Wednesday, July 30, 2014

So I'm leaving Northrop-Grumman and returning to the AWACS program....




So, here's the thing. I've been kind of miserable ever since I started working at Northrop-Grumman. I cannot count the number of times I've kicked myself for leaving my old job at the AWACS radar training lab.

For reasons I won't get too far into, I've had a nagging, growing feeling for many, many weeks that this really, really isn't the job for me. Working on the B-2 program is (very) cool, but it comes with so many headaches, so much baggage, so much bureaucracy, and so many roadblocks to my workflow, that it really wasn't the career upgrade I had hoped it would be. It feels like working in a tiny, closed gray box all day.

I can't say that I regret attempting to come to Northrop to advance my career. It was a calculated risk that just didn't pan out the way I had hoped. And since they hadn't filled my position at my old job, and no one else could jump into it nearly as quickly as I could, the AWACS lab jumped at the chance to get me back (which I'm thrilled about, because it makes sense for everyone all around).

My biggest worry about leaving NG is that even though the job I have right now is crummy, it might serve as a better jumping off point to something that really IS bigger and better than the AWACS lab would. But that was outweighed by one big thing: if I look back over the past several years to find the period where I was happiest, it was the time right after landing the AWACS job - because it combined the fact that I still felt (feel?) like a college student, with the fact that I actually, you know, had money to spend. That's what I'm looking forward to getting back to.

I might also see if I can get my hands dirty with some freelance work involving either renewable energy, like solar or wind, or astronomical engineering of some kind. It's worth a shot, at least.

Ultimately, it really doesn't feel like *that* much of a step backward, because I have very little doubt that I'll be happier back there than I am here.

Besides, this sort of thing is all the rage lately.



</TotallyAppropriateAnalogy>

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

I stumbled across "#WomenAgainstFeminism" today...

[Updated 7/29/14: Time magazine ran an online op-ed in defense of Women Against Feminism. Scroll to the bottom of this post for details.]



^ YES! This has always been my position, when it comes to gender issues. The goal should be a level playing field for both men and women. Preach it, sister.

I learned about the "Women Against Feminism" hashtag and Tumblr from, ironically enough, Huffington Post - which is typically among the worst about wearing rose-colored glasses when it comes to how ugly and sexist feminism can be.

Some of the posts made by women for that hashtag are way, way more harshly critical of feminism than even I would be. Reading through some of the very old posts from the Tumblr almost make it sound like it was set up not by women, but by the men behind the "A Voice For Men" website - a group that is highly critical of feminism, but unfortunately, for equally-sexist and misogynistic reasons (as opposed to being critical of feminism out of a love for egalitarianism).

But regardless of who set the Tumblr up, the women currently participating in the hashtag raise some very legitimate points about the assumptions that feminists often make, and the way they treat men. Some of the posts are pretty powerful stuff:







I'm of the opinion that, despite its many flaws, it's much better to have the feminist movement than to not have it. Feminism does raise extremely important and legitimate concerns about the way women are treated, both nationally and internationally.

But it seems to me that it's not in the movement's best interests to ignore (or worse, mock) women who raise counter-arguments like this. The response from mainstream feminist sites (such as Jezebel) has been depressingly predictable:

http://jezebel.com/things-i-learned-from-womenagainstfeminism-1609067794

Cue the endless stream of one-liners, none of which are anywhere remotely close to being as funny or witty as she thinks they are. Even Carlos Mencia would cringe at the level of unwarranted comedic self-satisfaction there.

Aside from the lame attempts at humor, the other most predictable response from über-feminists is knee-jerk denialism. "DON'T YOU GET IT? COME ON PEOPLE, FEMINISM ISN'T ABOUT BASHING MEN, IT'S JUST ABOUT EQUALITY! DUHHHHH!"

The problem is that actions speak louder than words. You can't build a movement involving countless blogs where every other post is about how uncouth/disgusting/privileged/lazy/entitled/lame/deviant/predatory/egotistical/sexist/generally-society-ruining men are, or about how women never really do anything wrong (except criticize feminism!) and should never be held accountable for their mistakes (it's all society's fault!), and then turn around and act outraged and indignant when people point out that you're being sexist as well.



And I am no more obligated to tolerate left-wing feminism's illiberal prejudice against men than I am to tolerate the gender pay gap, or the right wing's assault on abortion rights and contraception.



[Update, 7-29-14]:

Time Magazine recently ran an op-ed piece in defense of Women Against Feminism and the issues it raises:



Young explains that WAF is not "misunderstanding feminism", but rather judging feminism by how it acts rather than how it claims to act:
One common response from feminists is to say that Women Against Feminism “don’t understand what feminism is” and to invoke its dictionary definition: “the theory of the political, economic and social equality of the sexes.” The new anti-feminists have a rejoinder for that, too: they’re judging modern feminism by its actions, not by the book. And here, they have a point.

