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I wake up to the sound of a ringing telephone next to my bed. Mekkah is on the other end, with the latest interview assignment: the head editor himself, Rising_Dusk. "Congrats, bojangles, we're listening to your thoughts this time," he says, leaving me feeling completely confused as to what he means. Moving swiftly on, I get ready and meet Mekkah outside in his car.
Mekkah drives us to a massive compound that looks like it's from another planet, with all these weird chemicals and whirly-thingies that I'm definitely not qualified to try and explain. After passing through multiple security checkpoints (Mekkah takes forever at these things, too used to passing through the EU countries) we finally arrive at Rising_Dusk, who is hunched over his desk, working on something in what seems to be another language.
Thanks for having this interview with us, RD! Can you please tell us something about your personal life, outside of the internet? Or, as I might say, the flesh and bones behind the username?
That is the most ambiguous question I have ever had to answer about myself.
I roll my eyes.
I'm a space systems engineer who went to college for engineering physics with a focus in magnetohydrodynamics (look it up on wikipedia!). I currently have both my BS and MS, and work for a physics laboratory in the wondrous land of Maryland. But, I actually think that California is a prettier state.
At this point, Rising_Dusk pauses and furrows his brow. He furiously scribbles numbers and equations on a sheet of paper before tearing it up and throwing it across the room. He then pulls a calculator out of his desk and jabs at some of the buttons.
I just checked the math and I'm apparently 23 years old, too.
It's nice to hear that you're full of (a) BS (degree), but I'm sure most users really want to know how you got into Pokémon. What brought you to Smogon?
DougJustDoug. No, really.
Mekkah and I feign surprise.
I actually thought Smogon was a 'whatever' website prior to hopping on IRC to ask a few questions in CAP, which was the only part of Smogon I actively followed. Doug was on and talking up a storm like he usually does, and I outright disagreed with him on a few points about the nature of CAP.
I'll never forget his response; it was "Who is Rising_Dusk?"
We shortly became really good friends who shared similar visions for CAP and Smogon, and he convinced me to try to involve myself elsewhere on the site. Thus began my involvement in the Smogon website.
What do you actually do with that BS degree? Does it just make you a nerd with bragging rights or does it actually have practical applications in your job or, God forbid, your Smogon career?
Well, I actually can't tell you all of what I do because that would get me fired, but I can tell you that I work to lead a team of engineers from different fields and try to coordinate their work into a final piece, generally something small. That's systems engineering in a nutshell. Right now, my work isn't anything to write home about because I've only had a little bit of field experience, but eventually I hope to lead teams in the creation of major research satellites like the Cassini project.
This gives me a lot of programming experience, but more importantly forces me to be extremely capable in using the English language. Technical report writing is the bread and butter of my job, more or less.
My heart soars, because finally, something I can understand!
Ah, grammar. I remember a fledgling Rising_Dusk applying for both the Grammar-Prose Team and to check for The Smog. How did the eventual transition from CAP to C&C go?
It was fluid, really. I had experience writing for sites before, and I knew enough about competitive Pokémon to not make an ass of myself like so many other young C&C members.
I suppress a laugh here, since I have vivid memories of a newer Rising_Dusk asking me to reassign an analysis to him.
C&C was the natural place for me to become better known on Smogon and was (and still is) an enjoyable outlet where I can lead the pack in writing intellectually stimulating, but classy and enjoyable to read, analyses.
I'd like to think that in my waning days of C&C contribution, I have made a significant impact on the way the project operates and stylizes its work, and that C&C as a whole is better because of it.
Speaking of contributions, you had a pretty rapid ascent through the ranks to eventually become a moderator of C&C, CAP, and The Smog, 3 very vibrant and busy areas of Smogon. Any comment on this?
Everyone forgets that my first badge was actually the RMT badge, hah!
The computer at Rising_Dusk's desk starts beeping, but he makes no move to do anything.
But yes, there was a period I fondly reminisce upon as the rise of dusk. I think these sections of the site were actually pining for help in organization and leadership. That and I fit into their IRC communities without issue, which probably eased the transition substantially.
Let that be a lesson to newer users trying to get involved and help out with big issues on Smogon—work your way into the community and the community will nudge you upward at an almost alarming rate. Of course, being handy with a figurative pen is very helpful as well.
This goes double if you can program anything more than a "HELLO WORLD!!!", I'm sure. Can you remind those living under a rock what you've cooked up when it comes to programmed resources? Doesn't have to be limited to things for Smogon and things that don't get you fired.
My first big project in programming was actually programming >30,000 LoC for a game that I made in the Warcraft III engine. I actually did this twice for two different games, one a prequel of the other in story. Eventually I'd like to author a book series about it.
A red warning sign now flashes on the computer screen. I nudge Mekkah but he's too busy listening to what Rising_Dusk has to say.
As far as my career-based projects go, one of my most attractive programs is an n-body solar system simulator. Did you know that it is very difficult to get a system of 5 equal mass stars to maintain a stable orbit while traveling through space at several thousand meters per second?
Took days to make a system that was stable for a year. I've also contributed to the programming of magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) simulators in IDL, which predict the motion of plasma in electromagnetic fields. They currently get used in really awesome research!
But I digress, I'm nerd rambling...
I have no idea what he just said, but it sounds too important to let die, so I point out to Rising_Dusk that his computer seems unhappy. Unperturbed, he clicks a few buttons and the computer shuts down.
So other than demonstrating you're a massive nerd, what do you like to do in your spare time? Where do you spend your free time (other than Smogon)?
