About Once a Month

That is the schedule that seems to be working out for me to actually blog. I still have the itch to produce content, but that back scratch-er seems to be out of reach. I have been wanting to share this podcast with you for a while, but their topics have always been kind of specific and I did not want you to get lost in the topic but rather get to know the guys doing a wonderful podcast. The current one talks about something that we all should care about in some level. The NSA getting all up in our digital business. Go listen to the Super Number One, I’ll wait.

Ok, even if you did not listen the discussion is what really makes me like these two guys. They have a conversation about it. Explore the subject with their own opinion and devil’s advocacy skills as well. I don’t always agree with what they say but they are always on point when it comes to diving a little deeper and having a true discussion. This topic of the NSA listening is an interesting one because it comes to us when a lot of people think of the digital divide as something that separates those from access to the internet vs those that don’t.

Don’t get me wrong, that does exist just as much as the divide between those people that have a bank account and those that just cash their paycheck every week. There are tons of lines that divide us and in cases dissecting our society can be quite complex. This NSA leak business though makes things a lot more complicated.

When was the last time that you saw that both political parties are dancing to the same song?

Why did this dude run to China? I know most of you guys are probably not interested but in the security community there have been a lot of noise about hacking and China lately. It is not new for the people that follow security, the new thing has been that it has been all over the financial news, and even the government wanted to start working on gathering information about attacks.

I work indirectly with security. I do however know analysts both professionally and personally. In fact about a couple of months back I had a conversation with one about this subject of social engineering and China just really hammering the US lately. Then this guy goes running to China with the whole Metadata scandal. If you did not listen to the podcast one of the things said that resonates with me the most (because it was my first comment after the news came out…) it is that this is not new information and basically the patriot act and carnivore were just earlier versions. Prism is really a 1.0 type of thing. My fictional mind says that maybe we are in version 5.0 somewhere underground.

Data without context means nothing and it can be dangerous. I wish I had an opinion on this but in reality we have really no data. We don’t know enough to be pissed about it, scared or feel safe. Can we really ever feel safe? When was the last time that a TSA check made you feel safer while flying?

The government listening to us makes me no more afraid than a corporation like facebook having so much demographic information on us. Or twitter, or this blog, or playing candy crush. Everything we do now has the potential to leave a trail. Whether that trail is used to sell us something or put us in jail when it becomes illegal to drink too much coffee, who knows.

Anime Introduction Guide

During my last visit to KC one of the many conversations that sprouted amongst people there was about anime. I love the fact that I have friends from so many backgrounds and with awesome hobbies. I was an anime freak at some point, and even thought I still follow one religiously (I watch it about an hour after it is released in Japan sometimes) I don’t participate in the community as much as I used to. I was at one time the Anime Society of Kansas City webmaster… but I was a horrible webmaster after I moved to Chicago so my friend Tim took the job over.

During the conversation my BFF asked what he should watch… and well, that is like asking a librarian what is her favorite book. But I promised to take on the task of putting together a little introduction to anime for those that don’t even know where to start. So this will be half introduction to anime, half pissing off anime fans because not only are they out there, they will think I am so wrong for recommending X or Y… you will see.

Before we get into recommendations lets talk a little about anime. Animation in Japan is a little different than in the rest of the world. Anime and Manga(comics) are consumed beyond the youth and into adulthood. While most kids stop reading comics at one point or another in their lives, Japanese animation continue well beyond that. That brings us to something you need to stay away from which is Hentai. A first time anime watcher can be discouraged from watching further anime because they encounter a movie that is geared towards adults with their own fetish. So basically people might expect skinemax level of entertainment and they end up with a very specific animated snuff film. It is like asking a person getting back into reading for pleasure to read Dante’s Inferno. When you are starting out on anime, don’t try to explore the adult world of animation first. I think you should learn a little more about the medium before you are grossed out by some monster with many many tentacles.

