Everything You Wanted To Know About Pike’s Novel…

…but were afraid to ask. Or, more likely, asked anyway.

So, here’s the deal. I’m going to be presumptuous and assume that if you’re reading this blog, then you either a.) like my writing, or b.) like me. (d’aww <3 by the way.) Otherwise, you probably would've stopped reading when I dropped Aspect of the Hare. And I'm further going to assume that if you fall into either (or both) of those categories, you're probably at least a little bit interested in this novel that I've been hinting around at since November. So, I figured I would address a few novel-related questions that I get asked from time to time. A sort of FAQ, if you will. (If you're really not all that interested in my book, that's fine, you can skip this entry =P)
So what is this whole novel thing?

I was challenged by several Twitterites to participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), so I did. It turned into a full fledged novel at some point. It’d be nice to get it published someday, so I’ve been working toward that goal.

Oooh! So what’s your book about?

I always waver a bit on this question because the answer is just so friggin’ out there. Usually I tell people “Well, it has dragons, airships, and giant robots in it.”

This phrase tends to confuse people, though, and they ask whether it’s a fantasy or a science fiction. Which causes me to hem and haw and waffle before I tell people it’s an “alternate-universe-ish historical science fiction”, which generally just causes more confusion.


Short answer: It’s steampunk. (my possibly bizarre interpretation of it, anyway.)

Longer Answer: It’s an adventure story about anthropomorphic animals in an alternate universe that roughly– though not entirely– corresponds to our late 19th century. A few mythical creatures (in this case, dragons) are involved, although magic really isn’t. I was going for a sort of “His Dark Materials” feel, I think. Some fantastic elements, but not really fantasy per se.

Think of Jules Verne but with fuzzy animals instead of people and you’ll be pretty close to the mark.

Why fuzzy animals?

Lots of reasons.
1.) Easier to draw, and I like drawing my characters to help me in the character creation process
2.) Kind of gives the story a mystical/fable-like quality that I like
3.) Thematic elements (no, really. I’d like to think a classroom of AP English kids could pick up on this, but who knows if I wrote it that well?)
4.) I kind of wrote the book as a tribute to classic Disney animation and the effect it’s had on me and my artistic inclinations.

So it’s a kids/young adult book then?

I wasn’t really aiming at any particular age group when I was writing the book. If anything I think I wanted it to be a book with a wide age range appeal, like Harry Potter or something.

The interesting thing is that since then I’ve had five or six people read the early draft in its entirety and give me feedback on it. Almost everyone has told me it sort of “feels” like a young adult novel, with one problem: my choice of vocabulary is… very not-young-adult-novel. As in, “read it with a dictionary close at hand.”

This puts me in a bit of a dilemma. I’m fine with marketing my book as “young adult”, but I’m really wary about the idea of toning down the big-boy-vocab words. That’s just how I write. Besides, I don’t talk down to kids. I remember being a kid; I didn’t like being talked down to. Ya know?

So I’m just gonna say “it’s for all ages” and call it good.

You’re talking about stuff like feedback… are you done writing?

Yes and no.

“Yes”: The story has a beginning, middle, and end. There is a prologue and there is… well, not an epilogue. But the words “The End” are there.

However, I have a big ol’ list of “things to add and/or fix” that I have been whittling away at for a couple of months now. So, in that sense… “No.”

Can I read the draft?

Maybe. Not now, though, as it’s not ready yet. If I decide later to get “beta readers” outside of my family/close friends circle, I’ll probably post about it on the blog and ask for volunteers, so fear not.

The prologue has been up on my LJ for a month or so now and anyone is welcome to read that if they wish.

When are you going to be done?

Not sure. I’ve given myself a goal of “by the end of the month” but that may be pushing it. Editing is hard. >.>

And you want to get this published eventually, right?

Yep! Well, it would be nice. I’m not going to beat myself up over it if it doesn’t happen. And while I know… pretty much nothing about the whole “publishing process”, I sort of get the inkling that it might take a while. All the rejection letters and what not. But yeah, “eventually”. Let’s hope!

