All Stations Go!

First and foremost, I would like to thank those of you who are here because you watched Beauty and the Geek Australia and were kind enough to follow and support me and my fellow Geeks (and Beauties) through-out the season. It was an amazing time for all of us, and though I miss the show I am glad to be back in my life doing the research that I had left behind. Now that the show is over, I can revive this site and resume writing short bursts of creativity interspersed with long periods of procrastination!

A lot has happened since I was last able to post on this site, as I am sure you can appreciate. Not only has my physical appearance undergone a radical shift; so has the way I approach my life. I do get a lot of people approaching me on the streets or in the shopping centre, asking me questions and offering me compliments on the makeover. To all of you I offer my deepest gratitude, as it is heartwarming to know that people have watched the show and joined all of us on our respective journeys. To the most common questions that I am asked, here is a quick FAQ:

  • Do you like your makeover?
    Yes, though I must admit it was two full weeks before I started to recognise myself in the mirror. The mansion has many reflective surfaces, and I was constantly spinning around, looking for the strange-looking person standing behind me, only to realise that it was me.
  • Are you going to keep your hair short/your beard shaved?
    Yes, I believe (for the meantime at least) I will be keeping this look, or some minor variation there-of. The short hair is certainly easier to maintain (and I used far less shampoo), though I will have to factor regular haircuts back into my budget.
  • Are you and Kara still friends?
    Absolutely! Kara is one of the most amazing people I have ever been fortunate enough to meet, and I am sure we will remain good friends for a long time. I cannot stress enough, just how happy I am that she picked me on that very first day. Nor can I articulate just how proud of her, and how much I appreciate everything that she has done for me both during the show and since. <3
  • Was it fun filming the show?
    The whole experience was a blast, though there were ups and downs just like every part of your life. The crew were amazing and the Mansion was a lot of fun to live in. And yes, Bernard Curry is a fantastic and hilarious person to spend time with. (Also, yes, Bernard and I did spend some time talking about the LHC and quantum physics)
  • What are you doing now that the show has finished?
    Back to my research! My real world job is both as a science communicator at Horizon – The Planetarium in Perth (come and see me for a show some time!), and as a researcher currently writing my Honours Thesis in Pulsar Astrophysics. Feel free to ask me about my research, but I warn you in advance: sometimes I can get a bit too excited and talk so much that your ears will bleed. I really do love my work! :D

So, what is next? Just as I have gone through a transformation over the course of the show, so too will Anchorage. There are some articles that will start appearing on the site over the coming weeks, but for those of you who would rather listen than read I have some exciting news. That’s right, I am boldy going where many, more-experienced people have gone before; I am starting a brand new podcast! Keep your eyes (and now your ears as well) peeled and join me on this new venture into the world of science, gaming, and rambling anecdotes. Thank you all once more for your support and for joining us on Beauty and the Geek Australia. Subscribe to the RSS feed (big blue button on the top right of the page) and I hope to hear from you all in the future.

Yours Truly

Tim Young

Radio Silence

Due to a certain NDA I have signed recently, Corsair’s Anchorage will be offline for the short-medium term. I will be back as soon as this “scenario” has come to a resolution, and I promise some very exciting times ahead.

In the meantime, hit the big blue RSS button and subscribe to the feed, and I hope to have a post waiting in your favourite aggregator by October.

#UPDATE#

It is no secret, now that the show has begun to air, that I am in fact a contestant on this current season of Beauty and the Geek. I can not talk about the show just yet, nor can I update this site until I am out of my “online-presence lockdown” phase. In the mean time you can watch the show on Thursdays at 8:30 PM on Channel 7, or catch up with missed episodes and behind the scenes action at the Official Beauty and the Geek website.

Beauty and the Geek Australia

You can also show your support by joining this Facebook page!
(Caveat: I am in no way involved with this fan-page! Information posted on it should be treated as speculation as common sense dictates.)

Yours sincerely
– The Corsair

Defining Shepard – Part 2

While an interesting point was raised in talking about the emotional bonds that seemed to have formed between myself and the Commander Shepard of my “Mass Effect Universe” as distinct from the individual and separate universes that exist around other the characters created by other people, someone pointed out to me another interesting point. I am going to paraphrase in order to mitigate the implied (though mostly sarcastic) hostility:

“Why do you always play as a girl?”

