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This work by Matthew Kagle is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

7 Emoticons the Internet Really Needs

Emoticons have been around since the dawn of the internet and probably longer.  Since then, they have multiplied and evolved with blistering speed.  Emoticons exist for every possible emotional state, flag, sports team, and every pet; there are hidden emoticons and even a secret sexual meaning for each emoticon.

"Bring lubricant next time."
However, even with the wide variety of emoticons out there, many common emotions and thoughts aren't represented.  I have attempted to fulfill that need, with helpful pictures (in case graphic artists want to convert them into real emoticons).

So, without further ado:

You're a science-fearing moron.
Your deeply-held beliefs offend me.
I only agree with you because you're hot.
You're terribly wrong, but I'm sick and tired of finding research that proves you wrong.
I'm desperate for more attention.
Send me nude pictures.
The age disparity in your relationship disturbs me.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Morning Bad Webcomics Routine

Every morning I get up (i.e. hide in bed with a web browser), and check my usual websites.  

I check the New York Times for News.  I check CNN for Sensationalist Hype That Looks Like News.  I check Facebook because I'm an old fart.  I check DOMAI, because I'm a dirty old fart.  I check my book's page on Amazon because I'm a narcissist.  I check Twitter to remind myself that everyone else is a narcissist, too.

Then I check a small set of webcomics that I really don't know why I check anymore.  Some men can't explain to their wives why they don't throw out their "little black book" after they stopped dating or stop following the Cubs after their last winning game in 1870.  I can't explain to my wife why I don't stop checking these comics since they stopped being funny.

Maybe you can explain it to her.  Here's what I read (in the order I read it):

PVP was once one of the funniest comics I'd ever read.  It was about a bizarre bunch of journalists and their adventures covering the game industry.  Everything that happened to them was hysterical.

Then, sometime around 2006, something went wrong.  I really can't tell you what.  The story became about the characters who became boring.  More characters were added, but they were just as uninspired and flat.
Now, I just check the comic, but I never laugh.  I just, sorta, sigh and remember when it made me laugh... Back in 2001.

Sinfest started as a wildly offensive comic.  God ridiculed people with hand puppets.  Satan tempted men with sexy demons and robot slave girls.  It featured a sexist boy and the (vapid) hot girl he pined for.  Sinfest had always been a guilty pleasure, allowing me to laugh in secret at things I'd disdain in public.

Then, one day, the creator found feminism.  Don't get me wrong, feminism is a wonderful thing, it's just not... Sinfest.  Suddenly, a group of feminists on big wheels rushed through the comic, dominating the strip, criticizing the characters and forcing them to become enlightened.  The hot girl became the dull,androgynous, feminist girl.  Satan's sex robots went on a rampage against him.  

In short, every single comic became about fighting the patriarchy.  Every. Single. One.

And there's only so often you can tell the same joke.

I still check Calvin and Hobbes.  However, the creator hasn't created a new strip in 20 years, so it's starting to get... Old.

Bloom County was the first strip I loved.  It was the first comic I bought in book form.  It's also the first comic I said "Wow, it's just not funny anymore" about.  Maybe Gary Hart and Dan Quayle jokes just don't hit home.  Maybe Opus was funny in the 80s, but in the (What do we call this decade?  The teenies?  The 10s?) current decade, he seems kinda pathetic.

I came across this comic by chance and used to use it as an example to my class about how practice makes your art go from mediocre to awesome.  Seriously: check out his first comic and his most recent.  All that improvement came from drawing a little every night.

QC used to be about sexual tension and silly situations (and the occasional obscure joke about music I didn't get).  Then sexual tension disappeared.  The characters mindlessly followed their dead-end jobs and repeated the same situations over and over.

So, those are my comics.  What do you think?  Should I drop them?  Hope they'll change?

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

I Don't Know Any Sluts

"Let's hear it for the girls who love sex without being sluts!"

The sentence above was posted by someone I knew on Facebook.  After reading it, I was shocked into a revelation: I don't know any sluts.

