How to Make a Good Password

password_strengthSince I have the day off today, I’m doing a mini-post on my personal system for password-creating.

The above cartoon (Credit to Mr. Munroe of xkcd) give an excellent point for word-based passwords. leetspeak (Or 1337, if you prefer) is all well and fine, but a computer used by hackers can easily guess a number-based password. 2-4 random words strung together makes for a good, strong password. I use a particular system with my passwords: I take a random adjective and pair it with an animal or mythical creature, and add 2 random numbers from my immediate environment. (e.g. the expiration date on the bottle of VetRx I have on my desk.) This makes for a highly personal password that I can remember easily, a human hacker can’t guess, and a password bot can’t easily crack. Here are some examples of old passwords I have used. (I no longer use them; Nice try though!)

Electric_Dragon4 (Hint: Tesla related Toothless and my favorite song from Trans-Siberian Orchestra)

ConfusedGolem98 (Mixed-up clay robot and the last two digits of the barcode of the library book on my desk)

Steel_Griffin15 (Metalloid Gilda and the price of a ticket to the local amusement park)

HazardousUnicorn48 (Dangerous white horse and the first two digits of my library card)

Human_Titan50 (What Yeager is, and the number of chapters)

Good luck!

The Qualities of a Good Fanfic

Avoid this!

Avoid this!

Mmmm, fanfic. That beautiful, terrible thing that can make you laugh, cry, smile, and/or want to bleach your eyes out. While fanfic (Short for fan fiction) is typically stereotyped as hackneyed, badly-written, and erotic, there ARE some good fics out there. They have a coherent plot, good pacing, keep characters extremely close to their original ‘incarnations’ so to speak, and (Most importantly!) have been spellchecked. Once read, the fanfic adds depth and additional insight to the original work. And now, you too can finally write that Fullmetal Alchemist/Doctor Who crossover, with these tips.

1. A Good Story

When you start writing a fic, you need to figure out what you want to happen. Is it a crossover? A slash (Pairing) fic? Or is it just a Slice of Life fic? Here are a few things to remember as you come up with a story line.

  • It has to fit in with the world/setting of the original story. Unless you are writing a parody/overly silly, just-for-fun fanfic, it needs to follow the same rules as the world of the story you are writing about. This means no unicorns in a Walking Dead story, or spaceships in a Harry Potter fic. These rules can be twisted or bent depending on the fic (Especially “What if?” fics) but try to stick to what is allowed in the set story’s universe.
  • It should have a fairly similar tone. A fanfic will ready reaaaaaalllly weirdly if you change the original tone of the story. I mean, imagine reading a Clifford The Big Red Dog fanfic–set in a dystopian world with a totalitarian government. Get my point?
  • Have it make sense. If you are writing a Lord of The Rings midquel (Middle of the original story) don’t write about how Frodo went out for ice-cream in the middle of his quest for the ring. Seriously, does Middle-Earth even have ice-cream? Either way, you need to keep it consistent with what the characters do, their motivations, and (Most importantly) if it is allowed, or even exists, in the universe (See the first  point for this!)
  • It has to connect with the main story well. If the original story has an ambiguous ending, more often than not, you will find swarms of fanfic writers finishing it to their liking and own interpretation. Be careful of stories with wrapped up plotlines; Writing a sequel to it can come off as a hackneyed effort to try and ‘milk’ more out of it. (Like this) A story that has been wrapped up, like Spirited Away for example, can be hard (But not impossible!) to write about.

2. A Coherent Plot and Good Writing

The greatest story in the world is nothing if it isn’t executed properly. You need to plan out your story in advance; Writing as you go may work for some, but it can make for plot-holes, contrived coincidences, and deus ex machina. (Er, machinae, if you want the proper Latin plural form)

  • As I said before, Plan out your story in advance. How do you want to story to start?  Where do you want is to go? Don’t play it by ear!
  • Show, Don’t Tell. For example:

“Lily walked into the room. There was a body there. She felt sick because it reminded her of her father’s death.”

vs.