Okay then. Oh! One last thing. What’s it called?

“Windshifter”! ^_^

And if you’ve got any other questions, you’re free to ask me in the comments/on Twitter/what-have-you. I appreciate all the interest and support you guys have shown in my book thus far! <3

Top Ten Things I Learned At Film School

As most of you all know by now, I majored in film. This gave me two valid career options: fast food and retail. (I opted for the latter.)

Really, “What are you going to do with that degree?” is a question that will probably haunt me for the rest of my life. The reason I went was because I was hoping it would be an outlet for the stories in my head. See, I’m very visual; when I was writing my NaNo, for example, I had to keep stopping to draw pictures or make storyboards or what-have-you. I still can’t listen to most music without little “mental movies” springing unbidden to my mind.

There was a problem with film school, though; namely, there was sort of a… conflict of interest, I guess.

Professor: “So, what sort of movies do you guys want to make?”
Everyone Else: “Memento” / “Fight Club” / “Some black and white indie art film”.
*Everyone turns to stare at me*
Me: “…what?”

…on top of that, take a wild guess on what’s cheaper to make on a shoestring college kid budget: “The Lion King”, or “some black and white art film”? Yeah. So as you can see the “outlet” I was hoping for turned into tagging around on everyone else’s art films while I daydreamed that I was making cartoons instead (although the senior film I ultimately worked on was trying to be “Buffy”, so I guess that was a decent compromise.)

Still, I look back on my time at film school rather fondly. I had fun and learned a lot of interesting things. Among them…


10. “Apocalypse Now” is the answer to every test question.

Sound design question? Apocalypse Now. Editing question? Apocalypse Now. Directing question? Apocalypse Now. Seriously. Even if it wasn’t the original answer, you can usually convince the professor that it works somehow.

9. Everyone Gets to do Everything.

The professors hated when you did this and tried to lay down rules. “Everyone in your group needs to specialize in something! I don’t want to see you as an extra in your own movie!”

Yeah. Um. Not happening. In the senior film I ultimately worked on I was producer, co-executive producer, location manager, assistant camera/clapslate, boom operator, and yes, an extra. Good times.

8. Yeah, Hitchcock is cliché, but it’s because he’s a genius.


(Oh, the shower scene from “Psycho” is your backup Answer-to-Every-Test-Question should “Apocalypse Now” fail for some reason.)

7. What the Difference Between a “Grip” and a “Gaffer” Is.

…but I’ve since forgotten.

6. 95% of foreign movies will inject insanity directly into your brain.

Exceptions are made for Kurosawa (’cause dude, SAMURAI), and Bollywood. Bollywood (aka Indian cinema) is basically big-budget Disney films except live-action instead of animated. And thus awesome.

5. Script Breakdowns Will Destroy You.

“Script Breakdown” is a nice way to word the following: taking a script and going through it line by line and making a note of every character, every prop, every location, every sound and every special effect in the entire movie, and then organizing them into various lists and charts. It will give you nightmares and it will be a good six months before you can watch a movie again without wincing because “uuuugggh that scene would be so expensive and such a pain and augh.”

4. Animated Movies Will Help You Learn2Story.

See, maybe I was on to something with this “Lion King” thing I was talking about earlier. We watched “The ChubbChubbs” in my screenwriting class as an example of setting up a premise and then delivering a solid story. And I have a very distinct memory of some Hollywood professional who had worked on several films coming into our class and showing us clips from “Finding Nemo” as examples for how to make a good story. I don’t remember anything else he said, except for his high praise of “Finding Nemo”.

3. “Don’t Be Afraid to Kill Your Babies”.

…rather less gruesome than it sounds, I promise. My editing teacher said it, and it was to prepare us for a moment that he knew would come in each of our little film-student-lives at some point where we’d have to leave some beautiful scene on the cutting room floor because it didn’t advance the story.

