Friday, 28 December 2007

The Year of the Geek

Just a top ten, from Wired magazine, naming the 10 coolest scientific breakthroughs of the year - movies have it, albums have it, what about SCIENCE?!

My faves, subjectively and not-so-much, are numbers 1, 8, 10 and probably 4 (since I'm an O-, and Rett Syndrome is something I don't have ), in that order. Go check them out, you'll be a little bit smarter by the time you're done, guaranteed. Yeah.

I love our times. Go install FoldingatHome. And may you have a happy new year.

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Pump Up The Volume!

We live in wondrous times, when many of the 'important' things have already been discovered. Or invented. Or dismissed as stupid. And we've found new things that can be useful in our lives, things that the best science fiction writers of previous centuries would have to have smoked too much opium to think of. We're in a glorious age, scientifically, where most areas move too fast for us to follow.

The internet, for one. Or mobile phones - they're cool. Or even the fact that we 'wrote down' 100% of the human genome, by the start of this century, with the HGP - even if that means zilch, practically speaking, for the time being, and therefore you should install the Folding@Home app for us all to make it count for something eventually. And don't let me touch the whole 'fire - wheel - alphabet - typography - electricity' thing, or this blogpost will reach a gig in size, and that's encyclopaedia, and not blog, material anyway.

So, then, why am I still not dazzled by what we can do? Why am I still impatient, and why do I still read sci fi to get my science fix, instead of just the latest issue of SciAm or summit? So many fields are still not covered, so many discoveries still in the 'dreams' department... So many shiny new toys still in the universal chest of drawers 'till Christmas Whenever. No flying cars - 'cause how would we monitor traffic, or afford fuel, then? No teleportation - 'cause, no, we wouldn't turn into flies or anyfink, but we can barely do it with frackin' electrons for now! No time-travel, 'cause that's a bitch, and the new DeLorean just doesn't have that capability, for now, sadly.

So what have we to be awesomed by? What would make us feel like demi-gods, when we're told we're still babies, as a civilisation? Well, we have this article, which pretty much says that we can go for hardcore stem cell research now, without having to endure a bunch of women who don't shave their armpits, whining about embryonic research, albeit as fast as hair grows. And we also have Craig Venter (is it just me or does his name sound like a Sith?), who claims to have created a synthetic chromosome, i.e. artificial life. Meh.

Hence, what I was told when I was young, that the future of science is genetics, seems true. So why is it that I find this, the real-life equivalent of what is true sci fi camp, to be worthy of goggling my eyes? 'Microsoft wishing to back up our brains' seems like something that would only ever appear as a 10-year-old's speculative headline, if said 10-year-old was told to 'imagine what the future will bring'. And that is why it led Than and me, when he gave me this link [thank you, Than], to immediately make the obligatory jokes that I hereby transcribe [copy-paste from Messenger, in fact]:

Unsatisfactory Qoole says:
your life has performed an illegal operation and it must be shut down
Bunny Dee says:
'a personal computer in every brain and in every mind'

It must have something to do with the fact that Than and I have often talked - and, yes, that's more often than arguing over what size a human's wings would have to be in order for him to fly - about how cool it would be to be able to back up your whole life - memories, things you've seen yet not noticed, the works.

So, once again, scientific discoveries only really matter to real people when they have some practical use which we can sense, something that we can really experience in our everyday lives, or things that are simply cool. Which, if I were still stuck in the science crowd, would pretty much suck.

So, I'll leave you to go and go do some homework now, in the techie world we naturally live in: I have to watch La Haine for European Cinema class. Good times.

Friday, 30 November 2007


For a long time, so many conglomerates, and their brothers, have been looking at us with mistrust, spreading the word, whether they knew so through research or - more probably - not, that we were tapping into their much-needed, hard-earned revenue from their reasonably priced product. Video, television and, more so, music have all been part of this media misinformation-followed-by-adaptation dance for a while now.

Yet, slowly but surely, the industry has come to understand, to swallow the pill that filesharing is actually more to their benefit than not. So, other than the fact that they should appear as somehow going out of their way to maintain the status quo - especially if they're called Fox or CBS or whoever else is giving the WGA writers grief right now - they're trying to come up with ways to dip into the new media cash-pot tambien.

So, on the music front, we already had the labels doing a fair amount of their PR through myspace, but now that Radiohead are going about their own thing, with In Rainbows, one cannot say what will follow; no need for labels, no need for RIAA and the likes, no need for stupid amounts of cash to be paid by us if we don't have to? If we can download the new album over the 'net and pay as much as we want to - or don't - and be sure that our money goes straight to the pockets of Thom and his gang, we'll sleep better at night knowing that our cash is not lost paying intermediaries, now, won't we?

Then, the media nouveaux offer new ways for 'the product' to be distributed. With Jack and Meg White going the white way and releasing Icky Thump on USB flash drives, USB is officially the way to B now. Who needs those old... how-ya-call-em... See Dees, when you can have all your music on a hard drive, no, an mp3 player? Many of you that [are among the three that] read this must know that I called it, by transferring all my music, in the year 2000, when I left from Greece's Athens to Scotland's Edinburgh, watching what was previously my hundreds of CDs drive away in my friend RiverWind's car, and hence having nothing but a portable hard drive to carry on the plane with me.

