Sunday, March 27, 2011

ScaryMerry Goes to the Gun Show

I am by and large the black sheep of my family. I come from a rather conservative family, both politically and morally, and I have a ridiculously redneck extended family. I'm always the odd one out at family gatherings, as I am the libertarian, gay rights supporting, cosmopolitan, nerdy college student. In comparison, my family thinks the Mexicans and "homosexuals" are ruining the country and that Obama's a Muslim out to take away their rights (and my grandpa also thinks that aliens built the pyramids and Stone Henge, but that's not necessarily redneck, I suppose). As it is, I am currently on my spring break and feel like my latest misadventure is worth sharing.

My grandpa annually has a booth selling guns, jewelry, and watches at our local yearly Gun 'n Knife Show. This year, my dad (who's also pretty conservative, but not so much of the redneck variety- that's all on my mom's side of the family) and I thought it would be funny to tag along with the rest of my redneck family for the "cultural" experience. It would be like Halloween, only we'd be the only ones in on the joke.  So we donned our best redneck attire and set out to be rednecks for the next few hours.

We did make quite a pair- my dad's a professional Santa Claus and has a pretty "sweet" beard (as the guy at the gun show entry table called it). So imagine a giant burly white guy with a great big white beard in hunting camo (no clue wear he got it)  and hiking boots. Funny, right? As for myself, I broke out my seldom worn "Dixie Girls" shirt, complete with roses and Confederate flag, that I won in an archery (or "bowhuntin'", I should say) competition a few years back (that's seriously like the only hardcore redneck thing I do, in a sad attempt to relate to the rest of my family), and my dirty cowboy boots, authentically muddied while working with horses this past summer. I've been told that I don't have much of an accent, which is kind of funny as my mom and sister sound southern as all get out, but I can turn my southern accent on when necessary. I flipped the metaphorical switch and was ready to go. My disguise was complete.

As we pulled into the convention center parking lot, I burst out laughing. This was the sign that greeted us:


That's like a sign at the beach saying "No water allowed." So effing ridiculous. 

To my immense disappointment, though, there was a sign as we approached the building banning non-convention authorized video and photography. Fuck. There goes all the super fun gag photos I was planning on taking.

Oh well.

So we enter the convention center, and after the guys at the door finish gushing over my father's beard, we take in the sight before us: guns. So many fucking guns. I've never seen so much green and camo in one place in my entire life. And I've been to bowhuntin' competitions where guys have given their trucks "redneck paintjobs", aka coating the entire vehicle in camo duct tape. When say there was a lot of green and camo at the show, I sure as hell mean it. 

Just so we're all on the same page, when I say "camo" mean this kind of print:

Comprende? Bueno. Moving on...

Browsing thought the various booths and tables, we encountered a variety of signs with pithy and catchy slogans, such as:

"Bushwackers! Conceal and Carry Weapons!"

"Got ammo?"

"Tazers 4 U!"

Delightful, no? I was actually alarmed by the amount of stuff that was for sell for concealed weapons. The local cops were actually offering a course regarding it. My personal favorite sign was for one of the various conceal and carry belts that were for sell- it featured a beautiful woman in a bikini at the beach wearing the belt and holding a hand gun. Let's examine the various fallacies present in this ad campaign:

- Why does she have a gun at the beach? Doesn't sand and saltwater ruin guns? Probably the cheapest gun I saw today still cost like $200, and her gun in the picture looked pretty nice. If you're going to risk ruining your weapon, at least don't bring your nice stuff.

- Why is she wearing a bikini if it's an ad for a conceal and carry belt? You can't conceal anything in a bikini, unless she's actually a really good drag queen with a killer tuck, but that's a whole other variety of concealed weapon...

It makes no sense at all. But don't let the sexy posters fool you- this was very much a feminist convention. I was in shock by the number of girly-colored handguns/rifles/shotguns I saw there. Shocked partly because some of the bight colors damaged my retinas, and partly because why would you buy a pink hunting rifle? Wouldn't that defeat the purpose of the head-to-toe camo hunting gear? Surely the deer would see this:

Or this:

Note: these aren't pictures that I took at the show, as it was banned and I didn't want to risk getting shot and/or stabbed, but I swear, I saw these exact same guns there.

Speaking of absurdly colored rifles, did you know that some people build their own? There were a lot of rifle handles on sell at the show, like unsanded and ready for people out to build their own weapon. Also, there were weirdly colored rifle handles on sell as well. Stuff like this:

Only not only in purple, but in red and blue and green all sorts of unnatural color combinations, and while some of them actually looked pretty cool, again, I don't see why anyone would go hunting with them, which leaves the disturbing question of what the hell do they do with them? Shooting ranges alone can't be that fun, can they? I don't even want to know. 

Other questionable questions:

- What is a "camo chip"? I tried one and I still don't know. It's like a pork rind crossed with a corn chip and it's weird and available in an obscene number of flavors.

- Why would you buy "baby's first rifle" (in pastel pink and baby boy blue)? I just- what? Why? Gah, I can't even. 

