Friday, October 21, 2011

Wedding Numbers

So as a single Mormon1 woman, I’m obsessed with my future wedding.

However, I don’t obsess about the same things that normal women might obsess over. Mostly because I’m a geek.

Yes, I do try and think of what cute ways I could include Portal in my wedding invitations, and I dream of how many hits the you-tube video of my incredibly geeky proposal will have, but there’s something involving numbers that I care about even more.

My wedding date.

I started thinking about this in the spring of 2009. My friend was getting married on 6/6/9, which I thought was pretty cool. So even though I was single, and didn’t really have any prospects,2 I started thinking about cool dates to get married.

And that’s when I realized that 9/9/9 was like the most awesomest date to get married. Cause back in the ancient times of computer programming,3 programs would often use 999 as an escape character. So you’re escaping single-hood! How clever is that!

But I tend to be practical, and even though I really wanted to, I probably wasn’t going to get married on 9/9/9, so I started to think of other cool dates to get married. Initially, I rejected 10/10/10, because it is too close to my birthday. 4 But then it was pointed out to me that in binary 101010=42. If that’s not the most awesomely nerdy wedding date ever, I just don’t know what is. And if I have to explain to you why 42 is cool, well, so long and thanks for all the fish, the world is coming to an end.5

My friend wasn’t the only person I personally know that got married on an interesting day. My cousin got married on 10/20/2010. Again, it’s too close to my birthday, and comeon, 10/10/10!! But, even though it’s hard to argue with the awesomeness of 10/10/10, it was probably all booked up cause even if you don't get the nerdyness, there's been a strong trend towards getting married on n/n/n dates, so I applaud her ingenuity. Plus, extra points for using the first two digits of the year. That’s not easy to do.

Now we have to back up a bit here. Cause the awesome date I’d come up with for 2010 was earlier in the year. 3/21/10. Do you get why it's cool? Now this is going to really separate the nerds from the geeks. I’ll give you a hint, you need to reverse the order of the numbers. Give up? It’s the Fibonacci sequence! Yeah, I know, it’s pretty geeky and weird to like the Fibonacci sequence. But I’ve loved it ever since the days of MathNet.6 It’s pretty awesome all around, and useful, so you should probably like it, too.7

If you remember this, I think we need to get married, just on principle.

But as 2009 drew to a close, it became apparent that I was going to miss this mathematical day. Not to worry, I still had 3/2/11 to fall back on. And it was a more traditional representation of my beloved sequence.8

But now it 10/2011. And we’ve got no more binary dates. Well, 11/11/11, but that’s awful close to Thanksgiving, and 111111=63. That’s not very exciting. And I really doubt that I could find a boyfriend and get him to marry me in less than three weeks. That’s pretty fast, even for Mormons.

You could suggest 12/12/12, but that’s really close to Christmas. Besides, there’s no such thing as 2.

So I was about to despair. What could I look forward to now that all the interesting wedding dates have passed??

But then I remembered, the Fibonacci sequence goes on! And the next bit ends in 13! So 5/8/13 could be a very good date! It’s a bit more obscure, but it could definitely work.

And I completely forgot about Pi Day! The most sacred of all geek holidays. Second only to Talk-like-a-pirate day!9 And what’s even better, is we’ve got a special, extended edition Pi day coming up! 3/14/15! I’ve got plenty of time between then and now to find me a husband who’s willing to plan our wedding around an inane set of numbers.

And if it takes a really long time, we’ve also got 1/1/23, and an extra awesome mole day of 6/02/23.10 But I don’t want to tell you how old I’ll be in 2023...Lets just say, I’ll be well out of singles ward range.11

