Livestream of Zelda 2: Adventure of Link tomorrow! #DIYSciZone #GGC2015 #GeekGirlCon

I’m looking forward to Geek Girl Con‘s DIY Science Zone, where I’ll be volunteering to do demonstrations of buoyancy and water displacement all weekend on October 3rd and 4th. But between me and that weekend stands my Acts of Whimsey, torturous little tasks I’ve signed up for in exchange for us reaching certain fund-raising goals. Since we passed the $3500 mark, my next task is to livestream play through the entirety of Zelda 2: The Adventure of Link.

You might remember last year’s livestream of Battletoads, which, sadly, Twitch has expired off its feed. I still have the complete video though, in two parts, where I beat the game in about 16-ish hours over two weekends — with the only cheat being infinite lives. I’ll compile them and post them someplace, perhaps.

Zelda 2 is torturous, but not in the same way as Battletoads. First, the game is significantly different from every other Zelda game you’ve played. It’s a side-scroller, it has experience points and leveling, and Link moves like a dumptruck that can jump (without a Roc feather, even!). It also has a number of the most unfair and patently absurd challenges for a game of its ilk, including the first iconic battle between Link and his evil shadow doppelganger. Ganon never appears, and his name in the Game Over screen is spelled “Gannon”. Its clues are mired by the fact that they had to pack text into tiny 40-ish character boxes, which they couldn’t change from the original Japanese layout in translation for space reasons — meaning the translation is the equivalent of condensing several complete sentences into 1/3 of a tweet. All the nuance of “GET CANDLE AT PARAPA PALACE. GO WEST.” is destroyed — you’re supposed to FIRST get the candle at Parapa (which is northeast of start), THEN go west to the next town.

I will not use any cheats in this playthrough at all — no Game Genie codes, anyway. Anything that the game allows me to do (e.g. using the Fairy spell to fly through a keyhole) is not a cheat. I will, however, since it’s been over twenty years since I owned this cart personally, refer to a walkthrough fairly liberally so you don’t have to watch me retraversing areas over and over desperately searching for the next place to go.

I’ll also try to actually have the microphone volume up loud enough this time that you can hear me talk this time, but there’s a few physical aspects of the setup that I can’t really work around at the moment — my laptop has to be closer to the TV than to me, and I don’t have an external mic that’s at all viable. But I’ll see what I can do.

The stream starts tomorrow morning at 10am CST, and you can feel free to tune in on the blog post that I’ll post tomorrow at about 9:30.

If you’d like to donate to Geek Girl Con’s DIY Science Zone, to help the volunteer scientists with the materials they need to teach kids about science, you can do so right here! Surely showing the kids at Geek Girl Con how to extract DNA from strawberries, how cool oobleck is, or how to make a real comet out of dirt and snow, is worth a couple of your spare bucks, right?

CONvergence 2015: my Skepchickcon schedule

So I am on some panels at CONvergence / Skepchickcon, July 2-5th!

Can you guess the theme of CONvergence this year without looking at their site?

I will also, as always, be helping out at the FtB party room, adjacent as always to the Skepchick party room. There will be snacks, there will be glow in the dark booze for those of age after 8pm, and there will be plenty of good conversations to be had.

Technology Won’t Destroy Us – Thu 5:00pm – Plaza 1
Renate Fiora, PZ Myers, Heina Dadabhoy, Dan Berliner, Jason Thibeault

Paranoid predictions about the technological downfall of mankind abound in media, but technology has also made human lives immeasurably better. We’ll talk about more realistic portrayals of tech, science, and human improvement.

Sci-Fail Returns – Thu 7:00pm – Edina
Christopher Hunter, Rebecca Watson, Jason Thibeault, Raychelle Burks, Ryan Consell (mod)

We’ll review the most egregious examples of Hollywood mangling science over the past year. Watch experts pass from denial, to rage, to sobbing as they are reminded that the budget for each film exceeds the global research budget of their field.

So You Want to Rule Dystopia – Sat 8:30pm – Plaza 1
Jennifer Cross, Jamie Bernstein, Jason Thibeault (mod), Heina Dadabhoy, Steph Montgomery

From 1984 to the Hunger Games, dystopian worlds are defined by their evil governments. We’ll discuss the different flavors of political systems that rule dystopian worlds and advise you on ruling your own dystopia.

