[x]Blackmoor Vituperative

Friday, 2011-09-16

Speak Out With Your Geek Out

Filed under: Firearms,Gaming,Movies,Technology — bblackmoor @ 20:17
Speak out with your geek out

I have been a geek pretty much from the day I opened my eyes. My mother tells me that I would sit in my playpen and watch Dark Shadows. When I was 10 or 11, and visiting my grandma Roma for a few weeks during the summer, I discovered The Lord Of The Rings at the local library (where I spent most of my afternoons — it was free, and it was air conditioned). I read the second and third books first, because the first book was loaned out at the time. I recall thinking that it was interesting, but really dry.

Shortly thereafter, I discovered vampires and werewolves and witches. (I never thought I was one. I was a geek, not a delusional loser.) Around the same time, two other things happened that confirmed my path toward geekdom: the debut of the Dr. Madblood show on channel 10, and the release of Star Wars. I would stay up late with my mom and wait for the end of The Midnight Special or Saturday Night Live or whatever sports event had preempted regularly scheduled programming that week, when we’d be rewarded with the baseline from “Green Eyed Lady” and the opening credits of Dr. Madblood. And Star Wars… ah, the good old days, before “A New Hope”, before “Episode IV”, before Greedo shot first, before Darth Vader was retconned into Luke’s whiny-ass father and the creator of C-3PO… back when Star Wars was Star Wars… back when Star Wars was good. Between the bad movies shown every Saturday by Dr. Madblood, and my infatuation with Star Wars, the first of my lifelong geeky pursuits was added permanently to my repertoire: movies. I saw Star Wars at the movies over and over (I stopped counting at nine), my parents bought me action figures, and I carried the novelization (George Lucas’ name was on the cover, but it was actually written by Alan Dean Foster) around with me until a bully on the bus took it away and tore it in half.

Such is the life of a young geek.

In my early teen years, I discovered my next geeky hobby: Dungeons & Dragons. There was an “activity day” at my school. Groups of older kids hosted various activities, and we younger kids wandered around and took part and learned about them. Kind of like Pledge Week, without the humiliation and the homoerotic undertones. I joined in on a game of Dungeons & Dragons because a girl named Jade was sitting at the table, and I thought she was so cute. She had octagonal glasses, and her name was Jade. How cool is that? I had never heard of role-playing games, of course, so I had no idea what I was doing, but I had a great time anyway. I recall I used a “Pyrokinesis” spell to keep a dragon from breathing fire. I had no idea what the spell was or what it did, but it was called “pyrokinesis”, so it just stood to reason that I could keep a dragon from breathing fire, right? The GM agreed.

Well, I was hooked right there. Role-playing games became the second of my lifelong geeky pursuits. Jade never played with us again, but I played at lunchtime with my friends in school off and on until I graduated high school. I was never mocked or hazed for playing D&D. The only problem I can recall was toward the end of my senior year, the day after prom: my mom found my D&D books and burned them.

Such is the life of a young geek.

The third of my lifelong geeky pursuits was added in my sophomore year of high school. Our school got a set of TRS-80 Model III computers. I don’t recall how or why I started using them. It may have been an elective class. What I do know is that I immediately started writing computer programs in Basic. Dice-rolling programs (for D&D), a psionic combat resolution program (also for D&D — psionic combat resolution was a task well suited to a computer program), and so on. The TRS-80 Model IIIs were replaced by Model IVs in my junior year, and then by IBM PCs in my senior year. That was the year I started the Computer Club at my high school. (I’d started Philosophy Club the year before, and the D&D Club the year before that.)

In retrospect, starting clubs has always kind of been my thing. I like to create things that bring people together. That’s why I started RPG Library and PBEM News. Just recently, I started a YahooGroup forum/mailing list called Game System Workshop, devoted to tinkering with role-playing game designs, to share ideas about new game systems and to tinker around with existing ones. (Feel free to join it, if you are so inclined — it’s an open group.)

Walther P99

Years later (too many years later), I am still as much a geek as I ever was. I am a computer programmer working for DriveThruRPG (combining two of my geeky pursuits in one). I still play role-playing games, and I still like sharing my gaming ideas and seeing what other people’s ideas are. I still love movies (mostly bad movies). I maintain a Digital Archive Project torrent server for Mystery Science Theatre 3000 (only the episodes that aren’t commercially available), and I even had the slide of my Walther P99 plated with brushed stainless steel to resemble the pistols used by Kate Beckinsale in Underworld 2. That’s my pistol you see there on the right.

My name is Brandon Blackmoor, and I’m a geek. I’m married to the person I love, I can have all the sex I want, I make good money doing work I enjoy, and life is good.