So, where does TV follow suit, with youtube and Google Video being out there and staring at it threateningly? After my Distribution and Exhibition course yesterday morning, I spent some time talking to this coursemate of mine who is, reportedly, doing his thesis on something regarding how television will follow the music industry in weaving through the new media instead of fighting it, all to make money instead of losing money. And then I came back to find this 'ere article among my RSS feeds, which pretty much says that Comedy Central, always there to incorporate the new in useful and creative ways, is not only happy to share The Daily Show with Jon Stewart with us (sic) online, but will now be doing the same with all the backlogs of South Park.

Therefore, I honourably stipulate that time passes and the world thereby evolves, and that we won't remain stagnant and stuck in the past. I can sincerely guarantee you that, I know it to be true (since I can see the future so clearly, through the past and all) - while there's really not much I enjoy more than seeing it happen.

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Taking Fun And Games Back From Kids

Kids' stuff is pretty much what video games are seen as. But many of them are not fit for your 10-year-old, with 'sex and violence' often being their major selling point [*'Major Sellingpoint' HIMYM in-joke reference salute here*]. And I'm not just talking Devil May Cry or Need for Speed here, as popular as they may be; there are far more 'adult' examples out there than that.

However, the ex First Lady, now Presidential Candidate, Hillary Clinton is kind of heading - along with 3 other 'key lawmakers' - the fight to 'review the robustness, reliability and repeatability' of the games rating process. Which, although I would normally be against, having previously spoken against the classification of any form of entertainment, I have now come to understand, pretty much.

I spent a week at my gran's house during the summer, where my cousin, who was also there, was busy playing God of War II on his PS2. Him being not much older than 16 years old then (he's 17-and-a-couple-of-weeks as I write this), I found it borderline offensive that he would enjoy the game that much - and not only because I think it's a disgusting game that I wouldn't want anyone related to me playing, mind you. Especially after the disgusting release party that was a big thing on worldwide web2 news just shortly before that.

Hmmm, I sound old, don't I? Wanting a strict ratings process, tut tut tut. Still, the more I think about it, the more it makes sense, as it would make things easier for games if the more 'questionable content' ones weren't this easy for kids to get their hands on. I'm still dreadfully against prohibiting any game altogether, but I do support shops checking the age of buyers and whatnot.

At this point in time, shops generally tend to sell any game to pretty much anyone, no matter how old they may be. Which naturally leads to mothers seeing what their kids play and freaking out, asking for the game to be banned in general and maybe even burnt in the fiery depths of over-protective motherhood. Which, I expect, wouldn't be the case if they just saw their manly, rugged husband playing the same game.

Once again, games suffer from their novelty. You see, nobody would call for movies to be banned any more, in the Western world. Not really. They've passed the one hundred year mark of being out there, and have been through their own reception ups and downs, only eventually reaching the point where most people understand that there are different flicks for different people.

Games, however, still have a long way to go. Any game can be played by anyone, and a child, for whose innocent and malleable mind Disney games would perhaps be more suitable, can end up playing God of War. Which, the way I see it, is wrong, branding the whole gaming industry as evil, when there are games out there that can be used as valuable teaching resources or whathaveyou.

Therefore, I call for games to be treated more responsibly, so that we do, eventually, end up being understood by... mothers. Uh-huuh. Because once we all 'get it', not having video games being 'for kids' by default - as games in general would be expected to be - and 'for adults' only provisionally, VGs may avoid being branded as dangerous.

Saturday, 17 November 2007

Lost In Time, Found On Web!

I've been following this guy's art for a while now, on Gizmodo. He makes working steampunk gadgets of all sorts and I've been drooling over their artistic and geeky value for obvious reasons (mainly the fact that steampunk is sooo cool) over the last few months .

The thing is, his name wasn't known on Gizmodo, not until now. The Wall Street Journal Digital Network, however, found the guy who makes these awesome pieces of awesomeness, just like they'd find the latest in stock quotes. His name is Richard E. Nagy - couldn't get it to sound more fictional if he tried, which he may even have done, now that I think about it - and he is better known online as Datamancer.

I shall now embed this video from YouTube, which I found interesting for more than the mere fact that he shows us how he makes his stuff (with a laptop as a case-study). He actually makes you feel, not only the culture, but the pure artisan honour of making such pieces.

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Peggle Weggle!

Well, I just discovered evidence for the fact that Than is a bored housewife, and that he has a degree in Geometry from the University of Smart-arse. Which is why I was with him for more than 5 years, actually. And he's also an escapist that lets great chunks of time disappear into thin air, which is kind of why I split up with him. And he also finds cool stuff on the web for me to look at, which is why I'm still good friends with him.

