Monthly Archives: September 2014

Socks and Sandals

Socks with Sandals Changed My Life

One of the best decisions I have ever made in my life was showing up to school one day wearing socks with sandals.

Let me back up.

In high school, I made a lot of female friends who wore diverse styles.  I envied them.  Their fashion looked amazing while I was just a guy wearing jean shorts and a bright pink t-shirt that said “the Eager Beaver Restaurant, Eldon, MO” with a beaver wearing a chef’s hat on it.  Clearly, I needed to rethink my fashion statement.

Unfortunately, society has…a way of not encouraging men to embrace fashion as opposed to its open involvement towards women.  It’s hard to dress fabulously without be labeled derogatory terms, especially in high school.  Skirts are probably the best example of this for me as I liked their style but I was afraid of how I would be judged by the people I know if I started wearing them.

Clearly another route had to be taken to improve my fashion statement.

Socks are one of the best inventions in history, second only to the Gamecube Controller.  They warm and protect your feet and they just feel so good all around.  In the Harry Potter series, the sock is even symbolized for familial ties and freedom (for more about that see http://www.hp-lexicon.org/essays/socks.html).  Clearly, socks are just one of the goodiest of all clothing apparel.

My friends knew this and acquired a vast array of colorful socks that ranged from stripes to spots to plaid to intricate designs.  They paired them up with their skirts, shirts, bangles, necklaces, earrings, and so forth.  I wanted to do that but with my own style.

After several months, I had accumulated my own sock collection but I ran into a problem.  If the purpose of the colorful pair of socks were to flaunt them, then covering them up by tennis shoes would not be adequate.

Enter the sandal; once I made the connection between the two I couldn’t be stopped.  Socks could be displayed to their full potential.  Now, I can mix and match by shorts, socks, and shirts with each other to create colorful combinations.

Socks with Sandals

Through this combination I realized that socks and sandals (s&s) not only looked good but felt good as well.  It’s the perfect combination to wear when it’s about 60 degrees to around room temperature.  S&s seems to have the benefits of both shoes and sandals by keeping your feet warm while still leaving your toes room to breathe.

As such, my original excuse to wear s&s slowly disintegrated like salt in a vat of hot water as I wore more and more white socks with sandals.

True, my increased wearing of s&s stemmed partially from laziness but damnet, those six seconds I could have spent tying my shoelaces are six extra seconds I have doing nothing else!

Socks with Sandals

But I’m veering from my off topic here.

Why do people not dig s&s?

In all honesty, I don’t quite understand it myself.  It’s interesting that such a minor thing can set people off in unusual ways.  Not outright hate mind you but more repulsion than anything else.

It’s probably this mentality of shoes goes with socks and sandals go with bare feet and NONE THE TWO SHALL EVER MEET.

It boggles their mind!  Why is this guy wearing s&s?  Slowly, their minds become distorted.  Their eyes wobble within their very sockets.  Their palms become sweaty with fear and terror.  Their voice cracks as they try their best to hold back a scream.  What’s going on?  Why am I here?  They shift their hand through their greasy hair and pull a clump of it out.  Why?  Why is he wearing s&s?  Does he know nothing?  Has he ascended into some higher form of existence?  Their mouth is dry.  Oh god, help me, help me now.  I can’t see, I’m going blind.  A shrill voice is speaking softly in their ear.  They can now no longer hear.  They feel it, they feel it now.  That crushing sense of pain and death upon them.  Why?  Why is this happening?  They sink to their knees and weep.  Weep for forgiveness, weep for those who have judged them, weep for those they love.  Please, I don’t want to die, I don’t want to die.  Everything.  It’s growing dark.  It’s growing dark.  All sense of reality is fading, fading fast.  Please, I can no longer take it.  I can no longer take it.

Just end it.

All their senses come crashing back to them.  They’re awake!  Wide awake!  They jump to their feet and shout

“Hey, man!  Why you wearing s&s?  Who do you think you are??”

I look back at them with cold eyes and respond, “I’m the Unapologetic Nerd.”

Plaid Socks with Sandals

Advertisements

New Podcast Coming Soon!

Hello everyone!  Exciting news!  I’m developing a podcast with the help of many of my friends!  We are currently recording the episodes and will hopefully have Season 1 of the podcast ready in the nearby future.

