An Apprenticeship

From the very beginning, technology has played a large role in the relationship I have with Tkout. The picture of us on the left is from Astronomy Club Fall Campout 2009, a few days after we started dating officially in October. We were playing Left 4 Dead with our friend Maverick, part of whom you can see sitting on the top bunk. We put tapestries in front of the windows because we were playing during the day, and we played on the XBOX Tkout had just gotten for his birthday a few weeks prior.

What’s even funnier about all of this is that when Tkout and I met, we were at a LAN gaming party at my college. (LAN is a local area network. Basically a bunch of nerds hooked up to the same network to share files, game, and hang out in the same space. It’s super fun! Go if you have the chance!) I digress. Tkout and I had met originally at the LAN while playing a first person shooter game called F.E.A.R. In the game, you’re on one of two teams, and you’re running around killing the other players. Tkout and I hadn’t met formally until he decided to run a full round with our mutual friend Plastiqmanb with no weapons. Just kicking and punching. I was an easy target because I’m terrible at those kinds of video games, so Tkout kept finding me to raise his kill count. I finally looked up and yelled, “Who the f— keeps kicking me!?” A really handsome face with dark eyes and hair raised up over the computer and Tkout waved. Before anything else could be said, he made a few keystrokes, and my character fell dead. Again. From a terminal kick.

When we were first getting to know each other I used to play World of Warcraft on a beat-up laptop. (For those of you that aren’t familiar, World of Warcraft is an MMORPG, or massive multiplayer online role playing game). Tkout’s first grand gesture was to build me a really nice gaming computer. It’s a gesture he’s repeated several times, always making sure I have a really nice gaming rig and peripherals (mouse, keyboard, etc.). The picture to the right is my current rig, which has purple LED lighting. He knows I’m a sucker for color and light, so he bought me a mouse, keyboard, and mousepad that change colors. The colors are dictated by the software that comes with the peripherals.

I have always appreciated the computers, but I think only superficially. Until last night, I didn’t have a real appreciation for what he was doing for me. I didn’t see the computers for the gestures that they really were.

Most of the movies and TV shows we watch are on digital media on our PLEX server. That allows us to stream our content from our computers, and makes it easier to watch than trying to hunt down a physical copy. Tkout doesn’t like to leave his computer running constantly because of the wear and tear on the parts, but I don’t mind. I don’t play games as often as he does. Well, we decided to make a PLEX server together. Basically, a bare-bones computer setup that would house all of our digital media so that we could stream it. I wanted to build it with him because I have a job as a desktop technician, and it’s handy to know how to build a computer if you’re going to go about fixing one. I also am looking to get the CompTIA A+ certification, which is equivalent to a low-level college degree in computers. Fully one half of the test is geared towards the actual hardware. Building a computer and interacting with the hardware is a great way to learn what the parts are and their functions. Also how they work together.

Before he builds a computer, Tkout spends hours reading through tech articles and comparing components until he has exactly what he needs for his purpose. That’s why he bought the parts by himself. Eventually I hope to be able to pick out parts, but I don’t know enough just yet. Yesterday we sat down and he went over the parts of the motherboard. He explained about the history of the components, which doesn’t sound like much, until you know that he taught himself. From scratch. In a time when you couldn’t just go and YouTube or Google the answer. I’m in awe that he knows so much, but he takes it in stride. He’s been there for the explosion of the popularity of the home computer.

He referenced how computers used to be, in terms of where the chipset could be found, or what its function was. I knew a little because back when Microsoft ME (Millenium Edition) came out (in 2000) I had my first home computer that I could take apart and re-image and generally play with. My parents were worried I’d break it beyond repair, so my meddling stopped. But it gave me a small background from which I’m launching my current career.

Tkout is an absolute wizard. He works with such patience, attention to detail, and skill that I was literally in the presence of an artist. There’s a reason for everything he does, and every piece of equipment that he uses. He’s also patient with me, and answers all my questions without getting annoyed. That doesn’t seem like much, but I’m inquisitive to a fault, and wind up dragging him down a rabbit hole of questions.