Dystopian Video Games – Sun 9:30am
Donavon Indovino Cawley, Michael Black, Dani Price, Michael Carus, Jason Thibeault

Wasteland, Bioshock, Fallout, and more. What makes them fun and interesting?

The Riddle of Randomness

Cross-posted at Geek Girl Con’s blog!

Last year at Geek Girl Con, I had the privilege of participating in the Do-It-Yourself Science Zone teaching kids about probability and randomness.

GeekGirlCon 2014 at Washington State Conference Center in Seattle, Washington, on Saturday, October 11, 2014.

GeekGirlCon 2014 at Washington State Conference Center in Seattle, Washington, on Saturday, October 11, 2014.

However, being The Riddler, I had a secret agenda in mind while doing my demonstrations — I have a trio of ten-sided dice that I use to gamble with my fellow super-villains, and I wanted to figure out which of them, if any, had a bias for or against any particular number. What better way to find out, than to offload the boring task of rolling those dice over and over again onto unsuspecting passers-by?
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#FtBCon 3: Asexual Spectrum Atheists panel, and Youtube comments brigaded

Here’s the full panel.

The book mentioned is Asexuality: The Invisible Orientation by Julia Sondra Decker, and here are some links the panelists wanted to include.

A link that Tristan wanted to add, relevant to the “asexual but still having sex”:

This is regarding the House episode mentioned:

The census is available here:

And hey, big congratulations to Thunderf00t on fully embracing your nature as a churlish, small-minded and provincial sort, the type of person who gives atheists a reputation of being the Douchebag Brigade, much like was mentioned during this panel. Since your coming-out as such a few years back, your quality of life must have gotten really much better — I know what it’s like to have to hide some fundamental aspect of your life, and it must be nice for you to feel free to be an utter asshole in public now. Good for you. And good for all your fellow douchebags in your audience.

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#FtBCon 3: My facilitator track

The full schedule for FtBCon3 is at Lanyrd, and finding your way to the Google Event page (where the Hangout will be broadcasted) is as simple as going to the panel you want, and clicking on the Official Session Page. This will work even after the event was over hours ago, even if you’re a little late, even if you have used a TARDIS and gone to the distant future (assuming Google’s servers still exist). And if you’re early, you’ll probably see no video, or a countdown clock til go-live.

Q&A will be handled in the Pharyngula chat room, accessible by going to

Here are the sessions I’m facilitating, with the Google Event pages linked in the titles. All times are in Central.

Asexual Spectrum Atheists – Friday, 9pm-10:30pm
An asexual is someone who doesn’t experience sexual attraction. While it’s a simple definition, we will correct common assumptions, and explain the the asexual spectrum through our personal experiences. We will discuss obstacles faced by asexual-spectrum folk and why it’s important to be aware of it and talk about it. And completely unique to this panel, we’ll discuss the good and the bad of how our experiences intersect with atheism and skepticism. This is especially important considering that the asexual community is predominantly non-religious right now.

The Psychology of Trolls – Saturday, 10am-11am – panelist
Much has been made recently of trolling on the internet, and how it betrays the trolls’ sociopathy. Is there any truth in that? Why do trolls troll, otherwise? What traits do they have in common, and what tactics do they use as a result?

Fundraising for a Secular Cause: Because It Takes Money To Change the World – Saturday, 1pm-2pm
It takes money to scale an organization up from its seeds as a good idea into a major player with local and/or national impact. Organizing a successful conference entails similar costs. But fundraising is hard, and very few people enjoy asking others for money.
This panel will show you not only how to ask people for money, but also to understand who you should be asking in the first place! Presenters range from those serving as volunteer fundraisers for a local group, to organizers of highly successful conferences, to professional staff with responsibility for raising a million-dollar budget.

Student Advocacy and Why Students Need to be Involved in Politics – Saturday, 3pm-4pm
Cara and Dan will illustrate the how and the why of political activism, and how to make allies out of your state representatives, city council members, and school administrators.

