• Archives for March 2011 (13)

Nerd Pride

Categories: Whatever Wednesday
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Published on: March 30, 2011

So, last week we talked about my nerd shames. It sparked a lot of conversation, and people seemed to have a good time revealing their nerd shames, and arguing the merits of various nerd staples, so I thought I would cash in and spend this week talking about my nerd pride moments. Except that I started that post almost twelve hours ago at this point and I have yet to come up with one that I like. At first I thought that this was my personal inability to take a compliment writ so large that I had actually lost the ability to compliment myself, (which is a strange enough concept that I almost spent the post talking about that instead) but I eventually realized that it’s so hard to define the peaks of my nerd pride because the average elevation is so high. I realize that that metaphor is dense and weird and about geography, of all things, so let me explain myself.

Most of the things that I take pride in in my life are pretty geeky. ( I realize that I’m using nerdy and geeky pretty interchangeably here, and there is a subset of my audience, which most days includes me, that defines those two terms differently, but you know what? I don’t want to today, so just suss it out from the context.) I spend most of my days in supremely geeky pursuits. I draw, but largely fantasy characters, because it’s my eventual goal to draw a fantasy comic. I write blog posts, and honestly, you’re reading  one so I’m not sure that I have to explain why this is geeky. I read a lot of news, but that news tends to focus on gadgets and science and only occasionally on politics because I actually find it cathartic to just be angry about one specific thing for a little bit, but that’s off topic. (What was the topic even? Oh yeah.) I spend a big chunk of my weekend playing Dungeons and Dragons. I fill my free time with video games. I surround myself (at least digitally) with people who share my passions for all this nerdy nonsense. My wife is one the most intelligent people I’ve ever met, and the only person I know who matches my passion for words, beautiful, beautiful words.

So, yes, I do know what a Lagrange point is and I have built some incredible things in Minecraft and I’ve read some really difficult books and I’ve done a hundred other things of geeky note that are worth taking pride in. So, I take pride in all of them. I take pride in my nerdiness.

Music Monday #13 – Strange Charm

Categories: Music Monday
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Published on: March 28, 2011

Talking in this one again this week.

So this is a number by Hank Green, a member of the illustrious Vlog Brothers, vloggers extraordinaire and all-around internet celebrities. There’s not much to be said about this tune. It’s ultra catchy, and it’s about sub-atomic particles. If that isn’t something you’re interested in I’m not sure how you got here in the first place.

Photo Phriday #12 – But Very Slowly

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Published on: March 25, 2011

Videos are just a series of photos, so what the heck, right? I love things in slow motion, and I refuse to make excuses for it.

Nerd Shame

Categories: Whatever Wednesday
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Published on: March 23, 2011

So, a thing I mentioned in last week’s post on books is my shame at not having read a large number of geek staple books. I’m proud of my geeky nature, especially my broad exposure to different aspects of it, and it sometimes pains me to admit that there are certain elements of classic, iconic geek culture that I have either no connection to or no particular affection for. But still, it’s not healthy to keep this stuff bottled up inside, so, without further ado, an incomplete list of geek confessions:

I have never read:

  • Dune
  • More than a couple Dragonlance books
  • The Wizard of Earthsea books
  • Any Wheel of Time past the second book

I have never completed any video game starring Mario, Zelda, or Sonic. I am, in fact, really terrible at Mario, and platforming games in general terms. The only Final Fantasy games I have beaten are Tactics and VI.

I have only seen two episodes of Doctor Who. I’ve seen less than 25% of original Star Trek and Next Gen. I have only ever seen one episode of Babylon 5.

I have never purchased a comic book. I have never been to a comic or sci-fi convention.



It felt good to get that out. Feel free to make fun of me in the comments, or post your own secret geek shames. I’ll see you there.

Music Monday #12 – Raise Your Voice

Categories: Music Monday
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Published on: March 21, 2011

This video is kind of weird, just fyi.

So I mentioned a couple Wednesdays ago that I will often like the entirety of something because I really like one small part of it. I really strong example of this phenomenon is today’s song. This particular video is actually a re-recording of Bad Religion’s original done with German punk artist Campino, and this is due to the fact that I had trouble finding a version of this song that kept the part I liked more or less intact. And that part? The ending. This song kind of doesn’t have a lot going for it for most of the song. It has lots of anthemic Fa-fa’ing, and a pair of fair to middling verses with a vaguely anti-establishment message, but then the second verse ends and the long-building ending starts, climaxing in the a capella finale. It’s a powerful effect, and one that makes me overlook the rest of the song’s flaws. It’s a fun tune, and a good start to another week.

Photo Phriday #11 – Use The Face

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Published on: March 18, 2011

And you thought it was bad when your parents joined Facebook.

