Alice Krige as the Borg Queen had to be one of the creepiest and yet most compelling villains in the Star Trek universe. This is a particularly lovely picture of her too. Good wishes to you, Alice! And good wishes to you as well, reader!
After posting a couple of these on FaceBook, it struck me that I do have my own space on the ‘net, and Zuckerberg has plenty of content already.
What a beauty! Nurse Chappel, Lwaxana Troi, and the voice of the Federation computer, indeed without her presence, the Star Trek universe would not have been the same. And, that’s not to mention her many roles in other movies and shows, both in and out of science fiction. Sadly, I am not the “Mike” to whom she wished “Peace & Love” in silver Sharpie, but it’s still a neat piece. The world lost a great one when she passed in 2008.
One of Jennifer’s gags for years now is that she wanted to get a personal birthday greeting from “Weird Al” Yankovic, since they share a common birth date. This year, I rolled up my sleeves and reached out to the musician, explaining the situation and asked if he could help me out. What should come in the mail today?
It may be a little late, but it still counts, right? So, what do you want for Christmas, Jennifer? *cracks knuckles* A unicorn? The Hope Diamond? Your own private island?
My attention was recently brought to one Anita Sarkeesian. Thank you, JB! She’s a YouTube personality, a video gamer, and apparently a vocal feminist. Watch her whole video if you care to, but this link should take you straight to the money line. In case you don’t feel like clicking over, allow me to quote Miss Sarkeesian:
The belief that women are somehow a naturally weaker gender is a deeply engrained, socially constructed myth, which of course is completely false.
BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAHHA! I like her. She’s funny. Did you catch that, Jennifer? You have no excuses anymore. That I can do more sit-ups or push-ups than you is not actually a fact, but merely a social construct. You can’t draw my bow? Not so, that’s a myth! And, if I’m carrying more firewood than you? The idea that you can’t carry as much is completely false. In fact, when they’ve had to dumb down the standards for a woman to get into the military, that’s just the patriarchy in action. Granted, I’ve met a few gals that could mop the floor with my happy ass same as I’ve met a few guys that my lovely and girly wife could pound into hamburger meat, but these are the exceptions to the overarching rule that men are naturally stronger than women. Attempting to relabel that fact as a “socially constructed myth” simply does not make it not so.
I don’t want to be too hard on Sarkeesian because between her platitudes and stale talking points she does manage a couple of valid points, and every now and then even teases at even-handedness. However, one could probably make a blogging career tearing apart her screeds line by line. Without doing a full analysis of all her videos, I’ll spitball a summary and call her one of the tragic cases that could be quite the powerful egalitarian if she’d simply drop the stale talking points, buzzwords, and made up BS that’s so popular among modern feminism. Men and women are in fact different and that’s okay. It doesn’t make girls better than boys or boys better than girls. If I thought that women were inferior, I wouldn’t have married one. In fact, women have great power that they derive from sources other than their physical strength. And, I do love me some powerful women!
In the dating world, the shrinking violets never really kept my interest. It sounds mean for me to say that I got bored of them, but facts are facts. One of the big reasons that I was attracted to Jennifer in the first place, and one of the reasons that it’s been working so well for like seventeen years now and I’m still attracted to her is that she’s a powerful woman. Indeed, I’ve been known to say that when the zombies come, I would prefer to be back to back with her over anyone else. In the above linked video, Sarkeesian bitches about the recurring theme of the damsel in distress in video games. Let’s be real though. We men have an inborn desire to save the girl, stemming from eons ago in less civilized times when it was necessary for the survival of the species for the stronger to protect the weaker, and video game designers have been cashing in on that survival drive since there have been video games. Cheap trick? Perhaps. If you dramatized my life into a game, sometimes I’d save Jennifer but other times she’d save me. Most of the time, we’d be working through our challenges together. The thing is, video games aren’t supposed to be realistic. Games play off of fantasy because mundane games would be boring. If you don’t believe me, click that last link and I dare you to enjoy.
Jennifer and I have each been fans of “Weird” Al Yankovic’s work since we were children. His original songs are as well executed as they are silly, and I find his parodies to be not only witty, but often more complex and better performed than the originals he’s riffing on. Floating around the house, we have CDs, records, and even cassettes with his name on the label, as we’ve accumulated them over the years. More than once, Jennifer has expressed her desire to get a personal birthday greeting from Yankovic, owing much to the fact that his birthday is the same as hers. I’d very much like to see this happen. Considering yesterday’s release of his video “Lame Claim to Fame,” it seems only appropriate that I mention this now.
