Sunday, January 31, 2016

Sexual Abuse

I haven't really told many people about this, but I was sexually abused as a child.

It's not something that comes up, partially because I was super young when it happened, and partially because it wasn't a defining event in my life. And, compared to some people's stories of sexual abuse, I'd say my brush with it was incredibly mild.

That said, it crossed my mind recently, and it startled me how much I remember. So, in the spirit of Speak Your Silence, I think it might help to share my story.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Juggling Media Consumption: Video Games

Given that I'm going to class these days and, therefore, have homework to take care of, I have a feeling I won't have nearly as much time for video games as I did a week ago. And I already didn't have much time to play, so it's going to be rough.

Still, it's an important hobby to me, so I'll find time somehow. Here's what I'm juggling now:

Juggling Media Consumption: TV Shows

Consuming media is a delicate balance. Not only do you have to balance your time between media consumption and other responsibilities (work/rest/etc), but you also need to balance your time between different types of media, and then different titles within each media. We can't reasonably be expected to keep up with everything, but we're kind of responsible for keeping up with some things in order to have some shared experience with the population at large.

Plus, it's just fun and relaxing.

So, here's what I've been spending my media time on:

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Let's Talk Final Fantasy

This Cracked article about how Final Fantasy is losing all of its fans sparked a discussion on Facebook. This discussion got me researching, and since I already did the research I figure I should probably write a blog about it.

In short: I think the problems with modern Final Fantasy games has to do with the people involved.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Reinhold Niebuhr

Most people, I believe, are familiar with the Serenity Prayer:
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.
It's a beautiful prayer, adorning the walls of many homes across the country. I find myself pretty connected to it as well, as it pretty accurately describes my thought process when I assess problems; I avoid stressing out about things I can't change by acknowledging the fact that I can't change them. Stress, for me, mostly comes from that third line: when I don't yet realize I'm trying to change something that can not be changed.

Anyway, the prayer above is adapted from a 1937 prayer written by a man named Reinhold Niebuhr. The original goes, "Father, give us courage to change what must be altered, serenity to accept what cannot be helped, and the insight to know the one from the other."

Niebuhr is an interesting fellow, it turns out. He's probably best known for the Serenity Prayer, but his other work influenced much of modern public policy, foreign policy, and major historical figures including Martin Luther King Jr. as well as modern political figures like Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John McCain. So, I thought it would be interesting to dig into this guy.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

D&D Campaign Idea: It's the Journey

Ever get a really good campaign idea and realize you can't implement it, and that by the time you can you'll probably have moved on or, more likely, forgotten about it?

I just had one, so I'm going to talk about that today instead of politics or race or education and all those other things I've been talking about. I just... I have to write this down.

Back to School

After a few months of trying to grasp Unity and other game programming on my own, I decided that I needed some guidance. I looked into the local community college just hoping to brush up on my programming and was charmed to see that they actually have a game design curriculum. So, instead of learning C++ and building something from scratch, I'm learning C# and Unity (though I still kinda want to go and learn C++ just because).

I've since been through a semester at Pima Community College, and I've just started my second. I'm not getting a degree or anything--I just want to learn enough to be able to do the rest on my own. It's been an interesting experience so far, though, so I figured I'd share my thoughts on returning to college. How many years has it been since I earned my bachelor's degree? Six years? Seven? I'm honestly not sure when I graduated from Nicholls State. It was pretty anticlimactic.

Anyway, here's my new experience:

Monday, January 25, 2016

"Acting White"

Go into any inner-city neighborhood, and folks will tell you that government alone can’t teach kids to learn.They know that parents have to parent, that children can’t achieve unless we raise their expectations and turn off the television sets and eradicate the slander that says a black youth with a book is acting white.
—Barack Obama, Keynote Address, Democratic National Convention, 2004
I'm pretty sure that most people reading this are aware of this fact, but I am not white. Not entirely, anyway. For my entire life, when filling out survey forms and such, I've always checked off the "Native American/Alaskan Native" box. My father is chairman of my tribe and has been fighting to get our tribe nationally recognized for a long time now.

I don't bring up my race very much, though. I'm not active in my tribe, and I have no real connection to Native American culture. Does that make me less of an American Indian? Does the rejection of my ethnicity mean that I'm just acting white?

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Job vs Career

Since moving to Tucson and working for Fangamer, I've had a very different outlook on what my job means to me. I find I think about work in a fundamentally different way than I used to, and not just because I'm doing something different. This difference goes beyond a job description: it represents a fundamental change in the relationship between my work and my life.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Reflections on "Reflections on Firefly"

My friend Aaron posted a critique of Firefly today. It was an intriguing read, and I decided to respond to his assertions. After getting to the third paragraph of my response, though, it occurred to me that if I'm going to write that much I should probably just make it my blog for the day.

