Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Everyone Thinks Their Generation's Music is Better

I'm sitting here listening to the "80s channel" on my cable system and just can't believe the optimism, upbeat hope and just positive attitude that comes through the music of that era.  Even the ironic chorus "The future's so bright I gotta wear shades" was taken literally by the listening public back then since that was the mood.  Everything was going right and everyone was doing great.

The 90s brought us grunge, and teenage angst wasn't just for adolescents anymore.  Even through everything was generally okay, there was still a deep unease in the collective subconscious.  Nirvana sings about "I've been drawn into your magnet tar pit trap, I wish I could eat your cancer when you turn black."  I mean, WTF?

Fast forward to today, and things are so bad we basically have escapism. "Russian roulette isn't the same without a gun, and baby when it's love, if it's not rough it isn't fun".  Okay Lady GaGa, whatever works for you.

Now, I'm not saying all 80s songs were great.  In fact there was a lot of trash back then, especially when music videos were in still in their infancy.  And the best take-off I've seen in that category is the Literal Music Video of "Head Over Heels".  Watch this if you need a laugh:

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The XBox Kinect: Redefining Gaming

I had the opportunity to swing by the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) this week in Los Angeles, which is one of the main gaming trade shows in North America. The vast majority of booths are dedicated to software and games, but being a "hardware" guy I focused on the Big 3 platform providers: Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo. There are lots of web sites more dedicated to gaming that do a better job summarizing these systems than I do, so I will just jot down my thoughts after going through the show:
  • Microsoft has definitely redefined the game control experience with the introduction of the Kinect, much as Nintendo did with the Wii five years ago. Not only did MS create an incredible user experience that is unlike anything out there now, but they got "critical" mass behind the game with Kinect titles being introduced at the show by Ubisoft, Creative Arts, and other gaming companies.  This will definitely be the "must have" system for people who are into games.
  • Sony's Move control system is lame. Very lame. It doesn’t offer any more functionality than the five year-old Wii controller, except track you in the Z, and makes you look even more dorky while doing it since it works by sensing a light stuck on the end of the controller. The set-up also looks more clumsy than the Wii, with a camera sticking out above the TV rather than the almost unnoticeable Wii sensor bar.  After the show I was thinking that Sony is definitely behind and hurting in this market, then found an article by experts on this industry writing down my exact thoughts.
  • Nintendo didn't have any new hardware for the Wii, although they did announce some new games that I will likely add to my Christmas shopping list. With theWii Controller and Fit balance board together not giving the flexibility and experience of the Kinect, I would hope that Nintendo has some sort of 3D sensing in development in the lab if they want to keep up with MS.  

    Nintendo's main announcement was their new DS with 3D screen and 3D picture taking.  Nintendo is really becoming the only handheld game company left, the Sony PS2 being a market loser and much of the portable market going to the cellphone. The 3D technology is obviously Nintendo's strategy to differentiate the DS from a cellphone, which is now the largest growing game "platform" on the market, and they will have to keep adding things to the portable systems that can't be found in a cellphone if they want to survive.

It was an interesting show, but not THAT interesting for a hardware guy.  There were over a hundred other booths dedicated to new games and software, and someone seriously into gaming would have had a blast trying out all the new titles.  For those reviews, the best place to take a look is over at GameSpot.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

I Refuse To Go Through Body Scanning Machines

An interesting and timely piece in the WSJ about full-body scanners at airports.

Going through IND last month I encountered my first one. There was a "regular" metal detector line right next to the body scan line. Travelers self-select their line and I wasn't paying attention. In other words, if I were a terrorist hiding something I would have just paid attention and got my butt in the right line.

But since I wasn't paying attention I found myself in the body scan line. I refused to go through it.

"Sir, if you refuse then you'll have to go through the metal detector then go through a full body pat-down."

"No prob. That blonde over there can pat me down. I like women in uniform. Make sure she wears her cuffs."

"Sir, do I understand you are refusing the body scan?"

"And when she gets to my pants, she doesn't have to use the "back of her hand" either. She can go Full Monte".

"This way, sir"

"One question - what if I had chosen the other line? I would just get the metal detector, right?"

"That's right."

"Well, I chose this line to get the pat-down from the blonde."

Unfortunately my old nemesis, Dirk the TSA dude, was called from the back for my pat-down. It was better for him than it was for me.

Why do I refuse the machines? Because they are ridiculous. Because they do not make passengers safer. Because they will never foil a terrorist plot. They are simply another intrusion by the government to make sheeple believe they are safer, when in fact the government is doing everything in its power to make people less safe by refusing to profile.

So I will refuse and keep making the TSA go through their ridiculous charade of patting me down,  One day I'll finally get that blonde wearing the cuffs to feel me up.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Now Get This Straight

Ethical egoism says that people ought to do what is in their own self-interest. Rational egoism says that people should do what is in their own self-interest.  Psychological egoism says that people do only act in their own self-interest.

Got it?

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Prius? Who Likes This POS?

I rent econoboxes from Hertz several times a month for business travel. All I need is basic transportation and usually my rental cars don't make any impression on my mind. They are useful for what I need at the time, but are unremarkable, interchangeable, and unrememberable. Sort of like the girls I dated in high school.
This week Hertz gave me a Prius. And for the first time I found myself absolutely hating my rental car.

It's not the pick-up, acceleration or any other car-handling issue. In that category I find the Prius about the same as other nameless econoboxes. As an aggressive driver I had no problem passing and cutting off people, rabbit starting from lights and cutting over two lanes in front of other cars, or doing three-lane exits off the highway at 70 miles an hour. Not as good as my Beemer, of course, but definitely good enough to piss off pansy drivers who don't understand that you never leave open space between you and the car ahead of you.

What is horribly, horribly wrong with the Prius is the control system for the radio, climate control, etc. They all come through a common display, which is "off" until you want to do something. So going down the highway at 70 and weaving through traffic you have to fiddle through a tree of commands just to tune the radio or turn down the AC.   And the interior seems cheap, much cheaper than the usual economy car.

Then there is the constant humming noise coming out of the engine block. At first I thought there was a window slightly opened, but then I realized the windows were up and the noise is almost always in the car. Only when the engine is idle (I suppose in electric mode - which was rare the way I drive) does the noise go away. It is truly annoying and even turning up the radio (once I found the controls) didn't make it go away.

So after comparing to any other car, there is no way anyone in their right mind should buy it. But people do, all because they can feel better about themselves about having a hybrid. And don't say that it is about saving money, as several studies have shown that what you save on gas never makes up the higher investment of the Prius over an economy car (say a Hyundai).