Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Dumbasscience: Flying Cars Part 3

Dumbasscience: Science is not always smart. Oh no sir-ree-Bob. Sometimes it is just plain stupid. That's okay, I won't judge. I'll just point it out and mock it mercilessly. These articles will contain rants from history and breaking news where scientists are pursuing through-and-through bad ideas. From the 'flying your car to work' pipe-dream, to various plans of how to forcibly reverse global warming, if it's technological and perilous to rationalists, it's Dumbasscience.

Last time in Dumbasscience, I expounded upon the potential cost of flying cars. This week, I'm going to analyze the safety hazards of driving your flying car of the future in the raging skies of tomorrow.

First, let's get some perspective. I've driven past one hundred car pile-ups on the interstate. No fooling, no exaggeration. One hundred cars, all in one long chain of catamite stupidity, and what was the reason? Fog.

Fog, for frak's sake.

I mean, sure it limits visibility, but it's fog for crying out loud, it's not hiding in the bushes along the side of the road and jumping out at you when it sees headlights. You can adjust your driving, slow down, take an alternate route, or stay at home until it's over. But for at least one-hundred people in one afternoon in a small chunk of the midwest, that would be asking for too much. Just think how bad it would be if people were flying their cars and applying this same crap-tastic illogic. The Blezinsky 9000's will be turning into air-borne confetti before the commercials can get recalled.

Yes, I understand that with flying cars we'd have more distance, and therefore larger margins of error, between vehicles. But that doesn't jive with me, MacReady. We're driving those flying cars somewhere, right? So when we get there, we'll be cramming our cars into the same tight-packed intersections. Imagine all the accidents that will occur outside your friendly floating Golden Arches, with grav-soccer moms obliterating each other's flying caravans while telling their personal Jarvis to adjust their pilates appointments and stock up on cucumbers. It's going to be a bloodbath.

And what about passing and other elements of basic driving etiquette? As Sunday Driving points out, there's a lot of bad drivers on the ground today who ignore simple little concepts of courteous driving of which they must certainly be capable. Putting that into the sky is just an apocalyptic mistake. Do you hate being passed on the right? You should, it's against the rules of the road. Do you like having some sky-douche drop down onto your modest little Blezzy 4000 from two hundred feet above you, his Blezinsky Compensator 9000 all pimped-out gold and a "suck my popsicle" bumper sticker emblazoning his rear? That will happen on the sky roads, my friend. And you know a blind-spot all cars today have in common? Right below them. Think about it.

If the sky cars of tomorrow look like our cars today--or anything like the proposals we've seen over the past century--then they too will have this vertical blind spot. Of course, there will be two ways we can check our blind spots, for those so inclined. One is to have a monitor that is constantly linked to a downward-facing camera. Now the camera's perspective will have to be distorted to give you a more comprehensive view, and it will likely cause just as many problems, as sky drivers will already be too busy eating, texting, skyPadding and facing their tweetbook status to actually use the monitor. Plus, it's not cool enough.

"And you know a blind-spot all cars today have in common? Right below them. Think about it."

The cool sky drivers of tomorrow have an alternative method for checking their blind spots. They bank their Blezzy 9000 over to the right at a 70 degree angle so they can look out their right window to check below them. This is cool, makes the ho in the passenger seat scream with sudden arousal at your sky prowess, and has the added bonus of giving you a chance to leer at your date at the same time. Win-win. Of course, you'll probably lose some altitude if you don't manage the bank well, sending you juking down into the sky-lane you were trying to scope out, but that's to be expected. That's what sky-horns are for.

Not to mention(actually, I think I will) that air-traffic controllers will become at least as common as urban parking valets. Just think about that. Imagine the joy-riding valets from Ferris Beuller's Day Off directing the thousands of daily commuters on their way into Chi-town through the 94 exchange.

And all of these concerns are only relevant to incidental safety concerns. There's the sky-ragers of tomorrow, and more serious criminal elements that lead us to the next--and probably final--issue of flying cars: law enforcement. In the mean-time, be thankful that all your road-bound headaches are road-bound and not pushing the sonic envelope at two thousand feet or more of altitude.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Movie Web Monday: Sigourney Weaver

Movie Web Monday: Each week, I'll look at a specific actor's roles across three good movies. The third movie will in turn tie into the first movie of the next week's actor, whose third movie will continue the pattern. I will go through actors and movies at this rate, with the following limitations in mind: every movie(or television show) invoked will be one I either own, or wish to own; no movie or actor will be invoked twice. So sit back and enjoy as you fall into the nerdery's movie web. (Oh, and I'll try to keep spoilers to a minimum, telling you just enough to know if you'll enjoy the movie)

Sigourney Weaver: aging gracefully

Movie: Alien Resurrection (Own it)

The Alien series did a lot for Sigourney Weaver. She was initially recognized by many people for her role in the first creepy thriller, and the second really solidified that. So you can forgive her for being so willing to dive into Ellen Ripley's tank top and boots for Alien3 and Alien Resurrection, even if a lot of fans lampoon both films. But Sigourney has done a great job in all four movies of playing a character who changes greatly from one movie to the next for the thematic purposes of the director. In Alien Resurrection, Sigourney has to work with the most confounding theme yet--she is cast in the role of being both Frankenstein's monster and still going back to the maternal themes used in Aliens. It's pretty tough. First of all, we don't want to see Ellen Ripley as Frankenstein's monster--she's a trans-generational feminine hero that doesn't particularly threaten gender roles, which is quite a challenge. Secondly, she has no line that compares to the classic utterance from Aliens, the one quote everyone should take from the series: "Get away from her, you b---!" Instead, we get a sort of constant discomfort with Ripley in Resurrection. Written by Joss Whedon, she has the ninja-girl qualities and sarcasm he requires of his female protagonists, but this is a new development for the character, and so it feels off to most. But I think Sigourney pulls it off as attributed to a less than perfect cloning process that leaves her somewhat broken--a brokenness compounded by her obliterated sense of motherhood. That's encapsulated in one of the movie's over-the-top dramatic moments, in which Sigourney perfectly embodies the themes above as she explains to an impregnated colonist:

Sadly, this is probably the best Ripley line in the final installment of the series, and it isn't all that great. Sigourney works with what she gets, and does a good job in the role and the line, making it into an effective microcosm of the movie's themes and the movie's general flaws, as well.

Movie: Ghostbusters (Own it)

Jumping way back in the timeline, Ghostbusters was another early break for Sigourney Weaver. As Dana Barrett, Weaver does a great job of being the normal but nice person in the movie. Cast opposite three eccentric paranormal scientists, Dana is the one who is so mundane that we can identify with her. She also has to be friendly, even if scared, when we meet her as a sign that not all normal people in the movie are raging jagweeds. And she has to be attractive, despite the crimes of 80s fashion against American reproduction. And she has to be able to portray getting somewhat wooed by Bill Murray's character Peter Venkmand who is a shallow, sarcastic creep that makes his romantic plots painfully obvious. And she does all of this well. We get from Dana's interactions that Ghostbusters is set in a more or less grounded world--most people and events are normal in the setting, it's just these people and these events that are wacky and abnormal. She plays well against Venkman, making us buy into the fact that the proper cynic is being smitten by the basset hound-Han Solo scoundrel charm of Murray's character. And when Dana herself gets pulled into the supernatural plot of the story, she manages to seem somewhat sexy despite the horrific decade's crimes against her wardrobe and makeup, and she plays the ethereal dog-slut very well.