I still mutter this phrase to myself sometimes when working on my fiction writing.

2. Film Professors Say the Darndest Things.

“This must be a leftist VCR”, “Remember: Actors are sheep”, and “Fidel Castro was starting to get on my nerves, so I told him to stop it” come to mind.

and finally…

1. When You Give Your Story to the World, It Isn’t Yours Anymore.

Another thing my editing teacher said. At first, this sort of miffed me. It was my story, afterall, it meant what I wanted it to mean. But I’ve thought about it a lot since then and I’ve come to agree with him. Sure, my story means one thing to me, but to someone else it may mean something else entirely. And you know what… I think I like it that way.

(This may or may not have added fuel to what would become the Open Source Fangirl Fire.)

Ah, film school. Good times.

Maybe someday, I will get to make my “Lion King”. In the meantime, I daydream and doodle… and ramble on blogs…

Classic Video Game Monday: Archon

I was doing one of my favorite past-times and looking up playthroughs of old-games on YouTube, and discovered an amazing remix of an amazing old video game theme.

And I thought, man, Archon was awesome.

“It’s Wizard’s Chess, Harry!”

It looks like chess. It… isn’t really. The pieces don’t move anything like chess pieces do, oh, and when two of them meet on the battlefield, suddenly it turns into an action game:

Whichever color square you happen to fight on determines what color piece has the advantage, but underdogs can– and will– triumph.

The objective is to either kill the other side’s “king” or control all five diamond-shaped areas on the board– there is one at each compass point and one at the center. This is harder to accomplish than it looks, between all the fighting you have to do and the way you also get magical spells and can teleport around or revive fallen pieces. You think Echo of Medivh cheats, wait til the computer revives his most powerful piece and then teleports it on top of you.

Hax? Perhaps, but you can dish it out to the other guy just as well.

Delightfully original and fiendishly difficult, this game is a true classic from the C64/Atari/Apple II era. Orson Scott Card approved. Oh, and distributed by Electronic Arts, funnily enough.

Fish Of My Dreams

(Toldya there’d be fish rambles).

So thanks to my job as a Real-Life Beastmaster… or pet store employee… I’ve become a bit of a tropical fish expert and fiend by necessity. Unfortunately, being a Fish Expert is not exactly very useful in most real-life situations, unless you count “being able to determine how old someone’s tank is and what condition it’s in by glancing at the water test kit dipstrip” as a cool party trick, and most people don’t.

So most of my fish knowledge outside of work gets funneled into daydreaming about future fish tanks that I want. There are like ten or twenty of them, at least. Here’s a few:

The Gourami Tank
Two gold gouramis and two opaline gouramis. Probably in a 29-gallon or so. Gouramis are anabantoids, thus related to bettas and as such they tend not to hang out together very much so they’d definitely want space. This would mostly be a “tank for looks” more than anything, cause I think gold and opalines look beautiful together:

The African Cichlid Tank
I know people love their South Americans: oscars and angelfish and discus (and I do agree that Jack Dempseys are a classic), but I tend to favor the African Cichlids myself. I’m not going to sit here and make vain attempts to point out species, because the Africans are notorious for basically turning Lake Malawi and Lake Victoria into genetic playgrounds where 2000 cichlid species have evolved over a mere ten thousand years or something. All I’m gonna say is: look at the colors on these things:

Do want!

I’d put those four into like… a 55 gallon tank or something. With lots of plants.

Cherry Barb Wonderland
Cherry Barbs (Puntius titteya) are my babies. I love them so much. I have a few right now in a small tank, and I spoil them as best as one can spoil fish– large frequent water changes, bloodworm treats, the works. They show their gratitude (or hunger, I suppose) by swimming up to the glass and getting all excited anytime I pass by. I want a giant school of them.

