July 31, 2011


I'm not saying this as an excuse, but more as a fact.  Work has sucked so hard recently, it's made me ill.  My job shouldn't be that hard.  So instead of doing the things I usually do outside of work to keep sane, I've been playing the Sims.  Kind of obessively.

But it's really for the same reason a lot of us play video games.  It's an escape.  It's a world where everything is perfect.  Where heros win and villans die.  Where the goal is crystal clear and known to be achievable.  Where every triumph is recognized.

Sometimes when life sucks, you need that if only for a couple hours a day.

I want to apologize for not writing as much.  I've been escaping this ridiculous job I've been in (coworkers and I feel like we've been caught up in a soap opera) with a world where people's live are successful and easy with the click of a button.  And even that's not always true with the Generations expansion pack, but still, it's easier than this.

Also, when you're brain is swiss cheese at the end of the day, what do you write?  I don't want to become a "look at this cool video" blog, so I just wait until I have something I can write when I'm not going to mentally melt away.  Though I am in generally in support of cool video on the internet.

I'm going to try and fight through this barrage of extreme situations at work and give you guys more to read.  Just, thanks for your patience.  And thank god for video games, books, well-written tv and friends.  They make life easier.

July 22, 2011

Disillusioned with Macs

Anyone want to get me a job that doesn't zap me of all energy by 6pm?

In other news, I've been thinking about my laptop a lot recently.  It's a Mac, which I do like and have been using since college.  It was very convenient in college to have because of the fact there was a mac store on campus and if anything got messed up, you could just take it there.  Expensive?  Of course.  But it was a Mac campus practically.  Not to say you were totally out of the loop with a PC laptop, but the probability of having a Mac was way higher than normal.

When I went into the real world I stuck with Macs, getting a Macbook almost 2 years ago.  I thought it would be something that would serve me well.

I'm not here to complain about proprietary software or hardware.  I can live with that as someone who doesn't feel the need to upgrade or adjust everything on a computer to my will.   To be honest, only recently did I not fall into the "OMG it's pretty" trap when it comes to what I care about for my programs.

I'm not here to complain about how it's now popular and there's now nothing unique about Macs.  Who cares.  Apple is a business, they want to get popular and it's not my problem.

I'm complaining about every since case I have that's been easily broken.  These things are not durable!  First it was before they had the magnetic power cord, the ac adapter's connection to the wall was SO sturdy that if a trip incident happened, the whole thing was taken out.  Ugh.  And that is how my first Powerbook's screen got totally ruined. Ivy was then replaced by the recent intel Ivy II, a Macbook which had everything I needed.  Except a flimsy DVD drive that almost stopped working because the opening was soft enough that holding your computer by the DVD drive it would squish.  Who leaves something that malleable in a laptop unprotected?  Anyway, then there was the time I spilt juice on that one and the key didn't work.  Yeah, that one is my fault, so I had no problem replacing it with another Macbook.

But with this one, I can't replace the battery on my own anymore.  Excuse me?

Also, when I got it I realized that the bottom of it was soft thick latex that was screwed into the bottom.  I can dig it.  That is, I can dig it until the heat of the laptop itself starts WARPING THE LATEX CASING.  Now it's practically falling off.  Are you kidding me?  What kind of design flaw is this?

Also, the joint where the screen is has two cracks already.  I haven't dropped this, I've always carried this in a laptop safe case, and other than the occasional bump I've been much better to this laptop than to any other one I've ever used in college.  WHAT THE HELL, APPLE?!?!  Why are you making laptops that obviously should not be transported?  This thing is falling apart and I treated it right!

I really wish I could keep the OS and just ditch the case, but Apple doesn't work like that and I'm not going to become a 1337 haxorz to try it.  I just want a laptop that I can have for more than two years at a time without it BREAKING ITSELF.

If any of you know of any good netbooks I should consider in the future, please let me know.  Because the plan now is the save up to get one, and then have Mystic to put Linux on it.

Because Windows can still suck it.

July 16, 2011

Some thoughts on Terraria.

When I'm not busy drowning in the woe that my job seems to be full of these days, I'm escaping with video games.  One of the ones I was surprised I even got into was Terraria.

Mystic and I bought a four pack or Terraria in hopes of being able to enjoy the multiplayer.  We haven't been able to hook it up but I decided to try it on my own.  At first it's very slow.  Like Minecraft, you start out with nothing and there are no real instructions as to what you can do in the world.  I played for 30 minutes and gave it a break for after a week.  

I decided to give it another try.  But this time I decided to use the help of the Terraria wiki whenever I got tripped up.  And that has made the difference.

Sure, you may be a person who loves to discover stuff on your own, but then you'll be missing out on some very vital information.  And although I love exploring things I don't like getting killed all the time.  With the wiki behind the window playing Terraria, I was able to fully enjoy the game.

You do get all the materials to make everything you want to make, which forces you to explore.  And exploring is half the point of this game.  There are multiple terrains and dangerous areas to explore.  Sure you could walk side to side, but if you want any kind of significant swag you have to dig underground.  If you don't explore underground, you're missing out on most of the game.  

Crafting the things you need to becoming the best fighter available is easy to do, since you don't have to memorize how to make stuff.  If you find something that you think might be useful, go the the Guide NPC go through the prompts to ask what you can make with it.  And your crafting table will tell you everything you can make with your inventory.