Now, I know women who have had many sexual partners.  I know women who enjoy sex (and talk about it).  I know women who have been confused about relationships and ended them badly.

But I don't know any sluts.

I know women who have tried to fit the cultural ideal of the "good girl" and failed at it.  I know women who have left unhappy relationships and marriages and been badmouthed by their exes.  I know girls who have been confused by the mixed messages from our society: be pretty but not sexy, be pure but available, wait but don't wait too long.

But I don't know any sluts.

I know men who are so frustrated by their sexual needs they take those frustrations out on women.  I know boys who are immature and confused, so they become insulting to girls.  I know men who see women as interchangeable objects who play games with men's emotions instead of people who are just as confused and frustrated as they are.

I guess, while I don't know any sluts, I do know misogynists.  Or, I did.  I don't want to know them anymore.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Penultimate Pinhole Post

A couple weeks ago, my first novel Pinhole turned a year old.  I'd like this to be my last blog post about it, but I'll probably do another when I finish editing the audiobook.  And another when I sell the rights for a bajillion dollars.

So, just one more.

Anyway, for my next-to-last post, some things about Pinhole I haven't written about...

It's Top 100s, All The Way Down
My book has been on the Amazon Top 100 Lists the whole year, but there are several of them.  First, it was on the Science Fiction top 100.  Then it fell off the list... And onto the Hard Science Fiction top 100.  Then it dropped off to the Time Travel top 100.  And then it dropped off that to the Books/Time Travel top 100.
I've been hoping it would finally drop off completely, but it keeps inching back up, clinging to that last list like a frat boy to a keg.  I keep checking, but nothing changes.  Even the reviews have stopped rolling in.

Speaking of reviews...

The Good Reviewer/Bad Reviewer Routine
After a while, I noticed a strange pattern to my reviews.  Namely, they alternated good and bad.  A sampling:

***** "This is an awesome book!  It's like a puzzle!"

** "I'm a moron and I didn't get it!"

**** "Every thinking reader will love this book!"

** "Oh yeah? I think and read it.  Some of it.  Well, I didn't read all the words.  Just the short ones..."

***** "Well, your mother and I loved it."

* "Dad, leave me alone!  I can hate a book if I want!"

**** "Honey, don't be mad just because you still live in our basement."

** "Moooom!  I'm trying to review a book!!"

The other pattern was that people who hated the book complained it was too hard to follow and the rest "got" it.  I joke that my book is an IQ test, but I really think it is.  And, of all the people who took my test, This Guy:
totally failed.

This Guy, whose review boils down to "I didn't finish it because I'm a moron who smells funny and eats his own boogers", shows on every search for Pinhole.  He's the reviewer equivalent of a recurring case of herpes: always ruining your self-esteem when you need it the most.

Speaking of searches...

Wacky Search Results
There seems to be a cottage industry in making websites with the blurb for my novel on them.  Seriously, search "pinhole kagle" and scroll down a few pages.  Pinhole and skin tag removalPinhole and Pakistan.  Dozens and dozens of these little, identical pages copied from Amazon.

Speaking of Amazon...

The Check Is Not In the Mail
I was really looking forward to getting a check from Amazon and putting it on the wall as my first paid writing gig.  However, Amazon just sent it to my bank.  Sigh.  Kinda depressing to frame and hang an email listing the number of a direct deposit transaction.

Speaking of my...  Uh...  Wall, which could have a bottle of Jack Daniels near it...

I Need Controversy
A little while ago, I read this story about a guy who got a very nice "cease and desist letter" from Jack Daniels because the cover of his novel resembled their label too closely.  He marveled at how, after selling four thousand copies of his novel in the ensuing publicity blitz, he only made twelve thousand dollars.
After reading the article I thought: Hey!  I sold that many!  Imagine how much I'd sell if I can get a cease and desist!

