Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas 2011

This has been a wild year for me. I went from 40 hours a week in the spring to 14 hours a week.  And from working one job to working two jobs.  I'm up to around 24 hours a week now.  But at least I'm working. 

This month my wife had a massive head trauma, requiring CPR.  But at least she's alive.  So now we get to wait on the hospital to send out the invoices.  We're waiting to hear from medicaid and a couple of other agencies to see who's going to pay what, and what we will have to deal with.

It can be really easy to curl up in a ball and have a breakdown.  The bills don't stop. Life will flow around your disaster without your input, thank you very much.  And then I have to remind myself....

Jesus was born in a stable, and slept in a hay trough.

Christmas can be about fighting crowds with pepper spray to get the last game system. Or it can be about counting your blessings, and learning to deal with adversity.  And one thing I know about is how to deal with adversity.  Life happens, as they say.  It's time for a new direction.  Always remember that the path has many directions.

May the adversity that you face be balanced by the advent of the Christ-child.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Politics And The New Soapbox

I really hate politics. It's an ugly creature that attracts all kinds of people that haven't got a clue about the big picture in life. Currently, congress is considering a bill called SOPA. They are also considering a bill called PROTECT IP Act of 2011. In a crowded nutshell, both bills deal with child pornography, and online piracy. But what is also at stake, is a monumental challenge to a form of America's freedom of speech. I've done what any US citizen can do. I e-mailed my congress critters, and I signed a petition. And now, through this post, I'm spreading the word. I've done my civic duty. Yay for me. I'm not real hopeful about either of these bills being defeated in congress. The RIAA has some uber-powerful lobbyists leaning on the congress critters to get this passed. And the way social medicine and the patriot act slipped through despite monumental opposition from the American public, doesn't bode well.

I was in my DeviantArt account last night, reading the latest posts, and viewing the newest art. I see a post about these very subjects. Now I wouldn't have paid any attention to it, except that it's one of those last minute "oh god, when did this happen?" kind of posts. And I was a little bit cynical in a reply post about it. No sooner did I finish, then the original post owner fire back at me saying something along the lines of if I don't sign the petition, then "YOUR A COWARD!". Seriously? Seriously? No forethought. Simply straight out character assassination. I of course did reply to that, informing this person, who I renamed butthead, that if he thought that a single petition was going to change the outcome, considering current congressional history, then he could continue living in his fantasy world.

Currently the American public has the luxury of the internet to pick and choose whatever pet atrocity they believe in, be it SOPA, or the Occupy Wall Street movement. They can do character assassinations to their heart's content.

The internet is a wonderful, revolutionary, field-leveling tool for the masses. It's helped to remove many corrupt dictatorships in the Mediterranean Sea reigions. It's exposed many local level charlatans, And it's pulling nations up by their bootstraps, helping them to become better informed about the world around them. But it's those very reasons that bills like these are being introduced. Nation-states and corporate conglomerates want to shove the internet back into Pandora's box and shelve it high on a forgotten wall of the university labs where it originated. And it's happening. Most of the eastern hemisphere already lives with some form of these laws.

If either S.968 or H.R.3261.IH are defeated, I'll be surprised. But I will say one thing. I'm not holding my breath for a hopeful outcome.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Dr. Conrad Murray verdict.

I'm sorry to hear that Dr. Conrad Murray was found guilty of the death of a man who clearly wasn't in his right mind. Granted, Dr. Murray handled things poorly, but Michael Jackson was no saint, as his fans paint him to be. At 52 years of age, Jackson was not a man that should have been cavorting around like he was in his early teens. I'm sure Murray had his hands full just keeping him stabilized at the end of the day. How many outside influences had to be pressuring the doctor that were never even mentioned in the trial? At this point, I'm hoping that Dr. Murray is able to keep his licence. I'm afraid that prison time will be unavoidable.

I'm sorry to say, Dr. Conrad Murray was framed on behalf of the fans.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Deer Crossing

I hate the month of November. We're getting close to rutting season for the deer population here in the U.P. of MI. The darn things are all over the roads. So naturally, they become targets. Yup. I hit one this morning. Not happy. Yeah, the deer died. But now I need to go through the process of filing a police report. Then going the the insurance agency. Then going to the body repair shop. Thank goodness we've got full coverage.

