I Still Write Things Sometimes

…At least I’m trying. This is something I’ve been working on off and on for a little while now. It’s technically, I guess, Bioshock fanfic (as in, Bioshock 1 and 2, taking place in Rapture fanfic.) Main characters only make small appearances though and the bulk of the story is about two characters that I created for the purpose of the story. Just keep in mind that if you’re not already a fan of the franchise, you probably won’t get all (or any) of the references. Hopefully it still makes some modicum of sense.

Be warned that it is not appropriate for children or those of delicate constitution. There is sex. There is violent, gory death. There is cursing and “drug” use and more, possibly worse stuff. What can I say? I’m a long time fan of horror in literature, movies, and games. It’s also pretty long, and if it were printed in book form would be almost 80 pages, so it’s not really a *short* story, either. But if you are not deterred by any of these factors, by golly, read on!

Edit, 3/15/15: Please note that this story has moved. If you’d like to read it, you may do so on its new home at Wattpad.com:

Spliced: A Story of Rapture

In Defense of Minecraft in Libraries

My lovely daughters assisting with my Intro to Geocaching program this past summer
My lovely daughters assisting with my Intro to Geocaching program this past summer

Since finishing my master’s degree last year and obtaining my professional public librarian certification, I think it is pretty safe to say that I am “officially” a librarian. Yet often I find things coming out of my mouth that many seem to consider the antithesis of what it means to be a librarian. I’ve been shushed in my own library, defended video game playing boys to patrons who believe that libraries are only for books and pushed for the purchase of movies I have found to be of great merit or even just interesting (e.g. Django Unchained, Howl’s Moving Castle and Tetsuo the Iron Man.) In my position as program coordinator, I’ve worked on literacy-centered programs, for sure (like preschool story time and author talks) but more often, they have to do with science, games and the outdoors.

Continue reading “In Defense of Minecraft in Libraries”

Confessions of a Coffee (Mug) Addict

I grew up in a coffee house. Not like, a Starbucks. I mean, I grew up in a house full of people who would program the coffee maker to be brewing coffee before they rolled out of bed, because they were incapable of functioning without it. If this were cocaine, we’d all say they had a problem, but given that it was coffee, the addiction was a-ok by society’s standards. I grew up knowing that coffee was something that was as essential to the proper functioning of an adult as oil was to Oz’s tin man. I understood this, but still thought coffee was pretty gross.

This changed when I was around fourteen and had just met a girl named Jen. She was a tiny bit older than me, bleached her hair and wore makeup. She showed me how to make cat eyes with eyeliner, how to kiss, and how to drink coffee. I will always remember that day my freshman year of high school. We were standing in my kitchen, and in an attempt at politeness, my mother offered Jen a coffee. She accepted, and proceeded to dump pounds of sugar and cream in it. “Do you want a sip?” she asked. I tried it. Hey, coffee wasn’t bad when it composed only about a third of the beverage, the sugar and cream making up the rest!

Mug at my parents’ house, aka the funniest, naughtiest thing on the planet to 8-year-old me

This wasn’t the beginning of the coffee obsession, though. That came much later. I was in my late twenties and had just broken up with my husband. In a bid for independence, I got a job (my first in years) as a waitress in a diner. It didn’t pay well, obviously, and the tips were pretty bad, too, but we were allowed to eat one hot meal a shift and as much soup, salad and dessert as we wanted. This was really important in those days, as while I still lived with my ex, he had stopped providing food for me months before. The coffee was free at the diner too, and I drank it with abandon: hot coffee in the colder months and iced coffee when it was hot out. I would drink coffee throughout my whole shifts. My new group of friends encouraged my coffee addiction as well, as one of their favorite things to do was to sit at Barnes and Noble, Dunkin Donuts or any number of local coffee shops, drink coffee and talk for hours. Coffee became an inextricable part of my daily life.

Continue reading “Confessions of a Coffee (Mug) Addict”

My Anti-Wish List (Or, What Not to Buy a Lady)

It occurred to me this morning as I stood in line at Dunkin’ Donuts that there may be a couple people left in the world who have not yet heard this rant. This is for you guys! Let me start out by saying this: I’m not a big gift person in general. I don’t require them for Valentine’s Day or Anniversaries or Guy Fawkes Day or Flag Day or whatever other holidays people exchange gifts for these days. I do like to get presents on my birthday, and a nice anniversary or Christmas gift will not be pushed away with an upturned nose and a sneer. No, I do appreciate the thought. However, gifts just aren’t that important to me–to get or to give. I value time and consideration over money or objects, which is exactly why the gifts below always irk me.

Flowers, Candy and Jewelry

So, say I’m dating a guy. Everything is going swimmingly. He hasn’t called me Victoria instead of Veronica even once. He’s seemingly funny and intelligent, and I’m getting the real inkling that he may be physically fit and vigorous enough to far-park and walk across a parking lot rather than participate in a virtual monster truck rally to get the closest spot to the store. Then a holiday comes along and he buys me flowers, candy, jewelry, or some combination thereof, and my opinion of his suitability as a partner plummets.

