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After reading about it at Joanna’s Adventures in Academia, I took the character alignment test from D&D online. I think they meant it to be used when creating a character, but it’s much more fun to answer truthfully for yourself. My result was neutral but Beorn got neutral evil. Even if you haven’t played D&D it’s a fun little quiz.

Neutral

A neutral character does what seems to be a good idea. She doesn’t feel strongly one way or the other when it comes to good vs. evil or law vs. chaos. Most neutrality is a lack of conviction or bias rather than a commitment to neutrality. Such a character thinks of good as better than evil. After all, she would rather have good neighbors and rulers than evil ones. Still, she’s not personally committed to upholding good in any abstract or universal way. Some neutral characters, on the other hand, commit themselves philosophically to neutrality. They see good, evil, law, and chaos as prejudices and dangerous extremes. They advocate the middle way of neutrality as the best, most balanced road in the long run. The common phrase for neutral is “true neutral.” Neutral is the best alignment you can be because it means you act naturally, without prejudice or compulsion.

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I laughed, I cried. It was much better than Cats. If you haven’t seen this video of Joss Whedon, creator of Buffy yet, watch it now. So refreshing!

After listening to Joss, I have to make the connection between his comment that strong women characters are valuable for men as well as women, and the phenomenon of men taking on female avatars when they are gaming. For some reason, research shows that women gamers rarely switch genders when gaming. Because games are so populated by male avatars, women frequently play games with male avatars , but when given the choice they rarely choose gender bending. This doesn’t bode well for Dr. Freud. As a fan of Jung’s writings, I have to say that I think gaming and other virtual spaces provide a situation in which men can express and work with their animas.

While many male gamers come up with convoluted reasons for gender bending online, many admit to not consciously knowing we they chose to play a female. Male to female gender bending is still a serious taboo for heterosexual men in our culture and online games provide a space in which men can unconsciously explore the feminine aspects of their psyche without fear of (much) ridicule or violence.

Considering the amount of harassment and sexual attention female characters get in many online games, it seems hard to believe that men would choose to play female characters simply for the voyeuristic pleasure watching a female body as they claim. As Joss stated in his speech, strong female characters are certainly sexy and part of men’s pleasure in playing a female avatar must indeed be voyeuristic, but if having a view of a female body was all that was desired, most of these men would choose options in which they could control the female body without identifying with the character. For example, in WOW, if a man wants to have a sexy female side-kick he can play a warlock, and summon up a succubus.

In most online games any female avatar is by definition strong, since female and male characters have exactly the same abilities and are able to progress through the games in an equal fashion. This fact also contributes to making online gaming a safe space for men to explore their feminine qualities since they will not face negative consequences in terms of in game ‘career’ development. Similarly, Joss’s strong female characters, are in some sense safe for men to identify with since they are not weak and yet they are highly feminine.

Our hyper-masculinized culture allows (and at times encourages) women to explore the more masculine aspects of their personalities. Women, particularly in work spaces, must negotiate their identities in situations where masculinity is the norm. Men rarely get the opportunity to similarly explore their feminine aspects. It is only in the highly removed and fictional worlds of gaming and science fiction that men are permitted these sorts of explorations.

I haven’t been posting because I’m a little disoriented. In the last week I have spent so much time discovering new possiblities on the web that I’m on information overload. My latest discovery is listening to podcasts on itunes. The only problem is when I’m absorbing so much info it’s difficult to actually produce any work (for example, blog postings.) Next thing to learn, how to post videos, or links to videos on my blog.

I have been reading so much bad news lately, here’s a spot of good news. American Chestnuts were wiped out by an invasive fungus from Asia. A biologist recently found a stand of perfectly healthy chestnuts, raising hopes that scientists will be able to repopulate eastern forests.

GardenDesignOnline: A Chance for American Chestnuts

Traffic probems? Can’t get people in your city to carpool? Turn your local bridge into a guilt trip anyone driving…innovative.

Since the quarter is over and I’m still feeling somewhat manic, I spent all weekend working on blog related stuff. I learned a bunch about blog templates, but I’m still not happy with the color scheme. Oh well, more changes coming soon.

I installed greasemonkey, which is an extension program for mozilla firefox. Once you install greasemonkey you can download and install ‘hacks’ that people have created. The crazy thing is the hacks can basically change the way you see any webpage you go to. You don’t like the colors on someone’s blog? You change it! There’s also a hack to add a field to blogger postings pages for tags, so now I can tag everything easily.

Also discovered bloglines and del.icio.us. Bloglines is fabulous because I can quickly keep up to date on new blog posts and news from my favorite media. At first I wasn’t sure about del.icio.us because I thought it might be a good idea to give too much info out, but then I realized that I’m blogging under an assumed name, what do I care? Del.icio.us tags are much more useful than web-browser bookmarks. I’m always having trouble keeping track of my bookmarks because I can’t cross reference them. Also, now I can waste a lot of time looking at things other people have tagged!

The genocide in Sudan has been translated into an online game.

I am at once fascinated and repulsed by this use of digital technology. Can online games teach people about real tragedies happening on the other side of the earth? Do these games encourage action? Or does the fantastical nature of the medium make it meaningless?

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Take a look at the creepy drawing that accompanies this article on ADD risk and the connection to premature birth.

At Risk: Premature Birth Is Linked to Attention Disorder – New York Times

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Boing Boing: Prescription stimulants on campus

No wonder it’s difficult to keep up with the competition. If most students use stimulant drugs, how can students who don’t compete? Shouldn’t there be some drug testing for college students or something? I actually gave up caffeine for several years because I found that I slept so much better without it. It seems almost impossible to get through grad school without it.
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Well, the class from hell is finally over. I managed to grade 110 exams in 10 hours. I figure that was less than 6 minutes per exam. Each exam consisted of 90 T/F and multiple choice questions and 3 short answer questions. Mind you, the professor had us grade them by hand, no scantrons involved. I was having trouble finishing them because I was getting so irritated about the whole thing, and the fact that I didn’t say anything to the professor about the issue. I have trouble with confrontations sometimes, so instead I dropped them in her mailbox, not alphabetized. How’s that for passive-aggressive? I’m working my way up to actually confronting people when I’m frustrated about something, but for now just getting away from her and the exams was a relief. Luckily, she’s an adjunct and they are canceling the classes that she teaches so hopefully I will never see her again.

I have heard some terrible stories about professors abusing their TAs and RAs, so I know that my situation really wasn’t that bad, but I’m just used to being treated with respect and consideration. Spending 10 hours grading exams that could have been done in 10 minutes using a machine feels like busy-work. It was like being back in Junior High.

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