Friday, August 30, 2013

Well, it's Friday...

The problem with deciding to cut back posting on your blog to once a week from five times a week is there’s a lot of pressure to do something awesome on that one, weekly post.  So, here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

See, “Gamification” is a term we use to describe taking mundane tasks and turning them into games to improve productivity and work enjoyment.  And I always thought it was pronounced “Gamma-fication” which is something that happens in comic books.
Get it?
Yeah.  Me neither.
I’ve got stored up ideas and even some written pieces I could polish up and put here but, honestly, none of them are all that funny.  So, we’re back to the original purpose for writing a blog: I need to learn to be funny in my writing.  As Tom Lehrer said, nothing is funny anymore.

Yes, I’m comparing myself to Tom Lehrer.  I’m funnier than he ever was.  While I’m at it, I’ll compare myself to Jesus.  I have better hair.  Seriously, who wears a beard?  Didn’t Queer Eye for the Straight Guy put the nail in the coffin of facial hair?
Ooh, that’s a good one.  Facial hair coffin:

This is the closest thing I could find to "furry coffin" on Google images.
Okay, never mind.  See you next week.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Every Woman Deserves...

I gots to tell ya, havin' 3 daze off does wonders 4 your relaxation.  Also yer grammer.

In all the time I've had free this week, not having to worry about blogging every day, I've done...  Well, okay, I haven't done much.  Okay, I haven't done anything, but I feel like I'll get going on my big ass to do list (currently 8 single-spaced pages long) any moment now.

With all this free time, I decided to make my weekly blog post even funnier than usual.  Then I decided to phone it in.  Meme Breaker time!



I had to run this through the MB2k three times because the first two results were blazingly sexist.  Here's the third pass:

 

And just think, that only took me one week to do!

Monday, August 19, 2013

And So It Ends…

A few years ago, I typed “how can I get more people to come to my blog” into my search engine (no, not that one).  The results were pretty pathetic, but a useful piece of advice stood out: “How often do you update your blog?  Once a week?  Three times?  Try every day.

I took it to heart.  After all, I was trying to use my blog to increase my writing skills, and I wanted to get an audience for my writing.  So, after a shaky start, I set to work cranking out something funny every weekday.  My readership did go up, at first, but then it stalled.  Eventually, I resorted to different tactics.  I used more popular search terms for my post titles.  I claimed to have nude pictures of famous actresses.  I gave away hundreds of dollars in cash to my readers.
Nothing.  Every morning I’d wake up to this.

Wow, 49 hits.  I only spent an hour on it.
Not that I didn’t have times when I was getting lots of traffic.  It’s just that, over time, everyone seems to have gotten sick and tired of me. 
That sound you hear is everyone ignoring me.
 
Then I noticed a website that offered to send you money in exchange for promoting their products, all you needed was a hundred hits a day.  A hundred hits?!
I had to accept the truth.  I’m not Dooce.  I’m not the Bloggess.  I’m not even any of those moronic stars who post boring entries. 

Frankly, the blog was holding me back.  It was always my first priority in the day, and I never seemed to find time to finish:

·         Flux Warden

·         Pinhole the audiobook

·         A Thousand Secret Sorrows

·         Figuring out a new title for A Thousand Secret Sorrows

·         Pabeles

·         Grading

·         Running the Silicon Valley IGDA

·         Maid Max Cleans Up Haunted House Hill

·         Figuring out where I lost my children

·         Publish short stories

·         Finding out if that woman who sleeps next to me is really my wife

·         Learning how to program

·         Learning how to draw
So I’m cutting back on my blog writing.  From now on, I’ll be posting once a week or every time something pisses me off enough to write about it (five days a week, most likely).  I know that breaks the heart of all both of you (hi mom!), but I know you’ll move on somehow.
No, no.  Don’t cry.  Just go.  Be strong.

Or, you know, find a couple thousand friends who will start frickin’ visiting my page.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Just Fired

I stopped off at Starbucks on my way to work last night (I have to be either stoned, drunk, or high on caffeine to make it through teaching until 10:30 at night).  In the parking lot, I saw this car:

It says "Just Fired."
That's right, it's a car decorated with streamers and the words Just Fired.  I don't have anything humorous to say about a car dressed up like a honeymoonmobile for the soon-to-be destitute.  I do have some questions.

Is the owner really happy about being fired? 
I mean, did this person want to quit, but really preferred to get fired, so acted incompetent until he or she was finally let go?

Is the owner really unhappy about being fired?
Is the sign an attempt to cheer himself or herself up?  This seems more likely and, certainly, more sad.

However, if I ever get employees, and get to the point where I need to fire one, I know how I'm going to break the news.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

John Carmack Has Grey in His Beard

 
Last month I went on vacation and forgot my razor.  Instead of buying a new razor, I decided to let my beard grow out for a week.

