Corel WordPerfect 6.2 for DOS – A Look Back

I’m sure some of you may have noticed my “WordPerfect 5.1″ screenshot in my last post looked a little “off”. The menu bar had different options from the standard WP51 menu bar, and the path on the bottom of the screen was not C:\WP51, but C:\COREL\WP62. Yes, I actually took that screenshot in DOSBox running Corel WordPerfect 6.2.

Remember that I had serious problems actually getting 5.1 to work. I figured out why though. The ancient floppy disks I was using were corrupted, presumably from being baked in the desert heat in my parents’ dusty shed in the backyard. So, while looking for a completely legal solution to this problem, I found an abandonware site with all sorts of versions of WordPerfect, so I decided to try the latest version of DOS WordPerfect, version 6.2. It installed like a dream, and it actually works perfectly (lol) in vDOS.

(Well, not exactly perfectly. It has a few issues, but I think those might be the fault of the vDOSWP installer, which was kind of glitchy. And it might possibly have a virus.)

I played around with this version of WordPerfect a bit, thinking it would be nothing more than an incremental update, but it’s actually quite a bit different than the classic program I spent six months learning back in the early 1990s. Apparently this version didn’t come out until 1997, eight years after 5.1, after WordPerfect had changed hands twice (to Novell and then to Corel), after the game-changing Windows 95 had been out for over a year, and after WordPerfect 7 for Windows had been out for several months.

So naturally this version of DOS WordPerfect borrows a lot of ideas from Windows. A lot of keyboard shortcuts were altered to be more like the standard Windows ones. Some of the old ones were preserved. You could activate bold type and underline by typing F6 and F8 respectively, or you could hit CTRL-B and CTRL-U like in every Windows word processor. But a few of the others didn’t survive the transition. Help is F1 now, not F3, and ESC is now the “go back a menu” key instead of F1. Again, following Windows conventions instead of the way WordPerfect handled it in the past. However, the new keyboard shortcuts are listed on the menu bar instead of in a help document, so it’s not too hard to readjust.

But other things are very different. WordPerfect 5.1 and versions before it gave you text menus. You selected the option you wanted by typing the number corresponding to the name of the option. For example, if you want to type in italics, you would type CTRL-F8 and then type “2” for Appearance and then “1” for Italics from the menu that popped up. (For some reason, this was handled a lot differently than bold and underline, probably because old-timey printers didn’t do italics very well, if at all.) After a while, you wouldn’t have to even read the menu, you could just do everything by remembering the keyboard shortcuts. However, when you type CTRL-F8 in WordPerfect 6.2, it opens up a Windows-style dialog box, with a huge number of options combining several of the old menus.

wp62 font dialog

You can still use the keyboard, but the numbers you press are all different. Now it’s “CTRL-F8, 3, 4, Enter.” At the very least, if you’re used to the old way of doing things, it’ll throw off your muscle memory, but it may also mean that you have to re-record all of your old macros and might break your entire workflow until you readjusted to the new system.

There was a method to this madness, however. The reason that the system was changed to appear more Windows-like was because, when you hit CTRL-F3, this seemingly innocent-looking DOS program turned into a full-functioned Windows-style GUI, complete with WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editing, TrueType fonts, and enough menu bars to clog up half your screen.

wp62 graphics mode
Graphics Mode

wp62 text mode

The text mode version of the same part of the page.

You can even change fonts on the fly! Just like in Windows!
The only thing missing is Comic Sans!

(You could probably install Comic Sans, since 6.2 can use Windows TrueType fonts, but why would you want to pollute WordPerfect that way?)

The graphics look like crap in this version because vDOS is limited to 640 x 480 VGA resolution and it doesn’t scale very well on modern LCD screens. In DOSBox (or on real hardware, natch) it can support much greater resolutions. There are a number of different things you can do in the graphics mode much more easily than the text mode (like using the mouse, inserting images into documents, manipulating multiple document windows, etc.) but the text mode still has commands for all of them. I really don’t want to go through all of 6.2’s graphics features, because I much prefer the text entry mode for what I want to do, but if you want to learn more, here is a website filled with screenshots of WP 6.x’s graphics mode. It’s for the Novell version of WordPerfect 6.1, but for all intents and purposes, the Novell and Corel versions are mostly identical.

