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Videos Games & Political Consciousness

I wrote this piece some time ago about video games for Memory Insufficient, a games history ezine. This is it.

Click this link to download the PDF.

I’ve spent the last couple of nights binge-playing through the Mass Effect trilogy, which reminds me a little bit too much of the late nights I’ve pulled work- ing on political campaigns and social causes in the past. The setup is about the same: all of the above require a single-minded approach to The Goal. Total dedication is best. Showers can be skipped. So can sustenance. The Goal can be anything: win an election, stay out of trouble, vanquish aliens or make some connections. All other objectives, like rescuing civilians or being a decent person, are often secondary. The joy you feel from completing a mission on a planet feels as real as any real life political victory you’ve ever thrown your weight behind.

One day you’re editing a speech for a politician, the next you’re fighting a fire — in the hull of the ship, or on Twitter. It’s all interconnected. I’m an avid gamer, political otaku and all around nerd, so perhaps I feel that way because my favourite games are the ones that in- clude, even combine, some elements of all of the above. Just like history, games — and their plotlines and char- acters — are written by the victors: those who control the battlefield. Some gamers like to believe that the game worlds we so love are or should be free of the in- fluence of politics and ideology; that they exist as works of art alone in a vacuum and should be appreciated as such. Others have written volumes about identity poli- tics and video games (and indeed there are many prob- lematic aspects associated with being a female, Asian and gay gamer).

Political capital is often spent by the ones who don’t know they possess it. Games are often presented as being mere works of fiction. Some of them, like Assassin’s Creed, even tell you as much, by starting off with a disclaimer calling it a work of fiction inspired by historical events. Yet being the nerdy amateur writer and political historian that I am, I’m more keen to line up the story they don’t tell you — in-between the cutscenes, behind the sto- ryboard and everywhere except onscreen. When you make a decision to assume a character or interact with one, how much of it was already made for you?

Let’s start from the beginning.

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Sitrep

BSG Tattoo

  1. I got a Battlestar Galactica tattoo
  2. I’m pretty pleased about that
  3. It’s one half of the pair of wings and Caprica constellation that Starbuck gets when she marries Anders
  4. Within a couple of hours of getting it, a random stranger proposed to me — saying she would get “the other side”
  5. Which would be romantic, but that would also mean (a) she’s a Cylon (b) we’d have a tumultuous relationship (c) she’d better be damn good at Pyramids
  6. It’s unbelievable that 10 years has passed since I first started to watch this show
  7. I don’t generally fan-girl anything, but this was special
  8. I identify with Starbuck in far too many ways, if you know what I mean
  9. It’s potentially far more meaningful than anything else I could have gotten
  10. After getting this done I do kinda feel like nothing can frak with my qi

I love BSG.

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How To Setup Business Email Without Google Apps

Google Apps seemed like a godsend to many businesses when they first came around. The free version was great, and I never had to upgrade. Eventually I came around to the same opinion that Marco Arment has stated many times: I want to pay for a service I need, especially one that is so mission-critical like business email. Several times I’d had problems with Google Apps and just simply could not get any support because we were on the free service. I could have upgraded, but migrating my email to another provider was something I wanted to do anyway to wean myself off the big G.

When I had to set up email for a new business recently, I decided to try something new. I decided to go with Fastmail.fm after multiple recommendations from other geeks, and so far I’m pretty happy with it.

I didn’t find too many resources in the same place, so I decided to make one.

1. Buy a domain.

If you haven’t already bought one, or are thinking of transferring to a better domain registrar, I strongly recommend Name.com. I have been using them for a long time — never been happier. Everything is easy and straightforward, unlike GoDaddy. (Disclaimer: If you click on Name.com from my site, I make a small percentage through my affiliate link.)

2. Purchase an email plan. (Fastmail recommended)
I like Fastmail for many reasons (read about some of them here. Sign up for a business plan at Fastmail.fm. If you’re not sure what you need, just start with the basic plan. I’m just a one-person operation at the moment and I have a Standard plan. I’ll look into upgrading when I need to.

