Borderlands, Played With My Daughter

So I’ve been playing a fair amount of Borderlands 2 co-op with my daughter, which is an interesting experience.  Usually, I need some game about every three months to obsess over – it’s how I relax – but now that Erin’s here, we’re mowing through it together.
Playing co-op when you’re both moderately incompetent is amusing.  I’m sure there are players who coordinate strategies – “Oh, I’ll choose the skill tree that buffs warriors, and you’ll tilt towards AOE spells!” – but Erin and I just sort of run around in circles, asking, “WHERE ARE YOU?”  During one particularly intense battle, I cleared out and finished an entire quest subtree while Erin drove around in a car trying to find me.
The stuff of heroism, I tell you.
Still, it’s fun to crack wise about the game as we play, and the company makes me feel not quite as reclusive.  Even if I feel like we should, you know, flank or coordinate strategies or do anything aside from have two guns in the room instead of one.  And the game is tilted towards co-op, mainly due to the awesome “Fight For Your Life!” mechanic, wherein when you die, you have thirty seconds in slow-mo to kill an enemy.  If you do, you get “Second Wind!” and re-enter the game with limited health and shields.  This means that when I’m down, Erin can help me out by accidentally killing the dude I was shooting at, thus dooming me to respawning.
And it’s also fun listening to others do the Equipment Romance, which has five steps:
1)  (Optional) ZOMG THIS GUN IS SO BADASS I’M NOT EVEN LEVELLED UP TO USE IT YET.  This is gonna be so awesome in two levels!
2)  This gun kills God.  In one shot.  I will never ever not use this gun.
3)  Whoo, these enemies are tough.
4)  Why am I dying so much?  It seems like I’m shooting a lot before I actually do damage.  But this weapon has so many extras, like fire and explosions!
5)  Christ, this gun sucks.  I gotta get a new one.

Watching With Friends

When I was twelve, everyone agreed that Dune was a classic piece of sci-fi literature – and by “everyone,” I mean “my sainted Uncle Tommy, who I trusted implicitly” – so I tried to read it.  I got thirty pages in before I gave up.  But a year later Tommy was still reading the Dune sequels, so I tried again.  And also failed.
Took me four times before I finally ingested all of Dune’s vocabulary and concepts and was able to enjoy the book.
I’ve also watched the first three episodes of The Wire three times now, because all the cool kids tell me it’s one of the best and most complex things to ever hit television.  Teh Moast Brilliant Writing Evar!  Except that it’s slow, and pretty humorless, and rather tedious.  I kept flinging myself at this supposed genius, and bouncing straight off.
Then we started watching it with Erin.
It’s a better experience, I think, watching a show with fans of the show who want to enhance your experience.  Because Erin will stop and go, “Okay, that’s significant,” and so I pay attention to something I might have otherwise missed.  She tells me “This guy is cool,” and I immediately rearrange my watching experience to pay more attention to this guy, and like him more because of it.  When I think, “Well, that’s kind of dumb,” Erin reinforces this thought by going, “Yeah, McNulty doesn’t seem to understand the chain of command, ever!” and I immediately comprehend that this is a character trait that I can safely associate with McNulty.
And when she laughs, it’s a laugh that I now get because she’s watched it through and can afford to laugh.  The Wire’s a complex show, presented absolutely straightfaced, and sometimes I don’t see something as quite as cynically funny as it could be in context.  She’s like my own personal laugh track. It focuses the show in a pleasing way, allowing me to summarize a cast of many characters in a satisfactory method.
This is what we did for her, watching all four seasons of Babylon 5: sympathizing when a script was terrible, bemoaning the actors, pointing out that this plot point would be coming up in the next season, noting that this plot could never have been used in Star Trek.  And that got her through Season 1, and propelled her into loving Seasons 2, 3, and 4, which she devoured.
I know there are people who ruin shows by telling everything, but there’s a method to usher people into the love of a new show.  You have to be respectful of the plot twists (let the viewer discover them, you nimrod), you have to not oversell the characters, you have to be sparing with the trivia that you know – and most of all, you have to let them watch.  If you’re speaking up more than once every five minutes or so, you’re probably doing it wrong.  And if you have something truly interesting to say, pause the show to deliver the spiel on Why This Makes The Show More Interesting, and then unpause when it’s time to return.
Even though television is ostensibly a passive process, like most things, it’s best when done with friends and shared love.

