LOAD “*”,8,1

I saw this gorgeous scarf at an event last weekend.

The pashmina is silk screened with some coding from a Commodore 64 computer programming guide that taught the user some Basic, a programming language. The code is the start of a song.

I never did any Basic coding on the C64 when I was a kid. All we ever needed was this line: LOAD “*”,8,1

I had no idea what it meant. I didn’t need to. That line unlocked the blocky games loaded in delicate floppy disks. The scarf brought me right back there. That chunky text, the waiting forever for things to load…

I kind of miss those days. Nothing was instant. There was a built-in break. Patience was needed. I know it drove me crazy when I was a kid, but I kind of long for that now. But to get that sort of respite in these times, you need to escape technology. You need to hide in the woods or on the road, away from technology or cell reception.

Maybe I need to dig up an old C64. For nostalgia’s sake.

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Star Wars: The Fandom Menace

r2d2and1

This is the time I met R2D2. I was dressed as Princess Leia.

I’m excited for Star Wars.

Star Wars was always a big part of my geekdom. My brother and I had been watching Ghostbusters 1 and 2 in a never ending loop until the trilogy entered our lives. Then everything changed. The VHS tapes ran non-stop during my pre-teen years. We read the books and played the games. We pretended to be stormtroopers and rebels fighting each other. Star Wars was our thing.

When my husband and I first started dating, I said “I love you” first. He would respond with, “I know.” This is, of course, a quote between Leia and Han before he’s frozen in carbonite. For some months this exchange would happen between us until he finally said, “I love you too.” (Sucker. Hee hee.) We would eventually play a piece of music from Episode 4 at our wedding. (TO BE FAIR you can’t really tell it’s from Star Wars. At least the part we chose. The video starts there.)

 

Oh yeah, and I met the author that killed off Chewbacca in the books. (Now noncanonical.) Crushed him with a moon. He was delighted to sign this custom image I created commemorating the event:

Squish the hairball.

I’m trying to say that this series has meant a lot to me. But I can’t say that I’m the biggest fan.

I can’t rattle off trivia and lines. I don’t know specs of imaginary ships and weapons off the top of my head. I don’t enjoy the prequels but I won’t get in a fist fight about them. I care – but not that much. Sometimes people have a huge problem with that. Unless you’re a diehard biggest and baddest fan in the galaxy, you’re nothing. A poser. A loser. In the current political climate, you’d think we’d have more divisive issues. But right now it’s all about Star Wars and how serious of a fan you are.

And since when did NERDS of all people turn on ourselves this way? Calm down everyone. Sheesh. Anyway.

I just would like to remind everyone that there is a group that hovers above the casual fan but below the super hardcore people. We like this universe and we’re excited to see what happens next. We’re just a little more mellow than you polycarbonate clad scruffy nerf herders. Maybe you feel like this makes you better than us. And really, that’s okay. You can go all out. You do you! The thing is we’re all fans. There’s no reason to be That Guy.

Unless you like Episode One. Then you’re just on the wrong side of history.

We’re those Lego people.

legodisplay

Growing up, I longed to play with Lego. (Lego being the proper pluralization of Lego – not Legos.) We didn’t have much of them, but one year on a family road trip we went to an FAO Schwartz and my grandmother told us she’d buy us anything we wanted. I bolted to the Lego section, as did my brother. We both knew what was up. I pulled out a lot of different sets but after being told over and over that my selections weren’t “for girls”, I proceeded to ask for one of the girly sets with the most bricks. On the drive back home, I converted the fun time “Beach Front Whatever” set into every variation I could think of and played for hours. The set came with a base plate, so it was perfect for building in the back of our minivan.

Jump cut to my adult life, with my husband. We love Lego. We’re known as adult fans of Lego, which makes me feel odd, but there you go. What it means is we have an appreciation for the engineering and amusement that goes into building these sets. Yeah, there’s a lot of Star Wars (see above) but we have other sets too. Look, there are plenty of other adults that dress up like comic book characters or spend time pretending they’re a dwarf roaming through a dungeon. We build Lego. It’s kitschy, it’s cute, it’s our nerd thing.