There's a video-review-thingy here, by an awesome Aussie-Brit who calls himself Yahtzee, concerning the game Peggle - the new and cool way to lose amazing amounts of time in a kewl way, which Than spent many-an-hour tinkering with last May, eventually getting through all of the Challenges in it and convincing the Geekfish that he's cool.

I'm not caught up in it (yet?), but I do think it's pretty cool. Way cool, in fact, since we first heard about it through PC Zone, the Digital Coolness Bible.

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

Haute Jouer

I always find it frustrating that gaming is still not widely accepted as a 'higher art'. As a medium, it already has its auteurs, its classics and its avant garde, so... why not? Just because it's newer? Just because there's not a bunch of French guys that have decided so for us, and have not elevated it socially?

It's not that it's new, either, I don't think. Machinima have their own festival, for chrissakes, and they're even newer. OK, 'we' have E3 and all, but still... that's a trade-show, innit? The thousands of people that offer us their creative awesomeness - or just their creativity, sometimes, I must say - are completely ignored, when one sees the product and reacts with no more than a 'meh'.

'Games are for kids'. That's what people say. And think. And that goes as far as them not thinking twice of the fact that art needs to be made, in fact, for these kids' enjoyment. A-doooh! In fact, the stupidest thing I ever heard on the subject, when a debate about 'are videogames an artform?' was going on in a greek web forum about comics (the 9th art, as they - constantly - say), was that 'OK, I'll give you that gaming is an art-form, then, if you insist, but it's actually an applied art'. Yeahbuhwhat?! - Priceless!

There's a lot of discussion going on about the subject and, to be frank, I wish I followed it more, and took part in it more, actually (hey, I do have a BA now in a similar 'social science', my word should count for something!). Explaining how hard it is for the thing to be made, in case someone does pay attention to the poor sods' drama, saying farewell to another-one-down-the-drain due to 'popularity issues', or just generally proclaiming that it is, in fact, an art, don't really seem to be enough any day of the week.

I'm telling you, though: it's just a matter of time, I know it. There'll soon come a day when people out there realize what it's all about, and give the medium the necessary recognition. It's just around the corner.

Sunday, 30 September 2007

The Card

I just discovered that McDonald's UK now takes cards. Which is the coolest thing since Frappuccino Light.

Let me explain. I think that credit cards are the smartest financial institution ever invented until now, and I'm glad they're around. Especially due to their application in online shopping, but not that alone. They're actually used in so many different ways nowadays, and people don't always seem to appreciate not having to carry cash most of the time.

It's like something out of a science fiction story, if you think about it. Like credits - probably 'from Star Wars' in your case, but 'from The Foundation' for me. Something that intangibly signals for money, just like the money you're used to actually does, in fact, signal for gold.

I just wanted to share with you how awesome I find the concept of credit cards. And to geek out, and all that.

Friday, 28 September 2007

Geek Chic

I may have whined about the whole 'pink gadgets' thing before, but the truth is that I am female after all and I do care about the design side of mah gadgets. I just moved into my new room and set up my PC and all, and what was the first thing I bought? Yes, coordinating peripherals, in black and matte silver...

I firmly believe that these colours are, to every self-respecting geek of 2007, the new white, which was the new black. There was a phase, back in the late '90s, when that full-of-colours-and-lights thing was cool, yellow and blue and whatever, but that grew old pretty quick, I think.

Still, the point is that it's getting to a stage where - post-ipod and all - gadgets and electronics that look good are officially cool. And I was impressed when I found out that CBE supported that too, on the exact same day that I was really, really thinking about it.

Thursday, 27 September 2007

An Apple A Decade

I just watched the video of 1997's Macworld - the one where Steve Jobs comes back to what seemed like a doomed company at the time, which still cultivated the enmity between Macintosh and Microsoft, started because of the mouse patent issue and all. The one where he was criticized for announcing Mac's new deal with Microsoft by presenting Bill Gates on a big screen - which was really referential to the 1984 Macintosh ad, Big Brother and all. By all accounts, Jobs seemed like a sorry little child at the time, who had lost the battle - which some may say he was right to fight in the first place, but he'd lost already - and was publicly apologizing, in a demeaning way, trying to 'be friends now'. Which, you must admit, must have taken loads of strength - and that is, I suppose, why he seems timid and sad from the beginning of his speech; contrary to this year's Macworld keynote address for example, not a month before this day, where he inspired countless nerdrections by presenting the iphone with the enthusiasm of a pro entertainer.

The thing is, I watched the 1997 video, a piece of history indeed, and could instantly see the steps along the way, a clear description of the path he climbed to get from the nadir to the zenith in one single decade's time. Throughout his speech, he goes into detail about where the company was at the time, its strengths and weaknesses and the way he was planning to address matters now that he was back... But we had no idea back then, even if he was spelling it all out for us. I remember - all we could do then was boo the apologetic acknowledgment of previous arrogance on his part, the fact that he seemed like he had to wear his underpants on his head and say sorry to the school bully.

He openly reported, and had it written on the screen for all to see, that Apple had been accused in the press of being irrelevant at the time. And he was back to deal with that, and, apparently, he had a plan *cue ominous music*. He saw things in a way that offered opportunities, many of them requiring sacrifices and compromises on their part, but all of which actually seem to have worked if you think about it ten years later.

