Childhood ownership status: grim

While looking through some Google+ posts I came across an article where Marvel apparently told some exercise place they couldn’t name their exercises after comic book characters. And then I hearkened back to a realization that I realized when the Star Wars license was acquired by Disney:

My entire childhood is owned by a handful of companies.

I grew up in the 1970s, and in that time there were several things that I associate with my childhood. Here’s where their licenses stand:

  • Star Wars: Lucasfilm (Disney)
  • Muppets: Jim Henson Productions (Disney)
  • Spiderman: Marvel (Disney)
  • Tron (Disney)
  • Disney Animation Studios (Disney)
  • Dungeons and Dragons: Wizards of the Coast (Hasbro)
  • GI Joe / Masters of the Universe / Transformers (Hasbro)
  • Parker Brothers (Merlin handheld, various games) (Hasbro)
  • Milton-Bradley (Hasbro)
  • Mattel Electronics (Intellevision, etc.) (Mattel)
  • Atari (who hasn’t owned Atari at this point?)

Worse, companies like Disney and Hasbro are famous for taking their licensed characters / properties so seriously that they will gladly send cease and desist letters to anyone who dares use their IP.  Just ask the guy who had a character generator for D&D, or someone who did fan art for My Little Pony. Or anyone who has ever run afoul of Disney’s lawyers.

So I’ve com e to terms that I’ll never be able to have my childhood free from corporations who would rather shake down a daycare than have their trademarks used without permission, or have a fan make something useful for playing their game. I get that. But I don’t have to continually abide by this, nor do I have to continually support their businesses. But the deeds are done, and I can’t change the nostalgia I feel fro the characters, ships, and other trappings of these universes and products.

But I can vote with my future time and efforts. And while I’ll look longingly at the Lego Star Wars toys and other goodies coming out as Disney fully exploits their licenses I can take my inner 8 year old gently by the arm and show him other things: things that allow me to play along in their universe using Creative Commons or other licenses. And I can consciously gravitate to companies that don’t have a coronary whenever someone tries to play in their sandbox.

It’s the sort of thing any responsible parent would want for their inner child. :)

Glazed donuts and the donut-stealing mobster.

If you want my glazed donuts follow my blog. That’s where I’m baking things fresh. At least when I post. (Also “glazed donuts” sounds vaguely euphemistic.)

Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported.

Teaching and wages: the curse of calling.

Every time you say that teachers don’t deserve the appallingly low salaries for the work they do please do the following mental exercise:

Think about the best teacher you ever had. The one person who inspired you the most in school to be the best you can. The person who taught you those life-lessons beyond the classroom. The person who got you so excited about the subject that homework was a challenge, not a chore.

Now think about that teacher being told repeatedly that it was their choice to be paid so pitifully low. They did it to themselves. If they don’t like the wage they should quit.

Now imagine they heeded that advice prior to you taking their course. Imagine you instead received instruction from someone who cared so little about the students, and did the bare minimum to receive a paycheck and keep from being fired.

Wouldn’t you do anything you could to keep the inspiring teacher in the classroom?

Then why don’t we?

Merry Christmas

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and all the best of the holiday season.


Christmas Tux 2014 by (CC-BY-SA)

Things not to say to an Astronomer #1,282

Here is yet another installment of “Things Not to Say to an Astronomer” #1,282:

JoDee: Here’s a picture of the Pelaides. Isn’t that cool?

Me: Yeah. “Hey Pelaides!” (in the style of The Beastie Boys: “Hey Ladies”).

JoDee: Jerk.

Remember, I do the dumb things so you don’t have to.

Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported.

Happy anniversary

Today marks my annual reminder that I can’t play platformer video games for shit.

JoDee tried to include me in New Super Mario World. After watching me commit the equivalent of pixelated seppuku she decided to go it alone.

Seth Godin: An end of radio

(Original link: An end of radio)

I’ve long held that radio was doomed the moment ubiquitous wifi entered the car. We’re getting closer each day to having the completely connected vehicle.

