Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Sexist Clothing for Little Girls at JCPenney

So JCPenny is currently selling this shirt:

Available here, if you're curious.
Isn't that a great message? If you're pretty, you don't have to be smart. I know it's my dream to one day raise a bunch of future trophy wives who have no life skills. 

But this shirt, as gross as it is, is part of a larger problem. In the past 20 - 30 years, Americans are increasingly celebrating their ignorance, reveling in the petty human dramas of reality television and living in a world where celebrity "news" is on the same page as actual news. This dumbing down of our society has lead us to have some very skewed priorities. And let's not forget that education is the key to financial independence, and financial independence is one way women can escape abusive relationships has a petition up to tell JCPenney to stop selling this shirt. I have a healthy skepticism about online petitions, but I did sign this one. 

UPDATE - JCPenney has agreed to stop selling the shirt. That was some extremely quick action on their part! 

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Why the City of Heroes Free to Play Model Needs Help

To be honest, I had not given much thought or notice to the new free to play options coming with City of Heroes: Freedom. I plan to keep paying, which would put me at the VIP level, and nothing about the game will change much for me. Taking that into consideration, along with the limited amount of time I had to beta test, I focused my testing more on the new stories (my favorite part of the game) and the new power sets. While I do have two inactive accounts that I had planned to make Premium accounts (former paid subscribers coming back to play for free), I didn't think anything about the new program would be objectionable. 

Fortunately for me, you, and anyone else interested in the free to play options, many other people were paying attention and have eloquently spoken up about the defects and inadequacies of the program. The most comprehensive gathering of information comes from my friend and CoH mate Manoa. On her blog, Manoa has compiled the information in a thorough yet succinct way to fully illustrate why she and other players have major concerns about the F2P model. She has her feedback broken up into several parts and gives some excellent background on City of Heroes:

  • Part 1 - Manoa gives her own history with CoH and lays out the changes coming to the pay structure.
    • I wholeheartedly feel, particularly with a community-centric game like COH, that returning players are the key to a successful F2P transition. These are players who have a certain level of experience with the game, have a vested interest in returning (as they have existing characters to return to) and will be able to get up to speed far faster than new players. Treat these players right, you’ll have servers well stocked with players who can contribute to teams, mentor new players and spend money on microtransactions. I personally feel that the best way to lure those returning players back to the game is to make them feel appreciated for the time and money they’ve spent as a past subscriber. And the best way to do so is with a hybrid F2P system.
  • Part 2 - Manoa lays out her concerns about the F2P model, particularly how it affects returning players using the Premium account option.
    • I have absolutely no issue with how the Paragon Rewards themselves are set-up, as it’s quite similar to the current Veteran Reward Program. However, I have some huge reservations with how the Premium Tier Perks are proposed to work, particularly with those perks at the higher tiers.
  • Part 3 - Manoa gives a more in-depth look at why the F2P model is going to turn off returning players.
    • My second philosophy stems from being a long-time tabletop roleplayer…DON'T mess with the players' loot. Players have an emotional attachment to the characters they've played (even if it's a character they haven't played in years) because they've poured blood, sweat and tears to get the gear they want and to mold that character into what they envision. And they detest their characters being messed with, especially when it comes to their hard earned gains. Take away or deactivate a player’s existing loot, they’ll react quite negatively (nerd rage is not a pretty sight).
  • Part 4 - Manoa continues the in-depth critique and discusses one of the more troubling aspects of the F2P model - shutting Premium players out of using loot they already have.
    • Now, some will argue that making IOs such a high requirement is completely acceptable because the game is completely playable with lesser enhancements (TOs, DOs and SOs). And they’re completely right…the game is playable without using IOs. In fact, it typically isn’t even worth bothering with most IOs until you hit around Level 30. But remember, this crafting/loot system has been in the game for over 4 years (it was incorporated into the game in Issue 9, we’re about to enter Issue 21 with COH – Freedom). It’s been in the game so long that it considered standard operating procedure by many players. And again, players don’t like their hard earned gains messed with and those returning players who come back as Premium players will not be pleased to see their IOs not working and being forced into lesser enhancements.
  • Part 5 - Manoa discusses the other deeply troubling aspect of the F2P model - premium access archetypes.
    • Upon the announcement that Controllers and Masterminds would be elevated to the status of purchasable classes, returning players were assured that if they returned with enough Veteran Badges, they would be able to access their characters. However, “enough” is a 30 month (2.5 year) worth of Veteran Badges to yield you the 13 Reward Tokens needed to access your existing character. 
    • If you don’t have enough time with the game to unlock Tier 5, your characters will be greyed out and unplayable. The only way for a returning Premium player to unlock these any characters that are of these ATs is to either spend enough money in the Paragon Market to acquire enough tokens to qualify for the Tier 5 unlock or to spend $15 per archetype to unlock them in the Paragon Market. Buyer beware…if you buy the $15 unlock in the store and eventually unlock your Tier 5, there are no refunds(which can lead to a vicious money trap, which I will discuss later in this blog).
  • Part 6 - Manoa offers some excellent suggestions to fix the F2P model.
    • One possibility is to make the vet badge requirements to unlock Premium Tier Perks more in-line with the financial investment F2Pers have to pay for that same perk. For example, F2Pers would have to pay $390 on the first day of release to unlock Tier 7 and get access to the Invention System (and IOs). This is equivalent to a 26subscription (based on a month-to-month sub of $14.99 per month). So why not make the requirement to unlock a Tier 7 perk 26 months instead of 63 months?
  • Part 7 - Manoa discusses psychographics and how they relate to City of Heroes.
    • I had a revelation during the panel after learning of this form of market segmentation…THIS is the reason I am so bothered by the Premium Tier Perks. Or rather, Paragon Studios either not recognizing or are completely misapplying psychographic market segmentation in City of Heroes – Freedom. (pity I hadn't waited until after PAX to start my Premium Tier Perks blog series...I would have been able to give you readers a far more concise presentation had I realized the root cause of what was bothering me!)
Manoa's critique and possible solutions are an interesting and eye-opening read. It makes me wish I had paid more attention to the system when it was first announced, as I'm afraid now that it's too late to offer any kind of feedback that will be taken into consideration. It also makes me incredibly reluctant to reactivate my other two accounts. One account only has 3.5 years of paid time, and the other has about a year. Neither of which have enough time to use the loot I have on my characters, even though I spent time and in-game currency and resources to make them. I also don't have enough time on the 1 year account to play the Controllers I have on it. These things are huge disincentives to me, and are making me reluctant to reup those accounts. 

