Regarding North Carolina

A lot of my close and not-so-close liberal friends seem pretty flabbergasted today. Turns out the state of North Carolina has voted on an amendment to its state constitution that would define the only valid marriages in the state as those between one man and one woman. This vote has passed by a fairly large majority, 61% to 39% as of this post.

The outrage! The shock! It’s pretty incredible how something like this could actually exist. But never fear, friends! Jeff is here to help ease the shock, and to make sense of these things for you in light of other fairly shocking things. I’ve prepared a short list of other tough topics that we’re all going to have to accept as reality before we can actually get shit done. Without further ado, here’s Jeff’s List of Five Very Surprising Things.

1. Fucking Heliocentrism

Posited as early as the third century BCE, this theory would later be reinforced by the findings of Nicolaus Copernicus and Johannes Kepler. It holds that the sun, not the Earth, is the center of the goddamn solar system (which was probably named thus in light of these shocking discoveries).

2. Fucking Gravity

Allegorically discovered when Sir Isaac Newton observed an apple falling from a tree, this insanity posits that objects are attracted by a force proportionate to their masses. Some would go so far as to posit that there exists a relationship between electro-magnetism and gravity. Shocking!

3. Fucking Subatomic Particles

Turns out, based on decades of exhaustive research spent bent over microscopes, that we are in fact random associations of matter arranged just so that we’ve got hearts and brains. Those individual components have observable individual components, the atoms, are composed of subatomic particles. Hell, those subatomic particles are theoretically composed of all manner of component pieces that folks at the LHC would like to understand better.

4. Fucking Pringles

Originally proposed in 1968, Pringles are food-like bent discs made of something like potatoes, salt, and grease from old women and cats. Scientists who ate the first Pringles made two startling conclusions: firstly, that once you popped open the large dolphin in which they were formed originally, it was hard to stop the Pringles from bleeding out; and secondly, that it would be better to store these “chips” in a large cylindrical tube to prevent people from eating them. The tube idea, and the first unofficial motto of Pringles, LLC, have stuck around to this day.

5. The Fucking Constitution

Go ahead and cry, Washington. Really, go ahead. It solves nothing. On the other hand, go ahead and gloat. We deserve some gloating. We passed our gay marriage legalization bill, and are on the right site of history. Just be sure that when you’re out gloating, you say thanks to my Constitutionalist brother. You see, friends, the same piece of the Constitution that enabled us to do the right thing has just been used in North Carolina to do the wrong thing. And the best part? It doesn’t care. The Constitution is concerned only with the forms and procedures, and could give a shit about you. No really, it doesn’t care about you. The first Americans who read the Constitution noticed this fairly large hole, and the result was the Bill of Rights. Until there is an amendment added to the Constitution of the United States that makes a final and legally binding decision on fifty states and 300 million plus citizens, the status quo of individual states deciding for themselves how to handle domestic partnerships and marriage will stand.

“So let’s change the Constitution!” I’m with you, but I must ask a question. Given the population of this country and how close the last elections have been, do you think a majority of voting citizens would vote in support of “gay marriage” amendment (I use quotes because the wording of this amendment would need to be fairly broad so as to include a more nuanced understanding of gender and provide wholesale the same rights and privileges afforded to heterosexual married couples)? I have my doubts. That might be skepticism, but it’s also realistic. Do you know how long it takes to get the wheels of a Constitutional plebiscite going in this country? If brought to bare, and then this amendment fails to gain a popular majority, do you know how long it will take to get another one up? There is no precedent for this, but my guess is “a long fucking time.”

The current arrangement allows some of my friends to be lawfully wed in the very near future. We did this as Washingtonians and should be proud of it. We stand with Iowa, Vermont, Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Washington D.C. on the right side of history. As for the rest of the country? Let them make awful decisions and be dicks. Let them live in the stone age. They are entitled to do so right now, and I see that as a good thing. I believe firmly in democracy, even when the results are off. A majority of North Carolinian voters have made an adult decision, and it should be respected as such. However, it is a shit decision. If the end product of that decision is that Washington State will become a new home to a few lovely queer couples, I welcome them with open arms.