The gist of his post, if you don't want to read it (though you probably should): Firefly had some good things going on, but perhaps Fox was right to cancel the show. Joss Whedon's snappy dialogue, though fun, distracted from a general lack of depth in the characters, and the show could have perhaps benefited from a smaller cast of deeper characters.

I respectfully disagree.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Organizing Line: When It's Time to Get to Work

(Today was a long day at work, so I don't want to spend a bunch of time writing tonight. Instead, here's a blog I wrote last year and never published that coincidentally concerns time management.)

Actually getting work done is one of the most difficult things to do. Putting pen to paper, writing that first line, taking the first step; there are so many obstacles in our way, and today I'd like to talk about one of them.

Refelctions on Democratic Candidates: Martin O'Malley

For the final remaining Democratic candidate, Martin O'Malley, I don't think I'm going to really attempt to get too critical. The guy is polling in the low single-digits, so criticizing him now would be like kicking a puppy.

After participating in three presidential debates now, he's really just kind of coming off as a nuisance, trying to get between the two real contenders. He hasn't said anything wrong, though, and he's got some pretty decent ideas. He's just capturing basically nobody's imagination.

So, just who is this Martin O'Malley guy?

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Reflections on Democratic Candidates: Hillary Clinton

Continuing my series on politics, it's time to talk about the Democratic front-runner: Hillary Clinton. Again, since I largely agree with liberals, I think it will be more interesting to discuss my concerns about the Democratic candidates rather than the things I agree about, so this will likely take a critical direction.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Reflections on the Democratic Candidates: Bernie Sanders

After yesterday's Democratic debate, I decided to go ahead and get my thoughts down regarding the Democratic candidates. Unlike the Republicans, whose surface opinions I largely disagree with, if I were to list my common ground with the Democratic candidates this series would basically never end. Instead, I'm going to try and be critical of the candidates and point out my concerns.

Let's start with my preferred candidate: Bernie Sanders

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Reflections of the Republican Debate: Congressional Authority

I'm starting to write this last post about the Republican debate 45 minutes before the next Democratic debate begins. It's possible that the Democratic debate will cause me to lose my train of thought, so I've got to organize my thought on this matter in 45 minutes or, well, less now. Let's get to it.

The subject: congressional authority, or the limits of presidential power, or bipartisanship. It's all pretty interrelated.

Reflections on the Republican Debate: Foreign Diplomatic Relations

Today, I'm continuing my reflection on the more interesting ideas proposed by the Republicans during their debate. This time, the subject is foreign relations--a critical subject, especially in this era in which we have thousands of troops stationed all over the world.

Specifically, I'm referring to diplomatic relations. Economic relations are a completely different thing and, I believe, much more complicated.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Reflections on the Republican Debate: Tax Reform

Yesterday I was so focused on typing up what the candidates were saying that I didn't actually give much commentary. Plus, sometimes I was actually trying to pay attention to what they were saying, which gave me even less time for typing and thoughts of my own. That's part of the problem with live commentary, I guess: balancing your attention between your comments and what you're commenting on means you get to give your full attention to neither. So, I probably won't do that again.

Anyway, today I want reflect a bit on what the Republicans talked about. I disagree with a lot of what they said, but so did many people, so I wouldn't be adding anything to the conversation by ripping apart their views.

Instead, I'm going to explore the things I thought were interesting; ideas that stood out to me as well-thought-out or, at the very least, worth a second thought. I've settled on three things:
  1. Tax reform
  2. Foreign diplomatic relations
  3. Congressional authority
Today, I'm going to talk about tax reform. Let's see where their ideas and mine on these subjects align and diverge:

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Live Blog of the Jan 14, 2016 Republican Debate

Do people do live blogging? I guess it doesn't make much sense, since it's not really live to the reader. Regardless, I'm going to watch my first Republican debate and type up my thoughts as they go. Warning, I'm not going to edit this, so expect typos galore.

Candidates: Donal Trump, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Jeb Bush, John Kasich

Okay, let's go.

The Right to Bear Arms

In the late 1780s, years after the Treaty of Paris was signed in 1783, the fledgling government of the United States was still sorting out what sort of government they really wanted to be. The country's first political parties, the Federalists and the cleverly-named Anti-Federalists (who eventually became the Democratic-Republican party), were debating the merits and problems with a strong central government. A strong central government offered security and regulated interstate quarrels, which were a big concern at the time. On the other hand, if the central government was too strong that opened the door to tyranny, the war against which everyone was still kinda recovering from.

Unfortunately, the country's first attempt at a constitution created a government too weak to do anything at all, so clearly there needed to be some compromise. So, in 1791, two years after the Constitution of the United States of America established a much stronger central government, the first ten amendments to that Constitution were ratified: the United States' Bill of Rights, which guaranteed certain freedoms to the country's people in the hopes that such rights would save them from tyranny.