This criticism is shared by many CoH players and has been discussed at length on the CoH forums. Now we just have to wait and see if that feedback is being listened to. 

Saturday, August 27, 2011

City of Heroes News from PAX

The City of Heroes dev team is at PAX this weekend, and the had a big panel discussion today. Lots of cool information was revealed at the panel, and players are sharing that information on the official CoH forums this evening.

The major cool stand out for me is a haunted mansion event for Halloween. I'm excited to see brand new content for my favorite holiday and favorite in-game event. 

The major WTF? thing that stands out for me are barbarian stilettos: 

Pardon me while I face palm for a few hours. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Why GameStop's Actions Should Bother You

Ever since I found out about GameStop's stunt with Deus Ex: Human Revolution, which I wrote about in my Weekly Roundup, I can't get it out of my head. I feel kinda betrayed, even though I'm not one who was affected by their actions. But I am someone who has been loyal to GameStop in the past and who has encouraged people to shop there over buying games at Wal*Mart or other big box stores. I sincerely believe that specialty stores need to exist and that buying one's electronics at the same store one buys their underwear isn't a good idea. But I'm also creeped out by being able to buy underwear, produce, and My Little Ponies at the same place, but that's a different rant for a different day. 

Reading more about what has gone on, especially reading the response that GameStop gave on their Facebook page, has left a bad taste in my mouth. This is that response as reported from Kotaku (emphasis mine):
Regarding the Deus Ex: Human Revolution OnLive Codes: We don't make a habit of promoting competitive services without a formal partnership. Square Enix packed the competitor's coupon with our DXHR product without our prior knowledge and we did pull these coupons. While the new products may be opened, we fully guarantee the condition of the discs to be new. If you find this to not be the case, please contact the store where the game was purchased and they will further assist.
It's bad enough that GameStop is so unapologetic in its asshattery, but to then claim that DEHR is their product? Seriously? DEHR is Square Enix's property which they allow GameStop to sell. Square's product was sold to GameStop customers in a different condition than how they packaged it. It was tampered with, opened, and sold as a new item, and I am not the only one questioning how legal it is. The coupon they stole from their customers before pulling the rest of their copies off the shelves was valued at $49.99. If someone stole that much money from you, you'd be pretty upset and rightly so. How is what they did not theft, not deceptive business practices, and not a violation of their agreement with Square Enix to be allowed to sell their products? 

But worse than all this is the precedence it sets. If GameStop gets away with this, what next? Will they then be able to throw away any material packaged with a game they find objectionable? And who makes that call? 

Weekly Roundup

New of the Geek

Good Internet Reads

Neat Finds

    Tuesday, August 23, 2011

    Origami Napkins

    Origami Napkins
    Origami napkins - perfect for your next dinner party.

    As I've posted before, I love to cook. But more than that, I love to feed people. Years ago, before I went back to college, I frequently hosted dinner parties. Every Friday I'd have a home full of people, serving good food, having good conversation, in a comfortable atmosphere I created. People coming together to eat and socialize is practically holy for me, and I take the art of hospitality seriously. 

    But I'm also a geek, and as such I'm constantly on the look out for awesome kitchen and dining gadgets that will not only make the dining experience more enjoyable, but will warm my geek heart and be liked by my guests. So imagine the squeals when I found these origami napkins. What an extremely cool idea! 

