I had my birthday, which was nice. I got two video games, an Irish hat, a hands-free blue tooth thingie, and a water carbonator. The only gift I had any sort of problem with was the blue tooth thing. I’ve never really understood Bluetooth. Sure it’s hands-free, but you have to spend so much time setting it up and you have to look at the phone to make a call anyway. It’s probably more for people who have more than five numbers stored on their phones who have their voice assist working and who can expect to get calls regularly during a period of time. Also people who use Bluetooth are probably not using their phones primarily as mp3 players
It would be alright if the Bluetooth thing could work as a general speaker, but the one I got was overly engineered. Some bright team worked out how to distinguish the sounds coming from a phone’s operating system or other programs from the sounds of the incoming and outgoing calls. Furthermore, they bundled all the programming into a device that’s essentially a black box with a button on it. Never mind that I’m slightly worried that somebody somewhere is dying every time I press the button, I cannot change the functionality of it without breaking the thing open, taking a bunch of computer programming courses and going at it with a soldering iron.
It might still be useful if I was expecting to receive a lot of calls one day. But that’s not likely to happen.
I got the Irish Hat from my friend Dac (not his real name) as a replacement for the one I lost at the IHOP some time before Christmas. The original was a hat I got some ten years ago or so, when my dad and I went to Ireland with some extended family. It was a pretty snappy hat. I’m not really a hat person, but that was one that I didn’t mind wearing. So I thought maybe I would wear it around more one day. A week later I was with Dac and his wife Kilc (also not her real name) at the IHOP and I took it off, because of the rule of etiquette that says it is rude not to take one's hat off when entering a building. I put it in the pocket of my jacket, thinking it was safe there, but it fell out, never to be seen again.
Dac and Kilc were awesome though and looked online and found the place that makes the hats in Ireland. Turns out there’s a guy John Hanna who’s continuing his father’s business. I don’t know whether the hats are called Hanna hats in general or if that’s just his name for them, but I enjoyed the added bit of history that came with the garment. Now I just have to figure out how to wear the hat without losing it.
The two video games I got were Resistance: fall of man (a wwII-ish game with aliens) and Dead Space 2. I haven’t played Resistance that much yet. It seems to have a rather high learning curve, which can be good, but I haven’t been hooked yet. Dead Space 2 though, might become a problem. I’ve been playing it a lot, probably too much. There are some problems with it, but it’s a really slick experience over all. It has a third-person, over the shoulder perspective which makes things a little tricky at first, and the gamma correction in the game doesn’t quite correct enough, so there are times when enemies are hiding out in the shadows and you can’t see what’s attacking you, which gets annoying. It would probably be better if I wore head phones so the sound would be more directional, but I keep forgetting to set them up.
I really like the world building they did for the Dead Space games. Maybe that’s the wrong term. There are inconsistencies that wouldn’t hold up in a novel or movie, but I like how the player character Isaac gains new gadgets based on what’s around him, and how each of the enemies require different tactics to defeat. I’m actually thinking of making up a Dead Space costume for Midsouthcon this year. I think I could do the health indicator that everyone wears on their backs in the game at least, and I might even be able to do the suit as well. Of course all this requires time, which I should be spending on other things, but if I do it, I’d want to to use LEDs and setting up the circuitry might give me some experience I can use on other, more practical projects.
As for the water carbonator, I think everyone who likes soda to any degree should get one of these things. I like just carbonating water and dropping lemon juice in it, which works fine, but I’ve also had a load of fun experimenting on different things to add to it to make it taste like soda. The flavor samples that it came with unfortunately all used Splenda, which has the taste of sorrow and broken promises, but even so you can imagine how good it would be if it was made with proper sugar and it’s great. My main problem with soda is the lack of fizz, and the carbonator lets you go crazy with the fizz.
So good stuff over all.
I went to a writer’s meeting in Memphis Saturday and enjoyed seeing my Memphis friends again. Unfortunately it had been a while since I was in a group of that many people, and I may have acted like a jerk once or twice unintentionally. The subject of ghosts came up while six of us were at dinner afterward, and I couldn’t help but express my feelings about the silliness of those who believe in them. Booker (not her real name) made a perfectly reasonable point that it was a matter of perspective whether they existed or not. A point that I’d have been able to agree with if I had thought about it for more than half a second; in fact an earlier post on this very blog expresses a similar view, but I wanted to be right and make a joke, and so I said something to the effect of “Yeah, there’s my perspective and there’s being wrong!” Which was a jerky thing to say. I’m fine with people believing anything they want as long as they don’t try to force it on me. Sometimes I can’t help wanting to force my beliefs on other people though.
At the meeting proper, we were talking about magic systems in fantasy fiction, and whether they should be explained or not. The argument against explaining things was in part that explaining things destroys the sense of wonder. This argument goes right up my spine. I consider myself a scientist. I enjoy learning about the universe, because everything I learn fills me with a sense of wonder and appreciation for the cosmic dance that everything participates in without even being cognizant of it. The idea that remaining willfully ignorant of something somehow increases the enjoyment of it goes counter to my entire worldview.
It was said during the meeting that if magic was explained too much it would be just like science. As if science was somehow inferior to magic. As if magic was anything other than counter-intuitive technology. It really gets my goat, but that doesn’t mean I should snap at people who don’t share my philosophy. In a one on one conversation I wouldn't have as much a problem. I would have just said that I disagreed, and if the other party wanted to know more, I would explain myself. But we were coming to a consensus on things as a group and when someone came out with the ignorance is bliss assertion as something to base the group's decision on, I had a difficult time stifling myself. I don't think anything I said was offensive, really, and the atmosphere of debate was congenial enough that it probably wasn't noticeable. But I noticed it, and I didn't like how I handled it.
I had a lot of fun at the meeting and I was glad I went. Kevens led the meeting and shared an interesting technique for world building in fantasy by setting up in advance the type and method that magic is used. The group is supposed to a writing assignment based on the idea and it looks like a good project. Jllynno brought out the card game Apples to Apples after the meeting and that was a hoot as well.
I don't know if I will continue giving people alien names they didn't ask for, but it amuses me:-)