As he saw it, the company may have been full of holes at the time, but that didn't mean that it had to be an entrepreneurial sieve - expensive blocks of French cheese have holes too. But to turn metal into cheese, the material in question had to be analyzed. So he went on to identify the company's strengths, which lied with creative professions and education, as he identified them. I knew many creative professionals, even back then, that would stand by their Macs as tools for what they did - from publishing to image and video editing pros, they saw the Mac like a baker sees his oven. And a tool it was, just like your coffee maker - which you'll never complain about it not being compatible with your PC or its incompatibility with the other appliances in your kitchen.

So he went on to identify the two things he saw as Apple's strengths: its logo and its operating system. Immediately, as those two things popped onto the screen behind him, our friend Filip came to mind - the one who briefly appears in our NPN theory docu, sitting next to his desktop Mac, his Powerbook and his iPod, and who thusly goes by the nickname iBoy. He often goes into the Mac Vs PC debate with us, and what he always mentioned, up until a few days ago when Windows Vista were released, was the fact that MacOSX was top-notch. And although we haven't seen him since Vista came out, I'm sure that anything good there, he'll point out that OSX had it first. He also pops to mind accompanied by the minimalist design of Apple products and packaging that can usually be seen floating around him, all of them prominently featuring the company's recognizable logo.

And this is where Jobs focused, it seems. But in order to use these tools, he had, there and then, to declare that Microsoft had paved his way. They could do nothing, the way things were going, without Java, the Internet Explorer, or, of course, Microsoft Office - the same tool John Hodgman's version of the PC in recent Macintosh commercials surely uses for his spreadsheets. And money would help too, especially since the two companies had recently agreed to bury the hatchet on the patent issue, and I'm sure Jobs would never have settled without some financial incentive. It was done by selling Bill Gates, not his soul, as it may have seemed at the time, but some - non-voting - shares in the Apple itself. What Forrest Gump, the well-known genius, made his money from, actually.

Overall, the moral of my story here is: You win some, you lose some. Apple would never have been the pop culture icon it is today if it hadn't swallowed its pride where it should have. Intel processors and running parallel Windows and MacOS allow the iPod to be the gadget in everyone's hand today. It's not a straight line, but it is Jobs' job.

Pink Gadgets

So I've been browsing through websites and store catalogues in my pre-Xmas gift-buying escapade. And along with the "what to get for which member of your family / social life" poor attempts at grouping people together, I've noticed so many "for her" items in gadgety stores (mostly online, 'cause dat's where us geeks buy dah prezzies). And what I really can't wrap my carefully coiffed head around is the assumptions made by stores regarding the female tech enthusiast (that's the female member of the species who is enthusiastic about technology, mind you, not the person who is enthusiastic about female techies).

Pink gadgets of all kinds, OK, I can accept. Not that I wouldn't go for the metallic-coloured USB coffee cup warmer rather than the pink one anyway, since it would look better next to my monitor. But stuff like an aromatherapy diffusion gadget is just... borderline offensive. Not just the fact that they are proclaimed to be "female" gadgets, but the more offensive fact that there are girls out there who would actually buy these things, or guys who would buy them for their girlfriends, and still be able to call them their girlfriends after presenting them with a gift that says "I may find you interesting, sometimes, but you're still a giiiirl"...

Actually, I think the only ones who've got it right, from what I've seen up to now, are thinkgeek... They seem to have realised that it's not hard for a girl to be geeky, and still cute or at least female enough to care.
Check them out, by the way, whether you're male or female. If you're reading this, I'm sure there's more than one novelty there that would make you consider parting with your money.

Digital VS Analogue

Whether it's about image or sound, in homes or specialised shops, the debate is still on, and the relevant misconceptions are abundant...

A great portion of the general population will have an opinion, whether they actually know what it's about or not. And there's the ones who are pro-analogue, just because it's older and more "established", without them actually realising what it means - just because e.g. film is considered better than digital images for the time being in the industry, or because analogue sound capturing produces different results than digital. And then there's the people who prefer digital just because it's new and cooler, and most of them have no points to support their claims, or take them further than they make sense. It's funny.

Most people just go with the flow, using whatever's handier for them, not caring about which format is actually "better". But among the elitist few who will state their case, it's odd how few of them actually have an opinion or will realise what one or the other has to offer. Examples like vinyl records - where it's ok to prefer their sound or large album covers or whatnot, but to say that their analogue sound is better than that on a cd is just plain wrong, since they've been through digital channels anyway and they can't possibly remain unaffected by the dust or the number of times you replay them, so how on earth can they be a more "reliable" or "direct" format? - or even film for your automatic photo camera, videotapes Vs DVDs or whatnot, just don't say it if you don't know it to be true or you don't realise what one or the other means, you guys...