Hehehe, that last line really wasn't an insult, by the way, so don't quote me out of context there. But that's Sigourney's charm in this movie--she doesn't drive the plot, she's very reactive and is largely there in the beginning to tell the audience how to react, but she does so with a charm and a command of her scenes that is still notable. One thing, though.

What's up with that? Everytime I see this movie, I see that and wonder the same thing. This isn't a cheap Evil Dead or Texas Chainsaw Massacre sort of skin-slasher movie, so I really doubt Reitman the director told the stage-hand or whatever with the monster arm to grab Siggy's bazoomba. But there it is. Did the hand-man decide that he could get away with it--"Hey, I was under the seat, I couldn't see what I was grabbing...hehehe..."? Why?

Movie: Galaxy Quest (Own it)

This is a nerd gem. It's a comedy starring nothing but humor stars and yet still has the dramatic balls and science fiction to be better than most of the Star Trek movies made to date. So it's a perfect fit for Sigourney Weaver, who for better or worse has defined a lot of modern sci-fi thanks to the Alien series. And yet they throw her into the role of Gwen DeMarco--the marginilized actress condemned to rehashing her sexpot character from the titular tv show. This is funny, since Weaver--other than maybe in Ghostbusters, see above--has never really been in that role before, and it's only as a fifty year-old(!) that she gets a chance to spoof Uhura and Deanna Troi, the uber-hotties of Star Trek and Next Generation fame. Weaver owns the role, and shows her comedic depth that only really started to get noticed in the late 90s. Gwen is both a funny, sometimes simple, and very personable character. You get the impression that her dissatisfaction with being marginilized due her character's sensual role is tempered by the fact that she is at least somewhat flattered by it even after all these years, and her sensitive approach to the other cast members echoes the theme of the movie that life imitated art as she accepts the role of mediator between the group. And in Galaxy Quest, Weaver(among others) has a bevy of great lines with pitch-perfect delivery throughout the fast-paced picture.

Oh, and let me remind you that Weaver was pushing fifty when this movie came out. Not bad.

Movie Web Monday will continue next week with a new actor, picking up with some other prolific player from the last movie listed above.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

UFO Files: Black Sharpie and Equivocation

UFO Files: Early in the year 2011, certain elements of the British government released about 1GB of pdf files concerning fifty years of reports of unidentified flying objects. What these files contain no one knows, as the responsible elements have confused the reports with lousy formating, frivolous inventory pages, and copious amounts of double-talk. Enter the nerdery, a government-unassociated entity dedicated to the mass-dispersal of nerd culture, rationalism, and humor. The nerdery will be analyzing the files and releasing the secrets the UK Ministry of Defense didn't want revealed. The truth is in here.

I've spent a few hours total browsing over the first of these pdf documents. It is over 400 pages. Now, that's not quite as daunting to look at as it may sound, as many of the pages consist of little more than scanned in inventory tickets and other minutae. But the reports and summaries of interviews regarding specific incidents are very interesting, if buried in bureaucratic cage-liner.

I haven't sussed out enough to have any really neat revelations yet, but already two things really strike me about these documents. The first is a nerdy realization of a very high caliber:

There's stuff on these pages the government doesn't want me to know.

*Nerd giggle, followed by adjusting my glasses*

At least every second or third page in these declassified documents looks like this. Covered in censored black bars, they blot out the designations of secret bases, the names of conspirators, and the formal name by which the aliens would prefer to be called if we would only listen. Either that, or they're protecting the anonymity of the idiot rural shepherds who reported a UFO sighting the same day the nearest university decided to fly a weather balloon for their class project.

In any case, it is tremendously thrilling for anyone who's ever enjoyed the Dana Scully show for anything other than her being a fiesty redhead to be reading a government file with lots of censor bars across it. It's simply titilating and exhilarating in a way that mirrors sneaking a peak at your Christmas presents as a child, except that in this case the present is Things You Are Not Meant To Know. Nevermind that the files have been scrubbed and distributed on the interwebz for every rugenstein blogger out there to peruse and disseminate.

Yeah, I still feel special. And speaking of feeling special...

The second thing I've realized from the UFO Files is that the British Ministry of Defense has low self-esteem.

But don't tell them. It might hurt their feelings.

This comes from a frequent refrain I've found embedded in several of the MoD's reports. It goes along the lines of 'the MoD is only interested in investigating UFO reports to ascertain possible military threats to the UK'. This is, on a literal level, so blatantly obvious that it deserves analytical ridicule.

Really, George? The Ministry of Defense is concerned about possible threats to the nation? Hrm, I don't know about that. I mean, clearly the possibility of an extra-national group sending highly advanced atmospheric craft over Great Britain without authorization, notice, or concern might potentially pose a threat to the nation, but I'm not sure if that would merit MoD investigative reports.

"...the British Ministry of Defense has low self-esteem."

Now, why would a government agency--even a British one--constantly fall back on such a line that is clearly fed from some seat of authority? I think it's because those responsible for the reports are worried about this:

MoD Department Head: Spooky, why am I reading an interview with a Scottish shepherd? Have the Taliban weaponized ewes?

Spooky: Me, sir?

Head: Sheep, Spooky, sheep! Why would you interview a shepherd?

Spooky: Well sir, as it says in my report, he witnessed a strange light crossing the valley, exhibiting signs of hair-pin maneuvering without making a sound over his field. I thought--

Head: This isn't about those DVDs I caught you watching during tea-time, is it Spooky? I told you, American broadcasting is complete tripe.

Spooky: No sir, I mean, yes sir, you told me that. But this is a dire situation, sir. If there really are extra-terrestrials out there we should try to make contact with them, find out what secrets of existence they've unlocked, if they can help extend our lives, make society better, teach us--

Head: Agent Spooky...

Spooky: Yes sir?

Head: NERD!!!

I mean, why else would official documents keep dropping this obvious justification unless they were afraid of somebody else looking at them as a bunch of Roswell goons? These collective investigators, then, are so held under the fearful auspice of being labeled UFO-anything that they constantly have to check their backs for kick-me signs. Isn't that a pathetic example of low self-esteem? You'd think that once you're investigating reports for the MoD you'd stop looking over your shoulder for wedgies and swirlies, but apparently that stuff doesn't leave you.

The really sad part is that this paints the UFO conspiracy in a totally different light. I can just see the spooks meeting an alien envoy in a Gloucestershiretonville farm field:

Gentleman in Black: Could you guys keep your visits secret? We'd like to meet you again, but we're afraid the cool earthlings still won't believe us and make fun of us.

Mr. Gray: Are you blokes not from the government?

GIB: Yeah, but we'd still rather not have to be called names, you know?