I think that this is pretty cool. This dual-mode system separates content from presentation in a way that Microsoft Word never seems to manage. You can type out your thoughts in a basic scrolling text window, using DOS’s major strength, basic scrolling text, as an advantage. Then, when you want to format your document for printing, you can jump into the graphics mode and tweak the margins and fonts and all that stuff–all within the same program.

It also serves the purpose of making the program easier for people who were already used to Windows to jump into it–and to make it easier for old-time DOS text wranglers to ease themselves into the new GUI paradigm. I can see why the makers of WordPerfect did it this way. They still wanted to support their DOS users, since that was where most of their business still was. WordPerfect came late to the Windows scene and their earlier versions of WordPerfect for Windows were buggy and not well received. However, they knew that Windows was the future and that in order to stay competitive with the Microsoft Office juggernaut, they had to provide an easy path for their users to migrate to Windows so they would stick with the product through future revisions. WordPerfect 6 for DOS greatly resembles its Windows counterpart in the graphics mode, the text mode uses the same menu layout and keyboard shortcuts, and both versions use the same fonts, file formats, and macros. If you learned on WordPerfect 6 for DOS, you could transfer the same skills over to WordPerfect 7 for Windows 95 when you finally traded in your 386 for a Pentium.

Of course, not all diehard WordPerfect users bought into Corel’s way of thinking. If you spent years using WordPerfect 5.1, and doing things its way, and then Corel comes along and switches enough things around to make things difficult for you, you would probably feel a little resentful. I’d imagine the response to the changes would be similar to the tremendous outrage of Windows users after the release of Windows 8. And if you were a new user who was used to the Windows way of doing things, you’d probably just buy the Windows version of WordPerfect anyway. So I can understand why WordPerfect 6.2 was resigned to the dustbin of history and when most people think of WordPerfect for DOS, they think of WordPerfect 5.1.

Which is a shame, really, because WordPerfect 6.2, along with the other applications in the Corel WordPerfect Suite, would make an excellent graphical office system for a small business in the mid-1990s that were probably still on 386s or 486s and didn’t want to shell out hundreds of dollars for Windows 3.1, or thousands of dollars to upgrade to a computer that could run Windows 95. This was back when a decent 486 or Pentium with enough memory to run Windows and office software at a speed faster than “snail’s pace” could run you $3000-$4000, and software wasn’t cheap either. Corel WordPerfect Suite 6 would run you $375 new back in 1996, but it was a small price to pay to be able to use the new features on old equipment. And you could run it without any Microsoft software whatsoever (unlike Microsoft Office, Corel products will work in DOS clones like FreeDOS, DR-DOS, and Novell DOS.)

Of course the coming of Windows 95 and Microsoft’s economic and litigious powerhouse destroyed the DOS clones and the market for DOS software, and Microsoft Office, which used secret Windows APIs to give itself a speed and performance advantage over its competitors, introduced upgrades that were increasingly bloated to force users to upgrade their systems, and produced obfuscated file formats that could not be easily read by non-Microsoft products, quickly became the standard.

corel-wordperfect-suite-for-dos-016

So what purpose does WordPerfect 6.2 serve nowadays, when you can download a pretty awesome open-source office suite for free, and there are multiple ways to edit documents for free through your web browser? Probably very little. If you want classic DOS WordPerfect, 5.1 is your better choice; if you want a distraction-free blue screen for your writing, there are options that run natively in Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux; and if you want a Windows-ish GUI word processor, you have many better options. I think it’s fascinating from a historical perspective though, to see what was out there, and to remember that there were many more ways of doing things than Microsoft’s way (which they stole wholesale from Apple, Xerox, Digital Research, and VMS, among others, but that’s a tale for another day.) WordPerfect 6.2, as unpopular as it was, walked the line between the old (DOS) and new (Windows) paradigms, and it must have served its purpose, because even if WordPerfect isn’t as big as it used to be, it’s still alive and being continuously updated (it’s up to version 17 now.) That’s more than can be said for most of its competitors.