Doggone deer. And I'm obviously being nice in my rant. Imagine what I could be saying right now!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The dilemma of Wall Street

It's hard not to take a stance when the world is in a pickle. Most of the US public was of the opinion that when the banking system was failing, that it should have been allowed to collapse. Instead, the feds decided to bail them out. And now look at what's happened. We're living in a world of dominoes lined up on a shaky folding card table.

Sooner or later, the financial system IS going to collapse upon itself. And not just in the United States. Most of western society is going to hell in a hand basket. Greed is the problem, NOT capitalism. Once the gold standard was eliminated, it was so easy to say "We're broke? Just print more money!" Communism, socialism and any other "ism" isn't a viable choice, either. Because they're run by people. And people get greedy.

I don't have a clue what will replace the financial system we have now. Will we be using euros? Or renminbi/yuan? I don't know. But I do know one thing. It's not going to be a pretty transition. So keep track of your resources. Bartering has never gone out of style.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Seamlessness and Google Wallet

I want to be mad at Google. I really do. When they screw up, it's so monumentally public, as in the nymwars. But then I read a story, and realize, just maybe, that there might be some kind of underlying method to their madness. I just read a story via Virtual News Now that seems to support this cockamamie concept. The complete story is from NFCNews.com.

Permit me to quote a few paragraphs from the end of the article:
(Google Vice President of Payments Osama Bedier says) it is not being in both the online and physical worlds that is key. It is moving seamlessly, stealthily between the two … in and out as if there were no separation. Where Groupon connected the dots between physical and online, Bedier wants to erase the dots.

He talks about the future retail experience like a kid describing a new game console. Imagine when any offer you see online can be instantly added to your phone with a quick tap. If you choose, these offers can even be pushed to you based on your preferences and current location. Enter your local grocery store and receive a reminder of your frequently purchased items, your shopping list and a series of special offers on items you might enjoy.

He says that eventually the actual items will be tagged with NFC chips rather than bar codes. Tap them as you fill your cart and then tap the phone on the payment terminal as you exit the store. No more lines.

Even in this idyllic discussion, he can’t avoid one more inadvertent nose tweak to another audience subset. He circles back correcting himself, explaining that you won’t even need to tap at the payment terminal because the phone will be the POS too.

“The consumer holds the payment tool and the terminal,” he laughs. “POS today is an artifact of the old way. Smart phones are more capable.”

The conference moderator reminds him, only half-jokingly, that a number of POS terminal manufacturers are also in the room.

He grins. “That comment wasn’t for them.”


My own ideas of seamlessness go as far back as early concepts of the semantic web. I had idyllic notions of just asking a search engine where something was, and instead of X number of lists, I'd get one correct answer. One. What it was, where it was located, if it had a price and how much, etc. On a wireless PDA. Palm was the reigning champ then. Phones were just reducing from bricks to candy bars by then.

Doggone it, Google, stop messing with my head. Either I'm going to hate you and leave you, or you're going to be that lover who breaks my heart, but keeps begging for forgiveness and lavishing me with tantalizing "I'm sorry" gifts.

Friday, September 2, 2011

My Google addiction, Nymwars, and "Don't be Evil"

Well if you haven't heard by now, Google is embroiled in something called "nymwars". It has to do with pseudonym usage on their Plus service. You have to use your given name on your birth certificate. Many people prefer using a pseudonym on the net, for various reasons. Unique identifier, anonymity, political, whatever. I'm fine with that. But lately, I've had the gnawing feeling that Google has been just a bit over-aggressive in their dealings with the public in general. So I decided to fence-sit, and see how the nymwars has been playing out.

The pseudonym camp has made some very persuasive arguments. To the point that I was ready to undo my habits with the big G. NOT as easy as it sounds. Google has made internet life really comfy for me. I use Chrome. I entertain myself with YouTube. iGoogle is my homepage. Etc, etc, etc. Many of you can relate. So I tried an experiment last night. I un-pinned my Chrome from the win7 taskbar, and set up IE9 as the default browser again. That was the easy part.