1 Strike that, this is not limited to my culture.
2 Note: Wanting him back really badly doesn’t count as a prospect.
3 i.e. twenty years ago.
4 And who wants your anniversary to be close to your birthday? Then your lame husband is just going to want to get you one gift for both of them. And we all know the strength of your marriage can be measured by the awesomeness of the gifts your husband gives you for important occasions, and if he tries to double up, then you have to divide the awesomeness by 2, making his job even harder, so really, you're doing him a favor by spreading the gifting times out.
5 Ok, I do hope that there are some non-nerds aka, my family, who might be reading this, and they *might* not know about the answer to life, the universe and everything. But then again, even Siri knows that answer. Go ask her.
6 Duh Dun Duh Dun. Duh Dun Duh Dun Dun.
7 It also didn’t hurt that a guy that I had a crush on in High School thought that my Fibonacci sequence program was pretty innovative for using two variables for calculation instead of three. I thought that twenty line program with the peak of my genius for a lot longer that I should have. The funny things men do to you...
8 And by traditional I mean the way I learned it. Apparently kids these days like to start with 0. It’s hard to keep up with the trends sometimes.
9 I kid. I actually think this holiday is rather silly, and I can’t believe it’s been officially recognized. And by officially recognized, I mean large MMOs give you special drops on that day. Actually, I think that makes Pirate day officially more official than Pi Day. I think I’m going to cry.
10 Instead of 6:02 on 10/23. I think there’d be more Mole day celebrations if we ate moles.
11 Singles wards are special Mormon congregations for single members aged 18-30. Yes, Mormons want their young adults to get married so badly they corral them into their own world and don’t let them out until they are married, or full blown menaces to society.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

How To Make A Cube:
Episode VII: That's No Moon... It's a Giant Plushie!!

So you’ve got a pattern, but you don’t know what to do with it. Might I suggest making a companion cube.

Also known as the most awesome cat bed evar.

Oh, right, that’s why you’re here. Well, first step would be to procure some fabric.1 I used polar fleece from Joann’s and a local store in Utah. You could use polar fleece, or minky, or felt, depending on the look and feel your want for you cube. Now you probably want to me to tell you the yardage that you’ll need. Unfortunately, I finished the cube a while ago, and I am unsure of my exact yardage, so I am going to attempt to over estimate. I ran out of light grey fabric, and in that time, Joann’s stopped carrying that particular color of polar fleece.2 I would suggest getting 5 yards of light grey and 2.5 yards of dark grey. You should only need about half a yard for the pink hearts, and just about a quarter of a yard of the dark pink for the lines. No, I did not use the same fabric for both pinks...

Do those look like the same color to you?!

If you want your cube to be a bit stiffer and hold it’s shape better, I recommend backing all the the pieces with craft fuse. You can find this in the interfacing section of your local craft store. As long as your local craft store is called “Joann’s”. But I'm sure other places carry it. It's basically just a thick interfacing.3 I would strongly recommend a fuseable interfacing. The craft fuse isn’t going to make your cube stand up on it’s own. However, it will give it more structure where there was none before. It will also help keep the fabric from stretching out.

A small selection of craft fuse pieces.

Now get out the dvds, or netflix, or whatever because you are about to spend the next year cutting out 700+ odd shapes. You will get bored. Try and push through it, cause this is where I kept getting stuck. I made all the patterns quite quickly, and sewing them together took time, but I was able to make steady progress. Cutting out all those pieces seriously felt like it took forever, and it just wasn’t enjoyable. Maybe make a party of it, like when you get your guildies to come and kill a monster with you. Cause this cube is one major monster, and if you’re not careful, you will grind yourself right out of not actually finishing this project. But I believe in you! And no, I won’t cut them out for you.

I wish I could write a function to do this for me...

Now when you cut the fabric, you should definitely cut the pattern pieces with seam allowance. When you cut the craft fuse, you could cut the smaller, original sized piece. This will keep your seams cleaner, and it’s what I did with my cube. However, if I was doing it again, I would interface the whole piece. Which goes against everything I stand for as a seamstress, but this is a piece of furniture, or a large toy, not a garment, so I think it’s ok. Just don’t tell anyone, and they might not take away my sewing licence.4

Ok, I’m going to climb into my TARDIS here and meet you in six months, cause I just can’t wait around while you cut out all those pieces...

My other vehicle is a Honda Accord.

Ok, I’m back! Are you done yet? Awesome! I knew you could do it!

Now we have to sew up all those pieces. I sewed each section in turn. First I sewed up the corners.

A stack of corners. Or maybe a bit of folded space.

Then I sewed up the edges. And the dark grey channels.

Here I’m sewing the channels onto the edges. These pictures are a little timey-wimey.

Then I sewed up the buttons, with the face and stripes.

A companion cube has six hearts, which means he loves you three time more than the Doctor can.
Also he’s three times harder to kill. Minus regeneration.

And finally, I sewed up the dark grey channels to the edges, and the edges to the corners, and the face to the ring of corners and edges. I finally had a full side.

Objects when assembled will be larger than their separate parts appeared.

And this is when I realize exactly how big the cube was, and I wondered what I had just gotten myself into...