(Update: The vDOSWP installer actually had some kind of trojan attached to it, and my computer was slowing down and doing all sorts of weird graphical glitches. So now I’m in Ubuntu running a virus scan on my Windows partition. On the upside though, I just discovered that LibreOffice reads WordPerfect 6 files pretty well.)

Rearranging my pencils

I have been staring at this computer all day. I have no idea why. I’m not doing anything useful at all. I’m not looking for jobs, writing my novel, or learning Spanish. I’m not even playing Kingdom of Loathing, the online game that I got sucked into back in January. I’m watching old Homestar Runner cartoons that I’ve watched many times before and trying to make the ancient WordPerfect 5.1 word processor for DOS work on my Windows 7 setup.

As far as the last one is concerned, I know why I’m trying to do that. I feel like it would help me write again. I remember extremely fond memories of staring into the friendly blue screen with white text back in my teenage years, back when “serious” computers ran DOS and word processors were clunky, text-based affairs that required you to learn a metric shit-ton of control codes in order to do anything other than type. But for some reason, I have a lot of nostalgia for those days. I figured out how to use the keyboard interface and typed all sorts of stories and journals and school papers and projects into that thing. I felt like I could write anything with WordPerfect 5.1 on my mom’s 286.

wordperfect

(We’re getting all recursive, now!)

But then, the world changed. Computers became faster, more capable, more connected, easier to use yet more annoying at the same time. The huge metal IBM box in the office got sent to the junk yard when my mom upgraded to a Pentium with Windows 95. It could get you on the Internet where an infinity of information came through at you, constantly distracting you. You could run multiple programs at once, but they all competed for your attention like a dozen people trying to instant message you at once. Program X needs updated. Program Y is shoving ads in your face. Program Z has performed an illegal operation and will be shut down! And don’t forget, you’ve got mail!

Windows-based writing programs like MS Word (and all Windows-based versions of WordPerfect) are set up with black text on a white screen. It made them present something that looked more like a printed page, but I found the glare of the white always hurt my eyes, no matter how I adjusted the contrast or brightness on my monitor. And while you’ve got dozens of fonts to choose from, and numerous other settings, you find yourself adjusting your work to look good rather than actually doing the business of writing.

msword

(Also… taking all the time to figure out why it’s making squiggles all over my work.)

I’ve tried so-called “minimalist” text editors, but none of them seem to work for me. Either they have too few features to write comfortably in (no spell check or find/replace or even support for accented characters) or too many nonsense functions (like playing New Agey mood tones or making fake typewriter key noises or changing the background colors at random) for me to respect them as a writer’s tool. Or they cost too much money, or they’re only for the Mac, or they’re based on decades-old Unix terminal editors that come with so many unfamiliar and unintuitive commands, they make WordPerfect look like Notepad by comparison. You know how it is.

And then I read an article online about how author George R. R. Martin writes all of his ultra-violent fantasy novels on an old DOS machine running WordStar 4.0. I googled WordStar and found this other article written by science-fiction author Robert J. Sawyer that said that WordStar was the greatest thing since sliced bread because of its awesome keyboard shortcuts, which were like WordPerfect’s but totally different. That made me wish that I could track down something like my mom’s 286 to use just for writing. However, I soon realized that something like that would not only take up too much space in my tiny apartment, but also be prohibitively expensive to get shipped to me if I bought it online.

I thought about getting a classic laptop for this project, but laptops from that period had crappy screens and were not much smaller than desktop units.

osborne1

(We’ve come a long way since then.)

I actually found a Pentium I-era laptop alongside a dumpster about a year ago, and was going to clean it up to use as a distraction-free DOS writing machine, but the screen was dim, the keyboard was mushy and uncomfortable to type on, its floppy drive was broken, and had no CD-ROM, USB, networking ports, or anything to get software on the machine–or writings off the machine. I am a huge nerd when it comes to old technology, but I wasn’t about to spend $$$ on peripherals for this thing or rig up some sort of MacGyvered file-transfer cable to plug into this laptop’s serial port just to run WordPerfect again.

