Tuesday, March 13, 2012

John vs. Patrick

I just wanted to mention that I'm blogging mostly at John vs. Patrick these days, where I am repeatedly demonstrating how much cooler I am than my friend John.  You should swing by and check us out.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

open letters to Rockstar & the LGBTA community

Dear Rockstar Games:

What's up?  Long time player, first time complainer.

Seriously, though, I like you.  Hell, when Grand Theft Auto 4 came out, I took week off from work so I wouldn't have any distractions.  I've been a fan since I was playing the very first top-down GTA back in the dorms some *mumble* years ago.  Your irreverence towards life is funny to me.

Anyway, when I finally got around to playing Bully, I was pretty pumped.  This is the game that Jack Thompson got disbarred over.  This is the game that you used to troll everyone, and I mean everyone--nobody had any idea what the game was like before it came out, and you filled us all with images of horrible high school violence ... only to give us a main character who, while kind of a punk, is actually a good kid, standing up for the bullied, et cetera.  A little bit of a psychopath, yeah, but his heart's in the right place.  Plus, this horrible teen sexuality that everyone was screaming about turned out to be ... kisses.  And you even included the ability to kiss boys!  You really won a lot of hearts in the LGBTA community with that one.

So ... here's my thing.  All of a sudden, in, what, Chapter 4, there's some really disturbing sexuality in the game, and all at once.  We're going to set aside the slut-shaming with Lola for the purposes of this letter, because while it made me a little bit uncomfortable, it was no more unrealistic than the images of fat nerds being stuffed in lockers, and the guy who throws that word around the most is one of the bad guys, who good Jimmy gets to beat up every so often.  So, yeah, we'll ignore that for the moment.

We're going to ignore, too, that beast of a gym teacher hiring Jimmy to steal used underwear from the girl's dorm for him.  That was ... really creepy, Rockstar, I won't lie.  If this were a college game, a panty raid would be classic to the point of being cliché, and significantly less repulsive.  But we're talking about, what, girls age 14-18?  Maybe younger?  There's never really a firm explanation of the age ranges at the school, but some of these kids are awfully short.  Still, I realize you were probably going for the creepy gym teacher thing on purpose, and there's no actual violence being visited upon anyone ... so while that was really pretty gross, I'd be willing to overlook it ... except.

Except, see, for that mission where Jimmy becomes complicit in a rape.  Oh, you don't remember that?  That's funny, because you even set it up in the mission before.  Let's see: First, he goes out and finds sedatives for the cook, then gives the sedatives to the cook, then the cook uses those sedatives to drug the chemistry teacher and haul said chemistry teacher into a nearby motel for a night  of sex.  I left out the genders of the characters there because in my opinion they're not relevant, but someone is probably going to tell me that since it was a female cook and a male teacher, that was just funny.  Except, not so much.

Rockstar, you like to push the envelope.  I'm hip.  Hot Coffee was hilarious, and Hilary can bite me if she really disagrees.  But even you, Rockstar, would not have given us a mission in which the protagonist of a game keeps people from disrupting the event where the ancient and repulsive male cook drugs the coffee of the hapless spinster chemistry teacher so he could rape her repeatedly in a sleazy motel, would you?  I really don't think you would ... so why would you do the exact same thing with the genders reversed?

Not to talk about your competition, Rockstar, but one of the things I loved most about Fable 3 was the mission where one older horrible person--married to a young, monied, attractive spouse--dates you, then asks you to kill the younger person and marry them in their stead.  The reason I love it is because the genders of the participants change based on your character's gender, but the dialogue stays exactly the same.  The older woman comes across as manipulative and mean, but her (rich, attractive, young) husband seems weak.  Conversely, the older man seems slimy and evil, while his (still rich, still attractive, still young) wife is somehow pure, perhaps naive, and utterly innocent of all wrongdoing.  It's a powerful illustration of how switching gender roles, without changing any other variables, can change our perception of a situation.

... which I bring up to illustrate exactly what you've done: You've created a situation like that, where the action is utterly evil, and switched the traditional gender roles to make a crappy joke out of it.

It's still rape.  It's rape, no "still" about it.  You created a video game wherein a 15-year-old helps one party rape another.