But it was too late to turn back. I continued added onto this face, with corners and edges and centers. The centers always went in last. Also, I made sure that the hearts were facing the right way according to the cube model. Also, don’t forget to install a zipper somewhere. I originally just hand-sewed the cube up, but on the second go around, I installed a zipper.5 I did a dark grey invisible zipper, and I put it on the edge between a button and the face. This would be easy to insert when you are constructing a center. I think this is a great place for it, as it’s a long enough seam to take a 22” zipper, and it’s also a pretty hidden place. You can’t see the zipper unless you know it’s there, so I routinely forget where it is. Which is good and bad.

Can you spot the zipper??

For my first go around, I also made some stabilization inserts for the corners. I initially made these out of some extra felt I had, but any material will do, as long as it’s stable, ie. it won’t stretch much. I would not recommend polar fleece for these. These were sew into the seam allowance of the complete cube corners on the completed cube. This helps the corners maintain their shape, and helps the cube maintain an overall more cube shape.

Just sew the tabs into the seam allowance of the corners.

I then stuffed the cube will all manner of foam, and foam-like objects. The majority of what I used what was knock-off lovesac filler. When using this kind of material, always, always, ALWAYS, put it in a bag of some sort. I am still picking this stuff off of my cube since I unstuffed it, and I will never fully get it out of the inside of the cube, no matter how long I, or the cube, live. I also used normal poly-fill for the corners, and I used bean bag pellets to finish it off, because my love sac foam just wasn’t enough, and I was on a time crunch at that point, and this is what I could get a hold of.

Cube is bleeding!!!

Now all this made for a very heavy cube. When we were dragging it around for the video, we were using two furniture dollies and a piece of plywood. And it was still hard. When I was trying to push the cube, I didn’t have to act like it was hard. It was that hard.

But after the video6, I really wanted to take the cube with me to a convention. I thought of trying to have a collapsible structure made of foam and pvc pipes, but my cosplay friend Hylian Jean suggested that I buy a large inflatable cube. Instead of buying one, I just made one out of painter’s plastic and a valve from a broken air mattress. It’s not perfect. It still loses air somehow, and I haven’t found the leak, despite my best efforts. I hope to correct this in the near future. I would only recommend a plastic inside when making a portable cube. The Luv Sac foam is actually a great filler, as long as you plan on moving it about as much as you move a Luv Sac.

If it only stayed this inflated.

But there you have it! In just about a million hours, you will have your own cube! You’d better get started. Time waits for no one! And at the end, a cake appears! 7

Cube and Cake, together at last!

1 Unless you just want to make your cube out of printer paper and tape. ProTip: fabric is much, much cuddlier than paper.
2 ProTip: Buy enough fabric, so you don’t have to try and color match later, cause that is pretty much impossible. I don’t want to admit the about of money and hours I have poured into attempting to do just that.
3 If you don’t know what interfacing is... you might want to wiki that...
4 I could try and explain why you shouldn’t have interfacing in a seam, but honestly it really doesn’t matter, and I’m probably making too big a deal over this... IGNORE ME!!
5 ProTip: Just do this the first time.
6 Same link, but you should probably watch it again. And tell your friends to watch it.
7 As long as you have a super awesome friend who promises to make a cake for you when you finish your cube and throw a party.

How To Make A Cube:
Episode II: Attack of the Cartesian Plane

So you want to make a pattern from a 3D Model. There are probably several methods for this, but I am going to be doing a direct and very hands on method. This way I can be sure that you’ve got it exactly how you want, without having to learn and wrestle with a new program. Things might be easier if you use something like Paperkura or a CAD program, but I don’t know how to use either. What I do know how to use is graph paper. So we’re going to use that.

First step is to get the cube into a usable .obj form. I’m not going to tell you how to do this. For one, there are many tutorials out there that cover the extraction and conversion of .mdl files from Source games.1 Two, I’ve posted a .obj of the cube on my DA. It’s not textured, so it’s really only useful for making patterns. If you want a textured version, use Google and the Internet to teach yourself how to do it.

It’s like the Matrix, only slower.

Once you’ve got a .obj file, you’re going to need a way to see the values of the vertices. I’ve used a myriad of different 3d programs over the years, but I currently use Silo.2 It’s not too expensive, for a 3d modeling program, and the trial version should give you enough functionality to gather the data we need from this model. Also, it is more intuitive than Blender.3

You can either use sheets of graph paper, or a computer program to plot your data. Since I am not proficient in a CAD program, and drawing programs like GIMP, while serviceable, take forever to plot this data in, we’re going to use graph paper. Just like I did when I made my original patterns.