    I personally wouldn't use them often, as I try to limit my use of disposable items for environmental reasons, but I could definitely see myself adding these to the table on occasion. 

    Geek Prostitution

    When I first encountered the gaming social site GameCrush, I thought it seemed like a cool concept. It's often difficult to meet someone with the same interests and hobbies as you, and doing things like playing a game together helps break the ice. On the surface, it seemed like a great idea, but I was apprehensive. First, this is the picture that greets visitors to their website:

    Call me silly, but it doesn't look like she's talking about gaming here. 

    But not being the type to judge something on outward appearance alone, I decided to look closer at the site. Unfortunately nothing I read quelled my apprehension. Reading through the FAQ brought me these gems:
    • GameCrush is a fun and inviting way to meet, match, and play other gamers. You can browse profiles of other gamers, chat with them, and decide if you want to play. You can play any sort of game, all with a video cam of the person you are playing. You can play casual games here on the site, webcam-enabled PC games through our GCam client, or set up console games. Not sure who you want to play? Visit Crush-O-Matic and get matched with a random gamer!
    Ok, that sounds all right. But the webcam stuff is pretty weird for me. In fact, they insist you have a webcam in order to play with anyone. I don't know about any other female gamers, but my date appearance and my game appearance are vastly different. When I sit down to game, I have my hair pulled up, I'm in my pajamas, and I'm not wearing make up. Not exactly the ensemble I'd put together for dinner and a movie, so the idea of having a game date with a webcam makes me uncomfortable. It also makes me uncomfortable to get on webcam with a stranger, which is one reason I don't own a webcam. But again, I kept going.
    • GameCrush is free to join! Anybody can be a Player, browse profiles, and play with other gamers. To make a splash with the person you want to play, you can buy them gifts or badges using GameCrush credits. Users can buy 60 credits for a dollar, with discounts given for larger purchases. It is up to individual Players to arrange their own games, including any gifts.
    • Only GameCrush gives you the ability to give and receive virtual gifts and redeem those virtual gifts for real rewards, like games, gift cards, and even game systems! Once you have deposited credits, you can use them to buy gifts, and gifts you receive you can convert back into credits. You can redeem these credits at any time for rewards. For more details, visit the Rewards Zone.
    Sending gifts to other players in order to "make a splash" with them or "impress" them is another big theme on GameCrush. So they're targeting a group of people, gamers, who are stereotypically socially awkward and encouraging them to send gifts to random people because their personalities alone aren't enough to "make a splash" or "impress." I can not see how that could go wrong at all. 
    • GameCrush is not a sex site. Users are prohibited from advertising or promising sexual content during game sessions or otherwise. It is a good idea to set expectations before starting gaming session as to what sort of interaction you are interested in. Remember, all GameCrush users are real gamers and real people, with different personalities and gaming styles so please play nice! Players who have been reported as harassing, abusive or threatening may have their account suspended.
    This part leaves me with mixed emotions. On the one hand, I'm glad to see that they have a strict policy about harassment and that they're attempting to make a safe environment. On the other hand, forcing players to interact via webcam already takes some of the safety out of the equation. And on another, because awesome people are allowed three hands, this doesn't jive with the picture of their poster girl. "Not a sex site?" I think that's debatable, but let's move on.
    • After you have signed in, other users can visit your profile and chat with you, or you can visit their profile to do the same. If another Player wants to play you, you will receive a game invitation which you can choose to accept or decline. After accepting the invitation, you will be taken to a game screen with video chat. You will be asked to activate your webcam and click 'allow' for the video feed to start. At that point, you and your friend can decide which game to play. If you want to increase you chances of someone accepting your invitation, why not make them feel special by sending them a virtual gift?
    There they go with the pushing of the virtual gifts in the guise of wooing someone. Why not make someone feel special by being  an attentive listener, a friendly competitor, and a good sport? 

    Anyway, at this point I decided I had a good understanding of what I was getting into just from reading the public information. So I took the plunge and made an account so I could see how this actually plays out in practice. 

    The first thing I noticed when I looked at the profiles is that they are all really seductive. Some of the women are in bikinis (cause we totally game in bikinis, amiright?), most of them have lots of boobage showing, and nearly all of them have MySpace angles and duck face going. Like I said to my boyfriend, for being "not a sex site" there sure is a lot of flesh on display. And don't get me wrong, the guys are no better. Shirtless guys making bedroom eyes, flexing for the camera, etc. There are almost no pictures of people doing every day things, or you know, gaming. The bios didn't help the case of "not a sex site" either. Nearly all of the women's profiles said that the better the gifts, the longer the game session. Many of them stated that they will not get into a game with someone without a gift first. And on the guy's side, nearly all of the bios I read promised gifts and said things like "I'm a great gifter!" 