Then I thought, why not just emulate WordPerfect on my Thinkpad? There seem to be numerous ways to do that. Some guy at Columbia University seems to have spent a tremendous amount of time compiling them all. Well, that doesn’t seem to be working out for me either. I can get the program to run in DOSBox, in a window, which clashes horribly with all the other windows on the screen. When I hit Alt-Enter to make it run as a full-screen application, it attempts to emulate 640 x 480 VGA screen resolution… which makes the text blurry and really eyestraining. vBoxWP uses Windows system fonts instead of DOS console fonts, so it’s a little better… or it would be, if the program didn’t glitch out every time I try to do anything. Virtualbox works okay… but can’t do full-screen for reasons unbeknownst to me.

I also downloaded a more obscure emulator called PCE which emulates a 16-bit 8086 processor along with a complete IBM PC BIOS, peripherals, and VGA monitor. It’s quite neat–it even runs long-forgotten operating systems that time forgot and DOSBox won’t touch–stuff like CP/M (the original WordStar OS), Minix, and Xenix. But… it also runs them at 8086 speeds. It took about an hour to install WordPerfect from a disk image on my computer via the DOS setup program, which I expect is how long a computer from that period would take to read 11 floppies. There didn’t seem to be any option in the emulator to speed that process up, either. Felt like loading a game on the Commodore 64 using the notoriously-slow tape drive.

WordPerfect 5.0 - keyboard template - top

But I got it to run to my liking… and I was just about to start typing up a storm like back in the good old days of the 1990s… when I realized that I had forgotten all of the WordPerfect keyboard shortcuts. I had to use the mouse menu or look up the codes in the help pages constantly just to get it to do basic things like boldface and centering text. And when neither of those availed me, I had to just look up advice in a web browser. I realized that this was getting me nowhere.

Also, there was the little matter of getting the text out of the emulated system and onto something I could copy and paste into a Word document or a WordPress input dialog. Turns out that’s not as easy as it sounds either. I anticipated this issue back in college when I converted all my old WordPerfect 5.1 files to the (then-new) WordPerfect 8 .wpd format. Word and LibreOffice are okay with those, but documents written with the 25-year-old DOS program become a garbled mess. I understand you can open them right with the latest version of WordPerfect (which has miraculously survived the Microsoft Office onslaught and made it to version 17) but that’s $54.95 I really don’t care to spend right now (although it would make a great gift for the wandering nerd in your life.)

So… I spent all this time rearranging the chairs in the Procrastination Station when I could have been on the writing train. Using anything. MS-DOS Edit. Word with a reverse-colors Windows theme. Vim or emacs in a Linux console. Heck, even a pencil and paper. That’s just me, though. I’m so blinded by nostalgia and a need to return to a time where I felt more creative and less writers-blocked that I spend all my time making ancient software work instead of doing the work of my soul or continuing that fantasy novel I’m currently stuck on chapter five of.

Hell, even writing this blog post is a form of procrastination… as well as a way to keep myself sane on a lonely Saturday in which absolutely nothing else is going on. But at least I’m writing again. At least I’m writing something.

Freedom of speech is officially dead

In South Carolina last week, a teenager was arrested and suspended from school for writing a story in which a man shoots a dinosaur. And today in Maryland, 23-year-old middle school teacher Patrick McLaw was arrested, put under “emergency medical evaluation” and held at “an undisclosed location” because he wrote a science-fiction novel about a fictional school shooting 900 years in the future. This is the future of America, ladies and gentlemen. Don’t be surprised if they come for you next based on your “24” fanfiction. Now you know why I haven’t been blogging lately.

rivercityransom

YA novel plot that’s been stuck in my head for years

SULLEN TEENAGE REBELS
By Jack Mileur

Based on some cartoons I drew in high school and 20 years of reliving bad high school memories

Coming this fall to FOX!

