Assume the party escort submission position

Portal screenshotIt’s relatively out-of-character for me to post game reviews, since I so rarely pick up new games, but this game is itself entirely out of character, so that’s alright.

To be brief: Portal is fscking brilliant.

I’m an RTS (Real-Time Strategy) player by nature, with a strong leaning towards turn-based and puzzle oriented games. I do play FPS (First-Person perspective Shooter) games, especially with friends, but they’re not my favourite thing. I enjoyed Half Life 2, for example, but I didn’t go back and re-play it a second time, and it made me terribly motion-sick.

Then again, so did Portal. Motion-sick and dizzy and confused and falling off my chair with fits of uncontrollable giggles.

Portal is a bit of a holy-grail as far as I’m concerned: it’s a perfectly abstract puzzle game, built with an elegant first-person shooter as its interface. Apart from finding or setting your keyboard controls, this is a game which requires only one explanation: how to use the portal gun itself. Everything else is just physics, as intuitive as catching a ball.

And then there’s the computer. The computer is your friend. I will only make this one reference to Paranoia, the roleplaying game. If you’ve never heard of it, don’t worry about it.

The cake is a lieThroughout Portal, The Computer talks to you. Occasionally it says something helpful. Even when it’s not helping, it is entirely worth listening to. While I played this game, E kept asking me to turn the sound up, so that she could hear The Computer. That’s really all that needs to be said.



This post is partly a response to a post by the Mododrum herself. She points out the following link:

Which talks about five “Geek Social Fallacies”:

  1. Ostracizers Are Evil
  2. Friends Accept Me As I Am
  3. Friendship Before All
  4. Friendship Is Transitive
  5. Friends Do Everything Together

…and she correlates it to certain social circles. Since those social circles aren’t entities subject to individual abuse or identity fraud, I’m going to go out on a limb here and take a stab at naming them openly:

(note: I count, or have counted, myself a member of all of these)

  • Korner (physical)
  • Korner (virtual)
  • FOME
  • MURP
  • The SCA College of Saint Monica
  • A miscellany of other Monash University social clubs and groups peripheral thereto.

The part I was getting to, in naming these groups, is simply that I agree.

…wholeheartedly. If I had read this article when I finished high-school and really let myself see my surroundings in the terms it describes, I might have had a much happier, healthier, saner life the past fifteen years. Pathological conflict avoidance and the unwillingness to criticize that which is plainly aberrant and unhealthy, these are not adult behaviours. In fact, doing this to your friends and peers is passive aggression, no different than the vicious sabotage of smilingly telling a friend that they look great and sending them out the door to a photo-shoot when they have visible food in their teeth. Criticism is how we grow. In its absence, we don’t just stagnate, we atrophy.

I can recall a time when I believed and lived by every one of these fallacies to a frightening degree. The cost of this behaviour has only really started to become clear to me in the last three years, and the damage is extreme. Every part of my life from my health and education to my work skills and my lifetime financial achievement has been grievously harmed by these beliefs. I shudder to think of the colossal damage I have done to others in the service of these delusions.

For what little it’s worth, I’m sorry.

I’m also more than a little angry,  but if you read the article on Geek Social Fallacies and recognized yourself in there, then I’m not angry at you, not any more. You probably did yourself at least as much harm as you ever did me, and you have my sympathy.

92,903 squares of Scottish Hunting estate!

…Square millimeters, that is. 🙂

Courtesy of E and Lochaber Highland Estates, I can apparently now call myself a Scottish Laird!

It’s odd, but until E bought me the right to do so, I can’t clearly recall ever having wanted to fish for salmon in the river Spean. What was I thinking? I certainly do now.

This is my little bit here, to be specific:

My Hunting Estate

…just a convenient amount to stand in.

15 seconds of FAME!

I just got to sound foolish on national radio! Huzzah!

I’ve never successfully called up a talk-back show before, but the topic:

“call in with stories about nerdy things you’ve done in the name of fandom”

…on Triple-J‘s Top Shelf was just too much to resist. I have to apologise here to this gentleman for naming him and his mighty home-made tardis.

Also, apologies to FOME: I had a teensy schpiel about the club, it’s name, and its impending 30th anniversary, all rehearsed and lined up to slip in at the first opportunity but it was the extremely speedy kind of talk-back and I just didn’t get a chance.

Not that I would ever do anything so frivolous while working-from-home as listening to the radio, let alone calling in to said radio program or even (gasp) blogging.