I've heard things like "oh, come on, VHS is analogue, it's better" or "mp3 is compressed, you can't possibly listen to a song with its crap sound" (even when we're talking about good compression and a person who just wants to hear a song, not the slight nuances in its sound that only their dog can discern). And overall, it all comes down to what level of detail you need from your device, what you're going to use it for and what serves your own needs best. But there's so many people who will try to state "ultimate truths" and make absolute value judgements about a format, without even knowing what the differences really are, what digital or analogue really means in each case, what formats each thing has been through, what pros and cons it has and what they mean for you at the end.

I know what I use in each case, and I know why. I'll have mp3s for my music, because I want to keep a mean of around 120 gigs of songs that I can carry around with me ever since I was a teenager, moving from country to country, make playlists and compilation CDs with, classify them any way I choose and not feel as bad when I delete some and download others, and my ear is not as well trained as my friend Nick's, who's a sound engineer, to listen to anything other than the basic melody and the lyrics of each song. I'll use a digital camera for filming, just because it's easier for a wannabe film producer to use without having to pay for reels upon reels of film, and capture onto a hard drive and edit on Adobe Premiere and After Effects. And I know what analogue is better for, I know what difference an SLR photo camera has from my cellphone's one, what a megapixel means or why VHS and audio cassettes are ultimately dead right now even if film crews use, erm, film, which is analogue.

And in some cases, I know I'm getting inferior quality, but that's the quality I need for the time being, with the practical benefits it offers in other areas. Or I might just want the quality one way, not caring about what I'm missing somewhere else. Which holds true for me, my mother, my friend the professional, or my other friend who just cares passionately about some aspect of things. So quit trying to convince us otherwise, there's no "ultimate truth" behind it, and your penis won't grow any bigger if you make huge statements about stuff you heard mentioned one way and translated in your brain to mean 102 different things.

New Media

I've been "part of the internet" for more than half my life now. And it's been an extraordinary experience altogether. It's magical to see new ways of thinking emerge (and eventually subdue) in this brave new world, to see how brilliantly or terribly people can interact and exchange thoughts and knowledge and creativity, to be part of things you never imagined could exist.

What I really want to comment on here, though, is the effect the internet has had on expressing oneself. Anyone who wants to can interact, in one way or another, with the rest of the world out there, and more so as the damn thing spreads in faster-than-electrons speed. And the greatest part of this is that anyone can potentially offer golden parts of their soul to others, should they care to share them and should others care to discover them.

New media have been emerging ever since the beginning. And I'm not just referring to web design or the graphic arts here, which have gone a long, long way already. Nor am I referring to colder, yet still containing insight and creativity, forms of creation like advertising or copywriting of all kinds, or programming or online gaming. I really have no idea what my focal point is, but it's probably the kinds of media that have attracted me personally, either as a "creator" or a "consumer".

From fields like film, tv, comics and animation, you get flash animations, or fanfilms and zero-budget videos, or webcomics, or even machinima - short films or series created using a game engine. From fields like writing you get things like blogging or forum posting or online magazines and fiction depots where anyone can post and share the stories they write and comment on them. From the traditional arts have stemmed fields like digital art, via personal websites or online galleries. All of them almost zero-cost ways to communicate, making the media market so unstable it trembles in its feet - in a good way mostly. And I'm impressed, every single time I discover something new.

3D Butts

OK, I just had to write this down for the world to see...

I have a true, unrivalled fixation for 3D buttocks. That's female 3D model buttocks, obviously, since 90% of male 3D models in games out there are buff and brawny, and everyone who knows me is aware of my affinity for slim, "cut" male figures with almost flat buttocks. But that's a whole different blogpost.

You see, butts were the first thing to ever look "just right" in 3D, often better than it was supposed to. Three-dimensional modelled human anatomy has been violently raped in the past, since it is so damn complicated to replicate in static, let alone animate correctly. But when a hand or a face still looked like it had been moulded in hexagonal blocks, butts were already looking fiiiine.

I remember, something like 5 years or so ago, when I was busy playing Ultima Online, and UO 3D came out. I hated the engine, but I still spent ages in it, walking around, with my avatar (I think it was called a paperdoll for some reason) turned butt-facing-Mel and moving gracefully as the character walked around the streets of Britannia. And, yes, I stared and stared for hours.

And now the new Lara Croft is out, and her breasts are smaller because big ones aren't trendy right now (Ha! The day is mine!...). Well, who cares... The butt is there. And it's a treat. No ifs and buts, thankyouverymuch.

(And no. I won't play the game. I was just checking out preview pics in PCZone).

Google: The Richard Branson of the '00s

Check out Google, huh... It's got us by the short and curlies, almost. Not only is it the best search engine by far - whereas I remember a time when we all got lost in the Yahoo Vs Altavista debate, and now they're half-forgotten - and offers features like Google Images and Google News, it's also slowly starting to become indispensible in other fields as well. Fields where others have innovated first, but the pre-existing status of Google in everyone's lives is detrimental to its eventual success.