When you procure your graph paper, make sure it’s marked at 1/10” or 1/5" markings. If you get normal graph paper, that is marked at 1/8" or 1/4" you are going to have to make a lot more calculations and guesses, based of the decimal values of 8ths. This isn’t all that easy, and it isn’t pretty. I know, I used 1/8" graph paper the first time around.4 Also, there are a lot of free graph paper websites out there. The one I used produced graph paper that wasn’t actually spaced correctly, so make sure to measure any Internet graph paper before actually using it.5

So now that we’ve got all of our materials, it’s time to build a cube. Or at least the patterns we’ll need to build a cube. Open up Silo6, and import your .obj cube. Now, you can either center the cube at zero, which is putting the very center of the cube at (0,0,0), or you can center to cube at (20,20,20).

Having the cube at (20,20,20) is nice, because then all your numbers will be positive. Not that it really matters, you certainly leave it at (0,0,0) if you choose. Now you need to pick which face you are going to work off of. I’d recommend orienting the cube so that z is constant, and you are moving in the x/y space. But you don’t have to do this, just make sure that you are plotting your points using the correct coordinate values.

ProTip: Click on this or any other picture for a higher-rez version that it easier to read.

So now you need to plot your points onto your graph paper. Let’s do the large face on the edge as an example. First you need to set up your graph paper. I checked the range of the points on the face that I’m working on, and picked a scaled the worked with that range, and labeled the axes according to that scale. Not all of your pieces will fit on just one normal sheet of graph paper, so you might need to tape a few together in order to have enough space to plot all your data.

Now there are going to be a lot of pictures. Just follow what they say, and in the end you will have two of the twenty pattern pieces you will need to complete this cube. So don’t fall asleep! 7

Now we need to add seam allowance. If you tried to just use this as your pattern, then how would you sew one piece to another?? Answer: Seam allowance! Now standard seam allowance for clothing is 5/8ths of an inch. However, the cube is not clothes, so I’ve done a 1/2 inch seam allowance. This just seemed like a good idea at the time. You can add whatever seam allowance you want when you make your pattern.

That wasn’t so bad! And there’s only only nineteen more to do! Unfortunately, not all patterns are on an plane that allows us to just plot the points on a piece of graph paper. Sometimes we will need to use math. For example, we’ll do the triangle on the edge of the corner.

Now just repeat that for every face. It’s worth noting that I didn’t make a pattern for the long strips that go around the base of the heart button, I just made some calculations and cut strips.8 I also made two strips, one light grey, on dark gray, based on the coloring I observed on the model.

Note the two different colored rings.

I also didn’t worry too much about making deep channels for the pink lines, that you can see from this view. I’m sorry, it would just be too difficult and complicated with a plushie of this size. Also, no one will notice.9 So I just did narrow strips. I did press the seam allowances to the outside instead of each to their own side like I normally would, so they are at least slightly depressed.

Also, the dark grey sections were not cut as one large piece. The side channels were cut separately from the large half-circles. This saved fabric, and made construction easier.10

Now I know I said that programs were harder to use than just graphing everything, however, they are easier for one thing, making circles. Especially big circles. Now you could just jerryrig up a large compass with a bit of string, and in a way that would be easier, but I also wanted to have a good pattern for the heart. Again, you could just sketch that on your circle based on what the looked like, but I am a tad obsessed with things being exactly accurate11 that I wanted to make sure that my heart was as right as possible. So you can use a program, or just draw a large circle on four pieces of paper and sketch a good-looking heart. Then you won’t have to wrestle with gimp to make it print your picture true-to-scale. 12

Now go and finish the rest of those patterns. And then take a nap. Or two or three. Patterning is hard. Once you’re rested, we can move on to constructing the cube.