- Are a hundred flavors of jerky even necessary?

And though I was pleasantly surprised to find "Zombie Survival Team" gear next to the requisite table filled with various anti-Obama, pro-Republican, pro-Tea Party, and mildly crazy/paranoid bumper stickers, there was one table that downright pissed me off. Look, I took all the other stuff in stride and good humor. Crazy redneck uber-conservative stuff is simply par for the course and a gun and knife show in North Carolina. There was actually one particular aspect of the show that I was looking forward to seeing- all of the military memorabilia. I'm a history major that specializes in WWII- I'm actually working on my senior thesis right now (hence the dearth of blog posts) on the influence of music in Nazi Germany, so yeah, I love seeing old WWII stuff. So imagine my surprise when I see in addition to old American, German, and Japanese stuff, there are brand new, packaged Nazi flags.

Fuck Nazi flags. Brand-fucking-new ones. Old ones from the war itself are one thing, but new ones?


Look. It's the south. Sure, racism is a given. I'm not saying that racism is ok, but it happens when you have a whole bunch of old, white rednecks in one place. Pretending that it's not there is just naive. But also a given part of the south is a fierce sense of patriotism. Sure, I may not agree with the politics of many of my fellow southerners, but I can certainly respect their shared love of America. So riddle me this- how the hell do you get away with setting up a booth selling fucking Nazi flags across from a booth selling patches meant to honor WWII/Korean/Vietnam War veterans? 


There are free copies of the U.S. Constitution at the front of the convention center, but brand spankin' new Nazi flags at the back? No. That should have never been allowed.

Anyway. *deep calming breath* 

I didn't come away from the gun and knife show empty-handed. In addition to my dark chocolate Belgian fudge (I kid you not), I got the following shirt:

My Yankee friends from up north oughtta get a kick out of it the next time we go to our local country-western bar (which we go to for similar reasons that I went to this gun show- the kicks. It's allll for the kicks.). 

Monday, February 7, 2011

iPad vs. Kindle: No Contest

No really- there's no contest.

Hey, it's been a while. Blame school. Guess what I picked up over my winter break? A Kindle!

And back to what I was saying in the post title, ever since the iPad was announced- heck, ever since the iPad was rumored- blogs, newspapers, and people across the country have been pitting the Apple device against Amazon's Kindle. Now, as an owner of both devices, I must say that this is the most pointless rivalry that I have ever heard of. It's like pitting a tv against an iPod. Totally different devices for totally different purposes. Sure, there's some cross over- you can listen to music on a tv one way or another- but it's not really what a tv's for, nor would you want that to be your only method of music consumption. 

The same concept applies to the iPad/Kindle. Don't get me wrong- reading on the iPad really isn't that bad. I have twelve required textbooks for this semester, so naturally as tech nerd, I downloaded all of the ones that were available as ebooks. My iPad is great for textbooks. Textbooks, magazines, newspapers, internet content- it's fantastic for reading those sorts of things. Ultimately, however, for anything that I'm going to sit and read linearly for hours at a time (aka, a novel), the Kindle totally pwns. E-ink rocks. Believe the hype. Also, the iPad's weight is fine if you're using it as a netbook replacement like I am. As a book replacement, the weight sucks. The Kindle, however is the perfect weight for reading the way you would a traditional book. 

If you're someone that loves to read and reads a lot, and you're debating between getting an iPad or a Kindle, just stop. Get both. If you have the money to get an iPad, I'm sure that you could come up with the $140 for a Kindle as well. Skip McDonald's for a month or two. On that note, as to whether or not you should get the wifi-only version or the 3G, that depends on your situation. I decided to fork over the extra $50 for the 3G version because I'm still on my parents' phone plan (I'm in college, so sue me. Christmas money bought my Kindle. In a month, I'm gonna be broke.) and my dad refuses to let any of us have a data plan. The web browser on the device is nothing compared to an iPad/smartphone/computer, but it's not dreadful. It gets the job done and lets me check my e-mail when I'm on vacation and cut off from the rest of the world. Actually, the Kindle's wifi doesn't like my school's wifi network (which in its defense, you practically have to be an engineer to get the network to connect to anything for the first time), so getting the 3G was a smart life choice on my part. 

So yeah, if you don't have reliable access to a wifi network, get the 3G version. If you want free lifetime 3G data like me, get the 3G version. If you routinely have access to wifi and want to save $50, get the wifi-only version.

Anyway, here's the tldr cliffnotes of this post:
The iPad is a netbook replacement and the Kindle is a book replacement. Pitting the devices against each other is just stupid.

(P.S. Yes, I skinned my Kindle too. I love how it looks like an old piece of paper now. I also put it in an Oberon Design cover:

Oh, the things I do to make my new technology look old.)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

GelaSkins Review

At around the same time I ordered my Oberon case, I also decided to get a skin for my iPad. I was somewhat on the fence about how I felt about skins on iPads, but I saw a skin that I really liked, so I decided to give it a try (rather than spending the rest of my life wondering "what if?").