Bars and breweries without a doubt. I actually make it a point to visit practically every brewery in a city I'm visiting to try the local flavor. If anyone cares, my favorite beers are wheat ales and stouts. If I said I liked Allagash Black, would you know what that is?
Mekkah and I laugh when we think of how many users we've banned because they're under the age of 13, not even under 21. Although, I swear I can smell the distinct smell of alcohol on his breath...
So throughout all the beer brewing, A-Pokémon Creation, programming, not answering questions that could get you fired, grammar checking, and probably saving kittens from something dangerous, what would you say is your greatest achievement?
I brace for a long answer.
WELL, now that you mention it, there is one thing I'm particularly proud of... I've been as close to space as you can get without being an actual astronaut, which involves microgravity and, you know, floating around weightless.
One of the projects where I was engineering lead, focused on the study of fuel slosh nutation in cylindrical and spherical spacecraft fuel tanks. The project was titled FuSSION, Fuel Slosh Simulation of Induced Oscillatory Nutation, and was an experience that I will remember for the rest of my natural existence and beyond. Basically, if you take a spacecraft and spin it up about its long axis, you have it in a very high energy state, which is unstable. Fuel sloshing removes energ—
Mekkah falls asleep. I motion to Rising_Dusk to hurry it up.
Okay, no one actually cares about the details, suffice to say I FLOATED IN SPACE!
Ok I need to defuse the situation because I think you might have just caused the brains of our young readers to explode. I remember you said a while back to me that the underscore in your name holds inordinately high regard in your heart. Why is this? Are you racist against spacebars or is there some deeper meaning?
Tradition, really. My name is actually an unintentional anagram of a character's name in the book series I want to eventually write. The underscore is important because my first excursion into the world of internet website contribution years ago didn't support spaces in usernames. The underscore was the most attractive alternative, and it's become as much a part of my name as the Rising or Dusk.
I hit Mekkah with my notepad and he wakes up, alarmed and looking about. Without warning, he blurts out the next question.
We have been sucked dry of questions, with the exception of the most important one. Which of the many many options in today's age is your favourite Pokémon?
Scizor is my favorite Pokémon, and was so long before it was really good in competitive Pokémon. Platinum just made me bubbly with the addition of Bullet Punch. My favorite cutemon is Manaphy, and you'll be pleased to know that I geeked out with Jumpluff over getting a Manaphy plushy a year or so ago.
Scizor's my favorite because when I was a young kid playing GS, my only shiny encounter was a Scyther that I thought was a glitch, so I chucked my Master Ball at it. I hated the thing until I discovered that it evolved, after which golden Scizor became my in-game best friend. I loved it as much as Ash loves his Pikachu.
Mekkah gives me the look I've been dreading my entire journalist career. Without a word, I get up from my chair while Mekkah transfixes Rising_Dusk with a stare. I walk quickly to the door, faking a sense of calm when inside, terror lurks, and lock it. Rising_Dusk turns his head at the locking sound, and Mekkah uses this opportunity to bind him to the chair with some rope we brought in... just in case.
That's funny because I actually caught a shiny Scyther as well, except it was in the National Park Contest so I had to make do with Park Balls!
Sweat starts pouring down Rising_Dusk's face and he blinks a couple of times in disbelief.
Anyway, thanks for putting up with us, and hopefully you'll be seeing this whole interview go right past you when the Smog is published!
Wait, what?! No, that's not right. Stop this interview right now, something is wrong.
Mekkah glances at me and nods.
I checked my sources, and all of our databases say you can't find them anywhere but the park.
There's no way my childhood memories are lies. There must be something! How... How did I get my shiny Scyther then? I don't remember using a Game Genie, but I owned it and usually played with it in... This is crushing.
Mekkah grins widely, satisfied in crushing Rising_Dusk's childhood memories and, consequently, his soul.
Well, if you cheated, you can definitely get one there!
This is insanity!
As Rising_Dusk struggles in vain, Mekkah relishes in the utter defeat of his adversary.
I must've used a Game Genie to figure out what a shiny was and picked a Scyther since I liked it in RBY? And then not understood?
Mekkah rises from his seat and gets in Rising_Dusk's face, truly driving the poor soul to madness.
LIAR! YOU'RE A LIAR! AND A THIEF! NO, IM NOT LISTENING TO YOU!
I'm not a liar, my memory is just reconstructed incorrectly..
Tears form at the corners of Rising_Dusk's eyes. He tries to cover them, but his hands are tied behind his back. Mekkah returns to his seat, satisfied, but tired from overexertion; he's not normally quick to stand up, after all.
Yesssss, the precioussss...
In this interview Rising_Dusk, the kid, has been outed as a hacker and a hoax! Join us next issue when we reveal that Mekkah is actually from the Midwestern US!
Thank you, and I hope you enjoy the rest of this issue of The Smog. Don't be alarmed if you see some men in uniforms; we are deploying some agents to investigate the true story of The Golden Scizor.
At this point, Rising_Dusk leaps out of the chair, revealing that he has cut himself loose with some sort of fancy cyberknife he uses with whatever he does in the lab (I never really understood). Before Mekkah and I can react, he unlocks the door and bolts out of the room, presumably fleeing the country before we can start our investigation.
I start to chase after him, getting halfway down the hall before I realize that Mekkah is not at my side. I hurry back to the room to find him eating a sandwich where I had left him. He looks up at me and shrugs before slowly walking to the car. When I ask him about Rising_Dusk, he mumbles something through a mouthful of ham and cheese, and before I know it, we're off, probably never to see Rising_Dusk again.
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