Fourteen-year-old scrapper Jack Dinero has been waging a one-man war against the inner-city drug dealers who hooked and killed his mother. However, his vigilante actions have made him a target for every criminal lowlife in the city. To save his son, Jack’s father moves him out to Creosote Canyon, a tiny town in the middle of nowhere. But their idyllic dreams of peace and quiet in small-town living would soon be crushed. Creosote Canyon High School is a dilapidated wreck where ruthless teenage bullies terrorize the student body and disrupt the educational process. Jack decides to take them on to protect the innocent, but he’ll not only have to fight the bullies, but a leftist principal with an axe to grind, a sadistic PE coach who has his own twisted agenda, an apathetic faculty who care more about their tenure than their students, and a system designed to keep the good kids down. It’s too much for Jack Dinero to take on alone. Can he make some friends for this fight, or will he be destined to remain a “sullen teenage rebel?”

(Okay, I’m just bored. But I might actually turn this into something someday.)

I am a nerd; nobody can take that from me

Last week’s Comicon in Phoenix thoroughly drained my resolve. It made me question my nerd-identity. I wandered around the mass of well-dressed, attractive 18-25 year-olds, many of whom basing their costumes on animes and shows I had never even heard of before, thinking “Is this what a nerd is these days? Am I still a nerd, or am I too uncool to even hang with nerds anymore?” However, I have now come to my senses. I am still a nerd. I have been and always shall be a nerd. I’m not going to let the narrow definition of nerdness put forth by convention promoters define who I am. A nerd is not what someone appears like on the outside, but who they are inside. And on the inside, I fit all the classic definitions:

When I was eight, I spent my entire summer vacation at my cousins’ house in LA programming adventure games in BASIC into their Tandy 1000. I had to be dragged away from that location so that my cousins could take me to Disneyland and the beach.

When I was nine, I taught myself several words of German by comparing the sections in a multi-lingual instruction manual that came with Defender for the Atari 2600. Not that I could carry on a conversation with anyone with words like “Spiel” (game), “Kriegspiel” (wargame) or “Punkten” (points) but it was enough for me to know that other languages existed and that they could be understood given time and effort.

When I was 15, when asked to do a group project with another classmate in my “television production” class, instead of dealing with the embarrassment of having to ask someone to be my partner, I called upon my computer to be my partner and stayed up late every night for the next two weeks programming an elaborate CGI cartoon to fulfill that assignment (well, as elaborate as one could get on a TI-99/4a Home Computer with 48 KB of RAM). I still only got a C because “it was supposed to be a group project!”

When I was in high school, before I even knew of such a thing as the Internet, I wrote Star Trek and Lord of the Rings fanfiction… that didn’t involve slash pairings of anyone… and oh yeah, it was in French.

When I was in college, I spent more of my time playing Final Fantasy VII and Civilization II than going to classes or doing homework assignments, and I still passed my classes… mostly.

Far be it from me to base my identity on past achievements (not that they got me anywhere anyway). But even today…

I can name pretty much everybody who starred in the five series of Star Trek, but I couldn’t name you ten pro athletes (that haven’t been in the news lately) or the teams they’re on.

I prefer “children’s” television shows and movies to the sex, drugs and violence-filled nonsense they say is mature “adult” entertainment. I’d rather watch Spongebob make a fart joke than see Jaime Lannister fuck his sister any day of the week. To be fair, however, one of my favorite TV miniseries is I, Claudius, which has more than its share of incest and butchery, but they have the good sense and fair taste to leave most of that off-screen. Plus it’s historical, which makes it okay in my book.

Last night, I was in bed with a naked woman (aka my wife), and I was too busy reading a Wikipedia article about Klingons to notice.

I find it frustrating and annoying when I’m talking to people and they say I’m using too much “college talk.” I’m not trying to confuse or patronize anybody, that’s just the way I talk. Sometimes a “big word” just slips out that I don’t realize is not in most people’s vocabularies. Like “vocabulary.”

I go to a comic book convention or a comic book store not to look for X-Men or Superman, but Uncle Scrooge and Donald Duck. I also look for Astérix, Tintin, and Lucky Luke, but only if they’re in the original French.

I watch Disney movies… unironically. And I don’t have kids.