I might combine the Cherry Barb Wonderland tank with…

Otocinclus and Cory Cat Wonderland

Unlike some folks who see utility fish as simply being, well, utility fish, I love them for what they are. I think they’re absolutely adorable. Both otos and cory cats are happier in big groups, so I’d get giant groups of each. :3

The Rainbow Fish Tank
Rainbows are some of the most underrated fish ever, and I think it’s because they start out all drab and boring when they’re young and don’t get pretty until later.

Well, I’m willing to wait:

…well, those are just a few of my dream tanks. I’m always coming up with new ones, so I may very well be doomed to be the Crazy Fish Lady someday.

Pike’s Fish Geekery hits you for 78234 (critical). You die.

Of Pike and Penguins: And It Was Good

This is part three of my “Discovering Linux” series. Here’s Part One and Part Two.

2007 was a busy year. I was graduating from university and as such, that February I was smack in the middle of senior projects, all of which seemed to be happening right at the same time. Still, I was coming up with excuses to sneak away and use my Linux-ified Laptop. I lurked around on Ubuntu Forums and idled on Linux-related IRC channels. And more and more, having Windows XP on my desktop was starting to bother me. It was compounded by discovering that downloading an mp3 from Apple would play on my iPod but not Winamp, and downloading an mp3 from Microsoft would play on Winamp but not my iPod. This irritated me beyond belief. How could these companies expect to justify not-pirating-stuff if they made it so difficult to listen to music? I didn’t think I could do much about it, though. I needed Windows for games, right? And all those other programs that Linux couldn’t use, right?

I can’t recall what I was doing with my computer, exactly, that fateful day in February. It was the week that all of my senior projects were happening. Film shoots, theatrical plays. I wasn’t working at the time, having saved up a lot of money to take the year off, and yet there were days that I was gone from 9am until well after midnight.

And somehow, amidst all of this, I managed to royally screw up my computer. I think I must have known that what I was doing would screw it all up, because I conveniently happened to back up all of my important files the day before. Maybe I was trying to set up a dual-boot… who knows, really. I can’t remember. Regardless of what I was doing, though, I destroyed my Windows XP. Here’s how I wrote it on my Livejournal at the time:

I was just going around minding my own business (okay, maybe I was sorta messing with things… >.> shh!) and I had to restart my computer and when it came back up I was greeted with all sorts of fun “OMG CAN’T BOOT, OMG NO DISK, OMG RESTART, OMG STUCK” errors. Going into the BIOS didn’t help me at all, and a Google search on my trusty laptop informed me that the solution for this particular error was essentially this: “Nobody knows exactly what causes this error. Here is a list of 5,389,126,734 things you can try that may or may not randomly fix your computer. If none of those work, you’re screwed.”

So what did a very exasperated and rather un-amused Pike do?

Stuck the Kubuntu 6.06 CD in the drive and reformatted, of course.

Granted, it wasn’t all fun and games and smooth sailing. I had tons of display and graphical issues and I became very well-acquainted with the dpkg-reconfigure xserver-xorg command. And, if I recall correctly, I actually had to go out and buy a new wireless card. All of this in the middle of my senior projects that determined whether or not I’d graduate.

And yet, it was worth it. For the first time in years I felt like I was doing something really and truly productive and, dare I say, fun involving my computer. It was challenging and frustrating and it was a blast, and within two days I was all set up and ready to go.

…and that’s how it happened. Since then I’ve been a Linux user. Three years as of last month.

A lot of things have happened since then. I began playing World of Warcraft in May of 2007. I am forever grateful that I was a full-time Linux user before I started playing because I can guarantee you now that I would never have considered a full-switch to Linux if I was on Windows when I started playing and I thought that maybe Linux might do something to my precious WoW. (Um yeah, I was a serious addict for a while. *cough*)

WoW on Linux/Wine was relatively easy to set up– although I had no sound the first day or two that I played– but this was quickly fixed and I leveled to 70 (the then-level cap) without ever logging onto a Windows box. Things got tricky when I started raiding and suddenly Ventrilo was a must; Ventrilo, try as I might, never ever worked for me on Linux.* So it was that February of 2008– after one year of being an exclusive Linux user– I caved and turned my computer into a dual-boot machine. I’ve dual-booted since then, although I don’t particularly like it. I give Linux the lion’s share of my hard drive and only ever use Windows for Ventrilo or FRAPS, and since those are very situational uses I still do consider myself to be a “Linux exclusive” user in the end.