A Novel Approach

Categories: Whatever Wednesday
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Published on: March 16, 2011

Embarrassingly, the bulk of the requests for this week involved  me talking about book series that I have never read. (If this is unclear, this is embarrassing for me because I should have read these series, not embarrassing to the requesters for daring to not know the extent of my life’s reading. I’m kind of a jerk, but not that kind of a jerk.) So, instead, I guess I will talk about book series that I have read, and you all can ostracize me in the comments for never having read Dune.

If you’re looking for a super solid fantasy trilogy, I can’t recommend Tad William’s Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn series enough. (Although, now that I think about it, it’s actually a quadrilogy, it does one of those dealies where the third book is in two parts, and so is actually two books, but I digress.) Probably the most important thing for me in any book, and especially in book series is world building. I’m a sucker for a well defined, unique, self-consistent world. Tad Williams is a master of the craft in this regard. Throw in a dash of weird Christianity metaphors and a heaping helping of flawed, interesting characters and I’m hooked.

On the topic of world building, I would be remiss if I were to write a whole post about book series and ignore the Pern novels. Anne McCaffrey’s fantasy/sometimes sci-fi world spans more than a dozen novels and short stories written over more than 40 years. It’s hard to turn down a world where human riders telepathically bond with dragons in order to protect their planet from alien parasites. These were formative books for me. Some kids wanted to grow up to be athletes or firefighters or whatever. I wanted to be a dragonrider.

My last recommendation has to go to Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files. The series currently stands at twelve novels, with another due in July, and many more to come. The Dresden Files follow the adventures of Harry Dresden, the only wizard in the Chicago phone book. The series is a little difficult to sum up in a couple sentences, especially with as much material as it already encompasses, but if took Harry Potter, wrote it for adults, and switched out the whiny teenage protagonist for a noir detective/wizard, you’d have something that wasn’t exactly the Dresden Files, but which those of us who’ve read it would find hauntingly familiar. This series has everything I love: truckloads of world building, more awesome characters than you can shake a wizard’s staff at, and a writing style that’s always fun and never disappoints.

That’s all for today, if I didn’t get to your suggestion or you have something new you’d like me to talk about, or you want to discuss this post, I’ll see you in the comments.

Music Monday #11 – Summer of '69

Categories: Music Monday
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Published on: March 14, 2011

A cover of a classic today.

I have a strange obsession with covers of Bryan Adam’s Summer of ’69. I don’t really know why. Maybe it’s that I’m susceptible to nostalgia, and this song is nostalgia in its purest musical form. It could also be that I like covers just a little too much.

In any case, I apologize for the late post. Feel free to put suggestions of how to punish me in the comments.

Photo Phriday #10 – End of an Era

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Published on: March 11, 2011

I think the space shuttle is one of the most amazing things that has ever existed. It makes me a little sad they we won’t use them anymore.

All Request Hour

Categories: Whatever Wednesday
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Published on: March 9, 2011

Okay, in last Wednesday’s post I said I’d write about everything that you guys wanted me to talk about, so let’s get started.

Tractor Beams

request by bross

This is specifically in reference to this article. I’m going to get the base topic out of the way, and then rant about something that annoys me.

Okay, beams that make things move toward you are sweet. I think tractor beams in science fiction are interesting, because it’s one of these technologies that so many fictions just assume will exist in the future. Making something move towards you by shooting something towards it is actually super difficult, physics wise, so I think it’s strange that most science fiction stories tend to have such a thing.

On the topic of how difficult this is, let’s look at this article. Basically what’s going on here is that it’s possible under optimal circumstances to use a laser to move specific types of small particles towards the beam of light. I… I really want to call that a tractor beam, but I can’t. That thing isn’t trapping a Millennium Falcon any time soon. This is a trend in reporting that actually kind of bothers me. I get that headlines need to be interesting to get people to read the articles, and I also get that the actual, workaday goings on of science are super dull. But there must be some compromise here that doesn’t involve calling what is essentially a  really tiny laser straw a tractor beam. Actually, they should probably just call it a really tiny laser straw. That seems like a good compromise to me.

Your Favorite Poets/Poems and Why They Are Awesome

request by yarnpirate

Okay, so my love of poetry is directly an outgrowth of my love of words, so I more or less like poets who do cool things with words. I suppose this is more or less a description of poetry in general, so take that with a grain of salt. The other problem here is that I like poetry in the same way I like music, which is to say that I pretty much like all kinds of different poetry as long as there is at least some aspect of the poetry that I like. So, I’m just going to hit a couple highlights here, and leave the super in-depth analysis for its own post some time.

I really have a thing for 17th century English poetry in general, I think it’s the golden age of metaphor. Notable notables include Richard Cranshaw, mostly for his ultra awesome titles which are mostly things like  and The Flaming Heart Upon The Book and Picture of the seraphicall saint Teresa, (as she is usually expressed with a Seraphim biside her.), but are also occasionally things like, Wishes To his (supposed) Mistresse. I’m also a super big fan of John Donne, especially Hymn to God, My God, in my Sickness, which is just so rich and velvety that it’s the literary equivalent of mousse.