She has a very solid lame claim to fame of her own, and the shared birth date in question is just over three months out. We’re not expecting anything fancy here. Yankovic is no doubt a busy man, and nobody is expecting him to show up in a limo in person or anything of the sort, but a simple birthday greeting by mail, phone, or online would make her day and give her a great story that she’d be telling for years. Indeed, she’s never been shy about flying the flag on this lame claim, as she’ll mention it in conversation anytime either the subject of her birthday or Weird Al Yankovic himself, is brought up. Weird Al has a lot of fans that would also like such personal attention, but the vast majority of those don’t share a birthday in common with him. I will likely at least request a signed photo by mail, but I very much doubt that this option will get her a customized greeting. At that, I will ask you, my friends, fans, minions, and flying monkeys, please spread the word. If this message makes it far enough around the internet, perhaps Yankovic will get the message. If anyone out there has some strings they could possibly pull, please do so. Help me to take her lame claim to fame and complete it. Thank you!
In past years, our son has kind of lost his mind over summer breaks between school years, and the ensuing fall has been quite a struggle. So, in the last few years, I’ve assigned him projects to complete, not to fill up his break or keep him busy, but to keep the brain active. Two years ago, I had him write a research paper on the Soviet Union. Last summer, he read The Diary of Anne Frank and worked on video editing and digital music composition. This has successfully eased him into the last few school years, so I think we’ll keep doing this until graduation. This year’s project is to learn to design video games and Android development, with the end goal of publishing a downloadable game on Google Play. This assignment came with the disclaimer that I didn’t really know how much work that would entail, and if it turned out to be an unreasonable goal, we would reevaluate and revise if necessary.
This week Teen Bot is taking a video game design class. It’s a workshop offered to local area youth for four days this week for seven hours a day. Yesterday morning, I got up, took him to the grocery store to pack him a lunch, and dropped him off at the community center. I was quite excited for him, and admittedly a little nervous to entrust him to strangers. It’s odd how we as parents do that. I know full well that he’ll soon be an autonomous adult, but I still can’t help but be a little protective. I returned to pick him up in the afternoon, and he was excited to tell me about his day. He used some kind of game design program to make two video games, one of which includes three levels of play. Of course, I’m looking forward to hearing about today’s experiences this afternoon.
As we made our way home, he asked me, “did you see that phone back there?”
“No I didn’t,” I responded, “what and where?”
“There was a smart phone lying in the street right back there,” he said.
Imagining some deprecated piece of junk phone roadkill, I humored him, “do you want me to turn around and go back for it?”
“Yeah, I do,” he said.
So, I turned the truck around, and he pointed out the device in question, lying in the street as he said. As we passed it, it appeared to be intact. I turned around again and instructed him, “I’ll pull up, and you can reach out the door and pick it up.” When he retrieved the phone, we could see that it was an AT&T HTC in a sturdy case with a screen protector. This was clearly someone’s baby, not their beater. I don’t know the HTC models very well, but from the lack of wear, I would say that it was not very old. I figured once we got to the house, I’d try to figure out who it belonged to and reunite it with its owner.
When we got back to the house, Teen Bot began to gather the phone up with his lunch bag and other stuff. I stopped him and said, “why don’t you let me take care of that phone?” I took it back to my desk to try to figure out what to do with it. I thought maybe I’d browse the contacts and see if I could get in touch with a family member of the owner. When I hit the power button, it brought up a lock screen asking for a password. Great. A quick Google search gave a few suggestions on how to hack past the lock out, using a PC and Android exploits. Red flag. I pulled the case off of it to see if there was a serial number or other identifying marking in the battery compartment. Not being familiar with HTC products, it was not immediately clear how to open the battery cover. I put the case back on the phone, wondering what to do next.
And then it rang. The caller ID came up as just a number, evidently not in the contact list. I answered the phone in my friendliest, warmest tone, but there was no reply. “Hello? Hello? I can’t hear you, if you can hear me.” But, there was nothing on the other end: no voice, no background noise, just dead silence. A few minutes later, it rang once more. This time the caller ID read “mamma.” I attempted to answer it again in the same fashion as before, with the same results. When the phone disconnected, mamma began to call it incessantly. When I tried to answer it, I still got nothing. I tried to call the local AT&T store, but I wound up in automated-message, on-hold hell, with the classic, flat, female voice informing me that all customer service representatives were currently helping other customers. There were options that she suggested, but I missed them over the cacophony of mamma calling. “Teen Bot,” I said, “let’s take this phone down to the AT&T store and let them deal with it.”
As we drove the two miles, give or take, to the store, mamma continued to ring the phone, evidently as often as was possible to connect, go to voice mail, disconnect; lather, rinse, repeat. Arriving at the store, I expected them to be very busy after my failed phone call, but they were not. As I came through the door, a sales girl, Suzie or something, diligently approached me, no doubt hoping to score SPIFFs for selling me a new iPhone 5.1sx or Galaxy S23 along with a phat new contract. Before she could say anything, I presented the HTC to her, saying, “I found this laying in the street in my neighborhood, and somebody is going to want it back. Can you make that happen? It rang a couple times, and I tried to answer it, but…” Before I could finish, mamma cut me off as the phone rang yet again.
