Monday, January 09, 2017

Is IoT the Next Game Changer?

Will your game change when your toothbrush is talking to your toaster? I'm here to tell you it will.

And the best thing is that dudes in Latvia will be able to listen to your toothbrush too! It may end up like that Gilligan's Island episode where Gilligan was receiving radio signals through his teeth, except this will be a guy named Gregor slowly reciting strings of random numbers into your molars as you massage your gums in the morning. A new world of openness and possibility!

And are you tired of having to manually upgrade your waffle iron to install the newest patch, adding full Netflix capability to what is ostensibly a way to make breakfast? Now you don't have to! Your waffle iron will automatically download the latest kicky apps to keep you entertained!

We must never rest until every single device can stream everything all the time. Until the glorious moment when everything everywhere is released in a half-assed version that we can upgrade remotely to a new version that is deeply insecure and broken in new and exciting ways.

Save your credit card information to your doorbell! It will be fine!

Your medical records should be stored on your connected fridge, which can also generate a playlist based on your fiber intake. Listen to it as you lie immobile on the floor, waiting for the paramedics!

This is the future!

Thursday, January 05, 2017

An Arguably Bad Idea: Monkey Ownership

The surprisingly not awful but still kind of awful tale of people who ordered squirrel monkeys from comic book ads in the 60s and 70s:

It was also capable of riding on the back of the family’s Sheltie collie like a horse. Although the dog didn’t enjoy it, he learned to deal with Chipper. 

I am troubled there is no mention of the late 70s scheme wherein a company would begin sending you small dangerous animals every month until you paid them to stop sending you small dangerous animals. A particularly inspired wrinkle of the scheme was that if you gave the company the names and addresses of three of your friends, you could get them to stop sending the small dangerous animals for an unknowable amount of time. Of course, the scheme was doomed from the outset because once the recipient was killed by the small dangerous animals (and they inevitably were, if not killed, really badly damaged both physically and emotionally) the small dangerous animals tended to pile up at the recipient's address, and you wound up with flocks of small dangerous animals roaming the streets, brandishing their flick-knives at old ladies and generally threatening a god-fearing populace.

Note that this story is like eight years old. I know that. Don't get all huffy with me, sir.

via metafilter

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

The Daddest of the Dads

As one gets older, one realizes certain things about oneself. 

Just after Christmas (and I hope you had a good one), I finally gave in to 2009 and picked up a Blu-Ray player. This had been on my mind for some years, since I upgraded my amp (or is a tuner? God knows) and discovered my DVD player would no longer connect to it in any useful way. Because the crushing march of technology dictates that everything must be HDMI now. And that's good--don't get me wrong...when I am watching my tedious art films I want to see angst and despair at the highest possible resolution. So for several years I have had a basically useless DVD player sitting underneath my TiVo, and I have been watching movies on the Xbox. That's fine as well, as long as you don't mind occasionally being unable to hear anything the actors are saying over the droning whirr.

So anyway, my little Blu-Ray player arrived from Amazon (refurbished! 47 dollars!) and I eyed my component console thing warily. This is a unit with two side-by-side drawers on the bottom for storing media (read: absolutely full drawer of DVDs you look at wistfully from time to time and drawer full of video game peripherals that you're not sure if they still work but figure you had better keep, just in case you ever want to play a Gamecube pinball game where you speak into the controller and control Japanese feudal-age armies again.) Above the drawers, the unit has two side-by-side shelves where you store your components, and tiny little holes through which you feed a vast array of cables. I have wisely broadened those cable-holes over time, ensuring no resale value remains for the unit itself. The shelves are covered by those lift-and-slide cabinet doors that are exactly the height of my amp thing. So every time I slide the amp out to see what the hell is going on back there, the amp grates against the bottom of the cabinet door, leaving gouges and grooves that make it look like it has been the victim of a werewolf attack. Also, all the cables are just exactly the right length so that when you slide the amp out, half of them detach and you have to guess where they previously connected. Or, as I did, you kind of rotate the amp just enough to where the cables don't pop out and you can kind of see the markings on the 27 Ins and Outs, as you shine your iPhone in there, making sure to shine it directly into your eyes a couple of times and panicking you into thinking a migraine is inevitable. 

So I am in there messing around with cords and cables and trying to remember if I have another HDMI cable in the garage (spoiler: I do not) and thinking I should really do something about this nest of cables under my component amp tuner console furniture thing because other people seem to have figured this out but I somehow have not, and what if I somehow used zip-ties and hooked all these cables to the back of the unit? 

And it hits me: I love doing this. I love assing around with cables that connect various electronic things, and reassuring my family that I know exactly what I am doing, nodding to myself sagely before optimistically pressing several remote buttons, only to find out I have screwed up one of the 27 connections in some unknowable way. And swearing, of course.