“Lily walked into the room, and nearly walked out again. A pool of blood stained the carpet; the stench of death invaded her nostrils. The corpse of a young man lay, spread-armed, on the floor. The room began to spin, as the taste of bile rose in her throat. Not again, not again…. she thought, her mind playing back to the night her father was murdered. The same smell, the rough shock that had rocked her body and scarred her soul, all came rushing into her mind as she took the scene in. Stumbling, shaking, and crying, Lily ran from the room, holding back vomit.”

A bit melodramatic, yes, but far meatier and more descriptive than the former. It also tells us more about the character and her past, and immerses you far more in the story.

  • Set up the story and characters a bit before you plunge into the action. You need to establish what characters are involved, and set up any OCs (Original Characters) before you get to the main meatiness of the plot. Hey, Harry didn’t start the Ultimate Showdown with Voldemort on page 1!
  • Avoid plot devices. Don’t use last-minute ass-pulls, deus ex machinae,  and the like if you happen to write yourself into a corner. They are signs of lazy writing! Save it for Golden Age Superman comics and parodies. Plot twists should be built up and hinted at, also. It takes time to write a good ending!
  • Careful with the descriptions. Unless they have the patience of a saint, most readers will want to get on with the good stuff (The Doctor appearing at Hogwarts, Haku and Chihiro FINALLY kissing, etc) While you should take the time to set things up (See above) don’t dawdle. Taking 3 paragraphs to describes someone’s hair is excessive, and also kinda creepy.
  • Pace it well. Hold your horses, partner! You can’t have the Climax in three chapters! (Seriously, are you writing a book for 1st graders?) Take time to flesh out the characters, set up the big plot twist, and so on. Don’t just have action scenes all the time; Likewise, don’t have boring exposition every other page, either.

3. Believable Characters

When writing a fic, there are 2 parts to character writing; Establishing any OCs or new characters, and keeping old characters, in, well, character. Here are a few tips.

  • Make your characters well-rounded. The bane of every writer is the Mary Sue. This is  a character that is downright unbelievable. (i.e. Too perfect) Avoid this at all costs; Make sure to give your characters flaws, quirks, and mistakes (As in, they make mistakes) like the rest of us humans. TVTropes has an excellent page on Avoiding Mary Sues.
  • Keep characters in character. Would you read a fanfic about how Twlight Sparkle decides to quit reading and take up watching TV? Or one about Eren Yeager becoming a pacifistic vegetarian? No! (Though it does make for an interesting thought-study) When someone reads a fanfic, they want it to be as close to original piece as possible (Or else they wouldn’t read it!) so you need to keep the old characters in personality. Don’t send them off on a wild tangent just because you want something specific to happen!
  • Make your characters interesting. A story about office workers doing boring things, living boring lives, and having boring personalities is not bound to interest your readers. Make it so that you would enjoy having a conversation with your character at a cocktail party.
  • Make your characters likeable. One of the things I hated about The Great Gatsby was that nearly every character was quite despicable. While a hateable character can be a beautiful thing (Think Harry Potter‘s Umbridge) don’t overdo it.

4. Grammar

For the love of all that is holy, PLEASE use good grammar! Your fic can have a great story, excellent writing and plot, and awesome, well-rounded characters, but if you don’t use proper grammar and spelling, you will turn away all but the hardiest readers at the door. Here are some points to keep in mind when editing a story (Please, please edit it before you post it!)