(In fact, right now my Windows partition is quite gimped– no sound, broken graphics, and it won’t connect to the internet. Linux did it all out of the box, so I’ve no desire to go mess with my Windows partition, especially now that I no longer play WoW.)

And so it is that we reach this point. I’m not a computer wizard. I’m not “elite”. I’m not a programmer (though I yearn to be one so I dink around with Python.) I’m just a girl who fell in love with open source one day and decided to see how deep the rabbit hole went.

And so begin my stories…

* Ironically I finally started to get it to work about two weeks before I quit WoW. My last ever raids were done, perhaps fittingly, on Linux, so I’d come full circle.

Of Pike and Penguins: And Torvalds said, “Let There Be Light!”

This is part two of my three-part “Discovering Linux” story. Like the last post, this was written up at some point last year.


I don’t recall exactly where I first found out about Ubuntu, the rising new star in Linux distros at the time, or what it was that inspired me to download the LiveCD. Actually, now that I think about it, I think it may have been the unknowing “fault” of a poster at a forum I frequented at the time. She would post up her Ubuntu in those “Post Your Desktop” threads, and I was… jealous, to say the least. That should be me, I thought. I was the one who did the research on Open Source and oldschool hackers… why couldn’t I have Linux too?

I do remember downloading the Ubuntu LiveCD, putting it in my computer, and being extremely disappointed to find out that try as I might, I couldn’t get it to play nice with my wireless internet.

Why I also had the Kubuntu LiveCD (Kubuntu being, well, Ubuntu with a different desktop environment), I honestly can’t remember, and why I tried it out after Ubuntu I can’t remember either. I do know, though, that wireless internet worked flawlessly and out of the box on Kubuntu, and that I fell deeply in love with this beautiful operating system that was pleasing to the eyes and that was so very deliciously “open source”… all the ideals I’d found myself falling in love with.

But then I went back to Windows. Because the Linux LiveCD was just a LiveCD in my eyes; I’d never get to actually install it. I didn’t think I was that talented. Besideswhich, I figured I’d need to use Windows for video games. (Never mind the fact that I only very rarely played PC games at that point).

I soon got to a point where I was using the Kubuntu LiveCD anytime I had the excuse, though. Mostly on my laptop; I would cozy down on my bed with the lights dim except for maybe a candle, and do my stuff on Linux. It felt so… right. Does that make me a giant dork? Probably. But hey.

I moved on to the next step in my little obsession, which was the determination to get Linux installed on something. I chose my old computer which I no longer used. One day I pulled it out, popped the LiveCD in, and… failed to get it to boot the LiveCD. Doublechecking the BIOS and trying out Smart Boot Manager literally got me nowhere. So, after several hours… I gave up.


Happy New Year

I gave it another shot a few months later. Why I thought I could succeed that time when I hadn’t before, I don’t know, but I spent hours trying to get it working. It was something I wanted so badly, I could taste it.

And so it was that about a week later I pulled out my laptop, surrounded myself with penguin plushies for luck (dork, remember?) put in the Kubuntu LiveCD… and clicked “install”.

I partitioned the drive so I would be able to dual-boot Windows and Linux. Afterward I leaned back and took a look at the finished job: Linux, running much more quickly and smootly than it had with the LiveCD. And Windows still booting fine as well. Success?

Perhaps not.

Somehow I had messed up my install, and given myself a gigantic Linux partition and a teeny tiny Windows one. This was the opposite of what I initially wanted. Now at this point, I was still a giant nub and had no idea about partition editors like GParted so I assumed that my only option would be to wipe everything, reinstall Windows, and start from scratch.