On the didactic value of video games, part one

(This was written about two years ago while I was studying abroad in China)

Throughout my academic career, I've had to introduce myself over and over again to new groups of people. I realize people feign interest in me (as I do them) but sometimes they’ll go out of their way, like a journalist who remembers halfway through an interview that she’s paid to ask questions, try to uncover something deeper about me.These conversations are fun and can go a number of ways. But when people ask me why I’m interested in history, the conversation generally does one of two things.


Stranger: How did you get interested in history?

Jeff: Video games. I started playing Shogun: Total War when I was about twelve and loved it.

Stranger: (snidely) Video games, eh? That’s really dumb. I don’t play those, I’m a serious person.


Stranger: What got you interested in history in the first place?

Jeff: Video games, actually. I found this game called Shogun: Total War when I was about twelve and I learned a lot from it about medieval Japan.

Stranger: (polite but confused) Oh! Interesting…yeah.

Seriously, people? Video games! Like they’re some sort of esoteric, unheard of entertainment medium at this point. It’s two thousand and goddamn twelve, ladies and gents. Our species has been “gaming” for thousands of years and we’ve had the technology to take those games and throw them onto television screens now since the Carter years, if not earlier. And in that period, the medium has grown in complexity and sophistication. It has faced the same social hurdles that have been jumped by the written word, the song, the surreal painting, the photograph, the silent film, the talking film, television, comic books, and the pornographic industry. And, trust me, the medium isn’t going to recede into the twilight anytime soon. In all likelihood, it will continue to grow.

How can games be used? Clearly they can be used in an educational setting. My generation and the one before it were in love with a wonderful bit of “edutainment” called The Oregon Trail (available here as abandonware), though you’ll need to do a little software wrangling to get it working if I remember correctly). This game had fricking everything: math problems, basic economics, reading for clues as to which strategy would guarantee your family’s survival, ethical dilemmas (“Jimmy has dysentery! Should we slow down and all starve, or press on and lose him to save the family?”), logistics management, period-appropriate music, geography, hunting (!), and gravestones to mark your prior defeats along the trail. GameSpot did a special feature on The Oregon Trail in their Greatest Games of All Time section several years ago, and it does better justice to this fairly incredible monument to the didactic value of gaming than I could.

“But Jeff, The Oregon Trail was designed specifically to be used be educators to instruct students about a specific period in American history! There are thousands of video games; how are all of them supposed to be of educational merit?”

My honest answer to this sort of question is, “If you’re a shallow dumbass who isn’t able to see the relative merits of all things, there might be nothing to take away from anything at all, much less video games. But if you’re willing to dig a bit, you can learn from anything. You can learn from Ikea furniture, a roll of toilet paper, or from the schizophrenic old man who digs through the garbage outside of your dorm, much less something which took a hundred people ten thousand man hours to complete.” All of this is a matter of perspective, and my perspective is that of a life-long learner. I don’t understand how you could go through life not starving for further knowledge about everything, seeking to improve yourself endlessly. It’s not like anybody (or anything) is going to do it for you.

To be continued...


The Onboard NIC Crew, Episode 8: ArbyQuest

NOTE: This is copy pasta from our actual blog.

On this crisp, clear edition of the Onboard NIC Crew, we get directly to the bottom of Mobile World Congress (not Conference), attempt to comprehend the mindflaying insanity that is a Start Button-less Windows OS, and debut the exciting new feature, "What's That App?" Lauren also returns after a long and lonely exile to lure away Sean and Auston, like a succubus, to a local Arby's. There's also a bit where Jeff bought a Gameboy Micro, and was then cut off when gremlins carried him away from his computer and gave him a stern talking to about wasting his money. It got crazy. Hell, considering how generally incompetent the management is, it's amazing that you're even reading this.

Impressed by our chops? Like us on the iTunes, or the Facebook! Wanna tell us we suck and stuff? Yell at us on the Twitter (@onboardnic), or write us an email like a senior citizen ( We love listener questions, especially dumb ones!

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