Subversive Movement

Last night I went to another Nerd Nite event with my friend Chester.

Nerd Nite Feb 2014

This time, the topics were esports, staphylococcus aureus, and culture-jamming.

The first topic was pretty entertaining. It was about the rise of esports (professional video gaming) and the comparison to traditional (physical) sports. The speaker made the point that esports professionals want the same thing as traditional sports professionals, and work just as hard to “make it.” He started with this video clip:

Most people in the audience did not realize how impressive this was, so he broke it down for us. Because Daigo (Ken) starts the clip with such low health against Justin Wong (Chun Li), he plays somewhat cautiously and hits her just enough to fill up her Special bar. Then he baits her into using her special, which is a 17-move combo. The only way to take no damage from the attack is to perfect parry each hit of the combo, including that mid-air parry which leads into his combo that defeats her. Perfect parries require exact timing (only a few milliseconds of leeway). Much more impressive now, right?

The second topic was a bit scary. The speaker attempted to use a “warning bunny” to warn of upcoming graphic slides, but the system did not work very well, because more than half her slides were fairly gruesome. Luckily, the visual aids did not bother me. Rather, the information did. I had no idea that staph was so prevalent in our everyday lives. 20-30% of the US population are persistent (asymptomatic) carriers of staph, and another 30-50% are intermittent carriers. Staph is very commonly found on our skin, and only gets truly scary when it gets inside. But that could happen with any minor cut or abrasion!

The final speaker was very intriguing. He defined culture-jamming as “being cool” or “sticking it to the man” and could be anything, even something as simple as drawing a moustache on a poster. The thing was, back in the 1950s, the consequences for these “subversive” actions could be much more serious. This was the height of McCarthyism, and the “cool” folks could lose their jobs, property, or freedom for these little acts of rebellion. Keeping those risks in mind, the speaker focus on Jean Shepherd (of A Christmas Story fame) and his old radio show. One of the cooler projects he did was getting listeners to go into bookstores and request a fake book, I, Libertine. Back in those days, best-seller lists were ranked by demand as well as sales, so this non-book actually made it onto the New York Times Bestsellers!

All in all, we had fun and learned a little something new. I think we’re going to make this a regular thing.

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This Is Not How Batman Dies

LEGO Batman

I saw The LEGO Movie over the weekend with some friends, and it was awesome!

(Expect this song to stuck in your head for days after seeing the movie.)

I had been excited to see it since I saw the first trailer. I grew up playing with LEGOs all the time, and it certainly did not hurt that the Batman minifig was featured in the trailer.

The movie itself was great. Fairly standard hero journey plot, very similar to The Matrix actually, but with tons of pop culture references and humor mixed in, just like the LEGO video games. I was a concerned that Will Arnett was the voice actor for Batman instead of Kevin Conroy, but it worked perfectly, because the Batman of the LEGO Movie was along the lines of Frank Miller’s Absolute Batman – a bit absurd and dickish. Arnett nailed it!

My friends kept joking that this was the best Batman movie, but I have to say, they are partly right. The LEGO basis allows him to be much more light-hearted and campy, and the interactions with the other members of LEGO Justice League were on point. I would not be surprised at all if I enjoyed this more than the upcoming Man of Steel 2/Batman-Superman movie. LEGO needs more feature films!

“Batman To Be” in 2014

Welcome visitors, new and returning!

There’s nothing quite like the start of a new year to give you some fresh enthusiasm, and with that in mind, I am going to attempt the Zero to Hero Blogger challenge. There will be 30 different assignments for me, and this post tackles the first:

DAY 1: INTRODUCE YOURSELF

My name is Dinh and I am a geek. I grew up on comic books and video games, which makes for a pretty sedentary and unfit lifestyle. With my 30th birthday approaching (and now passed), I thought to myself that rather than just idolizing Batman, my favorite superhero, I should emulate him. I wanted to be able to know what to do in any given situation and have the physical ability to carry out those actions. I wanted to make Batman real!

With that in mind, I started this blog mostly to track my progress towards becoming Batman, in terms of physical training, learning new skills, and getting new tools. I made a list of goals in each category that I wanted to accomplish. Unfortunately, not being a billionaire genius has really put a damper on my progress and it was hard to blog about a lack of change.

Moving forward, I want to write about more than just me, I want to share my love of Batman and hopefully convince you that he can be and is to be emulated. I will post at least twice a week about my life, Batman, and the intersections of the two. To consider myself a successful blogger in 2014, I will stick to my posting schedule, teach you something cool about me and/or Batman, and learn something new from you. I will not get caught up in progress, especially since I will be slow to gain any physical improvement while trying to rehab my knee properly.