As one with the machine

Reading and watching a lot of Fantasy and Science Fiction, one comes across a lot of elegant ideas and no small amount of wish-fulfillment. Some of these ideas are catchy because they’re so elegant or kooky. Space elevators totally rock! Others are appealing because they stimulate our imagination. Nanotech is the scariest thing since Margaret Thatcher! But there are some that stick in my mind (I can’t speak for anyone else on this) like fish-hooks, because they’re just so desirable:

  • The cell-by-cell healing machine.Shipdoc
    If you’re a freaky healthy person who has never been seriously injured, horribly unwell, or even moderately unfit, you won’t get this. The idea as various authors use it is just that one can build a perfect medical-care machine which can look at an entire human body and fix anything that isn’t ideal. The superficial idea is cool because it yields a bunch of traditional holy grails like clinical immortality, endless youth, effortless fitness, and the instant gratification of removing all physical pain.
    In fact, it gives you the potential for a kind of confidence in your own wellbeing that no real-world person can ever have: to know that you’re healthy: no lurking subtle problem, just waiting for the right moment to leap out and ruin your life, or end it.
    What really gets me about this idea though, is the thought of impossibe things like genuinely perfect skin. Even if it only lasted for half an hour, imagine every microscopic fleck of dirt removed, every irritated follicle soothed, every tiniest scar or irregularity gone without trace.
  • TeleportationTransporter Room
    Again, if you’ve never commuted in city traffic, or endured interminable intercontinental air-flight, This may not ring true.
    If, like me, you spend more than an hour (or two) of every weekday struggling through the tortuous tedium of an urban commute, you can probably already see it: You get up in the morning much later and do your normal routine, you kiss your loved-one goodbye and step into that fictional booth by the door… and you’re at work. Instantly. Coming home at night (or for lunch, or to change your shirt, or to take a personal phone call… you get the idea) is just as trivial.
    But again, that’s the superficial view. Instead, consider: is there a restaurant (or a family kitchen) anywhere in the world where you remember having a fantastic meal, and you frequently wish you were there, or reminisce fondly to distract yourself from your packet-soup. Imagine if it was as easy to go there, any time, as to walk from your study to the kitchen. That would of course go for everything. You can visit your friends anywhere at a whim. You can live anywhere you like, regardless of where your friends live, or where you work, or where the kids go to school. Now that’s something to fantasize about.
  • Direct neurological learningHow to fly a B12B helicopter
    This has always been the most desirable idea, for me: Like Neo suddenly acquiring kung-fu, or Trinity learning to fly a helicopter, you just choose the trick you want to master, the topic you want to cram, and stuff it directly into your brain. Imagine: you decide you want to do make a rose-garden, so you take the wall of rose lore from a big library, and you just upload it into your head, like reading every book, but without the hours of tedium, the eyestrain, or the sheer investment of time paid out from your ever-dwindling four-score-and-ten.
    Then think bigger.
    You want to beef up your general knowledge? Upload Wikipedia into your head, complete with reference and commentary on potential bias.
    No, bigger.
    A net-pundit whose name escapes me recently pointed out that a ten-terabyte piece of personal storage is no longer an unreasonable or infeasible thing, and that in such a store, one could keep a complete audio/video record of every second of one’s entire life. In itself, this is an intriguing and quite spooky idea, but taken with the idea of the machine as a natural extension of the mind: Imagine perfect photographic recall of your entire life, even when you were asleep.
    I know Kung-fu You’re a theoretical scientist. You have a complex theory, or theories, from the edge of your field, which synthesize breakthroughs in several adjacent fields. You don’t know enough about the neighbouring fields to really properly test this theory yet though, and neither does any other individual human being. So, you go round the leading minds in those fields, and borrow their life-recordings for their latest twenty years work, including all of their own postgraduate study. You upload it all. Now, suddenly, you’re an expert in all of those fields. Not only do you have all the underpinnings your theory could ever need, you now have the practical experience to empirically test it too.
    Must remember to keep that appointment with the super-synthesist tomorrow to loan her your vastly expanded life-record.
    I’m sure you get the idea.

Life after the bomb

Sometimes I think I’m already living in a post-apocalyptic world, like the worst thing short of death has already befallen us all. The crazies and mutants have already arisen to rule the world. They already bicker violently over the broken remnants of civilization. I’m already dying from one or more of the myriad horrible afflictions that plague the survivors of The Bomb. We all are. Already I toil in the mines, struggling just to subsist in a world without the freedom and luxury I once knew. Already I doubt the wisdom of reproduction for fear of the horror my children would know. Already I crave only surcease, carried forward by survival instinct alone.

Then I go drink more coffee, and everything is fine again.