To save face here I am going to first of all admit that, while I do have a tendancy to create female characters, I am fully capable of playing my own gender in RPGs and in fact do so on a more than regular basis. I cannot deny that female characters make up a large fraction of my gaming avatars; some recent example come to mind*:

From the depths of Ferelden:

Vaera of the Dalish

From the mines beneath Torchlight:

Vela the Vanquisher

Leading the armies of Chaos:

Vaera, Disciple of Khaine

Why then did I chose a female Shepard in a game that is so deeply engrossing and personal? When faced with this question in the past, people often fall back on the argument of:

“Oh, I just wanted to see the Shepard-Liara romance scene in all its intended glory

This might be all well and true for some people but I have to admit that I do enjoy playing a game with a strong female protagonist. Unfortunately, games designed with a strong female protagonist in mind often fall short of the experience that I was seeking in the first place, purely for the fact that the gender of the protagonist plays some vital and attention-worthy role in the story. In my mind a strong character should be able to stand up on its own as either gender and still evoke the same emotions and responses from the audience/player. This is one of the many things that Bioware games do often and to great effect; one of the reasons that I continue to seek out their games like rare and precious gemstones in oceans of useless soil and dirt.

This does not answer the initial question posed; what is the attraction in playing a character of the opposite gender? I honestly do not believe I can give a satisfactory answer here. Why do we enjoy movies where the lead role is a gender other than our own? I dare say the vulgar repetition of bland male action heroes would eventually render audiences immune to the stories being told, in the same way that a man (or woman) forced to eat a prime rib-eye steak for every meal of his (or her) life would soon crave a breast of chicken like a newborn child craves oxygen.

Yet movies are passive and the adventures that the characters eke out are vicarious at best; gaming brings you one step closer in a way that helps you better bond with the protagonist in question. Furthering my own dilemma as presented here, many of my female characters reside in the highly social realms of Massively Multilpayer Online games. So why then would you chose to indulge in a cross-gendered avatar, especially when social interactions play an important role in the game.

Personally the answer is simple: I enjoy it and I find the change both refreshing and comfortable. I know that some people I play with will flat out refuse to play a female character for the exact opposite of these reasons; ultimately it comes down to personal taste. I would love to hear from any of you in your opinions on playing characters of another gender, both good and bad, and to those of you who emailed me in response to my last post: Thank you and I hope you continue to enjoy my ramblings.

Which brings me to ask you, kind readers:

How many of you play characters of an opposite gender? If you do, what are your reasons, and if not then why?

Comment below or email me at corsair@corsairsanchorage.com

*These are the three games that I could find screenshots for. I feel sorely remiss that I cannot find an image of my Age of Conan character, Ynnifer. That red haired scoundrel :P

Defining Shepard – Part 1

Serendipity is a beautiful thing.

When I woke up Wednesday morning the day was looking up; it was my first day off in quite some time and I rejoiced at the thought of being able to sleep in, have a nice lunch for a change, and maybe even spend a couple of hours up-side-down on a couch reading a book (my preferred reading position). In the space of six hours I received two phone calls that would change everything: someone had broken street-date on Mass Effect 2, allowing me to convince the girl behind the counter at EB to hand my copy over “nice and slow-like”; and the framers had worked their magic on my lithograph over two weeks ahead of the expected schedule. One 15 minute journey later and my addiction had reached a beautiful critical mass.

Critical Mass Effect Mass Effect Signed Lithograph

In the months since December of last year I have immersed myself so deeply within the world of Mass Effect, in preparation for the prodigal sequel, that it has started to affect me on a fundamental level. Just the other day I legitimately pondered the required energy to significantly remove the gravitational influence of a pulsar, and began a rough calculation until reality came creeping back into the foreground of my thoughts. I dare say it will not be long before I start demonstrating the positions of known Mass Relays at the Planetarium and am subsequently fired for the preaching of gross falsehoods. I listen to the soundtrack to the first game whilst reading the novelised prequels, and when I shut my eyes I sometimes inadvertently visualise the spinning Mass Relay loading screen.

The degree to which this game has entrenched itself into my cortical lobes gives us the context we need to continue. You see, every time I search for Mass Effect on the Internet, read about it in a press release or through one of my many aggregated RSS feeds, or even talk about it with other sapient beings, something strange happens. I get confused and disoriented! All of a sudden, the world has turned topsey-turvey and I grasp blindly as my brain tries to piece my shattered world back together.

