blarg?

parenting

Cuban Shoreline

I tried to explain to my daughter why I’d had a strange day.

“Why was it strange?”

“Well… There’s a thing called a cryptocurrency. ‘Currency’ is another word for money; a cryptocurrency is a special kind of money that’s made out of math instead of paper or metal.”

That got me a look. Money that’s made out of made out of math, right.

“… and one of the things we found today was somebody trying to make a new cryptocurrency. Now, do you know why money is worth anything? It’s a coin or a paper with some ink on it – what makes it ‘money’?”

“… I don’t know.”

“The only answer we have is that it’s money if enough people think it is. If enough people think it’s real, it becomes real. But making people believe in a new kind of money isn’t easy, so what this guy did was kind of clever. He decided to give people little pieces of his cryptocurrency for making contributions to different software projects. So if you added a patch to one of the projects he follows, he’d give you a few of these math coins he’d made up.”

“Um.”

“Right. Kind of weird. And then whoever he is, he wrote a program to do that automatically. It’s like a little robot – every time you change one of these programs, you get a couple of math coins. But the problem is that we update a lot of those programs with our robots, too. Our scripts run, our robots, and then his robots try to give our robots some of his pretend money.”

“…”

“So that’s why my day was weird. Because we found somebody else’s programs trying to give our programs made-up money, in the hope that this made-up money would someday become real.”

“Oh.”

“What did you to today?”

“I painted different animals and gave them names.”

“What kind of names?”

“French names like zaval.”

“Cheval. Was it a good day?”

“Yeah, I like painting.”

“Good, good.”

(Charlie Stross warned us about this. It’s William Gibson’s future, but we still need to clean up after it.)

I had a long conversation with the very excellent people of Samantha Blackmon’s “Not Your Mama’s Gamer” podcast the other day; I get rolling at around the half-hour mark. They’re quite flattering about the whole thing; we talk a lot about video games and parenting, and I had a great time doing it.

One of the points I got to make there was about the reaction I get when I tell people that I received death threats for making the Windwaker mod. They fall into basically two camps; I tell that story to men, and they’re invariably surprised, or at least feigning surprise. “Really? Death threats? No way. Really? For that?”

When I mention it to women, on the other hand, the reaction is invariably just a slow breath and long stare into the middle distance. “Yeah, that’s how it is. Did any one threaten to rape you to death? No? Well, you’re only halfway to your Being A Woman On The Internet Merit Badge, then. Oh, you though it would be any other way? That’s adorable.”

So much work to do.

After explaining the death of a neighbor’s cat to Maya, every conversation we have can now get incredibly heavy without the least bit of advance warning.

“Dad, I want eggs for breakfast.”
“Ok, Maya, how do you ask for things?”
“Please can I have eggs for breakfast please?”
“Sure. We can make scrambled eggs.”
“Ok. Dad, are you going to die?”
“Eventually. Hopefully not soon, but eventually everyone dies. That’s why we have to be kind to each other with the time we have.”
“Can I have ketchup?”
“Maya.”
“Please can I have ketchup with breakfast please please?”
“Certainly.”
“Is mom going to die?”

It’s honestly like having a cartoon piano land on your mood four times a day.

Well, that certainly took off, didn’t it?

I’ve had some pretty mixed feelings this week; putting a ton of time and effort into a startup that doesn’t take off and then seeing a tiny little side project blow up has had me quietly making Scumbag Internet ragefaces, but I suppose if Internet Fame was going to find me, I’m happy it’s for doing something I’m proud of. Sure beats falling down an escalator on Youtube and then being Youtube Escalator Guy forever.

Here’s a video of the introduction to WindWaker running in Dolphin, with my pronoun patch applied.

So anyway, that Windwaker mod? Huge, and kind of all over the place. The first wave of web coverage started with Hackaday, followed quickly by an unfortunately-titled Ars Technica article before metastasizing to Metafilter, Kotaku, Joystiq, and a bunch of international sites I can almost but not quite read.

One Dutch site declared, “Vader hackt computerspel dochter om van hoofdpersonage vrouw te maken”. I have no idea what that means but if I try to say it in English it reads “Vader hacked computerspells doctor on van hoofed-personage vroom to making”, and how awesome is that? (Update! It’s actually Belgian, my mistake.)