The only thing that will save radio is presenting more localized content. Unfortunately content cost money and as more and more stations try cutting content and syndicating programming we’ll see radio decline even further. After years of programming abdication though I’m not sure anyone will miss it when it’s gone.

Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported.

, 2014/11/12. Category: Music, Rants.

When a podcast isn’t

I just tried subscribing to a podcast (I won’t shame the particular podcast, outside of saying that they should “know better”, but I have two things that (to me) mean you can call your serial show a podcast:

  1. It has a RSS feed plainly available as an RSS feed (and not just an iTunes feed)
  2. The audio is not buried somewhere on Soundcloud or some other locker-type service where it can’t be put onto a portable device.

I can’t tell you how many shows I’ve seen that violate these principles. You don’t have a podcast; you just have a radio archive at that point.

Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported.

, 2014/11/08. Category: Rants.

Video Games: The Movie

JoDee and I just finished watching Video Games: The Movie. Sadly I’m a bit disappointed in the movie. It’s pretty clear in this movie that video game history was written by the winners because it would appear from their telling that the following was true:

  • The 3DO never existed (the first 32 bit console they mentioned was the Sony Playstation).
  • Atari caused the video game crash with the release of E.T. (The video game was a joint effort by a lot of inept efforts by many software companies and a glut of differing and incompatible gaming and computer systems of varying quality).
  • The Nintendo 64 was a console worthy of several minutes of footage. (It was a relative flop compared to the Sony Playstation and the notably absent Sega Dreamcast)
  • The Intellivision, Atari 5200 were barely mentioned, and Colecovision was notably absent. Arcade quality home ports didn’t arrive until the Nintendo Entertainment System.

Worse, you’d think that the only innovations for video games are both tied to improved technology (virtual reality) and movie-like wish-fulfillment and story-telling. It was rather depressing to see video games shown as soulless graphical masterpieces or quirky indie-games. It left me not with a sense of wonder for the industry and what it could achieve but wondering when the next game crash is going to happen and who it was going to take with it. The movie touched on a gaming culture that both feels familiar and yet alien to me at the same time. And that’s the rub: I both lived and knew some of this history both first-hand and through reading and research. The movie didn’t seem to do nearly as much justice to the subject and instead centered on showing lots of pretty pictures and game footage. It was like seeing a movie about a culture I knew intimately being ineptly recounted by someone who could have told a more compelling story.

Overall I was disappointed with the movie. What story-telling and plot it had was lost much in the same way that modern video games have lost the plot; through technical wizardry and pretty pictures while forgetting the soul of the game. About the only positive thing I can say about the movie were most of the interviews were decent (Nolan Bushnell, Al Alcorn, and David Crane are charming as always) but rather than make me feel excited for the limitless potential of video games it made me think that the MBAs were fully in control, and the only way for anything revolutionary to happen in video games will happen despite the major studios and indie game developers. It made me wake up to why I’ve not played a lot of video games recently, even though I continue to purchase them. It made me realize why I find more enjoyment reading about game design from authors outside of the video game industry than those who are currently working inside it.

it made me realize that while you can never go back to the past of video gaming you can still appreciate the innovative spirit that birthed the industry, and hope that some day whatever comes along to sweep away the video game industry of today can tap into that same innovative spirit. It took the video game crash of the 1980s to sweep away most of the misguided notions of forced game design, and it’ll take another video game crash to clean up the current state of the industry and set it on a path where it can truly grow. Video Games: The Movie tried to celebrate the glorious history of video games but instead punctuated that it’s overdue for another crash. It also illustrates another maxim: those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. With the shoddy re-telling of video game history presented in this movie we’re more doomed than ever.

The joys of looking at old Python code:

The joys of looking at old Python code:

Initial pass gets rid of the Syntax errors and other egregious errors. Yay!

Then PEP8 comes along and crushes your soul by pointing out all of the lazy shit you’ve been getting away with all this time.

Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported.