an open letter to nintendo

First off, let me congratulate you on still being around. As a company, I mean. You’ve been around since 1889, and that’s no small feat. Many companies have gone under or been bought-out or became subsidiaries of other companies in half the time you’ve been around. Yet you have escaped each of those fates, and fairly smoothly made the transition from a playing-card company to a hugely successful video-game company back in the 80s. Well done.

And even though I’m about get a bit unfriendly, I want you to know that I hope you’re around for a long time still. Playing The Legend of Zelda games has brought me many, many happy hours exploring nooks and crannies, chopping down the grass, and breaking people’s pottery. Thank you ever so much for that. Please keep it up.

Maybe, though, it’s time to cut the horse shit.

Back in 1996, you gave the world the Nintendo 64. It was great, or at least the games were. Mario 64? The Ocarina of Time? Still great games today, as evidenced by the fact that people are still buying them. The controller was a bit awkward, especially after having had the Playstation controller in my hands for the previous year, but it was functional. And again, the games, am I right? Great stuff.

But you did something then that, though at the time didn’t seem like a huge thing, signaled the world of Nintendo-to-come. Sony’s new console used CDs. Hell, even the Sega Genesis had a CD version. We, the consumers, liked CDs because they held more data and because they brought the promise of backward-compatibility. The load-times of CD-based games was considerably longer, but it was a trade-off. You, on the other hand, insisted that we, the consumers, preferred cartridges. Not true…but games on CD was still pretty new so hardly anyone took notice.

By the time the GameCube came out in 2001, though, CDs were the media of choice for video games. And yeah, you gave us a console that used CDs…sort of.

game discs

These little proprietary discs not only prevented the GameCube from playing DVDs and audio CDs – something the competitors could do – but they held less data. The GameCube discs held 1.5GB whereas the Playstation and Xbox discs held 8.5GB. This meant that GameCube games required higher compression, lower graphics, or sometimes even dropped features. Sometimes all three. It sucked to have a GameCube back then, though The Wind Waker was easily the best game of the generation in my opinion.

So then now let’s talk about the Wii. You did pretty well, sales-wise, with the Wii. I remember GameStop switching their stores around, from Xbox games at the front to Nintendo games. And yeah, you finally gave us straight-forward optical discs…though of course you still didn’t support DVDs. But still, good job catching on…some ten years later.

You also gave us motion-control in the form of the Wii Remote.

Now, I love Wii Tennis and Wii Bowling just as much as anyone. Furthermore, I’m not going to press you to be like the other guys. I like how you try to innovate and sometimes that innovation works really, really well. The New Nintendo 3DS XL, for example, is awesome. It’s a 3D experience the way it should truly be done, with no glasses and no razor-thin sweet spot. Good job.

When I sit down to play a real game, though, I want a real controller, something the Wii does not deliver.

I’ve spent the last three months logging roughly 80 hours on The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. What a great game. It has everything I’ve come to love from a Zelda game, some new things that made it better than my other favorite, and some really great characters and development…some of the best in the series, really. Great job. Love it. Keep it up.

Just please please please don’t make me cut through mobs of Moblins with a Wii remote again. Please don’t make me have to make a bow-and-arrow motion with the controller and Nunchuck. Please don’t make particular attack that requires the system to recognize that I am, in fact, holding the controller perpendicular to the ground.

Because the system is absolute shite at recognizing these things. Absolute. Shite.

For a while I just thought it was me. But then I noticed how frequently I had to re-center the controller whilst trying to sight-in the bow and arrow. Or the claw-shots. Or the Hook Beetle. And if it gets off-center with those things, it certainly gets off-center when I’m swinging it around trying to kill some Stalfos. I thought it might be my controller, but the second controller did the same thing. So, no.

The Wii Remote is great for party games. But for real games, give me a real controller. No more motion controller for me.

Now there’s this Wii U thing, which I’ve totally ignored because…why would I get it? But I hear that there’s a Zelda game coming out on it soonish, so I’d been thinking about getting one. After my experience with Skyward Sword, though, it’s not happening. I’m not buying another Nintendo console until you at least give me the option of a real controller. And I don’t know what that controller for the Wii U is, but it’s not a real controller.

Right now I’m looking forward to a GameBoy Advance game because I want to get back to good-old button-mashing. That should tell you something.

Sincerely,
A fan

what she couldn’t say

This is Anita Sarkeesian. She is one of the women who gamers have been throwing hate at simply because she pointed out some very obvious misogynistic things about video games. This video is a response to the embarrassingly large amount of harassment she’s dealt with for the past couple of years.

While I am incredibly proud that Ms. Sarkeesian had the courage to say what she couldn’t say, I am heart-breakingly disappointed that we live in a world that allows this kind of harassment to happen.