My next novel will be called Pinhole and Johnnie Walker.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

After 8 Years, My Game Is Done

In development, there's something called the Second-System Effect.  Essentially, SSE means the second thing you build will be hugely more complicated and time-consuming than the first.  I am living proof of SSE, as I have just finished my second game, and it took me eight years to finish.

"But it's just a text adventure with a two-word parser!" you say.  "You did it in Flash!  How could it have taken you that long?"

Well, I'm glad you asked.  See, way back in the ancient mists of time (2006), I lived in Chicago.  My son was two years old, and I taught at the Illinois Institute of Art.  I'm actually quite a good teacher, much to my own surprise, but I had one absolutely horrible class.  I'd like to be able to blame the bad class on my students, who insisted on no homework, but I screwed it up.

I wanted them to work with very simple tools to reinforce basic level design theory (and understand the pain I went through making levels in Python).  There really weren't many good tools in 2006, so I built a text adventure generator in Flash.

Even with the tutorial I wrote.  Even with the sample adventure I made to show them how it worked.  Even when I made the assignment pass/fail.  Even when I devoted a whole class to how to do it, most of them decided to skip the assignment and fail the class.

As I said, they hated it, but I thought it was great and wanted to do something cool with it.  I took an old idea (a world which changed slowly as you played and a beginning like Chamber of the Sci-Mutant Priestess) and began to code.

Then here were a few complications that slowed me down:

We moved back to the SF Bay Area.
We had another baby.
My pet died.
I worked on another game.
I got a job.
I started work on ANOTHER game.
I published a novel.
But of all the problems and slow-down, the biggest one was quality assurance.  Someone needed to test my game, but not just any someone.  I had tons of people try to test my game, but give up in frustration.  Text adventures are a lost art form that nobody gets.  I had to find someone who would sit with me and get it.

After two years of just sitting around on my laptop, my friend Patrick Goodspeed agreed to help.  He took the train down to my house and sat with me for hours playing through the first half of my game.  His help was invaluable, and all it cost me was lunch.  Suddenly, I had pages of bug fixes and suggestions to work through.  After a couple months, I finished and asked him to come down to test again.

But Patrick was having troubles.  After more than 40 years, he was being evicted from his rent-controlled apartment.  He fought in court, but lost.  Still, in the midst of all that turmoil, Patrick managed to find another free day to finish my game.

And here it is.

Ten rooms.  Five objects.  Three monsters.  Infinite worlds. Flux Warden

And here's my "games page" which also has links to the walkthrough.  Trust me, you'll need it.

Also, if anyone has an apartment in the East Bay, please let me know.  Patrick is looking to rent a room.  He's honest, and hardworking, and quiet, and can fix any computer you put in front of him.

As for me, I'm looking for a new game to make.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

GDC 2014 Booth Babes

I was planning on writing, as I do each year, about my amazing experiences at the Game Developer's Conference.  I was going to talk about the celebrities who came up to me to talk about my work, the expensive free gifts (A gold brick?  Seriously?  Uh, okay.) we all got, and the multimillion dollar business arrangements I made with captains of industry.

But, let's face it, you just want to hear about the booth babes.

Ladies, can't you see how uncomfortable you're making me?
For the uninitiated, "booth babes" is the term for spokesmodels who wear costumes and work the show floor.  I've always had a problem with GDC's spokesmodels because they won't keep their hands off me.

You can tell the blonde is hitting on me because she said "Don't come near me."
Ladies, I understand it's hard.  You see a hunky game-developer guy and think "I will not stop until he's mine," but show some restraint.  I'm not just some piece of meat.  I'm a person.  An incredibly handsome, brilliant, funny person with washboard abs.  Still, a person.

This hot number kept asking me to hold her hand(le) and talk about "rockets."
Perhaps next year I won't wear deodorant so they'll keep away.  Oh, no, wait, I did that this year.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

I Fucking Love Humans

In case you haven't heard, I Fucking Love Science is making a jump from Facebook to television show, following in the footsteps of the Twitter account Shit My Dad Says.  For those of you who don't follow IFLS, it's the creation (pun intended) of science student Elise Andrew who posts pictures like these:

Since I've followed her for a couple years now, I've decided to rip off legally parody her work on my new Facebook group: I Fucking Love Humans.  Every day, I will post fascinating pictures about the fascinating lifestyles of those most fascinating creatures: humans (fascinating).