Many of these rights have been debated in the 224 years since their ratification, and some of their guarantees have been chipped away a bit for the sake of safety and common sense. Currently, the guarantee at the forefront of America's collective mind seems to be the Second Amendment. So, let's talk about it.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The Influence of a Legend

The loss of David Bowie is being felt all around the world, and yesterday the outpouring of remembrance, grief, and anecdotes about how he changed people's lives vastly outnumbered the criticisms and the cynicism that always seem to crop up when large numbers of people are talking about the same thing.

Though I was by no means a Bowie super-fan or anything, the worldwide conversation has gotten me thinking about this man who was a major influence on my life, even if not directly.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Buying a House Part 3 and 4: Find an Agent, Check Out Houses

[I wrote this post last year as part of my attempt at a series on the house-buying process. Never published it for whatever reason, so here you go.]

Buying a house is a complicated process. Unless it's your job to know how to communicate with sellers, write contracts, get in touch with the professionals to examine a house, set up the loan process, and get all of the correct paperwork submitted to the right people at the right time, you should probably get an agent who can do most of that stuff for you. And hey, it will probably be free!


I have a bad habit of arguing with people on Facebook sometimes. It's not a good use of my time, but last year I wasn't using this blog as an outlet, so instead most of my writing ended up in the ethereal word of Facebook comments. In any case, recently in one of those conversations a friend-of-a-friend told me to never take anything anyone says on the Internet seriously.

This comment opened my eyes once again to the fact that many people, even (perhaps especially) people who spend a lot of time on the Internet, don't really see the Internet as a part of reality. So, today I'd like to talk about why that mindset is wrong.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Saiyans and Midichlorians

In Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, George Lucas introduced something to the Star Wars universe that ruined the series for many people, and which basically every Star Wars book, game, and movie since (including Episodes II and III) has done its best to ignore: midichlorians.

Before midichlorians, the Force was basically unexplained. It was simply a power that "surrounds us, penetrates us, binds the galaxy together." Though the original trilogy suggested that the Force was strong in the Skywalker family, it seemed like something anybody could tap into if they had the right mindset. There was no science behind it. Indeed, it rebuked science for being too attached to sensory perception.

And then there was midichlorians: a way to measure Force potential in people. It explained something that didn't need explaining, and it explicitly marked the Skywalker family as chosen ones. Darth Vader was obsessed with destiny, but Luke's actions suggested that destiny is a lie. Midichlorians suggest that destiny is very real and measurable.

On that note, I want to talk about how, as midichlorians ruin Star Wars, Saiyans ruin Dragon Ball.

Friday, January 8, 2016


[Note: I wrote this post some time early last year and never published it. Probably because I couldn't think of a good ending.]

This past weekend I finished both Dragon Age: Inquisition and season 3 of Friday Night Lights which, if you're not familiar with that series, it's basically the season when most of the cast graduates, making it feel like an end to the series. In both cases, I had to come to terms with the feelings you get when something ends, particularly something you feel invested in.

Endings cause a mix of emotions, which makes them some of the most confusing things for people to deal with. I've heard people say that they've put books, games, and shows down for a while, unwilling to finish them, knowing that it means the experience would end. And I can understand that: endings are bittersweet, and many people need to brace themselves for the bitter half of that equation. Sometimes the sweet isn't enough to make up for the bitter. Sometimes people don't accept the bitterness at all. And, of course, sometimes the bitterness makes people themselves somewhat bitter.

I figured I should muse about endings while they're on my mind.

The Death of Subtext

I'm a big fan of Undertale and Steven Universe. These are both super fun and cool experiences (video game and TV show, respectively) that are solid, expertly made pieces of art with subversive qualities thrown in for good measure. I have basically no complaints with either one.

However, both Undertale and Steven Universe have a reputation for having incredibly annoying fans. A while back I made a joke about how Gamergate supporters resembled nothing so much as the more witness-happy sects of Christianity, like Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses. These groups are often mocked for their enthusiasm for spreading the gospel of their cause, and in my experience the fandom of Steven Universe and Undertale use similar tactics.

It's not simply that these things are popular. There is a certain amount of backlash to be expected from popular media, but there's a fundamental difference between the way, say, Star Wars or Final Fantasy 7 fans talk about their fandom versus the way Steven Universe or Undertale fans talk about their fandom. With Star Wars, it's enough that it's "cool," and there's generally no imperative for others to see it. One does not preach Star Wars, because Star Wars has nothing to preach. Its fandom spreads naturally.