On a more modern note, I’m also a big fan of E. E. Cummings. He has a unique talent to make words dance in a way they were never quite meant to, and it’s amazing. A Cummings poem is like puzzle, and if you’re in the mood to try to solve something unsolvable, Cummings is a good way to go. I particularly like anyone lived in a pretty how town.


request by AsdonDane

I… I don’t know what to say. I guess that… I’m in… favor? Wait, Dad, this is from you, isn’t it?

Beer. What is your favorite/most interesting brew of each kind?

request by Pinkd20Charmer

Okay, so as you saw in the Photo Phriday from a couple weeks ago, there are a LOT of different kinds of beer, if you’re willing to be granular enough in your definitions. Also, beer kind of has the same problem as music and poetry for me, in that I just really like beer, and will like a beer as long as there is anything to like about it. So, I’m going to hit my favorites out of some bigger arbitrary categories and hope that’s good enough.

I like dark beer, so, in general terms, this is probably my favorite kind of beer, but I get that “dark” isn’t really the answer you were looking for here. In my opinion, the best example of a really excellent dark beer is Goose Island Oatmeal Stout, a beer so dark in color that light doesn’t really pass through it, but that somehow manages to remain absolutely unbelievably smooth in flavor. It’s fantastic, and I can’t recommend it enough.

Lightening up a little, I’m also a big fan of red ales. As far as I’m concerned, the king of the reds is Smithwick’s. It’s another just incredibly smooth beer, full of flavor but  still incredibly drinkable.

My last recommendation is going to a favorite from my home state of Wisconsin: New Glarus Brewing Company’s Spotted Cow. Spotted Cow is a cask ale. It’s sweetened with corn, which usually isn’t a thing I like, but the falor in this particular beer is just spot on.

The Riot Act

request by yarnpirate

I will admit that I had to Google this one. Apparently in 1714 Great Britain enacted a law which allowed any group of twelve or more people to be a riot, which meant they had to disperse upon having the Riot Act read to them.

I think it would be pretty awesome to be hanging out with some fun dudes and lady dudes and have law enforcement come along and declare that we were a riot. I could see myself getting a lot of mileage out of that story. Also, The Riot Act would be a great band name.

The Fine Art of Haggling

request by Pinkd20Charmer

I’ve never really been a haggler. It’s always a skill I wished that I possessed, but I have this unfortunate tendency that when someone quotes me a price, the part of my brain that is a nice guy takes over and is all like “Well, this man wouldn’t try to swindle us, clearly his initial number must be a reasonable price for his wares. Why yes, good sir I would like to buy this fifty dollar Rollox.”

In fact, I have only ever once haggled, and I did it accidentally. I was in Chinatown in San Francisco, and a guy was selling necklaces. (This was during a time in my life when I wore necklaces. Don’t judge me.) He kept trying to get me to buy one, but I didn’t really need another one, so I kept telling him that I didn’t need it. I was at the same time trying to find my way around a crowd of people ahead of me, and not making much progress. The vendor kept reducing his price every time I refused politely, even though I wasn’t even paying attention to him except with the very small part of my brain required to say, “No, thank you.” Eventually he quoted a price so low that the rest of my brain paid attention, and I bought the necklace, which I lost within the week. So passed the only thing I ever haggled for.


request by yarnpirate

This is another one I had to Google. Apparently micoRNAs (or miRNAs for short) are post-transcriptional regulators that bind to complementary sequences on target messenger RNA transcripts (not-at-all-confusingly nicknamed mRNAs).

It’s becoming apparent that yarnpirate is trying to kill me with her brain. Well, you’ll have to get up earlier than that, because I happen to speak fluent science gibberish, and I can do research.


Buh, this Wikipedia article’s References section is almost as long as the article itself, and the article is by no means short.

*reads more*

Okay, got it. So when your cell needs to make a protein (because that’s what cells do) your DNA (which is made up of matching pairs of amino acids) “unzips” so that some other amino acids can come along and match up with the unzipped section of your DNA to build a strand of messenger RNA. Messenger RNA, if you could see it, would look a little bit like a comb, with all its little amino acids sticking up. Other chemicals come along and stick to the amino acids, which forms proteins. But sometimes the messenger RNA doesn’t have  exactly the right shape to make the protein correctly, so a microRNA comes along and sticks to the messenger RNA first, which makes the messenger RNA the right shape to build the correct proteins. This is a ridiculous oversimplification, but I think I more or less got it correct. Biology can be hard.


Okay, Minions, this has been fun. If you guys liked it, go ahead and give me more topics, and we’ll play again next week. If we don’t get lots of responses, that just means the answers will be longer.

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