My dream is to live in an underground house shaped like a Hobbit hole.

I’ve watched Monty Python and the Holy Grail approximately fifty times, and it still makes me laugh.

I’m learning French right now, but not just to do the tourist thing in Paris. I think it would be pretty neat to read Voltaire, Hugo, and Montaigne in the original language, as well as reading news and literature from the world that Anglo-American corporate interests don’t care to translate.

Once I have reached a certain fluency in French, I want to work my way around the other Romance languages (Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese) and eventually learn Latin. Outside of the Vatican and a few university classics departments, Latin is about as useful in the modern world as speaking Klingon, but it was the language of art, science, politics and culture in the Western world for over 2,000 years, so it’s got to count for something.

And oh yeah, I want to learn Klingon too. So I can finally understand Shakespeare.

And I think I might get back to German, too, if only to be able to read the rest of that Atari manual.

So yeah. I think I am very much a nerd. That, or a very peculiar, uncool hipster. Nerd is something that I will always be. If Star Trek ceased to exist, I would still be a nerd. If Tolkien never wrote the Lord of the Rings, the world would be a much sadder place, but I would still be a nerd. And just because I’m not a tech billionaire or a social networking millionaire or the target audience for Comicons doesn’t mean my nerdness is any less important or valuable than any other’s. At the end of the day, I’ll still be misunderstood, made fun of, and unpopular. And that’s what being a nerd is all about.

Phoenix Comicon Woes

phoenixskyline

(Here’s a picture of the Phoenix skyline. I didn’t actually get any pictures at Comicon. To know why, read below.)

 

Last weekend, my wife and I packed up the Ford Escape and went down to Phoenix for Comicon. We had hoped to get in touch with our fellow nerds, get some awesome nerdy merchandise to decorate our new apartment, and find out neat stuff about the shows and books we liked. I wanted to see Star Trek stuff and meet Uncle Scrooge artist Don Rosa, and L (my wife) wanted to get Dresden Files author Jim Butcher’s autograph and go to Firefly panels.

What we got was not what we expected, but probably, in retrospect, we should have. Phoenix was burning hot—of course it would be, it was June. I did okay. I grew up in the broiling hot deserts of Victorville and Barstow, and my body was able to acclimate to the hundred degree temps, albeit grudgingly. My wife, who is from Michigan originally, was not able to acclimate. She was fine as long as she was in an air-conditioned building—however, Comicon was spread out among the three buildings of the Convention Center as well as four other hotels in the area. To get from a panel in the North Building to one in the Radisson, two blocks away, took about 15 minutes because of all of the crowds and roadblocks we had to go around in order to get there. By Saturday evening, poor L was red as a beet and about to faint. The only shuttles or public transportation they had available were sweaty people on pedicab tricycles and the Phoenix Light Rail, which never seemed to get us close enough to the Convention Center or to our hotel room to be of much use at all. So on Sunday we drove to the convention—but the closest available parking garage was still half a mile away from where we wanted to be and they charged us $12 for the “convenience” of using it.

And the crowds—oh god, the crowds! I probably should have seen that coming too. Every corridor in the Convention Center was wall-to-wall people, including people with angel wings or spiky shoulder pads on their costume that would poke you as they passed, inconsiderate youngsters that would just stop right in front of you to take a picture of somebody in a costume and block the way for everyone else, people with onboard PA systems in their suits that would play awful music, and lots of people in militaristic costumes with full armor and very realistic-looking guns. Not just your standard fantasy knights or Halo Spartans or Stormtroopers, but people dressed like US Special Forces, complete with ghillie suits and sniper rifles, and “zombie hunters” that were better armed and armored than your average SWAT team. Add to the mix about five thousand security personnel and actual policemen barking orders in all directions, and the combined effect was enough to trigger both mine and my wife’s claustrophobia and agoraphobia on several occasions.