 


After a few days, I noticed I had grey in my beard.  It was a bit of a shock.  While I’ve had a few grey hairs on my head for years, I never saw them because I’m blonde.  Blonde-ish.  Whatever, I’m gorgeous and you can’t tell if those hairs are grey or yellow (unless you’re my wife and in a bad mood).

While I was on vacation, I did some grading for my Intro to Game Development class.  The first assignment I give is to write the biography of a “game god” and one of my students wrote about John Carmack.

I’ve read dozens of Carmack bios over the years, but in a post-greybeard depression, I was struck by the fact that we were both born in 1970 and both had sons in 2004.  In the same time period, Carmack almost single-handedly revolutionized the industry and I…  Well, what had I done?

I drew up a comparison chart of our two lives.
 

Year
Me
Carmack
1970
Born in May
Can’t manage to be born until August
1984
Gave up on trying to program BASIC on the Osbourne computer
Arrested for attempting to steal Apple II computer
1988
Went to Beloit College (known for all sorts of amazing stuff, according to my alumni newsletter)
Went to University of Missouri (known for nothing, I guess, since they send me no newsletters)
1989
Gave up on trying to program Pascal after taking an intro class
Dropped out to be a programmer
1990
Breaks up with crazy ex-girlfriend for woman he will marry in 1994
Joins Softdisk.  Creates Commander Keen games. Doesn’t marry anyone
1991
Realizes he’s about to graduate college without any marketable skills. Convinces parents to send him to graduate school at Carnegie Mellon University
Founds id Software, can’t figure out how to capitalize name of company
1993
Graduates with Master’s degree.  Spends six months looking for a job
Creates Doom, which makes 8 million people motion sick in its first three months
1996
Is served with divorce papers
Creates Quake, which is only groundbreaking because it allows dorks to make movies of themselves playing games (Machinma)
2000
Finally gets and has to leave game job
Finally gets married
2001
Married (for good this time)
Forms Armadillo Aerospace, which wins the coveted “dumbest name for a space exploration company” award
2004
First son, starts teaching
First son, doesn’t start teaching
2007
Second son
Can’t make second child
2012
Wrote a book
Yet another stupid Doom game which sells millions of copies

And suddenly I’m not so depressed anymore!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

OMG!

I've made no secret of the fact that I'm not scared of GMOs in our food supply.  However, I am nervous about the proven dangers in what we eat.  Sugar, fat, and cholesterol have all been showing up increasingly in our diet.  In addition, there's one extra danger that people don't seem to be aware that food producers are using in increasingly unsafe amounts.

Need a hint?  Here's something I noticed on my box of cereal this morning:

Don't see it?  Let me zoom it for you:

Even boxes are nervous about how much salt we ingest these days.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Movie Doctor: Elysium


The Movie Doctor is a recurring piece I write about what I would do to fix problematic movies.  Of course, nobody asks me to fix their movies, but that's their loss.

*sniff*

Note: the Movie Doctor assumes you've already seen the film.

Patient: Elysium
Elysium is a movie about poverty and death.  In the movie, there are two worlds, the world of Earth, where the poor die from lack of adequate healthcare, and the space station Elysium, where the rich all have their own magical tanning beds (hereafter called MTBs) that do the opposite of real tanning beds by curing cancer.  The rich spend a lot of time and effort keeping the poor from getting access to the MTBs.
Diagnosis: Monster in the Mirror Syndrome

Symptoms: As I tell my students, nobody wakes up and says: "I think I'll do something eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeevil today!"  Try saying that out loud in a silly voice; you're certain to get a laugh (and free antipsychotic meds).  The point is, everyone thinks they are a good person, even if they do bad things.

The bad guys in Elysium are the rich.  They barely see the poor as human and hardly care about killing defenseless children if it will keep them away from their MTBs.  In one scene, the main character gets terminally injured and the rich factory owner is more worried about having to clean up after him than seeing him helped.

The result is the antagonists in Elysium seem silly and their motivations hazy or insane.

Treatment: Elysium needs to show the rich antagonists acting like the rich do in the real world.  They should be shown saying how they care about the poor, they just think they're doing the best they can to help, what with the poor being so lazy and the world being the way it is.

I suggest the following changes:
  1. Have the rich factory owner meet with the main character after the accident.  He should offer his condolences and then try to pay him to sign something saying he won't sue the company.  He signs the paper, but is furious.
  2. When they attack the rich guy's ship, they should have another confrontation where the rich guy says "but I tried to help you!" before they rip the memories out of his head.
  3. The head bad guy (Jodie Foster) should spout some of the modern arguments against socialized medicine.  "Hey," she should say, "we gave you all MTBs!  You burned them out in a year because you used them so much.  We have a waiting list to use the ones we have up here.  Anyone can get on the list, even though it's a three years' wait.  And, if you weren't so lazy, you'd be rich and up here with us."
That'll be $20 copay.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Microsoft Windows Honesty

I was thinking what Windows would be like if Microsoft had decided to be honest about how they named the different parts of it.