Here’s to many happy returns!

Arrow to the Knee

Worse Cartilage

Doctor: I’ve seen worse cartilage in knees.
Bruce Wayne: That’s good.
Doctor: No, that’s because there is NO cartilage in your knee, and not much of any use in your elbows or your shoulders. Between that and the scar tissue on your kidneys, the residual concussive damage to your brain tissue, and the general scarred-over quality of your body, I cannot recommend that you go heliskiing, Mr. Wayne.
Bruce Wayne: Right.

Last June, shortly after my previous post, I was texting as I was walking home and tripped as I was coming down some cement steps near my house. I recovered and planted my left foot firmly down, taking my entire bodyweight and momentum. My knee did not like that very much. I felt/heard a pop as if my knee briefly dislocated, and could not support any weight on my left leg, so I sat down for a few minutes. The pain slowly subsided and I managed to hobble home.

This was not the first time I hurt my knee, so I did the same thing I always did in the past – RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation) until it goes away. The first time I hurt myself, it took about a month to get better. After that, I have had some minor aggravations that clear up within a few days, a week or so at most. That was not the case this time. I was still feeling unstable as well as having random jolts of pain every so often, so I decided to take advantage of my health insurance and finally get professional help.

I talked to my primary treating physician, who quickly gave me a referral to a sports medicine specialist. I had some X-rays taken before I saw him, only to be told the X-rays looked fine (except for hints of the beginning of arthritis) and I would need to get an MRI. The MRI, however, showed damage to the meniscus and a torn ACL. The sports medicine specialist put me a program of rehab exercises and over-the-counter anti-inflammatories for two weeks, which helped but did not fix the deeper issues, so I got a referral to a surgeon. The surgeon told me I should definitely get the meniscus fixed and it was my choice if I wanted ACL repair, but I figured if I was going to get cut, I might as well take care of everything. Because of existing travel plans, I did not have the surgery until December.

Which Knee?

I lost count of how many times the hospital staff asked me what procedure I was having done and which side it was going to be on, but I suppose all the double-checks was a good thing because everything went as predicted from the MRI. My lateral meniscus had actually folded up away from where it should have been laying and had to be removed but the medial meniscus was successfully repaired and my ACL was replaced with a cadaver tendon. They had to drill holes into my femur and tibia in order to set that last one up! Now I’m in the long process of recovery. On the bright side, I now have one more thing in common with Batman, specifically the Nolan version.

Knee Brace

Sadly, my brace does not allow me to kick through brick walls, but if all goes according to plan, my brace comes off at the end of the month and I can start training to kick walls with purely with my own power.

A Rare Flower

Rare Flower

Batman is not really known for his outdoorsiness. He tends to stick to the urban jungle of Gotham unless he is questing for a rare flower as some sort of training. I actually love camping, and there are nights were I yearn to sleep under the stars. Unfortunately, I do not get to go much due to time restraints as well as lack of shared interest by friends.

The Sierra Club recently posted about some of America’s most dangerous hiking trails. The permalink for the article says 8, and I am fairly sure I originally read about eight different locations, but the article now only contains six. They are:

I actually did Half Dome a few years ago with some friends.

Half-Dome Cables

We stayed at a cheap hotel right outside of Yosemite, drove into the park in the early morning, hiked up, stumbled back in the twilight, passed out at the hotel again and went home. Even though it was early June when we went, there was still a snowbank at the very top!

We went the first year the Parks Service introduced the permit system for the top of Half Dome and back then it was only for weekend hikers, so we avoided it by going on a weekday. Now permits are required seven days a week, and you need to apply in the off-season and they hold a lottery for them. I would love to do Half Dome again, but these restrictions make it unlikely. I definitely would like to check out the other trails on the list, though. Have any of you tried them? Do you have any recommendations? Without further input, I will probably add all five to my goals list.

Avenge Me

Much like Batman’s appointment in Crime Alley,

Appointment in Crime Alley

April 30th holds a very special significance to the Vietnamese refugee population around the world. Often referred to as “Black April” or “The Day We Lost Our Country,” it is the anniversary of the fall of Saigon, when the communist army entered the Vietnamese capital, American forces withdrew from the war, and the Vietnamese government surrendered.