Sorry, Mitt

I have two apologies to deliver to Mitt Romney, and one kind-of defense for the Mittster:
I mocked him, via Twitter, for asking why airplanes don’t have roll-down windows.  It’s been reported that Mitt was joking, which I certainly can see happening, so sorry about mocking you for that, Mitt.
I also dinged Mitt for saying that “Middle income is $200,000 to $250,000 and less.”  Now, I think that this statement is thoroughly troublesome in that it defines the starting point of middle class way above what the average American earns, and I think it is symptomatic of Mitt’s inability to understand what normal Americans make.  It was a terrible phrasing to make on television.  However, Obama’s policies define the middle class as “under $250,000,” so what he said was technically true and in line with Obama, even if I’m pretty sure Obama understands that $250k is still an awful lot to make (and I’m not sure Romney does).  But Mr. Romney was technically correct – the best kind of correct, as the bureaucrats on Futurama like to say.
And lastly, I’m a little uncomfortable with the way Romney’s 47% comments have been taken.  Not that his interpretation of those 47% as being slacker wastrels with no sense of morality was good, at all – it summarizes the elitist way that Romney views anyone who disagrees with him.
However, his statement of “My job is not to worry about those people” was miscast.  He was discussing himself as a candidate, not a President.  His current job is to get elected.  And from a marketing standpoint, no, he really has no incentive to reach out to those 47% of people who will never vote for them.  He cannot worry about the people who will vote for Obama no matter what, just as Obama really can’t worry about the 47% of people who will never vote for him.  Both candidates have to worry about a) energizing their base to get out, and b) attracting swing voters.  If you’re a Democrat, fuck it, “pleasing committed Republicans” probably shouldn’t be a part of your campaign strategy.
Reframing that as “Here’s what I’ll do as President” was incorrect, and problematic on many levels.  The rest of those comments were sufficiently damaging, really.  I’m not sure you needed to take that bit out of the context. I feel the same distress I do at, say, the Republicans taking “You didn’t build that” out of context.
However, there is a certain irony here: in discussing what his job was as a candidate, he was sufficiently cold and businesslike that he’s alienated at least some swing voters.  His job wasn’t to worry about those 47%, but he probably should have thought how some of that 6% would have interpreted it if they heard him – which, in this age of “a videophone in every pocket,” he should have anticipated.
Anyway.  Sorry, Mitt.  Now that I’ve apologized and clarified, I’m sure you can rest easy.

Things I Feel Bad About

“Why don’t you talk about me more often?”
As a semi-public figure, The Blog becomes a figure of dread in my relationships.  Because I’ve never dated anyone for whom a mention in The Blog wasn’t a major bennie – to a woman, they’ve all felt the soft-n-fuzzies when I dropped a mention of them in here.  And usually I’m happy to mention them, because I think they’re wise and interesting and full of neat things to say.
But there’s always that weird pushback.  Say, you haven’t mentioned me in The Blog lately.  What I said about you on The Blog wasn’t necessarily fair.  That portion of The Blog seemed inspired by me, was it? And so there is this weird dance between “I want to be on The Blog” and “But I want to look good and beloved.”
Which causes issues.  I don’t like mentioning all the people I’m romantically entangled with on The Blog, because if I bring them on stage and introduce them and say, “Hey, this person is neat and fuzzy and wonderful and we are together!” then I must likely one day go, “…and now this person is not with me any more!”  Which is painful.
As public as I am on The Blog, I actually prefer to keep most of my non-core relationships off the books.
Which is a distinction that most don’t get, and possibly can’t.  It’s not that I won’t mention you on The Blog – if you do something sufficiently interesting, I’ll discuss it.  I’ll certainly mention we’re dating, if it’s something that’s relevant to the discussion at hand.  But I’m not going to go out of my way to establish you as a personality on The Blog, establishing you as someone who’s hand-in-hand with me, linking in my readers’ minds that we are, indeed, Emotionally Combined.  Because chances are good that at some point in the next year or so, we won’t be.
I’ve seen other bloggers do that, and I personally find it exhausting.  Charting other people’s relationships from NRE OMG THEY’RE WONDERFUL to OH THERE’S HOT SEX to WE’RE HAVING PROBLEMS to OH WHAT A JERK is something I don’t want to do in my personal space.  So unless they manage to make it all the way to a “core” partner, of which only three have ever managed and I’m married to one, then I’ll just discuss them as I would politics, or Magic, or any other issue: oh, they did something spiffy, let us note it in The Blog.
The reason I mention this is because an ex mentioned that me not having her on The Blog as a part of my cast of characters was, perhaps, the beginning of the end.  And that’s a perfectly fair reaction – if you’re dating me, why wouldn’t you want to be listed on The Blog’s official cast list?  It was a slight (and one I intended to handle in a follow-up post, which turned out to be more complex to write than I’d thought, and then we broke up before I got around to that).
But it’s also a part of who I am – this is the way I run The Blog, and it takes a lot before I start taking effort to chart the emotional dynamics between the two of us in public, and if that’s an issue, well, I guess we shouldn’t be dating.
And as I said: it often is an issue.  People dating me want to be part of The Blog.  But as I’ve said time and time again, The Blog is not Me.  I am not The Blog.  The Blog is a carefully crafted subset of my life, one that often leaves out very important things – my mother and father were not on the cast of characters, my upsetness over my recent breakup is not on here, my fights with Gini are not on here, my work is not on here, even some of my most precious secrets that I share with Gini are sealed away forever.  Many bits are elided and censored for various reasons, and if you do not make it onto The Blog that doesn’t mean that you’re not relevant or precious.  It means that this part of our relationship did not fit The Blog’s criteria.
I’m open.  I share many things.  But do not confuse The Blog for The Ferrett.  Ever.

Stop Getting Your Email Hacked!

At least five of my friends have been email-hacked over the last week.  Which is just proof you all need to move to two-factor authentication.
Look, people steal passwords all the time.  They pluck them out of the air over wi-fi, they steal them via keyloggers, they even guess them if you’re an idiot who uses “letmein” (or anything on this list of common passwords).
But if you have a Google or Yahoo account, you can make it so that no one can log into your account without two things: the password, and a security code texted to your phone.  This makes it all but impossible for anyone who’s not you to log in, and will save your account from all sorts of embarrassment.
This sounds inconvenient – what if I lose my cell phone? I have to do this every time? – and so Coding Horror has a very good walkthrough as to how two-factor authentication really works, which I encourage you to read.  I’ve been using it for about six weeks now, and have found it not a problem at all to use.  And I’m a lot safer. Go look at it, then do it now.
If you have a Hotmail account, delete it, burn it, and then burn the ashes.  Microsoft’s security on Hotmail blows, man.  Sorry.