Monthly Archives: January 2006

An interesting topics that has been on my mind lately is the appropriate role that computer games play in our lives. I’ve never had a whole lot of patience for those who view any form of entertainment as uniformly good or uniformly bad. There are, I’m sure, various forms of entertainment with no redeeming value (cockfighting comes to mind), but to be blunt they are generally reserved for those people that are not exactly waiting to become productive members of society. A symptom rather than a disease.

I recently ran across an article on The Strategy Page that points out how video games are becoming an asset to our military:

American troops appear to have a considerable advantage because most of them grew up playing video games and using PCs. More and more military equipment uses computers, or are basically electronic gadgets. American troops require a lot less time to learn how to use this stuff, and tend to be very good with it. This extends from fire control systems in armored vehicles, to new radios, electronic rifle sights and training systems (which are very similar to those video games.)

I can also think of many other uses of video games. In addition to the old “eye-hand coordination” argument, I think they also help people develop the ability to think more quickly on their feet and make time-sensitive decisions when under pressure. It seems to me that most any task that involves cognitive or physical exertion is probably not a complete waste of time. Even spectator sports like football can be helpful. I’ve seen people who can barely string together a grammatically correct sentence discuss the intricacies of a 4-3 defense placed up against West Coast offense.

And so it is with video games. Some are certainly better than others, but curiously society by-and-large makes no attempts to distinguish between productive video games and non-productive. They are generally considered either all good or all bad, or to the extent that distinctions are made they are usually along the lines of violent or sexual content.

And yet while I can appreciate the contributions that video games make (or can make) to society, I can’t help but notice that the effects it seems to have on those I’ve seen partake in it regularly are predominantly negative. It seems that more than occasionally they become all-consuming to many of their participants. Those I know that game do so for several hours a day every day. Whatever the point of dimishing returns exist, I’m not sure they particularly care where that line is.

On the other hand, games are increasingly becoming a social experience. Multi-user games such as EverQuest or City of Heroes and their ilk actually encourage communication in those that are at a loss to communicate otherwise. In many cases I think of the people I know that are avid gamers and to whatever degree it may be hurting their social life, I’m pretty hard-pressed to say that their social life would be peachy-keen otherwise.

Video games have become less goal-oriented (where you jump through a specified number of hoops) and more life-oriented, where there is not a single set goal but rather a giant playing field that you build up characters and… socialize… by forming various alliances. And that makes me think about online communication.

The BBC recently had an article that touched on how predictions that online communication would diminish personal communication. I heard those arguments ad infinum back when I was BBSing. It was frequently said that online chatters were avoiding reality, isolating themselves, and so on. To be honest, they weren’t entirely wrong. But it also came at a time in my life that I needed the help. I needed to learn how to talk to people… particularly of the female variety. Online relationships became real-life relationships all the time – in fact, in those cases where we never did meet, the friendships eventually faded away. I made as many lifelong friends fr0m the Camelot BBS as I did at North Mayne High School. More, probably.

Of course, that brings me back to the video game dilemma. At some point, and I’m not sure what point it was, I did sacrifice my “realtime” relationships for the ones that were online. A lot of my problems in high school had to do with not having very much in common with my classmates – even online I gravitated towards people that went to other schools, including our my high school’s rival only a couple miles away. But looking back I see ways that I could have made it work. I can see with crystal clarity girls I could have asked out with probable success and people I could have hung out with socially with just a little more effort. But it was effort I did not need to exert and so I didn’t.

Balance has always been an issue for me. It is an issue for a lot of intelligent people. In fact, most people I know that are discernably more intelligent than myself have even more difficulty juggling non-academic things. Most seem to throw themselves 100% into one of a handful of notoriously geeky things such as anime, comic books, and… video games. Such things are not solely the realm of geeks, of course, but you’ll notice that many of those that sail to the top in expertise tend to be those that have dedicated their intelligence, time, and imagination towards non-utilitarian ends.

Of course, then, it is not the existence of these distractions that is the problem, but the inability of a lot of people to deal with it handily.

Category: Server Room

Charlie: What I don’t understand is how come I need to take classes in sociology to become a computer programmer?

Me: Everyone should take sociology.

Charlie: Why?

