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The Unapologetic Geek

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14 Things I Learned in 2014 - Page 2

I was afraid that, as the years go on, it would get harder and harder to find enough things to fill this annual blog. I'm at 2014, so I have to come up with 14 things I learned? Actually, this was an easy year. I don't even have any parenting tips for 2014, because it was just that eventful for me. I haven't separated the list the way I did last year, but there is a rough stream of consciousness to the order below, from personal to video games to publishing to politics, and know that, had I wanted to, I could have easily doubled the size of this entry.

Tornadoes are Terrifying

Cary Elwes in Twister
And not just because of Cary Elwes

For the first two and a half decades of my life, I lived in Florida, where hurricanes made up one of the four seasons. I have so much experience with hurricanes that I can tell you how serious one is by knowing the internal barometric pressure and average wind speeds. I know that no two hurricanes are exactly alike, how to adequately prepare for one, how to ride one out, and when to get the hell out of town (simple answer: when the local authorities tell you to). I know the difference between a serious storm and one that justifies a hurricane party. I have seen, first-hand, the devastation a big monster like an Andrew or a Katrina can cause. What I am not familiar with are tornadoes, which is what they have here in my new home of Tornado Alley. Though I have yet to actually witness one, I can already tell you that they are far scarier than hurricanes, simply because they happen so quickly. You don't have time to study barometric pressure, board up your windows, or get the proper supplies, and even if you did, you could never be prepared. A tornado will rip through a boarded-up window like it is covered with nothing but parchment paper, and there is no way of knowing exactly when or where it will hit. I've been through exactly one tornado alert so far, but that was quite enough for me, thank you very much.

It's Not Crazy to Grieve a Celebrity

Robin Williams
I hope you are there

So Robin Williams died in 2014, as I'm sure you know. He killed himself at the end of a long battle with clinical depression, and it was as saddening as it was sudden. I've never reacted as viscerally to a celebrity death as I did to the loss of Williams. In fact, for years now, I've thought people who mourned the loss of a celebrity were somehow abnormal, that it wasn't natural to mourn over somebody you've never actually met and whose impact on your life was minimal at best. But now, I guess I get it. You don't want to believe you live in a world where somebody as beloved as Williams can be ripped away from it by suicide, that somebody who is capable of bringing so much joy to literally millions of people can be taken down, not just by mental illness but by depression itself, by a lack of that very same joy he gave you. It hit me pretty hard--maybe not as hard as it would have hit me had I actually known him, but hard nonetheless.

Whole Grains are Actually Yummy

Whole grains
You should cook them, though

As part of my ongoing quest to become a healthier human being, 2014 saw me tackling high cholesterol. With a diet high in pasta and low on whole grains, I made the choice to try--to try--what my wife calls "hippy food." Though I've been eating brown rice for years, I went ahead and gave a chance to barley, millet, and quinoa, foods that are exotic and bizarre for a man like me who has been enjoying and defending processed foods all his life. Shockingly, I found these foods to be delicious, especially barley. They've become a regular part of my diet now, and their well-documented cholesterol-fighting properties are legion. Though I kind of feel like I should wear a shadowy hat to hide my face as I walk down the organic foods aisle, I do now purchase things that are "organic," "non-GMO certified," and "gluten-free." To be clear, I think the "organic" food craze is a marketing ploy not backed by science, that GMO foods are not only 100% safe but extremely useful for combating world hunger, and that the whole "gluten-free" fad is an overblown embarassment since the number of people who actually have a gluten allergy is less than 0.1% of the population. Still, quinoa is surprisingly yummy, and apparently only the gullible hippies are buying it at my local grocery stores.

People Won't Stop Underestimating Nintendo

Miyamoto "gets" gamers

The most underreported video game news story in 2014--overshadowed no doubt by the ridiculous sideshow that was "Gamergate"--is that, by the close of the holiday season, the Wii-U had vastly outsold the Xbox One, that Nintendo was starting to not only turn a profit again but had more than recouped its well-publicized losses in 2013. While Sony's PS4 is still winning the overall console wars this generation (and is unlikely to be knocked from that pedestal), Nintendo is proving to be much better competition than Microsoft. This is true even without taking into account the handheld market, where Nintendo's 3DS is clobbering Sony's Vita. The gaming community and the gaming press has done one thing pretty consistently in the last decade or so: underestimated Nintendo. A year ago, they were all acting like this console generation was just the PS4 versus the Xbox One, but lo and behold, here comes Nintendo yet again, with the written-off Wii U vastly outselling the Xbox One. Is it too soon for me to say I told you so?

Survival Horror is Not Dead

You still freak me out, Lisa

After both Resident Evil 5 and Dead Space 3, I had come to believe that survival horror, as a video game genre, had become lost in an age where every game must appease a large crowd, include multiplayer, and turn an enormous profit. I have spent the last few years lamenting this trend, only to be shaken out of my depressed stupor in 2014. To be fair, it started in late 2013, when Resident Evil: Revelations restored my hope that the Resident Evil franchise might one day return to its roots. But 2014 saw me playing P.T., learning that Guillermo del Toro and Hideo Kojima are reviving the Silent Hill franchise, and finally discovering why The Last of Us won so many awards the year before. Game Informer even did an entire issue devoted to the coming tide of new, next-gen survival horror games, and I've got to say, it looks epic.

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-e. magill 1/9/2015

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