geek culture

A Portal 2 Marriage Proposal

by Joey deVilla on August 23, 2011

How does a gamer propose marriage to another gamer? If the first gamer is well-connected, he gets a level designer, an artist and the voice actor behind GLaDOS (your cybernetic tormentor in the Portal games) to create a special set of Portal levels (and not simple ones, either) which conclude in a big church-like chamber and GLaDOS popping the question on his behalf. The video above shows gameplay from these levels.

If you have the PC or Mac version of Portal 2, you can take these levels for a spin:

  • Download them from here
  • Put the VPK in the addons directory
  • Put the bik files in the media directory
  • Open up the console and type map la_bringing_together

First the zombie-themed engagement photos and now marriage proposal videogame levels. Are these signs of a geek marriage chic trend?

This article also appears in Global Nerdy.

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Friday Morning Ritual

by Joey deVilla on December 4, 2010

Biking Downtown

View from the eastbound bike lane at University Avenue and College street, with two cyclists ahead

With Accordion City’s rapid transit being quite prone to delay and the distance from my home in High Park to downtown being just over 7 km (about 4.5 miles), biking downtown is often just as quick as taking the subway. Biking has the added benefit of “free” exercise in addition to getting me from point A to point B, hence my tendency to get to the core via two wheels whenever possible and practical.

College Street is a good east/west thoroughfare for bikes. It’s mostly level, many parts of it have a dedicated bike lane, there’s lots to see and some good places to stop by if you have the time, and during the day, it doesn’t get as congested as some of the east/west streets further south.

I shot the photo above at the corner of College and University. The eastbound bike lane on this part of College at the time I took it – around 8:30 a.m. on a Friday – is usually quite full. I was at the head of a pack of bikes, with these two cyclists ahead of me and another half dozen or so clumped behind me. Most of the cyclists appeared to be students or people who worked in places with casual dress codes, although I saw a couple of guys in suits with their right pant legs strapped (so as not to get caught in the gears) and with executive-type leather laptop bags slung over their shoulders.

Greg Wilson’s Nerd Breakfast

A long booth at Fran's diner, with assorted Toronto nerds drinking coffee and conversing

The reason I was biking downtown was to attend Greg Wilson’s weekly nerd breakfast. I first met Greg via email when he was doing some editorial work for Dr. Dobb’s Journal (back when it was still available in dead-tree form) and asked me to write a couple of book reviews, then in person through DemoCamp and various activities he organized when he was one of University of Toronto’s best-loved computer science profs.

He’s since left academia and is working on his own, and that’s why he holds these weekly breakfasts. Escaping the Land of Cubicles and working on your own has many perquisites, but one of the big downsides is the isolation. Greg holds a Friday morning breakfast gathering at Fran’s near Yonge and College as a way of staying in touch with his peers, and it’s become a Friday morning ritual for local nerds both student and professional, indie and corporate.

If you’re a techie local to Accordion City and want to catch one of these breakfasts or become a regular, I’m sure Greg wouldn’t mind if you simply dropped by. We’re usually at the back of Fran’s on Fridays from 8:30 a.m. to 9:15-ish.

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Jeff “Cooking for Geeks” Potter’s Book Tour

by Joey deVilla on September 21, 2010

Jeff Potter poses with his book, Cooking for Geeks, at HacklabTO

Last night, I caught Jeff Potter’s presentation in support of his book, Cooking for Geeks, at HacklabTO, a hackerspace in Toronto’s Kensington Market. Like most authors, he’s been touring around, promoting the book, but unlike most authors, he’s avoided the usual venues. Rather than talking at bookstores or pubs, he’s been holding his book gatherings in cosier settings such as living rooms and spaces like the Hacklab.

Cooking for Geeks is written with a specific sort of person in mind: one who likes to know how things work. It’s for the science buff who wants to know more than just how to cook the perfect steak, but why that method works. It’s for the tinkerer who wants to convert ordinary kitchen instruments into really cool cooking devices, either because s/he can’t afford those devices or because s/he’s driven to tinker. It’s about giving people the right mental models to understand the processes that happen when we take ingredients and turn them into dinner.

Jeff opened his presentation with a “What Type of Cook are You?” test borrowed from Brian Wansink, author of Mindless Eating, which help you better understand the way you see food and your approach to cooking. It turns out that I’m a hybrid of Type A (the “comfort food” sort of person) and Type D (the “experimental” sort of person). I’m the sort of person who often – but not always — follows the “Law of the Precious and Rare” at restaurants, ordering the thing I can’t get or make at home, or the dish that I haven’t had in ages.

Jeff’s presentation was eye-opening and even inspirational. Leigh Honeywell, who was also there, was so inspired by the part about sous-vide cooking and how you can put together your own immersion cooker by hacking a slow cooker’s thermostat that she’s sourcing the parts as I write this. Perhaps we’ll have tasty sous-vide steaks at Hacklab next week! Thanks, Jeff!