Man up and nerd up, Ministry of Defense! Once you're charged with defending a sovereign nuclear power--it's time you stop worrying about name-calling. You're investigating Unidentified Flying frakking Objects, for Pete's sake!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Nerd Pic: Nursing Tanks

The little lady mentioned this strange new piece of technology the other day. It's called a nursing tank. Apparently, when military humvees run low on fuel, nursing tanks roll on up and let them top off.

There are several problems with nursing tanks. First of all, their enlarged guns tend to wear on the turret mounting. The tank's main operator needs to be very careful with them, and should generally avoid frivolous use. This is usually very disappointing to tank drivers.

Secondly, humvees are not very gentle when refueling. If the nozzles don't fit perfectly, they tend to wear away at the tip of the nursing tank's nozzle. This is extremely wearing on the nursing tank, and the tank driver gets a lot of complaints about nozzle fatigue.

Finally, there's the issue of leakage. Nozzle pressure has to vary from the not infrequent and occasionally unpredictable refueling schedules of little humvees. This can wear on the seals and the pressure of the nursing tanks reservoirs, resulting in occasional leakage. Not only is this conspicuous for the nursing tank, but it also confuses tank drivers.

Nursing tanks. A neat idea with several associated problems.

At least, that's what I think the wife was talking about.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Five Date Ideas Nerds Will Love

Stolen from the Editor's Desk: There are a lot of opinion columns, write-in articles, and advice articles in the greater medium of the written word. Virtually none of these advisors are particularly qualified, either. There's nothing to stop them from giving bad advice. Except me. Stolen from the Editor's Desk involves me taking some sort of advice column and tearing it a new one, all for your sake. Bad advice, meet the nerdery.

Another gem I found on MSN's lifestyle page. Found here and written by Bethany Heitman, the article is titled "Five Date Ideas Men Will Love" and originally comes from Cosmopolitan. Like many similar pieces, it is authoritatively written by a metrosexual man tempered by long years of experience in a dedicated marriage that was the product of an involved dating courtship.

A man named Bethany.

The sage dating tips guaranteed to engage your man? Gambling, cooking, driving, massaging, and drinking.

You know what? This is a great set of dating ideas. I don't have any additional suggestions.

Gamblin'? Hell's yeah, the nerdery loves gamblin'. Shootin' dices, craps, the whole thing. I poker, too. When I'm done cleanin' the house up in poker with straight flushes and royal houses, my lady and I always grab a swank necklace. For me, of course.

Cookin'? Well, sure the nerdery does cookin'. My lady always gets all bothered watchin' me sweat up a storm over a sweet pot o' noodles in the kitchen. It's just how we roll, chief.

And drivin' is just about what the nerdery does best, except for everything. Ha. But seriously, cars are hot. That's why The Fast and The Furious is so fast and furious, pal. Truth.

When the nerdery gets tired out after doin' like...a million atomic crunches and nuclear squats, his lady can't keep her hands off him. She wants it bad, but I gotta think of myself, because I have wicked bad cramps like I just ate a philly cheese, a coffee, and a couple of bran muffins. You know how it is. So I get the lady to give me a nice massage while I grunt through the mad knots in my washboard. But it's still a nice night.

And the nerdery is all about the drinkin'. It's not like I hae a dizeas er anythin', we just drink socially. Like when we're sittin' at home and she starts talkin' at me, I gotta have a drink. That's just makes a nice evenin'.

Yeah, I can't recommend any of those dates, Bethany. It's okay, the situation just isn't the nerdery's type, I guess. For those of you who want to please your nerd, however, I have a few alternative dating suggestions:

1) Browse a bookstore.
This might sound like a punch-line, but it's not. You're a punch-line, you face. Try just walking through a bookstore or video store with just the intent to browse. Don't go in expecting to buy anything, just have fun picking up random things off the shelf, looking at it and talking about your impressions. You'll certainly learn a bit about your mate from the discussions about first impressions and reading preferences, and you may even learn a bit about yourself. It also helps give you gift ideas for the next time you find yourself having a conniption on the eve of some special day.

2) Play a game together.
This isn't just a bit of nerd bread. Really. Alright, maybe a little. But it's a great way to remind each other that you really are friends at the core of your relationship. It can also be a fun way to get together with friends who aren't able or willing to go out as much as when you were all younger. And if you need to work out a little spouse-rage, it's always fun to forge a token alliance and then back-stab your wife to take over her home-system early in the game. Right?

3) Rewrite something.
I'm not talking about a homework assignment or anything arduous. This is just a neat sort of discussion to have with your loved ones. After watching a movie, reading a book, or something similar, talk about how you would've done things differently. This can be a fun chance to roast a really lame movie, such as  one which is named after monsters that barely features into the plot and the climax falls like slab of lamb meat on a gyro spit.

Hmmm...gyros...I should get some gyros this weekend.

Anyway, rewriting can just be a fun way of going over what you find entertaining, what your expectations are going into a movie or reading a book, and whether you really appreciated the differences between your expectations and what you got. Another boon for knowing how to give gifts and be generally considerate for each other.

4) Listen to his ramblings.
The nerdery loves to talk. And it makes me all kinds of happy when I really know the wife is listening. How do I know she's really listening, as in enjoying my rants and not just waiting for me to finish? She gives me further fodder. 'Oh really? So do you hate Jerry Bruckheimer or J.J. Abrams more?' That, coupled with her mousey Ca-maybe-ian smirk lets me know that she's enjoying the conversation, even if I do happen to be frothing at the mouth.

5) Involve yourself in his hobbies.
This is a big one. I don't know a single nerd who doesn't want his wife to play games with him. Maybe he doesn't want you sitting in on game--but that's probably because you just watch and make him and his friends feel weird. But if you are going to involve yourself in his hobbies, make them your own, he will love it, and you guys can spend a lot more quality time together without really trying.

But if you do get into his hobbies, and happen to become a similarly talented--if somewhat more fastidious--miniature painter than him, you should help him paint his miniatures consistently. When you choose to help out for a little while, doing a quality job of satisfying his painting expectations, and then leave him hanging, staring at a box full of one-third painted zombies, he begins to feel an over-powering nerd-rage. He can't resume painting models you already started--that would be abominable, violating their heritage--and so they sit there, abandoned with uneven blotches of forgotten strokes, waiting for their mistress to return. Paint his frakking miniatures, lady! (I love you)

So anyways, that's the skinny on how to treat your nerd to a nice date. Like it or lump it, we're just a bunch of nerds, standing in front of a collective of the world's scary girls, asking them to love us. So love us.

*Fist shakes* Love us!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Dumbasscience: Flying Cars Part 2

Dumbasscience: Science is not always smart. Oh no sir-ree-Bob. Sometimes it is just plain stupid. That's okay, I won't judge. I'll just point it out and mock it mercilessly. These articles will contain rants from history and breaking news where scientists are pursuing through-and-through bad ideas. From the 'flying your car to work' pipe-dream, to various plans of how to forcibly reverse global warming, if it's technological and perilous to rationalists, it's Dumbasscience.

So in the first Dumbasscience article, I defined flying cars for you readers. Flying cars are not convertible airplanes--those are indeed being developed, but they don't fit our Jetsons' view of the future. Nor can it be something the military uses exclusively--that will just be a new alternative to a helicopter. No, we will have flying cars when ordinary people are zipping cars around town with at least as much congested regularity as you see your average Volkswagen on the road. And that, my friend, will be a dark day indeed.

