Photoshop Phriday – Week 4 – Super Tim

I’ve made no secret of the fact that when I was a kid I wanted to grow up to be just like Superman. After experimenting with various ways to gain superpowers, I gave up and set my sites on being the next Batman, then quarterback sensation (4th grade to 7th grade), lawyer (8th grade off/on until I found out Constitutional Law was only available as an 8am class at Luther), mild-mannered reporter, and eventually teacher.

This week I decided to spare my brothers embarrassment and picked one that featured only me (and part of my dad) which meant picking a birthday photo since we tended to be shot in group format at most other times of the year. In this one I had just woken up, thrown my clothes out into the hall for the wash, and was presented with my awesome new shirt which I wore as often as Mom would allow. Trying to find an appropriate modern picture to work from, I found the one inset from a recent Christmas where I was similarly sleepy.

Superman shirt for birthday

Photoshop Phriday – Week 3 – Iron Man 4

This week I wanted to take a break from family photos as I’m working on a large project for a cousin. I had spotted a Geeks Are Sexy post on Avengers as Star Wars characters and thought I should do something along those lines.

While I was always subscribed to the equation DC > Marvel, I thought I could take something from the DC playbook and apply it. I wanted to focus on Loki since he’s back, so I thought about Mordred’s mayhem and Mxyzptlk’s mischief. I then thought about all of the 80s movies that RDJ was in and knew I could probably lift a photo from there, the hard ones were to be Gwyneth and Tom Huddlestone.

Anyway, without further adieu…

Iron Man 4 - Loki's Revenge

Geek Out – Man of Steel Style

Superman's beardOn YouTube over the past week I’ve been bombarded with ads by Gillette regarding how Superman shaves. Canon from the books, Lois and Clark, and the animated series purports he uses a mirror to reflect his heat vision. I’ve never been a huge fan of that as he would have to trim his hair that way. How many times would he get super-sneezes trying to clean up his nose hair before he got it down right?

So I checked out the ad and thought for sure someone would agree with the way I had envisioned. Bill Nye’s theory was that he shaved by grinding his hair down like a power sander, which is laborious and doesn’t address his coiffure. Mayim Bialik suggests that he has an enzymatic lotion, which again, would give him Lex Luthor’s hair instead of that perfect spit curl. The final entry, from the Mythbusters, is that he uses the large hadron collider.

None of the experts got it – all of their theories are crap as they were paid by Gillette to think within the box of his facial hair.

Superman’s Hair Care Secret

The closest was Kevin Smith who looked at Superman’s vulnerabilities and ruled out kryptonite (based on the reference he meant green kryptonite – which is an important qualification) and magic (his logic of Superman having to study magic being sound, but he could acquire an enchanted razor from one of Earth’s practitioners). Granted, he could keep around a lead lined charm with blue kryptonite (renders him human during exposure) for days when he wanted to stop by the barber and get a shave or a trim, but why would he choose to subject himself to the possibility of a nemesis dispatching him in such a condition.

The first part of the equation is that Jor El provided for technology for his son in his transport. Canon stipulates that he has a Fortress of Solitude holding the scientific wisdom of Krypton. If you read Reign of the Supermen which came after the Death of Superman, you would have seen that that fortress included a number of robots that maintain his sanctum and service him.

The second part of the equation is an understanding of his superpowers. They are derived from his ability to metabolize and infuse his body with yellow sun radiation. During “Eclipso: The Darkness Within” Superman was cut off from the Earth’s yellow sun and had to rely on fruits and vegetables to regain a portion of his power. Like Daxamites, Superman is vulnerable to red sun radiation as it suppresses his yellow sun powers.

So the solution – a barber bot in the Fortress of Solitude with the ability to generate red sun radiation in a targeted manner. Need a shave, the red sun laser targets the follicles, rendering them mundane enough for a standard razor to cut them. The same goes for his nose hair and coif. Who is going to believe that Clark Kent and Superman are different people if they both show up with poorly shorn hair? In addition, his Fortress sensors should pick up any incoming threat with sufficient time for the cantaloupe pomade to be applied, so as to avoid duplicating Lex Luthor’s iconic look in the event of a super-villain assault.

Cover photo courtesy:  Ben Northern

Geek History and the Defense of Marriage

Geek TattoosI came across an article this week that sheds new light on the battle within our culture on marriage equality. For years, religious organizations have insisted that they originated the practice of marriage and so they should be able to veto changes, as if they’ve licensed it to the government like Microsoft Windows.

