Writing Down the Jones

Geeks Can’t Handle Change

We all know that already, but it’s amazing to see it every year when something new comes out. This time it’s how the whole internet seems to be collectively losing its shit over the Xbox One.

Well, not the whole internet. Actual tech writers and reviewers seem to understand that the set of changes about to take place in the console gaming landscape are both inevitable, and not actually bad. But nearly every comment goes down the same road: “Micro$oft is EVIL! They just want money! They’re trampling our rights! It’s not even a game console, it’s just a cable box that plays games!”

The long list of complaints has been rehashed plenty of times: game developers get to decide if and how you can trade or sell used games, required internet access once every 24 hours, included Kinect. Honestly, that’s about it. The only other thing people are complaining about is that it also handles cable or OTA broadcasts and plays movies. I still don’t see how that’s a bad thing. But I’m not crazy.

microsoft-xbox-one

The Xbox One

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Beating up on Chris Brown

There’s been a lot of it. And honestly, I can understand the, uh, “distaste” most of the women I know have for him – it’s earned.

None of it starts to bother me until I hear someone say he shouldn’t be allowed to perform, or that his albums should be taken off the market. Yes, he’s a violent, [insert string of negative adjectives here], creep, and we don’t really like him. Some truly hate him for what he’s done. But does that mean that now he can’t work?

I don’t pay much attention to the private lives of celebrities. There’s not much value in it for me, seeing as my life is not affected by the contents of People or Us Weekly. That’s my aloof answer (people always told me seeming aloof made me look cool, so…). The real answer is this: the less I know about a celebrity’s private life, the more I can enjoy their performance.

Let’s be honest: none of us – I shouldn’t really say “us”, since I’m not part of this group, but it makes me sound kinder – who are reading gossip mags are actually interested in seeing Ben Affleck pick up his dry cleaning, or seeing Reese Witherspoon grabbing Starbucks with no makeup on. I don’t care, you don’t care, and I seriously doubt the editors care, they just have to put in space between the rumors about Amanda Bynes and that girl from Teen Mom who recently made a (totally expected) string of poor decisions. That’s what we want; we’re like hyenas, watching and waiting so we can feast on the carcass of a dead career.

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Comimics – An Adventure in Problem Solving

I have this problem when it comes to learning new things: if I don’t have a tangible problem in front of me – whether it’s an upcoming test or a “real life” issue – I have no motivation. I don’t really understand people who can just say, “You know, I’d like to learn Russian. I’m going to do that.” I’ve thought that before. But then I think, I’m never going to Russia. Why would I spend all that time learning Russian? And that’s where the dream dies.

Last summer I wanted to learn some more complex development skills. I’d asked my boss for some assignments, but things were hectic, and it wasn’t really a time to take to give me work that I wouldn’t be able to do well, while there were things that needed doing. I tried to do some book learnin’, but I didn’t really get anywhere.

Then I went to a comic book store one day during lunch. They were having a huge back issue sale, and – as my collection is full of holes – I picked up 10 or 12 issues at a very nice price. Unfortunately, I got a fairly unpleasant surprise when I got home.

As it turned out, I already owned 3/4 of the issues I’d just bought.

They were only $1 each, so it wasn’t a big financial loss. But it was annoying. I tossed them into the duplicates box (which contained about 30 issues already), and went back to the office.

When I got back I started talking with a guy on the team who I knew was a comic reader. He’d had the problem before. We both verbally wished there was some tool, or database, or website you could get to from your phone, so that when you’re about to drop $20 on a stack of books you already own, you can check your list and avoid the annoyance.

It was a few minutes before we realized that we could actually solve this problem ourselves.

It was also the exact type of problem I needed to motivate me to learn those higher level skills I’d been thinking about: not at all urgent, but persistent. So I set to work. And now, 9 months later, it’s released to the world: Comimics.com.

 FireShot Screen Capture #003 - 'Comimics - Home' - comimics_com

I doubt any of you – if there are, in fact, any people reading this – who were regular-ish readers here back when I actually paid attention to posting stuff are actually into comics. But if you are, head over and check it out. And if you’re not, head over anyway, you might find out comics are interesting. I know you’ve seen The Avengers and The Dark Knight…you can embrace fandom, it’s totally cool.

FireShot Screen Capture #006 - 'Wonder Woman - Comimics' - comimics_com_Search_Volume_18208

Michael Crichton was a Boss

Now that the election is over, I think I deserve a reward for all my restraint. So, I’m creating this post so I can be just a little politically annoying to my Facebook friends.

Michael Crichton, author of nightmares (Jurassic Park, Sphere, the Andromeda Strain), action (Congo, Twister), and sexual situations that can confuse the hell out of a 12-year-old (Disclosure), was legit. Not only did he write great stories that were all over the genre-map, but he spent time on the side giving frank lectures about real life.

I like his forays into the politics of popular science the best. I wrote about one of my favorites here: Secondhand Smoke Stole my Wallet. And here I’ll link to that lecture, “Aliens Cause Global Warming”, along with two others related to the politics of environmental issues: Three Speeches by Michael Cricthon.

We may not on agree on much. But we can agree that Michael Crichton was a boss.

RePost: How to Solve Problems

In Cultural Literacy E.D. Hirsch discusses the importance of a wealth of shared background knowledge in teaching in learning. “The more you know, the more you can learn.” He argues that as you acquire information—even through simple memorization—you create frameworks, or “schemata”, for integrating future learning. The more schemata you possess, the less effort is required to integrate new information, making it easier to learn overall.

It follows that there is great benefit to having a diversified set of schemata; the more subjects we know, the easier it is to learn. This is part of the basis for liberal education.This diversified set not only allows us easier access to broad knowledge, it also allows us to make connections that we wouldn’t have otherwise made, and understand things in different (and sometimes unusual) ways.

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