Limitless

Apple CEO and seemingly the nicest guy in the universe, Tim Cook, did an interview over at Fast Company. There are the usual nuggets: Apple Watch, Apple v. Microsoft, cracks in the Apple armor. But it was a bit in the second paragraph that lit my brain up today. He talks about how Steve Jobs never accepted the “limited life” that most people seem to live, thinking that they can’t influence or change things much. Cook said that Jobs

got each of us [his top executives] to reject that philosophy. If you can do that, then you can change things. If you embrace that the things that you can do are limitless, you can put your ding in the universe. You can change the world.

If you can embrace that the things that you can do are limitless…That clause can be taken two ways:

  1. That there is no limit to the number or amount of things that you can do;
  2. That there is no limit to each of the things that you do.

Even more importantly, Cook states that clause as though it’s a fact rather than a supposition. The only conditional aspect of that statement is if you embrace.

Think about three things that you do. Things that you make. Anything at all that isn’t on the level of binge-watching or hanging out on Tumblr. Say maybe you knit or maybe you speak three languages or maybe you cook really well. Now, accept that those three things are limitless. Not that they can be but that they are.

What sized ding might you put in the universe? How might you change it?

breaking bald

In time, I will be bald.

This fact was first driven into my consciousness when I learned that the genetic marker for baldness is carried on the mother’s genes. I looked around at my grandpa and my uncles, some of whom were quite young at the time, and saw about enough hair to cover the heads of maybe two or three small birds. The writing was on the skull.

Then, sometime during my early twenties, I could no longer lie to myself about what other people called my “receding hairline” and I called “localized forehead expansion.” A few years later, I realized I was leaving enough hair behind on my pillow night after night to create a whole new cast of Muppets.

Sigh. So yeah, I’d say I’ve been pretty much hip to my impending baldness for a solid decade now. And I don’t really care. I see lots of guys who’ve shaved their heads so they can tell themselves that they’re not bald. Especially since Breaking Bad made it so cool:

We are the heads who shave!

The hair stylist could only work part time.

However, I’ve committed to balding gracefully.

But…there are times…

Bo's Bald Head

Stupid little sticking-up hairs…

These stupid hairs hanging on for dear life are the kind of thing that’d make a man blow-up a wheelchair-ridden mob boss. It’s not just that they won’t give up the ghost, it’s that they insist on exactly one configuration: standing straight up. If I don’t keep my hair super-short, I always look like I’m about ten minutes past the last time I stuck my finger in a light socket. They are insane, degenerate pieces of filth, and they deserve to die.

I guess what I mean is: I’ve accepted that I’ll be bald one day, but I can’t take this process of balding. When they’re gone, their death will satisfy me. Until then, they’d better tread lightly. Or like, lie down or something.

ResearchKit

There were a lot of things to get excited about during Apple’s Keynote ’15 this past Monday. Apple Watch.(1) The new Apple store in China. The gorgeous new MacBook. But the one thing I really got fired up about more than anything else was ResearchKit.

ResearchKitReseachKit is a software framework that Apple developed that can turn every iPhone into a device for collecting medical data. At the Keynote, Apple showed off five apps created together with some impressive partners: The Ichan School at Mount Sinai, Oxford, Stanford, UCLA…the list goes on. The apps so far are targeted at research in the fields of asthma, Parkinson’s, great cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Each of the apps can help in the diagnosis of particular health problems and assist in gathering data for researchers. It’s a little bit like how Batman turned every device in the city into a spy-phone in his obsession to find the Joker. But, you know, for a less questionable cause.

Anyway, as far as apps go, that all sounds rather mundane, right? Why would I download the Parkinson’s app unless I have Parkinson’s? I mean, if you’re not a researcher, who cares?

I am not a researcher. But what I am is a care-taker for someone with cystic fibrosis. Let me tell you why ResearchKit matters to me.

IMG_1827My wife was born in 1982.(2) Cystic fibrosis research at that time was barely beyond its infancy, so much so that her parents had to visit several doctors to get her diagnosed. CF wasn’t understood but, worse, wasn’t accepted as a valid diagnosis amongst many in the medical community. But the few people who accepted it and the even fewer people who researched it worked together so that, a few years after she was diagnosed, there were treatments available. CF affects the digestive system and the respiratory system. As a child, her problems were mostly digestive. In time, there were medications. When she began having respiratory problems, there were medications and treatments for that, too.

None of those medications and treatments would have existed if not for medical research. In fact, a fairly solid case can be made that had she been born just one year earlier, she wouldn’t have lived. Many of the people she knew from her extended hospital stays – most of them older than her – passed away before they were twenty-years-old. Some of the seminal CF research, the research that lead to medications and treatments, were published in the early 1980s, even those the disease was recognized in the late 1950s.

