Gadget graveyard

Over the years I’ve gotten pretty good at purging junk when things start to pile up too much. Except when it comes to gadgets, that is! Some bring back memories of a certain time of my life, some are oddities that were hot for 5 minutes before vanishing from the market (anyone remember the MiniDisc?), some made an impact on my life in some way…and some I just really enjoyed using. I also think it’s fun to look back at old gadgets and see what made them popular, and what’s replaced them since. It’s a mixture of things, but overall they just appeal to my geek side and I’m not quite ready to get rid of them, even if they’re just sitting in a box in the garage. (Some of them I did get rid of, which I now regret — see “Gone but not forgotten” at the bottom.)

Not my actual gadget pile.

Does this mean I have a gadget hoarding problem? Maaaaaybe.

Anyway, a few years ago I decided to round up all the old gadgets that were sitting in various junk boxes and see what I ended up with, and here’s the more interesting stuff I found. I’ll present them in roughly the order I had/used them, just to be all organized and stuff.

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At last, my petty annoyance has been validated

For at least a decade, whenever I see an article/blog post/whatever ending with “Wait, what?” I feel two things: 1) Contempt for the writer’s lazy, clickbait approach to headlines, and 2) sudden, irrational rage.

I can’t really explain why, but there’s just something about seeing that stupid phrase tacked to the end of a headline that makes me roll my eyes hard enough to see the back of my skull. Maybe it’s because I’ve seen it done LITERALLY THOUSANDS OF TIMES, and it stopped being amusing after the first two or three.

But after so many years of personal anguish, I finally know that someone else out there feels my pain! Behold: the 2022 list of misused, bullshitty words and phrases that everyone (including you) should stop using:

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So…real-life Quidditch is a thing

I should say this up front: I’m not a sports guy. I don’t follow sports at all, it’s just nowhere on my radar at any time. I’m the guy who never knows when there’s a Big Game™ on, and I don’t know what team is from where, or what they even play. And if asked, I honestly couldn’t give two shits about this team leading that other team in the 4-3 zone at the bottom of the whatever while the backcourt defense runs offensive interference for the tight-end shortstop with 7 hours left on the clock. I played a few when I was younger, though — leading up to high school, my parents made me play at least one season of baseball, football, and soccer before they finally relented and just let me be the band nerd I was meant to be.

When it comes to sports scenes in movies or T.V., I’m just as indifferent. (I do enjoy those Ninja Warrior shows, especially the UK and Australian ones. Do those count?) Even fictional sports like quidditch or pro-bending on “Korra” are pretty ho-hum to me. It just feels like an interruption in the story, you know?

However! When I spotted some recent headlines about quidditch teams, I had to stop and read more to make sure I wasn’t just having a senility moment.

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Paging George R.R. Jordan…

We recently watched an old episode of the fantastic and sorely-missed “@midnight”, and there was a joke about George R.R. Martin still not having his next book finished.

This episode aired OVER SIX YEARS AGO.

We’re never getting that book, folks. I have a feeling he’s gonna pull a Robert Jordan and leave us all hanging!

Bomb threat pranks: what could go wrong?

Ridiculous video “challenges” have been around for years, mostly on Instagram and YouTube. Remember people eating detergent pods and poisoning themselves? And choking to death trying to swallow mouthfuls of cinnamon? And licking public surfaces to get COVID? And pouring boiling water on sleeping friends? And “surfing” on top of moving cars? Good times! For idiots, I mean.

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Twitchin’ your life away?

Here’s the story of a guy who makes millions of dollars by streaming his videogames every day for 10 hours. He has no other life to speak of. No friends, no relationships other than a girlfriend and a mom he pays to bring him dinner every night (seriously). Just gaming and sleep, and trips to the gym so he doesn’t turn into a mouse-clicking blob of biomass. And depression, and paranoia, and exhaustion, and stalkers. But apparently allllll the attention and huge paychecks make it worth it. Kind of. Maybe?

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Game savin’

Videogames, especially on home consoles, have had a massive impact on our culture for decades. If you’re old enough, you remember when they suddenly came onto the scene and forever changed how we use our T.V.s. If you’re young enough, you’ve never known a time when videogames didn’t exist. Knowing all this, why wouldn’t we want to preserve older games for future generations to enjoy, as well as appreciate for their historical value? Predictably, two of the main obstacles to this are rights-holders and money. But gaming geeks have been finding workarounds for quite a while, and they’re finally getting some support from one of today’s biggest gaming companies. It’s about damn time!

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A facepalm 30 years late

In my late teens I wrote some dumb freeware games for the Atari ST computer. They were just silly fluff, but fun to make and somewhat educational programming-wise. One in particular was a bit on the tacky side and is best left forgotten (though it had a decent number of downloads). Aside from that, I played a ton of games on that thing and had a blast.

Cut to today. I’m able to emulate the old Atari ST on my modern PC and run all those games I used to play. So I downloaded a ridiculously large collection of games and started digging thru and playing my old favorites.

And then I spotted it: that tacky game I made in 1990, the Gulf War one that would be borderline offensive it wasn’t so completely dumb. Right in there with far more respectable titles. They even included screenshots and the original doc file I wrote for it…both of which include my full name and address in AZ where I used to live with my parents. OMG. 🤦

Naturally I did some searching to see if the game surfaced anywhere else, and behold: some French guy actually “reviewed” it on YouTube a few years ago. He thought it was as dumb and pointless as it was meant to be. It’s also pretty difficult, and I have to admit feeling a little smug watching him try to play it. (No, I’m not linking to the video!)

Why couldn’t it have been one of my other games, like “Zit Blaster”? Or its inevitable sequel “Zit Blaster II: Revenge of the Whiteheads”?

Digital ghosts

This is a re-worked and updated 2016 post from my other blog.

In November 2014 I got on Facebook and there were all these messages posted to a friend’s profile saying things like: “Steve, why??” “What happened?”  “i miss you my best friend.”  I thought “WTF?”, with a sinking feeling.  Many more messages followed, referring to him in the past tense, and finally it hit me that he had taken his own life.  For weeks afterward, people posted messages on there as more and more people found out about it.

Coming to terms with his death and that horrible sense of loss was one thing — but this business of someone’s Facebook profile staying active after their death, and people posting messages to it (and each other), was something new for me.

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