I mean... Froogle! It's so useful, I only discovered it less than a month ago and I use it for everything! Now that online shopping is the way to go, Froogle is the way to go further and for less. Every single little thing I want to shop for I can find there, cheap and easy, and I can see who sells such stuff instead of guessing or relying on word-of-mouth for the best websites. Like, the other day I was trying to find 6B pencils... who sells 6B pencils? What kind of shops should I search for? Stationery? Art supplies? Office supplies? Naaah... that's useless... I just Froogled 6B pencils! (don't ask why:P)

And how 'bout Google Earth? Ain't it sooooo greeeat? Bluthan and I spend hours "travelling" around the globe or looking for our friends' homes, or even downloading user-made features for it and playing around with them. OK, it's still too early, and our house in Kingston is just outside London so it's all blurry, but it'll get there... And we found our parents' homes in Greece... We might have even been there when the satellite photos were taken! (Scary, huh?!)

There's so much on offer... The Google Toolbar - the only non-intimidating toolbar for one to add to one's browser, I install it after every hard drive format - and gmail - far better than hotmail or yahoo, however hard they try - and Google Ads - the easy way to make money online - and even, hey, Blogger! They caught up with the blogging craze too! So much of our web-related activity is hosted by Google right now...

Just like Richard Branson, back in the 1990s, who made sure Virgin was on everyone's lips, whether it was Virgin Radio or Virgin Airlines, Virgin Megastores or Virgin Mobiles... And they do so without scaring anyone away. Just out of the goodness of their hearts, one could say, and the cleverness of their enterpreneuring minds... Nobody's scared of Google - or Richard Branson for that matter. Nobody says "hey, Google's got it all, it knows everything about me, all my dark secrets and all my everyday routines"... Nobody makes conspiracy theories about it, like they do about Microsoft or whatever...

Is it because there's nothing there? Nothing to fear? Is it because they do it way too well? I don't know... What I do know is that some people, or some enterprises, every once in a while, show up to make our lives better, and just happen to make money in the process. Say what you will about the open market and the corporate world: these people deserve every penny they get - especially since they aren't getting a dime from me.

That's what's smart about it. It's the reverse of what everyone else does. Instead of offering money incentives to companies and enterprises and making the everyday man pay the full price, they offer us everything for free. And only people who actually make money from their services get to pay some of it back. Brilliant plan! So their every service becomes popular - it costs nothing to join, and they're even on offer when they're still in beta testing, so by the time they reach their full potential they're smashing... And by then, millions of companies around the globe need them to make money, easier, faster, better, or even just to compete. And to do so, they have to pay Google back. Them, not us. We can simply sit back and enjoy.

Nerds Shall Inherit the Earth

Douglas Coupland, back when he wrote Microserfs, said that "nerds will inherit the earth". A "Revenge of the Nerds", much larger than that in the 80s movie by the same name, is knocking on our collective door, while the door is already open.

It's amazing that people today don't realise how much the Internet has changed our lives. From wikipedia to music or tv series downloads, from instant messaging (much more practical than BBS chatting) to Photoshop online tutorials. And, naturally, the list goes on and on and on. There's a breathtaking overabundance of information, a Library of Alexandria V2.0 right in the middle of our living room - or bedroom, or study, or wherever you keep your PC. And not only that, it can travel with you through your cellphone or your portable gaming console. Cool, huh?

With this overabundance of information, you still don't need to know "everything". But you need to know much, much more than you used to. You could get along just fine 100 years ago if you didn't know how to read, but today, if you don't know how to make an effective google search, you're practically useless, socially speaking. And 100 years aren't that long a time period. There's people who've lived for more.

So you have this informational overload, this quest for constant innovation - with new, impressive inventions and discoveries popping up like mushrooms, on the technological level, the scientific level, or the mass market, or even the Internet itself - and this tendency for "wrap everything up in a pretty-looking box" postmodern approach to creativity. Who is mentally equipped to deal with it? Take a typical teen movie as an example, and look at all the faces. Look at the jocks, the popular trendy girls, the cool and witty "rebels" at the back of the classroom, and the nerdy, quirky-looking kid with glasses, whom nobody's really talked to and whose grade point average is higher than your IQ.

Yup, you guessed it, he's the one. The nerd. He's going to be the next prized asset for any innovative group - whether it's a software company or a biochemistry lab. Or even the team that develops the physics for your favourite new computer game, or the team of scientific consultants for the next sci fi blockbuster film. So yeah, for the future of the world, he'll amount to more than you will, chances are.


Than used to have a watch which he wore for a whole decade. He was really happy with his watch, it was his watch and he wouldn't change it for another, even though its face had cracked and he'd had to change the strap a few times along the years. But one day I got him another one, which was just like it, but new. Not just a new watch, but a new model of the same Casio one, with exactly the same functions but a new, 00s design. As he's said in his own words, it's like a special time-ray shone on his old watch and made it 'new'. Like magic. And that's exactly how I felt when I saw the new Command and Conquer game.

