Friday, July 27, 2007


I was talking with a wonderful friend the other day about some of my favorite books and mentioned how the one non-church book I had taken with me on my mission was Neuromancer by William Gibson. This was is 1989 but I had just recently discovered this book first published in 1984 and subsequently winning the Hugo, Nebula and Phillip K. Dick awards.

Neuromancer was for me, a ground breaking book. I had read a great deal of science fiction and fantasy up to that point in my life but this book had such a different feel than what I had read before. The scenery descriptions were very wordy and elaborate. The characters were believable and easily imagined and yet they seemed sparse as if there were hidden depths to them that were merely hinted at. The mythos of cyberpunk created an atmosphere was moody and disturbing and yet not completely hopeless for me.

That was my first exposure to cyberpunk and it’s still my favorite example of the genre. For a time there were quite a few cyberpunk like stories being published but that has since slowed or stopped. Some of my favorite cyberpunk style authors are the aforementioned Gibson, of course, and Bruce Sterling, John Shirley, Neal Stephenson, George Alex Effinger, and Phillip K. Dick. Some of L.E. Modesett Jrs future books have a cyberpunk undertone to them and the influence of the genre can be found in many modern Sci-Fi stories although often without the darker view of the future that characterizes most cyberpunk.

One of the most appealing things to me that this style of story had to me was how “chewy” the stories were. These were not light, happy, and goofy stories but they were serious and dark. They often showed individuals with a profound lack of control over their lives struggling to find peace with their external realities and find a measure of control or safety. Not that there weren’t moments that weren’t laugh out loud funny but that the feel of the story was heavier.

The first anime series that I’ve ever really liked (many others were OK or pleasant to watch but this one is compelling and induces a desire to rapidly promote the next disk up my Netflix queue after each viewing) is Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex has a definite cyberpunk flavor to it. This series is feeding my need for chewy stories lately.

Funny enough, thinking about the other books I’ve liked in the light of these musing on cyberpunk reminded me of the fictional detective stories of Phillip Marlowe by Raymond Chandler. Those stories were also heavy on the descriptions and hinted at complex and imperfect heroes. Those stories also had a protagonist who was searching for his own measure of peace and control in a world that was hard to understand – leaving him somewhat jaded.

While I love all sorts of stories and read voraciously I often find my favorites to be the flavorful and chewy stories like the ones I discovered when I found cyberpunk.

Thursday, July 12, 2007


A few years ago I was introduced to the Enneagram method of personality testing. This is a fascinating construct of personality types created by Don Riso and Russ Hudson. Its premise is that there are nine major personality types that people can fall into. It further posits that there are nine levels of health within each major personality type with distinct and noticeable behaviors and attitudes at each level. Finally, it rounds out the personality descriptions by adding a “wing” to each personality type. (That was my description, their description is here.) Let me illustrate with my type:

My predominant personality type is #9, the Peacemaker.
free enneagram test

The easy-going, self-effacing type. Nines are accepting, trusting, and stable. They are usually creative, optimistic, and supportive, but can also be too willing to go along with others to keep the peace. They want everything to go smoothly and be without conflict, but they can also tend to be complacent, simplifying problems and minimizing anything upsetting. They typically have problems with inertia and stubbornness. At their Best: indomitable and all-embracing, they are able to bring people together and heal conflicts.

I knew I was a nine when I was reading the book and ran across a description of the 9 personality type that described nines as someone taking a bike ride through a beautiful park on a lovely day. They are admiring the scenery and the people and the whole experience of the ride, with no one aspect rising above the other. The nine is so into the entirety of the experience that they don’t notice that both tires on the bike are flat. They are getting somewhere but not efficiently and without being aware of themselves.

That fit me perfectly; I’m perfectly able to ignore problems by immersing myself into the rest of the experience of life. Much of the rest of the descriptions of the nine also fits me well. In the book each personality type is also given nine levels of health.

I’m not the “At their Best” level of health but I do believe I’m on the healthy side, I would put myself at level 3 of the 9. I am reasonably in touch with my feelings and instincts (being out of touch is a flaw that nines are vulnerable to) and have managed to become more of myself in the process. Ironically, it was by becoming more into me that I have been able to become more aware of others and more able to support and nurture them. It has also given me increased motivation to pursue my own interests and hobbies and passions.

The nine has two potential wings. A wing is a tendency towards one of the personality types on either side of your primary type. So my potential wings are 8 and 1. Type 1 is the Reformer – a rational and idealistic personality type. Type 8 is the Challenger – a challenging and domineering confident personality. I have a weak one wing – which oddly is labeled the Comfort Seeker in the book – which is also a fairly accurate description.