Such is the life of an adult geek. 🙂

Wednesday, 2011-09-14

Ich Bin Ein Auslander

Filed under: Music,Science — bblackmoor @ 18:27

Went to the dentist today and found out two interesting things. First, my left lower wisdom tooth is chipped. I have a rather less pleasant dentist visit scheduled for next week.

Second, I learned that one’s fillings can act as anodes and electrodes, and generate an electric current using one’s saliva as the electrolyte. The hygienist poked my gums up near one of my back teeth, using her pointy tool of dental stabbityness, and it shocked me. Then she did it again! The dentist explained that what I was experiencing was an unusual but not unknown phenomenon caused by the difference in electrical potential between the stainless steel dental pick and my silver filling.

Science!

“Well, once again, my friend, we find that science is a two-headed beast. One head is nice, it gives us aspirin and other modern conveniences… But the other head of science is bad. Oh, beware the other head of science, Arthur! It bites!”
— The Tick

Today’s “My favourite song” is “Ich Bin Ein Auslander” by Pop Will Eat Itself.

Tuesday, 2011-09-13

Golden Earring – The Twilight Zone

Filed under: Music — bblackmoor @ 20:07

(Warning: both the video itself and the embedded graphic below are NSFW. It’s subtle, but it’s there. So … there you go.)

Nothing too serious to write about today. Bad people are still bad. Good people are still good. I still think the good outnumber the bad, and I hope it stays that way. I love Susan and my kitten.

Today’s “My favourite song” is Golden Earring’s “The Twilight Zone”. Fun fact: “Twilight Zone” was written by Golden Earring’s lead guitarist George Kooymans. He was inspired not by the famous TV series of the same name, but by the Robert Ludlum novel “The Bourne Identity”.


Golden Earring – Twilight Zone (X) by popefucker

Monday, 2011-09-12

Ruminations on an excellent Monday

Filed under: Work — bblackmoor @ 18:32

This was the best Monday I have had in some time. The weather was yet another beautiful Richmond day. Vixen is exceeding my expectations as a kitten. I solved and documented a programming problem that was hanging me up last week, and I can finally put that entire phase of the project behind me (barring as-yet-undiscovered bugs).

Not that everything went perfectly. I caught myself repeating an old pattern of behaviour that I find distasteful. Arguing about things that don’t matter, to be specific. I caught myself, backtracked as well as I could, and made a note to avoid that path in the future. I have more than enough positive, helpful influences in my life, and I’m a great deal happier when I move in those circles.

And now, today’s “my favorite song”!

Wednesday, 2011-09-07

Cowardice

Filed under: Society — bblackmoor @ 23:37

You know that thing where one person attacks another person for no reason, and the bystanders all stand around and say nothing, and do nothing, and then they blame the victim? I hate that.

Tuesday, 2011-09-06

Why the Google Profiles (or any) “Real Name” Policy is Important to Me

Filed under: Privacy,The Internet — bblackmoor @ 16:15
Google+ protest image

A brave soul by the name of Todd Vierling has posted a compelling opinion piece explaining why, in his words,

… those of you who think that using real names will make people more open and social are horrifyingly deluded. Your idealistic vision of “real” interaction through real names isn’t just nonsense; it’s making online socialization more dangerous for everyone by putting them at risk of real-world prejudicial action.

(from Why the Google Profiles (or any) “Real Name” Policy is Important to Me , duh.org)

It’s worth reading. I suggest that you do.

Sunday, 2011-09-04

Happy birthday to me

Filed under: Family,Food,Friends — bblackmoor @ 10:26

I turned 45 this week. I had a great week. We got a new kitten, Vixen. A friend and his son came over and we grilled hot dogs and watched a Batman movie (Mystery Of The Batwoman). We had dinner with a different friend at Famous Dave’s (a rib place). Life is good.

Wednesday, 2011-08-31

The Mugs of August – Treasure Island mug

Filed under: Art,Food,Travel — bblackmoor @ 23:58
Treasure Island mug

I am going to post a photo of a coffee mug every day in August and talk a little bit about where we got it and why I like it.

I spent about six hours in the car yesterday, driving all over central Virginia looking for the perfect kitten. So this, the final installment of the Mugs of August, is a little late.

When we went to Las Vegas in 2002, we were amazed at how much fun you can have for free, or nearly free. For example, every morning, we made the rounds of the “free spin” slot machines, and came home at the end of the week with a dozen decks of cards, a few packs of dice, a number of “collectible” dolls, tote bags, and other assorted crap. We also got a pair of theatre tickets for Splash! just for taking a bus tour of the Las Vegas suburbs and listening to a half-hour pitch for a time share. The bus tour was part of the pitch, but I thought it was a pretty cool thing to do on its own. We got another set of tickets for Showgirls of Magic for listening to an hour pitch from a hotel-timeshare.