Consider the #YesAllWomen Twitter hashtag, dubbed by one blogger “the Arab Spring of 21st century feminism.” Created in response to Elliot Rodger’s deadly shooting spree in Isla Vista, Calif. — and to reminders that “not all men” are violent misogynists — the tag was a relentless catalog of female victimization by male terrorism and abuse. Some of its most popular tweets seemed to literally dehumanize men, comparing them to sharks or M&M candies of which 10% are poisoned.

[...] [T]he charge that feminism stereotypes men as predators while reducing women to helpless victims certainly doesn’t apply to all feminists — but it’s a reasonably fair description of a large, influential, highly visible segment of modern feminism.
She points out that much of the criticism of feminism from WAF and people like me stems not from a dislike of liberalism, but rather from feminism's all-too-often prejudiced and illiberal viewpoints:
For the most part, Women Against Feminism are quite willing to acknowledge and credit feminism’s past battles for women’s rights in the West, as well as the severe oppression women still suffer in many parts of the world. But they also say that modern Western feminism has become a divisive and sometimes hateful force, a movement that dramatically exaggerates female woes while ignoring men’s problems, stifles dissenting views, and dwells obsessively on men’s misbehavior and women’s personal wrongs.

These are trends about which feminists have voiced alarm in the past — including the movement’s founding mother Betty Friedan, who tried in the 1970s to steer feminism from the path of what she called “sex/class warfare.” Friedan would have been aghast had she known that, 50 years after she began her battle, feminist energies were being spent on bashing men who commit the heinous crime of taking too much space on the subway.
And she ends the article by pointing out what is one of my new favorite words:
Women Against Feminism are asking the right questions. And they deserve to be heard, not harangued. As one of the group’s graphics says, “I have my own mind. Please stop fem-splaining it to me.”

Monday, July 21, 2014

Miscellanea: Andy Griffith game, Wicked, wedding, and Boston

My dad's Father's Day gift this year was a board game themed after The Andy Griffith Show:



It's so insanely fun (at least, to TAGS addicts like my family :p ) that for my mom's birthday, I got her an "expansion" (of sorts) to its trivia questions.

A few weeks ago, my sister and I went to see the musical Wicked in Tulsa, since a high-end ticket was my Christmas gift to her last year. Our seats were crazy-awesome:



This was my third time to see it. I will NEVER get tired of this badass show. EPHABA IS MY HOMEGIRL.

About a week ago, I finally got to eat at Café 88 with some friends in Stillwater again (THANK FSM). I picked up my friend Carle and her son, but I think the kiddo may have gotten a little overenthusiastic about the trip....



And last weekend, one of my sister's best friends got married, and our family was invited. My sister was the maid of honor. I got the chance to catch up with people I haven't seen in a long, long, long time. It's good to know that certain hatchets are buried.



The food was epic. And my parents had to do the "married couples" dance:



Just this past weekend, I got to see Boston perform live at the Hard Rock Casino in Tulsa (with front-row tickets, thanks to Steph!) - they're one of my all-time favorite classic rock bands!



 

They put on an awesome show (even if it was much more tame than the metal shows I'm used to :p ). Unfortunately, I came to find out that apparently old people at concerts are much more rude than metalheads are. Some old lady behind me came up and tried to gripe me out because I was standing up to take pictures (and so was the rest of the entire front row?). She was promptly ignored, as was the baby boomer who tried to tell me to give him the guitar pick I grabbed that landed right in front of me.



When you pry it out of my cold dead hands, you old lame white ex-hippie fart!

Steph and I also saw How to Train Your Dragon 2 the next day - it was just as great as the first one, I'd say.



And finally, I've been catching up on my backlog of games to play recently

Recent Gaming: Star Wars TFU, Transformers: WfC, Mirror's Edge, Bastion, COD: MW2, Gears



Star Wars: The Force Unleashed ( I & II )

These games were pretty great, though not quite outstanding. Ironically enough, the first game has an A++ storyline and B+ gameplay, while the second game has A++ gameplay and a C storyline. As far as the story goes, it's about a Sith apprentice ("Starkiller") raised by Darth Vader in secret who eventually turns to the light side of the Force, but retains all his Sith rage and aggression - hence the name. I knew the game's story before ever playing it, and I knew that Starkiller was my all-time favorite Star Wars character. But in both games, it's kind of fun to just run around lightsabering the hell out of everything. Plus, I got to use a BLACK LIGHTSABER to kick the everloving shit out of Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine. How could I not love that?

Overall:  8/10


Transformers: War for Cybertron

I never would have played this game, except a friend at my old job gave it to me for free. I liked it much more than I was expecting to - I'm a big fan of the Transformers franchise (thanks to Michael Bay!), and Peter Cullen literally never disappoints in portraying Optimus Prime. You play the first half of the game as the Decepticons (yawn), and the second half as the Autobots (woo!). Other than the transforming mechanic, it's a little generic as far as modern-day shooters go - but still pretty solid. And the song played during the credits is EPIC (read: fantastically cheesy) - I had to download it.