Now that we got out of the way, since most anime is geared towards an adult audience, it does not mean that all anime is XXX either. There are animated things for children, a lot of them will have adult themes. Furthermore there are animation geared towards boys or girls. That is probably one of the biggest differences we see, because even though a lot of comic fans continue into adolescence, there is really not much of a market for girls here in the U.S.

I could post a lot more about this subject, but I just wanted to give a little background as to what I was going to present. I am also going to cheat quite a bit and leave out anything that you would have to consume subbed. Not too long ago it was very challenging to get some series dubbed, and to purist it is almost sacrilege to present anime to someone in a dubbed form. Eventually if you fall in love with some anime I do recommend it watching it with the original voice acting, but to start out I think only looking at dubbed is fine. *Disclaimer* most of the ones I will recommend are my personal favorites. If you have better options, just leave a comment, don’t discredit my choices, just give yours :P

I am also picking films or series that are easy to find on streaming services or rental.

ghost-in-the-shell-5
Ghost in the Shell – Action – Sci-Fi

This film can be consumed in one afternoon. While I already loved anime before watching this, this one really cemented anime in my brain as entertainment beyond kid stuff. It showed me that animated films could have not just depth, but also deal with adult themes. A fun fact is that The Matrix owes a lot of its style and visual feel to the film.

kenshin
Rurouni Kenshin – Samurai

This is a series that will captivate you from beginning to end. The cool part about this anime is that even though it is turn of the century and very serious at times, it also gets goofy from time to time. There is a movie series associated with it called Samurai X which is a little drier than the anime, but still excellent. Its turn of the century Japan and the adventures of a Samurai that does not want to kill anymore. Along with it is a love story and tons of interesting characters. I find it to be a great introduction to anime because while not completely formulaic you can start to see the themes that are often used for a series.

Full+Metal+Alchemist[1]
Full Metal Alchemist – Fantasy

I know that “brotherhood is out” however I love the original. The story of two brothers is told through their adventures as they deal with an ever changing world. Lots of mystery and fantasy mixed with loyalty and love for family. A great series that is not as long as Kenshin, but just as enjoyable.

Last but not least is, addict the special woman in your life to anime.

fruits2
Fruits Basket – Romance

While the series is a very girly series, it still has its moments of action. The story is good around a girl in distress and the Chinese zodiac curse. Lovable characters, easy to watch. I don’t like to talk about it much because it is so much more fun to discover things as you watch it.

Geek Badge

Recently I had an interesting encounter with another gamer. Without him knowing what I do for a living or really who I am, he decided to not just pull out his e-peen but try to talk about how awesome he is in real life. It was amusing to me that he though that a black belt, working for a technology company and making loads of money made him feel superior. What was interesting is that this same person was very against mixing his professional (real) life with WoW. A total WoW closet player.

I don’t talk about WoW here anymore since I split my talk of WoW to its own space. Today I bumped into a great blog where a writer actually split their blog and then joined them all up again. I don’t think I want to merge the WoW content back here, but I do think I need to talk about my geek badges a little more. (at least on this post.)

I keep my professional life off the blog for the most part. I don’t want to get fired for saying something about what happens at work. I have had dragons on my desk, but currently I am not displaying as much geek stuff… well, I am not displaying much at all really. I do think that I need to wear some more geek related clothing on casual days.

While my proudest geek badge of honor is being married to a woman that not only loves me but has been infected with my geekery. She plays WoW, made a page for her lock, has watched and loved anime, read manga and considers herself a geek now. She has her own google shirt!

But hey, this is about my geekdom so lets start.

Anime

The first geek hobbie I ever had before video games was anime. I have watched it for a long time and still indulge in a weekly watch of subbed Naruto as soon as it has been translated. You can now watch the current Naruto in Hulu. Shippuden is quite the story… and they are done with fillers and the story is moving along.

Harry Potter

I love that series, it really captured my imagination. I have read the books several more than once and think they are excellent. I love the world as well, I like the movies and would not mind visiting the theme part.

StarTrek>StarWars

I eventually picked sides and blame Mr Lucas for making the later movies horrible. I do want to watch Red Tails.