1 And I don’t want to make one more that will be out of date in six month.
2 My choice of this program has nothing to do with me personally knowing the developer and having received a free copy. Not that that means it's not good. It's actually great. At least for taking data from models. Which is all I used 3d programs for these days.
3Which is so unintuitive I have to relearn the basic controls every time I use it. Sometimes I think that the Open Source movement likes to punish people for using free software by making them so unintuitive, you pay for them in time and brain cells. Which you lose when you smash your head on the desk so hard you pass out. No, I haven’t actually done that. Yet.
4 No, I don't know why. I'm allowed to do stupid thing. Don't judge me. I'm keeping *you* from doing stupid things.
5 I used it for this demo, mostly cause it ment I didn't have to go to the store and buy things. What? I'm a tad lazy. Remeber, we're not judging me cause I'm helpful.
6 Or whatever 3d program you are using. You don't have to be cool if you don't want to.
7 If you one of the two people here for the lolz, just scroll till you see a lot of text again. Talking about making stuff is really dry. And not the funny kind of dry.
8 The pattern would be a long rectangle. ProTip: Rectangles are easier to cut with a quilting ruler and a mat than a paper pattern.
9 Bet you never thought you'd hear me say that. Or read me say that? or.... read my typing... um, you know what I mean...
10 Yes, even I believe in making things easier. Besides, you can kinda see some seam-like coloration where the channels meet the curve. Just check that shot above. In fact, just commit it to memory, we're going to use it again.
11 I'm not always reasonable. Did you forget who you were dealing with?
12 It’s open-source, it knows better than you.

Monday, October 17, 2011

How To Make A Cube:
Episode IV: A New Help

So you want to make a cube? First, draw a square. Then, draw another square slightly offset from that one. Then connect the lines. You now have you very own cube!

Ok, just kidding. What I'm actually going to do is cover the basics of what I did to make my very own game-accurate Plushie Companion Cube. So maybe you can make your own!1

Unfortunately, 3D printers don't have a plushie setting. Yet.

If you would like to skip to the end, and are interested in just buying a pattern from me rather than attempting your own, please contact me at nekonariko at g mail.2 Subject: "Companion Cube Pattern". I need to see how much interest there is before I decide finalize the production method. Cost is projected to be $25+shipping. Some assembly required.3 You are paying for the time that I put into making this pattern. And the paper. And the ink. But my time and skills are the most valuable parts. The actual cube and data are owned by Valve. And if they have a problem with me selling this, then I will cease to sell, as long as they promise to read my open letter to them. And implement my suggestions.

But I'm not selling anything you can't do yourself. So basically if you buy it, it's like cheating, but in an awesome way where I get to buy more fabric. In full disclosure, it will be helpful if you know a bit of basic trigonometry, and maybe even some 3d modeling knowledge. Or you might get lost. And I'm going to show you how to do this, but I'm not going to do it all for you. Unless you pay me, at which point, you should just buy the pattern. My rates for on-site tutorials are insane.4

And you thought trig was so useless.

This tutorial will be in two parts. The first part will cover how to make a pattern. The second part will be tips on constructing the actual cube. I'm going to alter my techniques a bit, because I have learned a lot since I made my cube in 2008/2009, and I think that you might benefit from that experience. I know I do.

So if you want to learn how to make a pattern, go here.

If you have a pattern, and you want some tips on cube construction, go here.

1 Or you can just read this for the lolz. Normal tutiorals are boring. Tutorials that waste time with humor are much more fun. For me to write. If you don't like it, tough cookies.
2 Turn that into an e-mail address. We don't want the spambots trying to order companion cube patterns.
3 Of both cube and pattern.
4 They involve private jets and all-you-can-eat sushi. And that's in additon to my hourly rate.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Dear Valve,

I love your games. Ok, I love Portal. But I Love Portal a whole lot. I love portal SOOOOO much I made my own full-sized companion cube, but in plushie form, so I could hug it.

The Cube will always love you back!

After I devoured Portal 2, you announced a music video contest. I have a friend that likes Portal, and loves The National, and has a giant video camera. I already had the plushie cube of awesome, so all I needed was a Chell cosplay, and we were going to have the most awesome video ever.1

Now, I had been considering doing a Chell cosplay for a while, but the fact that I couldn’t run around barefoot at a convention really bothered me.2 And I wasn’t exactly stoked about doing a Portal 2 version. I was kinda upset about all the changes you had made. For one, how in the world does being in suspended animation “quite a lot longer” than normal cause this kind of transformation?

Might not have a minor case of serious brain damage, but has a major case of serious plastic surgery.

On a level, I understand that Portal is now a success, and you want your main character to look more heroic, but I don’t know why "heroic" means that she’s got to be wearing makeup. Seriously, where did she get the stuff? Your original model, while haggard, was much more believable for someone trapped in a facility run by murderous robots.