What’s the theme of the podcast?  In general, it’s to celebrate certain topics of nerdom.  Not only that, we’ll go into detail why these nerdy franchises work and why they are so popular.  What’s more, these episodes will provide interested people an introduction to the franchise and how they can become acquainted with the said franchise.

We’re keeping Season 1 pretty low key with just five episodes but they’ll range from 40 to 80 minutes long depending on the subject.  Each of these five episodes are diverse and will focus on a different nerdy theme.  Though I won’t say what their subjects are yet, I can say that one is based off of a movie franchise, one from a comic, one from a video game, one from a series of books, and one from board games.

I’ll update you guys once we have a date set.  I’ll also reveal the podcast’s title and more!  Stay tuned!

The Cartoon Network Renaissance

Up until about two years ago, I wasn’t watching Cartoon Network.  I mean, besides from Adult Swim, I had no interest in their daytime programs.

This changed over the 2012 summer when I was barraged with Cartoon Network’s 25th anniversary ads at San Diego Comic Con.  My girlfriend had also forced me to watch Adventure Time during this period.

Though I found Adventure Time appealing it was Regular Show that reeled me back into Cartoon Network.

Original_Cartoon_Network_logo.svg_

There was a period during Cartoon Network’s history that many people refer as the “Golden Age of Cartoon Network.”  Though when these years started and ended can vary from person to person, the Cartoon Network wiki puts this age from 1996 (when Dexter’s Lab premiered) to 2004 (when the live action hosts replaced the cartoon hosts on Cartoon Cartoon Fridays and when Samurai Jack ended).  Many of Cartoon Network’s most famous shows premiered during this timeframe including Powerpuff Girls, Courage the Cowardly Dog, and Ed, Edd n Eddy.

Cartoon Cartoon Fridays was living it large as it took Friday nights and celebrated them.  This was not like your Saturday morning cartoons, no, these cartoons interacted with each other and hosted segments!  Toonami was at its peak during this time and I dare say it was one of the main reasons why a young generation of American kids got into anime.  That’s how good it was.

But times change.

As the years progressed, shows were syndicated and canceled, blocks were moved around or disappeared altogether, and live action shows became more and more common for CN.  Many people refer to this era (including the wiki) as the “Dark Ages.”  Many fan articles and videos are filled with hatred and disgust while discussing this era of Cartoon Network.

Image from http://themetapicture.com/r-i-p-cartoon-network/. It's very easy to find internet art despising new Cartoon Network.  This image made me laugh because what are Hannah Barbara cartoons doing there?  It's so funny it has to be a parody of the fan hate.

Image from http://themetapicture.com/r-i-p-cartoon-network/.
It’s very easy to find internet art despising new Cartoon Network. This image made me laugh because what are Hannah Barbara cartoons doing there? It’s so funny that it has to be a parody of the fan hate.

But what about now?

On April 5th, 2010, Adventure Time premiered on Cartoon Network after first becoming a viral hit on Nickelodeon’s “Random! Cartoons.”  Later that year, Regular Show premiered on September 6th, 2010.

As I said before, I didn’t watch Cartoon Network until about two years ago.  By then, these two shows had developed a dedicated fan base (especially for Adventure Time).  Memes and jokes from these shows circulated the internet like a slow moving turtle.  By the time I sat down and watched them they had already become CN’s most popular shows.

Why?  Why do these two shows work?

The first thing that comes to my mind is that they are not annoying nor do they talk down to the audience.  The second thing is that they are original and feel fresh.  You could argue that Adventure Time’s motif of simple randomness has been done countless times before but I think not.  Behind Adventure Time’s random nature are deep storylines that connect loosely from episode to episode.  Actions have meaning behind them.  Actions have consequences.  We see both of these aspects as the series progress.

Regular Show though is on the opposite side of this spectrum.  While Adventure Time relies on child-like logic in a fantastical world, Regular Show relies on adult (albeit slacker)-like logic in a seemingly normal world.  Never have I seen a general audience cartoon hit on so many real world issues in a believable character setting (this is most true for the romantic episodes, especially in “I Like You Hi”).

Because of these two shows approach to hit a wide as audience as possible, Cartoon Network has seen an unbelievable success with them with both shows averaging between 2 to 3 million views an episode.  The success of these two shows brought with them four other moderately successful shows; The Amazing World of Gumball, Uncle Grandpa, Steven Universe, and Clarence.  All six of these shows (with the exception of Steven Universe which has yet to finish airing season 1) have been nominated or won various animated awards including the Emmys.