Funny anecdote: I looked all over the place for software that would record from a segment of my screen and capture the audio coming out of my speakers. Quicktime, incomprehensibly, will do video but only record from the microphone or line-in but not audio-out. After trying a bunch of free/trialware that was all garbage, I had one of those embarrassing “self, you’ve been stupid” moments-of-clarity and solved the problem by plugging a male-male headphone cable into both jacks on the Mac. Man, solving software problems with hardware: so gauche.

Dear Quicktime devs: that’s right, I’ve added a missing feature to your software with a copper wire. “Plaatsvervangende schaamte“, speaking of awesome Dutch words, roughly means “transposed shame”; embarrassment you’re feeling on behalf of somebody too oblivious to feel it themselves. I’m feeling plaatsvervangende schaamte right now, and I’m looking at you.

So, a couple of general points, mostly random notes or observations I’ve made in the last week and a half or so.

  • First and foremost: thanks for the positive press and lots of public and private messages of support. There’s been quite a bit of interest in this, and I’ve taken those opportunities to to talk about how women are treated by the video game industry and gamer culture, and how I think things need to change. I doubt I’ll get a podium like this one very often, and I’m glad I feel like I’ve done the right thing with it.
  • If you want to try it out but all that stuff about hashes and patches in the original post was offputting, one commenter has got a thing that will make it much easier for you, for which I’m grateful. Thanks, Daniel!
  • Boy, trying to do anything progressive on the ‘net sure brings out the cranks, doesn’t it? I suppose there’s always going to be somebody out there with the time to tell you you suck, saying “FAIL” and fantasizing about murdering your family while yelling at you to google Ron Paul, especially if you’ve got the temerity to suggest that women should have an equal voice in the world and maybe aren’t property. Brendan Behan once said that “Critics are like eunuchs in a harem: they know how it’s done, they’ve seen it done every day, but they’re unable to do it themselves”, and while I don’t agree with that every day, that sentence has definitely been rattling around my head for the last two weeks.

    But the ‘net’s usual cadre of reactionary neanderthals aside, a number of white dudes have suggested that this was somehow unnecessary because there are plenty of strong female role models in video games, citing Samus Aran and Lara Croft, and leaving me shaking my head. Truly, those people haven’t been paying attention or can’t read, two problems that may be reinforcing each other; neither of those characters are in games suitable for a child, and both of them have been horribly mistreated in the most recent editions of their franchise, for the most patronizing, misogynist reasons imaginable. So dudes, while you’re making a strong argument there, it’s not at all the one you think you’re making.

    In any case: there were fewer death threats than I expected, but not none. Way to stay in character, purse-dogs of the Internet.

  • Etherpad – and presumably any collaborative text editor, but specifically Etherpad – is so much better than doing interviews over the phone. A bit slower, a bit clunkier if you’re not a touch-typist maybe, but being able to actually have both sides of the interview collaborate, be able to walk away for a few moments without breaking anything, and having something you both have a record of and can cut and paste? So good, and outweighing the alternatives by quite a bit.
  • Even if it still has tremendous reach we all suspect old media is doomed, right? Well, funny story about that, you can sort of tell how doomed various segments of the media are by how they try to get in touch with you. I was interviewed by a couple of people, and how people got in touch with me was informative:
    • Lukas Blakk at Geek Feminism found me on IRC and proposed doing the interview in Etherpad right away. Ok, you’ve got me. I’m in.
    • A number of people who found the article scrolled down to the Contact page, and found me through that. That’s cool, that works; when Skype got a little choppy we could switch to Etherpad, and it worked out well.
    • A smaller number of people – some independent journalists, some larger media organizations – googled me, found Bespoke I/O and contacted me through that; some of those people used Skype or otherwise on voice recordings of their interviews, which is OK even if it seems like a lot of retyping.
    • Nobody’s tried to fax me yet, but two people saw the article and then looked me up in the phone book and left a message on my land line. Doomed, guys. Doooooooooooooooooomed.
  • We all kind of know URL shorteners are bullshit, but you really don’t find out just how bad they are for small shops and the Web in general until you’re trying to learn things from your referrer logs. No joke, URL shorteners are a straight-up theft of knowledge. In fact, I’m wondering if being able to hoard all that redirect info for themselves is the specific reason that Twitter has decided to tell their entire ecosystem to go die in a fire. As an aside, it is such a shame to watch them blow another opportunity – “Become Infrastructure” – that most startups would cut off an arm for, but hey, that’s Twitter. Maybe everything that new guy learned at MySpace will be able to help them hahaha *sob*.
  • It seems a little churlish to complain about media rights, given the nature of the project, but my Flickr feed is flagged “All Rights Reserved”. Among larger media outlets NBC News, Der Spiegel, Huffington Post, Buzz60 and the Toronto Star were noteworthy for actually asking for reprint permission, as were a handful of smaller blogs. Precisely zero of the big-name techblogs – Ars Technica, Kotaku, Jezebel, Joystiq, any of them – bothered to ask.
  • Oh, Today Show… closing out with “Oh, the things a Pop will do for his princess”, really? Go say that in an empty room; listen to the echo. That’s the sound of your being part of the problem.
  • Nobody cares about Google+. For real; I have evidence. Ever heard of Plurk? Yeah, neither have I, and maybe this is some sort of unexpected sampling bias, but Plurk’s numbers destroyed Google+ as far as my referrer logs are concerned. Google actually does run a vibrant, engaging and competitive social network, but it’s called Google Reader.