Computers

I know how to write code, I know how to build my own computer… I could go on, but I think most of you know how that one goes.

Fish Geek

I have not only kept fish before, I actually got into breeding them for a bit. I’ve had mostly cichlids but love the aquarium world. Mostly fresh water I think I will eventually work on some salt water… it just bothers me that you cannot get them to breed, it feels wrong to keep an animal captive that cannot “get it on.”

I don’t yet LARP… but have a friend that is constantly telling me I am missing out. I also never done the whole dressing up for anything yet, but I might do a renfest some day.

So what about you, do you wear your geek with pride?

Jesus Phone vs Android vs CrankBerry

As you guys know I have been looking to change my Android. I had already set my eyes on the iPhone and was even thinking about dropping Verizon altogether (even though I have been with then for over 10 years… since they were Ameritech and even before that I think). I know that the iPhone 5 is just around the corner, but I am not interested on going to Sprint or waiting forever for a phone. I am already sick of my android.

Before we continue with this post I would like to define a couple of things. When I say phone, I mean call quality and ease of making phone calls. That is not to be confused with smartphone which I associate with all the other computer related functions. I had my Motorola Droid for 2 years, the blackberry for a week and been using my wife’s iPhone 4 since she got it over 6 months ago. I have also been the original iPhone that practically became my iTouch since my wife upgraded her iPhone.

The night before I pulled the trigger someone started to sing the praises of the BlackBerry Torch 9850. I fondly remember how much I love the experience of having a BB and how great of a phone it was. Calls were easy to make and I never hung up on anyone while talking to them. I think I hung up on someone at least once a week with the android.

I was prepared for Verizon to give me their canned speech when I called. I had been looking at the BB but it was not available through Verizon, so I had my argument all prepared. When I start to go into it, guess what sir, we now carry the BB torch, it just came out this week in Verizon. I am like NOOOOOO! Dam it all.

I decided… lets give it a try. Even though the reviews are pretty poor, maybe it will serve me well. Oh how wrong I was. Long story short, after a week of trying to love the BB I ended up returning it and getting an iPhone 4. Now I will explain why.

Feature iPhone 4 Android BB Torch
Phone Calls 7 5 10
Web Surfing 9 7 2
Battery Life 7 5 8
Apps 9 7 2
Navigation 9 7 3
User Input 8 6 3
Design 9 7 8
Score 8 6 5

Phone Calls

Here is where blackberry shines. BB makes hands down the best phones that I have used in recent years (I’ve had in possession LG, Motorola Android, BB with and now without physical keyboard.) Making a call is extremely easy, it takes literally a couple of button presses and you are dialing. This is where the Android started to wear down on me. Making a phone call always felt cumbersome, like the smartphone had to open up an up to become a phone dialer. It was a PDA trying to have phone capabilities (remember the Treo.) Couple that with hanging up on people consistently an 50% failure rate of answering the second incoming call (it could have been mostly user error,) muted myself all the time and you have one unhappy customer. The iPhone does not shine, but also it does not hung up on people.

Initially I thought that since call quality is my number one priority on my phone choice, that it will clearly outweigh the other smartphone features. After one week with the BB, it clearly did not. I obviously use the smartphone part of a device a lot more than the actual phone. I became increasingly annoyed every time I tried to web surf and failed.

Web Surfing

Web page loading is one of the most annoying things about the android phone. The way a page is rendered can mean you getting to content quickly or you basically just giving up. While it is great to be able to zoom in to read content, if you have to do it over and over, it becomes a chore and depending on your level of interest on the content, you simply give up. The BB made this even more painful. Viewing any kind of web content required at least 3 or 4 interactions with the user interface. Then while reading you had to scroll probably twice as much as I did even on the android. That is annoying.

The iPhone has alternative web browsers, but even with just Safari, the experience is superior to the other 2 phones. Content is easy to read and you do a lot less clicking. I thought that the BB providing me with a quasy mouse experience to click on those hard to reach link (because they were too small) was somehow going to make up for things, but it just made things more annoying because my fat finger would some times still activate the touchscreen resetting the mouse. What a mess of an interface to just try to read something.