Some examples:

For our cosplayer friends (of which I have none):

And for those of us who went to school in Wisconsin:

I expect to start my Facebook account three weeks after I get the cease and desist letter from Ms. Andrew.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

What Kind of Harry Potter Wizard Are You?

I've decided to do a quiz this week on I Can Write Funny.  Having read the Harry Potter books out loud dozens and dozens of times, I figure I have a better handle on the character types than even JK Rowling.

So, without further ado, here's a quiz that tells you what kind of Harry Potter Wizard you'd be.  I not only have no magical ability, but I've also no programming ability, so record your answers separately and check them against the results below.

Question 1: What is your patronus?
A: Dog, cat, or other mammal.
B: Bird, fish, or other animal.
C: What the f-k is a patronus?
D: Don't you dare patronize me!

Question 2: Have you ever had a pet owl?
A: No.
B: No, but I bet it would be awesome!
C: Do you know where I could get a pet owl?  Is it legal?
D: Yes.  Also, I'm a big, fat liar.

Question 3: Lord Voldemort charges at you, wand raised!  Do you...
A: Cast expelliarmus on him.
B: Kneel and pledge your allegiance.
C: Swear off those killer 'shrooms your buddy gave you.
D: Offer him BreatheRight Strips for that awful snoring problem he must have.  I mean, seriously, look at those nostrils!  He must have sleep apnea.

Question 4: What house would you be sorted into?
A: Gryffindor - I'm brave.
B: Slytherin - I'm a jackass.
C: Hufflepuff - I'm a loser.
D: Ravenclaw - Er, what are Ravenclaws, again?  Good at cooking?

Question 5: When I look in the Mirror of Erised, I see...
A: My family, alive and not judging me for reading children's literature all the time.
B: Kate Upton in a bikini holding beer and pizza.
C: Adam Levine in a Speedo, holding chocolate and wine.
D: Adam Levine and Kate Upton holding lint rollers in a bathtub filled with blueberry yogurt and Goldfish crackers and didn't you read answer A?  I said don't judge me!

Great!  Now check your answers against the results below:

If you answered mostly A: You are a squib!
Congratulations, you are one of the very rare people born with no magical ability.  Sure, you may know about the world of wizards and witches, but you'll never be a real part of it.  If you're lucky, you might be allowed to sweep up old castles or raise cats... But, let's face it, if you were lucky you wouldn't be a squib.

If you answered mostly B: You are a muggle!
You are one of those completely non-magical people who never get involved in the wizarding world.  Maybe you'll wander into a wizard camp-out, be abused and ridiculed,then have your memory erased, but that's it.

If you answered mostly C: You are a muggle who wants to be magical!
Not only are you unable to perform magic, something that will never, ever change, but you're upset about that.  The best hope you have for a normal life is to marry somebody who owns a drill company and abuse any wizard children you can.

If you answered mostly D: You are a person with no magical ability!

Congratulations, you're... Oh, right, you're normal, just like everyone else.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Bee Problems

I've been seeing a lot of worry about the loss of the European honey bees.  For those of you who may have missed it, Colony Collapse Disorder (or CCD) is a strange phenomenon where all the worker bees in a hive suddenly disappear.  Nobody knows exactly where the workers go.
Although a lot of workers I know go to bars, so try there.
There's been a lot of uproar about missing bees, partly because so many of American food crops are pollinated by European honey bees, but mostly because people want to blame some technology or another for the problem.  In spite of the fact that CCD has been around for hundreds of years, people have blamed:

Yes, I am trying to fit as many links into this blog as I can.

