to the worst-case scenario: the floor is inaccessible and there's isn't any laundry being done?  You might have to actually use the litterbox.  Horrible, I know!  Even though my owner scoops it several times a day and dumps out the whole thing every week, I'd go just about anywhere else (and I have)!

Still, sometimes you have to do the disgusting.

Some other things I've had to use include...

Storage Box

Sometimes, after you've shat on the floor a million times, your owners try something new.  A different litter.  "De-stressing" hormone sprays.  Screaming really loud in your face.  One time, my owners bought the largest storage box they could find and filled it with litter.

I used it twice.

Then my owners got really desperate.  They bought...

The Automatic Litter Box

These are a great malfunction-prone, expensive alternative to the boring one made of plastic that works for every other cat in the known universe.

I like it.  It's fun to watch.  When you're done watching it go around and around, you can poop on the floor.


And again.

And again.

Thanks for reading!  See you next week, if my owner hasn't followed through on his threat on what he'd do if I pooped on the floor again!

Friday, January 6, 2017

Blogger's Block

There four major problems with being a blogger:

  • Nobody reads blogs anymore
  • Nobody reads blogs anymore
  • Nobody reads blogs anymore
  • "Blog" is a pretty awful word

In an attempt to track the first three problems, I looked into my search terms.  If you haven't paid attention to my  previous  search  terms  posts, then you're not my mother, and why are you reading my blog?

Seems Google, in their continuing struggle to protect me from easy material for my blog, stopped collecting the words people used to find my blog.  All I was left with a list of my most popular posts this week:
Wait, what?
Yeah, one of my most popular posts was from nearly five years ago.  If you're one of all both my readers, you know that, a few years back, I got desperate and started naming posts to grab attention. I never expected it would work.  

It certainly wouldn't have worked for five years.

No way.

Something must have happened recently to cause people to search for her.

I looked at my stats for my entire blogging "career."
Aaaand shit.

Number one has pictures of video game characters having sex.

Number two is a post claiming I have naked pictures of someone I don't have.

Number six is a post claiming I have naked pictures of someone I don't have.

Number seven is a post claiming I have...

Well, you get the idea.

Next week I'm posting naked photos of Alessandro Ambrosio.  I totally have nudes of her.

Thanks for summing this whole blog, Alessandro.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Tombstone My Wife Predicts

On the positive side, I don't have to drive for a while.