Friday, March 30, 2012

The Noob Mentality

I play video games. Not excessively, of course, but it is a part of my life as much as other people have their TV shows or movies. It is only to be expected of a nerd, I suppose. But I do not believe it is always a waste of time, or simply an escape from real life, as so many see it. Through video games and the incredibly loving world of online gaming, I have been gently introduced to many poignant life lessons.

The most significant one I will share with you now.

In gaming (more specifically in online gaming), there are two distinct groups of gamers. In the first group, we have the pros, who are professionals of their craft. These are the guys who research their stuff on the Internet. They use the forums. They read (and write) the FAQs, walthroughs, and guides for the games they play. They calculate stats and time in-game actions. They "grind" for experience points. They "farm" materials and weapons. They join clans and guilds. They use weapons and strategies they don't like because they are more effective. They try to get 100% of the trophies, even if it has no in-game benefit.

Then there are the noobs--also known as n00bs and NUBs (Non-Useful Bodies).

Noobs (the idiots they are) play for "fun"--as though video games were ever about fun. They hop from popular game to popular game, only delving into the waters of each long enough to get the bits of poo floating on the surface, and never delving into the delicious mire of the riverbed. If they make any attempt at strategy or cleverness, it is usually through abusing simple, universally known tactics that ruin the dynamic nature of the game. Examples of this may include camping (in shooter games), chicken-hawking (rpg's), excessive grinding (mostly universal), using exploits or glitches deliberately to gain an advantage (universal), and relying upon other characters to carry or support them without fulfilling their own part/role (rpg/universal).

Noobs have no desire to learn. They often display this through asking stupid questions they should be able to figure out themselves just through common sense, or reading the instruction manual. If one corrects a noob, the response is often outrage or defensiveness.

I should quickly note the distinction between noobs/n00bs and newbs/newbies here. Newbies are simply new or inexperienced. Everyone goes through this stage. Noobs are perpetually inexperienced. An easy way to tell the difference is to observe the willingness to learn. Noobishness is a mentality, newbieness a stage--newbs become pros with time. Noobs always need help, and fail to give help in return.

In real life, we have mercy upon those who are noobs. We have unemployment programs, charity organizations, etc. There is no such mercy in online gaming. Although many minority groups whine about the vicious verbal abuse they receive in online gaming, noobs are by far the most commonly (and deservedly) bashed of these groups.

On a side note, I think it is important that all people experience this world of casual abuse at some point in their lives, so that every fault in their souls might be brought into the open and mocked savagely.It is excellent for character building.

Far too many people have the "play for fun" mentality in real life. The consequence (the same as it is in gaming) is that they suck.

I say it is time to do away with this prevalence of noobishness in society.

If you suspect that you may be a noob, I suggest you go through the following list. If you suck in one of these areas, make yourself better.

 1. Look at your grinding. Grinding is anything dull and intensely repetitive that increases power/money/good stuff like that. Like your job. Or weight lifting. Or homework. If you are grinding excessively in one area, then you are probably a noob for taking advantage of a super-simple mechanic just to give the appearance that you are awesome. Workaholics, nobody likes you. Go away.

From the other end of things, if you are not grinding at all then you are most certainly a noob. Grinding is the fastest way to improve in an area. Although the task is not daunting in itself, the monotony and circumstance certainly are. Suck it up. Just do it.

In short, value grinding but keep it in its place if you don't want to be a noob. 

2. Look at the specific things you are doing. How have you come to where you are? How much of what you do is in imitation of others who are regarded positively by society? Are you taking the things you are learning and applying them in new ways? If not, you are being a noob.

If you ever want to become more than a noob, then you must learn. You must  be willing to learn on your own (and that means applying creative thought as well as simple research), and go through some pain in the learning process. Most importantly, your learning must make a difference--it has to change you. This process is called growth. You don't experience true growth when you only copy what everyone else is doing just because it works for them.

3.Can you resolve everyday problems independently? Do you need outside motivation or instruction to get things done? Do you demand an example before you attempt something? Do you continue to require aid to do simple things, or delegate those things to others entirely? This is noobishness, and also just plain annoying.

4. How deep do you dive in the muddy creek of life? How do you consume? All of us in western society are consumers. At least in the middle class, it is how we consume that sets us apart from our fellows. Do you think about what you wear, eat, and use? Are you analyzing the things that occur everyday and responding  to them properly?

Do you look beyond what is immediately available/visible to everyone? Do you search for answers and deeper complexities behind events, products, knowledge, and life in general? Or do you trust the simple summaries and mass-produced junk that others pump out as good enough for you? You know you do, you noob.

Figure things out on your own. You weren't born with a massively complex brain just so everyone else could work out things for you.

5. How are you exerting yourself? If you pick up a hard game, do you finish it? Or do you get past the first level, quit, and go on Gamespot to write a whiny review about how unfairly difficult the game was?

A noob is defeated by any sort of unexpected difficulty. Don't be like that. Exert yourself--you will never grow if you never push your boundaries.