That's pretty messed up, Rockstar.  I don't love this about you.  I don't know how I feel about you anymore.

You should think about this.

Quite sincerely,


Dear LGBTA community:

Where the hell were you on this one when it was relevant?  You played this game; don't tell me you didn't.  GayGamer.net was all over this sucker when they found out you could kiss boys with your male character; it was big news at the time.  This, not so much.  Did nobody finish the game, or did nobody care?  I've been operating under the assumption that gender issues and gay issues went hand in hand; that equality for gender identity and equality for sexual orientation were things we all wanted.  You have a responsibility to point out something as egregious as this despite the minute catering to same-sex relationships--and let's not overlook that those are comprised entirely of, once you've completely humiliated an entire faction in the game, one of the members who happens to share your gender swapping spit with you.  Please don't get bogged down by petty victories and allow something this dehumanizing is allowed to slip through.  It's not going to do anyone any favors.

With respect (and some serious disappointment),

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

because sometimes Chore Wars doesn't cut it

WHEREIN it has been resolved that dishes shall be done by both parties on alternating days; and
WHEREIN it has been resolved that the party of the first part shall take responsibility for even-numbered days; and
WHEREIN it has been resolved that the party of the second part shall take responsibility for odd-numbered days; and
WHEREIN it has been observed on numerous occasions that both parties are giant nerds who like rules,
THEREFORE the following system shall be utilized for the purpose of motivating both parties to actually get off their asses and do the dishes.
  1. "A day" shall be defined as the period of time from the initial rising of either party on a date for which they are responsible through their final return to bed for that activity cycle, midnights and the like be damned.
  2. "Doing the dishes" shall be defined as washing enough dishes to fill the dish drainer completely, including the little plastic bits on the side that hold the drinking glasses, as well as hanging all serving utensils and that stupid collander on the hook thingie over the sink.
  3. Should either party fail to do dishes on a day for which they are responsible, they are then one day "in debt" to the other party.
  4. A party that is "in debt" to the other party takes that party's next turn at dishes.  Should that turn be missed, another day is added to the debt.  Therefore one day missed will result in two days in a row--the other party's turn and then the originally scheduled next turn.  Two days missed will result in four days in a row--the originally scheduled next turn, the other party's for day one, the regularly scheduled next turn, the other party's for day two.  This is intentionally designed to discourage either party from letting such debts build.
  5. Exception shall be made for work/school requirements only in advance and only at the agreement of both parties; last-minute concerns only result in one day of debt so the busy party should just suck it up because life is hard.  Should an exception be agreed upon, the consenting party agrees to wash dishes on behalf of the busy party, which results in one day of debt per turn taken.  In other words, four days in a row would only result in two days of debt, since only two of the turns belonged to the party not doing dishes during that period; this will result later in four days in a row for the other party, so everything works out evenly and that's the whole point.
  6. Exception shall also be made for multi-day injury or illness at the agreement of both parties.  One-day layups, just like last-minute work/school concerns, only result in one day of debt and yadda yadda.  Periods of illness or injury, upon the consent of both parties, are treated as scheduled lapses as per point 5.
  7. Both parties agree this is all in good fun but neither particularly likes doing dishes so they have every intention of making the other stick to the agreement.
  8. Each party further agrees that the other should really take out the garbage already, because damn.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Rhetoric: Why I love Elbow

"Let me end this section by answering a possible objection: 'We must keep writing in its secondary role--as the medium for responding to reading--or else we will invite romantic solipsism.  If you invite students to write out of their own experience rather than in response to texts, you will increase the rampant individualism our culture suffers from--permitting students to disappear into cocoons of solipsistic isolation.'  This fear rests on a misguided model of individual development--a kind of parody of Freud and Piaget that says children start out as a egocentric monads dominated by selfish desires to stay separate and egocentric; and that they cannot become 'decentered' or social without a terrible struggle.  It's as though we fear that our students are each in their own little bathroom and we must beat on the door and say, 'What are you doing in there?  Why have you been in there so long with the door locked?  Come on out and have some wholesome fun with us.'"

- Peter Elbow, "The War Between Reading and Writing, and How to End It."  Rhetoric Review 12.1 (1993).  (Italics his; boldface mine.)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

an open letter to Gamefly

Dear Gamefly,

I said some mean things about you recently, and I wanted to apologize.