First of all, there's the cost of the frakking thing. Think needing a car loan for a modern ride is bad? Try indenturing your children or selling the genetic license to your family tree. Any future with flying is going to be bleak, so you might as well sell off little chunks of your soul in order to get a swank ride. And gas? Forget about it, not in tomorrow's economy. I can just see cash-strapped dad's lecturing their porker children: "Okay kids, things are going to be tight until daddy can get a third job to pay for gas, so I want you to be good boys and girls and throw up after breakfast and lunch--we need to keep our flying weight down." Don't worry, though, dinner is yours to keep. Everyone knows that.
"When you're flitting around Chi-town at five thousand feet going four hundred miles an hour looking for something to do and your Blezinsky Compensator 9000 starts to make a chug-a-chug-chunk sound, you stop at the local sky garage and get it fixed. Period."
Assuming that at some point the price of cars and fuel will one day normalize to be comparable with buying new hybrids--which is ludicrous, given the massive component complexity and increased development and safety testing doubtless involved--let's consider the fact that flying car maintenance is never going to be as cheap as regular car maintenance. How could it be? When you're flitting around Chi-town at five thousand feet going four hundred miles an hour looking for something to do and your Blezinsky Compensator 9000 starts to make a chug-a-chug-chunk sound, you stop at the local sky garage and get it fixed. Period. Or you make a greasy smear on the silt-slicked shores of Navy Pier. Your choice.

How would you argue down the outrageous price the brigandage mechanic lays down?

"Eh, that's going to be six thousand sky bucks, chief."

"Six grand? It was just making a noise."

"Sure, it was just a noise right now. But if you'd have kept flying around with a loose flank stabilizer, in a couple of days you would've rode the thing in a merry go-round of death in this old clunker, going into a death spin for a fun last thirty seconds of life. But if you don't want us to fix it..."

"Well, I could totally fix it for no more than a thousand myself. Just look a few things up on the internet, google a few schematics, and so on. My brother's great with sky cars."

"Sure, you do that. Just make sure you have a vacuum-form mold made and ready to replace the paneling. If you don't have the hood seamless, you'll just cause more damage. And be careful when you pull the car's navigation computer to get at the stablizier--you probably don't want to reset the computer's fixed hard points. And don't..."

"Fine, just fix it."

And so on. Towing expenses really shoot up when you consider that sky tow-truck drivers have to make hair's-breadth-accurate docking maneuvers with a variety of sky cars, thus requiring them to be ridiculously skilled and thus more generously compensated. And sky rentals? The stuff of nightmares. Not to mention that the sky garage is a thousand feet above the ground and taking an elevator down to the ground, then walk three blocks to the rental place and take the elevator back up to its office takes forever. Most people would probably just keep buying new sky cars every couple of years to avoid maintenance altogether, and you know that will add up over the years, too.

And then there's the cost of insurance, which is going to be astronomical(pun deliberately intended). What do you think the deductible is going to be for accidentally driving your Blezinsky 9000 into the 100th floor of Trump City's post office? Not pretty, let me tell you. But when you're serving your sentence for flying without insurance and Juno the gene-modded pretty-boy from Mars is your prison bunk-mate, you'll be glad you sold your genetic license. Real glad.

Which brings us to sky safety in the flying car world of tomorrow. As you can imagine, that's a whole other can of worms, and so I'll save that for next time. Until then, keep your eye on the sky.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Back to Blogging

The astute amongst you probably note that I haven't posted in a little while. And those of you who do might notice that the last few posts mentioned that my son was born eleven days ago. You might very well conclude that I've been preoccupied with the new demands of parenting.

And you'd have good cause for coming to such a conclusion. The little guy is an adorable terror, composed of equal parts attention-hungry drama, sci-fi reminiscent gag effects, and constant cute ploys to demand my attention. It's like living with a gremlin--Stripe, to be specific--that turns back into a mogwai with the sunrise.

He's on a virtually nocturnal schedule. He feeds a lot in the evenings, crying with a broken keen that has elements of a tortured piglet crossed with a hiccuping rage and a hefty dose of a wailing Marlon Brando from Streetcar Named Desire. Sometimes he'll cry terribly, and ostensibly he wants to feed, but he will cry around my wife's milk jug, proving that he in fact gets the jones for attention just as much as anything else. Which would be fine if it weren't at 1:03, 2:08, 3:01, 3:50, 4:05, and 4:30 in the frakking morning on a work night.

And then there's the baby-funded special effects show. It's like a crash course through 1980s science fiction horror. And that was just the birth. My son--not yet two weeks old--has already aggressively tried to defecate in my wife's face, missing and getting it on her hand and upper arm, and he's peed in both of our faces during diaper changes. And, sadly, I must say that the poop--for now--isn't as bad as I had feared.

"It's like a crash course through 1980s science fiction horror. And that was just the birth."

You see, he regurgitates all the time. It's like he has a second bladder at the back of the throat that ensures he has a ready supply of milk to spit up at any moment. Like a dilophosaurus. It's so frequent that you can't even call it what it is. If I told you that a human being was gurging at least 47 times a day, you'd be freaked out. So now, as a parent, I call it 'spitting up' so you know it's nothing to worry about. Again, like a dilophosaurus.

Even that wouldn't be so bad if he wasn't so darned cute. Every little crinkle of his forehead, the puppet like spasms of his chubby arms or the bizarre dexterity of his ET fingers--those come from me, by the way--is all enthralling on a stupid scale. Truly stupid. I chomp on my son. All the time. By now I have probably spent tens of hours making unintelligible sounds, tickling him, and chomping on his chubby cheeks and poking my nose into his little sucking mouth.

And then he does an impression of Bishop from Aliens being impaled by the queen as milk bubbles out of his mouth. I mean, gorram it, is that really necessary, son?

But I wipe his face, make sure it's dry so I know the puke cooties are gone, and then I go back to chomping on the spitter's face. There is something marvelously broken about being a parent.

So you might very well conclude that I've been preoccupied with the new demands of parenting. That's what you'd think, but you'd be wrong!

You see, I'm a nerd. A big nerd, if you haven't noticed. And a gamer--that's Nerd Bread, my friend. And Dragon Age II came out just two days before my son was born, so if you can imagine me, with a sleeping baby on my lap and an Xbox 360 controller in my hands, swearing at the stupidity of Anders and his fascist mage-terrorist ways, you'd have a pretty good idea of what I've been doing instead of blogging for the past eleven days.

And, of course, since I'm back to blogging, you can be sure of one thing: I beat Dragon Age II this morning. It was sweet, just what I expect from Bioware. I'm sure I'll be reviewing it later, filmateleven.

For now, rest assured that the nerd is in.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Nerd Pic: Pregnant Demands, page 1

Here's a little comic I whipped up using Comic Life and some screencaps from Ransom and Lethal Weapon 4. The pictures are a fictitious dramatization of real events, occurring everywhere at this very moment. Right now, millions of men are being held hostage by their pregnant wives.

But that's okay, we deserve it. After all, we did it to them.