Secular Cults – Saturday – 5:30pm-7pm
Not all cults are religious. Attributes of a cult include traits such as: unquestioning commitment to one or more leaders, who are considered unaccountable to any authorities; punishment of dissent; mind-altering practices such as meditation and chanting; and deceptive recruitment practices. Many organizations that are not overtly religious still exhibit many of these traits. In this panel we will discuss some examples of this phenomenon, such as the Amway and other multi-level businesses, the self-help movement, and some homeschooling organizations.

Evidence-Based Feminism 2 – Saturday – 7pm-8pm
HJ Hornbeck continues to put feminism’s claims under science’s microscope, this time by examining economic equality, representation, and that perennial favorite “rape culture.” Watching his previous talk is optional, but recommended.

Secular Asian Community – The binary nature of diversity discussions – Saturday 9pm-10:30pm
A panel of Asian freethought community members will discuss successes in making Asians more visible in the community, things the secular community could be doing better to make Asians feel more welcome, and the consequences of not building organized and humanist communities, such as the situation in China presently.

Questioning the Historicity of Jesus: Commentary and Q&A by Dr. Richard Carrier – Sunday 11am-12pm
Dr. Carrier will briefly discuss his new book On the Historicity of Jesus (published by the University of Sheffield), his online course on the topic, and some of the issues of debating the historical existence of Jesus, and then take live Q&A from the audience. Exactly the opposite of a Sunday sermon. On Sunday. At sermon time.

Teaching Critical Thinking – Sunday, 4pm-5pm
How can teachers use their role as educators to instill critical thinking and ideas like rationalism and empiricism? Are such approaches intrinsic to teaching or separate? We could also go into the ethics of where to draw the line between instructing and “preaching” but I’d actually prefer to stick to the praxis and methodology of bringing critical thinking into the classroom. How do we adapt assessments and assignments? How do we model thinking behaviors we’d like to see?

Digital Self-Defense – Sunday 6pm-7pm – panelist
Experts in various fields related to technology and intellectual property come together to discuss the art of self-defense on the internet. How do you protect yourself online from all manners of attack, be they hacks or legal threats?

And of course I’ll be in the last panel, the denouement of the con, Wrapping It Up.

FtBCon 3: Confirmed Participants

Cross-posted from FtBCon:
Here’s a preliminary list of confirmed participants for Freethought Blogs’ FtBConscience 3. This list is subject to change, but at time of writing, all participants have confirmed their availability for panels and talks for the conference.

FtB Bloggers:

  • Alex Gabriel
  • Heina Dadabhoy
  • Jason Thibeault
  • Miri Mogilevsky
  • Richard Carrier
  • Russell Glasser
  • Stephanie Zvan
  • Tauriq Moosa

Invited Guests:

  • Adam Lee
  • Amy Boyle
  • Amy Davis Roth
  • Ben Blanchard
  • Caleb Harper
  • Cerberus
  • Chana Messinger
  • Cindy Cooper
  • Dan Fincke
  • Dan Linford
  • Dan Williams
  • Danny Samuelson
  • Debbie Goddard
  • Donald Wright
  • Ed Cara
  • Elizabeth
  • Erin
  • Franklin Veaux
  • Harry Shaughnessy
  • Hiba Krisht
  • HJ Hornbeck
  • James Billingham
  • James Croft
  • Jared Axelrod
  • Josiah “Biblename”
  • Karen Hill
  • Karen Stollznow
  • Kaveh Mousavi
  • Kay Vee
  • Lauren Lane
  • Leigh Honeywell
  • Lilandra Ra
  • MA Melby
  • Mai Dao
  • Maria Greene
  • Matt Lowry
  • Michael Damian Thomas
  • Michael Nam
  • Michelle Huey
  • Misha Greenbaum
  • Misty Taylor
  • Monette Richards
  • Muhammad Syed
  • Neil Wehneman
  • Nick Fish
  • Nick Geiger
  • Niki Massey
  • Olivia James
  • Raina Rhoades
  • Razib Khan
  • Reem Abdel-Razek
  • Rich Wisneski
  • RJ Redden
  • Sakeena Almulhida
  • Sastra / Sue Strandberg
  • Scott Lohman
  • Shelly Henry
  • Susan Porter
  • Tim Farley
  • Trina Gardinier
  • Tristan Miller
  • Valerie Aurora
  • Vic Wang
  • Vivian
  • Vyckie Garrison
  • Wesley Fenza
  • Yau Man Chan

We hope to add more to our roster as panels are finalized in the run up to the convention. Hope to see you there!