Shut Down



Search programs and files



Task Manager

Friday, August 9, 2013

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Commander Adama's Word Processor


Way back in the mist[s of time], or 1987, ABC tried to cash in on the Star Wars phenomena.

Battlestar Galactica was a show about Mormons as if they were in space. Okay, let it [let's] get to the point. Commander a [Adama], had a word processor. It was pretty damn awesome. He would speak into a microphone, and words would appear on his computer screen.
What was really really cool was it somehow knew how to spell everything. In 1 episode he spoke to it about a man named count the bleep [Count Iblis]. How did it know how to spell count the bleak [Count Iblis]?

Way back in the mists of time, or 1995 I asked my brother [who worked at Microsoft] about Microsoft Word. Word had just introduced a spelling checker feature where it would underline misspelled words in rat [red].

["]This is awesome[,"] I told him. ["]Buck [But] where is it going to go from here?["]

He said ["W]we won't stop till its just like [C]commander a dumb laws [Adama's] word processor.["]
Way back in the mists of time, or 2008, Ray Kurzweil spoke at the [G]game [D]developer's [C}conference. Kurzweil made his living by predicting the future. One piece of technology he predicted was shown on stage[;] as I watched he took a picture of a page with his phone and then the phone read that page to the audience. I was floored.

Way back of [in]... Well, it's today. I am NOT writing this blog. I am just talking into my phone. It is writing the blog as I say it. Any mistakes I have left in, fixes are in brackets [as if you haven't guessed yet]. I am under a DOMA [Commander Adama].

How awesome is technology?

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Sharknado Sequel

I have never seen Sharknado, nor do I feel the need to see it.  However, I can admire the sheer brilliance of the idea.  Instead of harping on one baseless fear (piranhas, lightning, vaccines, GMOs, fracking, etc.), the creators linked two together.

I have some ideas for the sequel:
Spider Clown
An innocent spider is merged with an evil clown: Spider Clown is born!

Public Speaking with Snakes
I see Public Speaking with Snakes as more of a reality show.  After all, who wouldn't want to see boring speakers eaten alive by a boa?

13 Rusty Nails
13 Rusty Nails could go two ways.  Either the main character steps on a nail every time she sees the number 13, or she's pissed off some demonic carpenter and his magic nails chase her down one at a time.

The possibilities are endless.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Power of Facebook Prayer

Here's a meme I reposted on Facebook.
 
And the Meme Breaker showed my results...


 

Monday, August 5, 2013

The Power of Prayer


I’m atheist (among other things), so when I saw the movie Jesus Camp, I thought it was like watching an alien world.  If you haven’t seen it, it’s a documentary about a Christian camp where children come to learn to be better Evangelicals.  There’s one scene where a speaker comes and talks about praying for the president to place anti-abortion Supreme Court justices on the bench.

I was perplexed.  I found that the father of one of the kids in the movie was fielding questions online, so I sent one in:

If God hates abortion, why doesn’t He take care of the problem himself?  Why do you have to pray for it to happen?


“Good question,” he said.  He explained that God and man work together on Earth.  That God has to have permission to create a miracle.  When enough people pray for something, then God will make it happen.

The answer blew my mind because there was a logical consistency to it.  It made sense.  Then, I realized something.  If that were true, the following has to be taking place:
Imagine you need a job, but you have no skills or experience.  One day, someone at your church hands you a slip of paper.  It’s an offer of work: fifty thousand dollars a year.  You sign a confidentiality agreement and are whisked away to a secret location.  In a room are hundreds of men and women, sitting at prayer all day, every day.  You’re handed a list of things you are supposed to pray for.  They are:

·         May the rich continue to be rich, and the poor continue to be poor.

·         May wars continue to destroy thousands of lives every year.

·         May children be born with horrible birth defects, die young, be enslaved, raped, abused.

·         May governments work against each other so we will never live in harmony.

·         May businesses continue to abuse their workers.

·         May The Rapture not come.

·         May everything continue to be as it is.

If prayer works the way the Evangelicals work, there must be thousands of rooms like that all over the world.  Or, maybe Tim Minchin is right.

Final note: I sent him another note, thanking him for providing such a fascinating answer and asking another question: Why pray for something as small and fallible as “righteous judges” when they could ask for something big?  Why not pray for human biology to change so women only get pregnant when they want to?

He called my question absurd, accused me of not being serious (I was), and said something disappointing that, frankly, I don’t remember.