The problem is that religious institutions did not invent the monogamous human relationship – geeks did. According to researchers at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, alpha males once ruled (think bighorn sheep butting heads for mating rights) and set the tone with multiple partners. Beta males (read: proto-geeks) had to invent a new paradigm if they wanted to get nookie and found inspiration in the “mate for life” species (science FTW!). A 2009 British survey bears out that geeks are still tops in the single partner game.

Because of our efforts, childhood survival rates increased and the modern family evolved. So if we’re entering an era of marriage 1.1, move over religious institutions and let geeks decide. If religious institutions insist they have truly shepherded the institution all these years, they’ve done a crap job of it – it’s failure rate is probably worse than the virus infection rate of a bit torrent site. On the other hand, I think you will find that most geeks aren’t threatened by two people of any gender combination wanting to express their love for one another in a state-sanctioned ceremony. We also probably wouldn’t let government hand out so many marriage certificates to adolenscents who may not have reached the abstract reasoning phase of their development or even people who might be too intoxicated or filled with passion to make an informed decision.

To be honest,  religion handed off the word “marriage” to government long ago. I firmly believe that via the freedom of religion, churches have every right to determine who is married in the eyes of their congregation. Coupling that with freedom of association, they can also decide whether or not to hang out with them. The mandate that is missing which they cling to blindly is the determination of who is married in the eyes of the government. The government must determine whether a separate and unequal system is constitutional. Another step towards rendering it unconstitutional was taken in Boston this week.

Let me note before people try to discount me as a blathering iconoclast that I don’t have a problem with religious institutions or their adherents – I have a problem with some of the actions they take. I was incensed in high school physics when I heard what the Catholic church did to Galileo. That disgust for the wrong-minded actions of people lacking objectivity grew more entrenched when I learned the history of Martin Luther at Luther College.  To me, the epitome of Christian values are forgiveness and doing unto others as we would have done unto us. Were I inclined to pledge my love to someone of the same sex, I would want the same rights as any other person under the law, so by the golden rule I cannot stand in the way of someone’s happiness who feels that way and wants those rights.

Close-minded zealots have long denied what are now logical human rights in the past and have had to apologize later. Slavery was allowed in The Bible. Interracial marriages were somehow against God. I truly believe that we’re going to see the same thing happening in the future with this decision.

Still disagree with me? Then use the rights the Constitution did grant you and pick a new word. The government has been given irrevocable authority over the word “marriage” – let it go. Re-create your version of marriage under a new banner (coadunation actually fits a heterogeneous union) and use the freedom of religion and association clauses to maintain its sacredness. Think of it as akin to the dichotomy of graduation and baccalaureate – one is an affair of the state and the other is of the church.

Creative Commons License Francis Storr via Compfight

iPad 3 – My Reaction

iPad screen courtesy By Avijeet_SachdevI wanted to take a moment to add a reaction to Apple’s big news this week. Everyone pretty much knew what was coming out so few surprises. I think we’ve hit that point in the smart phone/tablet production cycle where there’s almost no big news except for the newest iteration of Android (Ice Cream Sandwich included a lot of tasty treats – I think I hit full upgrade credit on my Evo in May and I can’t wait).

4G LTE: about time that Apple entered the 4G world – Android’s been owning them in that space for the last 2 years and that’s one of the primary reason why Android has almost a 2 to 1 margin in the cell phone market over Apple (other factors: exclusivity deals and a one size fits all mentality for hardware instead of embracing diversity). Apple’s fear of offending their loyalists by losing battery life (4G chews on battery) over faster downloads just continues to demonstrate that their overall “we know best” ideology is incongruent with today’s customer-centric world (they got around screen brightness with a dimmer switch to extend battery life – does it take 2 years to follow Android’s 4G toggle model?). That said – I have Wi-Fi and a phone that I can use as a 4G hotspot, so no game changer here.

