Not-So-Killer Croc

Yesterday, my friend Son sent me a link to an interesting news story coming out of Thailand.

A class of kindergartners went on a field trip to a local crocodile farm, and took some interesting pictures.

Kiddie Croc 1 Kiddie Croc 2

I have to hand it to these kids, chilling on the backs of crocodiles is pretty ballsy!

Of course, there was a big uproar about safety and consent… (I guess the parents did not think this would happen on a trip to a crocodile farm?) I would have loved to do something like this, but I am an adult with no children, so take that as you will. Time to brush up on my wrestling moves and look up tickets to Chiang Mai!

Dream to Worlds Beyond

At the Nerd Nite event, Bart (the host and MC), told us about a game that a previous speaker had just released. Called Extrasolar, it was a very odd concept. There is a private space exploration company that has sent rovers to a nearby extrasolar planet, and is crowd-sourcing the operation of these rovers to explore the planet as efficiently as possible. The game does not seem that exciting, since you basically send simple commands to your robot and wait for it to complete those commands and send you some data back. But then a hacker third-party unveils something possibly sinister behind the scenes.

Batman vs. Aliens

I am a sucker for a good story, so I signed up as soon as I got home. I’ve been playing pretty constantly, and there is definitely something great there. Although the game is entirely browser-based, there is a strong ARG sense. The game uses a lot of the same mechanics as Games of Nonchalance to really get its hooks into you. I do not want to give away too much, but I will just say that there is definitely great foreshadowing of a government conspiracy and intelligent alien life. The two may be connected, but I have not gotten that far yet.

I am going to head back into the game now, but I will leave you with this comic:

Calvin & Hobbes - Intelligent Life

Why Does Batman Allow Bad Things to Happen in Gotham?

Batman Flux Capacitor

After a tragedy, people naturally ask, “Why did this happen?” and “How can we prevent this from happening again?”

For some, the answer is simple. Life challenges us in order to force us to become better versions of ourselves, and these tragedies cannot and should not be prevented. After all, if Bruce Wayne’s parents never died, would he have become Batman? Others, though, prefer a more proactive approach. (Including Batman… does that make his life a Catch-22?)

Consider the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, which I think we can all agree is a horrific tragedy, and one with complex causes. Here is a list of just some of the issues that have been blamed as “the” cause for this event:

  1. Adam Lanza was mentally ill.
  2. Adam had access to a lot of weapons.
  3. Adam played violent video games.

Pick out any one of these three issues, and it does not create a killer. Consider everyone in the world who suffers from a mental illness, or everyone who has access to guns or knives, or everyone who plays violent video games. If any of these were to cause homicide, humanity would probably be extinct. Even when all three traits are combined in a single individual, it does not guarantee homicide. It might raise some red flags, and you might be able to claim that such a person is more likely to commit homicide than a person without as many factors, but no one could say with certainty that such a person is going to kill.

So without being able to accurately predict such attacks or to understand what caused Adam Lanza to kill, how do we prevent future attacks? Lawmakers want to limit comorbidity, and after failing to pass stricter gun control measures, some are now going after violent video games.

Violence and homicide, even mass homicides, are as old as human history. Violent video games are merely the newest whipping boy – before that, there was violent movies, comic books, Dungeons & Dragons, literature, and on and on and on.

At best, blaming violent acts on some aspect of pop culture is a knee-jerk reaction by honestly confused and concerned citizens floundering hopelessly for a quick fix to make things better. At worst, it is a ploy by cynics to advance their agendas by grabbing the headlines and twisting them to their own ends. Within hours of the Boston Marathon bombing, various public figures used that story to push their own ideas about government conspiracy, abortion, national security, and immigration, just to name a few issues other than violent media.

My advice? Take a deep breath and remember that increasing sensationalism in the news and the availability heuristic may make it seem like the world is going to hell, but violent crime is actually down.

Reign Supreme

One of the most common debates about Batman is “What is his best gadget?” It is a tough call because he certainly has a lot of toys to play with. Some people take a flippant stance, while some are more practical. I definitely agree that his most iconic gadget is the batarang.

But his overall best gadget? I would have to go with Batman’s make-up kit.

Matches

I know that seems like an odd choice, so hear me out. Sun Tzu said, “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.” Well, he said a lot of things, but most of it can be boiled down to “knowledge is power.” Batman knows this well, and his make-up kit is his best gadget because it allows him to gather intelligence and spread disinformation, whether as Matches Malone or one of his other aliases. His intelligence network is what allows Batman to be so effective.

I bring this up because, like many people, I am spending a good portion of my workday distracted by news updates from Boston. At the time I am writing this post, local police have identified the Boston Marathon bombers as two Chechen brothers. On-the-scene reports of a “Saudi national”, as well as wild after-the-fact speculation by mainstream media and the Internet of varying profiles all ended up being dead wrong.

As soon as I saw the reports of Reddit and 4chan taking action, I knew bad things would happen. They are working from limited intelligence, with no oversight, and with no thought of repercussions.

I understand the need to pitch in, the desire to help set things right again after a tragedy like this. That is why I have taken disaster-preparedness training, became CPR-certified, and donate blood. I am not saying that the mainstream media gets a pass, but they have editors and fact-checkers (presumably) to verify claims. These internet detectives think they are badasses.