To the rest of the world,

Shepard looks like this

Which is confusing because for me,

Shepard looks like this

The blatant identity crisis would be understandably crippling for Shepard herself (himself?), yet somehow I find myself thinking for her whenever confronted with this discontinuity. Seeing a male Shepard is like looking into a mirror and seeing someone else’s face staring back, even though the face is an avatar for an imaginary character. There is no logical reason why it should unnerve me so much, and yet I find it physically distressing to see “John” Shepard conversing with the Normandy’s crew instead of “Jane”.

While I applaud BioWare for their efforts in creating a game that is (largely) gender-independent in terms of character interaction and development, I find it incredibly interesting to note how severe my reactions are to resulting conflicts created in both the game’s advertising and general public discourse. The role of gender in a games avatar is a topic for another day, but for now I would love to know:

Do you ever find yourself identifying with a specific portrayal of a character in games, books, film, etc.?

Have you ever encountered this alienation when encountering a non-idealised version of these characters?

I would love to hear your comments below!

Foiling Moore

Moore's Law

Creative Commons License photo credit: Alice Bartlett

As a child I was often promised, among other things, a future who’s hallmarks were flying cars and holograms. Growing up I was regaled with tales of robots, instant meals, and all manner of things wonderful and fantastic. Furthermore these stories were always suppended with comments in the vein of “…and that is where you will get to make your mark, my boy!”. In those golden days of my youth, no-one expected humanity to try so hard to shoot themselves in the foot.

Moore’s Law stated initially that the number of transistors on a silicon chip would double over a period of two years. Moore himself placed limits on this theory, though the trend outlasted his wildest expectations; the result was a relationship that constantly underwent redefinition as the notion of “technology” evolved. Society had been skeptical in the past, steadfast in their belief’s that this kind of progress was pure fantasy, yet time and time again they were forced to sit slack-jawed in wonder at the latest in computing technology. The wiki article has a great history of the “Law”, and coincidentally one of my favourite blogs has just posted a fantastic article on how things could have turned out differently. What truly baffles the mind, what denies all plausible sensabilities, is how people seem to resent and resist this progress. Right here in Australia, planning is under way for a National Broadband Network that would potentially bring our fine nation into this nascent age of high definition internet access, connecting the entire country to the rest of the world in ways never before thought possible. For those of us isolated on the West Coast, the prospect of such a connection was akin to platform nine-and-three-quarters; a secret realm hidden between fantasy and ecstasy. On the cusp of such a monumental step forward, how does the populace respond?

They complain! They actually make statements like “The internet is fast enough[sic]”.

The argument that faster connections will only lead to greater instances of piracy are so unintelligent that I actually find them offensive. It is reductio ad nauseum to make the connection between faster downloads and the absence of any legitimate use of this extra bandwidth, and I don’t doubt for a second that Godwin is next to take the stage in this inane debate. Making things worse still, the population at large simply has too few sources of reliable and unbiased information from which to make an intellectual opinion. The media feeds this burning ignorance by stoking the flames of fear and mania, publishing and presenting stories designed only to create hyperbole and spread misinformation. It is the unfortunate state of our media monster, that if a news story is outrageous enough, other news sources will report on the first news story, thus creating a vicious cycle of publicity that all too soon spews out falsehoods masquerading as gospel.

I ask you now to imaging this, a near future where the right choices were made. The laying of fibre-optic cabling across the nation allows bandwidths capable of hundreds of Gigabytes per second (Gbps), with a fibre-to-the-home connection allowing a full 1 Gbps connection for each connected device. Using this connection, Television stations are capable of delivering HD Programming in addition to the high speed Internet afforded by the ISP. The cable-based TV station suffer less signal degradation than conventional antenna based transmission, resulting in a more reliable signal uninterrupted by local electromagnetic interferences such as washing machines or microwaves. With the TV stations no longer utilising the radio-wave transmission, this new “Empty Space” in the spectrum can be filled in by conventional wireless transmission currently being restricted to the frequency ranges around 2.4, 3.6 and 5 GHz. This greater freedom allows better signal penetration and less interference; it is now possible to have a single wireless router that will happily fill your house with no dead spots, and more than likely into your neighbours house as well. These freed-up frequencies also allow telecommunications companies greater opportunities in providing wireless broadband services to mobile phones and laptops on the move. The fibre-optic network also gives ISPs the chance to realistically offer competition to the current Telecommunications Conglomerates, driving down service charges and making communication easier and more affordable. The concept of being constantly connected to your family in England, or your children in the United States, is no longer some fantastical dream from a fantasy realm. Information becomes something people are entitled to, and able to access with ease and freedom.