We also got a few laughs out of building the computer. The picture to the left is part of the motherboard. If you look closely, you will see EATXPWR written in white letters. I asked him what “eat x power” was. He couldn’t stop laughing. I forgot exactly what it means, but I know it’s excellerated ATX something-something. Good thing he takes things in stride, because that’s just a taste of the questions I was asking.

Just because I can, I snagged a picture of Tkout as he was fitting the solid state drive into the computer. He’s wearing his t-shirt from MassiveLAN, which is a charity computer gaming event we attend twice a year. (If you’re interested in finding out more and attending, check out the website here.) The weird red stripes behind him are the red LED lights shining out the side of his computer.

We aren’t done building the computer, and we also have to get the hard drives ready with all of our digital media. I asked Tkout to wait for me, because I want to be involved in every step of this process. He’s very excited, because for years he’s wanted to share his passion with me. He has lived and breathed computers for over a decade. Truth be told, I am glad he’s taken me under his wing. I don’t think that any course or book could teach as in-depth and hands-on as he does.

Over the years I’ve had friends and family ask why I’m ok with him being a gamer. There are basic positives, like gamers tend to stay close to home. They also tend to introduce their friends to their wives and kids. We have several friends at MassiveLAN, which is a family event and has something to offer for almost every age. Now that I’ve had the time to sit down with him and watch him work, I appreciate Tkout’s skill for what it is. I also understand why he chose a career in computers, and I’m glad that I’ve made that move as well.

If you’re wondering why there’s a picture of Zelda snuggled under covers, it’s because even our family pets enjoy the gaming household. Zelda is comfortable snoozing on the futon in the basement with Chloe, our cat. They know we are near by for kisses and pets, and we are all home together.

I’m not sure if we are going to work on the rig tonight or this weekend, but rest assured, there will be another post detailing the progress of this journey. I can’t wait to see what mischief we get up to in the next round of the build!

 

Suggested Reading for Teens

When I used to be a teacher, I would often overhear my students talking about zombies.  They played Left 4 Dead, Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare, and talked 9781442402331_p0_v1_s260x420non-stop about what to do in a zombie apocalypse.  (If you were wondering, I taught middle school for three years, which puts my students at about age of 13.)  As an adult, I find that I can read whatever I choose.  My students, on the other hand, need more carefully selected materials.  I remember thinking that it was such a shame that there were no horror books on the reading lists.  That seems to be the one genre that schools avoid, and it’s a pity.

Over the course of my last year as a teacher, I befriended one of the parents.  She and I talk about pretty much everything and anything, and I count her among my closest friends.  Her son, my previous student, has the run of my zombie library (with his mom’s permission – I let her know if I think there’s anything she might object to in the books and she makes the decision).  That being said, I’m always on the lookout for suitable reading material that I will be able to pass along to my own future children so that they can know the joy I feel in reading, and in specific, horror.

There’s one book in particular that keeps coming to mind as a suitable entry-level zombie book.  Make no mistake – I read it when I was twice my student’s age, and I loved it, so when I say it’s appropriate don’t make the mistake of thinking it’s “tame”.  It’s very deep, and the characters have to survive a host of growing pains in addition to the struggles of living in a zombie-infested world.  Jonathan Maberry has a way with telling a story about young people in an apocalyptic world that is engaging and realistic.  His story Rot & Ruin, based on one of my all time favorite short stories, centers around two brothers and their tumultuous relationship.  Benny Immura’s last memories of his parents cause resentment towards his older brother Tom, whom he views as a coward.  The story centers around the two brothers struggles.  Benny struggles to find his place in the community in the shadow of his brother’s achievements (though he’s not entirely sure what they are, just that everyone adores his brother), and Tom’s struggle to help his brother grow up in a harsh world.