So gearing yourself up is one part, but the other part is making a little town.  As you fulfill certain parameters, more people will flock to where you live.  But they need houses.  So you have to make them houses.  however, you also have to protect these houses.  This is a great thing to find out when a horde of zombies is overrunning what you built and you have to protect it from all sides.  Depending on how you built everything, it's not that easy.  Multiple doors mean multiple deaths, which means losing half that money you earned from traversing those caverns.  Keeping people in your town is totally worth it too.  They're not just random people.  They can heal you and sell you extra goodies that are hard to find.  They're useful, so don't just let them die on you.

Except the Guide, he is totally annoying.

Like Minecraft, Terraria is a game about what you as a player would like.  Here's a world full of stuff--now do something with it.  It's definitely fun if you're good at making your own goals and enjoying the excitement of finding something you've never seen before.  Is it a Minecraft clone?  No.  This is definitely more about fighting monsters and getting hidden treasure then Minecraft originally intended to be.  I personally like that more.  Also, I am more partial to the 16bit 2D world for some reason.  Nostalgia maybe, but it's still my preference.  Regardless, explorers and crafters in video games will like this one, and should definitely give it a try.

July 8, 2011

Parable of the Sower

In hopes of engaging in some literature, I went to my library not too long ago and actually only got one fiction book: Parable of the Sower by Octavia E Butler.  Butler has a reputation for writing really thoughtful science fiction, but I hadn't read anything of hers.  Some of her books are even in part of my mother's huge sci-fi collection and I just never had a chance to touch any of it.  But I read the summary on the jacket cover in the library, and decided that this would be a good start for her work.

It's a great piece of first person.  The main character, Lauren Olamina, is writing in a journal, which is what the reader is experiencing.  The gaps in time actually work in the narrative's favor.  The style is not trying to hard to be a journal, which in some way I appreciate more.  Having a main character that is a good writer is actually a better idea than some other sophomoric attempts I have seen before (including my own in the past).

The general story is about how Lauren is growing up in an hostile United States that becomes more and more fractured over time.  Drugs and crime are rampant, and the only defense people have against violent drug abusers is to hide within communities.  Early on Lauren realizes her community is going to fall apart, she doesn't know when but she does decide to plan.  The first half of the book you're waiting for everything to fall apart merely because Lauren is convinced it will.  As things get worse and worse you keep on thinking it will be on the next page, and when it finally does happen you still kicked in the face with it, it still feels sudden.  Lauren's journey, and her ways to cope with a violent world along the old highways of the west coast, becomes even more enthralling, and the end is bittersweet and befitting for the dystopia Lauren has lived in.

I don't want to call this a review merely because I know I enjoyed a book when I actually finish it.  I'm really good at starting a book and never feeling compelled to pick it up again.  That was not a problem with Parable of the Sower.  I had to stop myself from reading it so that I could sleep.  What that really means is the pacing is excellent.  Pacing is key for my enjoyment of a story, and if it's not at the right equilibrium you've lost me.  Not so with this story.

I appreciate how thoughtful Butler is with characters, and her honest with how cruel humanity could be. Everyone wants a future like Star Trek, but to be honest it takes a long time and a lot of work and luck to get there.  As much as I hope Butler's world in this book is not the future, I appreciated how realistic government reactions and individual responses were.  Butler know people.

There is a sequel, Parable of the Talents, that I'm not as tempted to read.  The ending to Sower was so good and perfect in my head that I kind of don't want to touch it.  Maybe in the future I can be convinced of otherwise.

July 5, 2011

The Nerd Couple, Episode Six

Did you miss us?  Sorry we're late!  Real world is working against us!

Every other week, hear the discussions of The Nerd Couple, starring d20 Sapphire and Mystic.  They discuss geeky news and topics, and approach it from our unique nerd upbringings.

This week: When not worried about butter sticks, the Nerd Couple has video games on the brain.  We discuss how race is depicted in video game characters and how sometimes we're disappointed with it. Awesome: Video Games qualify for First Amendment Protection!  Not so awesome: Fans of Star Wars Galaxies sues Sony for petition nonsense.  Biweekly B.S.: Operation Rainfall gets dissed by Nintendo.

Special thanks to EsTeeKay of Binary Protege Productions for supplying the intro music, and for promising us video game remixes in the future. 

Also thanks to John Morgan for making the song at the end of our podcast, Happiness, which many have heard from the the Mass Effect 2 soundtrack.  Once again, I can't find a site for John Morgan, so if you have a link let me know so we can spread the awesome!

Have you read Mystic's blog yet?

Email d20sapphire@gmail.com for topic suggestions and feedback!  The Nerd Couple would love to hear from you.

July 4, 2011


I wouldn't be surprised if this idea has been used before, but bear with me.

Again, thinking about my Titania idea and character concept so captivating just grabbed me.

Imagine a world where you are genetically calibrated before you are born to have the optimal genes of both your parents.  Any "bad" genes that carry genetic disorders are taken out, and only "neutral" or "beneficial" genes are kept in.  Imagine growing up knowing that your genetic coding was the optimized splicing of your parents, your are considered to be one of a few perfect possibilities due to the luxury of modern science.

And then imagine having a gender dysphoria in that world.