The daddest of the dads.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Mouse stuff

There is a mouse on the loose in our office. It is so much more pleasurable to think about this little guy motoring around the carpet, maybe wearing a little tee shirt, than it is to think about terrorist attacks and Trump. Go little guy! GO! 

It is extremely important that I focus on this mouse. Maybe I'll build a series of tunnels for him. Or her. I don't know which. I don't know how the mouse identifies. Maybe I'll do a study on gender identification among rodents. Explore the subculture. Like that Runaway Ralph with the motorcycle. What was he into? 

I could set up webcams and document my time among the mice. Or my time with the mouse really. Unless there are more. A whole society. And when we leave here they're rubbing their little mouse butts all over our phones and office chairs. Or maybe they're helpful, like fairy tale elves, although I have never returned to work in the morning to find all my spreadsheets perfectly formatted or anything like that. I think mouse talents lie more in the clothing arena is what I'm saying. Your shoes, your Disney princess ballgown. That kind of thing.

Maybe if I'm lucky, I'll be savagely mauled by the mouse, and Werner Herzog will make a touching documentary about me despite my misguided attempts.

If I can just really, really focus on this for, say, the next four years? That sounds like a really good idea.


Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Get Thee Behind Me, Sofa

Look man. All I want to do is get rid of a sofa. That's it.

I know it is clawed up. I know. My cats are not to be trusted. They see a sofa and they think "Sure, kafkaesque, friend to all animals, has lovingly and thoughtfully provided us with many scratching options for claw management, including but not limited to a 6 foot tall Cat Metropolis cat condo thing that was over 100 American dollars, but we prefer to destroy this couch instead, because we are cat clich├ęs. Also do you have some yarn I could eat?"

It may have been peed on by an infant or two, this sofa. Maybe some childbarf when I was not quick enough with the bowl. Yeah, that bowl. The metal one that we use for salad sometimes. The dishwasher has removed all trace of childbarf from that bowl I swear to god. And from the sofa. That you should take.

And the time the poop actually came out of the top of the onesie like a chocolate fondue fountain at a wedding? I think that was not on the sofa, but frankly it may have been. I have wiped it from my mind. Even though I sometimes wake in cold terror thinking of elevator doors opening in the Overlook lobby and poo pouring out.

Listen, I can't even park my car in the garage because of this sofa. I loved it, it is true, when I was napping of a Saturday afternoon, a soccer game playing away on the television. But no more.

Now I hate it purely and perfectly and want it gone.

Do I have to carve this thing up with a reciprocating saw and place it daintily in the garbage can for a series of weeks? Because I will totally do that. Do I have to push it out to sea and then fire a flaming arrow at it? That sounds kind of fun but my aim is not that good so I would want to ensure the surf was completely empty, and that sounds like a logistical nightmare. And maybe my arrow hits a sea lion or something and I don't want that on my conscience.

Just take my sofa.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Legend of Zelda Update

I may have mentioned here that I downloaded the original Legend of Zelda to my daughter's 3DS recently. This was done with the wide-eyed optimism that she and I would play it together, and I would regale her with tales of that guy on the commercial saying "Octoroks!" who I kind of want to say was Howie Mandel but surely wasn't*. And she'd look up at me, as she vanquished a full screen of Peahats, knowing in her heart of hearts that she had worth as a human, that her self-esteem had been bolstered not only by this bonding with her dad, but by the clear realization that anything is possible if you just really believe. Yes, she'd look up at me, moist-eyed and say "You are the best dad."

Of course, what really happened is that she is not really even remotely interested in playing Legend of Zelda because she is seven years old and it is really unreasonably difficult. She sits next to me on the couch watching Teen Titans Go! and I run Link around like a total dickhead because I lack the sensory skills necessary to remember where the Level 1 dungeon is. And, if I make it to the dungeon, to have more than half a heart left, so I can be easily dispatched by bats. The whole thing is really an exercise in not swearing really loud in front of your kid.

And I forgot the quiet majesty of the little POOT sound every time Link gets hit.**

And how he charmingly is pushed back, possibly into another of those dog things with the bow and arrows. And that square thing that pops up in the water? You know, the one that seems to hit me every single time despite the fact that its shots don't travel all that fast? Not my favorite foe is what I'm saying.

Anyway, so far I have cleared the Level 1 dungeon and the Level 2 dungeon. Nothing in the dungeons so far is really all that difficult, except those blue guys that had the magic boomerang.

I will keep you updated.


** If you listen to me playing this game it would sound like this: OK, here we go... OK Octoroks, that's easy... Oh wait these guys with the POOT Ah damn, now I can't throw my POOT POOT Really? You're going to POOT POOT POOT Aaaa! BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP

Monday, December 05, 2016

Puddle of Santa

Flat and empty
Belly bereft of jelly
Collapsed like a narcoleptic
Run over by a mattress truck
In some terrible coincidence
At night will you rise
Lit from within?
Animatronic reindeer
Shaking their heads
Slowly slowly
Back and forth
Of your midnight
Lawn party

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Game Is Up, Kringle

My seven year-old daughter does not believe in Santa Claus anymore, apparently. It happened naturally I guess, though I suspect it may be because I listen to Father Christmas by The Kinks pretty regularly this time of year and the line "When I was small I believed in Santa Claus/Though I knew it was my dad".

