This past weekend I took some time to work on a rough outline for how Nerdery is going to be structured. A lot of it had to do with how much I wanted to pull from Jane McGonigal’s fantastic Reality Is Broken– which I realize I need to write a review of, too– but a bit more of it also had to do with the fact that, for as all-encompassing a topic as general nerdery is, I really only focus on a few major aspects of it.
The other part of it, though, is getting over the feeling that I’ve gone over this stuff before. After all, Nerdery is the culmination of well over ten years’ worth of essays, private and public, and so going over it all again is pretty much a necessity. For as much of it as I end up doing, I really dislike repeating myself. Ultimately, this means I have to just suck it up for the sake of making a greater point. The outline also helps me focus my thoughts so that I can approach each essay with at least the illusion of it being something new and unique to me.
In the end, I decided on structuring the book into four parts, not counting the inevitable introduction and conclusion chapters:
In Part One, I’m going to explore what it means to be a nerd. I’ll look at the origin of the word and concept, the history of how nerds are portrayed in media and culture, and see how it evolved into what it is today.
In Part Two, I’ll focus on the negative aspects of being a nerd. I’ll discuss the bias against intellect in society today, how being a nerd can be personally and collectively detrimental, and go over a couple of high-profile incidents where someone was targeted for being too smart.
In Part Three, I’ll flip the argument around and declare why being a nerd isn’t entirely a bad thing. I’ll focus primarily on why people choose to self-identify as nerds, what high intellect can do to help a community, and discuss how celebrities are embracing nerdery.
And in Part Four, I’m going to discuss what can be done to eliminate the stereotype of being a nerd. I’ll focus on why it was never actually relevant, why it’s constantly evolving, and how the world will be much better once there are no more “nerds”.
If it sounds like there’s a lot to go over, and if it sounds like people really aren’t going to like a lot of what I have to say (I imagine parts three and four are going to raise the most hackles), good. Ambition goes hand in hand with intellect and nerdery. And, despite what the essay at the beginning of this week would have you think, I have absolutely no qualms about failing quite publicly.
My next major goal is to have a draft of the book done by the end of summer; I’d like to shoot for October 1st as a draft deadline. This gives me time to crank out one long-form essay each weekend until then, while accounting for time for revisions and some mild editing. The essays are going to be written privately– that is, not shared with anyone just yet. However, I’m likely to share snippets of thoughts as blog posts now and again. If I get done with painting up my miniatures early, I may repurpose the Saturday morning disconnection time into a writing-only period, using my laptop while turning its Wifi off.
It’s on, ladies and gentlemen. Let’s get down and nerdy.
I want nothing more than to live in a world where war is confined to tabletops no bigger than a room, where the plastic casualties are put back into foam carrier trays, where we blame the simulated death and destruction not on madmen and faulty ideologies, but on literal rolls of the dice. I want to live in a world where war is a game, and never put into practice.
Ten years and a day ago I truly felt we were closer to that ideal than we had ever been in the history of the world. We had some conflicts, but by and large people were coming around to the thought that peaceable solutions were better, in both the short view and the long run. I freely admit that my view of world affairs was skewed very much by my position of privilege in the United States, a nation that hadn’t suffered an act of aggression on its soil in well over fifty years, and an attack on its mainland in close to a century and a half. But there was a sense of optimism in the world in the first half of 2001. We had come through the millennial cusp without any of the foreseen problems. The last global conflict– the Cold War– was nearly ten years in the can, and had ended without the nuclear annihilation that had pervaded the bleakest nightmares of many a child growing up even until the end of the ’80s. Humanity still had its squabbles, but we were beginning to turn our eyes outward: we were getting ready to grow up and leave the nest.
All that changed. The world bore witness to an act so desperate that it could do nothing but succeed. Even in failure, the sheer scope of the nineteen hijacker’s plans was so grandiose that it would inevitably call attention to the goals of its masterminds. They purchased something with their lives that day. They would have called their prize “glory”. In truth, it was “infamy”. We know their names now, and they are cursed by all who still live.
Why is it, do you suppose, we know their names now, and not those of the innocents who died? Why is it that we can name nineteen criminals more easily than we can three thousand good people? Why do we know the names of the damned, and not the names of the souls who rushed into fire and darkness to save those still living? Why do we know their names and not the names of those we should be remembering on this day?