Can you imagine this wonderful future?

Good. Now weep for it.

Discourse

discussion
Creative Commons License photo credit: the|G|™

In this most recent binge of bettering myself I have been mustering up the motivation to do some of the things I wish I did more often. This can be shown in the fact that I have now run Jacob’s Ladder twice this week and fully plan on a third assailing of that mocking dastard this Friday. While this has temporarily halted my attempts at starting Tai Chi for purely physical limitations (namely my complete inability to hold a low horse stance without my calves deciding that this is a monumentally stupid idea and leaving), I truly believe that they both work towards a common goal.

This, however, has nothing to do with what I wish to talk about today.

I read, on average, 5 – 6 small essays every day from the various vestiges of the Internet. Some are aggregated courtesy of my compulsion to add every RSS feed ever into my google reader account. Some are linked to me in posts made by those same subscriptions. Some fall out of Wiki-loops and some even appear as a legitimate part of my studies. I often save these articles, or leave the tab open in my browser of choice until it reaches a sort of critical mass and they all collapse to form… well… a memory error. I do this because  I often want to link them here and comment about them, but this is always a cop-out on what I really want to do; I want to write the articles. So, I am going to make a concerted effort over the next couple of months to knock out a decent quality mini-essay per week. The first is definitely going to be about Communication, hence the post title. Peel an eye for that one.

In the meantime, fantastic things I have found on the internet that will allow me to close some tabs!

All credit goes to Phill for finding this one, but he didn’t post about it so I will. This is one of the most emotional and amazing videos I have ever seen. I just wish I could save it somehow.

Keeping it real with my boys in the Astro community, I should point out that this was actually discovered by an amatuer Aussie astronomy outside of Canberra. He forwarded it onto NASA who were very glad that he did so, as you can read.

Else, in the land of Astro, the Lunar Recconeissance Orbiter has spotted some pretty lucky shots on it’s way to… well… do what it did before it got there!

Any audiophile worth his salt would jump at the chance to have been this lucky. A tour of the Dolby labs is my idea of the best first date ever! In all seriousness, however, if you ever wondered what makes one sound better than another, have a quick read of this article. Sound is very much like wine…

Finally, a sneak peek into my first mini-essay, this one in particular inspired me more than most I read on a daily basis. Not long now before Internet kills the Video Star.

Discipline

betty page stencil?
Creative Commons License photo credit: duncan

After yet another successful annual trip to Prevelly, I have found myself in a pre-metamorphic state. The trip itself consisted what anyone would expect from a bunch of university students desperately clinging onto the last shreds of their sanity post-exams. Discussions of philosophy, the preparation of gourmet delicacies, and meditations of self worth. Also, drinking.

In all seriousness, I have decided I require more discipline in my life. I have decided that Tai Chi will do as a viable substitute. I will attempt to update on how this is going, however one thing I would like to investigate is the possibility of blending some of the movements of Tai Chi into Fencing, possibly improving balance and reaction times. Food for thought, that is for sure. On the topic of food, I have no doubt that a post will be up very soon at my second favourite food blog, detailing the scrumptious exploits of one of the best amateur chefs I know. Let this man anywhere near fresh marron and I assure you that what follows will leave you a husk of a man who’s digestive tracts have transcended to a higher plane. Yes, it is that good.

My own escapades in that realm were met with kind words of their own, a heart 1.6kg slab of quivering meat marinated in one of my own concoctions and slow roasted over 4 hours to something that closely resembles perfection. While I feel it could have been rarer for my tastes, with the quality of the kitchens in these small cedar cabins I believe the results exceeded expectations. The marinade, however, was my real victory here. The base constituents of this culinary alchemy were maple syrup, vinegar, Cajun peppers and lime zest. Not what anyone would call traditional, in fact some have expressed their abhorrence at this aberration, yet the combination has merit beyond comprehension. I can only ask you save your vitriol until after you have let me cook it for you.

Segue: Speaking of food and discipline, I have noticed recently that while I have a fantastic espresso machine that I use every day (hourly is probably a better term) I have not yet once used the milk steamer attachment. This is primarily because I am a lazy person, and I like to be able to consume the caffeine part of the coffee as quickly as possible, such that I can get back to my addiction of the moment. Today I broke that particular trend and I must say that it is something I should do more often. For little extra effort my caffeinated beverages could be much nicer; I am simply just too lazy. All this, however, shall change very soon.