There are of course two schools of thought on the Santa/No Santa LYING/NO LYING question. I struggled with the LYING aspect of the decision for a long time (because it is my jam to struggle with/worry about everything) and finally settled with my wife on the MAGIC argument. The LYING problem is that your kid of course believes everything you say with perfect, unquestioning faith, and when they find out Santa isn't real, they fall from innocence, much like that Michael J Fox movie where he was in a war or something and you had to pretend you weren't thinking "Looka that--it's Alex P Keaton in Vietnam" the whole time. That, of course, presupposes that your kid actually believes everything you say, whereas I have been telling my daughter made-up stuff pretty much since she was born. It's one of the reasons I had a kid in the first place.

The MAGIC argument is that there is very little magic left in the world. All the answers to everything are at our fingertips all time--even if we choose not to look up those answers, like what the name of that Michael J Fox movie was--so having some inexplicable things is no bad thing. Don't get me wrong; one can go too far and end up putzing around the woods at all hours looking for bigfoots.

But my daughter doesn't really seem to care if Santa is not real, and having Ray Davies break it to you is not the worst. 

My daughter seems to be a very truth-oriented kid and always wants to know the real story behind things, a quality I admire. When I was a kid I had a real love for legend and the mystical, even though my parents were godless rationalists, so maybe it is the same for her. 

She certainly seems to enjoy stories about mice solving crimes, so there's that.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Trust Your Mechanic

I was driving to work today and suddenly, every time I put the clutch in, the car was instantly losing power, like it was slowly braking, as opposed to going into neutral.

I instantly envisioned terrible outcomes--towing it to the Wacky German Guys that service my car, and who call me "The Computer Guy" because I once advised them that a blue screen was probably not a good sign. Like, every time I engaged the clutch I was kind of jerked forward as the car slowed unnaturally. I knew this was going to be a more-than-a-thousand dollar fix. And my car has 165,000 miles on it--it's at the stage where one huge repair bill means "let's get a new car" and not "let's fix this one". The same thing as when you have an eleven year old cat and it needs open heart surgery. You have to know when to say when is what I'm saying.

So I thought of all the good times I had had with my sport wagon. Driving to Joshua Tree. Driving to Utah. Going on rollercoasters together. Having our first smoke. That time we danced to Against All Odds at the junior high dance.

With a tear in my eye I pulled into a gas station, knowing that I may have had that last drive with my old friend. In my head, I was already assembling a car-based playlist to help me through these tough times. I won't go into too many details about it, but you know there wouldn't be a dry eye in the house when I effortlessly moved from Jonathan Richman's Roadrunner to Springsteen's Thunder Road.

Or maybe I could learn to fix this old friend myself, despite the fact that the system is all computer controlled, and even though I may be known by my mechanic as The Computer Guy, chances of me fixing anything correctly approach zero pretty rapidly.

Then I noticed a tiny light on the digital display. I didn't even want to know what it meant: HDC. Here Die Cars, most likely. Or Heaven Don't Care? That seemed to match my mood.

HDC: Hill Descent Control. I had somehow pressed the Hill Descent Control button, a button which I have never pressed even once in the ten years I have owned the car.

I restarted the car, made sure HDC was no longer showing up, and drove into the midmorning sun, feeling free and alive for the first time.

Still, I have that playlist ready.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Others

The other people are spoken of in hushed murmurs. We see them going up, going down. There is no evidence they see us. They have ice cream on the lawn sometimes. They stand by their cars and smoke cigarettes. Once they had a food truck come, but we were not invited. Probably fusion tacos. I wonder, do they sense us as we brush past?

We have labored here for so long, alone. Always edging toward release. And when that release came, we were again there in the valley, looking up, and we touched our arms to be sure we were real, and started the ascent once more.

You see, my company was in an otherwise empty building for over a year. Not just empty as in unfurnished. Empty as in unfinished suites and entirely empty floors of the building. I thought idly sometimes that there could have been squatters in here somewhere, or some Hellraiser type with crickets in his beard, waiting only for me to stumble off the elevator onto the wrong floor and hiss "What is your pleasure, sir?"

But now another business is here, doing something that seems frankly a lot more exciting than the software we create (or, in my case, document). Being interesting. Taking the good parking spaces.

And I wonder what they think of us, the old ones? The ones who came before. Will they look to us for wisdom, asking where are the dependable but honestly not great sandwich shops? Or are we but a chill whisper of the past to them?

They seem to be having so much fun.


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