Me: Because the ability to compare cultures and acknowledge the cultural norms that we take for granted will make you a more worldwise person.

Charlie: But will it make me a better programmer?

Me: Considering that you’ll probably be working with a bunch of outsourcing Indians, probably so.

Category: Office, School

The domain was friggin’ registered yesterday. Unbelievable. I have checked on the status of that domain at least once a week since it expired on 10/29/5. I understand the rationale for giving the owner of a domain a little extra time with it so that it doesn’t get swooped up a day after it expires due to some miscommunication, but it sure would be nice if there was some way to know exactly when a domain will become available without having to spend $60 to backorder it.

Of course, the current owners of the domain may have backordered in, and if so are more deserving of it than I. I don’t know, it wouldn’t irritate me quite so much if they were actually doing something with the site other than running ads for those that mistype “” or something ( is itself, incidentally, being cybersquatted upon)

Oh, well.

Stupid Internet.

Category: Server Room

Something you probably didn’t know: “Bad Habit” was considered as a title for this site. Turns out it was in use too frequently elsewhere so it didn’t make the final list of candidates.

Anyway, so I have been tagged by Barry. Here are the rules:

The first player of this game starts with the topic “five weird habits of yourself,” and people who get tagged need to write an entry about their five weird habits as well as state this rule clearly. In the end, you need to choose the next five people to be tagged and link to their web journals. Don’t forget to leave a comment in their blog or journal that says “You have been tagged” (assuming they take comments) and tell them to read yours.

As most of you know, I usually decline to forward these things largely because by the time they get to my little corner of blogland, most everybody has already partaken. But five habits is something I can come up with pretty easily.

1. I only cash my paychecks every six weeks. Drives Clancy crazy, but I let them accumulate in my desk until I have three and then I go cash them. More than one former employer has tried to use this as evidence that I am well-paid if I can comfortably go without cashing my checks right away. This every-six-weeks thing is actually an improvement. I used to only cash checks once I got around to it. In the meantime paychecks would get lost and I would forget about them. When I departed one former employer, they cut me a check for nearly $2,500 (in addition to my severence package) because the accounting department said that I had declined to cash that amount in paychecks (it was an $8/hr job… I think that was something five paychecks). The state of Delosa still owes me $150 from unclaimed checks, but I haven’t had time to jump through hoops in order to reclaim that money. Given recent discussions with Clancy, I don’t think this little habit of mine is going to last much longer.

2. I set the alarm to go off even when it’s a weekend and I don’t have to get up. If I’m going to be able to sleep in then dag-nabbit I’m surely going to be able to appreciate it by pointing out to myself whenever I would have to get up anyway. My ultimate goal is to get up as early on weekends as I do during the week. Right now I get up at 6am… that may be stretching it. Maybe when I only have to get up at 7.

3. I don’t put my seatbelt on until I’m moving the car forward. In other words, if I’m pulling out of a parking spot I go in reverse, put my seatbelt on, then start driving forward.

4. When choosing sides for a bed, I always insist on the side furthest from the door. Doesn’t matter whether it’s by a wall or not by a wall, on the right side of the left… I just want the side furthest away from the door. Similarly, I strongly dislike having my computer situation so that I am facing away from the entrance to a room, though that’s how it is set up presently.

5. You ever seen Natural Born Killers? There was a routine in there where Juliette Lewis’s family was presented as a sitcom (Rodney Dangerfield as “Dad”). They bleeped out some cusswords and yet left others untouched (the movie was irredeemably rated “R”). I am like that sometimes. I don’t have a problem with cussing, but as often as not I blurt out rated-PG censor cusswords. My “F” word is Frag as often as it is the real thing. I am also really prone to say “Good grief!” and “Good golly” and “Holy heck.” This is less unusual in Deseret than it is in the South, though. One common expression up here is “Oh My Hell”… I have yet to pick up that one. When I first met Clancy, one expression I used was “Dag nabbit!” which she found hilarious because it was considered an “acceptable curseword” for a card game. She had never heard anyone use it in any other context. I picked it up from a coach/teacher from high school. I even usually say it with a thicker-than-usual southern accent because that’s what he had.