A lot of people have asked me if I’m going to do this again with some other game, and I started last week saying that it depended on what my daughter wanted and which way her interests went. The amount of pushback I got for it though, the threats and hate mail, have certainly helped me make up my mind.

Definitely, yes.

On A Certain Island

Maya and I have been playing through Windwaker together; she likes sailing, scary birds and remembering to be brave, rescuing her little brother and finding out what’s happening to Medli and her dragon boat.

She’s the hero of the story, of course.

It’s annoying and awkward, to put it mildly, having to do gender-translation on the fly when Maya asks me to read what it says on the screen. You can pick your character’s name, of course – I always stick with Link, being a traditionalist – but all of the dialog insists that Link is a boy, and there’s apparently nothing to be done about it.

Well, there wasn’t anything to be done about it, certainly not anything easy, but as you might imagine I’m not having my daughter growing up thinking girls don’t get to be the hero and rescue their little brothers.

This isn’t particularly user-friendly; you’ll need to download the Dolphin emulator and find a Windwaker .GCM, the Gamecube disk image with this SHA-1 hash:

Original: 6b5f06c10d50ebb4099cded88217eb71e5bfbb4a

and then you’ll need to figure out how to use xdelta3 to apply a binary patch to that image.

This patch.

When you’re done the resulting disk image will have the following SHA-1 hash:

Result: 6a480ffd8ecb6c254f65c0eb8e0538f7b30cfaa7

… and all the dialog will now refer to Link as a young woman, rather than as a young man.

I think I’ve gotten this right – this was all done directly on the original disk image with a hex editor, so all the changes needed to be the same byte-for-byte length, in-place. I haven’t had time to play through the whole game to test it yet, and some of the constructions aren’t perfect. I’ve borrowed Donaldson’s “Swordmain” coinage to replace “Swordsman”, for example, and there’s lots of “milady” replacing “my lad” and “master”, because I couldn’t find a better way to rewrite them in exactly the amount of space allotted. If you come up with something better, I’m all ears.

I’m going to audit it shortly, and may update this post to reflect that. For now, though, here you go.

FemLink or you’re doing it wrong.

Ready To Go

Maya packed her bag, put her boots on and told me she was ready to leave home this morning.

Well, that happened a little sooner that I expected. I suppose I’m going to have to get used to this feeling-very-proud-while-wanting-to-cry feeling.

A few months ago I made a joke about my friend’s daughter, whose previous role-modelling efforts can be seen here.

But, hahahahaha, it looks like my concerns were totally unfounded! Claire didn’t need to be a part of that conversation at all.

Maya asked Mom for her keys yesterday, claiming that she needed to get her shovel out of the garage. It seemed like a perfectly reasonable request, so of course I found her in the car five minutes later, with the stereo on and the keys in the ignition.

The Great Escape

“I’m just pretending to drive”, she assured me.

She was wearing her seatbelt, so I suppose there’s that.