I remember playing the old ones 'back in the day', mainly because it made me happy, back then, that my father would get involved while I played, and thought of strategies and how to best get past the level we were on while he was with the 'other woman in his life' that I was so envious of, his work. In fact, I could never trade that phone call I got from him, while he was at the office, to tell me that he'd thought about how we would get Tanya, in Red Alert (yes, the first one), to do what we needed her to do, for anything in the world. Yes, it may sound crass, but a passion for strategy and micromanagement was always one of the things the two of us shared, even back then when we didn't share much else.

And imagine my awe when I saw the new Command and Conquer game, so many years later, when I hadn't played a strategy game on the PC for many a year. I actually became interested in it because of its damn FMVs (that's Full Motion Videos, for you gaming acronym illiterati), made fresh by casting actors like Michael Ironside, Lando Calrissian (yes, that's actually his official name by now), Josh Holloway (that's Sawyer from Lost) and some of the cool Battlestar Galactica cast. And going back to the whole FMV thing in the year 2007 was one thing, which they did in fact go about the time-ray way.

But what actually impressed me, enough to rant about it here, is the mere specifics of the gameplay, which have remained exactly the same, only with 'current' versions of the visuals. The same setup, only its 2007 version. Little 3D models of the troops etc where they should be, moving how they should move, with the 'way of thinking and playing' behind them remaining constant, and the only thing that's actually changed is what your computer's graphics card and general processing power can take now.

And all this made me feel like time is irrelevant. People are people, underneath it all, no matter how much time has passed, how many new things are invented or discovered to change it all. I'll still be a girl who grew up remembering a moment she shared with her daddy, whether it be a PC game or trout fishing that brought it across.

Geek Girl

I used to wear Bluthan's airforce army tag around my neck. I wore it for more than two years, never taking it off. I lost it in the sea, doing a handstand - I was so used to it I didn't notice it was gone until the next morning.
So, with respect to its symbolic value, Bluthan and I bought matching tags from - his says "geek" and mine says "geek girl".

And I wondered, when I saw the available selection of tags, why the "geek" tag doesn't say "geek boy". Then I answered my own question: It doesn't need to - it's implied. A geek is a boy.
If there is a girl out there in the world displaying geek qualities, she belongs to a whole different category. She's not a geek. She's a geek girl.

Most guys have geek potential - whether they choose to follow the noble path of geekdom or not. Us girl geeks, well, we're an exception to our gender. And it has nothing to do, it seems, with the "level" of our geekiness - our knowledge, interests, looks etc.

I have been a geek for most of my life. A nerd too, but that's irrelevant - that has to do with no more than an "academic pursuit of knowledge". Geek status is a different area of expertise in itself. It has to do with knowledge and interest in specific domains: computers (via gaming or not), comics, science fiction, RPGs and such games, or even a specific kind of interest in cinema or music. And all the aforementioned categories are ones whose subject matter I'm familiar with, more than your regular guy-geek.

But why is it that in order to accept a guy as equal in geeky circles, his knowledge threshold is much lower than mine? Why is the fact that he's a guy and is "apparently" interested in "such things" enough for someone to turn to him in a conversation instead of me, assuming that he knows more or his interest is purer than mine?

I'm not complaining, really, I understand how and why. Females tend to enter such domains for different reasons, usually. It could be a boyfriend, whose world you have to explore in order to keep him. It could be a brother whom you look up to. Or even a culture statement, 'cause, face it, geekiness is cool in the year 2005. But only rarely is it due to pure, I-could-never-live-otherwise interest. But that's OK, it's the way things are.

What is equally annoying and understandable is the way in which a girl geek has to prove herself among equals, and the effect that proving herself has on her fellow geeks. It seems so weird, every single time I see it.

Take american comics for example. There's all kinds of people that are into them, in many different ways. Still, I'm a girl, so when a comics fan meets me, they assume I have nothing to do with the field. If I declare otherwise, I'm pushed aside as "probably a manga fan" - which I was, once, but that was so many years ago, way before the manga boom, when we had to order the damn things from America. Then I grew sick of the repetition, and found more interesting stories to read. Then I mention a writer or two, or a title or five, and they're convinced that I'm one of those girls who reads comics because of her boyfriend. Or that I'm one of those girls who read the Sandman and Lenore and pose as comic know-it-alls. And even people who know me - yes it happened last week - and have talked about comics with me extensively will sometimes be surprised by the fact that I do indeed read certain titles - wearing a Green Lantern t-shirt is not proof enough, as it would be for a guy, that I read the Rebirth storyline. I may own the t-shirt 'cause it's cute and green and trendy-looking. I'm a Vertigo fan after all.

Looking like your typical indie girl doesn't help either. With my Camper shoes and cute minidresses or midi skirts, discreetly stylish Toni & Guy hair and earthy colours, I'm just an artsy student for anyone who cares to judge. I look like the type that goes to the Tate every other week, who doesn't miss a single indie concert and is bisexual only 'cause it's cool in certain circles. Well, guess again. I've only been to the Tate once in the past 5 years, I believe in downloading my music and listening to it in the comfort of my own home, and I spent most of my teenage years resenting my sexual orientation - I still do quite often. But I love my comics, I know more about my PC than any guy I know who hasn't studied IT-related stuff, I'd already played more RPGs than most roleplayers I currently know have played now by the time they even started playing, and I've read more science fiction and fantasy than all of them put together.