Overall: 7/10


Mirror's Edge

I've wanted to try this game out for a while - it's from the first-person perspective, but it's much more about free-running and parkour than it is about shooting and fighting. That's a really interesting twist on the genre...the problem is that first-person perspective really isn't that ideal for what is essentially a platformer. You know gameplay is problematic when you use the phrase "JUST GRAB THE PIPE, DUMBASS" about three dozen times over the course of the game. It doesn't help that all of the game's cutscenes are literally done in the same style as an Esurance commercial. But the game wins back points in other areas: for a "dystopian city" setting, the it features one of the brightest color palettes I've seen in any game, which is a really unique contrast that works great. And the game's main character, Faith, is actually really likeable. Those two latter points might be enough to make me want to play the sequel when it comes out in a year or two.

Overall: 6/10


Bastion

THIS game was a big surprise. It's another one that's been on my list for a while - one of the things that sets this game apart was the fact that almost everything you do is narrated, which is something no other game has done before. It's kind of an action-RPG from the same "3/4 perspective" as one of my all-time favorite games, Super Mario RPG. But between the narration, the solid story, the unique art design, and the addictive gameplay, I wound up liking this game way, way, way more than I was expecting. It also helps that it's not insanely long, as many RPGs tend to be (which is why I don't play more of them). Bastion would definitely go in my "Top 20 Games" list if I had one, but probably just barely missing out on the Top 10.

Overall: 10/10


Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

I love shooters, but this is the first time I've ever played a Call of Duty. It was....okay. I don't have Xbox Live Gold yet, so I haven't done any multiplayer - but the gameplay, like Transformers, is generic-but-solid. The story is decent (I have to pause here to point out: I failed a level early on in the game for shooting the main terrorist in the face before I was "supposed to" - but by playing the level the "right" way, the story continued into its nightmarish WW3 scenario. So for the rest of the game, I had the nagging feeling that "NONE OF THIS WOULD HAVE HAPPENED IF YOU HAD JUST LET ME SHOOT HIM IN THE FACE BACK THERE!" It seems silly, but it was kind of a detractor.)

My other main problem with the game was the level design. It was almost literally: "Go to this area. Kill those bad guys. Go to this area. Kill those bad guys. Go to this area. Kill those bad guys...." That's the kind of thing that will make you appreciate the brilliance behind the level design in games like Mario and Zelda. All that said, the graphics are insanely great, as is the music (composed by Hans Zimmer, the same guy who wrote the score for the Dark Knight trilogy).

Overall: 6/10


Gears of War ( I & II )

These were another big surprise. I had only known them by reputation until now - intensely grim and gritty, and so insanely violent that it borders on comical. And since I'm an FPS guy, the third-person cover-and-return-fire mechanics took some getting used to. But once I finally did get used to them, HOLY CRAP. Why are there not more games like this?? (The story behind Gears mechanics: one of the main designers was playing paintball, when he realized that literally nobody in a 'real' firefight acts like they do in first-person shooters, with the circle-strafing and mindless charging ahead. He wanted a game that felt like he did when he was playing paintball.) I wasn't even sure I was going to play Gears 2, but after the first one, I was hooked.

The story overall is somewhere around a B+/A-. Ironically enough, Marcus (the character you play as) is really not all that likeable - he doesn't have any real emotions besides gruffness and anger. I literally don't think I saw his character change facial expressions once in either game - it's just a perma-scowl. He's not so much a person as he is a weapons platform (I haven't played Gears 3 yet, so maybe it's different in that one?). The other irony is that his squad-mates Dom and Cole are way, WAY more interesting and likeable. "Cole Train" especially - he's by far my favorite character in the Gears universe, in large part because amidst all the violence and bleakness, he's optimistic, cocky, and most importantly, freaking hilarious.

Admittedly, I played both these games on their easiest settings - Gears 1 was still really tough at points, but Gears 2 was a cakewalk (albeit an immensely fun one!). I'll probably play on medium difficulty from here on. Aside from the A++ gameplay, the graphics are some of the best I've ever seen in a video game (even if the color palette is almost the complete opposite of Mirror's Edge). And the music for Gears 2 was composed by Steve Jablonsky, who was an apprentice of Hans Zimmer (Jablonsky wrote the scores for the Transformers films). Congrats to the Gears dev team, I'm a new fan.

Overall: 10/10

Monday, July 14, 2014

Wooooo

Even though I started blogging in 2004, I transitioned to this new blog three years ago today. Happy blogiversary to me! :p

210 posts later, it's still one of the few things keeping my sanity relatively intact.