    This brings up another point, and something that had been nagging at me from the start - the whole site is very heterosexist and heteronormative, despite the fact that you can set your profile with a preferred gender and the Crush-O-Matic lets you specify a preferred gender. Yet I found nothing that appeals to the GLBT gamer, and even the official posts on the forums are heterosexist in nature.

    After browsing profiles, I took to the forums to see what was going on. Common threads include:
    • "This place is a sausage fest." 
    • "Why can't I be a PlayDate anymore?" 
    • "Why do girls insist on gifts before gaming?"
    • "This place is just a wankfest. None of these girls can game." 
    I want to address all of these, but let's start with PlayDates. From my research the site launched very differently than it is now. Back then if you were a woman, you could sign up to be a PlayDate, which meant that men on the site could contact you to schedule gaming dates, and you would get paid for them. They have since done away with that program so that everyone can interact and make it more social, and they replaced payments with their rewards. Now it was making sense why they encouraged people to send all those gifts. 

    Curious to know more about the PlayDate option and why it's no longer around, I wrote to GameCrush support. This is the response I got (emphasis mine):
    We have leveled the playing field so there's no such thing as a "PlayDate account" anymore. We found that it was too confusing and users wanted to interact more than the Player/PlayDate setup allowed.

    We still offer a way for high-demand users to earn rewards on the site. You can play games for virtual gifts, which can be exchanged for credits to be used in our store for Rewards. You can earn some pretty cool stuff like games, consoles, computers, and Pac-Man staplers.

    We are also licensing our technology to a site that will not have our anti-nudity policy. That will offer per-minute payments and tipping (whichGameCrush used to offer). That site will be launching soon - if you are interested, let me know.

    Hope this answers your question! If you have more questions, they might be answered in our FAQ:
    Yeah, holy poop. This site, and the upcoming site, are designated to have people exchange their time and companionship for goods and/or services, which is no different than prostitution. Though it's not explicit, the the implications are strong - these are sites geared toward gamer guys to have "hot gamer chicks" spend time gaming with them in exchange for gifts. And in this situation, no one wins.

    Want to know why GameCrush is a "sausage fest?" Because women gamers are there to game. We spend so much of our time trying to avoid stuff like this, to get away from the stereotypes that we only play online games to titillate geeky guys and that we use our "assets" to get stuff from them. I'm not saying that women who are typically attractive, the kind of attractive we're told is the only kind of attractive in media and advertising, are not "real gamers," but when a woman's bio on GameCrush is more focused on what kind of gifts she likes and what she expects than on the games she plays, I'm skeptical about her motivations for being there. That skepticism is amplified if her pictures are heavy in Laura Croft cos play. 

    I realize I probably sound like an anti-sex prude and I can assure you that I'm not. But I am anti-exploitation and anti-dishonesty. GameCrush presents itself as a fun place for gamers to interact with each other, possibly find someone to date, and have fun casual game dates. But underneath it all is something sleazy and smarmy, something that exploits people's desires and serves to perpetuate stereotypes. Something that is at its heart geek prostitution. And I am anti that. 

    Friday, August 19, 2011

    A Wine Story Part I: Harvest

    I made it a goal for myself to make wine. This journey started three years ago and is just now coming together. See, I told myself that if I was going to do this, I was going to do it right, which meant I had to grow some grapes.

    It took me three seasons to get a good grape harvest, or any harvest at all to be honest. Tonight I picked the first bunches and am delighted. Can't wait for the fermenting to begin!

    Thursday, August 18, 2011

    Buy City of Heroes for $1.99 Until 8/29!

    From now until August 29th, City of Heroes is available for purchase from the NCSoft store for just $1.99. It includes one free month of play and will make your account eligible for a Premium account once City of Heroes: Freedom launches, giving you as a new player a much more flexible account than a basic free one. 

    This is fantastic news for brand new players, and a great opportunity to play the game before the new expansion. 

    Wednesday, August 17, 2011

    Weekly Roundup

    News of the Geek

    Good Internet Reads

    Neat Finds

    Monday, August 15, 2011

    Sexist Super Hero Art

    One of the criticisms I get about this blog is that I'm a City of Heroes fan girl who never points out the things about City of Heroes I dislike. Perhaps I don't post that kind of criticism here, but I do speak up when CoH does something that I think is wrong. I share that criticism on the official forums where the people in charge of fixing said issues will see it and be able to do something about it. 

    This time, however, something has happened that I have to get out into the world. Something has happened that upsets me enough that I'm taking my criticism to the public in hopes that it opens a dialogue about the larger issue. 

    The problem is this - sexist super hero art has come to City of Heroes. 