We’ve given each other Lego sets as gifts. I went to the grand opening of the Lego store in Houston. I still have my master builder certificate for helping build an eight foot tall R2-D2. I once carried a fully constructed Death Star II down the street we lived on from our old apartment to our new one. That walk went better than you’d imagine.

As far as fandoms go, we’re not overly excitable about it. We try to keep it to a dull roar. The display pictured above lives in our basement. At our wedding, Lego was involved, but it was subtle! Our cake topper was Lego. (And our card box, but to be fair that was actually a gift to us.)

legotopper

I mean, how cute is that?

I could go on about infinite possibilities at your fingertips when you’re building with these bricks. Or the importance of preserving a little bit of childhood. But really this is just about fun. Why wouldn’t you want to play with these and show them off?

Our Lego set building days have slowed down, but as Lego becomes more mainstream – what with that recent and popular Lego movie, as well as many geeky sets coming out… It’s a pretty acceptable time to be a Lego geek, regardless of your gender. If only I could have showed my grandmother this letter from Lego that’s been circulating online lately.

A lot of boys like dolls houses. They’re more human than spaceships. A lot of girls prefer spaceships. They’re more exciting than dolls houses.

The most important thing is to put the right material in their hands and let them create whatever appeals to them.

I’d like to think this message for boys and girls extends to adults too.

“It’s a show about the internet.”

When I heard those words I was already hooked. I love learning about the internet. Not only did the internet change almost everything about our lives, there is just a wonderfully fascinating culture that has emerged from it. My status as a total nerd is pretty well established, but my love of all things internet just affirms this.

Reply All is a new podcast that I have been devouring. There are so many stories they cover… situations and tales that wouldn’t exists without the internet: An ex-girlfriend breaks up with her boyfriend, only to use an app later to hire a stranger to deliver a message to him in person: I fucking love you. A man invents the pop-up, much to the ire and upset of the rest of us. A man who has dedicated his Sunday nights to amending Wikipedia of one specific grammatical mistake. These are stories that I have loved hearing and learning about.

This is going to sound odd, but I love the ads too. Podcasts, for the uninitiated, are ad supported. Most shows just read off copy they’ve been handed, rattle off the website and coupon code, and back to the show. But these guys, PJ and Alex, are using their ads as an extension of the show’s concept in an entertaining way. They have a conversation about how they use the vendors they’re advertising for, which are all digital services that exist thanks to the internet. For Squarespace, where you can build your own webpage, Alex created a page dedicated to whether PJ has met his new baby. Well, HAS HE? You can check out that page here and find out: http://haspjmetalexssonyet.squarespace.com. They also talk about their MailChimp e-mail list, and how, whoops, they forgot one week to send the newsletter. “Obviously, what you’ve just recorded is our ad.” “MailChimp! Works great if you actually send your newsletter out!”

It’s also doing something I didn’t expect: it’s teaching me about the internet. Things I had no idea were happening. Not that I thought I was the end all be all of internet culture, but I thought I was pretty savvy. For example, there’s a thing called swatting where someone as a prank will phone in a threat at someone’s house who’s doing a livestream on the internet. The result is a SWAT team raiding them, live online. Just mentioning it makes me nervous.

This universe is wide and weird and wonderful and awful all at the same time. I suppose that’s part of the reason I’m so drawn to it. I think the other reason is because this culture is my culture. Its history is my history. Much of the family and friends I have are from the internet, as I’ve discussed in previous blog posts. I’ve always said that my dream job would be to become an internet anthropologist, but there’s not a real clear road map for how that would even be a thing, and at age 30 I think I’m a little late to figure it out.

I can’t wait to see what Reply All has up its sleeve. Do yourself a favor, head over to replyall.limo (yes, .limo, since the .com was taken, which is hilarious to me). Check them out. And keep up the good work, Reply All. I’ll see you on the internet.