There are several sites that sell decals/skins for various electronic devices, and the skin that I fell in love with is made by GelaSkins. I heard good things about them from the people on Kindleboards, so I went ahead and indulged myself.

This is the packaging that it arrived in:

I was apprehensive about applying it. I've had difficulty in the past applying screen protectors, and the perfectionist in me is petrified of air bubbles and off-centerness. To my relief, it went on beautifully. Air bubbles were easily smushed out and the adhesive allowed me to reposition the skin when I had it out of place. According to the website, Gelaskins utilizes "advanced 3M adhesive [that] contains patented micro-channels that prevent air bubbles from forming and allow for easy application and clean removal after years of use." In my experience with the skin so far, this appears to be true.

GelaSkins also allows you to download a free wallpaper that matches your skin, so the final product looks like this:

I also feel like the website's claims of scratch protection are valid. I've been paranoid about the aluminum back of my iPad getting nicked and scratched, and now I have nothing to fear. Excellent.

My skin is called "Bookshelf" by artist Colin Thompson, and is available to buy for pretty much every portable electronic device in production. My one complaint, like with my Oberon cover, is the price. My skin cost $29.95 (though you can get a 10% discount right now with the code "TECSKINS"). Decal Girl, another skin company that has good reviews of its products, sells iPad skins for $19.99. I personally think that GelaSkins has better designs, but I don't appreciate the price premium. Maybe I'll change my mind if I ever buy a Decal Girl skin, but right now I remain miffed.


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Oberon Design iPad Case Review

For the first item, on the agenda, you should know that I am in the possession of an iPad. Also, you should know that I LOVE said iPad. Naturally, I was in want of a case. I tried a couple a cheap, crappy ones, and when I eventually saved enough money, I bought the beautiful case featured in this review. Please note that these photos are mostly true to color, though a little bright due to flash.

First impressions- so preeeeeeettyyyyyy. Oberon Design offers 15 different designs for iPad covers (with three different color options that vary from one design to another) and I chose the one called "Tree of Life" in the color "Saddle".

Beautiful, right? And it smells fantastic (though of course it does, it is leather, after all). The cover is tooled masterfully, creating a surface that’s both hard and soft; hard in the places with hills and leaves, and soft along the spine where the tree trunk’s smooth. The leather is stiff, which is a good thing. I dare not drop my iPad, but I have the feeling that if I did, my baby would emerge from the incident relatively unscathed. The bungee and pewter button closure system is solid, keeping the cover tightly closed.

The iPad is secured inside with four corners straps, three of leather and one a military-grade elastic bungee, and it is very tight.

I did the shake test over my couch, and no matter how hard I tried, my iPad wouldn’t budge. I actually like this corner system a lot more in person than I thought I would. To those concerned, none of the straps cover up any of the buttons/ports/speakers. Perhaps a third of one of the end speaker holes is obscured, but it doesn’t affect the sound in any way. There's also a piece of wool sewn into the inside cover opposite the iPad for extra screen protection. There are pockets on the inside covers as well that hold removable plastic inserts for extra stability and protection. It definitely adds some weight to the iPad, but not too much for the way I use the device, either on a table or in my lap. It makes it feel like a solid, old book.

As for the various positions the stand offers, I’ll start with the typing position. I love the typing angle on this case. Much better than any of the other cases I’ve tried, and it works beautifully on both tables and on my lap.

The Oberon iPad case also offers landscape and portrait standing positions. There’s a string mechanism that hooks around the back to hold the case in the proper position:

It’s pretty solid, both in landscape:

And in portrait:

This case was $130, and honestly, the cost is the only negative I have for it. I feel like $100 would be a better price, but other than that, I’m pleased as punch. I suppose since this is a handmade, genuine leather case, the price isn't too bad...

Anyway, apparently Oberon sends a complementary charm with each of its products, and most owners of their Kindle covers attach them to the bungee that holds the cover closed to make it easier to open. I opted instead to attach it to the standing position string. I really like it that way because it makes it look like a bookmark, though if you don’t like the string, it can be pushed inside one of the side pockets that hold the plastic inserts. Oberon also sends two extra bungees in case something should happen to the one that holds the case closed or the one that serves as the fourth corner (there's a video on the company's website that explains how to replace them).


I am FemmeNerd, hear me geek-out.

I am a girl. I am also a nerd. I seem to be a rare species, if commenters on tech blogs are of any indication. Every now and then, I have a WTF moment when a commentariat full of men totally miss something that's obvious or important to my girl brain. Don't get me wrong- I love blogs like Gizmodo and Engadget and Wired- it's just that all too often, they're all too male.

So I decided to take matters into my own hands.

This is a blog about technology, science-fiction (and occasionally actual science), history (I should probably mention that I'm a history major), and general nerdy things, ranging from Star Wars to Joss Whedon. It's all fair game. Look out, Internet, the FemmeNerd's on the loose.