I had a copy of Windows XP laying around, so in the disc went into my laptop and after a bit I was good to go. Or so I thought. I had no internet and no sound. See, these were drivers that came pre-installed with the laptop’s Windows XP and they didn’t give them to you separately. I went on a massive search for said drivers, with no luck. Before long, night had arrived, and I went to bed with tears in my eyes, convinced I had ruined my laptop and rendered it completely unusable. I knew I shouldn’t have tried to mess with Linux. I knew I would mess something up. I knew it was out of my league.

I woke up the next morning hoping that it had all been a bad dream. But no, I still had a laptop running a gimped version of Windows XP. I glanced over at the Kubuntu CD. I glanced back at my laptop. I thought for a while.

And then Kubuntu went into my laptop and I wiped XP and installed Linux onto 100% of my hard drive. No more of this dual-booting crap with an OS that I couldn’t get working if it didn’t happen to be installed by default.

And then it was done; I booted up my computer and up came Linux.

The sound worked by default.

The internet worked by default.

It was January of 2007, and that year, I was free.

This, of course, was only the beginning– my desktop computer, which was the one that I used most, still ran Windows XP. That would soon change.

To Be Concluded!

Of Pike and Penguins: In The Beginning

This is something I initially wrote back June of last year. It’s part one of a three part story describing how I “found” Linux and turned into a FOSS nerd. I figured it would be worth documenting partially so I wouldn’t forget, and partially because while I am a geek, I am by no means a programmer, and I figure this makes me somewhat unique among typical FOSS nerds so maybe it would be a story worth sharing.


Computers have always been a part of my life. When I was very young, it was the Commdore 64, and then when I hit Kindergarten and throughout much of elementary school career, it was green-screen IBMs. By fifth or sixth grade the school had graduated to Mac, which I preferred over the IBMs for two reasons: Kid Pix, and fireworks screensavers. Why can’t you find any good old’fashioned Pyro! fireworks screensavers anymore? But I digress.

The internet also exploded onto the scene at about this time; I’ll never forget that random commercial in the middle of kids’ shows saying you could now enter some contest or other by “e-mail”. What a strange new word.

Our beloved Commdore 64 at home finally gave up the ghost when I was in seventh grade and we bought a shiny new computer with Windows 95 installed. For the first time I tried out this “internet thing” myself, though I don’t really remember what I did. I do have a vague memory of talking to my cousin on ICQ, though.

The default web browser was Internet Explorer, which disappointed me because I much preferred the browser with the shiny “N” logo that made sparkles when pages were loading, and had an overall more fun GUI, which, back then, is basically how I judged most programs. But Internet Explorer was what came with the computer, and so it was that the Big Blue “E” would become synonymous with the internet.

Our computer was always having issues so we wound up replacing it and reformatting it several times for the next few years and we cycled through virtually every new Windows operating system up until XP, which is when I graduated high school and got my own computer as a present. It came with Windows XP Home pre-installed and I. Was. Excited. Finally a computer of my own to play my own games on and set my own wallpaper on!

I played a lot of Starcraft. Mostly just games against the AI because my internet access at the time was dialup and very spotty at best. I could get internet access at school, and I found myself joining a few forums, but but I never stayed very long because I couldn’t access said forums from home. Things really started to change in early 2004, though, when I finally obtained home access to high-speed internet…

Enter the Fox

The Big Blue E. That’s what I clicked on to use the internet, and use it I did to explore this big new world that had opened up in front of me. At some point earlier, my brother (who got a computer of his own a few years before I did), showed me this new thing called “Mozilla” which he called “The Browser of Champions,” but I didn’t really get the appeal and went back to my Big Blue E.

Until it decided to start being stupid.