Seems everyone wants to blame their pet peeve for CCD.  Don't believe me?  Here's an unrelated sexual economics video that, for no good reason, throws in an unproven theory about what's causing CCD:

I don't claim to be an expert on CCD or the economics of sex (Scratch that. I do know a heck of a lot about sex.).  However, I did design a beehive video game, so I qualify as an expert in bees.  Here's a couple of things you should know about the buggers:

European honey bees are an invasive species.
The word "European" is right there in the front!  Native Americans used to call them "white man's flies."  While there are 4000 varieties of Native American bees that are doing fine, we're only cultivating the European ones.  Why is that a problem?  When you cultivate a single, invasive species you get a susceptiblity to diseases. 

Remember the Irish Potato Famines?  Potatoes were invasive to Ireland and were suddenly wiped out by potato blight.

Remember Gros Michel bananas?  They were wiped out by the Panama disease.

If we want to save our pollinators, we should diversify.

Bee hives are portable.
A while ago, I was reading about seedless grapes.  See, people like seedless grapes more, so they cost more.  How do you grow a seedless grape?  You just don't pollinate them, which becomes a problem when the neighboring farm hires a beekeeper to visit by with his hives.
Yes, that's a truck full of bees.
See, beekeepers drive their hives around to farms so their bees can pollinate the crops.  It's great for most farmers, but it screws up the plans of seedless grape growers (bees are notoriously bad at reading the signs, even if they say "DON'T POLLINATE MY GRAPES!").

So, if we want to keep our plants pollinated, we could just start driving them around more.

In short, I'm not too concerned with CCD.  Are you?

Friday, February 21, 2014

MPAA Ratings Are Insane

I hate ratings systems.  They promote censorship ("Ban all {films, television, games} with a certain rating!" is a cry you hear often) and they're too vague to be helpful to parents. I also have proof that the people who make ratings are categorically insane.

The image above is an MPAA poster describing their rating system for movies.  It came out many years ago, when they had just invented the NC-17 rating and thought they needed to explain them to audiences.

Let's take a closer look at it, shall we?
It starts with the G rated movies.  As you can see, the MPAA is suggesting people bring their giraffes to a movie.  Personally, I'd hate to be sitting behind a giraffe in a movie, but the point is the MPAA thinks it's okay.

I want you to pay close attention to the rabbit.  Why is a rabbit in a movie?  Probably the same reason there's a giraffe.

Moving on to PG.  The kids are gone, except for the two that are going with their family.  The giraffe is gone as well.  Giraffes only live about 20 years in the wild, so most are too young to go to PG movies alone without a chaperone.  Perhaps the MPAA is trying to make a statement about the fleeting nature of life in the wilderness.

The rabbit, on the other hand, is still at the movies, right next to the kid who is too small to be seeing something shown onscreen.  See? The MPAA is saying.  You can take your rabbit to a PG movie, but cover your daughter's eyes at some parts.  Perhaps the rabbit is older than the kid?

And we're at PG-13, the rating they invented because the word "blockbuster/tentpole that you'll end up seeing no matter what the rating is" was too obvious.  Notice the only people watching it are the family (now half covering the other kids' eyes) and some creepy guy in a bowtie.

Obviously, the rabbit is old enough to see a PG-13 movie, but not old enough to see all of it.  How does the daughter know to cover the rabbit's eyes when her own eyes are covered?  Ask the MPAA.  No, really, ask them.  I want them flooded with letters about this issue.

R rating.  The two parents have ditched the kids (and the rabbit) and have changed their clothes (probably a date night).

The NC-17 rating, which the MPAA created for artsy movies that have some nudity but never make any money.  The married couple is still there on a date although, for it truly to be an NC-17 movie, they should be looking bored and disappointed.

And the rabbit is back.  The rabbit, who is too young to to go to an R-rated movie or see a PG-13 movie without an adult is at an NC-17 film alone. And he's wearing a disguise.  That's right, the MPAA put out a guide to film ratings that suggests underage rabbits should sneak into disappointing, pornographic art films.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why the people who make ratings systems are insane.