    With the launch of City of Heroes: Freedom comes Issue 21: Convergence. With the official announcement came a new piece of art. Sadly, I don't have a copy of the original, and Paragon Studios seems to have scrubbed the internet clean of its existence due to the overwhelming negative feedback about it on the official game forums. This copy is the only one I could find, and it was done by a CoH player who is an artist. He took the original copy and highlighted the areas of the composition where the viewers' eyes are supposed to go:
    I'm sure you'll notice, as most people did, that signature hero Sister Psyche has been turned into a sex doll. The official comment on the forums is that she's supposed to be shocked and surprised. Instead, I think she looks like she needs to have "Penis Goes Here" written above her head. And look at her in relation to Back Alley Brawler. He's not scared or surprised; he's pissed off and ready to defend the city.  

    In addition to the stupid sex doll mouth, Sister Psyche's breasts and butt are also on display, as she twists into a contorted position that no real person would do. She looks bubble-brained, inept, and completely unprepared to do her job - be a super hero. In game lore, Sister Psyche is the 2nd most powerful psychic in the world. She is also over 80 years old and has been in the super hero business longer than many of the heroes in the game have been alive. So why would she be reacting this way? Why strip her of her dignity? Why send the message to the female subscribers of CoH that we're not capable enough to handle the bad times? It's just awful. 

    This piece was done by City of Heroes artist David Nakayama, whose art is male gaze heavy anyway. It was stated on the forums that "subtle" changes would be made to this piece based on feedback. It's going to need a lot more than subtle.  

    I want to believe that this is a fluke by Nakayama, as his other CoH art hasn't been sexist in the past. I would love to see comic artists break out of the mold that female super heroes have be drawn like this, and I'd like for comic artist to keep in mind that comics are read and appreciated by more than just straight men.

    It might help them to think when they pose female super heroes like this what it would look like if they did it to male heroes.

    Seriously comic artists, knock it the fuck off.  

    Google Buys Motorola Mobility

    In news that I can't wait until Wednesday to share, Google announced on their blog this morning that they are acquiring Motorola Mobility, a move that will supercharge the Android market. From the announcement:
    Motorola’s total commitment to Android in mobile devices is one of many reasons that there is a natural fit between our two companies. Together, we will create amazing user experiences that supercharge the entire Android ecosystem for the benefit of consumers, partners and developers everywhere.
    This acquisition will not change our commitment to run Android as an open platform. Motorola will remain a licensee of Android and Android will remain open. We will run Motorola as a separate business. Many hardware partners have contributed to Android’s success and we look forward to continuing to work with all of them to deliver outstanding user experiences.

    This is very exciting to me, not only as a user and fan of Google products, but as an enthusiastic Droid owner. I am set for an upgrade in November, but now I think I'm going to hold off for the Droids that come out after this acquisition. I'm hoping that with this merger that Google finally puts out a Droid that allows for the full removal of the Facebook application.

    Saturday, August 13, 2011

    A Special PSA

    I don't normally make a post with just one picture, but this one is an exception. My friend Julian shared this with me, and I just couldn't keep it to myself:

    Thursday, August 11, 2011

    Shame on You, Marvel Comics

    I know that Marvel and DC have a long rivalry, but this week Marvel sank to a new low. In a move that leaves me disgusted, Marvel bribed comic store owners to destroy DC comics.

    This week it came out that Marvel Comics is offering retailers a variant cover of “Fear Itself #6″ by artist Ed McGuinness. But, there is a catch: To get the coveted cover, retailers have to rip the covers from 50 copies of any No. 1 issue of DC Comics Flashpoint tie-ins. This is not a figure of speech, they literally have to tear the covers off and send them to Marvel to get the special edition, rendering the issues unsalable.
    Destroying art and literature because of some penis measuring contest these two companies have been waging for decades is just wrong. Instead of offering this special variant for ripped up DC covers, why not offer it to retailers who donate unsold comics to children's homes? Or to any charitable organization who would get the comics into the hands of people who love comics but can't afford them? Marvel claims they are doing this because "these are tough economical times" and they're "just trying to help out." How is this helping out? These merchants bought these books from DC, and are essentially destroying their own profits to get the carrot Marvel is dangling over their heads. 

    And as an aside, Marvel is asking comic owners to destroy covers like this:

    Batman Cover Art

    To sell this:

    Fear Itself #6 Cover Variant

    As one Wired commenter noted - "It's like the artists were told "Put the three characters who have had movies lately on the cover. You have five minutes to draw and ink it. GO!""

    I also think Marvel is forgetting that this is the internet age and news travels fast. Or as my friend Ben (from whom I got the link originally) stated - "It's the age of the Facebook and Google+, Marvel. These tricks no longer go unnoticed. What an absolutely awful thing."

    Awful thing indeed. 

    Wednesday, August 10, 2011

    Weekly Roundup

    Often times when I'm just browsing around the internet I find things that make me go "Oooh, I'd love to share that on my blog!" But if I did that every time I found something cool, this page would be cluttered and ugly, and I simply can't have that. So I figured a weekly post of cool things was in order. 