No thank you!

“Well isn’t that what you’re supposed to buy the wimmins?” you may ask. Well, yes. And that’s why I don’t want anything to do with it. For starters, I really only like flowers in the ground and not dying slowly on my dining room table. Secondly, I don’t particularly like chocolate most of the time (heresy, I know.) Finally, well… do you see me running around in gold and diamonds? And thus my point: Any man who buys these things for me has no idea who I am. He is being the equivalent of an eight-year-old and buying what I, as a woman, am supposed to like. That’s fine for an eight-year-old, but a lot less fine for a thirty-year-old. It represents pure laziness on his part. Instead of taking the time to get to know me and my interests, he’s painted that broad, caveman stroke of “WOMAN,” shopped accordingly and called it a day. Boo!

This being said, I am sure there are women out there who would love to get a dozen roses, a box of chocolate and a glitzy diamond ring. That’s fine, but it’s not me, and I would wager to guess that it is not most women. (Just like I don’t think I can buy Jp some aftershave, a girly magazine and some steak for our anniversary and have him feel loved and understood.)

Ten Bajillion Wildebeest Figurines

Another, less egregious gift-giving gaffe that I have encountered: Someone realizes that you have some particular interest, say, ohhh, wildebeests. So then for every. single. holiday, they get you some variation on that theme. Then before you know it, you’re thanking them politely for the ten bajillionth wildebeest figurine and desperately trying to plant some other interest of yours in their head in an attempt to subtly hint to them that maybe you have more wildebeest figurines than any one person could possibly utilize.

(As a side note: on a behind-the-scenes museum tour at the F.D. Roosevelt Library/Museum, as we talked about all the model ships sent to FDR by dignitaries and average citizens alike, I wondered whether he ever got to the point where he wished he never told anyone about his affinity for ship models.)

So What Should People Buy?

Ice Skating at Rockefeller Center

I say all this, of course, at the risk of sounding like an ungrateful bitch, but I don’t think I’m asking for that much. I want people, if they are going to purchase items for me, to take the time to get to know who I am and what makes me tick. And then be a little creative.

Personally, as I said before, I prefer time over objects. One of the best “gifts” ever for me was an extended NYC date early in Jp’s and my relationship: We drank, ice skated and museumed our way across Manhattan. I’d take that any day over an expensive piece of jewelry.

So my advice? Whoever you’re buying gifts for, really think before you do so. Don’t base your purchases on a caricature or stereotype of your loved one. And a question for everyone reading: What are your least favorite gifts to receive?

My Best Friend’s Toys

I always tell people that as a child, I didn’t really place a lot of importance on actual toys in my day-to-day play. Sure, I was lured in by their flashy advertising and begged for the newest and greatest ones just as much as my peers, but ultimately, my play was often conducted without much in the way of props. (Because, you know, what use do unicorns and dragons have for ballerina dolls and blocks and Teddy Ruxpin, really?)

There are some toys, though, that I remember vividly and fondly from my childhood. Funny thing is, none of them were mine. They were my best friend, Amanda’s toys. I think this is due to the fact that while her toys were technically no better than mine, they were still someone else’s and therefore exotic and fascinating.

Pipeworks

Ok, I actually had my own set of pipeworks, but Amanda’s were better (and I’ll tell you why presently.) Pipeworks, for those who weren’t fortunate enough to have experienced them, were these uniquely awesome building toys. The sets consisted of plastic pipes, different types of connectors that held them together, panels, wheels, etc. And the best part was that they were kid-sized. So you could make jungle gyms and tables and cars and all kinds of awesome things with them, then climb on them, or eat on them, or “drive”  in them Flinstones style. Like I said, I had a set, but Amanda’s set came with wheels, which was obviously a huge plus. Her set also came with her older brother, who was occasionally very useful. I recall him being a very good troll when we used the Pipeworks to build a bridge and reenact The Three (ok, two) Billy Goats Gruff.

Casio Muppet Keyboard

As children, Amanda and I spent a lot of time performing for nobody in particular. We would sing, host pretend radio shows (and sometimes record ourselves) and play song after song on her Muppet keyboard. The toy came with a song book, but it also had a light up guide system and backup music to assist you in butchering the hits from the TV show. Here’ s a video of some other doofus playing The Rainbow Connection on the very same keyboard, using much the same hunt-and-peck method that I recall using on it as a child. Ah, memories!

The Mac

I’ve been around computers my whole life. My father worked at IBM for many years, and I’ve been using computers since before they were cool. But we had PCs, exclusively, while Amanda’s family, with her graphic artist mother, had Macs.

I always felt a bit guilty playing with it, because being the child of an IBMer meant that you were under no circumstances supposed to enjoy using a Mac over a PC, but Amanda’s family’s computer did the most fantastic things. This was about 1994 or so, and we were about twelve, and the computer had a talking moose who we could make curse and recite nine inch nails lyrics in an awful robot moose voice. It also had Hyperstacks, which we used to create clickable maze-like choose-your-adventure style games. I remember sitting at that computer for hours, drawing rooms and then using the program to make it possible to interact with the objects in the rooms in various ways. I guess this seems a lot less cool now due to the proliferation of the visually-based internet, but back then, this was super cool. Trust me.