Favorites. Bookmarks. Ugh. Why can't there be a standard that everybody can agree to, yet? You don't realize how much time you spend in a particular browser until you look for links. About a year ago I tried a few third party apps that "manage all bookmarks and favorites from all your installed browsers". Again, ugh. I finally had to export everything to Delicious.com in self defense. So at least I know I can retrieve them if I lose something. But after the export/import to/from Delicious, I now have umpteen hundreds of duplicates in IE9 I still need to finish sorting out. I know the default is to save everything, but can't there be some kind of feature that IDs dupes and does self weeding?

Next was the browsing experience itself. Chrome=fast. IE9=fast-ish. The way to disable all the security warnings is to go into internet options and slog through the settings. Just not worth it. Chrome catches most of it in the background. So this morning after one last hopeful browsing session with IE9, I backslid and opened up Chrome.

And, yes, to be as fair as possible, I have used Firefox in the past. Opera, Crazybrowser, Safari, and many others. Chrome just has a "feels right" to me. As other browsers come (and go) I'll probably try them as well. But I've gotten off on a tangent here. Back to the original commentary.

There are going to be people that will give up using anything Google, out of the principle that they dropped the "Don't be Evil" ball. And I applaud those people. Those are the folks that will keep the internet, and life online in general, open and free, and keep the governments and corporations at bay. Not all wars are fought with projectile weapons of mass destruction. God bless you folks.

But I'm a Google junkie now. There, I've said it. I drank the cool-aid. I got comfy in their bed. I took their cookies, and greedily gobbled them up, panting for more. Larry, Sergey, and Eric all know my name, my life, and my darkest secrets, and sell them to the ones willing to pay for that info. I'll gladly admit that yeah. big G did drop the "evil" ball. But you know what? That ball gets passed around in a wonderful game of Hot Potato. A few years ago, Microsoft had it. And occasionally Apple is caught red-handed. So until I feel that I need to find something that is even better than Google to fit my personal tastes, I'm gonna stay in bed with Google.

Are there any more cookies to nibble on?.....

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The end of an era: NASA

Well, the Atlantis is in a hangar in Cape Canaveral now. Waiting for a place to sit and tell the world "This is what we once were". I'm not going to recap the entire history of NASA. It's well documented by others more worthy and less opinionated than myself. But I will say this. We, as a nation, have not only renounced our direct access to human space, but have mangled our only civilian public standing.

NASA won't self destruct. But if it isn't a frail shell of it's former self within the ten years that was supposed to be the initialization of the Constellation program, I'll be totally floored. At that point, congress would be doing a mercy killing to shut down the agency. Of course in ten years, who is to say that the US Federal Government will still be around?

NASA: 1957-2011
R.I.P.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day

NASA Concludes Attempts to Contact Mars Rover Spirit

Spirit
Jan. 3, 2004 - March 22, 2010
R.I.P.

I thank our gallant military this Memorial Day. But I also thank the tech that has gotten us where we are today.

Hug a Vet. You know they deserve it.

Google Wallet and the new economy

New Google Wallet Will Face Stiff Competition

End of Cash? First blog in a series examining the pending doom of minted coins and printed banknotes

The links above are from Singularity Hub and Communities Dominate Brands, respectively.

So, what is Google Wallet, anyway? In uninformed layman's terms, your cellphone becomes your primary source of making payments for anything you purchase in a brick & mortar store. But as Singularity Hub points out, Google isn't the only company attempting this. Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and the rest are all jockeying for position. Google just happened to be in the right place at the right time, and got the ball rolling.

So what can it do for me? I've seen the future, folks. And it's not as scary as you may think! I'll offer an extreme case scenario, which I've also mentioned in comments on both the above links. With your phone now acting as your source of payment, you have opened up a new world of possibilities. Many of us play online games now. Either via XBox, Playstation, Wii, or good, old fashioned browser based gaming sites. And we rack up points, rewards, virtual cash, or any other digital bits that have an agreed upon value in physical reality. I'm speculating that Google will eventually offer to keep track of that value for us in it's Wallet program. So what? Ah, then life happens!!