Thursday, March 10, 2011

Don't Be That Guy: Low Self-esteem Burglar

Don't Be That Guy: One of the best things about being one out of several billion is that there's always somebody doing something stupid. If you keep your eyes open, you can usually wait for a stupid person to try something first. Watch them fail, laugh, and be sure not to repeat their mistake. Or read my blog and get the skinny straight from the Nerdery.

My son was born early this morning. In a fit of informing friends and family, attending to my super-hero wife, and doting on the miniature clone of myself, I wasn't sure if I'd get to post on the blog today. Waiting to the last moment and the terminal ergs of momentum, I finally found something that brings up a key issue that has always bothered me.

The low self-esteem burglar. Don't be that guy.

I found this recently. Dawn Renee Pickle, (who is not a looker, by the way) was arrested for suspicion of being a Tennessee ax-burglar. The title is enough to draw me in, really. Any time I see a news article involving any medieval-equipped villainy, I have to check it out. And in her own way, Mz. Pickle did not disappoint.

Burglary with an axe is one level of stupid. I mean, the less common something is as an implement of destruction, I imagine it becomes easier for forensic investigators to track it down. I mean, ignoring issues like serial numbers and the highly glorified field of ballistic forensics, if you determine that someone was murdered by a Glock, you've got a lot of investigative work to do. If CSI determines that their victim was kacked by an official replica of the elven dagger Sting, things are probably going to be relatively easy. The axe probably hasn't fit into the category of common criminal implements for a few centuries. Think of it this way:

CSI Dude #1: Hmmm, that's a mighty gouge in the security glass.

CSI Dude #2: What caliber do you think that is?

CSI Dude #1: I'd say it's a fireaxe.

CSI Dude #2: Alright, let's round up all the town kooks known to sport log-splitters. And better bring in the local fire department, too. Just in case. Stupid fire jocks always struck me as shifty anyways.

CSI Dude #1: Too right.

I can't imagine this occupying investigators for very long. But that's not the full breadth of what irks me about this case and others like it, and it's this issue that makes it worthy of Don't Be That Guy.

Amongst two liquor store robberies, she stole kitty litter from a Dollar General Store.

I mean, if I were to ever commit myself to a criminal act, I'd try to ensure that it was singular enough to meet my needs over as long a term as possible. For instance, if you break into a liquor store take the money. If you break into a Dollar store take the money. If you rob a bank, well...you get the idea.

If you rob a store and take the kitty litter, you are communicating two things at once: you really don't esteem yourself enough to knock off someplace nice; you were very likely driven to a life of crime by your pussy cat. I'm sure when Mz. Pickle gets to prison she immediately regrets her life choices when Barda, convicted bank-robber, asks her what she's in for. "Oh, I love my cats so much it hurts."

Of course, at this point it fits the profile perfectly that such a loused personality as to be driven to violence by her pets would also have an acute need for alcohol. What's worse, we hear stories about similar violent crimes with petty payoffs--guys knocking off convenience stores for cigarettes, slurpees, and so on. I can imagine that--much like clothes make the man in the professional world--the mark identifies the crook in the underworld. All I know is if I were going to knock off three places, none of them would be a dollar store.

But please, if you go against John Law, show some pride in yourself and your decisions. Rob someplace nice, or at least show the presence of mind to clean out the register.

Low self-esteem burglar. Don't be that guy.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Time for Dick Measuring: Charlie Sheen

The Time for Dick Measuring: There we go. A needless reference to God-given anatomy. Sometimes you should take stock and compare your manhood with other men around you. But, alas, it is not always appropriate. The Time for Dick Measuring articles will help to navigate the mine-field of situations where you must resist the urge to compare your hampton to your fellow man's.

Don't let others fool you: Taken is a great movie. If for no other reason than a single moment in the movie, it deserves to be remembered and immortalized in cinema history.

Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) has just listened on the phone as his daughter was kidnapped. In a fit of frantic planning, favor-cashing, and loin-girding activity, Bryan essentially commandeers the resources of his ex-wife's current sugar-daddy Stuart(Xander Berkeley, d-bag secret service guy from Air Force One). Stuart, being a pussy, initially kowtows to the manly spy of a certain age, but then rallies and begins to insist that he can handle the situation. Bryan's gravelly reply:

"Now's not the time for dick measuring, Stuart!"

Bam. Discussion over. This is the social equivalent of the 137 neck-chops to the wind-pipe  Neeson doles out in the movie. 'You think now's the time to compare bank statements, turkey-penis? Things are serious, there's no room for error and no time for discussion. Now's the time for action, not pissing contests!' That's the compressed sentiment of the line and of the movie itself.

It's a glorious sentiment.

And, like many glorious sentiments, it is sorely needed in everyday society. People (men and women) go around behaving like life-sucking remoras more concerned with 'coming out ahead' of their fellow man in some arbitrary measure instead of looking at what's really important. You have the guy who drives a sports car and works overtime hours, neglecting his wife and/or family. Sure, sometimes it's alright to sit back and compare fecklessly with each other, but those are very specific times. And a lot of people don't seem to know when it's right to start stacking up what's yours beside what's mine.

Hence, the Time for Dick Measuring.

Charlie Sheen, human train wreck, needs a map for living. That's a bit ambitious for the media catfish, though, so I'll say that he specifically could use a map for Times for Dick Measuring. Seriously, the guy is so out of touch with reality, with people, and with the allusions that he drops everywhere like horse dingle-berries that he needs help and could probably get help from an average five year-old.

In recent interviews, he's claimed that he's 'living the plan', and he's added that his life has worked out great so far because of his plan. He goes on to immediately lay out that he's dick measuring with the common man, adding that his life's better than yours because you didn't plan very well.

So let me lay things out, Carlo: when you have to get carted out of your parties sick 'from laughing too hard', it is no longer time to dick measure with Joe America. Joe America has his stuff together. Joe America does not accidentally shoot his fiancé in the arm(yeah, forgot about that one, didn't you Captain Fail?). And we certainly don't want you to keep showing up on our talk shows, news programs, and family programming trying to convince us your life's better than ours.

Not the time, Carlo, not the time. Try getting your life together, getting some nerve therapy for your creepy porn-addicted twitches, and then we'll see.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Dumbasscience: Flying Cars Part 1

Dumbasscience: Science is not always smart. Oh no sir-ree-Bob. Sometimes it is just plain stupid. That's okay, I won't judge. I'll just point it out and mock it mercilessly. These articles will contain rants from history and breaking news where scientists are pursuing through-and-through bad ideas. From the 'flying your car to work' pipe-dream, to various plans of how to forcibly reverse global warming, if it's technological and perilous to rationalists, it's Dumbasscience.

Additional explanation: I love science, science-fiction, and gadgetry. I write science-fiction, and I have dreams about this stuff. I also have dreams about swimming to school as an adult, that doesn't mean it's a good idea. We need to take a moment, sniff our dreams, and keep them away from reality if they are a little rank.

The flying car.

