Tag Archives: geekdom

True Geeks

Motivational poster - true geeks

Or, we could fight a little fire with fire by having the geekly masses throw around tweets and / or status updates like, “I’m such a jock for football! #JocksRule” and, “Totally jocking out in gym class right now. #JockingOff

Once, when I was small and pixels were big

This is SO appropriate seeing as how I'm working on an alien invasion story at the moment.

I had some free time on Friday, so I busted out Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest for a couple of hours, and ended up beating it just after midnight. It was so nostalgic watching that dull, uninspired, pixelated ending again. I hadn’t taken the time to play some good ol’ fashioned Nintendo in a while; I’d almost forgotten the simple pleasure of moving a clump of pixels that vaguely resembles a Transylvanian hero across a screen that vaguely resembles a haunted mansion. You just don’t get that with the more recent Castlevania games on the Nintendo DS. They’re damn good, don’t get me wrong—they’re just not 80’s.

It’s almost a steampunk kind of thing. The 80’s was all about digital signals wrapped in analog boxes. The PET computer in my second grade classroom had a friggin’ Commodore Datasette drive attached to it (remember pressing “play” to load your programs?); we listened to our music on my uncle’s rack stereo system, which sported dual cassette decks and turntable in addition to a CD player; we watched our TV on a giant, oaken box with a humongous CRT set in the center. It was my grandfather’s pride and joy, that TV. That and his trusty, ton-heavy Magnavox VHS VCR (which eventually ended up in my uncle’s possession—and which still works like a charm to this day). I was allowed to watch cartoons after school as long as I promised to record Grandpa’s favorite shows without the commercials. But I sometimes sneaked the Atari or Coleco in. (This was in late 1986–early 1987; though the Nintendo Entertainment System was out by then, my brother Sean and I didn’t get ours until Christmas, 1988.)

At the time, we lived with my grandparents and their teenage son, John. It was a two-story, New England style house. We had the upstairs, my grandparents the ground floor, and Uncle John the basement—his own private pad, complete with TV, VCR, Atari, stereo system, and pool table. But Sean and I never went down there unless absolutely necessary because John had a nasty habit of unexpectedly turning off the lights and pulling his “Eye of God” prank on us. Don’t ask.

Across the street, though, my friend Anthony had an older brother—Brett—who also happened to live in his parents’ basement. Brett had a ColecoVision and a gigantic cardboard box filled with games. I remember one day climbing into the box and standing waist-deep in cartridges…though in hindsight it was probably closer to ankle-deep.

That was Camelot to me and Anthony. As long as Brett wasn’t home, that was our lair. I remember ordering pizza and floating my liver on Coca Cola. I remember Donkey Kong and some random racing game, the title of which escapes me at the moment. I remember thinking out loud that none of the games ever looked anything like the box art. Most of all, I remember the pixels. They glowed, they had contour, the edge of the screen was always slightly warped. These imperfections were to 80’s video games as pops and crackles were to vinyl records.

(I’m fully aware that in waxing nostalgic I’m ignoring the fact that many of the aforementioned imperfections made gaming with a broken RF switch about as fun as trying to watch broadcast television through static on a rainy day.)

Games haven’t changed much in twenty-five years. Consoles have gotten faster, pixels have gotten smaller, sound has gone from bloops and bleeps to full-fledged orchestral scores—but you’re still just running, jumping, shooting things, collecting items, or trying to level the fuck up. It’s kind of a tried-and-true formula. Despite the graphics whore in me getting strung out on what the PlayStation 3 can do visually, there’s a special place in my brain that can only be stimulated when it has to personify a bunch of pixels bopping about on a black screen. That’s one thing classic console games did well: they kept you imagining things were greater and more realistic than they actually were. You had to depend almost entirely on gameplay to get your rocks off. Sure, a poorly-animated blob in Metroid looked lame, but you knew that if you missed your footing or shot off-target, Samus would get it. That sucked.

What sucked more: Captain N. When they took Simon Belmont and made him an effeminate sunbather who was scared of his own shadow, I almost puked. His earlier, pixelated video game persona was far superior. The rest of the N characters were “off,” too. It took me a while to figure out what was wrong: The animators didn’t know these characters, I did. I’d spent the hours, days, and weeks getting to know them, sending them through level after level, using up all their lives and then starting all over again, crying with them when we ran out of continues. The cartoon folk had taken these hard-won personas and replaced them with their own crappy caricatures. Kind of like how movie studios take novels that are just fine on their own and turn them into box office fodder for a few million bucks. I don’t care what anyone says, Dune was much better on paper than on film…even though I own the Extended Edition and still watch it once a month while sipping a tall glass of Baron Brand 2% Milk.

The very first stories I ever wrote were based on video games. Even though I watched Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda cartoons all the time, I never pictured those characters in my head when I wrote my little fanfics. It was always the actual video game sprites that I imagined.

They were way cooler. ;)

Science Cookies!

Gel Electrophoresis Cookies...um...yum?