I’m oversimplifying, of course. Those lost in that act are not forgotten, by us or by the world. But the point still stands. We are like those who cradle a broken arm protectively, focusing on the pain, unable or unwilling to move it so the doctor can set the bones properly. Instead of using our good arm to heal ourselves, we put a sword into it, lashing out at the shadows of those who blew themselves up to hurt us.
They’re gone. They’re all gone now, ten years now they’re gone. Those who hurt us, those who looked to see us hurt, they are gone. Others took their place, and they too are gone. More will come. They too will be gone. Who are we taking swings at? Who is it we’re trying to hurt?
I lament this day. I cry. Not for our wound, not for those we lost, but for the us that we lost. Ten years and a day ago, us meant the human race. We were united in our common purpose: to live our lives in peace and gradually better ourselves, to bring us closer to the ideal of a God we couldn’t see– couldn’t even agree on, either in God’s attributes or even very existence– but yet an ideal we all could see was clearly good. Ten years and a day ago, we all were us.
At the end of that day, I went to bed in tears. I was far from home, far away and unable to find comfort around me. There was none to be had. Something had been torn, something had been broken. We had the rare opportunity– all of humanity did– for the first time, not merely to react to what had happened in the past, but to actively define it, to declare exactly what had torn. How we viewed what happened, and how we dealt with it, would forever change us.
We chose– all of us– to tear us apart. The word was redefined. There was us, and over there were them. They had come back, only instead of the Soviets it was now just them. We couldn’t define what made them them, so we decided just to wing it. We had a new choice now: how to bring them back into being us.
I suppose it goes without saying that we chose poorly. We chose war, we chose the path of destruction. We sacrificed our hope for the future and our plans for betterment on the false altar of vengeance. We raised Vengeance up ourselves, the twenty-first century homegrown golden calf, and our prayers to that autochthonic god were answered in blood and bombs. Somewhere in the pantheon of American animism, Columbia, our patroness, wept, seeing her children gone so far astray. Her Creator also wept, and weeps still.
Today I want to end our tears. I am tearing away the bandage, tearing off the thing that isolates me from anyone else. I declare myself a citizen of Earth, foremost and above all things. I condamn to Hell the thought of violence upon another person. I condamn to Hell the thought of vengeance. I condamn to Hell the thought of personal glory outstripping the good of all life. And I condamn to Hell the thought that an opinion held by someone else, that I disagree with, must automatically be wrong. These are principles I live my life by, and have done so for a long time. I’ve strayed from them in the past, and I freely admit as such and accept the punishments that have been given to me for those sins. But on this day I will see an end to the violence that has ruled my heart for so long; and on this day I renew my hope that one day– soon, I pray– we will have back the optimism and foresight that we threw away ten years ago.
Whether you agree with me or not, whether you follow or not, is up to you now. It’s not my place to demand you do so either way; it’s not anyone’s place. All we can do now is lead by example. We must continue to strive towards the ideal we all know to be right. We must become us again.
Take care of yourselves, folks, and of each other.
….okay, so that doesn’t have quite the same ring to it. (Also, there’s something fantastically wrong about that video.)
Anyway, the big news that’s been percolating for a while is that, by the end of December, you’ll be able to buy a digital copy of A Civics Lesson through the Barnes & Noble Nook Bookstore. I’m taking November’s NaNoWriMo time to finish up Frangible Time and to polish ACL for publication, which necessarily means that what’s been published on Linguankery to date for that one may not necessarily be in the “final” book. Specifically, I’m putting in a few retcons and scenes to help tie it into the sequel story. (The problem really was that I did too good of a job of wrapping everything up in the LG draft, and as a result I haven’t had much luck in hooking the story in. Some of Frangible Time ties into both books, but it’s largely independent.)
Additionally, I’m taking a page from the esteemed Ewen Cluney’s proverbial book and publishing an indie RPG in the first half of 2011. The game is still in development and needs some time for playtesting and to file off the serial numbers of the inspirations, but it’s being designed with three goals in mind: one, to be available for easy reading on an e-reader; two, to be playable in short bursts anywhere and everywhere; and three, to be an inexpensive and attractive alternative to some other modern-day psychological-horror games (who know who they are). This too will be available on the Nook store but also as a straight PDF.
These projects are a little ambitious, but I’ve every confidence they’ll succeed beyond my expectations. Wish me luck, folks– in 2011 I go pro.