This whole process of learning the personality types was a very powerful tool for me. I needed an intellectual framework to understand my own ways of thinking because at the time I learned these I was very out of touch with my own feelings and thoughts. Having a structure to attempt to compare my own thinking against opened my eyes to how I think – not just what I was thinking and gave me practice learning what I was feeling instead of reacting to my feelings without even knowing what they were.

I suppose these types of tests aren’t for everyone. But I found it a wonderful tool for understanding myself and those around me. You can take a free sample test here if you are interested in learning more. The sample test isn't scientific like their complete battery but it will likely give you a good idea of your primary personality type.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


I’m a terrible speller. I always have been. Anyone that has ever had an IM conversation with me can attest that I still am a bad speller. I think, in fact, that had it been popular when I was young I would have been diagnosed with a case of dyslexia. My spelling grades used to give my teachers fits. I love books and reading and I would read at any opportunity in school. During reading time I would read ahead of the class. During math or science or whatever, I would often have a book open below the desk and be reading. I remember several times being singled out to please pay attention now because I got lost in a book I was reading and never realized that free reading time was now over.

I’m still not a very good speller and I’m often grateful for the spell checkers that can even correct my spellings of BOOGA. Even with that electronic crutch I’ve managed to self correct a number of errors by simply learning the patterns of the letters through repetition. If I pound something in long enough I eventually learn it.

You may have seen this link before where it claims that spelling is irrelevant as long as the first and last letters are correct in any given word. This works because the human brain is very very good at finding patterns in chaos.

But the fact remains that this type of communication is chaotic. It takes much longer to parse the meaning of the paragraph than it would if it were spelled properly. And what is the point of deliberately slow communication?

In addition since it disregards any of the rules of the language it would be impossible to decipher a new word. Try taking a chemical name and reading it that way. Deoxyribonucleic is easy to read even if you don’t know what it is because it follows the rules of pronunciation. You can read it out loud correctly and someone that knows what it means can explain it to you. Mixing up the letters into a jumble will just slow down the ability to communicate for those who already know the word and prevent anyone who doesn’t already know it from learning it at all.

Friday, July 06, 2007


I love web quizzes. I've had a lots a fun with them and some of them are even surprisingly accurate (and fun!)in predicting personality types. This is the second one that was a quiz for my blog. I found this one on Amber Nights blog. Based on the use of key words in my blog this site is now officially rated:

Free Online Dating

So ok, take the kids right on out of the... oh, wait. I mean... Never mind. Like I said no surprise with this rating. At the same site there was a Zombie Survival guide which I also took. It rated me as having a 40% survival chance in a zombie apocalypse. I think i scored low because I'd probably try and find those I loved to help them in such a situation instead of hunkering down in the closest inescapable basement.

Monday, July 02, 2007


I’m not sure if I should be impressed by what users can do to games or appalled by it. Well, OK, mostly I’m impressed but just a tiny bit worried that game developers will take this as a license to not craft their games carefully.

Let me speak to specifics. A while back I mentioned a review of the game UFO:ET. I ended up with a 7.2 score for the game out of 10. This is a respectable score indicating a well built game with some noticeable flaws but nothing that ruins the experience.

After finishing the review I started looking around for any patches or mods that could improve my experience. I was very pleasantly surprised to find one called “BMAN UFO mod” that actually combines several other user created modifications along with Bmans own mods into one large mod pack.

The game experience with these mod packs is much better than just the straight release was. There are multiple key improvements but my favorites were the inclusion of keyboard shortcuts for common tactical activities like standing up or kneeling down, the ability to reserve time for a snap or burst shot, the inclusion of line of sight (LOS) indicators, and the ability to hire and fire squaddies.

In addition to these there are many, many more enhancements and bug fixes. All of the enhancements are controllable using a new menu system that was also modded right into the game.

It was interesting to note that when the first official game patch was released many of these fixes and improvements were also included – requiring BMan to change his mod pack to remove many of the, now redundant, fixes and enhancements.

I like that games can be changed to suit the user. My enjoyment of UFO:ET is much greater now that it was in its initial release because of the work of these modders. I’ve very much enjoyed the user created content for Neverwinter Nights and other games.

The only qualm I have is a worry that game developers (or rather their overlords) may push to release an incomplete, buggy, or poorly executed game secure in the knowledge that if the license or game play gains enough interest that the user community will modify it to work correctly. That certainly couldn’t happen with most games but things that fit into rabid niche markets (like this X:COM clone or what about the upcoming Fallout 3) will rely on users to fix the problems that shouldn’t belong to them.
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