Today is Cookie Day with the family. No, really. I’m doing Scottish shortbread; my sister’s doing sweet potato sandies (she’s such a show-off). Naturally, my thoughts have turned to how I, a simple wannabe baker, can use my Googled recipes to help promote various scientific techniques—which is why Ms. Humble’s Not So Humble Pie blog caught my attention:

…the markers on my cookies are completely random DNA gibberish of course. I’d love to do these and replicate actual microbiology gels.

She’s such a geek. And I love her for it. Her gel electrophoresis (how lab coat guys and gals separate or sort out certain microscopic bits, if I’m not mistaken) sugar cookies look darned delectable. Just so you know, they’re merely cosmetically modeled after the electrophoresis process, and not actually created in an agarose-filled box. That would make them considerably less yummy. And don’t worry: the cookies don’t require any science. Only almond extract if you want that distinctive flavor. I actually knew that before reading Ms. Humble’s suggestion, thank you very much.

(Check out those bitchin’ Wii controller cookies. Sweet. Literally!)

The Geek Alphabet

K is for Keyboard

Geeks Are Sexy has posted The Geek Alphabet. My favorite letter would be K, of course, because letters E, M, P, W, and most certainly Z (Zork!) are impossible without it. If I have any beefs with the alphabet, it would probably be the fact that S is for science and not Star Trek (though an away team is mentioned at the start). Otherwise very l33t. ;)

Really Weird Game Controllers

An unfortunate accessory injured in the Great Game Console War

An unfortunate accessory injured in the Great Game Console War

It just so happened I was watching the Angry Video Game Nerd’s rant regarding the Atari 5200 when I spotted this blog entry in my feed reader this afternoon. There are some really, really weird video game accessories out there.

Like this one:

The Dream Machine: for when you just don't feel like dating women anymore

The Dream Machine: for when you just don't feel like dating women anymore

The interesting thing about this one is the pic itself. The perspective is all wrong. What kind of effed up house does this family live in? Apparently, when turned on, the Dream Machine can warp reality as well as repel twelve different kinds of coolness.

It’s not all bad news, though:

The perfect controller

The perfect controller

Some designs are simply flawless. ;)

Regarding Awkward Poses Performed in Skin-Tight Pants…

This gem is from page 3 (towards the bottom) of a thread over at the TrekBBS forum:

Remember the episode where the ship fell off a cliff before each commercial break?

Remember the episode where the ship fell off a cliff before each commercial break?

I swear I only found this by happenstance, and not because I routinely hang out on Star Trek boards where the members post cheesy photo manips of Kirk and Spock as pimps. I’m tempted to start, though. Some of those user avatars are absolute winners.

Regarding the “awkward poses performed in skin-tight pants” thing: Shatner’s pose is actually somewhat close to how I imagined Theo in “Carjam.” You know, when he downloaded into the backseat of Mrs. Flammer’s car and unwittingly enacted the flexibility of an aerobics instructor without having stretched first? Yeah, it was like that, without the tight pants or go-go boots, yes—but I bet Theo’s expression was the same.

Steve Ballmer Signs MacBook

Autograph or graffiti?

Autograph or graffiti?

The above is what happened to one student’s MacBook during Steve Ballmer’s recent Trevacca Nazarene University visit. It should be noted that the MacBook wasn’t entirely Apple:

…the machine was running Windows—we’ve yet to find out what would happen if Ballmer was asked to sign a MacBook running OS X.

Maybe it would be something like what happened to the second, less-fortunate student who asked for a MacBook signature:

Accident or foul play?

Accident or foul play?

Personally, I would’ve had Ballmer autograph my retail copy of Windows ME—or does the statute of limitations apply?

Windows 7 Sins

Windows 7 Sins—The case against Microsoft and proprietary software

Windows 7 has been getting a lot of positive press lately—and this site aims to make sure the sour is appreciated as well as the sweet. While I’m not an out-and-out Windows hater, I can relate to point 4:

Microsoft regularly attempts to force updates on its users, by removing support for older versions of Windows and Office, and by inflating hardware requirements. For many people, this means having to throw away working computers just because they don’t meet the unnecessary requirements for the new Windows versions.

I’d still be using my circa-2000 Athlon Thunderbird system for video editing if ATI hadn’t stopped refining the drivers for its All-in-Wonder 128 Pro line. Fuckers. That card had hardware MPEG-2 decoding. It was sweet. Ah, well. Spilled milk. With Windows 7 I think for the first time in a while I’m going to miss out on the whole upgrade frenzy—and I’m not going to care. Ubuntu 9.04 is friggin’ perfect. Well, Brasero burns discs at ~1x unless you remember to disable certain plug-ins, and VLC’s audio output is broken—and GNOME’s screen lock feature sometimes freezes up when you try to log back in, but other than that (and the fact that there still isn’t a good, easily-installable video editor for Linux) it’s Ubuntulicious. I think Ubuntu even renders Microsoft’s new Cleartype fonts better than Vista does. 13px Corbel looks pimpin’ in Firefox 3.5.

Holy Shatner. I just realized my loyalty to one particular operating system hinges solely on its ability to render type in a clear, legible manner. Can you say OCD?