Tonight, my Xbox/Games For Windows Live Gamerscore exceeded 16000 points. The achievement that put me over this plateau was “Pro Keys To The Max (15G)” from Rock Band 3. My current count for achievements is 924 individual achievements across 115 games, totaling 16029 points. The average value of each achievement is 17.35 points, with an average count of 139.38 points per game (Xbox.com reports 20.61% gamerscore completion and 25.86% achievement completion, with five fully-completed games). It took 162 days to reach this point from the previous plateau of 15015 on May 18th, 2010. 69 achievements were collected in this time, totaling 1014 points, with an average value of 14.70 points, and a collection rate of one achievement approximately every 2 days, 8 hours, and 20 minutes.
I’d been planning on moving for quite a while, but up until June or so I wasn’t in a position to be shaking up my financial situation due primarily to the fact that I was a contractor. While that hasn’t changed, the nature of the job I took back in March had stabilized to the point where I felt comfortable taking the opportunity that would very soon present itself. After Otakon, I started making some preliminary inquiries and getting a feel for what I would need to have and do in order to pull off the move. That coincided with some pleasant news on the job front as well, leading me to believe that there had never been a better chance.
Part of the major planning involved was ensuring a steady stream of money for during the move. I would need a significant outlay of cash in order to prepare a security deposit and first month’s rent, and then I would need funds to cover the cost of hiring a mover, the apartment cleaning for the exit, and other resources. To this end I altered my paycheck disbursement to ensure that a certain amount of the money, higher than what had been placed before, was going automatically into a different account. Having this money in a separate kitty where its use would be less casual than the everyday expenses helped out tremendously, but ultimately I figured it might not be enough. I had to move smarter, not pricier.
One of the ideas I’d been considering for a while was the use of an off-site storage facility to hold some of the more valuable possessions I’ve collected during the move. I had begun looking into the situation as I settled on a location to where I’d move, and started feeling out the amount of space I’d need for the short term, and if the new place didn’t offer an on-site locker (it doesn’t), how much space I’d want to have as an ongoing archive area should the need arise. As it turns out, once I’d discovered where I was going to move, there was a storage facility within walking distance. As soon as I’d heard that the application was approved– two months out from the actual move date– I started manually hauling boxes of stuff to the facility. At an outside guess I’d say this probably cut maybe $300-500 off the bill for the movers.
Another important thing was going through my closets in the old apartment and initiating a serious, hard-core no-holding-back purge of crap. It’s important to make a distinction between archive materials (receipts, hard drives, old notebooks, etc.) and just plain ol’ crap (cords to stuff that broke years ago, manuals and magazines years out of date, literal junk). Some of it got recycled, such as the computers and monitors (how I managed to acquire more CRT monitors than old computers is quite frankly beyond my ken); a lot of it ended its journey unceremoniously hurled into the dumpster, after the necessary shredding or obliterating. This too probably saved me a good $200 or so.
Finally, a week or two before the move date I held a sale on Craigslist. This took out a good chunk of items that were either still good enough to make recycling them a waste, or were just too bulky for me to get rid of without injuring myself. Turns out this earned me around $200 at a point when I had needed to dip into the moving funds to take care of a minor emergency.
Now, obviously, I was not perfect about keeping my hands off the moving stash. More than once I bought some game book or another with the earmarked funds. However, during the entire time, I did not once need to go a week without spending money or anything so draconian. Even accounting for the so-called “impulse drift”, I was well within my budget, to the point where, when all was said and done, I had enough left over to buy the new couch for the apartment over a month in advance. Considering I had gone into the venture thinking I was going to need to borrow funds to see it to completion, the move was an unequivocal success.
Anyway. I paid off the Rock Band 3 pre-order on the way home tonight, and unfortunately I don’t feel up to the thought of attending the midnight launch party. I’ll at least have something to look forward to for on the way home tomorrow, assuming I don’t decide to get to work at 5a in the hopes of being able to leave at 1p. Yeah. Just a tiny bit excited for this game. Ciao, kids.
I haven’t had a full post up here since late August, which should tell you something about the kind of September I’ve had. Here’s a hint: it’s been more than a little rough, both physically and emotionally. In between preparations for what I’m about to reveal, and work, and all sorts of other things, I’ve sort of run into one of those situations where I know, intellectually, that I accomplished a hell of a lot, but I still feel like the month was wasted. The fact that, over the course of the month, I watched upwards of a hundred hours of television may have something to do with it– but not that much, I don’t think.