I didn't have much of a life when I was younger. I just did stuff I liked. I was a dorky geek, as geeky as they get. But now I'm able to choose, to know what I want, to know what I like, and avoid subculture stereotypes when they're just not "me". I'm allowed to say "popular superhero comics are still so limited and immature, with just a few exceptions" and not sound like the cunt who looks down on them because they're targeted at spotty teenagers, because I read the Death of Superman the month it came out and I've read so much more since - at least enough to form an opinion. I've been through the "OMG Spawn's cape is sooooo well-drawn" phase, I've been through the "I must learn Japanese to read manga as they were written" phase, I've been through the "Graphic Novels are the only mature form of comic writing" phase, and I'm waaay past them all. So suck my toe, geek girl stereotype. I'm me, and if you think you can assume things about me without asking, you've got another thing coming.

Yes, I don't know java or sql, but I was making websites with HTML and javascript in notepad before you even had an internet connection. I played text adventures, and then classic LucasArts adventures, when you were busy wishing for an early console as a Christmas present. I was online through Unix when you'd just gotten your windows 95 installed by a professional, so I can choose to ignore the Linux craze now and use whatever OS suits me best (known to you as Evil Bill Gates' Windows XP). I spent my childhood playing around with my PC components and reassembling it from scratch so I can have the right to delare that "I can't be bothered assembling my PC which was in storage, I'd rather get Bluthan to do it for me". I reached a stage where I know i can do these things, or easily learn how to, so I can choose not to, and nobody has the right to look down on me for it. Yet they still do, assuming that I have no clue.

And I still can't blame them. When I see the percentage of technophobic females around me, my age or even younger, or when I'm disappointed with girls I meet which show potential ("I love comics") but prove otherwise ("Not Batman and Superman, that's for kids - Neil Gaiman's stuff is great tho!"), I can't help but understand why people place me in that category automatically. Sure, I love Neil Gaiman. But I'm culturally polyamorous. That's what makes me a geek - not a geek girl.

Still, I wear the tag with pride. I don't really believe in any such signifiers - cultural, subcultural, sociological or otherwise - since every person, in their own way, is a small exception to many larger groups. But I love playing with them, because of their extraordinary social power. I enjoy challenging semiotics, I enjoy using them for the element of surprise they always carry hidden in their coat pockets. They're open to interpretation by anyone, according to their own definitions and experience, and what they assume when they hear one of these signifiers is up to them and them alone. And everyone wants to think of themself as open-minded, which in fact no one can truly be. So I thrive in the power that these signifiers grant me... I love being more than meets the eye.

And the next time someone turns to Bluthan to discuss something which I know more about, or which interests me more, I know he'll point to me, or at least visibly and respectfully include me in the conversation, and the other person will stare, goggle-eyed, in surprise. And I'll be equally mad at the previous assumption, and happy with the revelation. I'm not much more as a person, but at least I've earned my geek badge of honour.

Ode to a Digital Future

I was born under a lucky star. Early 80s, hand-in-hand with the digital boom.

I'm old enough to know what it was like before computers were part of our lives, and young enough to care. I was no more than 13 years old when the internet came into my life - when Windows were no longer where we looked at to see the future. When we were caught in the 'net.

And the 'net led to more than just the chance to talk to distant relatives and friends living at the other side of the world, or finding tidbits of knowledge otherwise unaccessible or too hard to come by. It lead to the joy of downloading. First it was pictures, whole big fat folders of pictures you would never care to flick through again. Later it was programmes - shareware, freeware or just cracked. Then it was games, old and new. Then music, and films, and anything you set your mind to.

And you can buy stuff too. Even my parents aren't afraid of internet shopping anymore. You can compare prices with ease, find things sold in distant countries you could never get your hands on before, and it's safe. You can even order pizza, then buy your groceries and log into your bank account to see if you've been paid for the month. Almost anything can be done through a computer these days.

Which, of course, wouldn't leave out the creative fields. Games aside, there's so much one can do with one's time these days with the help of a box, a screen and a couple of peripherals. Art, design, filmmaking, music recording and production, were once things one needed a studio for. Now all one needs is a dedicated corner in a room. That, and time to experiment with the hundreds of different techniques available today, which were no more than a distant dream a few years ago.

It sounds common, and bland, and useless, me praising things that are common as mud to everyone who cares. But, personally, I'm thankful. Grateful even. I'll be twenty-three in 4 days, and twenty-three years ago, if asked, even if I could speak, I couldn't tell you what I'd do with my life, except maybe try to write books. That was my only option, and my parents would have to spend a fortune - which they almost did - to get me to read as many as I'd need to be a good writer.

But now I've grown up, and I live in this endless sea of opportunity, with my computer as my boat. I have no idea just what I'll be doing in twenty-three years' time. Scriptwriting? Digital Filmmaking? Both? Neither?...
But I know that, whatever I set my mind to, I can get there.