Vietnamese people are fiercely nationalistic. I suppose that comes from bring oppressed for much of our history. I grew up learning patriotic anthems and listening to folk tales about resistance fighters struggling against the 1,000 years of Chinese tyranny and 100 years of French colonialism. When I went to Vietnamese school as a child, the school motto was, “As long as we keep our language, we keep our culture. As long as we keep our culture, we keep our country.” At an International Viet Youth Conference I attended, when a friend of mine was asked, “Where do you live?”, his reply was, “I am staying in Australia at the moment, but my home is in Vietnam.” At my grandfather’s funeral service, during my father’s eulogy, he mentioned that my grandfather’s fervent wish was to see a free Vietnam, if not during his lifetime, then during his children’s or his grandchildren’s.

Sadly, I find myself doubting the likelihood of that wish coming to pass. No one in my generation (in my family, anyway) is as involved as my grandfather or my father was in Viet activism. In fact, most of my generation has trouble with keeping the language alive, let alone the culture or the country. My own Vietnamese language skills have dropped since I stopped going to Viet school, and while I can still hold a conversation, I do not believe I could teach the next generation. More than that, I find that many of my generation, unlike my friend from the conference, think of ourselves as Americans with a Vietnamese background rather than Vietnamese residing in America. I think my grandfather and my father must know this at some level, because we have had family talks about how my generation tends to think in English and translate into Vietnamese instead of the other way around. It seems like such a little difference, but actually is of fundamental importance. Language shapes perception, as is often demonstrated with Eskimo words for snow.

It makes me wonder if Batman ever wonders about his legacy. Sure, there can never be a ultimate victory against or surrender to crime, and you cannot truly move away from crime. But will future Batmen be as unrelenting as Bruce Wayne?

A Cloud of Batmen

A friend of mine linked a very interesting article last night. I highly recommend that you read the full thing, but the gist is that the American lifestyle is designed to promote consumerism at the expense of health and happiness – we work long hours and then spend more on convenience and instant gratification in order to “maximize” our free time.

Clearly, a lot of us should reconsider our time management choices. As I alluded to before, I wonder how Batman handles the double life, since it means twice the demands on his time, energy, and money. (At least that last issue is not much of a concern for him.) That is why I am particularly interested in today’s Daily Post,

“Clone Wars – If you could clone yourself, how would you split up your responsibilities?”

Batmen

Cloning seems like a very easy way to get more done each day. Plus imagining an army of Batmen is pretty cool! Before I can fully answer the prompt, though, I have a few questions that need to be cleared up.

First, will this cost me anything? If the ability to mass-produce clones existed, imagine how much it could sell for. The corporations mentioned in that original article would be all over it, marketing it to us as the ultimate convenience! It would probably cost more than I can afford. Most likely, I would have to do some sort of deal with the Devil. My eternal soul, you say? Eh, I am not really using it anyways… let me think about it.

Second, how many clones can I get? Again, assuming this me buying for a flat rate. I only have one soul to spend, after all. One clone doubles my time and that is very nice, but the more clones I could get away with, the harder I would think about making the deal. Ideally, what I would want is not to buy a clone but the ability to clone myself on an as-needed basis.

And finally, and most importantly, what type of cloning technology are we talking about?

  • Are we working from current scientific limitations? That would be cloning a single cell and growing it; something along the lines of Professor Farmsworth making Cubert. If this is the case, no thanks! Taking care of a baby is the opposite of added convenience, plus I would need a surrogate mother to carry my clone to term to even get to that point.
  • Or is it possible to have “adult” clones? This would be more like The Island (or The Simpsons). This would be the baseline for acceptance. I would have a few follow-up questions, such as if I could stop the clone age at any point (18-year-old organs are better than 30-year-old ones), but I would think long and hard about taking the deal at this level.
  • Or finally, it is some sort of magical ability similar to Naruto’s Shadow Clones? This is very similar to Homer’s cloning ability but with one key difference – when shadow clones disperse, their experiences are retained by the original. If this is ever offered to me, I would snap it up in a heartbeat!

The shadow clone ability is amazing! Besides the obvious advantages it gives in battle (something that Batman is always thinking about), think of the practical day-to-day uses. Batman could train, study, investigate, and put the smackdown on bad guys all at the same time! He would not even need Batman, Inc., as he could send copies of himself to every city in the world!

Consequences of Return of Bruce Wayne

If I personally had the shadow clone ability, I would use it roughly the same way. Have one clone working so I can afford more Bat-gear, one training so I can get in shape faster, one studying so I can keep my mind sharp, and one goofing off so I can stay relaxed. Then regroup at home and go to sleep as the original after a highly productive day.