See, once I found out you had a shipping station in Los Angeles, which is really just up the street from San Diego, I decided to give your service another try.  We've had our differences, but hope springs eternal.

I signed up in the middle of the night, and you shipped my first two games the very next day.  Furthermore, one of them is pretty new, and listed as only having medium availability.  I got them both the day after that.  I couldn't believe it.

I'll be honest, Gamefly, I thought it had to be a fluke.  It was wild.  I couldn't believe it.  So you'll imagine my incredulity when it happened again: I shipped one out on a Saturday.  You received it Monday.  My next game came Tuesday.

Gamefly, you have redeemed yourself.  I don't know if the moral of the story is that you work when I'm near a distribution center ... or if that whole kerfuffle with the post office really was holding you back like you were claiming, but I want to tip my hat to you.  Well done.

I am sorry for doubting you.


PS: Oh, Gamefly.  Just one day before this was supposed to go live, you spontaneously decided not to ship me a new game even though you acknowledge that you received the one I sent in.  And I sent it late Friday night, which means it went out first thing Saturday, which means it was in the first load you hauled in today.  Which means you had all day to ship the next game, and you didn't.  You make me sad, Gamefly.  But you still work a damn sight better than you used to.

Edit 11/17/11: I spoke to Gamefly customer service a few days ago and found out the problem.  Gamefly doesn't guarantee same day turnaround, but rather "within 24 hours of receipt."  Which is actually not at all unreasonable in my opinion, and now that I'm aware of it I don't have any sort of problem with it.  So I guess the moral is that transparency of policy is useful for your customers' satisfaction.  On a side note, they apparently just shipped me the new Assassin's Creed game some two days after it came out, so they have endeared themselves to me greatly.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

is our children learning

From Report of the Massachusetts Board of Education, by Horace Mann

"In all nations, hardly excepting the most rude and barbarous, the future sovereign receives some training which is supposed to fit him for the exercise of the powers and duties of his anticipated station. Where, by force of law, the government devolves upon the heir while yet in a state of legal infancy, some regency, or other substitute, is appointed to act in his stead until his arrival at mature age; and, in the mean time, he is subjected to such a course of study and discipline as will tend to prepare him, according to the political theory of the time and the place, to assume the reins of authority at the appointed age.  If in England, or in the most enlightened European monarchies, it would be a proof of restored barbarism to permit the future sovereign to grow up without any knowledge of his duties, -- and who can doubt that it would be such a proof? -- then, surely, it would not be less a proof of restored or of never-removed barbarism amongst us to empower any individual to use the elective franchise without preparing him for so momentous a trust."

Saturday, October 29, 2011

backpack technology

Now that I'm on a new campus where I don't have an office on either side to leave things in--and let me tell you, I rather miss that arrangement--I found myself hauling rather a lot of books around on a daily basis.  Which, frankly, was not working for me.  So I started digging around to see what I could find, and I came up with Ivar.

Considering the amount of money I dumped on the Pilot model, I wish I could report unreserved praise, but I'm only having so-so results.  You'll see from the picture on the main page that it looks like there's two "shelves" inside the bag, plus the bottom.  In practice, there is just one, then two pockets.  Now, the bag is wider, which lets me put books and folders on their spine in the middle, thus distributing the weight and preventing them from flopping over.  Small heavy books can go in the top shelving area.  And then if there is something like a hoodie to go in, I can throw that in the exterior pocket which has all the slack.  So it's a pretty good system.  But it seems like the sort of thing that would work a lot better if it were just carried that one step further, you know?

There is one important note--if you're just moving quickly from one room to the next, tossing it over one shoulder tends to be very painful and not at all workable.  Granted, complaining that an ergonomic backpack can't be worn incorrectly is kind of like complaining about the maneuverability of a minivan or the storage capacity of a sports car--either way, you're missing the point.  But it does represent an inconvenience.

Still, it's functional enough, so I'll keep using it.  Besides, I really enjoy it when some basic device that we've been using for centuries gets a sudden upgrade, so I'm glad to see someone rethinking backpacks at least a little bit.