Binary Teacher Toy

Wow, this sounds supremely nerdy, but Amanda had this great toy that I realized years later was manufactured for the purpose of teaching your adorable little future computer scientist the principles behind binary numbers. I believe that the toy was either the one featured here or something very similar. Now, I’m not sure why I thought this toy was so great. I don’t think I really “got” the concept of binary numbers from playing with it. But it made enough of an impression that when I think of the toys from my youth, I fondly remember the act of maneuvering those little marbles through the tracks.

Hot Lava

I know this doesn’t sound safe, but here it is: Amanda’s family’s kitchen floor was covered in hot lava. Well…. Sometimes it was hot lava. Sometimes it was a lake. But it was always covered in something treacherous. Good thing we had lots of pillow boats to get across it, or we would have starved to death, not being able to get to our lunches and all. Thank the gods for those pillow boats….

Love letter to Legendary Viking Streard Boke Found

Archaeologists have unearthed an intriguing piece of the puzzle of the legendary Streard Boke, reports the New York Times this past weekend. A letter from one of his many admirers has been found in a Nordic grave site. Could this be evidence that Streard Boke, unlike many of his cohorts, was literate? Who was the woman who wrote the letter and did he ever return to her as she’d hoped? Further research will be necessary in order to find out, but this is a very exciting find indeed, and hopefully one that will lead historians to delve further still into the mystery of this great man with the beard that broke a thousand hearts. The text of the letter is below:

My darling Streard Boke,

You have only just set sail early this morn with your fellow Viking ruffians, and yet I already miss the soft touch of your glorious beard on my skin. It is no doubt that I shall spend the entirety of your absense in longing. Father says I must forget you and consider the suitors he has set before me, but I shall not. You are the one I love, and I will weep for you bitterly while you are away. In truth, I must shamefully admit that late last night, I stole away with one of your combs. I venture to guess you shall not miss it, as you have many, and this was the least ornate of the lot. I hope you will forgive me, my love, as I require something with which to remember the intoxicating scent of your lovely beard while you are away. Of course, I will surrender it to you upon your return. Please do return, my love. I allow that life upon the sea must be exciting, but I promise you that if you return to me, our lives together will be equally as fulfilling. Do not let yourself be swayed by the whisperings of your awful crewmate, Vile Kyle, who I fear hopes to tear us assunder. All I have need of in this world is to see you safely home (and yes, you may call this home) to me. I know what the other vikings say, my love, that you are no true viking if not plundering and raping, but you are different. I can see it in your eyes, and in that beautiful, velvet-soft beard.

I await your return, my viking prince. Please do not forget me.

Skyrim Kinect Support Coming

So as you may have heard already, Bethesda has announced that they will be releasing Kinect integration for Skyrim at the end of this month. This means over 200 voice commands, from Axe to Zun Haal Viik. Some voice commands are simply cool, more intuitive new approaches to old tricks: Now you’ll be able to actually sit in your living room yelling FUS RO DAH at the TV like the nerd you are and have your character fus her enemies down in response.

Other commands add not only the verbal dimension to the game, but also functionality that hasn’t previously been available on the XBox. Players will now be able to hotkey weapons or magic and then switch to them by simply saying their name. No awkward menu opening in the middle of battle (No word yet on whether the act of eating 50 apples while shooting fireballs at draugr will be streamlined at all). There will be other neat voice commands available, some seemingly more useful than others. You can see them all in the trailer posted below.

Some people may feel that the integration is lacking without motion detection, but I’m not convinced that that would be useful in a game like Skyrim. If Bethesda were to add motion detection to the Kinect support, they would have to switch all the controls over, or not at all. Having one hand on the controller to move while you have the other wielding an imaginary sword is just not a possibility. The voice integration seems elegantly done and makes sense. I think we’ve all been waiting for the option of yelling dragon shouts at the screen. Motion detection seems like it would just encumber the game unnecessarily.

Of course, as Jp said to me as we watched the trailer, this is the perfect opportunity for him to mess with my game. (Darn, I didn’t even think of that!) I exploited this to the best of my ability with the Kinect voice integration in Halo Anniversary, and I think I may have had him ready to wring my neck as I yelled GRENADE GRENADE GRENADE at the screen as he tried to play. (Though, due to the fact that the XBox apparently doesn’t like my voice, his character only responded by throwing a grenade about half the time.) I can just see it now: I will be deep in conversation with our great commander, Ulfric Stormcloak, when, from the depths of the dining room… FUS RO DAH! Aaaand I will watch in horror as my unwilling character shows Mr. Stormcloak the real meaning of “unrelenting force.” Still, despite (and perhaps in part, because of) the likelihood of this being used to troll me, I think this update is going to be a positive addition to the game.