Battery Life

If I would have written this post prior to spending a week with the torch, I would have talked a lot more about how this matters. Now, all I have to say is that who cares if you have a smartphone that stays charged for 2 days with medium level use if the reason its not getting heavy use is because it sucks. Get extra cables, charge it in the office or the car. Don’t let battery life affect your decision at all, its all about the extra cables.

Apps

So I don’t play a lot of games on my phone. I do however play games on Bea’s old iPhone (for a while my iTouch) now retired device.

Leave it DeGuia (who by the way seems to have been planning this Borg conversion with Bea because they are both laughing at me for having an iPhone now.) to rub it in my face that he has an app for that. Driving on my way home last week it smelled like a whole forest was burning. It was not a near by forest, it was all the way in freaking MN! So what does DeGuia do, oh let me pull up the police scanner up to see what they are saying. If it is local the cops will probably be talking about it. SHOW OFF!

Not to mention that Gaucho Software is coming out with a new version of Seasonality. (Disclaimer: the developer of Seasonality is one of my best friends.)

I don’t think I even have to make a case for this, the apps available for the iOS are just better than anything I was able to find for android and light-years away from what is available from the BB.

Navigation

The blackberry simply fails on this area. You have to be able to navigate through your phone in an intuitive and seamless way. I thought that having everything available via menus was going to make my life easier, I really liked having that option before. After a couple of minutes your brain should not be aware of trying to find something, it should be able to just find it. Android does it well, iOS does it better.

User Input

This is where my hatred of the new Torch started. I have not mistyped a letter on an iOS device after I spend an actual 20 minutes playing with one. I spent a lot of time on the Torch the week I had it and I would never actually type an e-mail on it… and that is what the BB are supposed to be the stars at. Sure the ones with a physical keyboard might be able to… but their touch keyboard is garbage. The auto-complete feature worthless.

I don’t particularly love the android keyboard and I very seldom used the physical keyboard. It is sad, but iOS made me forget about physical keyboard on devices now. A feature that I thought would be a must on any device.

Design

I never thought that BB could come up with a cool design, but the Torch is beautiful and feels amazing to the touch. They did make a couple of mistakes with the button, but overall I think it is a great design both in looks, comfort and weight. Too bad that they cool factor wears off quickly when you cannot quickly access the multimedia experience that the awesome display is supposed to deliver.

Score

Sadly for the Android and the BB, the iPhone just pulls ahead. Sure it might not have the best battery life and you might have to jail break it to have the flexibility that android has. The iPhone might not be as strong of a phone as BB is. The iPhone basically does not compete with any of those other devices, it is in a class of its own and everything else simply seems to be playing catch up. As sad as this makes me, I have to break up with google at least when it comes to mobile devices. I don’t stay sad for too long though, I am now part of the Borg and LOVING IT!

Blizzcon 2010

Before I even begin to talk about this great weekend I want to say that without the people that I got to meet, hang out and just share this wonderful experience this would have simply been a good time; instead this will be one of those memories that stays with you for the rest of your life.

For those of you that don’t know what Blizzcon is you first have to learn what Blizzard is. I have been playing video games since the time you had to put quarters in to make that little dude move on the TV. I have been a fan of Blizzard for years because of games like Warcraft; Starcraft (RTS) and Diablo (Action). It wasn’t until almost 3 years ago that I started playing World of Warcraft (MMORPG) and realized that Blizzard is above and beyond any other game company when it comes to putting out a superior product.

This company puts a convention together every single year to showcase their new products, kind of pat themselves on the back for their accomplishments but foremost to provide a place for their customers to interact with each other. This was the best part of the whole experience. It is one thing to play a game with people and other to actually share a meal, a drink and some laughter. Like any time that you are going to meet people, at first you have no clue what to expect; but it was amazing how easy we all clicked right away and just had an amazing weekend that will hopefully become a tradition for us.