All six of these shows (with others on the side) remind me of the “Golden Age of Cartoon Network.”  Not only are they creative and well animated but they are diverse as well.  There’s a show that can appeal to anyone whether you like fantastical adventures, pop culture references, spontaneity humor, or well developed characters.  These are cartoons that anyone can seriously enjoy.

Sure, Cartoon Cartoon Fridays may be gone and all our old favorites may be on another channel but I say the “Dark Ages” are gone.  Cartoon Network is experiencing its own Renaissance right now.  And though you could view this as just a slight improvement where it once was several years ago, I say otherwise.  It’s a good time to be watching cartoons on Cartoon Network.

And hey, “Toonami is back bitches.”

Image from http://xeternalflamebryx.deviantart.com/art/Cartoon-Network-Never-One-Moment-440621220 This image has no bearing to the article I just stumbled upon it and I found it quite funny, yay for all the straight men/women!

No, there is no 9/11 reference in Pokemon Black/White

Pokemon Black and White introduced Pokemon’s Generation 5 to the world in 2010.  It marked a noticeable upheaval in the series as Gamefreak broke many of the series’ traditions.   One of the most obvious examples of this is a region, in this case Unova, that was not inspired by a place in Japan.  Unova had strong influences from the U.S.A. with a particular focus on NYC.  Castelia City for instance was inspired from Manhattan while Skyarrow Bridge comes from the Brooklyn Bridge.

But is the NYC inspiration more morbid than it seems?

Three years ago, Cracked.com published an article about The 9 Most Offensive 9/11 References in Pop Culture

You can see the original article here: http://www.cracked.com/article_19087_the-9-most-offensive-911-references-in-pop-culture.html#ixzz2eskwL8fK

In the number 5 spot is Pokemon Black/White where Fletcher Wortmann proclaimed that Nintendo’s game references 9/11. He does this from two different kinds of evidence.

The first one is that the barren wasteland (route 4) between Castelia and Nimbasa City represents Ground Zero from the 9/11 terrorist attacks. In the game, Route 4 contains buildings that are dilapidated. These ruins were supposedly caused by a meteor that fell from the sky and devastated the area.  The meteor represents the planes that brought down the two towers.

Kyurem, the second piece of evidence, was that respected meteor.  This 9/11 analogy is sealed up when the article points out that Kyurem is 9 feet and 11 inches tall.

kyurem

The problem with these two points of evidence is that if you actually played the game you would have found them to be simply not true.

One: Route 4 is a desert with actual desert storms and desert Pokemon. Not a site of devestation.

Two: The ruins are over 2500 years old and are dilapidated because of age, not of sudden destruction.  In fact, pokedex entries for the pokemon Sigilyph states that they are guardians for ancient cities.  Since they haunt the ruins we can therefore assume the ruins were not recently made.

Three: With the first two points in mind, there are no references in the game anywhere that a meteor “took out” this area.  However, the Giant Chasm region, where you can find Kyurem, was indeed formed by a meteor impact.  This meteor impact though is as far away as you can get from Route 4 and has no relationship to it whatsoever.  Even then, no buildings or cities were destroyed by it as it landed in a forest.

Fourth: Kyurem is 3 meteres tall which comes to about 9 feet and 10.11 inches. Not 9 feet, 11 inches.

It’s this kind of shoddy research that made me stop being a fan of Cracked.  I used to go to their site all the time but ever since this article came out, I slowly stopped visiting them.  Sure, you can be humorous for your articles even if they are sensitive topics BUT EVEN SO, you should still have your facts straight so you don’t misdirect your readers.  This is made doubly so for this article; since the author didn’t bother to double check his sources he is himself offending the 9/11 attacks by trivializing them in a Pokemon game.

The following post was adapted to a reddit post I posted last year on r/pokemon.  Original link can be seen here

The Disappearing Spoon and What If? Book Review

The Disappearing Spoon is perhaps one of the best science books I have ever read. Scientific, or in general nonfiction, literature can be a chore to get through if the voice is textbook-like or if the book is just too dense. But Sam Kean does an amazing job in his bestseller book as its content is great and his writing style makes it seem like he’s actually here talking to me

The Disappearing Spoon highlights the elements and their respective Periodic Table’s wacky history. It’s amazing how Sam Kean can take almost every element on the Periodic Table and highlight how they affected the history of mankind. From the lonely scientist eager to discover a new element to elemental weaponization in war after war.