Steven Universe and Undertale have a message, though, and their fandoms want to spread that message. It crosses the line from the natural circulation of Star Wars to the more jarring circulation of Mormonism when the people who talk about it stop thinking it's "cool" and start thinking it's "Important." Which is tragic, because the actual experience they want to support handles that message in a far less jarring manner than its fans do.

All that to say, today I'd like to talk about subtlety.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

The Reign of Terror

I'm fairly liberal. To some, I'm sure I seem extremely liberal. To others, I'm sure I'm not liberal enough. The sliding scale of liberalism and conservatism stretches farther than the eye can see on both sides, and you can always take things farther.

That said, I never want to lose the moderate notion that the people who disagree with me are still people, and that they generally hold their views for good reasons. Or, at least, for reasons that make sense to them. I don't think it's safe to assume that the people who disagree with you are less intelligent than you, or that they are holding their views for selfish or malevolent purposes.

Given that, today I'm going to write a little bit about a point in history in which terror and violence came, not from conservatives, but from a nation whose liberalism had run out of control. I'm talking about France in the 1790s, in the midst of the French Revolution.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Examining Gamergate Part 3: Cronyism

In my research of the charges of Gamergate, the thing that struck me most was how unpleasant the material was to read. Not because the subject matter was uncomfortable, but because it felt like I was reading the accounts of a witch hunt; that these people were angry, and they needed to unleash that anger on something, anything, so long as they can concoct some justification to do so.

I'm pretty stoic, and I tend to naturally keep all of my emotions in check, for better or worse. However, the only emotion I actively try to keep in check, the only one I actually fight off on the rare occasion it arises, is anger. Of all the emotions it seems to be the most likely to be unnecessarily destructive, the most likely to get out of hand, and the most difficult to get under control. It's an unpleasant emotion, both to feel and to read.

It's particularly uncomfortable to experience when you don't feel the injustice the way someone else does. All anger stems from injustice, and the difference between Gamergate proponents and opponents is what they consider an injustice. The most tiresome thing while reading through Gamergate articles was the fact that I couldn't find much to commiserate with them about, so I couldn't share in their anger.

The closest I came to understanding their frustration was with their charges of cronyism among the gaming media.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Examining Gamergate Part 2: On Conspiracy

I'd like to get into the habit of announcing my blog posts more often. Letting people know I've posted something new increases my meager traffic considerably, it turns out. I don't think I'll be announcing these posts, though. Best case scenario, it will remind people that this is still an ongoing conversation, which is something many people (myself included) would like to move past. Worst case scenario, I'll get pulled into that conversation further, a prospect that fills me with exhaustion at the thought.

Researching and writing on this subject has been exhausting enough. It reminds me of something someone said, and I apologize for not remembering who it was so I can credit them. To paraphrase: the most frustrating arguments are with people who are wrong in a way that's exhausting to explain. To a large degree, that describes the Gamergate debate.

Exhausting or not, though, I'm determined to organize my thoughts on this subject. Only then, perhaps, will I be free. So, on to the subject of conspiracy in gaming journalism.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Examining Gamergate: On Corruption

A few months ago an old friend of mine started posting about Gamergate. Gamergate hasn't been in the news as much lately, though maybe I only think that because I've personally been avoiding it as much as possible. Regardless, this was clearly something my friend was passionate about, so we started talking.

I generally try to avoid seeing another group as an "other." For opponents of Gamergate, the rule of thumb was "do not engage," as if its proponents are not worth your time. I don't like to think of people that way, especially friends, so I broke the rule. I engaged, and my friend provided me with tons of reading material to show me what he's talking about.

I've since read a lot, thought a lot, and examined this issue for the sake of my friend. Here's what I've found:

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Resolutions for 2016

Though I basically ditched my 2015 resolutions, I do believe in the resolution model so long as the resolutions have the following qualities:
  • Realistic - Goals I can reasonably achieve in the given time frame and given my schedule.
  • Concrete/Measurable - Goals I can work towards, producing results I can demonstrate.
  • Personal Improvement - Goals that enhance my knowledge or abilities.
  • Habit-Changing - Goals that I wasn't already going to reach without making them goals.
Through resolutions like this, I've played and finished more games, finished more books, gone on more hikes, watched more movies, and wrote more than I otherwise would have. These resolutions kept me active, kept me thinking, and generally gave me a greater appreciation for the arts than I had before.

Friday, January 1, 2016

2015 in Review

I started this blog as part of a New Year's resolution in 2014. The goal was to end the year with 365 blog posts, and I ended up with 364 (due to a failure to hit a final Publish button properly). The year 2014 was a good year for keeping resolutions. The year 2015 was not. However, given all that's happened in the past year, I'm pretty content with that. It's been an active year, and tossing a few personal goals to the wayside was necessary in order to seize some unexpected opportunities that seemed more important than weekly blog posts and finding new music.

Some highlights of 2015: