Why I Play Female Avatars

In RPGs or any video game with a customizable avatar, I’ve usually gravitated toward choosing female characters. As a hetero cis male, I’ve never quite understood this tendency, and I’ve often felt a little self-conscious about it. (“No, hey, wait, don’t load that save game! Let’s just start a fresh one, okay, yeah. [ahem]”) Does this mean something about my gender identity I don’t understand? Do I need to learn to walk in heels? I already have enough foot problems in sneakers.

Only recently did it finally make sense to me: I play female avatars because they aren’t my avatars. By that I mean I don’t play as video game characters; I play along with video game characters. I guess I missed the whole “role playing” part of role playing games, because it’s just not how I relate to them.

Any time I’m rolling a character, I’ve always felt uncomfortable picking one with my name and appearance (and not just because I’m goofy looking). It feels a bit like hiring a new employee and on their first day saying, “Welcome aboard! Here are my clothes for you to wear, and from now on you will answer to my name. Now hold still while I do a bit of reconstructive surgery.” They aren’t me; it’s weird to try to make them be me.

I’m rolling not an avatar but a companion. I’m creating a partner that I’m cooperating with to get through this game. I want to keep them safe, not out of self preservation, but to protect my new friend. We’re working toward shared goals. In this way, solo gaming feels less solo. It’s like a buddy movie, but with more murder and theft.

That explains why my characters don’t resemble me, but why are they female? That’s for reasons more unique to me. I’m just more comfortable around women. I grew up with sisters, a single mother, nieces, and many other self-sufficient, strong, kind women. Conversely, I was nerdy, sensitive, indoorsy, artsy and never into the sportsball (is that what they call it?), so my bro relations were stunted. And the vast majority of my childhood tormenters were guys, which didn’t help build positive associations. I’m not a man-hating man, and most of my friends have been male, but given the choice of hanging out with a random male stranger or a random female stranger, I would choose the latter. No universal declarations here about either gender. This is just the context that influences my preferences.

And frankly, strong female characters are just more interesting. Cocky meathead trigger-happy dudes are vanilla. Standard. Default. We’ve heard that story already. Let’s see something else.

So when given the choice between a male or female video game character, the latter is just easier for me to get behind …and slightly above in third-person camera mode.

Gender picker

World Order

World Order is a Japanese electronic music group with a mesmerizing dance style that evokes the movements of precision machinery. This song, Machine Civilization, is my favorite, written about the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster of 2011.

Check out the World Order YouTube channel for many more videos.

Fallout 4 Stipple Drawing

I’m getting excited for Fallout 4 coming out next week, so I drew a thing.

Fallout 4

Pen: Sakura Pigma Micron 005 (0.2mm)
Paper: Strathmore medium 80lb
Time: ~10 hours

It’s approximately 3 inches wide. Very small. I used a magnifier during most of the process.

The biggest enemy of stippling is impatience. There are many areas in this drawing where I was impatient to fill large areas, and it shows as grittier, clumpier shading. The nicer areas are the ones where I took my time and placed each dot very purposefully. In those areas the dots are evenly spaced and smooth and just generally a lot more attractive. It’s especially hard to maintain in areas where the tone changes continuously, because then the dot pattern changes continuously as well. It’s an evolving skill.


You may see a lot of woodworking posts here in the coming weeks. I have a project which will include a nice hardwood box, so I’m quickly coming up to speed on the basics and getting all the equipment I need. It’s a fun… and expensive… and toolbox busting endeavor.

One area of research has been veneers. I always thought of veneer as synonymous with the cheap plastic coating on particle board with wood grain printed on it, like your $20 book shelf has. But real wood veneer is used on some of the finest furniture made. Sometimes a veneer is used out of necessity, such as when the desired wood simply doesn’t exist in the size needed. Some woods come from trees that are too small to mill full-sized boards but nonetheless have a desirable aesthetic appeal. Depending on how the veneer is cut you can also get some grain patterns that wouldn’t exist in conventionally milled lumber.

One of the more beautiful classes of veneers is burls. A burl is a growth on a tree caused by insects or fungus or some other disruption. Think of it a bit like scar tissue. The grain in a burl is highly turbulent and figured and can vary a lot by species. Burls are small, so veneer is about the only way to take advantage of their unique woodworking beauty.

I recently ordered a random box of burl from VeneerSupplies.com to get a better sense of the gamut of burls that exist. I was not disappointed. I got over 45 square feet of at least a dozen different kinds. Pictures are great, but there’s nothing like seeing a sample in your hand, seeing how the light iridesces, the scale of the figuring, and how the color looks under different lighting conditions.

Box of burl

I made a few small sample chips to reference as I work on my design, and I can’t keep my hands off them. The redwood in particular is just stunning. And these are just plain wood samples; once they’re treated the contrast and detail will only look better. I can’t wait to start incorporating some burl into my project.

Burl samples

Redwood burl

Stanley Plane

I’m a newcomer to woodworking and am very much still in the early stages of gathering tools and understanding. I just had to share one of my first purchases which just arrived today, because it’s frickin’ gorgeous. It’s a Stanley no. 4 wood plane. The handles are made of cherry. The whole thing feels sturdy, heavy, substantial, crisp and precise. I haven’t even tried it yet, but I can already tell I’m going to be making up reasons to use it.

Stanley no 4 plane

Yoshi’s Woolly World

Yoshi’s Woolly World just came out for Wii U, and I can’t decide whether to call it gorgeous or adorable.

OK, it’s both.

The style is executed so perfectly. The soft, warm fuzziness just leaps off the screen and makes you feel like you’re bundled up under a warm blanket in winter. The animation is full of fraying yarn and squishable pillowiness. It all adds up to an incredibly satisfying experience that feels as comforting and familiar as that itchy sweater your mom knit you.

Here are some screen shots, but I recommend watching the trailer at their website to get a better feel for it in motion.

Yoshi map

Underground zone

Yarn ball dispenser

Sunflower platform

Bundled knitted Yoshi Amiibo

Cloud Chamber

I’m fascinated by quantum physics… in a pretty uninformed, bewildered sort of way. It’s all very outside our usual day-to-day macro experience, so it’s interesting but intangible.

That’s why I found this video so interesting. It’s 50 minutes long, though you only need to watch a few seconds of it. It shows a piece of uranium in a cloud chamber. The particles emitted from the radioactive decay of the sample cause chilled alcohol vapor to briefly condense into visible trails. Check out the video description on the YouTube video for more details (if I tried to repeat it I’d get it all wrong).

Yay science!

Tested Revisits Glowforge

The excellent YouTube channel Tested revisited the Glowforge laser cutter yesterday. Norm asks some questions, and we get to see some impromptu test cuts and engravings from starting design to completed cut, and done in various materials.

There is a print article with further questions at Tested.

I pre-ordered my own last week (a basic model + filter). I had some trepidation since, as awesome as it looks, it doesn’t officially exist just yet, and it’s a lot of money to plunk down. But this video allayed my fears. It seems to live up to expectations. If all goes according to plan, I should have mine in December. I’m sure as hell not cutting my Christmas ham with a knife this year, I tell you that much.

Machu Picchu Dice Kickstarter

I made a six-sided die out of black soapstone with alabaster pips. It was really difficult, at least in part due to lack of proper tools. But it was pretty fun. Working with primal materials like stone and metal is very satisfying, and they have such natural beauty.

So I was excited to discover the Machu Picchu dice Kickstarter. The stone work is gorgeous, and the price is almost too reasonable for that kind of craftsmanship. Rewards are estimated for May 2016; I don’t know how I’m going to wait so long!