No Asterisks

The Houston Rockets won the NBA championship in ’94 and ’95. However, those titles will always carry with them an asterisk: They won them during Michael Jordan’s first retirement1)Technically, Jordan came back during the ’94-’95 season, but he would not return to his GOAT level until the following year.. People look down on those championships because Hakeem Olajuwon did not have to beat Jordan to earn them.

As a Rockets fan, I say this argument is bullshit. Injuries, retirements, and bad luck are inherent factors every season. The best teams and players often do not face off against one another. The Lakers still won in ’09 even though Kobe vs. Lebron never happened. Back in the 90’s, The Rockets were the best team in the NBA two years in a row, and nothing should diminish that.

But deep down, even I know that is not true. Those Rockets championships do have a little tarnish on them. The Dream never got to play MJ in the Finals. Continue reading No Asterisks

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. Technically, Jordan came back during the ’94-’95 season, but he would not return to his GOAT level until the following year.

The Earnestness of Genre Fiction

I wrote a novel.

Technically, only the first draft is finished, but that just means I wrote a really shitty book. When people ask me to describe my novel (or when I try to subtly bring the subject up in conversation like an arrogant asshole), I tell them:

The book is about a lot of big themes. Part of it is about the disempowerment of young men in the modern economy. Some of it is about the mind-body problem, in particular how the body is extensible through the use of tools.

But primarily the book is about giant robots fighting each other.

Laughter normally ensues. The joke proves I have a hip, ironic detachment with my work. Giant robots cannot have thematic value.

I am a fucking coward. The ironic detachment protects me and hides the truth: I wrote a book called Mecha Americana because I love Gundam and Neon Genesis Evangelion. To this day, I wish I could pilot the Gundam Epyon or Eva Unit-01, so I wrote a story about a white dude whom appropriates Japanese culture and technology to save the day. Continue reading The Earnestness of Genre Fiction

Back to School

This blog is a collection of my failures. I have written previously about my biggest mistake:

I screwed up my life.

At the beginning, I had so much talent. I skipped kindergarten and dominated my classes. In high school, I was a straight A student who graduated sixth in my class of over eight hundred. My parents and teachers told me I was so smart. I was easily accepted to the University of Texas as an honors biomedical engineering student with a full scholarship. My first semester GPA was a 4.0.

Then everything went to hell. I failed some classes and lost my scholarship. Engineering turned into philosophy, bringing constant questions of, “Philosophy? What on earth are you going to do with that?” After five unsuccessful years in college, I dropped out and moved back in with my parents. I started cashiering again at the same grocery store I worked at in high school. Even four years after dropping out, I have barely gotten my life on track. At age 26, still having a roommate begins to look a little pathetic.

The good news is I no longer have a roommate. In fact, I not only have my own apartment but also a career too. After I returned to my hometown as a cashier, I quickly moved up to an assistant manager position. Getting to wear a blue shirt instead of a red one was marginally less humiliating. Continue reading Back to School

A Trip to Ikea

I loved going to IKEA as a kid. My mom would drop me off at the child care section and go off to do some shopping. I would jump around the ball pit and play Super Mario Bros. on the NES. When my mom would pick me up, we would go eat. I would always get chicken fingers at the restaurant and then a cookie for the way home. With all those benefits, IKEA was my favorite shop to visit, infinitely better than my childhood nemesis Dillard’s.

That fondness has continued into adulthood but for different reasons. Recently, my mom and I took another trip to IKEA, so I could get some furniture for my new apartment. Upon first entering, we saw the ball pit through the window on the first floor. A twinge of nostalgia ran through my body. My disappointment was quickly replaced by excitement as we took the escalator to the second floor showroom. Continue reading A Trip to Ikea

Burnout Paradise Remastered: A Racing Platformer

Two dimensions are never enough. Plenty of 2-D video games, like Super Metroid and The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, have exploration components. Link and Samus bomb walls to discover treasures and ascend to great heights to discover new locations. But the sense of exploration in those games is limited.

The addition of the third dimension increases the complexity of moving around a space. Your non-game-playing grandparents may look like passable Space Invaders players but may struggle to get out of a room in Grand Theft Auto V. Breaking away from a single plane of motion increases the complexity by an order of magnitude, but that difficulty increases the reward of being able to explore that space.