I’m from the Internet.

I’ve always been a nerd. A geek. A dork. A goober. PROUDLY SO. MY FATHER, A GOOBER BEFORE ME. My earliest computer was a Commodore 64. At the tender age of four, I had video games… but not like the other kids. We typed command lines in before we could play Fisher Price: School Bus Driver. AND WE LIKED IT.

When in the mid-90s AOL started connecting us and the world was logging on, I was right there to watch it happen. (On a newer computer than the C64, of course.) I knew the internet was something different and new. Important. A few years later, I had my own full blown website where I just plucked away at HTML, wrote serial stories with monthly updates (that some of the kids in school found and read along with), and talked about things I liked (things I am embarrassed to list here, but I had a MIDI of the Titanic theme at one point). Blogging 1.0? Eh, maybe. It was a welcome and empowering distraction and I worked on it for years. My friends liked it, strangers found it. I was answering emails from people who thought I was funny and amusing – and they lived in far off places. The internet was magic.

My dad recently mailed up some paperwork from when I was in high school. There it was, a biography written by me: “Lauren’s future plans are studying or working on the internet.” Oh yeah. I was hooked.

After I moved away from my childhood home, I got my first job at a doughnut shop in Houston. I had wandered in, distraught after a day of fruitless job searching, finding solace in a ring of fried dough. My friend suggested maybe I could work there. My eyes widened. I LOVED doughnuts and it never really occurred to me I could WORK there. A short conversation with the manager later and I was hired on the spot. The shop soon turned out to be a sugar fueled circus, but I hung on.

One night, we were getting ready to close up shop and a woman and her young daughter walked in. My eyes immediately locked in on her shirt. It was a character from the popular (at the time) webcomic, Megatokyo. As I rung them up I was brave enough to chirp, “I like your shirt. Megatokyo is really cool.”

“OH!” the mother explained, “You know what this is? She just asked me to buy it.” The daughter sort of shrunk away a bit, too shy to make eye contact with me. I nodded and explained I read the comic, had for years.

“So you’re from the Internet, then, too?”

“Yes, ma’am. I’m from the Internet.”

BEST. DAY. EVER. I rushed home and had t-shirts made for myself and all my friends. I’m not kidding. I just wore one to an IT networking event last night. (I still have plenty if anyone wants one! Only $10!)

I felt like the phrase totally encapsulated my identity. I WAS from the Internet. A majority of my friends were, too. My boyfriend (now husband) and I had met online. Everything I cared about was online. It was my hometown. It had shaped me more than anything else. I could learn online using podcasts published by colleges I could never dream of affording. I could be entertained online, reading comics and watching videos for free. I found my friends there, people whom I share my specific interests (not the Titanic midi) with. I found a family there… There was a group of us who came to know and care very deeply about each other, talking daily, sharing little pieces of our lives.

I’m sure many of you did this in person. I did it online, in chat rooms and message boards.

I’m still fascinated by the Internet. I have next to me a bookcase that is chock full of information about the origins of the web, how businesses were born and died, and how the web has influenced so many facets of how we communicate. The Internet is an amazing tool and – for better or worse – has shaped me as a person.

So yes. I say it loud, I say it proud.

I’m from the Internet.

That time we had Nerd Garage Sale.

Nerd Garage Sale

For Throwback Thursday I thought it would be neat to show you all this dorky thing I did a few years back. My husband and I, being tremendous nerds, had accumulated many toys and general geekery over the years. There were items we were happy to keep around, but we had a lot of things we hadn’t used or looked at in a long time. A Sonic the Hedgehog lunchbox. A Transformer Mr. Potato Head. Princess Amidala Barbie. X-Men comics from the 90s. My shameful anime collection from high school. Lots and lots of things. So we decided to sell them!

We’d seen tables like this at the yearly arcade expo in Houston, so we paid for a table and invited our friends to offload some of their old stuff as well. We made a couple hundred bucks above and beyond the table cost and I’m pretty sure the above image, which was our craigslist ad, is the reason why.