You must go beyond easy mode if you ever want to be a pro. Do it.

A Final Word

In my opinion, life is no more meaningful than a video game. Thus, if you truly wish, I suppose it doesn't matter if you want to be a noob. But as long as you stick around to play the game, you might as well contribute to the world rather than be just another leech.

And the first step to that is in mastering your lazy, selfish nature.

I have no doubt that if you put all of your noobish desire for immediate fun in its right place, it will bring you great pleasure down the road. There are few joys greater than fully mastering a well-made game.

But if you decide to remain a noob, that's actually alright with me. You'll be yet another headshot for my kill streak.  

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Book Review: Inheritance Cycle

Now before I am murdered by a flock of angry pigeons insisting on precision of language, I will start with the admission that the Inheritance Cycle is a series of books, not a single book. My advice to the pigeons of technicality is this: go away. Well, that isn't so much advice as it is an imperative statement, but without the outraged birds to emphasize exactitude of enunciation, I can get away with that sort of thing.


The Inheritance Cycle is a series of four books (originally intended as a trilogy). I read the first two books back in 2006 when I was too stupid to tell the difference between fine art and an oddly-shaped pile of horse dung. The books came to my attention after I saw the movie, which I liked because the dragon looked cool and it had been a long time since I had seen a somewhat realistically depicted dragon in film. The premise of the film intrigued me, so my grandmother purchased Eragon and Eldest for me. Yes, she does that sometimes. And no, it is not because I am a completely broke, lazy student who spends his spare time ranting on a blog that no one reads.

In any case, I genuinely liked the books at first. They promised and fit into the confines of one word: archetypal. A cynical person would say that this just means "cliched", but as we all know I am a very cheery, optimistic sort of fellow who is dearly fond of his philanthropic mindset and lollypops. So let's just call it "archetypal".

I like fantasy books. There, I said it. I enjoy tales of adventure and worlds much more epic than my own realm of small screaming spawnlings (also known as siblings), odd odors, and luminous laptop light. I am easily endeared by stories telling of the exploits of individuals who have earned or been granted powers significantly beyond those which humans can attain unless they fall into the category of being Chuck Norris.

The Inheritance Cycle gave me another world, and a reasonably interesting one. Dragons, swords, Urgals (who are definitely NOT orcs), and all that. And so I came to like the Inheritance Cycle, which made me hold the opinion that it was good.

Of course, the fact that it pandered to the pathetic needs of my anemic soul did not excuse or change the fact that my opinion was wrong.

People marvel and say that Paolini started writing the series when he was fifteen. I marvel not at the young age, but rather that people know this and don't immediately drop the series like it's coated in male pubescent bodily fluids.

It's not very hard to see that the writer of these books was inexperienced. To cite a few broad examples: Poalini is quite fond of flowery, overly descriptive narrative passages. His dialogue feels structured in places. This may be a more personal criticism, but he often portrays people and circumstances in an unreal, romanticized light. The pacing in his stories is not the best--think somewhere between Tolkien and Herman Melville and you've got an idea of it. Some of the situations (even allowing for the fanciful setting) felt unrealistic (his character Roran is particularly guilty of failing to follow the rules of probability).

While this may all seem very bad, I will note that Paolini has talent (something a critical large number of writers such as myself don't seem to realize that they will need if they ever want to make a living as a writer). And obviously, people still like to read his stuff, which is what matters in the end if you want to bring in the cash. However, this review will mention little of the positive aspects of the series, because it's so much more fun pointing out where someone else has screwed up than praising all the things done right.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Poem: As I Come Undone

I like reading poetry. It is a more raw, focused form of emotional expression than fiction. However, I tend to despise my own attempts at poetry. I am wholly confident that everything I have ever written that can be called something like poetry is an abomination to the craft. However, even I need to vent emotion at times. These unfortunate excretions sometimes manifest in the form of poetry.

I never thought I would come to this. Here I am, about to publish one of my dreary displays of dejection. This is what happens when one procrastinates and must come up with filler material at the last moment for one's blog.

So, here is As I Come Undone; it is a melodramatic product of some tearful day when I utterly screwed something up and had to imagine what it felt like to have someone not completely abandon me so I would not blast out my brains with a shotgun in despair. It would have been an annoying mess for my family to clean up, you see.

Fall to my knees

Fall to my face

Cover my head in disgrace

You can’t see

You can’t understand

All that has fallen by my hand

I can’t go on

I can’t believe

Why you still see something in me

You don’t give up

You still believe

Even though I can no longer see

Why do you stay?

Why don’t you run?

 Even as I come undone

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Sword Review: Windlass 15th Century Longsword

Ah, the sword. I could rant on the beauty, the symbolism, the very essence of everything that has been and is that iconic blade-and-hilt tool of death every day. At times it seems as though my every thought, my entire life and state of being are focused around this one tool--no, this ideal--for the sword is an ideal as much as a physical weapon.