    News of the Geek

    Good Internet Reads

    • Indie author Sarah Diemer posted How the Queer Rise: A Manifesto on the blog she shares with her wife Jenn. It's a fantastic read and I have shared it everywhere I can.
    • I liked this interesting BlogHer piece titled Why Our Parents Put Us to Shame. While I am not a parent, I get to spend a lot of my time around people of all ages. Most of my friends have children, ranging from just a few years to teenagers. I also had a unique experience being a college student at the age of 30. I was really blown away by the behavior of some of the 18 to 21 year old classmates I had. So when I read this article, I knew exactly what she was getting at, and it made me thankful that I have put off parenthood thus far (though I'm not opposed to it in a few years). The part of the piece that really stood out for me was this:
      • They Cooked. Meals. In pans. Sometimes even in the oven. Every day. And if we were hungry, we ate. There were very few drive-thrus, no Toaster Strudel, microwaves, no Lunchables, no pizza delivery. We ate meals, you know, with a starch and a vegetable. There was no such thing as a Meal Deal, and items that are passed off as meals today, like the "Pizza and Cookie" combo pack, Hot Pockets, or Jalapeno Poppers didn't exist.
    • The heatwave that the midwest went through made eating out on the deck pretty much impossible. This disappointed me a lot, as outside eating is something I really enjoy. In fact, I ate my breakfast out on the deck this morning because it was very cool and there was a lovely breeze. The Kitchn posted a good list of five tips for making outdoor eating in extreme heat enjoyable.
    Neat Finds

    • Penny, one of my closest and dearest friends and fellow foodie, sent me an invite to the website Nosh. The idea behind Nosh is simple but cool - it's a collection of review of individual dishes, not restaurants, that you can reference if you ever find yourself in a restaurant wondering "What's good here to eat?" I haven't yet used Nosh, as I haven't eaten out since I joined, but I've enjoyed reading reviews from people who have used it. I have the mobile app all ready to go as soon as I find myself in a cool place with share-worthy food. 
    • This is a very cool video about the creation of a portable Nintendo 64. 
    • Planet Express in LEGOs
      • epic win photos - Lego Futurama WIN
    • And lastly, a tale of bad romance told in one picture

    Geeks Helping Geeks - The Art of CStuck

    City of Heroes LiveJournal community member CStuck is trying to earn enough money by making art for people so that he can join the rest of the community this weekend for Double XP Weekend. For a reasonable amount, he will make you a cute Mega Man style sprite of your character. 

    Tuesday, August 9, 2011

    Wii Will Survive

    On June 16, my brother Jon had an aneurysm rupture in his frontal lobe. He spent six weeks at  Miami Valley Hospital after having endovascular coiling surgery. The first few weeks were in intensive care, followed by about a week and a half in the regular neuro unit, and then in rehabilitation. 

    As you can imagine, it was a very trying time for my family but the excellent staff at Miami Valley went out of their way to be there for us, to take great care of Jon, and to answer any and all questions we had. We are thankful that Jon doesn't remember any of this, however, because it was very trying for him. His only memories of his hospital stay are the weeks he spent in rehab. 

    The rehab unit impressed us. He had top notch care from his nurses, therapists, case workers, and even the unit clerks. Everyone on the unit genuinely cared about the care they were providing, and did everything in their power to ensure that Jon was cared for in a way that let him maintain his personal dignity. 

    We were also impressed by the use of the Nintendo Wii in his physical therapy. They used balance and body control games on the Wii Fit to help Jon learn to walk again, learn to stand on his own again, and to help with his hand-eye coordination. This family of geeks and gamers found it refreshing that for once video games weren't being demonized as a catalyst for the downfall of society. 

    Jon and I have always been very close, so when they told us that Jon was going to need help at home for a while, I gladly volunteered to help. I have kept up the Wii therapy here at home, and I have our whole family doing it now. We take time during the day to do our body checks and play games that suit our individual needs. Wii Fit Plus allows us to track Jon's progress while he continues to heal at home, and has also helped get our family rededicated to living a healthier life. 

    On top of the physical benefits, doing this together gives us time to spend with each other which is something we sadly didn't always make time for before. It also makes conversations like this possible:

    Jon (holding the Wii-mote at crotch level): *laughs*

    Me (trying not to laugh): That's not how you play this game.
    Jon: No, but it's how I play with my Wii-ner. 

    City of Heroes News - VIP Beta, Patch Notes, and a Look at Time Manipulation

    Today City of Heroes starts up VIP Beta for City of Heroes: Freedom. The official announcement:
    Since the announcement of City of Heroes Freedom™ and Issue 21, we've been getting a lot of questions about features and functionalities that will make it into the game. Well, it is now time for you to experience all those changes first hand, for the VIP Beta for City of Heroes Freedom andIssue 21 is starting at 4:00 p.m. PDT ( 7:00 p.m. EDT / 12:00 a.m. BST / 1:00 CEST) on August 9 (August 10 in Europe)
    If you've never accessed our Beta server before or need a refresher, get the latest set of instructions to install it here.
    Once that's done, delve into the next evolution of City of Heroes starting from the new Character creator and its myriad of improvements and additions, straight into the brand new combined tutorial and the updated Atlas Park and Mercy Island! 
    And while you're at it, browse through the Paragon Market™ as well as the brand new Paragon Rewards system that supersedes the Veteran Program!
    City of Heroes Freedom and Issue 21: Convergence have so much to offer, you will want to make sure you check our Issue 21 Overview page as well as our City of Heroes Freedom mini-site before embarking on the Beta adventure.
    We're looking forward to seeing you on the Beta server!
    Join in the Community Discussion now!
    City of Heroes: Freedom brings with it many exciting updates, including a free to play option. If you have ever considered trying City of Heroes, now is the perfect time! 