And that was the end of my contact with Evangelicals.

Friday, August 2, 2013

There Are No Spoilers


I get my TV and movies exclusively from Netflix.  My usual M.O. is to wait for a show to be cancelled, so I can watch it nonstop from the beginning to the end (sometimes in a few weeks).  The main problem is to avoid spoilers from my friends who all assume I watch TV like normal people (or eat like normal people, or talk like normal people…).  However, I noticed a lot of shows can’t be spoiled.

Lemmie try to explain.

Years ago, I attended a “story in games” tutorial at the Game Developer’s Conference.  As part of the tutorial, they brought in the creator of Star Trek Voyager.  If you’ve never watched Voyager… 

Well, don’t it’s a terrible show.

Anyway, I asked her about maintaining dramatic tension on a television show with a permanent cast.  In other words: how do you make the audience fear for characters they know will all be back next week.

She said something about trying hard not to “hit the reset button” so the viewers aren’t “counting time” until the characters come back to life.  I wasn’t allowed a follow-up, but it would have been “But you do it every fucking episode!”

Oh, sorry, I should put that in Star Trek terms for our nerd friends: “Get your Bat’leth out of your ass!”

The previous night one of the characters (Harry Kim) was blown out into space and died.  By the end of the episode, he was (of course) brought back to life through the magic of alternate realities.
 
"Alternate realities" is Klingon for “Ha!  Fooled you!”

Seriously, what was the point of even watching that episode?  What was the point of even watching that show?

Which brings us to Tron:Uprising and Kings.

I’d heard good things about how groundbreaking they were, so I gave them a try.  They’re dramatic, exciting shows.  Every episode, major characters cheat death.

There’s only one problem: there are no spoilers.
In “Tron Uprising,” there are massive, world changing events that always go away by the end of the episode.  Accidentally let your best friends know you’re a costumed vigilante?  They’ll forget by the end of the day.  Your enemy frames you for a crime?  He’ll let you get exonerated.  Start dating that hot woman who works for the bad guys?  Yeah, she’ll break up with you in the morning.

I’d love to live in that world.
Kings, on the other hand, changes things so often the changes become meaningless. Every episode alliances are broken and reformed.  King Cyrus allies with his son, the prince, against David.  Next week, David and the prince team up against Cyrus.  Next week, David and Cyrus team up against the prince.  On and on, episode after episode until the absurdity becomes overwhelming.

So, as much as I liked Kings and Tron: Uprising I can’t recommend them.  And as much as I hate Star Trek: Voyager…  No, wait, don’t watch that either.

For that matter, don’t watch anything unless you have my permission.

Now go to bed.  You have a big day tomorrow.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

GMO Evidence

I've been on the receiving end of a lot of insults for my support of genetic modification.  It seems I'm evil or ignorant of the facts or perhaps working for Monsanto.  While I'll concede two of those are entirely possible, I'd like to straighten a few things out before the next barrage of insults about my parentage.

First of all, my parents aren't related.

Second, I don't support GMOs, I support the truth.  It's been well-established it's impossible to prove a negative (except in a few, specific circumstances).  I can't prove there are no green penguins living on the North Pole, for example, so the person making the claim has to present evidence.  So, I'm happy to change my mind if you present real evidence.

What kinds of evidence would I accept?

1. This newspaper article.


2. This scientific paper.


Or anything along those lines.  What won't I accept?
  1. Monsanto is eeeeeevil.
    In the 20s, alcohol came from gangsters; they used their profits to kill people.  Does that make alcohol evil?  No.  If you want to attack a science, attack the science itself.  Don't tell me wine is bad because gangsters make it; tell me wine is bad because of its demonstrated health or environmental effects.
  2. Monsanto is repressing science.
    Would you  convict someone of murder if there was no evidence but the prosecutor insisted all the evidence was suppressed?  No evidence is no evidence.
  3. The science isn't in yet!
    That's what the last president said about global warming.
  4. Look at this article/paper.
    If it's from a place called "Natural News" or "Monsanto Truth" or "GMOs Suck Ass" I won't believe it.  I also won't believe anything that's already been debunked like that study with the pig stomachs or the rat tumors.
  5. The bees are dying/Autism rates/Etc.
    There are lots of possible causes for (for example) Taylor Swift being unable to find a boyfriend.  Blaming her failings on GMOs makes just as much sense as blaming bee deaths or autism rates on GMOs.  Again, unless you have actual evidence?  Something every major world newspaper and scientific journal missed?  Hmmmm?
The problem is, those forms of evidence don't exist for GMOs.  Once they do, I'm happy to sharpen my pitchfork and light my torch (I keep them under the bed in case Frankenstein's monster comes back).

Until then, let's try to be civil and logical.