Now we could branch off here into a big long discussion about how the only heroines we can have in video games have to be attractive.3 And this is definitely a discussion I want to have, but it really deserves a whole separate post, because as important as that discussion is, I just don’t really think I can focus on it. Right now, all I can really think about is how Chell's jumpsuit in Portal 2 isn’t even close to the same as what she was wearing in Portal.

Am I the only one who noticed?

Those are so not the same!! She didn’t just unzip her jumpsuit and tie it around her waist to get down to business. She clearly changed her whole jumpsuit! Maybe I’m being a bit nit-picky. Characters change costumes all the time. And the old jumpsuit did have holes in the knees, so maybe she really did need a new one. And there are some comments that you’ve made about the first jumpsuit looking more like robots dressed her. So maybe Wheatly changed her clothes while she was sleeping at some point in time.4 But if you wanted to redesign your character, why did you go from “makes sense” to “inexplicable”??

Cause it’s not just the changes on the suit that bug me. Her other articles of clothing don’t exactly make a whole lot of sense either.


Seriously, what is the grey thing? Is it her underwear? If it is I might have to take back everything I’ve said about video game chicks always having to be hot, cause those are some mad-terrible grannie panties/spanks. For my costume, I wear two pairs of nylons that have been cut off at mid-thigh. I need two, one black, one grey to get the right color and opaqueness. And with the seaming and everything else, I can’t figure out what else it could be. Honestly, I’m wondering if you know what it is either. And don’t get me started on the non-existence of three-quarter length tank tops.

And while we’re looking at this, note the placement of her jumpsuit. It’s about six inches below her waist! When you tie your jacket around your waist, do you make sure it’s sitting all sexy and low on your hips? Oh, you never really thought about it before? Yeah, cause you just tie it around your waist. I have to pin my jumpsuit in no less than three places to make the knot tight enough to keep the jumpsuit from slipping down and off my butt. You could have at least had her tie a double knot...

Now lets look at the jumpsuit a little closer. The jumpsuit in Portal was actually really well thought out. Your seams were unique, but they made sense. Also, the jumpsuit was symmetrical in it’s construction. That’s not usually something you have to point out in a video game model, but in this case, apparently I do. Cause you lost it in Portal 2. And subsequently, so did I.

If you don’t want someone to look at your model so close, don’t make such a good game.

What were you thinking?!? I'm really starting to lose it here!! Seriously, I think that GLaDOS just analyzed at this jumpsuit too closely, and that’s why she tried to kill everyone. Did you think that no one was going to look at this that closely?! You do realize that there are costumers out there, and that a lot of them have an eye for detail, right?! Did your forget that you allow people to unpack and view your assets!?! All the pictures in this article were taken using YOUR viewer!! And I’m sorry, I’ve got a bit of a thing for costumes making sense. And this doesn’t make sense. You wouldn’t have such different seams on each side of your jumpsuit. And you can’t have a seam start on one side and not end up on the other! Where did it go?!?!?!5 Did you have two different designs and forget to merge them into one? Did you have a reverse copy-paste error6 where you copied one side of the texture to the other, and forgot to leave it alone??7

And don’t even get me started on the seven seams on the legs. Seven!!! Not two,8 not four,9 not eight10, SEVEN!?! Are you trying to make me crazy?? Cause it’s WORKING!!!!

And now for the final, and most disappointing part of all. The Longfall Boots. Let’s be clear here. I was really excited for these boots. They are super cool! And now that Chell has footwear, I was looking forward to feeling wholly accurate in a convention environment. But that was before I started to make the boots. Now, remember, I was on a really tight schedule,11 so I didn’t have time to make them how I would have liked. I had to do something fast. I attempted to shape the white part of the boot out of model magic12, just to see if I could quickly make something boot-shaped that would work on camera. However, once it was molded over my foot, and it had mostly dried, I couldn’t get it over my heel and ankle without ripping it. So I’m really not sure how you expect these boots to come off. Or go on for that matter.13

Awesome until you realize they are impossible.