Taken

But really, they are living in a bubble. Worse, they are in a million little anonymous and autonomous bubbles. It does not take a Batcomputer to know that some of these folks would take things a step beyond identification efforts, and end up harassing an already distraught family. I am positive that some of them, by virtue of proximity, even took it further.

These guys may think they are Batman, but there are three important differences:

  1. Batman has much better information.
  2. Batman has much better skills and plans to act on his information.
  3. Batman is fictional, so even if he is wrong, real innocent people don’t get hurt.

Kingdom Come

Kingdom Come Batman

First things first, this post has been weighing on my mind for a while now, and I was not sure if I should actually publish it or not, but here goes.

My mother’s side of the family is extremely close. I guess that is pretty natural when you have nine siblings – seven of them sisters – and get transplanted in your teenage years to a new country. There are several March and April birthdays in the family, and there are seven of us hitting big milestones this year, so we were planning on having a big party right around now. Planning started just after Christmas, and I was really trying to see if I could go, but it looked like things would not work out since I had not accumulated enough vacation time at the new job. Life has a way of surprising you, though. Much like finding out the real-life Batman is actually a criminal accomplice, I was shocked to my core to learn that my grandfather passed away on the last Sunday of March. Calls were made, tickets were booked, and I was back in Minnesota after all.

The grieving started as soon as it happened. Profile pictures were changed, sentimental status updates and blog posts were written. When everyone came together, we did what we always did at family gatherings – we ate, we drank, we told stories. For the large part, it was like any other family reunion, except that everyone looked drained all the time, and people would randomly burst into tears mid-conversation. As we fell into a rhythm of sorts, we noticed little things – ripples my grandfather left behind – like how no one else wanted to sit in his seat at the dinner table.

As for me, I had no poignant anecdotes or inspirational quotes to share. (I actually remember remember my grandfather pulling my mother aside when I was younger and asking her when I would open up more – I have always been laconic, though I prefer to think of myself as stoic.) I did what I usually do at family events, which is to simply be supportive and pitch in wherever I saw that I could. The funeral itself was tough – I lost both of my paternal grandparents without ever meeting them, so this was my first close, personal death. I do not think things were “real” to me until I saw my grandfather in his casket.

My family is Buddhist, so there were a lot of ceremonies involved. (I am actually in the middle of a 49-day vegetarian diet as an oblation of sorts for his soul.) To be honest, though, the rituals did not do much for me. What really impressed me was all the speakers who talked about how much my grandfather changed their lives, especially my father’s eulogy. He painted word pictures of my grandfather’s accomplishments over the many phases of his life, and then went on to encompass his hopes and dreams for his children and grandchildren.

It made me realize how myopic my view of my grandfather was. More than that, though, it made me realize how stunted my life has been in comparison. When my grandfather was my age, he was a military officer, government leader, and father to four children already. I was inspired to redouble my efforts to not only accomplish my own goals, but to also to advance my grandfather’s wishes. He was much closer to Batman status than I can hope for, but I will do my best to make him proud.

Old Bruce Wayne

Reverse

As I mentioned before, I was planning to dress up as Bane for Halloween. However, I was kindly informed two days beforehand that my friends were going to go as “Mario Kart” as a group costume. I was also told that it had been decided I would be Lakitu. If the name is not familiar, it is the cloud-koopa that everyone hated in the classic Mario games and then grew to love in the newer games:

Luckily, Sophia was willing to make clouds for me, so I just had to worry about the koopa part of the costume. I got a yellow raglan shirt with hood, over-sized glasses, a cardboard turtle shell, and some suspenders to hold it all together. It is no Matches Malone, but it did turn out alright:

And here is a group photo:

We were quite a hit at the club!

Decided By One Vote

I really need to get back on track with posting. Still have not figured out my schedule and life balance with my new job, but for now I will squeeze posts in whenever I can.

No place to start like yesterday’s election. There have been comparisons of President Obama to Batman for a while now, and this picture made the rounds again last night after he was declared the winner.

In a word, yes. It is a coincidence. I never really understood why there were so many Obama/Batman comparisons (or Romney/Bane comparisons, either). I do not think their politics line up. Here’s a quote from Dave’s Longbox that I think is pretty accurate:

BATMAN – INDEPENDENT
Batman is a true independent, a man of solid principles and baffling contradictions. This may be because he is mentally ill. Batman has an almost paranoid distrust of government institutions, yet believes in the rule of law. He’s an urban vigilante, yet he’s a proponent of gun control. Batman is anti-death penalty to a fault – how many times has he had to capture the mass-murdering Joker and return him to Arkham Asylum instead of the electric chair? Contradictions be damned. Batman follows his own moral compass, and Batman is always right. When Batman votes, he weighs all the options and chooses the best person for the job, regardless of party affiliation or whether they are actually running for office. In other words, he writes-in BATMAN on every ballot.

Honestly, for all the talk liberals make of coming change, and conservatives make of “taxmageddon,” nothing is going to change in the next four years. Democrats have the White House, but only a majority (not a super-majority) of the Senate and Republicans still hold the House. Queue gridlock and obstructionism and both sides blaming the other.