Retina Display: Everyone pretty much expected this too after the iPhone 4. It’s nice, but it’s a bit like watching Blu-Ray – you lose a lot of the impact depending on how far away you are from the source. What this means is that design firms will start trying to sell people on being on the bleeding edge of the new higher definition, not taking into account the fact that Verizon and AT&T (Sprint was evidently left off of this release – I have heard that Sprint paid huge bucks for iPhone 5 exclusivity and this might be an attempt to pacify the competitors) limit bandwidth and as we know, higher graphic intensity equals more bandwidth chewing and the sooner you are going to get charged for 4G overages or have your connection throttled down. It also doesn’t take into account the install base of most monitors out there whether they be the screen of a tablet, smart phone, laptop, or the 19″ monitor many people still have on their desks. So you’re going to re-design for a small percentile of the market? I can see later on as the adoption rate grows and 4G bandwidth opens up, but I would not jump into that right now just to be on the bleeding edge – the audience isn’t big enough for ROI unless you are positioned there like graphic designers.

iPad 2: I think the truly big news is dropping a hundred off of the iPad 2 and continuing to sell it to see if they can erode the demand for Kindle Fires and other low price point Android tablets that have allowed Android to actually make inroads in the tablet market. I had heard people suggest that they would release an iPad3 at the same form factor and price point as the Fire, but I never believed it because of their iPod line price structure (the iPod Touch sits at the same price point as the Fire for a much smaller screen – you can’t basically create a larger version of the Touch at the same price point without a domino effect on the entire line …unless you were dialed into a 2 year contract for 3/4G and there was no WiFi only option, but then users would cry foul).

Photo provided by Avijeet_Sachdev

My Geeky Valentine

Sorry for the tardiness of a Valentine’s post. I considered posting a deep philosophical piece, but thought better of it. Instead, I’ll tell you my geeky Valentine’s Day story.

The year was 2000  and I was living in what was roughly the Big Bang Theory apartment, but without all of the physics banter. Two of us worked at a web design firm during the day and came home to play EverQuest and watch various sci-fi TV shows at night (although he got far ahead of me because I had gotten involved in Junior Chamber). The third worked at a job he didn’t talk much about, coached debate (his real passion), and spent his off nights watching pro wrestling. We were all nice, considerate guys who got along well and rarely had visitors.

As the Leonard of the group, I was the bespectacled, fluffy haired one who was attracted to a woman who liked jerks and drama. What can I say, I had a White Knight syndrome until it got burned out of my system a few years later.

The girl in question was buddies with the women from my office, so I hit upon a cunning plan to invite them over for Valentine’s Day since their boyfriends were non-existent or fairly lame. My lure: having a guy cook for them while they watched Sex and the City on DVD and drank “girly drinks.” Of course the 6 women I invited turned into 9 as friends and sisters tagged along (if I remember, I don’t think the girl even showed up) so we chopped up the raspberry glazed chicken breasts and I made more rice and veggies. We had a blast chatting and drinking, so the more the merrier.

Somewhere during the cooking and DVD watching, the debate coach came home. I don’t remember if I had mentioned to him the fact that I was throwing a party, but he said hello to me, looked at the food I was slaving over, and then walked into the living room. All the girls turned to look at him and then he turned back to me in a look approaching utter shock, then proceeded to walk directly into his room and didn’t come back out until they were gone.

This story has been re-told time and again when I get together with one of my former office buddies and each time she probably embellishes his expression a bit more.

Image by Cali4beach (modified slightly)

Gamers and the Social Media Curve

“The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed.”
William Gibson

Scourge of KaranasTo some degree, the social media revolution was intuitive for me because I had already been through it. An entire sector of the populace had, they just didn’t necessarily make the connection.

What hit mainstream Earth in the late aughts was merely a wave of innovation that had already ravaged Norrath, Azeroth, and the like. Those of us who had spent years hunched over a keyboard chatting with friends from across the world had already developed impressive skills with existing technologies to facilitate better communication in a virtual world.

In MMOs, communications are separated into channels. There are local channels, zone channels, help channels, team channels, and guild level channels. Before Google+ created circles, Everquest and other MMOs were already offering this segmentation to their subscribers.

When I first heard about Twitter, I was instantly reminded of the inanity that was the zone-wide channels where people would incessantly hock their wares, troll for drama, or ask questions in the hopes of finding a mentor. I tended to hide that channel if I could because the chatter was usually worthless and a distraction from what I was usually trying to accomplish on the team or guild level channels where there were people I knew and cared about (sort of like Facebook, only without the pictures and Zynga games). But occasionally, I wouldn’t have an expert available within my core of friends and I would have to wade into those channels to find information.

Outside of the game we would cluster around bulletin boards/forums for the information we needed to achieve our in-game goals. People provided their own take on how to accomplish something, often trying to be the first to discover a new strategy and earn some credibility (my claim to fame: Ring Around the Rosie kiting). Those who posted the most often and with the most insight developed a following not unlike the Klout elite of today – we just never had a score for it.

When you are looking for a solution to a modern problem with social media, consider broadening the scope of your search to Norrath or Azeroth for a solution.