It is the quintessential piece of future-tech, the emblem of 'tomorrow', the paragon of stupid crap you don't need but really want. Especially in your science-fiction. Without flying cars, a lot of sci-fi chase scenes would have to be as well thought-out and carefully choreographed as your standard action movie car chase. I mean, think about what the flying car chase usually consists of, and then translate that to a mundane car chase--lots of low angles as the car whizzes by, possibly shaking the camera, doing very little in the way of actual maneuvering. Throw that fifty feet or more in the air, give it a decent special effects budget, and you've got a gripping chase in the world of tomorrow. Leave it on the ground and, well, Dukes of Hazzard has you beat. Really. Beat like a gamer husband asking to go to a gaming convention on his anniversary.

Beat, even without the jean cut-offs.

In reality, though, the flying car idea blows. But before I go into graphic detail about how this should not be in our future, some news and definitions. Popular Science has had articles on the flying car as a pipe-dream since the magazine started, and in the past year or so there's been a lot more articles. Dude, Where's My Flying Car? does a comparison of past expectations and near future reality. Flying Car Gets Real covers a car that converts into a airplane thanks to collapsable wings. And The Unexpected Rebirth of the Flying Car overviews how the field is being supported by recent DARPA grants.

But these articles might confuse the definition of the flying car. A convertible plane is not a flying car(and plus, aeronautically speaking, using your canards as a bumper is like using your yahoo as a fist--you could pull it off, but you'll wish you hadn't). And the military will not make a flying car per se, either. Either of these developments might progress the technology, but the flying car as a few integral concepts. First of all, as long as the 'flying cars' being developed require a pilot's license, we have not achieved the flying car of futurists everywhere. The flying car of the future will be at least as common as a Volkswagen. And the flying car of the future must be integrated into civilian society. As long as it is a military vehicle, it's not truly a flying car anymore than an M-16 is a hunting rifle.

A lot of the modern interest in flying cars is supposedly driven by urban interest in circumventing traditional traffic. I'll let you chew on that one for a moment. Yes, that's right--it's Speed Racer logic, people. Sick of waiting in traffic? Push your number seven button on the steering column and jump over that traffic jam, straight to your driveway. Don't worry about mass transit, resource conservation or efficiency, or any of that jazz about pollution footprints, you're late for Desperate Housewives. Turd.

There's a lot of problems with the flying car that are always going to be there, and I'll be spotlighting them in the coming weeks as part of the Dumbasscience feature. So keep your head down and your eye on the sky: the flying cars are coming!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Movie Web Monday: Ron Perlman

Movie Web Monday: Each week, I'll look at a specific actor's roles across three good movies. The third movie will in turn tie into the first movie of the next week's actor, whose third movie will continue the pattern. I will go through actors and movies at this rate, with the following limitations in mind: every movie(or television show) invoked will be one I either own, or wish to own; no movie or actor will be invoked twice. So sit back and enjoy as you fall into the nerdery's movie web. (Oh, and I'll try to keep spoilers to a minimum, telling you just enough to know if you'll enjoy the movie)

On occasion, I'll be watching a movie and say, "oh, Tim Roth...he's a fun bad guy in Rob Roy. And in the Incredible Hulk, too. And he's just awesome in Lie to Me. I should watch those next." Then, in the course of watching those movies, I'll notice another prolific actor whose movies I enjoy, sparking another chain of viewing. In this way, I'll often watch movies in an entangled web, where one actor's set of inspirations lead to another. One of those most notorious instigators for these movie selections is Ron Perlman.

Ron Perlman: too awesome

Movie: Hellboy (Own it, and own the limited European-release special edition. Boo yah.)

At 6'1", with a chiseled jaw and mischievous eyes, Ron Perlman is ideally suited towards acting through a prohibitive amount of makeup. Even at sixty, he has the physical presence to exude charisma through cinematic prosthetics and the wily subtlety to pierce disfiguring makeup to still portray depth.

I like Ron Perlman.

And he is perfect for the role of Hellboy. Ron brings a sort of adolescent-but-zen quality to his portrayal of Big Red that reminds me of my brother's yellow lab--absolutely enthusiastic, strong, and yet with an endearing sort of thick-headedness that is completely irresistible. That quality is totally summed up when Abe tells him, "Liz left us, Red. Take the hint." To which the irascible hero replies:

Aw yeah. I mean, there's a lot to the movie, but you can see one of the core elements right there: a love-story between an unmensch and his really big gun.

Movie: Cronos (Own it)

Cronos is a relatively unknown gem directed by Guillermo del Toro. It's an eccentric, small production that gives a new, philosophical approach to a classic monster tale. Set in Mexico and following a kindly grandfather and his staid granddaughter, Cronos employs Ron(complete with massive prosthetic schnoz) as the towering American villain, named Angel. In a movie with a strong artistic vein, Angel grounds Cronos with selfish cruelty and mundane megalomania. It takes a special kind of sadist to beat an old man with his bare hands, and it takes a very special actor to still be interesting even when he is being that very bad guy. Because Ron is just that cool. Even his uncle doesn't escape Angel's congenial malice, as he utters the fabulous line amidst hilarious laughter:

Movie: Alien Resurrection (Own it)

In what is probably the most mixed entry in the Alien series, Ron Perlman as the rat-bastard Johner provides a scoundrel sort of levity to a generally scummy movie. The apparent contradiction of that last statement is part of Johner's charm--a charm that in many ways mirrors Jayne Cobb from Firefly. (Being written by Joss Whedon a couple of years before he made Firefly, a lot of the characters in Alien Resurrection feel like prototypes of Mal and the rest.) I mean, we are introduced to him mocking a paraplegic by dropping a knife into his leg for crying out loud. Now no one is under the delusion that Johner's going to be a nice guy, but in a movie and a series that is filled with so many unrealistically d-bag characters, Johner is one of the more relatable characters. That's thoroughly established when Ellen Ripley loses it and goes on a rampage on the experiments that yielded her. Johner's reply: what a waste of ammo...

Oh yeah. If ever there was one series you wouldn't expect to drop such a piercingly typical bro-ism in the middle of an over-blown Frankenstein moment, this would be it. And you'd expect such a line to drop like a lead turd into a tub of jell-o. But Ron pulls it off. Because Ron Perlman is too awesome.

Movie Web Monday will continue next week with a new actor, picking up with some other prolific player from the last movie listed above.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Sunday Driving: Turn Signals.

Sunday Driving: The world(my select portions of it, at least) is filled with bad, thoughtless drivers. Maybe you're one of them. If not, you might be sleeping with one. Bad drivers are everywhere, but we can do something about it. Well, I can, anyways. These articles will be filled with rants about bad driving and contain graphic illustrations of how proper driving should be conducted.

Turn signals, people. Turn signals.

Turn: verb. [trans.] To move (something) so that it is in a different position in relation to its surroundings or its previous position.

Signal: noun. A gesture, action, or sound that is used to convey information or instructions, typically by prearrangement between the parties concerned.

A car cuts across three lanes in front of me, no matter that he's going 70 miles per hour or that I'm going 75. Rain, snow, ice all pale to the necessity that this goofy turkey buzzard get in the left lane before I pass him on the left. Why? Is he going to take the exchange on the left that's coming up? Is he drunk? Raging? Too busy, with one hand soul-pounding his steering wheel to a banging Tom Petty song to observe proper driving etiquette? I'm left wondering, because there's no indicator for him to let me know what the heck his frakkin' intentions are.