    Today is also patch day for City of Heroes:
    The Live European and North America City of Heroes servers will be offline for a publish on Tuesday, August 9, 2011.
    Start Time: 4:00 a.m. PDT / 7:00 a.m. EDT / 12:00 p.m. BST / 13:00 CESTExpected Duration: 2 hoursExpected Finish Time: 6:00 a.m. PDT / 9:00 a.m. EDT / 2:00 p.m. BST / 15:00 CEST
    Patch notes will be available in the Patch Notes section of the City of Heroes website as soon as possible after this downtime.
    We apologise for the inconvenience and thank you for your patience! 
    So while you're waiting for the servers to come back online, you can wet your CoH appetite by checking out Synapse's article on the upcoming power addition Time Manipulation. From the article:
    Time Manipulation was originally an idea pitched to me by Sean "Dr. Aeon" McCann. In retrospect, the idea seems very appropriate given that character's dabbling in time travel. I always imagined a time-based Power Set as being control focused, and probably as a primary set for Controllers and Dominators. However, the concept Sean suggested with this set was very solid and quickly changed my way of thinking. In fact, I'd say the Time Manipulation set still retains about 50% of the original design proposal. After we solidified the proposal, it took a lot of balancing and number-tweaking, and then a lot of amazing work by our animation and FX teams to bring the idea to life.


    Sunday, August 7, 2011

    Kokeshi Bento Boxes

    Kokeshi Bento Box Bowls Geisha

    One thing I enjoy doing is changing the lyrics to songs. I wouldn't call what I do filk, as my feeble skills would be insulting to the fine and talented people who do filk. I'd call what I do silliness.

    Recently my brother was in the hospital for an extended period of time (more on that in a future post), and I had lots of time while visiting him to come up with lots of silly things. One day alternate lyrics to the Beatles' classic Hey Jude popped into my head:

    Hey food,
    Don't make it bland.
    Take a good meal,
    And make it bento.
    Remember to cut it into fun shapes.
    Then you begin
    To make it bento!

    I shared this with Jon yesterday and we had a good laugh. And then today I find these adorable bento boxes and am smitten. Talk about geek kismet.

    A New Home

    After careful consideration, I have moved this blog to its third and hopefully last home. I started this blog as a project in 2006 on the now-defunct blogging site Vox. When Vox closed up shop, they offered me a free and easy transfer to TypePad. While I can't say I was unsatisfied with TypePad, it never excited me either. That lack of excitement coupled with some things going on in my personal life kept me from doing with it what I set out to do upon creation. 

    So today I brought over the posts I enjoyed the most and backed the others up for my own personal use, though I doubt they'll ever be published again. All the posts below this one were originally on either TypePad or Vox (or both) at one point. I have marked the posts at the bottom with the original publication date. You'll also notice that some of them have weird white blocks behind the text. I don't know how that happened, and after hours of trying I couldn't fix it. I'm up for suggestions if anyone knows why that happened. 

    Thank you all for your support over the years. I look forward to sharing many more interesting things with you.

    Quite an Achievement

    Here is a fantastic bit of geek love I found on the internet today.