Any way you slice it, this is a great book, and it becomes an even better series.  There are four books total.  I have only read up to the second book, as I want to take my time.  Series like this don’t come around often, and I want to make sure the magic lasts just a little bit longer.  If there’s a zombie fan of any age in your home or family, pick this book up.  If you’re not sure what the big deal is with this whole zombie craze, pick this book up.  You won’t be disappointed.

All the zombie fragging you can handle…and a little you can’t.

Left 4 Dead 2

Image via Wikipedia

“Left 4 Dead 2” follows four different survivors through a series of zombie infested maps.

The game was an overall improvement from Left 4 Dead (which in and of itself was still an awesome game!)  There are numerous notable changes for the better which include more staggered spacing of the infected.  Instead of running into a constant mob and then nothing, the mobs are well spaced enough so that there is no time to relax and wait for the next mob.

The special infected are bigger, better, and more badass as well.  Hunters, witches, boomers, and tanks all were re-done with more detail including (but not limited to) extra boils, more slime, and more detailed clothing.  New notable specials include the Jockey, who sits atop your character and rides them around while screeching, and my personal nemesis, the Spitter.  Spitters have disjointed jaws and are capable of covering several in-game feet of floor with an acidic puke that will quickly exacerbate the situation for yourself and the other survivors.  The best part ?  She spits it from afar.  Perhaps you can’t see her, but she can still drop you with one or two well-aimed spits.  Eesh.  Not to mention the hordes of other special infected, some of which wear armor and are harder to kill.  Oh and one last thing – there are clown zombies.  A whole carnival section filled to the brim with slavering clown zombies whose eyes glow.  I won’t spoil all the fun – but trust me – you’ll like the new ones !

The story itself is more cohesive within the campaigns.  Rather than just running around blasting zombies to bits, you are following a coordinated escape pattern from area to area.  Don’t fear – the story doesn’t get in the way of mindless blasting, if that’s something you prefer.  The locales are creepier with more special effects including fog, wind and driving rain as well as numerous hiding places for zombies and specials.  The effects add a touch of realism to the video game, as well as add to the unpredictability of the game.  It seems that every time you play, its a different game.

Whether or not you were a fan of the original “Left 4 Dead” you need this game.  I play it on my computer because I’m terrible at first person shooters on a console, but regardless of your choice of play you will have countless hours of enjoyment from “Left 4 Dead 2”.  One more bit of advice – play it in the dark.  It’ll scare you witless.

Cute crochet minions in every size…

Creepy Cute Crochet

Image by SewPixie via Flickr

Now, I know what you’re thinking.  Yes this is a media review site.  However, this book is fairly important to me because it was what got me to start learning to crochet.  I was searching for “Cthulhu” one day when I was bored and I came across “Creepy Cute Crochet” by accident.  I went out and bought it the same afternoon (you should have learned by now that I am in impulse buyer of zombies, and anything book related.)

The patterns are ranked in terms of ease, but since I’m still a beginning I haven’t done any of them yet.  The patterns are really nice and cover tons of ground with regards to the subject matter.  There are even wizards, Trojan warriors, and Amazonian women to crochet.

This book is a must-have for any crafty zombie lover !  In fact, I was perusing another blog and found out that windgie79 at craftster.org actually used the patterns as the basis for a whole set of Left 4 Dead zombies.  She made the specials, and they all look pretty cool !  If you want to check them out, go here: http://www.craftster.org/forum/index.php?topic=286431.msg3245554#msg3245554

By the way – for those of you who are not familiar with amigurumi, they are cute Japanese crocheted dolls / toys.  They have branched out into all sorts of things such as ornaments for Christmas trees.  Amigurumi started out being animals, but the art form has taken on inanimate objects.  The key word being cute…just look at the figures on the book above.  Cute.  You can look up all sorts of patterns if you like, including one I just got a few minutes ago that features an eyeball with a nerve ending.  (http://www.instructables.com/id/Crocheted-Eyeball/ if you’re looking for the pattern.)