And don't tell me she just slips into them. Those are form fit to her legs from above the ankle. There is a REASON that ankle boots have zippers. They aren't just there for decoration. Like whatever that weird line is on the side of her foot.14

And then why on earth did you keep making her run around on her toes? My Chell boots are a beast to walk in. Did you see my video?!? Did you see how I couldn't get enough traction to push my poor cube up the hill? Yeah, they didn't work so well for that. There's a reason I ripped them off!15 And note with I did with them after!!16 Yeah, that's wasn't acting. That's exactly how I feel about those boots!!!! Granted, I did make mine by chopping up some old gogo boots. And they don't have the best soles. Not to mention, in order to make them more true to form, I ripped the heels off. Which probably wasn't the be idea on my part.17 Because, now when I go to conventions, I can't walk down stairs. Or rather, I have to walk down them sideways, one step at a time. I'm not Lady Gaga, I don't have my degree in walking in crazy shoes. But I have a suspicion that even when I make them out of plastic and spring steel that they are still going to be problematic to walk in. Mostly because they are 4" tall and the springs stick out 4" from the back. Which is the real problem when attempting stairs. And if walking and stairs are going to give me trouble, I don't know how I'm supposed to solve spatial puzzles18, outwit a diabolical being bent on my destruction19, and the defeat the dumbest moron who ever lived.20 Ok, maybe that last part isn't so hard.

So Valve. I love you. I really do. You guys are great. You make great games. But would you mind just thinking your character's clothes through a little more? I'm not saying you need to pander to anyone, I'm just saying when you're done with your models, maybe find a costumer with a little experience, maybe someone who used to be in video games, maybe someone who has some basic 3d modeling knowledge, maybe someone with their own giant plushie cube. Maybe you could just ask her if they make sense. And then we can just avoid these problems in the future. And I'm sure then we'll all sleep better at night. I know I will.

Best nights sleep evar.

1 Too bad you didn’t think so. Apparently a cube isn’t as cool as a sock puppet. No, I’m not bitter. I respect your decision. To break my heart.
2 Yes, I care about this level of accuracy. And for some reason "it’s a part of my costume " doesn’t ever matter to convention staff...
3 Have you ever seen the female equivalent to Tychus Findley in a main role in a video game? Yeah, me either.
4 Back off fan fic writers.
5 Don’t say "portals."
6 An error where a programmer copies a section of code, and pastes it somewhere else, but then doesn’t make the changes needed for it to work in the new environment.
7 Yes, I know, you can’t just do that with the geometry of this model. I made video games for 6 years, I know how textures work. Do you know how seams work??
8 Like normal.
9 It could work...
10 At least it’s a multiple of two!!
11 I normally like to have months or years to work on my costumes, not just a few weeks.
12 Worst. Product. Ever. Don’t use it. Every costumer tries it once before they join the "I hate model magic" Facebook group.
13 If you say "portals" I'm going to have to punch something.
14 I don't know what that is, and if it's supposed to be a zipper, I think you need to go and look at a zipper again.
15 Note, look closely, I have to unzip them to take them off!!!
16 Spoilers! I threw them off a cliff!!!!!! ...Yes, we picked them up so I could fix them for the next day of shooting...
17 Most Portal 2 Chell cosplayers have boots with heels.
18 Like how to get the boots on and off my feet.
19 The designer of these boots. Or GLaDOS.
20 Wheatly, of course. Who did you think I was referring to??

Monday, October 3, 2011

Comeon Guys...

My mom tells me that when I was in preschool, I tended to play with the boys more than the girls. I would want to play on the truck on the playground, and the only other people who were doing so were boys. So I played with the boys.

Coolest thing on the playground

This pretty much set the tone for the rest of my life. I rarely even noticed when activities were being done by all boys. I remember daydreaming as a small child about things I would do when I was older. In church I used to daydream about the day that I would be old enough to pass the sacrament.1 It didn’t occur to me that the only people doing so were young men.

So as I grew, I continued in my pursuit of things that I found interesting. Which tended to be dominated by men.

I was the only girl on my Science Bowl team in High School.
I was one of two girls in my Robotics club in High School.
I was the only girl in my Advanced Programming class in High School.
I was one of the few girls in my Historical Fencing club in College.
I was often the only girl, or one of two girls in my College Programming classes.
I was the only woman programmer at my last job in Utah.
I was the only girl in most of my D&D2 groups throughout my life.

I am sure there are examples I am forgetting, because being the only girl is pretty old hat to me. To the point where I don’t always recognize it anymore.

Which is one of the reasons I hate having it pointed out to me.