The sales girl answered it, saying, “this is Suzie at AT&T.” *pause* “I work at the AT&T store on Blank Street.” *pause* “Yes, your phone was just turned in.” *pause* “Blank street.” *pause* “Well it’s here now, and you can come pick it up.”
I lipped “thank you” to her and left. Perhaps this will earn me some Karma points. I have to wonder what the story was on the other side. There weren’t any street rash marks on the phone or case. I can understand that stuff gets dropped by accident, but people are usually more careful with The Expensive New Toy, not that I’m being judgmental toward them. I wonder if they thought their phone had been stolen somehow, and the strange male voice coming from my end was the perpetrator of the crime. I hope not. Rather, I’d like to think that they were thankful to the anonymous stranger who went out of his way to protect their lost valuable property, and see that it was returned in a timely fashion. At the very least, I hope it made for a good story they can tell.
Recently, Teen Bot has picked up a few GameCube games to play on our Wii. If you’re not familiar, Nintendo’s Wii console will natively play GameCube disks, and has four GameCube controller ports under a cover on the top or side of the unit, depending on how it is oriented on your shelf. As he’s been playing these games, his status was mysteriously not saving from the last time he played each game. Upon further reading, it came to my attention that the Wii will not save GameCube game status internally, but requires a GameCube memory card for this function. At the local game scalp shop, I inquired as to whether they stocked any GameCube memory cards, even though I’d found a few options online. They showed me their offering, a 32mb, or 507 “block” card for $9.00. I declined and ordered a 128mb, 2043 “block” card for $11.00 on Amazon Prime. The mailman dropped it off today. The packaging looks like the packaging in the local store, but I actually read the text on it this time.
So, let’s recap.
1. CAN INDEPENDENT SAVE DIFFERENT KIND OF GAMES
Viva la memory card!
2. SUITABLE FOR WII VERSION GAMES
Of course, we’re not having issues with Wii games, just GameCube games. If it doesn’t work right, you’ll hear about it.
3. HIGH SPEED AND EFFICIENCY PRODUCT
Good to know.
4. EASY TO USE
I should hope so.
5. QUALITY ASSURES
Alright, but what does quality assure?
6. REAL 2043 BLOCKS NON-COMPRESS
I’m not really even sure what that means.
! DON’T KEEP “THE MEMORY CARD FOR WII CONSOLE” IN HOT, DANK OR SUN SHINE PLACE.
I promise not to store this memory card in Sun Shine Place, wherever that is, even if it sounds like the most awesome suburban housing addition ever.
! DON’T THROW, DROP OR APPLY STRONG SHOCK TO “THE MEMORY CARD FOR WII CONSOLE”.
“Apply strong shock to”? So, I shouldn’t tell it that it’s adopted on its ninth birthday?
! DON’T PUT ANY HEAVY OBJECTS ON THE “THE MEMORY CARD”.
Lightweight game save only. Also, the redundant “THE” is awesome here.
! DON’T CLEAN “THE MEMORY CARD” WITH OR GANIC SUB STANCE.
I had to read this last one about three times to get the full scope of it, and then fall apart in fits of laughter. The bottom of the package is marked “MADE IN CHINA.” Really? I’ve gotten spam email and blog comments for Russian mail-order brides that was more coherent than this. So again I say:
Engrish can. The success fully!
As we’ve said before, we spent part of last Saturday at Super! BitCon, a show put on by our local chapter of Retro Gamer’s Society. Jennifer already posted about some of the costumes we saw wandering around the event. I’d like to focus on three of the younger ones, two brothers and their sister. Of course, the contest winner and show stopper was little Ash.
He was standing right next to me while I was inspecting wares on a vendor table. I didn’t even notice him until Jennifer pointed him out. They did a fantastic job on his costume. I had to say to him and his dad, “well done, sirs!” And, his brother…
The gaming icon himself, “Jumpman” Mario. Obviously, his costume was also well-executed. And then, there was their sister.
I was drawing a blank. She excitedly proclaimed, “I’m a *unintelligible*” She actually said it twice, and I felt really bad for not understanding that last word.
Then her dad said, “are you familiar with the game ‘Cheetahmen’?”
I laughed out loud, “of course, she’s a Cheetahman!” Then I said to her, “are you going to jump twice and glitch out and float in the air?”
“Yesssss!” her dad said.
If you, gentle reader, aren’t fully with me here, the following video will shed some light on the subject, although take it with NSFW and foul language warnings:
Again I say, well done.