Get Your Social Media On

Thumbnail of RockMelt + Google ReaderSocial Media is something that I’ve dabbled in but never felt like an expert in by any sense of the imagination. In my new role as a corporate trainer, this was a topic that my client base expressed an interest in so I’ve spent the last month scurrying about trying to flesh out my knowledge base.

For this week’s blog entry, I’d like to give you a peek at two resources that I found useful.

Google Reader

This is a great utility if you’re feeling like you’re getting behind on information. I used to rely on friends to keep me up to date on what’s cool and hip in the world, but no one friend is going to share every single one of my passions and so I’ve had to follow multiple people religiously on Facebook and hope they didn’t miss a story. That’s simply not an option in today’s marketplace for people who need to be experts. Google Reader to the rescue!

You have probably heard about RSS feeds. What this means is that when something gets published on the web (via a blog, news source, etc.) if you subscribe to the associated RSS feed, it will be delivered to the RSS reader of your choice (in this case, Google Reader). Rather than going out to numerous sites as you are probably used to, the content gets “pushed” to you.

» An example of Google Reader in action

If you have a smart phone, you can download an app that will allow you to read through these on the go and synchronizes with the web site version so that you can effectively cross off the ones you’ve already read through. For work I read through a lot of tech and real estate related sources for what’s happening in the industry and then for fun, I keep up on politics, video games, and whatever cool stuff Geeks are Sexy has been identifying like AT-AT costumes for dogs (Cerbie would be miserable if I tried to fit her in one).

RockMelt

When it comes to browsers, I’ve found that I need to separate work from play in order to maintain focus. Google Chrome is my preferred browser because it’s fast and it hasn’t caused me the level of stress that IE and Firefox have managed in the past. So when I’m off hours, I need something that tells me I can have fun, but at the same time, I wanted something that was as reliable as Chrome. Enter RockMelt, a social media browser that uses Chrome as a base.

If you clicked on the thumbnail or example of Google Reader above, you probably spotted the social media features. It links you to and tracks information like new e-mails, RSS feeds, tweets, Facebook posts, and the like. It also shows you on the right hand side which of your Facebook friends are online so you can message them. As you browse the web, it will identify feeds that it can keep track of for you.

It’s not perfect – I’ve had some issues with it not tracking some feeds, especially if there is a login involved. But I’m sticking with it as my default off-hours browser.

Speak Out With Your Geek Out – Which Super Power?

Mallrats

Brandi Svenning: Second Suitor – if you were a comic-book character, what character would you be?
Brodie Bruce: Wow, that’s a great question. A tough one, though. What does one gauge his response on?

  • Physical prowess?
  • Keen detection skills?
  • The ability to banter well with super villains?

– Mallrats

I belong to multiple groups that inhabit Geekdom, but one of the groups I align myself most is comic book geeks. Of that set, perhaps the most commonly asked question that defines the individual is: If you could have any superpower, what would you choose? If they choose invisibility, do they want to spy on other people? If they choose flight do they feel overwhelmed by life and want to fly away?

mallrats3Before I provide my answer, I want to give you a sense of the evolution of it. While most other kids were planning to be a football star or an astronaut, I dreamed of being a superhero. In those early years I tried staring into the sun, paper clip in the wall socket, and mixing juices multiple times between two glasses just like the mad scientists. No luck. When that gave out, I wound up building batarangs in the basement with twine glued to the end hoping to climb the side of my house. Around 4th grade I accepted defeat and decided quarterback wouldn’t be so bad.

The earliest answer I can remember was flight. Then at around 4th Grade I started reading Dolphin Rider and Other Greek Myths multiple times and became fascinated with Hermes and by association, The Flash, and for a while I was all about the super speed (the DC version, real comic book geeks know the difference). As I grew older, I moved on to Green Lantern and the virtual utility belt that solid light constructs could offer. That transitioned into telekinesis and remained my go to answer up until grad school.

BrainiacIn one of my educational theory courses, my answer fundamentally shifted to: full-spectrum supragenius. I’m not talking Brainiac 5 with his pure logical reasoning, who can create an anti-gravity metal as a byproduct of another experiment and then doesn’t see how it will revolutionize his teammates’ ability to move three-dimensionally – I’m talking the whole enchilada.