    What I Want From Google+

    If you've spent any time on the internet lately, and if you're reading this you have, you know about Google's new social network Google+. As of now, G+ is in beta testing and you need to be invited by another beta user to give it a try. My curiosity for G+ was piqued by XKCD
    Upon seeing that I could have Not Facebook with all the things I like about Facebook, I was hitting up all my geek friends for a code and had one the same day (thanks Callie!). On the whole I really like G+. It's clean, sleek, easy to use, and until today, easy to read. I'll get to that last one in a moment. For now, I want to share a wish list with you all that I have also shared with the good folks at Google. 
    The first social networking site that I participated in outside of e-mail groups was LiveJournal. LJ is a great blogging community that in this day and age of Facebook is sadly overlooked. I still have my original LJ, which is nearly 9 years old, and I update it frequently. I also use their Droid app and encourage my friends to continue to use it as well. My attempts at the latter are rather futile, sadly. LJ's inability to keep up in the era of the smart phone, as well as its inability to protect itself from denial of service attacks has caused most of my LJ friends to abandon the site all together. This is sad for me, but I understand. I have even backed my LJ up recently on another blog site as well as through another archiving source. 
    Despite all this, Google could take a lesson from LJ, as well as its own blog community Blogger, and offer G+ users with archiving tools. For example, I knew I had posted this XKCD comic on G+ but I couldn't go right to the day I posted it to find it. I had to go to my profile and keep loading page after page of old entries until I found it. And that sucks. This is something Facebook does too, and something I have long hated about Facebook. Having a daily archive would be fantastic. I would love to be able to click a day on a calender and see all the posts I made that day. I'd also like to be able to go to a friend's profile and do the same thing. 
    Threaded Discussions
    This is something else that comes from blogging communities that I'd like to see implemented on G+. There are times that a post generates conversations within the comments that go off on tangents or spawn all new ideas. Having threaded comments would make the comment section of a post much more manageable and usable. 
    Better Labeling
    The crown jewel of G+ is the circles. Circles make the sharing experience much more enjoyable, much more private, and much easier to manage. With that in mind, I'd love to have a user-defined tag at the top of posts that indicate which audience they're going to. For example, if I create a group for organizing my mother's surprise birthday party, I'd like for the people in the group to know that a post was made just for them. That way they know who else is in on the surprise and don't risk blowing it. The tag at the top should be user-defined, as I said, and not necessarily the name of the circle. To keep with the party example, let's say I named the circle Keep From Mom. But I don't want that to show up on my posts, so I'd name the tag "Mom's Surprise Birthday Party." 
    But this is good not only for the poster, but for the reader as well. I don't want to run the risk of sharing personal information with people who may not be in on a post, as things do tend to come up in casual conversation. 
    Me: "Oh I hear that Sally is having her appendix out on Monday."
    Over-reactive friend that Sally purposely kept the news from: "WHAT?!?! OMG SHE'S GOING TO DIE!"
    Me: "Uh, so how's your soup?"  
    Keep the Stream Chronological
    Some time last night Google made the awful decision to bump posts with new comments on it up to the top of the stream. This is incredibly annoying and whoever at Google decided to do this needs to be sent to bed without dinner. This makes the stream cluttered, confusing, and is making me miss posts that I haven't seen yet by pushing them to the bottom of the list or off the page completely. If you follow famous or popular people, it is even worse because their posts get lots and lots of comments, and they therefore dominate your stream. You can read by circle, yes, but you get the same thing - posts with recent comments at the top (despite how old they are) over top of more recent posts. Annoying as hell and needs to go. And it also ties into....
    Hiding or Collapsing Comments
    As I stated before, I follow some famous and popular people who get a LOT of comments on their posts. So not only are their posts always at the top of my stream, the comments are eating up my screen. Either collapse the comments automatically or allow me to collapse them so I have more than just the comments of one popular post on my screen. 
    More Posting Options
    There are some people, myself included, who would like to use G+ for everything. Right now I can use it for everything put blogging. Sure G+ gives you room to type lengthy entries, but it doesn't give you the flexibility to post multiple links, multiple pictures (or even a link and a picture together), or anything of the sort. Being able to create multimedia, blog-type posts would be great. 
    Widescreen Options
    I have a wide screen monitor, and right now the way G+ is set up, I have a considerable amount of white space on the sides. Considering the rise in popularity of wide screen monitors, I'm surprised there isn't an option to view G+ in a wider format. Please look into adding this option. 
    Better Functionality on the Mobile App
    I have been testing G+'s app for the Droid, and I really like it. I love the push notifications, especially how fast they are. I like how I can filter my mobile stream reading by circle, and I like that I have the ability to filter my own posts by circle. However, there are three glaring omissions on the mobile app. One, you can not share someone else's post on mobile. Two, you can not +1 an individual comment on mobile. Three, you can not tag someone in a picture on mobile, but you can tag them in a post. These are all things I'd really like to see happen on the mobile app.

    UPDATE - Since this writing, Google has updated the mobile app to allow for mobile sharing! 
    Take Good Care of a Good Thing
    Please don't let G+ become so bogged down with advertisements and games that it makes it unenjoyable to use. In other words, please don't become Facebook. People dislike Facebook for a reason, for many of them actually, and you'd do well to learn from their mistakes and not repeat them. Fix your name policy, and come to terms with the fact that not everyone will make the switch from Facebook to G+. That's seriously ok. Social networking in general, and G+ in particular, are not everyone's cup of tea. Right now people are having actual, real conversations on G+. People are connecting and sharing, and our feeds aren't overrun with click spam, viruses, and status messages full of ~*~*~*~*floatsam*~*~*~*~ (and for the love of Dog don't forget the hearts! <3 <3 <3). And we like it that way. 
    In Conclusion
    I really like Google+ and I think it has the potential to be the biggest thing to hit the internet in a long time. I enjoy the privacy of it the most, as well as the ability to so easily read and share with my different circles. I like how clean and simple it is and I really hope Google keeps it that way. I'm really excited to see how G+ changes during the duration of the closed testing.