The genetic marker for CF(3) was found in 1988, after which the world’s understanding of CF’s pathophysiology allowed for the development of medications to address the symptoms.(4) But it also laid the groundwork for the discovery of over one thousand mutations. This wide variance of mutations has yet to be cataloged w/r/t the varying symptoms and pathologies simply because of the number of mutationsthe number of people, and the comparatively small resources of the medical community.

Enter ResearchKit.

Almost anyone with CF can tell you which mutation they have. Almost anyone with CF can tell you which symptoms they deal with most often. But, so far, only ResearchKit has the power to grab such a large sample of people and data and put it at the hands of capable researchers.

And let me tell you, that will save lives.

Furthermore, ResearchKit can gather the same types of data from people who don’t have CF, or, as I mentioned above, Parkinson’s. Why does this matter? Well, if you think back to sixth-grade science class, you might remember that with every experiment you need a control group. With ResearchKit, anyone with an iPhone can be in the control group. Do I have a vested interest in helping Parkinson’s research? No. Will I be in a control group to help with Parkinson’s research, especially since doing so requires almost no effort? Absolutely.

Because for every CF caregiver like me, there’s a Parkinson’s caregiver out there. Our experiences will be different in kind, but similar in effort. I am just as on-board with helping the caregivers as I am with the patients.

Oh, and you know how I said “anyone with an iPhone” back there? That’s not true. Apple made ResearchKit an open source software,(5) so anyone on any platform can get in on it and help out. Brilliant. Just brilliant.

But don’t take it just from me. Here’s a bit from MacRumors that you can read, but I’m going to excerpt the coolest part. After waking up Tuesday to discover 10,000 people because using the MyHeart Counts app, Alan Yeung, medical director of Stanford Cardiovascular Health, said:

“To get 10,000 people enrolled in a medical study normally, it would take a year and 50 medical centers around the country. That’s the power of the phone.”

And the power of ResearchKit, I might add. Yeah, maybe it’s not a flashy, super-thin notebook or a $10,000 watch,(6) but it’s the most exciting thing Apple announce on Monday. And I dare say it’ll put the greatest dent in the universe.


  1. Which I’m excited about because I’m an Apple Fanboy, but confused about how I feel in general. That’ll merit a whole ‘nother blog post when I have more time.
  2. And let’s hope she forgives me for telling you all her age.
  3. It’s a genetic disease, caused by a mutated gene (delta-F 508). The gene produces a faulty protein which doesn’t fold properly and therefore cannot escape the endoplasmic reticulum. Tragically, this is a protein that helps cells transfer water and chlorine, and the subsequent build-up results in extra-think mucus in endocrine glands. Over time, the mucus will build up and, in the case of the lungs, cause unrecoverable blockages that lead to lung-function decline and, eventually, shutdown.
  4. But, tragically, not the cause.
  5. Seriously, has Apple ever made anything open source?
  6. Ugh. Just…ugh.

surprise

It’s not passwords that give me a lot of trouble. I have systems within systems for generating and remembering those. What gets me hung up is remember which of my three main email addresses I used as a log-in.

Which is how, by using the correct password formation for my WordPress account while using the wrong email address, I discovered that I did not, as I’d believed, delete this blog. This is rather unusual, since I typically delete all traces of a blog once I’ve decided that blogging is for losers or I’ve come once again to the realization that my life and thoughts just aren’t that interesting. But I was pleasantly surprised to find this blog.

I’ve been blogging here, in fits and starts, since 2009. That makes it the longest record – public or private – that I have of my life and thoughts as put down in the moment.(1)(2) So finding it again, by a happy accident, gives me the warm-and-fuzzies.

So I’ll take up blogging again, at least for a little while.(3) And I’ll do it here where a younger Bo already spent so much time and effort.


  1. I am terrible at keeping journals. Even Day One, a pretty sweet iPad/iPhone/Mac app, didn’t stand the test of time, though I thought that journaling digitally would do it. Apparently, I simply must be able to delude myself that other people are reading before I’ll put pen to paper…or glyph to screen, more appropriately..
  2. Not that the prenominate thoughts were/are always worth writing down…
  3. Which history teaches me is all I can reasonably offer.

as the shark in Jaws

“I’ll cast Affleck in anything. If I remade Jaws, I’d cast him as the motherfuckin’ shark.”
– Kevin Smith on Ben Affleck

And so the yesterday it was announced that Ben Affleck will play Batman in the upcoming Man of Steel sequel. Subsequently, today the internet is afire with love and/or hate and/or indignation and/or nerd-rage.