The catalyst was my study of Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences. The theory goes that geniuses don’t just come in one variety, there are many types:

  1. Logical-mathematical: Math and scientific reasoning capacity
  2. Spatial: Ability to visualize – used by artists, architects, and Tetris afficianados
  3. Linguistic: Reading, writing, verbal recall, and assimilating new languages
  4. Bodily-kinesthetic: Body control/awareness/reflexes
  5. Musical: Absolute pitch, ability to compose music, and master instruments
  6. Interpersonal: Ability to judge others mood/motivation and communicate effectively
  7. Intrapersonal: Intuition plus deep understanding of self
  8. Naturalistic: Being in tune with nature – naturalists, gardeners
  9. Existential: Ability to contemplate beyond what can be seen/felt

LimitlessIf you want a good perspective on what this would look like, check out the movie Limitless which taps into most of Gardner’s intelligences.

You may look at that and say “But Tim, just being a genius? That seems pretty lame compared to being able to fly.” True, but the beauty of genius is the ability to overcome obstacles. Look at Batman – is there any superhero/villain he can’t take down given the time and resources? He took down Superman in Frank Miller’s epic “The Dark Knight Returns”.

The other factor to consider is the fact that with superpowers, you would begin to disconnect from humanity. Who can truly fathom what is being asked of you? Who can empathize with your gifts? Have you ever been in a room of people trying to convince them that your vision of some possible outcome is the way to go and none of them can either attune to your logic or will hear you out? That’s the beauty of full spectrum – Interpersonal, Intrapersonal, Existential, Musical, and Linguistic are part of the package, guaranteeing that you will be able to maintain your connection with the rest of humanity and be able to sustain meaningful relationships.

I don’t expect everyone to agree with me that this would be the best superpower, but if you’re considering your own answer, I highly suggest that you check out the following informative videos that may help you make a wise decision. Then feel free to post your own selection in the comments area and try and sway the rest of us to your logic (which would be easy if you had logical, linguistic, and intrapersonal supragenius). :)

And if you’re a Wolverine fan boy, consider:

Why Flairicus? Evolution of an Identity

The earliest nickname I was given was “Touchdown” because my first and second initials are “TD”. This was used infrequently so it never stuck. During my school years I didn’t really have a nickname other than the occasional “Runt” reference (I graduated high school at 5’1” tall whereas my brothers were 6’+) or “Einstein” (end product of  an intellectual discussion in a video arcade, much to my delight).

Chimichanga

Who wouldn’t want a nickname based off of a deep fat fried burrito?

In college I wound up with “Chonga” – a natural progression from “Chimi” after I insisted that “Timmy” was the kid who always fell down the well in “Lassie” and hence my stern refusal to go by that name (NOTE: In the early 2000s I would modify this restriction to allow for the use of “Tim-mah!” as I had a lot of friends who enjoyed South Park). The name appealed to my linguistic interests as it felt like such a guttural, almost bestial name such as you might give to a literary Tarzan clone, thereby making it the equivalent of calling the tallest kid in school “Tiny.”

I got online in the early ‘90s, but I didn’t want to use “Chonga” as it would be visible to my peers and the faculty. I remember that I spent part of a morning and my entire lunch at Tonn’s Restaurant brainstorming numerous options. I was serious about this – I had a lot of considerations as the name would invariably define me to some degree on a collegiate level.

Some of the criteria I compiled in my head:

1. I wanted something that would set me up as having a sense of humor.
2. I had a fascination with Q from “Star Trek: The Next Generation”, but there was a low end character limit.
3. I also wanted a literary allusion to establish my English major cred.

MercutioSomewhere in the middle of scarfing down Spicy Chicken while paging through the compilation of Shakespeare’s plays which I had lugged with me, I turned to Romeo and Juliet and there it was: Mercutio. I had found something that met all three criteria (I pronounce the second syllable in the same manner as “queue”) and it was thematically appropriate in that I enjoy a good verbal sparring and often described myself as a “tragic comic.” A year later I would curse my lack of foresight when I signed up for my account on the Krypton server and was forced to use Mercutio@krypton.msu.edu instead of KalEl@krypton.msu.edu.

After grad school, I began work as a web site designer and I needed a new nickname for designer cred. I had become fascinated with the world pair of “flair/flare” and how when you vocalized it the meaning was similar in that both words symbolized flashy and dramatic, something I aspired for my designs to be. I began using it as a standard handle on Internet forums which I contributed to and when playing online games with my friends.

The problem with “Flair” was the advent of Office Space brought a lot of visibility to the word and getting it as a user name on most systems became nigh impossible. I started throwing in “Mc” in front of it but Grey’s Anatomy started a “Mc” craze so by necessity I had to find an alternative and opted for Hellenification (aka, getting my Greek on).