The book is filled to the brim of clever and humorous short stories of elements that have deceived, maddened, helped, and even killed people throughout the world. These stories are perfect for the person who wants to read a passage or two before doing something else. In fact, that’s why it took me so long to finish the book despite its engrossing nature. I wouldn’t have to worry about plot or overall connecting themes, I can just enjoy the book for what it is.

My favorite story is the devaluation of aluminum. Aluminum was once one of the most valued elements on Earth, even more so than gold. To show off the U.S.’s economic strength, engineers capped off the recently built Washington Monument with a six-pound pyramid made of aluminum. Quite impressive indeed. But in the 1880s, scientists figured out how to separate aluminum oxide into pure aluminum. It was easy to do so in fact. So easy that the value of aluminum plummeted in the market fairly quickly leading to its widespread occurrence to this day.

Sam Kean passages also got me thinking about the wonders of chemistry. One passage was so intriguing that I could not stop wondering about it. While talking about the periodic table general, Sam Kean jokes that it represents a very oddly shaped castle. Going further with this analogy he proclaims “Overall, if each brick was made of the substance it represented, the castle of the elements would be a chimera with additions and wings from incongruent eras, or, more charitably, a Daniel Libeskind building, with seemingly incompatible materials grafted together into an elegant whole.”

Sam Kean continues on talking more about the Periodic Table in detail but he leaves us hanging with this provoking analogy.

What would a real life Periodic Table be like?

Think about it.   All the elements coming together in small cubes, directly touching each other through intimate contact. Who would react with whom? What would the end result be like?

Many seemingly reasonable answers came to my head. The noble gasses would float away and not react with anyone same with hydrogen. Fluorine will throw a hissy fit and make all the elements around it a living hell. Mercury would spread out due to its liquid form and cause all the elements sitting above it to collapse on top of it. Beyond that though, I couldn’t safely say. I’m a paleontologist with only a basic understanding of chemistry. I wanted someone with an appropriate background to answer this question. But who?

I got The Disappearing Spoon for Christmas 2012. Earlier that year, Randall Munroe, author of the famous webcomic xkcd, had started a new project outside of xkcd called What If where he answered extremely kooky what if questions. You can find the full list of these questions here http://what-if.xkcd.com/archive/. He encouraged his fanbase to send him questions for him to answer.

I loved this and wanted to send in my own but I wanted it to be a good one.

This good question came to me while reading The Disappearing Spoon via the Real Life Periodic Table.

Believing that I got myself a good question, I sent him the question.

No response.

I wasn’t surprised, he probably gets a lot of questions every day and he has to comb through his constantly growing inbox. I didn’t want to pester him so I didn’t resend the question until June 2013.

Still no response.

One of the unspoken rules of society is that if you text an acquaintance twice and they don’t respond, chances are they don’t want anything to do with you. At this point I guessed my question wasn’t good enough so I gave up. I would check every week though on his website, hoping that my question would get answered.

Then, last May, I got an email from Randall Munroe saying he wanted my question in his upcoming What If book!

I was stunned.

He asked for permission to use my name to which I said yes and immediately afterwards I preordered the book on Amazon.

I can’t tell you how much I was looking forward to that book. A question that I have now been pondering for over 1.5 years would finally be answered.

That book came out last week.

what if

Before I talk about my question, I want to talk about the book first. First off, I’m not done with it and I’m glad I’m not done with it yet. You should take your time with this book, read it when you have something in the oven or 10 minutes to kill. This book should be digested slowly (note, please don’t eat the book).   That said, this book is highly enjoyable and I guarantee you you will learn random things such as if a nuclear submarine could survive in outer space. You definitely won’t regret buying this book.

And for my question?

I can’t tell you how satisfied I am with it. The biggest thing I’m surprised about is (spoilers) there were a lot more explosions in it than I thought there would be. Also how my question nearly destroys the world Muhahahahaha! But being (slightly) serious here, the thing I was most curious about was what would be going on on the right side of the periodic table. The left side I knew would burst into flames (and according to the book I was right) but the right side I knew would be the most interesting. I was correct as a lot of strange stuff happened including the reaction between gallium and aluminum (which lies directly above it). Whenever these two meet, gallium transforms aluminum to a paper-like status. Go figure. I also love how phosphorous and sulfur caused the most trouble near the upper rows and made the real life Periodic Table a death zone.