But you're not here because you want to listen to my senseless adoration of deadly symbolic weaponry. You want... wait--what do you want? Why the government are you here? Get yourself a life, good man. This is no place for sane people.

But in the chance that you are actually insane, stay and read a bit farther. This may be useful information for those seeking a sharp/pointy object with which they might kill something.

This fine weapon was made by Windlass, a company based in India (that is, their products are produced by native American Indians, who have had a long tradition of forging high medieval weaponry). Their services to the world are varied in nature, but most pertinently to us, they manufacture miscellaneous entry-level  medieval clothing/armor/weaponry. The key factor in their products is this: they are cheap. Everything they make is produced with extreme care to keep consumer cost down.

This weapon could easily compete with similar models priced around 300 USD. I got it for about $130 (on sale). Currently, it can be purchased from the very good people at Kult of Athena for $170 with free shipping in the US. If you want it, that would be the best place to get it.

The above link contains the essential statistics of the sword, as well as more pictures.

Yes, I am actually a spy for Kult of Athena. No, there is no chance that I just think they're a good retailer.

I give you fair warning: I love this sword. I can't help it; I'm sorry. It's just so pretty. It sits across my lap even as I type this. My review will be biased. I'll still have things to criticize, but I'm not going to nitpick as I would with a higher tier sword.

Handling/First Impression

This sword is beautiful. Pulling it out of the box, that's all I could think. The compound hilt, wire half-wrap, and crisp pommel come together very well aesthetically.

The weapon feels light and free in the hand. At just over three pounds, it is nearly a full pound lighter than my other longsword. This sword begs to be swung.

In both hands it flows and snaps sharply without resistance or drag. Hooking a finger over the crossguard, the blade feels natural with one hand. Thus, it truly fits into the category of a hand-and-a-half sword.

Most of the weight is centered around the ricasso, as the crossguard (while stylish) is quite thick. Same with the ricasso itself. While this extra weight is unnecessary, for me it doesn't detract too much from the handling.

The blade is overly flexible; you can bend it noticeably with one hand and focused effort. I knew this would be true before I purchased it thanks to a few other reviews, but it seems that this fact was a bit exaggerated. Wielding at full intensity, this slight whippiness is noticeable, but not ruinous. I could go through all my drills without distraction.

On a practical note: if I was going to do heavy cutting, this would probably be a bit annoying, as any flexing during a cut would detract energy from the blow. So, if you want to go on a wild, limb-chopping massacre free of annoyance, you might consider a different sword.


The construction of the sword is interesting. The blade has been described as anything from a type XIIa to a type XXa--I have never seen such a dissimilarity of description with a single longsword. The hilt is more easily classified. The iconic ring guards evoke a late fifteenth century feeling (although the wire half-grip doesn't quite feel right).

In my mind though, it makes sense as a tool. It's fashionable and light. The blade geometry would be best suited to cut and penetrate soft targets. I could easily imagine it as a civilian weapon for a rough nobleman's son.

The sword comes with a simple yet stylish black leather scabbard that fits loosely to the blade. The pommel, crossguard, and scabbard fittings are of stainless steel; they are well-aligned as well as secure. The blade is carbon steel. The half-wire grip is tightly wound. All seams in the leather are neat and unobtrusive. The fuller is straight and even on both sides. The blade has been polished to a satisfactory level of shiny-ness.

My biggest complaint here (and perhaps in the sword as a whole) has to do with the pommel. Sure, it looks nice. It fits neatly in the hand, so gripping it for extra leverage is easy and practical.

But it is screwed on.

For me, it has come a bit loose several times in my ferocious testing. This was easily corrected by simply re-tightening it, but that is not something I would really want to be doing in a duel (or in the middle of a limb-chopping massacre).

I don't know why they did this. Windlass, would it have really been so hard to just thread the tang through the pommel and peen the pommel in place? That, along with correcting the geometry of the blade, would have made this sword an incredible offering to the world of entry-level weaponry at this price range. It could be sold for double its current price without consumer complaint.

I find your lack of peen disturbing.

However, as it is this sword can only be said to be "just another" attempt at a pseudo-historical weapon reproduction from Windlass.


Despite all of my cynicism, high standards, and general lack of tolerance for things that suck, I love this sword.

Call me cheap, but I more than happy to have purchased sword. If you are interested in swords/medieval martial arts and you don't have a lot of money to throw around (or if you just want to swing something), consider purchasing this. Other swords might represent the longsword better in a historical sense, but I don't think there is much out there at this price with this level of... aesthetic appeal.

A note though: this weapon, even dull, would not work as a sparring weapon (I don't care what sort of protection you wear). I bought it unsharpened, but the tip is deadly pointy--it will sink into flesh with little effort. I would call the edge "unhoned" rather than "unsharpened". I have made deep gashes in my wooden training pell with this edge; I can only imagine what it could do in sparring.

All things considered, I give this sword a 7/10 for a new sword enthusiast.