I didn’t go to nearly as many panels as I wanted to go because I couldn’t deal with pushing my way through the crowds and feeling trapped in that roiling sea of humanity. Meanwhile, L missed one of her panels because she accidentally wandered into a prohibited area of the Convention Center and a security guard repeatedly called her “Sir” as he shouted at her to leave. My wife is chubby, to be sure, but seriously? Being repeatedly mistaken for a man was enough to make her extremely upset. She was already upset about feeling invisible among the tens of thousands of people who just wouldn’t get out of the way for us.

Not that any of the actual panels we went to were very good, mind you. The con’s major Firefly panels were a Browncoats cosplay forum and one entitled “Why Firefly is Dead and You Should Really Just Move On.” Seriously? That’s like telling a Tolkien fan that they shouldn’t read Lord of the Rings anymore because Tolkien’s been dead for forty years, and all the cool kids are into George R. R. Martin now, and they should just shut up. All the Star Trek panels I went to seemed to be too interested in the JJ Abrams movies, which I guess is what’s popular these days, but I wanted to talk about Picard and Data. I went to an entertainment panel on “Which Captain is the Best,” however, and while pedantic and silly, like all “Kirk vs. Picard vs. Sisko vs. Janeway vs. Archer” battles have been since the 1980s, it was at least fun. And it seemed like every panel was set up to sell you something. Even the “Astronomy of Middle Earth” panel we went to was essentially a commercial for the presenter’s Mobile Inflatable Planetarium business, which she uses to present astronomy lectures to elementary schools, birthday parties, business luncheons, and weddings, apparently.

And there was a comedy panel I went to where the comedian was extremely insulting and unfunny. At one point, she called Star Trek fans “fags” because they “invented slash fiction.” Really? She couldn’t do any better? Star Trek fans present so much humor, you could do an entire hour of comedy on them alone. And they’re so self-deprecating—they even thought it was funny when William Shatner told them to “get a life” on Saturday Night Live. But to call us fags? I just got up and walked out of the room. I wanted intelligent discussion about science fiction and fantasy and sequential art and to meet other pedantic, overly intellectual geeks like myself—instead I got panic attacks, never-ending commercials, and insults about one’s sexuality thrown at both my wife and myself.

I guess I should have expected this, but I at least thought that the convention organizers would at least throw a bone to old nerds like me. But no, this thing was geared completely towards the 12-20 year old crowd who just consume all the new comics and shows and buy what popular culture tells them to buy. It didn’t answer the big gaping hole in my heart, my deep need to connect and share and belong with people like myself, intellectual nerds who I can talk to with my entire vocabulary, not just the limited subset of words I hold myself back to in order to not be made fun of by the illiterate rednecks I live and do business with on a regular basis. I want to discuss things like science without having to rad it up 30% for people who normally don’t give a shit about discovery or space or curing cancer, like at the one panel I went to, “Adventures in Science,” where ASU grad students talked about all the times they “almost died” when they went to Africa to install radio telescopes. I wanted to know more about what they were actually studying with those telescopes, but my question was drowned out in a sea of questions about “Was it scary when you found that scorpion in your boot?” This is Phoenix we’re talking about here, in the heart of the Sonoran Desert. Scorpions in your boots are a regular occurrence around these parts, or at least they were when I grew up.

So I don’t think either my wife or I will go to that one again. We’re still looking for our nerd home.

 

 

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My Last Post: A Final Goodbye to Those I love

thewanderingnerd:

One of my favorite bloggers just posted this suicide note yesterday. And since I didn’t check the blogs yesterday, he’s probably already dead. And of course, there’s nothing on his blog to indicated he did or he didn’t commit suicide. All I can say is… actually, there’s nothing I can say.

Originally posted on Schizo Incognito:

My dear and loving family,

Well, I’ve reached the last rung at the bottom of the ladder, and there is nowhere else to go but down the last step.

I was going to write each of you a letter, but I just don’t have the time left, and I wanted to post this on my last hope for sanity, this blog, SchizoIncognito.com. I hope when the smoke clears, each of you read through my entries for the past couple of months. It will explain a lot about me you may not have known, and why I have done what I have done.

There is no nice way to say this: by the time you read this letter, I will be dead. This may come as a shock to some, but to others who are closest to me, this has been coming for a long time. The reasons for my…

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