Cover of "Cooking for Geeks"If you missed last night’s presentation and you’re in Toronto, you’re in luck. Jeff’s doing his presentation today (Tuesday, September 21) in two places, and he’s got books for sale as well. He’ll be at:

Bonus! I bought an extra copy of Cooking for Geeks and had Jeff autograph it. I’m going to give it away in a contest of some sort – I just haven’t decided what sort of contest, Watch this space!

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.

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Tonight at HacklabTO: Cooking for Geeks!

by Joey deVilla on September 20, 2010

Cover of "Cooking for Geeks"

If you’re in or around Toronto’s Kensington Market area tonight, you might want to drop by the Hacklab (170a Baldwin Street, above Graffiti’s) to see O’Reilly author Jeff Potter as his book tour for Cooking for Geeks stops at Toronto’s downtown hackerspace. He’ll be there, talking about his book and possibly treating us to a demo or two, and I’ll be there, helping to host the event. Jeff says he’ll have a number of books on him for sale – but note that it’s first come, first serve, and I’m buying one!

Here’s a video of the author showing you how to make ice cream in 30 seconds (with liquid nitrogen!):

The event starts tonight (Monday, September 20th) at 7:00 p.m. – be there!

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.

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When LARPers Become AARPers

by Joey deVilla on August 8, 2010

What magazine would people into LARP who’ve just joined AARP read? This one:

aarlarp magazine

For those of you who don’t get the “Lightning Bolt!” reference (or if you just need another fix of this dork-larious moment), watch this video:

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The Geek Alphabet

by Joey deVilla on May 14, 2010

The blog Geeks are Sexy put together a wonderful alphabet rhyme using Creative Commons “share-alike”-licensed photos on Flickr, which I thought I’d share with you:

geek alphabet

Here’s the text of the rhyme, along with a credit for each corresponding photo:

A is for Away Team, where you should never wear red (mild mannered photographer)
B is for Binary, 1s and 0s in your head (jpstanley)
C is for Cosplay, making cons an awesome place
D is for Doctor, who keeps changing face (great beyond)
E is for Emoticons, that tell you what we’re feeling (neal gillis)
F is for Flickr, whose photos we are “stealing” (tricky)
G is for Gadgets, the way to our heart (slipstreamjc)
H is for Hardware, I took it apart! (jurvetson)
I is for iEverything, love it or hate it (dan dickinson)
J is for Japan, we’re glad Nintendo invaded (oscar mota)
K is for Keyboard, we love every letter (andrew*)
L is for Leias, the more the better! (koadmunkee)
M is for MMORPGs, it’s a magical place (i eated a cookie)
N is for NASA, and the beauty of space (nasa1fan)
O is for Occipital Lobe, we love using our brains (illuminaut)
P is for Programming, ((though lisp is a pain)) (phil_jackson)
Q is for Quilting, and other geeky crafts (athenamat)
R is for Reading, no matter what the path (timonoko)
S is for Science, though the cake is a lie (don solo)
T is for Tabletop, and a 20-sided die (nengard)
U is for Uncertainty, you just never know (neil crosby)
V is for Voltage, oh the places we’ll go! (oskay)
W is for the World Wide Web, it’s more than just porn (shimown)
X is for Xerox, where so much geekiness was born (marc smith)
Y is for Youth, since kids are geeks too (benmcleod)
Z is for Zork, watch out for the grue! (the_tml)

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.

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“Star Trek: The Next Generation”, Deconstructed

by Joey deVilla on March 24, 2010

The comic below, created by John Campbell, is a snarky but amusing deconstruction of Star Trek: The Next Generation:

John Campbell's comic, skillfully decosntructing Star TrekI always found it funny that the “empathic” character Deanna Troi had the power to sense plainly obvious emotions and painful that they had to explain bits of human behaviour that one should’ve picked up by the end of adolescence. That being said, much of the show’s audience was teenage boys, and teens often figure out the world through stories, so why not explain that stuff? And as someone much wiser than me once said, science fiction is a sandwich: once you’ve gotten past the bread of aliens and future tech and the thin slices of plot meat, it’s all about the thick moral mayo.

The last panels in this comic had me laughing out loud, especially since I imagined the line as delivered by actor (and dater-of-inapproriately-young-women, the lucky bastard) Patrick Stewart himself, using that William. Shatner. Mode. Of. Delivery.

In case it’s not apparent who the comic figures are, here’s a quick guide…

Captain Jean-Luc Picard

Comic and TV representations of Jean-Luc Picard

 

Commander William Riker

Comic and TV representations of Will Riker

 

Lt. Commander Data

Comic and TV representations of Data

 

Lt. Commander Deanna Troi

Comic and TV representations of Deanna Troi

This article also appears in Global Nerdy.

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