I’ve already mentioned how much I liked Showgirls of Magic. Splash! was a pretty popular show at the time, but we hadn’t planned to see it, and probably wouldn’t if we hadn’t had the free tickets. It was a variety show, much like what you would see on “America’s Got Talent”, but with intermittent topless showgirls, and a big closing musical number celebrating the sinking of the Titanic. (Yes, we thought that was odd, too.)

A number of casinos had free entertainment, either outside or inside. One of the hotels we stayed at, the Flamingo, had Russian trapeze artists and acrobats performing every few hours. The Bellagio has its fountains, Circus Circus has its midway circus show, and Treasure Island has a pirate ship fighting an English man o’ war. (Or had — apparently they have changed the show up a bit since then.) It was a great show: every bit as good as something you’d see at Universal Studios, in my opinion. And free for anyone who happened to be walking by.

It’s a great mug, too. Heavy, but comfortable to hold and drink from. I am drinking coffee from it right now, in fact. You might not be able to tell from the photo, but the skull and crossbones is raised a bit in bas-relief, which is neat.

And thus we come to the end of the Mugs of August. I hope you found it entertaining.

Tuesday, 2011-08-30

The Mugs of August – Cobalt toothbrush mug

Filed under: Art,Food,Friends — bblackmoor @ 22:41
Cobalt toothbrush mug

I am going to post a photo of a coffee mug every day in August and talk a little bit about where we got it and why I like it.

This mug has never held coffee, tea, or any other beverage. Back in the early 2000s, I did a lot of remodeling of our house in Portsmouth. When I remodeled the hall bathroom, I decorated it in a Victorian sun and moon theme: lots of dark blue, with bronze suns and moons here and there. I bought this Anchor Hocking mug to use as a toothbrush holder. Susan and I both used conventional, move-it-with-your-hand toothbrushes back then.

Nowadays, this mug sits in our guest bathroom, filled with new (sealed) toothbrushes for guests, as well as floss, a razor, and a tube of toothpaste. We have guests stay the night from time to time, such as when we have parties and friends come in from out of town, and we try to make sure they have all they need in case they forgot to bring something. It’s kind of funny: when a guest does need a toothbrush, and opens one up, they almost always leave it behind. Why? We aren’t going to re-use it.

We don’t use manual toothbrushes ourselves, anymore, so we stay well-supplied with the free toothbrushes the dentist gives us every time we visit. In fact, we have way too many. Susan recently boxed up 20 of them and sent them off to some soldiers for a program where she works called “America’s Adopt a Soldier”. She got a letter back thanking her. According to her letter, in some of the countries and cultures into which our military is sent, people do not brush their teeth, and it’s impossible to just buy a new toothbrush — receiving a new toothbrush after 7 months is awesome.

Monday, 2011-08-29

The Mugs of August – Forsvarets Fjernundervisning mug

Filed under: Art,Food,Travel,Work — bblackmoor @ 21:25
Forsvarets Fjernundervisning mug

I am going to post a photo of a coffee mug every day in August and talk a little bit about where we got it and why I like it.

In April and May 2003, I went on a long business trip to Europe for SAIC and Joint Forces Command, on behalf of the Partnership For Peace. Susan went with me. We visited the Czech Republic, Germany, and Norway. Norway was the last leg of our trip. We stayed in Oslo for nearly a week.

Oslo is a very interesting city. It seemed to me that everything was made of stone, and that the streets were deserted. Part of that perception was caused by the fact that Susan and I would wander around late at “night”, when normal Norwegians had gone to bed. But it was broad daylight. Oslo was very clean, and even the prostitutes seemed well dressed.

It was very expensive, though. I seem to recall a Big Mac cost almost $10. We didn’t eat at McDonald’s — I was just curious about the prices. I did have whale steak while we were there. I didn’t care for it, actually, but I am glad I was able to try it. If you’ve ever had a really horrific bloody nose, with golfball sized clots in your throat… it tasted like that.

I spent my days at Akershus Castle, a 13th century fortress which now houses museums, and at the time also housed the Forsvarets Fjernundervisning (which translates roughly as “Norwegian national defense distance education”). Like all of our hosts for that trip, our Norwegian military hosts were friendly, and proud of their city and their history. They gave Susan and me a private tour of the castle, and gave each of us one of these mugs as a parting gift.

Fun fact: in Norway, they don’t dub movies. American movies have American soundtracks. They also learn other languages in school at a very young age. Our hosts generally spoke English while we were around. I only overheard them speaking Norwegian with each other a few times. It actually did sound a lot like the Swedish Chef, believe it or not. But their English was superb, and the younger they were, the better it was. There was a contractor for IBM who I’d assumed was from California, based on his accent. Imagine my surprise when we took Susan and me out clubbing, and we found out that he was a local. His English was just that good. Not that I am criticizing anyone who speaks English with an accent. I have tremendous respect for anyone that learns English. I think that’s amazing. But his English was flawless.

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