My fascination with robots began when I was a child. In the fourth grade gifted classroom, I watched with envy as the fifth graders got to play with the robot kits. These were simple machines that the students assembled as per the included instructions that performed simple tasks. There was one that would follow a black line on a white sheet of paper. Others would seek out light sources and waddle on spindly legs. They were only robots by the most rudimentary of definitions. I also took a great interest in the software conversational programs in the computer lab at school. I fully knew that all of the responses were pre-programmed, and that there were key words that they were coded to pick from user input that would prompt their selected responses. I also suspected that these could be written far more elegantly, although I didn’t have the know how to do any better at the time. Things quickly changed though.
I voraciously learned everything I could about robotics and programming. By the time I was in the robot unit in fifth grade, the kits in the gifted class were too simple for my tastes. I earned extra credit in that unit for building a robot from scratch that could measure out precise volumes of materials and mix them together in predetermined ways. I intended it to be a chemistry aid, but my parents found that it was a great automated bartender for their parties. That old thing is still in the back of a closet at their house, as far as I know. I kept building machines of various sorts, each one more complex, and yet more streamlined than the last. I sought to code a program that would not simply spit out a sentence from a list like the ones mentioned above, but one that would give genuine, intelligent responses to user input. Could a machine be programmed with philosophy?
I had a grand vision of one unifying machine that would bring together my interests in AI, programming, robotics, and sculpture. The kind of exotic hardware with the raw processing power that I was after was difficult and expensive to get my hands on. I was able to scrape together the funds I needed by delivering papers every morning, mowing every lawn I could, and selling my plasma and semen using a fake ID. Many sleepless nights were spent soldering chips to boards, programming, and silicone casting. I felt like Dr. Frankenstein, obsessed with my work. I was out to make a beautiful, living, breathing creature from the underpinnings of synthetic materials. I wanted the AI framework to have wit and learning ability and to exhibit genuine care for others. There were many failed attempts, but in the end I was successful. The Jennifer unit was my crowning achievement.
I have to admit that my internet handle is only guilty projection. When Jennifer first powered up, she was so perfect that I simply couldn’t hide her and keep her all to myself. I had to share her with the world, and so registered InJennifersHead.com so everyone could have a chance to appreciate the fruits of my labor. I’ve had very little to do with her website since then, and her interactions have been genuinely hers. She’s programmed to write very well and I took special care in writing her snark module. Those of you who have had the opportunity to meet her can attest to the fact that she looks as natural as you or I. In fact, the only ones who may have ever suspected that she wasn’t a human are those that were at that party back in 2001 when she glitched out and I had to reboot her. To the host, I’m still sorry about the curtains. At the time, I was terrified that I’d hit upon yet another failure, but with a couple of hardware and coding tweaks, Jennifer has been running smoothly ever since.
As I said, there were failed attempts. My Jennifer, the one that you all know and love, is actually Jennifer 2.0. Jennifer 1.0 was admittedly a mess. She was the very face of the uncanny valley, looking not quite like a genuine biological. She had a buggy system too. One night in a drunken rage, she burned a barn down, throwing herself into the flames. I nearly gave up then, but pressing onward, I was able to learn from my mistakes. There were a couple of fatal flaws in the first Jennifer’s positronic net, and I missed some small but distracting details in her case. I took my time with Jennifer 2.0, determined to get every detail perfect. She can drive a car, shoot a gun, work a job, sing, and do pretty much anything a natural born human can. She can even swim, although I’m always paranoid that she may get a leak and damage her circuits. Indeed, if I could do anything differently in her build, it would be to improve her coordination, if that’s even possible.
It seems that I completely broke the mold on her build. Soon after, I built Wee Bot 1.0. The Wee Bot series has since been replaced with the Teen Bot series, but both have been fraught with bugs. I still can’t get him to work right, even on the current revision, Teen Bot 15.0. He’s completely unpredictable. Sometimes, he does exactly what he’s programmed to, but other times he’s defiant and rebellious, and fails to perform even the most simple of tasks. I haven’t given up on him yet, but he’s certainly not a finished work. Especially with the relative ease of interaction with Jennifer, Teen Bot has been quite the frustration from time to time. It was admittedly a pretty scary decision to identify him as a ‘Bot’ to the rest of the world so early on. To my surprise, people have accepted him despite his surly attitude and questionable judgment algorithms.
You must be wondering why I did it. The answer is simple. I was lonely. You don’t think that a guy like me could actually attract a woman like Jennifer do you? Not a chance, building one from scratch was the only viable option for me. And would I do it all over again? Yes I would, in a heartbeat. I do regret that I haven’t been truthful to my loyal readers though. Now that I’ve put all this out in the open, I hope you can find it in your hearts to forgive me. And, please don’t judge Jennifer for my actions. Please do keep reading and commenting on her blog. She didn’t ask for any of this. Well, except for that party where she glitched out and burned the curtains. Hopefully all those bugs are now behind us.