I could go off on a tangent here but I will concentrate on talking about Blizzcon itself during this post. This two day festival has tons to offer; so lets start with the stuff I did not like at all.
Crowd
Even though Blizzard does do an excellent job to get people what they need quickly, there are lines… tons of them. While there is a lot of stuff to do and see while there, you at one point or another will be stuck in line somewhere. The only way to avoid them is to know the schedule extremely well, but honestly I did not see any of the cool stuff (or where they gave free stuff) without a line after the opening cermonies were over. The problem with the lines behind the obvious waiting and waiting is that some or our fellow geeks have not found it important to break the stereotype and some of them still don’t know what deodorant is. It was not horrible but I am not a fan of smelling people. Who knows maybe there is a niche market there to make some quick soap/deodorant combo that can help some of this people out. Thankfully there were plenty of hand sanitizing locations all over the convention center that at least made me feel better about touching keyboards and just overall other surfaces.

Everyone that we did had to interact to in lines and just standing around was extremely friendly and it was very easy to strike up a conversation. We had a big group of people, but others would approach us and ask us questions about our guild or what classes we played. It was very cool to have people just be so friendly and willing to just have a good laugh with you.

The only other negative thing was that their announcements were not earthshattering. I was really looking forward to them announcing something big like what their next MMO is going to be about, but they kept everything very current and concentrated on the release of Cataclysm and SCII related announcements. While they did unveil that Diablo III is going to have a PvP component to it and it looked amazing, revealing what the last playable class “Demon Hunter” was going to be was about it. WoW related they announced that you will be able to simply download Cataclysm and you don’t have to go to store to buy it. You should be able to start playing at midinight December 7th which should be pretty cool.

Being able to play their upcoming games was probably the most organized and what you could do in less than an hour. Everthing else that was related to a line felt like a ride at an amusement park, minutes upon minutes of waiting for just a 45 second thrill.

Now lets talk about the awesome. 95% of the people that dressed up really put months worth of effort into it. It was amazing to see the dedication some people put into their costumes. I thought this was going to be just a handful of people that knew what they were doing and lots of bad rushed jobs, but no; there were some serious costume makers there doing actual leather work and complicated things that were just jaw dropping. I think 3 of them were actually provided by blizzard and they were simply amazing, but the fan made ones really showcased dedication and sometimes humor. I would say that surprisingly the costumes were my favorite part of the convention.
Diablo Witch Doctors
Jay Mohr has been the host of Blizzcon and appearently last year he was a little under the influence of alcohol which he made fun of saying that he was just simply nervous and not drunk. The first night was the costume/dance contest. You do get to see most of the costumes up close from just walking around and they love to have their picture taken, but if you want to really see them all you must attend this event where they all get to walk on stage. The problem is that some of the get ups are quite elaborate and get heavy and toward the end of the night you could see some of the people having a real hard time moving on them. Nobody from the costume contest actually tripped on stage which was amazing to me.

After that part of the show finished the dance contest started and it was a riot. Basically every in game race/sex combination has their own dance emote in World of Warcraft. You type /dance and they characters go to town. Well now the humans behind the strings get to show their ability to move themselves with some comical consequences. I could seriously not stop laughing during some of the dances and some of the performances were just genious. The whole night was without incident until a kid who was getting really into his dance (and getting some amazing hang time to his jumps) actually ruptured a ligament. I am happy to report that he is “all good” and was at the convention the next day.

The next thing on my favorite list was the PvP tournaments. To see some of those people battle it out in front of an audience is amazing. Their level of skill at the game is just unreal. I was glad to see one of the North American teams make it so high in the later, but Asia simply dominates when it comes to competitive gaming. I would say that it is one of the things you should not miss!

To top off the weekend one of my friends from California is an actual police officer and I had the priviledge to go on a ride-along. I will have to make another post about it because the experience was amazing and I really want to write about it. There was so much to see and so much to do during this weekend, but again I want to say it again, without the amazing people I got to hang out with this was just a cool experience… the people made it Legendary.

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