First off, a question: did enough people go see Man of Steel to justify a sequel? Because, while I didn’t see it, I feel like I heard more negative judgements on it than positive. Or are we just automatically making sequels to everything now? Should I expect The Lone Ranger 2: Loner and Rangerer?

Secondly, I normally don’t get into this sort of stuff because, you know, there’s really horrible shit going on in Egypt and Syria right now, not to mention a few hundred square miles of wildfire in the western U.S. But this is about Batman, easily one of my top-five favorite fictional characters of all time, so to hell the Middle East.

Here’s the short version: Do I think Affleck can pull off Batman? Absolutely.

Now the long version:

Ben-AffleckForget that Affleck has been in some of my favorite movies. Forget Affleck’s genius in Chasing Amy: “I fucking love you, all right?!” Forget his awesome SNL appearances.

Affleck can do Batman because Affleck can do whatever he puts his mind to. This is a guy whose career was pretty much done for, thanks to hyperactive media, some mismanaged PR bullshit, and fucking J.Lo. On IMDB there’s a gap from 2006 until 2009, a massive break for a big-name Hollywood actor.

What was he doing? Taking a step back. Getting his life back where he wanted it. And directing a movie called Gone, Baby, Gone, which might be the best directorial debut I’ve ever seen by an actor-turned-director. This dude pieced his career back together by learning a different trade, and learned it so well that his last directorial effort won an Oscar for Best Picture.

If you ask me, the core of Batman/Bruce Wayne is grim determination. The guy is wealthy beyond belief, with a massive childhood trauma. He has every right and means to sit back and live life howsoever he sees fit. Yet he sees fit to turn all of that toward helping a city that took away his parents. The guy never tires. He never stops. He never says, “That’s enough.”

This is what Ben can do, in my opinion. He knows how that feels; he lived it for a while. Christian Bale’s Batman felt more like desperate determination, and I think this is where Affleck can shine. He can give us a Batman who does what he does because he chooses to, not because he has to.

Affleck’s Daredevil wasn’t perfect, but neither was the movie. I liked it more than most people, and more than I like most Marvel movies. But the movie certainly has it flaws, most of which I blame on the director (who went on to give us Ghost Rider, for fuck’s sake). Zack Snyder, on the other hand, pulled off one of the toughest characters in all of comics: Rorschach, from Watchman. So, yeah. I think Snyder and Affleck can do Batman justice.

But mostly I’m just glad I won’t have to listen to Christian Bale growl through a whole film again.

happy

Have you even simply been happy?

I’ve been asking myself this question quite frequently over the past two weeks. Since Ash and I moved into this house – though that correlation does not itself equal causation – I sit back at least once each day and think This is happiness.

It’s not elation, not joy, not exuberance. It’s not gaiety. If anything, it’s somewhere between contentedness and light-heartedness.

Or maybe not between, exactly. Maybe it’s a happiness that’s borne of those two things. And being in love with the air around me.

Because I don’t feel like dancing in the streets. Shouting from the rooftops. Telling the whole world. Instead, I feel like simply sitting here in this feeling. It doesn’t beg to be announced, shared or multiplied. It simply is. And I am in it. Or maybe part of it. Or more probably, both.

Years ago, I looked into what His Holiness the Dalai Lama had to say about happiness. Like many Buddhist precepts, his advice is as simple as it is impossible: To be happy, be happy. Like many Buddhist precepts, it’s taken me years to understand that, to accept it. Though I know I’m nowhere near finished with it, or it with me.

Of late, however, I feel as though I’m living it. There are concrete reasons for it, and likely there are reasons I’m not aware of yet. Though it doesn’t beg to be reasoned, such is my nature. I try simply to live in it, to be in it with my lovely wife, our lovely families and our lovely family of fury quadrupeds.

Put my heart on a scale, fighting balance opposite a feather. Today, the feather will sink.

Clothesline

Yesterday I took my domestic tendencies to a whole ‘nother level.
20130811-125958.jpg
Ashley and I are enjoying our new house and, so far at least, I’m enjoying the little things that come with it. I mowed the lawn yesterday for the first time since – I’m gonna guess – 1995. We also had a couple of friends over for dinner and weren’t cramped for space at all. There’s so much space it barely feels like we have ten cats. (Well, nine. One of them is refusing to leave her parents’ house.) We have a dog now, too, and it’s nice not to be constantly tripping over the animals.

But hanging clothes on the clothesline was something I never even knew I was longing to do. I guess all those years of watching and/or helping mom do it as I was going up really impacted me in a heretofore unknown way. I’ve hung more clothes out today, including the bedsheets which I’ll admit really weren’t dirty; I just wanted to dry them in the sun. And when I look out the back door and see our stuff on the clothesline, I feel strangely fulfilled.

What the hell is wrong with me?