Randall Munroe said he hoped I enjoy his answer. Well, I can safely say that I do. If you haven’t bought his book yet BUY IT NOW! It’s awesome! And while you are at it buy The Disappearing Spoon.  You won’t miss out on enjoying both actual and theoretical science between these two books.

Spoiler Free Review of 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors

9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors (999) is a visual novel game released on the Nintendo DS in 2010.  It is widely hailed as one of the best games on the Nintendo DS.  After hearing so much about it, I decided to try it out over the summer.

999 centers around nine people and their struggle to escape a sinking ship in nine hours.  They do this by going through a series of nine rooms.  These nine rooms are locked though and require you to solve a set of puzzles to unlock these rooms.

I’ve never seen a game use the Nintendo DS’ capabilities to this degree before.  The touch screen is lovingly applied and both screens are equally employed so there’s not a strong focus of one screen over the other.  I have also never seen a game take the DS’ hardware and twist it around in the game’s mind blowing ending.  It’s great.

999’s biggest feature though is its choose-your-own-adventure-style gameplay.  There are several endings to the game.  As you progress, you have to make a series of decisions that can affect the outcome of the game.  I guarantee you that you will not get the right ending the first time.  And don’t stress out about that!  The game highlights what decisions you have already made so when you reach that branching point, you can choose another path without having to worry if you had already made that choice or not.

Unfortunately, this means you have to go through a lot of dialogue and a few puzzles you have gone through before.  Luckily, you can simply press the B button and the game zips you through the dialogue and drops you to the first decision point.  You can’t skip through puzzles you have already done but since you know how to do them, you can breeze through them easily.  Even so, redoing of puzzles is probably the biggest criticism I have of this game.

Since this is a choose your own adventure, certain themes, ideas, and plot devices that are alluded to near the beginning of the game can be emphasized or dropped completely as you play through the different stories of the game.  That’s kind of cool.

The whole game has a definite creepy vibe to it.  I would say it’s tone is similar to Myst though with a great deal more character interaction and less mind-frustrating confusion.  I guess I should expand on this and say it reminds me of the classic point and click adventure games as the constant use of the touchscreen combined with the unsettling music really bring out the dire situation the characters find in this game.

999-nine-hours-nine-persons-nine-doors-box-artwork-ds

Speaking of which, definitely the biggest plus for this game would be the nine characters.  Each character is associated with a number such as the protagonist who is number 5.  Their numbers play a strong role in the game as you can’t progress through the nine different doors without using a certain combination of characters via their digital root.  So I can go through Door 5 for instance if I have say number 5, 6, and 3 (5+6+3=14, 1+4=5).

It’s through these different doors that you can interact with the nine characters on a more personal level.  As you play through the games, their slowly revealed backstories shed light on the mystery of why they are trapped on this sinking ship.  And boy these characters are great.

My favorites characters are probably Seven and Snake.  Seven at first seems like a dumb oaf but the more you get to know him the more you realized that he’s smart and pretty funny.  Snake, who’s blind, is a sympathetic character but is still nonetheless quite capable in taking care of himself.   Even the protagonist’s love interest, June, at first seems like the stereotypical, childhood friend-turned-sweetheart but holy crap the things she says to the protagonist can be either very funny or insane.  At first I outright didn’t like her because she seemed like a flat character but that slowly crumbled before my eyes.

In fact, most of the game is like that, things aren’t as they seem and certain ideas and assumptions you may have are thrown into a vat of water and dissolve before your very eyes.  I’m going to shut up about that because I don’t want to ruin any more of the fun you guys may have playing this game.

As you can tell, I like this game a lot.  If you are a fan of Phoenix Wright or Professor Layton, give this a shot.  If you haven’t played those two games then let me say this, there’s a lot of reading in this game and that can turn people off, I totally get that.  You don’t want to read you want to play a game!  But, if you don’t mind sitting back and take the story in, then you won’t be disappointed.  In the future, I’ll give my full thoughts on this game but for now, go to Amazon and buy this game!  It’s only 20 dollars new, you can’t argue that price for a game like this!

As a side note, I accomplished a unique milestone with this game.  I started it on my trip to Europe and finished it on my trip back in two weeks.  First time I completed a game out of the U.S.!