Fastmail will run you through account setup and passwords. You can create a master user and use that to make administrative changes to all accounts. Use a different password for the master account and your own standard account.

3. Make some DNS changes.
Log in to your Name.com account. Click on the domain you just purchased, and click on DNS Records. If you’re using any other domain registrar, just locate for the DNS Manager or other tool that lets you make your own DNS changes. If you’re using an off-site DNS service, you probably won’t be needing this article but the same DNS values apply.

4. Set up CNAMES
This how-to won’t cover how to set up your domain to your web host and will focus only on email. In the DNS Manager/DNS editing area of your domain registrar/service, create two new CNAME records.

In Name.com’s DNS manager, select CNAME from the TYPE dropdown and enter mail into the blank space named “HOST”. Enter wwww.fastmail.fm in the ANSWER field, and 300 in the TTL field. (Remember to come back to this after everything is setup and ready to go — once it works, come back here and change all the TTL values to 3600.)

Create a second CNAME record, repeating all the steps but with a new CNAME record of wap instead of mail.

You’ll end up with:

CNAME mail.yourdomain.com www.fastmail.fm 300
CNAME wap.yourdomain.com www.fastmail.fm 300

NOte that you can replace mail/wap witho whatever you prefer, such as mail/mobile or email/m. For newbies, the whole idea of creating these CNAME records is so that you can go to mail.yourdomain.com or m.yourdomain.com or mobile.yourdomain.com and access the web interface.

5. Set up MX records
In the same DNS management screen, set up two MX records. It’s exactly the same as the above, but there is a new field for MX records: priority. In this case, the two values have a priority value of “10″ and “20″ each.

As below:

MX yourdomain.com in1-smtp.messagingengine.com 300 10
MX yourdomain.com in2-smtp.messagingengine.com 300 20

6. Set up IMAP access
The best part of Fastmail is its excellent IMAP feature. You can, of course, use the web interface at mail.yourdomain.com (or whichever CNAME record you just set up in step 4, but I prefer to use various email software to access my business email.

On my desktop, Mail.app or any other app.
On my iPhone, my new go-to Mail app for business is Dispatch app. It supports all of the productivity tools that I use or like, such as Evernote, Clear, Things, Google Maps, Drafts, Skype, Fantastical, Reminders, Due (see full list here); it’s a different approach to email, and I like its action-driven focus. It’s still pretty young, but I like it very much already.

No matter what email client/software you use, the setup should be the same.

Incoming mail server: mail.messagingengine.com
Port: 993
Username: yourname@yourdomain.com
Password: xx your password xx

Outgoing mail server: mail.messagingengine.com
Port: 465
Use SSL: Yes
Authentication: Plain
Username: yourname@yourdomain.com
Password: xx your password xx

You can also set up your Fastmail account to enable FTP and DAV access, but I haven’t had the need to.

You should be all set up now, just send a test email and make sure everything works! (For more info/support, go here.) When it all works great, go back and change all of the TTL values from 300 to 1800 or 3600.

Did this work for you? Is there another email provider you have had a great experience with? Let me know in the comments.

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This Site, Now On Steroids

Those of you with elephant memories will remember what this site was 7 years ago. The web was a very different place. This blog was a different blog, I was a different kind of kid (19 years old! Yowch), and the ecosystem was other sites like this with no Facebook, Twitter, not in the ways we now have them anyway. The only external outlet we all plugged out to was Flickr, and we know how that went down. It’s hard to believe we once lived in a world when Yahoo! was still important.

Through all of that, I was running the same Textdrive box. I had one of those legacy accounts with ‘lifetime hosting’. There was no cloud (not in the way we know it now).

The point of all this is: the world has changed, Facebook has IPO-ed, I have changed (in the midst of some pretty huge personal, professional and geographical transitions at the moment), and while I’m still figuring it all out, I figured the easiest thing I could change was the server that this site runs on..

Isn’t it so much faster now?