Category: Server Room

Clancy and I spent the New Years at a music show in Surfenberg, the beach and resort town where we first met. The band we saw was a Delosa act that went national a while back. This is the first time I have seen them since they hit the big time (which was about when I left for Deseret). It was at the point where it was too crowded to be enjoyed on a regular basis, but not bad for a once-in-a-while thing and it provided for interesting people-watching.

What we find interesting about today’s fashion (for females, anyway) is how it often seems geared to accentuate imperfection. Some of the spaghetti top dealiebobbers make any girl with any pudge at all look practically pregnant! I’m not even sure what, besides that, may be the point. In fact, part of me wonders if that is the point. I wonder if they’re out there so that those girls with “perfect” figures can wear something that those without “perfect” figures shouldn’t.

I mean seriously. Since attractiveness at cattle-calls is a zero-sum game, if something makes everyone look better it makes no one look better. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit if the toothpick-figured tastemakers wanted something that the human-figured commoners couldn’t emulate.

Category: Downtown

Apparently, two LDS missionaries were shot and one of them killed in Virginia:

A Mormon missionary going door to door was fatally shot Monday night and a fellow missionary was wounded by an assailant who fled, police said.

The attacks happened just after 6 p.m. in the Deep Creek area of the city, police said, when a man approached the two, shot them and ran away.

One of the victims ran to a nearby nursing home seeking help, police said.

A number of possible explanations. The killer may have just really had it in for Mormons. He may have saw two well-dressed young men and figured that they had money on them (though the details don’t seem to match that hypothesis). Maybe he was just crazy.

I hadn’t really thought about it before, but in many ways the missionaries really are putting themselves at risk. Maybe not great-risk, but a lot of gun-happy states like Texas and Colorado give the benefit of the doubt to gun-totin’ property-owners even when there is no apparent threat of physical harm. Not to mention some of the neighborhoods they have to go through (Willard did his mission in South-Central LA).

The one that survived is apparently doing okay, which is good to hear.

Category: Church

The most conspicuous part of Christmas Eve Mass at St. Jude is usually the 40ish year old woman (different woman each time, but always 40ish and always female) who wishes to use the opportunity to show off her singing voice during the hymns. We’re Episcopalians… conspicuity makes us uncomfortable.

We didn’t get that this year, instead getting a conspicuous fellow for a different reason.

My brothers Ollie and Mitch, myself, and Mom all filed in. My father ushers, so he hovered around the back keeping an eye on things and helping people find our seats. I was looking back at Dad when I saw the dude. He was wearing sweatpants, a wife-beater, and jogging suit coat. He looked a bit… disoriented.

Dad chose to seat the man in front of us. He spent a good ten minutes trying to figure out what song we were singing until Mitch leaned across the pew to help him out. The song ended and we went for the prayer book, where he again got lost. Like a kid who hadn’t studied the night before, he tried subtlely to see where the people next to him had their prayer book opened.

I looked back at my father. His eyes narrowed and he nodded. You may have to know my father personally to understand why that keen little bit of understatement was so funny and yet communicative.

It was apparently our duty to watch over the fellow. Mitch did most of the heavy-lifting. Mom just looked in wonderment at the guy who spent most of his service trying to figure out what was going on. At some point when we lined up for Holy Communion, he snapped out of his stupor and realized that everyone else had gone. We were towards the front of the line waiting to be placed at the alter. To make up for lost time, he made a beeline straight for the alter, taking the spot next to Mom and leaving me without a place to go, having to walk back to the front like it was I that had no idea what I was doing.

I got a little worried for our inebriated guest during the sermon, when he started to randomy mutter “amen” and “that’s right.” I was worried that thought he was at a more participatory Baptist or Methodist service. We’re Episcopalians, we only participate when our little booklet tells us to.

The good news is that after the sermon, he fell asleep and therefore was assured of causing no scene.

At the beginning of the service, we’re all given a candle that we light at the end of the service. He was a bit confused as to why he didn’t have a candle. Good move, Dad.

On the whole it was a bit distracting, but we had a little laugh about it afterwards. I’m not sure where he went, but I figure if it was anyone that needed religious guidance that night, it was him. It’s probably better to show up for the experience sober, though.

Category: Church