So I suppose that’s as good a place as any to start. I made mention of this at the beginning of August, but I finished watching through the entirety of The West Wing over the course of September. I ran the numbers; for the full 154 episodes, that averaged out to roughly 120 hours. It was a lot of TV. I will admit that I wasn’t entirely focused on it at certain points; after Season 4, the show sort of went downhill until around the first quarter of Season 7. It was a great series, though, and I really recommend it to anyone who wants a closer look into how politics works.
Now, as to why I wasn’t paying attention for a season and a half. The big reason, and the thing I’ve kept under my hat for a good long while, is that I’m going to be moving very soon. As in, this month. I’ll decline to give an exact date, but the important thing to note is that most of my stuff is in storage, and the most valuable things have been there for a month or more. That in large part has contributed to the physical strain I’ve been under: most of my stuff is heavy.
It’s important to note, though, that once the move is done, and once everything is all set up and I’m all settled in, I think that the sense of accomplishment will finally come to me. Moving house is usually not a one-man gig. The fact that I managed to get this far more or less by myself is, if I could be permitted to indulge in a little self-aggrandizement, pretty damn awesome. I do, of course, have movers coming in to take the furniture to the new place when the time comes– I have limits, of course. But still, planning, managing, and executing this sort of thing on my own… It’s at once impressive and frightening.
Anyway. October’s going to be another rough month, but with any luck this will be the first in the unbroken line of posts leading to the end of the year. Tomorrow I think I’ll go over a bunch of the announcements that happened in September and some of the (very, very little) gaming I’ve been doing. Ciao, boys and girls.
Tonight, my Xbox/Games For Windows Live Gamerscore exceeded 15000 points. The achievement that put me over this plateau was “Qualifier (10G)” from Split/Second. My current count for achievements is 855 individual achievements across 102 games, totaling 15015 points. The average value of each achievement is 17.56 points, with an average count of 147.21 points per game (Xbox.com reports 21.28% gamerscore completion and 26.55% achievement completion, with five fully-completed games). It took 84 days to reach this point from the previous plateau of 14005 on February 24th, 2010. 78 achievements were collected in this time, totaling 1010 points, with an average value of 12.95 points, and a collection rate of one achievement approximately every 26 hours.
On February 24th, my Xbox/Games For Windows Live Gamerscore exceeded 14000 points. The achievement that put me over this plateau was “Mission 3 – Jeep Destruction (10G)” from Raiden IV. My current count for achievements is 777 individual achievements across 94 games, totaling 14005 points. The average value of each achievement is 18.02 points, with an average count of 148.98 points per game (Xbox.com reports 23.45% gamerscore completion and 28.22% achievement completion, with five fully-completed games). It took 32 days to reach this point from the previous plateau of 13005 on January 24th, 2010. 57 achievements were collected in this time, totaling 1000 points, with an average value of 17.54 points, and a collection rate of one achievement approximately every 13.5 hours.
A few years back, when I was in between jobs, I would spend my days literally camped out in front of the computer all day, getting up for soda and snacks, and when it became dark out (which was made longer by the fact that I was doing this in the summer), I would look up at the time, realize I’d lost an entire day, and curse myself for not accomplishing anything.
Today, I did stuff. Not a lot of stuff, but stuff nonetheless. Painted some models; brought one project to a pretty good pausing-point until an external event gets lined up; did some number-crunching in advance of some news that’s going to be on here next week; and, since I still have some time here before I want to go to bed, I’m probably going to try marathonning a disc of a TV series (likely a short-runner).
However, I still “feel unproductive” because I also spent about five hours playing an online game, when the stack of unplayed games is still ridiculously high. I suppose I can justify it by saying that I needed to relax, but in all honesty, I don’t even particularly care for the game I was playing… it just is scratching an itch I guess I never really knew I had. Ah well, hopefully tomorrow I can move on to something that gives me the “having done something” feeling I’m missing.
I’ve been keeping myself busy this week with a lot of household projects, but in between mending things and breaking others I’ve had the opportunity to get some primer on my miniature armies. Well, one of them. I ran out of black primer just now, about a tiny way into the first major unit of the secondary army. (They started out as my “primary” army, but I wound up building up the other one pretty quickly as it seemed to be less massive of a numerical investment.) In any event, it’s pretty much assumed that I’m hooked now, and I’m eagerly awaiting the coming of spring so that I can prime up the rest.