  • Don’t be afraid to use punctuation. Have you ever read a sentence that’s really run on and as you keep on reading it you almost want to stop in the middle and take a breath because it has no commas or periods or anything to finish it or pace it (*Takes deep breath*) and it turns you away from the story because it’s such atrocious writing and… (Ok, you get my point.)  The thing is, if you don’t break up a thought with a comma, period, or semicolon, then it will come off as rushed and ametuer. When in doubt, read the sentence out loud; If the way you say it sounds awkward, or you need take take a breath in the middle of it, then you might want to rethink it.
  • Know you’re spelig and apostphe’s.  Seriously–My Immortal’s spelling alone made me want to cry tears of blood. And just sticking it into spellcheck isn’t going to cut it; If you’re lazy, hire an editor. (Though that’s a bit excessive for just a fanfic. Maybe you could bully  your roommate who’s majoring in English into it?)  If you’re not, then go through the story, correcting as you go. Nobody’s perfect, so you are bound to find a few. TheOatmeal has an excellent guide for commonly misspelled words. And learn to use a dictionary!
  • Don’t forget to proofread! This should be a given. You wouldn’t turn in a report or big paper without proofreading it, would you? Think of the internet as the most nitpicky, micromanaging, critical boss/teacher/professor in the world. Scared now? You’d better be! I read through all of my posts at least twice before posting. If a chick with the attention span of a squirrel with ADHD can do it, you can too. (Trust me!)

So, with these points in mind, go out into the wide, wide world, and give it your best shot. Who knows? Maybe your Pacific Rim/Attack on Titan crossover will be famous one day.

Happy writing!

How to Behave at a Renaissance Faire

Image

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it’s the most wonderful time of the year!

(Mwahaha, now I got Christmas music stuck in your head before it’s even Halloween!)

With the change of the seasons (Unless you live in Florida) brings an onslaught of state and county fairs going on. Ren Faires (As the lingo goes) are no exception. If you love fantasy, history, drama, and/or sharp edged objects/flying pointy objects/blunt metal objects, the local Renaissance faire is the place to go. Whether you are a first-timer or veteran faire-goer, you can have a ton of fun when you attend. Here are some basic guidelines for behaving at a faire that will help you make the most of your time there. Think of it as ‘Renaissance Faires for Dummies’. (I’m not sure if that’s actually on the market, so please don’t sue me)

On Costumes

If you plan to dress up for the faire, you are certainly not alone. Each year, hundreds of geeks/nerds/etc dress up to go to their local faire, kinda like how people dress up for the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Here are a few guidelines for your costume:

  • Make sure to read up on your local faire’s costume guidelines. Are busty wenches allowed? Do you have to wear anything under a kilt? The last thing you want is to spend weeks on a costume, only to be turned away at the gate. On the other hand, some faires have themed day/weekend, (Like Kilt Day or Steampunk) so don’t be afraid to hit up their website and see!
  • Check what the weather is going to be like. Don’t wear a He-Man getup in November (Unless you live in Florida) and don’t go as a Mysterious Hooded Figure in Black in July (ESPECIALLY if you live in Florida)
  • Though the standard is definitely changing at modern faires, try to be fairly historically accurate. Not that I’m saying that you should skip the viking costume (I’m looking at you, Skyrim fans) or give up your elf costume, but you’ll get a lot more out of the actors if you go as someone from the period. Still, don’t take this one too much to heart–times are changing.
  • This rule, however, is eternal: Make sure your costume is durable and comfortable! While your Mary Tudor dress might be worthy of a museum, it ain’t worth nuthin’ if you can’t walk around in it for 4+ hours. A costume falling apart halfway through a faire run isn’t fun, and neither are blisters on your heel because you wore fancy (but tight) shoes!
  • If you decide not to dress up, don’t despair! Often, there are costume rental stalls available if you change your mind/procrastinate. If you still decide to go ‘normal’, then you will be treated pretty much just the same, but you won’t get the same mileage out of the actors as you would if you did dress up.

On Shopping

When you attend a faire, typically there will be a market type thing going on, with merchants selling everything from swords to skulls! (Honestly, I have a broadsword next to my desk, and a coyote skull on my shelf from previous faires) Here are a few tips that may come in handy while browsing:

  • Take cash. While this is changing with card scanners on iPads and smartphones, still take cash. This is a given for any fair or event.
  • Be careful when you touch/handle stuff. Some stalls have a ‘no touchy’ policy, and even if they don’t, some objects are very delicate and shouldn’t be handled a ton.
  • Watch out if you are wearing a cloak! A billowing robe can knock over things.
  • Be polite and courteous to sellers. Nobody likes a jerk, and who knows? They might give you a discount if they like you!
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions about their product. How did they temper this sword? Where was this hat made? Is this soap made with lye? And so on. A merchant should know about their product, and you should find out before you make any rash decisions. If they clam up, or are rude to you, find another stall.
  • On swords: Be careful of stainless steel sellers. I call these swords ‘fanboy blades’ (No offense to any fanboys out there!) in that they can sit under a pile of junk for years and not rust. These blades are brittle, and not what you want if you are into ‘real’ blades. Carbon steel is what you want. (I swear, I will write a full article about this on day!)
  • And, finally, be careful about what you buy in general. What I do is I scan through the sellers for my first run through the faire, and stuff I like I go back to. (This doesn’t work with the really big faires) There are exceptions, though: Sometimes you fall in love with something at first sight. If so, then go for it! However, if you are having doubts, don’t be afraid to sleep see a joust on it.

On Language

Ok, as an unofficial history geek, the whole ‘Ye Olde” thing ticks me off; Seriously, ‘ye’ translates to ‘the’! Otherwise, here are some tips for addressing actors, and navigating how they address you.

  • People in general are ‘My lord’ or ‘My lady’ (This indicates general equality, but with respect)
  • Royalty is “Your majesty”. A little bow of curtsy doesn’t hurt, either.
  • Lower class people can be addressed by their title. A clown, for example, can be addressed simply as “Jester”.
  • If you see the Pope, it’s “Your Holiness”.
  • If merchants use ‘The Language” then you can address them in the like. If they don’t, the speak normally, or you may get some funny looks. Still, be polite!
  • You don’t have to use ‘The Language” if you don’t want to, but you will get more out of the actors if you do!

General:

  • Be nice to the actors. They do this for long stretches at a time. If you’re just going to mess with them or make fun of them, you’re a jerk and should go and stick your head in a manure pile. Not only that, you may be asked to leave the faire for misconduct!
  • Use common sense. Act with decorum; Don’t get drunk off your ass just because there’s a mead stall, or attempt to start a fight with anyone. It’s just plain rude and disruptive.
  • Peace tie your weapons. This is a given for most faires; Plus, you don’t want some idiot pulling it from its sheath and stealing it from you!
  • And, last (But most certainly not least): Don’t be afraid to be cheesy. I promise you, you won’t stand out, and you’ll have a ton of fun doing it! If you decide to pull a ‘sullen teenager’, then all you’re doing is giving off a bad vibe. Instead, eat a turkey leg, speak in old-timey language, and make merry! You’ll have more fun.

Happy Faire running!

5 No-Sew, Homemade Halloween Costumes

Inept with a needle? Can’t knit to save your life? Blew all of your cash on a full-sized, limited edition Thor cardboard cutout? No worries! These easy, homemade Halloween costumes will appeal to any geek or nerd out there, without the hassle of sewing or buying a crappy, expensive store-bought costume!

1. Any of the Doctors from Doctor Who

Credit to Los Angeles Times

Fantastic!

The Doctor is a perfect costume-box (As I like to call no-sew costumes) cosplay–there is a large amount of choice, and most of it is clothes you can find at any consignment shop or second-hand store. 11th Doctor give you a Rush? Tweed jacket, off-white shirt, dark pants, and the signature bowtie, and you’re good to go! Tom Baker more your cup of tea? Grab a fedora, long coat, a funky scarf, and a packet of Jellybabies (Sour Patch Kids is a good American replacement) and assemble. Hey, you have 11 different choices!

2. Ninja

I was inspired by this excellent Youtube Video by Michelle Phan for this one.

Add a black turtleneck and black pants, (Nunchucks optional) and impress your friends, family, and enemies.

3. Mad Scientist

WITH SCIENCE!

WITH SCIENCE!

This one is very customizable. All you need is a labcoat, and you can take it from there. Want to look like you were in a lab accident? Smear your coat with charcoal and mess up your hair with hairgel. Is Marie Curie your childhood hero? Cut open a glow-stick and splash it on for a ‘radioactive’ glow. (Careful, this will only last a few hours.) Is there a Mary Shelley book on your bedside table? Recruit a friend to go as Frankenstein’s monster, and do a double-costume. The possibilities are endless!