You need to get a loaf of bread and a quart of milk from the local corner grocer. Your total comes to $6. But you know you only have $2 in your bank account. BUT! You have 15,000 points from your game playing. You have 2500 credits from the local casino. You have 2500 in gold from WoW. And you have $L3000 from Second Life. Your phone becomes your currency exchange, and instantly calculates the value, and debits each account accordingly when you tap your phone. You've paid the $6 to the cashier just that easily, and go home to have lunch!

This is life changing, folks. Yes, it's not going to happen instantly. But it doesn't need to. Automation is slowly taking over our jobs. So we've been building up massive amounts of points in gaming in our own downtime. By the time that robot comes knocking at your own employer's door, the wallet system will have been established. That will give us the extra cushion to tide us over until our next jobs.

Virtual coupons. Loyalty card programs. And gaming points. The American dollar might be tanking, but that doesn't mean that we have to go down with the ship. You can buy Euros, gold certificates, or any number of viable globally recognized monies, and deposit them either physically or virtually in your bank. It all gets sorted out via the Wallet system.

As for me? I'm heading to SL after this post. I need a loaf of bread!!!! :-)

Monday, May 23, 2011

ART FROM INNER SPACE - Descartes Wheels

Occasionally I find something that really throws me through a loop. Art From Inner Space is today's ringer The piece is called Descartes Wheels. Specifically? The end line "He thinks, therefore I am." I need to grab something to drink and crunch that one for a while.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Robot vending machines, again!

I must be ahead of my time. Here's a link from SingularityHub.com about Pepsi Cola's newest social vending machine! Yeah, a social vending machine! Here, I've been ragging about Coca Cola doing this, and Pepsi sneaks up on me and does this. It doesn't talk, per se, but it's a HUGE step in the right direction! At least somebody is listening to me. (I think).

Thursday, April 21, 2011

What if...

I'm an eternal optimist. I still like to tinker around with online 3D worlds. You would think that after being burned, I'd stay away from the stove. Yet the allure of Virtual Reality tugs at my curiosity. My newest attraction is IMVU. I'm still learning it, of course. But I'm also reacquainting myself with Second Life, Moove, Active Worlds, and 3D Planets. Not to mention Gaia Online, and Neopets. Yeah, I'm a glutton for punishment. If I was into quests, I'd probably be doing WoW and Entropia, as well.

All this sudden activity got me to thinking. Wouldn't it be great if people could just create a single 3D home that all of the virtual sites could access? It would probably be a base portal for any world you wanted to go to. But it would be game/platform independent. It can be as big or as small as you needed. One room or a dozen. And the best part would be that it can be accessible in mixed reality. Put on your HUD, and the home is sitting where ever you put it in physical reality. Most likely, in a public location specifically zoned for AR applications.

It kind of gives a new meaning to the term "home page".

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Life Happens

It's been a busy world since I last posted. Egypt ousted its president, Muammar Gaddafi has been shooting up his citizens in a civil war, and of course, the earthquake and terrible tsunami in Japan.

In local news....

I probably shouldn't joke. Life happens. I have some things going on with myself right now. Other than to say that, I don't need to go into details. Everyone experiences problems occasionally. It just happens to be my turn. At my age, I've been in rough spots before, so I know I'll get through this.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

AR comes another step closer.

I'm usually a week behind in most news, so you may have already read this press release. Vuzix has demonstrated it's latest HMD glasses, called "Raptyr". Here is a news story with a picture showing the prototype. What makes these special, is that they're finally achieving true see-through functionality.

Right now, the tech industry is in a mish-mash of hardware offerings. The biggest buzz right now is 3D television. So all the research is going into making eyewear that you can watch 3DTV with. As far as I know, Vuzix is the only company that is still actively pursuing augmented reality eyewear. But what concerns me is, ironically, that the TV industry is trying to get away from using glasses! It's not a bad thing, but that just makes Vuzix that much more a fish swimming upstream.

Another thing that concerns me, is enthusiasm has already peaked for augmented reality. It's a mixed camp. The majority of people that were early adopters on smartphones have reached the "ho-hum" point. Some have already written it off as "just like that dumb VR stuff". Granted, I've been critical of the pace of development of HMDs. But if the tech is to mature, I think the companies that have been in the forefront of AR need to throw some support behind Vuzix. They at least have the momentum going forward to get us where we want to be.