Now I know that a lot of feminists think that “guys” is not gender neutral. But to me, especially when used in a casual setting, it is. Most of the time, people don’t make a big deal about it in my work or personal situations. However, when I worked at one of the larger corporate companies, I ran into questions about this all the time. Every time I changed teams, my lead would ask me if I was offended by the term “guys”, since he3 was used to using it in e-mail. And I would assure him that I wasn’t, and that I considered “guys” to be a gender neutral term.

As silly as I felt the question was, I preferred this method of it being brought up. They askedfor my input, and I gave it. But, the people above my leads would still stumble around this. I would be in a meeting, and the programming lead on my game, or the head of our studio, or somebody from corporate headquarters would be running the meeting, and he’d keep saying “guys” this and “guys” that. And then he’d realize that I was in the room, and that’d he’d been saying “guys” the whole time, and that he’d just done it again. So in an attempt to be PC, he’d try and correct mid-sentence with “guys... and girls”. To me, this is even worse that calling everyone “guys”. ‘Cause there’s nothing that makes you feel more valued than being called a “girl” in a professional setting. But that’s what most people default to as the feminine version of “guy”, unless you are channeling a southern slant, at which point you’ll say “gal”. And being named with a pronoun that is more appropriate for tiny cowgirls doesn’t sound odd or patronizing at all.

And while I understand where this behavior comes from4, but honestly, at this point, what’s being said? To me, it says “OH Look! There’s a girl here! Lets make her feel special and included by pointing out the one thing that makes her different from the rest of us and is completely irrelevant to her ability to do her job! Here’s a gold star for being a woman!” I swear, we might as well be singing the sesame street song:

One of these things is not like the others!
[And by not like the others, we mean super special and awesome for the special attribute that she possesses]
One of these things just doesn’t belong!
[We mean, one of these things is so super special and awesome that it extra belongs, and it’s special awesome difference should be pointed out as much as possible to show how super progressive and sensitive we are]
Can you tell me which thing is not like the others.
[And by not like, we mean actually kinda the same and special and different and awesome, and actually probably better, which is why we’re pointing it out!]
By the time I finish this song?

Elmo wants you to feel loved! And awkward!

Please. I’m a woman, not a sentient plant or alien. I’m not that much an an anomaly. I don’t need you to trip over your words to make me feel included. In fact, I’d prefer you didn’t. It really just makes everyone feel awkward.

That being said, if we’re talking about a professional job posting that is looking for a “cool software guy”, then yes, we should look for a more professional way to phrase that. And some more gender neutral language would also be nice. But we aren’t going to be able to shame people into changing their language into something that is foreign and awkward. Especially spoken language.

We’ve tried for a few decades now to introduce a new personal pronoun that is gender neutral. You know what happened? No one adopted any of them.5 Do you know why? Because no one can remember something that is super awkward or foreign to say. New words usual come out when there’s a new object or activity that needs to be named. Women aren’t new. Besides, we’ve already got precedence in our language to use the plural non-gendered pronoun “they” as a singular non-gendered pronoun. In fact, it’s now officially recognized as correct grammar to do so.6

So can we just stop with all the demands to use awkward words like “personkind” and “policeperson”. These are horribly awkward words, and no one is going to adopt them. If you want to use less masculine language, use phrases like “human race” and “police officer”. Those are phrases that already exist in our language. And that’s pretty much the only way you can adjust people’s language. You need to steer them from something that is gendered or offensive to something that is un-gendered or less offensive. Like the campaign to stop people from using the work “gay” to denote that something is stupid. You don’t need to invent a new word that means “stupid”, we already have a word for that. It’s “stupid”.

1 Kinda like communion, but it’s passed to the congregation instead of people coming up to the front. Oh, you don’t know what communion is? Neither did I. Just wiki it. Or better yet, just wiki “sacrament”
2 Dungeons and Dragons. Why did I need to tell you what that is? Aren’t you a Geek? If not, go wiki it.
3 Yes, all my leads were men. I was the only woman in the entire department. So all the leads were men. And even if I was a lead, I’d hardly ask myself questions in the third person like this. I’m not Elmo or Bob Dole.
4 They just retook the corporate training web course on PC language.
5 When’s the last time you heard someone say “phe” or “zher” or “mer”. Oh, never? Yeah, I thought so.
6 I overheard this in the Portal 2 commentary. Which is pretty much the definitive source on English grammar. Also apparently Shakespeare used they as a singular pronoun. And most of the rest of the English speaking world, but no one told my middle school English teacher that.