Oh wait, there is.

The turn signal. A convenient set of indicators visible from any pertinent side of a car to let other motorists know what your driving intentions are. Now, I understand that the above definitions of the words turn and signal might be elusive to the average person, and hence forming them into a compound concept might be beyond the pale of the typical vehicular enthusiast. No, this is clearly a very difficult concept and requires detailed exegesis, which I--in my vast patience and generosity--will provide, free of charge.

First and foremost, a signal ought to be used. This is a common oversight amongst many road-bound retards, which leads me to believe that it has become the social outcast of car features. Climate control? Check. Radio? Check. GPS? Never lost again, baby. Turn signal? Too busy adjusting my heated seat and trying to remember which track is 'Bohemian Rhapsody', while trying to type in my destination into the GPS. You know how it is, bro.

"this is clearly a very difficult concept"

Secondly, a turn signal should be used in advance of the maneuver it is signaling. I know, a tidal wave of realization might threaten to bowl you over. But like the nerd, the turn signal is often not invoked when its area of speciality is used, and is ignored whenever possible. When it is used, it's name-dropped after the fact as a token reference-- "Oh did I just do a turn? There you go, signaled. Happy?" The proper use of a turn signal, however, should give other people time to notice it, decide what you're likely to do, and give them time to accommodate you. If you allow one or two flashes of the signal for each of these considerations, the signal ought to have a chance to click on and off at least four times.

Finally, a turn signal should be used whenever you're about to unexpectedly change relative position. Relative position means change of lane as well as change of course. And since you are supposed to use the signal to give other drivers a chance to predict your change of course, it ought to come first. It does other drivers no good whatsoever if you slow down to a halt in your lane only to put on your signal as you reach your desired side-street. In this way, turn signals are like claiming farts--the sooner they are claimed, the sooner you warn your loved ones, the more likely they can give you your space and escape unscathed.

So let me clear the air: signals don't mean diddly if they're used inconsistently. It doesn't do any good if you always use your turn signal when turning at an intersection but fail to do so when you're whipping around a soccer mom who has the audacity to slow down in front of you. Use your signal. Use it first. And use it before you do something unexpected.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

UFO Files, part 1

Declassified documents of the world: GIVE TO ME!!!

The UK Ministry of Defense recently declassified UFO reports going back a couple of decades. You know I was all over those bad boys like cheesy goodness on an order of Lonestar's Amarillo cheese fries. Oh my gosh, I don't know why I invoked them without cause. Now I'll be jonesing for that platter of spuddy divinity all weekend.


Moving on. I was really excited as I downloaded the couple thousand pages' worth of reports. And while I'm sure there will be a good number of anecdotes highlighting the impressionable stupidity of people abroad(that will be handy, too), I anticipate finding at least a few deep dark secrets that the 00's of Great Britain have missed. Watch as I uncover the true myths behind the cover up, adding layer upon layer onto the fragmented layer cake from a cancelled wedding that is the modern conspirator's library. I plan on making fools of MI-6's G-men(hehehe, that's such a funny-sounding expression), and you can be witness to my exposé of the mundane truth of the famous landing in Britain...you know, the Roswell of England...er, some famous UFO landing in Britain. At least, I bet I'll find out about one in the coming weeks.

Of course, I doubt we'll be getting much in the way of the showy stuff science-fiction enthusiasts like myself dream about. I'm certain the UK's Ministry of Defense is keeping all of those files in a secret, double-locked replica of the queen's wig. And if they did accidently release something from those secured tomes you can bet they'd...correct me on my disrespectful reference to the Queen's honour, despicably implying that the noble hair of the centre of royal authority resembled a wig.

At such point I'd be remiss if I didn't beg forgiveness for the knavish pretence with which I have addressed the issue: possessing myself of uncommon gall to lightly handle and inspect the goings-on of the British Realm.

Ta and cheerio, that's a good lad.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Nerd Pic: The Agony!

Here's a little something from the Photoshop. Brace yourself for the pain!

This twisted moment of nerd agony brought to you by sleep deprivation. Feel free to share the wallpaper and the pain with a nerd you love/hate.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Nerd Bread: Role-playing Games

Nerd Bread: There are a lot of things that go into making a nerd. Nerd bread describes things that are absolutely necessary to qualify for the title. The corollary, nerd butter, deepens the nerd experience to something much more profound, much like butter does to bread.

Roleplaying. Games.

Hell yes.

If you're a nerd, you know what I'm talking about. If you're an uber-nerd, like me, you might be salivating a bit right now. I'm salivating as I'm writing this, and I have no clue what's coming next.

A lot of 'nerd bread' is shameful to society at large. Role-playing games, to them, are not a hobby, but a punch-line. Screw 'em. Role-playing games are awesome. They're just threatened by the fact that a nerd can have fun without shutting off their brain, throwing back Jägerbombs and junk-punching their drunk buddies. Not that I can't see the appeal of spending an inebriated night with friends doing so. I might incorporate that as a mini-wager on the next war-game night--loser gets junk-punched. That should add some tension to diplomatic relations in Twilight Imperium...

Where was I?

Oh yes, role-playing games. Some of the uninitiated might be wondering what a role-playing game(RPG for the rest of us) actually is. An RPG is an imaginative type of game dedicated to replicating your favorite moments from television shows, movies, and books, where the players use some sort of abstraction to make the story challenging and fun to craft at the same time. That's it, at it's core.

What, you were expecting something kitschy? ROLL INTELLIGENCE! 12 after modifiers? OH NO, FAIL! Just like the train job all over again, hehehe!

That more what you were expecting, jock?

Actually, there's a lot of that, too. But that's not the core. The core of a good RPG is making the kind of story you always wanted to read or watch, and inflicting that on your friends, who are trying to do likewise. To keep things fair, each player controls one character, over whom they have almost total control. That's their player character(PC), and it's the player's job to flesh out that PC as much as possible. Although, to be fair, that's usually not that much--vicarious violence through a fictitious avatar is distracting, after all.

All the other story elements are controlled by one of the players, who calls himself the game-master(GM), because nerds want to have position titles, too. (A jock strap shouldn't be a requisite for position titles and peculiar exhuberance for arbitrary goals, after all.) The GM is usually the most jaded and imaginitively well-endowed of the players--he's also usually the most anal, detail-oriented one in charge of remembering the lion's share of the rules. I'm usually the GM amongst my friends. The GM runs the bad guys and other non-player characters(NPCs) the PCs interact with, but he is not necessarily opposed to the PCs' goals. In fact, the GM has the same goal as the players: to make a fun, interesting story. Sometimes an interesting story arises when the PCs succeed against terrific odds. Sometimes an interesting story arises when the PCs fail and die terrible deaths. Most RPGs fall somewhere in between.