Geek Girl Con: Carol Corps (the Carol Danvers fandom)!

I did a special guest run-in to talk about the skeptical/atheist communities and inclusion at the amazing Sigrid Ellis’ behest at Geek Girl Con last weekend. She posted the audio of the panel to Youtube — here it is.

I seriously had no idea there was a fandom for Carol Danvers, but I’m totally sold. I’ve been nattering on Twitter about why there isn’t already a Captain Marvel movie yet, what with Phase 2 dealing with space-stuff heavily. Dammit, it’s time for SWORD to exist, and for the Ms. Marvel cycle to get out of the way so we get our powerhouse colonel taking her rightful place in the Marvel cinematic pantheon. She outranks Captain America, so she should get more movies than him, right? RIGHT?

Busy, busy worker bee

You might have noticed that most of the work I’ve put into the blog lately has been to the end of promoting Geek Girl Con. This post is no different, save for a bit of complaining.

Honestly, I haven’t had much time for blogospherics lately, as work has had a series of disasters that I’ve had to mitigate, so I’ve been working my ass off. I’ve been venting my frustrations about current real-world events on Twitter in short form, because that seems easier to handle in the midst of jumping from one crisis to another with work, but the blog has lain fallow for too long, so I decided to cross-purpose a bit of work I did today. Why use something you’ve done once, when you can use it twice?

At Geek Girl Con, I’m going to be working in the DIY Science Zone, teaching a thing or two about randomness, especially as pertains to dice. I’ll be performing a few demonstrations of how humans don’t really grok randomness, including one where I’ll get people to draw fifty random dots on a piece of paper. I’ll then compare them to a better (though still not perfect) pseudo-random generator, a computer.

Then I’ll go on to talk about how this universe is deterministic and randomness really isn’t all that random no matter what we do to generate it, and pretend to be all smart and stuff. We’ll see how that works out.

I’ve written a little Python script to help with the first demonstration I mentioned above. Here it is. It uses the fairly standard Pygame init > run > terminate main loop you might see in other examples.
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GGC #DIYSciZone: There’s Battletoads in my future. This Sunday.

Thanks to an anonymous and unbelievable donation to Geek Girl Con of $2000 (SERIOUSLY, someone must REALLY hate me!), the $5000 mark has been blown past for fundraising for the DIY Science Zone. Therefore, this Sunday, starting at noon CST, I’ll be playing Battletoads on, beginning to end, no warps, with unlimited lives. Unless it goes over 12 hours, I have work in the morning — in which case I’ll make a save state and continue next weekend.

This is easily one of the hardest video games of the Nintendo era, owing mostly to its punishing memorization sequences, and its brutal one-hit kills (not to mention the inherent imprecision of the NES controller’s directional pad plus-shape design). This was “I Wanna Be The Guy” hard long before there was such a thing.

Here’s how this game is NOT going to go: a cheat-free perfect speedrun.

Instead, it’ll be me failing over and over and over again at this, since I’ve not played past the first level since I was 14-ish.

Oh how I dread and loathe this.

There are more Acts of Whimsy from scientists at the DIY Science Zone at Geek Girl Con, too! If you’d like to donate, try the below button:

In case that doesn’t work, go here instead.

Science sneaks up on squirrels: a reenactment

Scicurious (alias: Bethany Brookshire, alias: Squirrel Terrorist) reenacts a scientific paper’s methodology about squirrels’ ability to detect predators, as her Act of Whimsy (read: forfeit) for Geek Girl Con fundraising.

Remember, if we get to $5000, I’ll be playing Battletoads, beginning to end, with infinite lives, on Surely you’ll want to see me get progressively more and more frustrated as I replay sections of the game over, and over, and over again. Donate now to punish me!

(We totally did not coordinate the silent movie thing in advance, I swear.)