4. Vampire Slayer

Screw you, Edward.

Screw you, Edward.

Sick and tired of the Twilight fandom? (I am too.) Retaliate with a vampire slayer costume, and terrorize any Edward Cullen cosplayers come Halloween! While the actual image of a vampire slayer is up to interpretation, thanks to a wide range of popular characters (From Buffy to Hellsing) you can pull off the universal image pretty well: A black or a very dark brown trenchcoat, black clothes, and a dark fedora. Carry a cross, and wear garlic around your neck. Blue-dyed water in a fancy bottle (Or a small spray bottle, if you wish) makes pretty good ‘holy water’. Cap it off with a stake covered in red paint and sparkles.

5. Time Traveler

This one is a sinch. Wear out-of-date clothes. (Anything from the Industrial age to the 90’s) Randomly walk up to people and ask “What year is it?” When they respond with the appropriate year, (“Uh…2013?) yell, “Yes! Yes! YES! IT WORKED!!!!” and run off screaming.

5. (For real) Arthur Dent

arhtur dent

No costume? Don’t panic!

Ok, the last one was a bit of a cop-out. Here’s a real one this time!

For Hitchhiker’s fans, this outfit should be your top choice. Bathrobe and pajamas is all there is to it. Don’t forget your towel!

General Tips

  • Take a trip back to your childhood, and remember when you used to play dress-up. You can get a lot of ideas this way!
  • Consignment and second-hand stores are a geek’s best friend.
  • Stuck? Look through your book/dvd/figurine shelf for ideas!
  • Make sure your costume is appropriate for the weather. Don’t go as slave-Leia if you live in New England, and don’t go as an Eskimo if you reside in Flordia.

Happy Rushing this Halloween!

Geeks vs. Nerds

geeks_and_nerds

Credit to Mr. Munroe of xkcd.com

As you can see from the comic above, we geeks do have strong opinions on the distinction between geeks (or otakus, fanboys/girls, etc) and nerds. But what sets the two groups apart?

First, let’s start with the definition of a geek.

According to the novelist Julie Smith, a geek is

“…a bright young man turned inward, poorly socialized, who felt so little kinship with his own planet that he routinely traveled to the ones invented by his favorite authors, who thought of that secret, dreamy place his computer took him to as cyberspace — somewhere exciting, a place more real than his own life, a land he could conquer, not a drab teenager’s room in his parents’ house.”

Summarized, a geek is a social outcast who enjoys the internet/book/game/movie world moreso than the real world. While this may be a stretch for the modern geek, it is the media stereotype. TV Tropes, in my opinion, gives a far more up-to-date definition.

Geek is a cooler term for a fan. A devoted fan. An over-the-top, obsessive fan of some hobby or media. They are a part of some fandom or specialty, their jokes and allusions no one can get except other geeks, they spend money on their hobby instead of some Serious Business. They waste time debating their favorite media on message boards and writing articles about geeks in Wikipedia and TV Tropes. And if there were no conventions and no Internet, many of them would have never socialized.

While the behavior and look of the geek has changed (More on this in a later post) the core definition still stands true; A geek is a very strong advocate/fan of a certain book/series/franchise. This love can be for just one book (Though usually it is one with lots of history or content, like Pride and Prejudice) to an entire franchise (Think Marvel and DC). Famous geeks include Joss Whedon, Stan Lee, and Adam Savage.

So, now that we know what a geek is, what makes him/her different from a nerd.

A nerd can be defined as a socially inept person with great academic aptitude. Think the old definition of a geek, with academic or technical interests replacing pop cultural or media interests. Examples include Bill Gates, Kari Byron, and Steve Jobs. The typical ‘pure’ nerd, instead of reading manga, would rather join the Robotics club. There are, of course, variances in people’s interests, and it certainly is possible to be both a nerd and a geek, but it is also possible be only a nerd, or a geek. Both factions have their importance, and neither is better than the other. Other than for technical (And/or legal, though I’m not really sure where this would apply) reasons, there is little reason to make a fuss over titles.