Every so often it would suddenly and out of nowhere decide to open up multitudes of copies of itself. I had no way to stop it until it decided to stop, at which point my taskbar was cluttered with dozens or even hundreds of instances of Internet Explorer, and I had to go through and individually close each of them. I was quite vexed by this and went to the aforementioned brother for help, who gave me a solution that I wasn’t expecting, but which turned out to be even better than I expected:

A new web browser. It was apparently still in Beta; version 0.8, I believe, is where I jumped in.

It was called Firefox.

I was immediately hooked. The kinks were all still being worked out, the browser was still somewhat glitchy in several respects, but I was hooked nonetheless. The Big Blue E was ditched and from that day on, it was the still mint-new logo of a fox circling the globe that would then define the Internet.

Perhaps most importantly though, Firefox showed me something that I hadn’t even known existed. See, I like to research things, just to learn more about them, and so naturally at some point I stumbled across something or other about Firefox and I was reading it and discovered a new term: Open Source.


My very earliest introduction to Linux was this thing that my brother showed me called Knoppix. From what I understood at the time, it was a CD that you put into your computer that turned you into a hacker.

Let’s stop and talk about this for a bit. Although my personal definition of the word “hacker” has changed throughout my life, I can never remember it being a negative word. At the time that I was shown Knoppix, a “hacker”, in my understanding, was a cross between Neo from the Matrix, and Robin Hood. An outlaw with a heart who stole code from the rich to give to the poor. Someone who was probably scary but was still, at heart, a Good Guy. I have no idea how this picture got painted in my mind. It was possibly inspired by the “I Know Unix” girl in Jurassic Park, a movie that I watched about a million times when I was ten years old. But regardless of where I got this image in my head, it was there, and Knoppix was seen as this shiny, offlimits toy that I should never use because I knew I wasn’t Neo or Robin Hood, I was just an ordinary girl, and to use something like Linux would be like stumbling out of my domain and profaning something that was beyond my reach.

And so other than ogling at it one time I went on with the rest of my life, not thinking about it again until going on one of those wonderful zen moments on the computer of just clicking and clicking and learning and learning about new things, and this time it was Open Source I was learning about and somehow I stumbled across Eric S. Raymond‘s website.

It was then that I devoured the Jargon File and became fascinated with this idea of the true, original, dorky MIT hacker. A geek like me, who was also trickster like Br’er Rabbit who made fun things with computers.

Could I do that?

On that site was a tutorial called “How to Become a Hacker“. I gulped it all down and then got to one of the steps:

Get one of the open-source Unixes and learn to use and run it.”

I thought back to Knoppix and how alien it had seemed compared to Windows, with its big terminal and an unfamiliar GUI. Yeah, it was out of my league.

So I decided I couldn’t become a hacker, I wasn’t awesome enough. Fair. I was still fascinated with the idea of Open Source, and became relatively involved in the Spread Firefox community for a short time as a way to prove it. I felt like I’d sort of reached a dead-end, though, and because I was still relatively content with Windows my initial love affair with Open Source sort of faded away.

For the time being…

To Be Continued!

Classic Video Game Monday: Super Mario World

I’m starting a new thing. Every Monday I want to talk about a classic video game.

Mind you, the definition of “classic” is arguable, but as far as I’m concerned, if it a.) came out more than a couple of years ago, and b.) makes me feel all nostalgic when I think about it, it’s fair game.

Seeing as I’ve been gaming most of my life, and seeing as friends have actually made fun of me before for my propensity to wax nostalgic about old games rather than play new ones nine times out of ten, I’m sure I won’t run out of games for this feature for a loooong time.

For my inaugural edition I figured I’d go with a tried and true classic that I’m sure most of us can agree on. It’s not my favorite Mario game (Super Mario RPG & Mario Bros. 3 are probably my two faves in that category), but there is no denying… Super Mario World was amazing.

When I first got this game it came with the Super Nintendo we got for Christmas, and pretty much everyone was hooked. See, basically what this game did was take the tried and true Mario formula… and make it HUGE.