This was the revolutionary component of Super Mario 64; exploring a three-dimensional space can be rewarding on its own. In SM64, it was exciting to climb to the top of Bob-omb Battlefield, race to the bottom of Cool, Cool Mountain, or even just jump around the overworld castle. Continue reading Burnout Paradise Remastered: A Racing Platformer

Games Do Not Have to Be Fun

Uncontroversial opinion: Kids dying from cancer is not a fun topic. In fact, pediatric oncology may be the most depressing subject imaginable. Yet the video game That Dragon, Cancer tackles such material head on. The game is an autobiographical work primarily developed by Ryan and Amy Green whose young son Joel was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

That Dragon, Cancer can be described as an exploration game, or derisively as a walking simulator. Most of the gameplay is spent wandering around an environment while hearing voiceover from the Greens. Yet despite its simplistic gameplay, this may be the most difficult game I have ever played. Most games are difficult in the same way that sports are difficult; they require effort, fast reflexes, and a hunger to win. That Dragon, Cancer is difficult in the same way consoling a loved one through heartbreak is difficult. Continue reading Games Do Not Have to Be Fun

UCF Are Not National Champions

Last Sunday, the Philadelphia Eagles won their first Super Bowl. The media is portraying this as the first time Philadelphia’s beleaguered franchise has reached the league summit, but that is not true. Before the AFL-NFL merger and the first Super Bowl, the Eagles won the NFL championship in 1948, 1949, and 1960. While the league may have been much smaller in those days, those are still #1 results. In the NBA, most of Bill Russell’s titles were in years when the league had less than 10 teams, but he is still remembered as one of the greatest players of all time. Professional basketball is acutely aware of its history.

On the other hand, pro football forgets the sport existed before the Super Bowl. To most Americans, Joe Namath is more well-known that Johnny Unitas. They both have one Super Bowl victory to their names, but Unitas won multiple championships and was the prototype of the modern quarterback. To Roger Goodell and the rest of the NFL, professional football did not start until 1967. Continue reading UCF Are Not National Champions

A Theory on Sherlock

Growing up, I loved being the “smart kid”. I skipped a grade, got straight A’s, and graduated high school near the top of my class. My parents and teachers showered me with praise. I thought myself to be a right Sherlock Holmes.

Of course, my intelligence was never that great, which I discovered when I failed out of college. Yet I still felt an attachment and similarity to Sherlock Holmes, in particular Benedict Cumberbatch’s portrayal of the character. Myself and Sherlock have both discovered emotional intelligence is more powerful than traditional intelligence.

At the beginning of the BBC’s Sherlock, the titular character is shown to be a cold, crime-solving robot detached from humanity. In his first appearance, Sherlock gives little attention to the other people in the room and remains focused on his work. He analyzes Watson and mentions Watson’s alcoholic sister with little regard to the visible discomfort it engenders in Sherlock’s future roommate. Sherlock is deficient in emotional intelligence. Continue reading A Theory on Sherlock

Mr. Robot Season 4: True Science Fiction

The following is a two-in-one post. The first part is on the simulation hypothesis; the second is about USA Network’s Mr. Robot. Originally, the universe simulation section was going to be a footnote in the primary Mr. Robot piece. However, that footnote soon grew to David-Foster-Wallace-esque proportions and transformed into its own separate section.

Part I: Simulation Hypothesis

The Matrix was a groundbreaking film particularly for its “bullet time” effect. However, the film’s pop culture relevance has more to do with its interesting sci-fi conceit: The characters in The Matrix are all living inside a computer simulation.

This was not a new idea at the time of The Matrix‘s release. A similar concept of a “brain in a vat” was forwarded by René Descartes in Meditations on First Philosophy back in 1641, but The Matrix and the internet revolution put it on everyone’s minds. Of course, The Matrix is a work of fiction. However, the simulation hypothesis makes logical sense. Continue reading Mr. Robot Season 4: True Science Fiction

David Foster Wallace: Severing the Internet Connection

Early humans had to hunt to survive, and evolution gave our species numerous advantages for that purpose. Our large brains and opposable thumbs provided us the ability to develop and wield tools. Socialization allowed us to pool our resources and abilities, and our social groups became greater than the sum of our parts. However, the most important tool early mankind possessed to aid their hunting efforts was the ability to run long distances. Biology professor David R. Carrier of the University of Utah explains in “The Energetic Paradox of Human Running and Hominid Evolution”:

Among cursorial mammals man is one of the best distance runners. While game animals are faster over short distances, they generally have less endurance than man…Tarahumara Indians chase deer through the mountains of northern Mexico until the animals collapse from exhaustion and then throttle them by hand.

Continue reading David Foster Wallace: Severing the Internet Connection