So, that explains what an RPG is, but why are they so awesome?
  1. You get to kill stuff in exotic locales. This is the biggest single draw to most RPG players, though it isn't a prerequisite to the experience. For most of us, though, there's tremendous satisfaction to be had from pitting yourself against violent, extreme circumstances and prevailing. And then you can rub it in the GM's face, too.
  2. You get a sense of progress. A lot of hobbies exist to occupy kids and adults of all ages, but few of them give you the sense of progress an RPG does. When's the last time your football league made an alliance with another league after a sudden victory? Some RPGs can last for years, during which time the players might become as attached to the game as any soap opera aficionado.
  3. You exercise your mind. RPGs are nerd bread for a reason. Constantly thinking about what a fictitious character would do in a hypothetical situation is the core of role-playing, and so it has elements of philosophy, critical thinking, and improvisational acting.
  4. You escape your concerns. The best way to eliminate worry is to replace it. And being worried about whether Laanor the farmboy is going to recover from his wounds is a lot more entertaining than wondering whether things are going to get better at work.
So, if you're curious about RPGs now, embrace the nerdery and get into it. And if you call yourself a nerd and yet scoff at RPGs, get over yourself and eat your nerd bread.

*fist-shakes* Eat it!

Nerd bread articles are all about the essentials of being a nerd. Feel free to offer suggestions of what you consider essential to the nerd identity.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Stolen from the Editor's Desk

Stolen from the Editor's Desk: There are a lot of opinion columns, write-in articles, and advice articles in the greater medium of the written word. Virtually none of these advisors are particularly qualified, either. There's nothing to stop them from giving bad advice. Except me. Stolen from the Editor's Desk involves me taking some sort of advice column and tearing it a new one, all for your sake. Bad advice, meet the nerdery.

Seven Things Women Get Hung Up About When It Comes to Guys, But Shouldn't
Excerpts from MSN's lifestyle page, original article by Erin Meanly

1. His Job
What Erin Meanly has to say: "On a superficial level, if you've always imagined yourself the wife of an attorney or politician and he's a used car salesman, get over it. What really matters is that he enjoys his work and has goals."

What the nerdery has to say: Of course it matters what his job is. Enjoying one's work and having goals are not virtues, so it is not 'what really matters'. What if your guy is a pornographer? I'm sure he enjoys it and has goals--icky though they may be--but that doesn't justify his career choice any one bit. If you have a dream of marrying someone with a label, you should probably get over it, but men define themselves by their job, so you absolutely should look at why he does whatever it is he does. You might learn something about him.

4. His table manners
What Erin Meanly has to say: "Unless he eats like a barbarian, don't dismiss the dude because he put his elbows on the table while there was still food out. Manners are only an issue when you're raising kids and you want him to set a good example. You can bring it up then."

What the nerdery has to say: First of all, you should never save an issue for when you're raising kids. You should never save an issue for when you're married. If you notice something while you're dating someone, you definitely should bring it up then, even if it seems trivial. Don't make a bigger deal out of it than it is, but if you sit on it for years before pointing out that watching him eat is like watching an Animal Planet special, he's going to react badly--"If you think I'm a slob, why didn't you bring this up three years ago when we were dating?". Give him time to fix his bad habits by letting him know before it ever becomes an issue.

Secondly, way to perpetuate damaging stereotypes against barbarians, Erin Meanly. I'm sure non-Greeks everywhere are slamming battle-axes into tables in political outrage at once more being invoked as the standard of uncivil behavior. Conan should be delivering a summons to you shortly, Erin. And no, it's not a legal summons, barbarians don't play like that. It's a summons to a sand-filled arena ringed with cast-iron spikes the size of rhinoceros horns. Remember, go for the legs, but whatever you do, don't make any cheap shots for the groin--believe it or not, barbarians hold back until you go for gonads.

5. The hangouts he likes
What Erin Meanly has to say: "So he frequents divey, dodgy, immature places and it worries you. These establishments don't fit in with an image you want to project. Perhaps you want him to settle down and you think he's going to regress to spring break mode. But exchanging ribs and beer for filet mignon and consomme won't make him grow up. So choose your battles."

What the nerdery has to say: Relationship columnists like to use the expression 'choose your battles'. Which, of course, makes perfect sense when you assume that the average reader of romantic advice columns is a twenty-four year-old, war-gaming enthusiast with a deep interest in military history. Wait, it's not? Then why the frak do they use silly expressions that have no concrete meaning? The phrase 'choose your battles' does not mean to completely abandon some and focus on others; it means you should be prepared, rational, and rested when you do fight. If you give in on occasion on something you feel strongly about, only insisting that your man-child stop when it really steams your broccoli, I've got news for you: that's the definition of a relational pyrrhic victory. Look it up. Anyways, the key to a good relationship is the key to a good military campaign, be deliberate, be proactive, and invest heavily in the conflicts that matter most to you.

Oh, and Erin Meanly did a pretty good job: only 3 out of 7 of her pieces of advice fell under the swift sword of the nerdery. That's at least weatherman-level performance.

So says the nerdery.

If you witness bad pieces of advice being foisted upon the innocent readers of the world, let me know, and it might show up on future Stolen from the Editor's Desk features.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


I've been around for a few years now, and as such I've often partaken in the American tradition of the New Year's Resolution. Just as often, however, I've partaken of the American tradition of giving up on the New Year's Resolution.

When I step over some sort of threshold, there's an exhilaration that makes me want to revitalize my life. It's a new year, and I want to make this one better. So work out. Read more. Stop making penis jokes in polite conversation. Write more. Be a better frakkin' person.

It works, for a span. All too short a span. And then it's destroyed by a realization. I didn't cross a threshold at all. Life in this year's the same as last year, except I'm writing bigger numbers on my checks. Soon, I begin to slip in my pledges to change, and once I fail to reach my goals, I tell myself they weren't as big a deal as they seemed on December 31.

Sure, I could be in better shape. But I've got time, and I'm still pretty lean. And I've got a lot of unread books, but there are so many other things to do--I'll read them when my schedule slows down. Penis jokes... well, penis jokes are just plain fun. As for writing, well, I'm still young for a writer. No need to obsess now.

And pretty soon, I give up on being a better person, because I never had any good motivation to change in the first place. I stay the same 'pretty good' person I am from year to year because I'm used to putting up with my crap. I've done it for years, and I still like myself--no, really, I love myself. And my wife doesn't complain.

Really, why should I change?

And then I get the news. No, that expression is so inadequate. I didn't get the news. I became the news. I am becoming a father. Any day now, my wife will be giving me a son. And even from the womb the little spud convicts me. When will I get fed up with my own crap? Will my son one day look at me, and wonder when I'll get my act together? Why should I wait that long? I love him, unborn though he is, and every time I feel him go to town on my wife's ribs, I feel pangs of guilt, spurring on promises better than any I gave myself on New Year's.

I'll be better, son. Because now I really am sick of putting up with my own crap.

This blog isn't the sum, or the chronicle, of the many changes I'm under-going for you. But it is one of them. There's a lot to change, a lot to do. I need to be deliberate.

You see, I understood love before I found out about you. But I didn't understand parenting, or what it did to love. Throughout my life, my father would say he loved me, and I'd notice something in the look he gave me, something withheld that always made me curious. I think I understand it now. Parental love, the love I feel for my son, is tangled up with conviction. His failings as a son will be mine as a parent.

It's time for a zero tolerance policy for inadequacy. And it's all for you, son.

But I'm not giving up penis jokes...