If my memory serves me correctly, when you count secret areas there are close to 100 levels packed in here. And secret levels there were galore. Secret passageways, secret bridges, secret underwater areas, and entire secret “worlds” such as Star Road or “Special”. Special included the one level that I could never beat. When I actually saw it easily done on YouTube years later, I was quite shocked. I mean, my inability to pass that level had been haunting me for years.

Now let’s change gears from secret worlds to secrets within the normal levels. In order to unlock a good number of the secret levels, you had to discover… secondary finishlines, so to speak, in the normal levels. These often came in the form of finding a key in a level and having to drag it to a keyhole. Other times it would be a second goalpost hidden away behind the first. Beating the level this way would invariably open up secret paths and more secret levels.

There were secret techniques to beat certain levels, too. The Ghost Houses were set up to be nothing but a houseful of secrets and puzzles, forcing you to think outside of the box to beat the level the normal way, much less the “secret” way. Oh, and who can forget the easy way to surpass all the angry saws in the Cheese Bridge area?

…though, I sort of think that your ability to use this technique wasn’t intentional, because you couldn’t do this anymore in the Game Boy Advance version. Poo.

You didn’t have to find all the secrets to beat Bowser, though. You could do it in under fifteen minutes from start to finish if you knew the correct path. I always loved Bowser’s castle in this game, by the way. You had a choice of “rooms” to go in and each room had some sort of different “mini-castle” in it. I thought it was a really neat and original idea (I’d certainly never seen something like that before.)

I could ramble on and on about this game forever but ultimately I think the best compliment I can give it is this: when I bought my Game Boy Advance years later and I had enough money for one game, I looked around at all the shiny new GBA games…

…and bought the port of Super Mario World.

Once Upon a Time

Pikestaff the character was born when I was about 13 or 14 years old and the Internet, as we know it, was juuuust starting to catch on.

Back then the interwebs horizon was filled with names like Altavista and Hotbot, and one of the very first things I did was go searching for “Redwall“.

See, back then I was super in to the Redwall series, a set of books that was about anthropomorphic animals in a sword & sorcery fantasy world who spent their time solving riddles and fighting bad guys. Pretty much every single book had the exact same plot (just with different names) and I just ate it up.

Apparently so did a lot of other kids my age because I stumbled across a very living world of Redwall roleplaying message boards.

Obviously I had to join in, so I invented a character named Pikestaff– a hare (my favorite species from the books) who was a big goofball and possessed a voracious appetite.

Now I have a confession to make. It make shock some of you who didn’t know this before.


I was baaaasically a cross between a troll and the living personification of Goldshire. To me, the funniest thing in the world was showing up in the middle of someone’s super serious RP and attempting to subtly turn it into Pokemon or the Matrix. At least I was classy about my trolling, I guess, because it wasn’t a game to bother other people with as much as it was a game to see how much I could get away with. I invented other characters who served similar purposes, such as the SCV of Death or a dragon named Windshifter who would become rather prominent in my life later, but I digress.

Whether because of or despite of my notoriety, Pikestaff the hare became a rather well-known character across the Redwall forum-o-sphere in the late 90s, and occasionally I’d even set aside the humor and actually do some “real RP”. Occasionally.

I didn’t get to spend as much time on the Internet as I would have liked to, and eventually the “InsideTheWeb” software powering some 95% of Redwall message boards went kaput, so Pikestaff didn’t stay in the psuedo-RP realm for very long. I incorporated her into stories (mostly satire), and sort of turned her into a general all-purpose alter-ego, signing up for things as Pikestaff or Pike.

That’s where the name came from.

The persona remained a hare for a long time, although it never felt quiiiite right. Anytime I drew a “self-portrait” of myself, for years, it was usually some sort of cartoon android or robot, not a hare. But then when I sat down to actually come up with a robot character for myself, that never felt quite right either.

Then, a revelation!

What if I combined the two?

Thus Pikestaff the Clockwork Hare was born.

These are the voyages (extraordinares)…

Less talk, more tick-tock