Thursday, September 21, 2006

Observations: Scary short story

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by Google

Los Angeles, 2026

Ted got busted because we do graffiti. Losing Ted was a big setback, as Ted was the only guy in our gang who knew how to steal aerosol spray cans. As potent instruments of teenage social networking, aerosol spray cans have "high abuse potential". So spray cans are among the many things us teenagers can't buy, like handguns, birth control, alcohol, cigarettes and music with curse words.

I tried hard to buy us another spray can. I'm a street poet, so really, I tried. I walked up to the mall-store register, disguised in my Dad's business jacket, with cash in hand. They're cheap, aerosol spray cans. Beautiful colours of paint, just screaming to get sprayed someplace public where everybody has to see what's on our minds. The store wouldn't sell me the can. The e-commerce system simply would not allow that transaction. The screen just went gray and stayed gray.

That creepy "differential permissioning" sure saves a lot of trouble for grown-ups. Increasing chunks of the world are just... magically off limits. It's a weird new regime where every mall and every school and every bus and train and jet is tagged and tracked and ambient and pervasive and ubiquitous and geolocative... Jesus, I love those words... Where was I?

Right. We teenagers have to live in "controlled spaces". Radio-frequency ID tags, real-time locative systems, global positioning systems, smart doorways, security videocams. They "protect" us kids, from imaginary satanic drug dealer terrorist mafia predators. We're "secured". We're juvenile delinquents with always-on cellphone nannies in our pockets. There's no way to turn them off. The internet was designed without an off-switch.

So my pal Ted, who stupidly loved to tag his own name on the walls, got sent to reform school, where the security is insanely great. Me, I had a much higher grade-point average than Ted, but with no handy Ted to steal spray cans, the words of the prophet have vanished from the subway walls. So much for my campaign to cover the town with graffiti street-stencils of my favourite teen pop stars: George Orwell and Aldous Huxley.

And Shakespeare. I used to hate Shakespeare, because the teachers would park us in front of the webcam terminals, turn on the Shakespeare lessons and leave the building. But then, somehow, they showed us Macbeth, a play which actually MEANS something to us. Grown-ups don't understand that (or they wouldn't be teaching it) but Macbeth is the true authentic story of my generation. This is Macbeth's world, and us teenagers just live in it. Dig this: those "Three Weird Sisters", who mysteriously know everything? They can foretell anything, instantly, like Google? Plus, the witches make it all sound really great - only, in real life, it totally sucks? Well, those "Three Weird Sisters" are the "Internet of Things", they're "Ubiquitous Computation", they're "Ambient Findability". The truth is written all over the page (or the screen - my school can't afford to give us any "pages"). Just read that awesome part where they're boiling pseudocode in their witch-cauldron! They talk like web designers!

"The words of the prophet have vanished from the subway walls"

Macbeth stumbles around seeing ghosts and virtual-reality daggers. That sure makes sense. Every day of my life, I see people with cellphones yelling eerie gibberish in public. The world of Macbeth is totally haunted and paranoid! You can't get one minute's privacy, even inside your own bed!

So, I did my class report about Macbeth, and every kid in my English class instantly agreed with me. I'm not the most popular guy in school, but they started CHEERING me. And Debbie, this wacky Goth chick in my class who identifies with Lady Macbeth... After my class report, Debbie sleep-walked out of the classroom and pretended to hang herself! Of course the teen-suicide subroutines in the school jumped onto Debbie immediately. Debbie broke the software rules, so Debbie is toast, just like Ted.

My Dad - he's still alive, apparently - he sent me an email from China and said I ought to "recruit" Debbie into my "social group dynamics of online identity production". My Dad always talks like that. I haven't seen Dad face-to-face in six years. Look: I am a 17-year-old male, okay? I don't want to send Debbie any hotlinks and digital video. I want to take Debbie out! Maybe we could take some clothes off! But there isn't any "out" for me and Debbie. There isn't any "off", either.

Okay, I admit it: Debbie is insane. The fact that Debbie really likes me, that just proves it. Debbie ACCEPTS this sick state of reality. She EMBRACES it. We are doomed.

Imagine that Debbie and me somehow go out together. We want to network with our peer group, teenager-wise. I need to figure out what's hip and with-it and rebellious, and Debbie needs to know what the other cyber-Goth chicks are wearing. Is that okay? No!

It's not that we can't do it: it's that all our social relations have been reified with a clunky intensity. They're digitized! And the networking hardware and software that pervasively surround us are built and owned by evil, old, rich corporate people! Social-networking systems aren't teenagers! These machines are METHODICALLY KILLING OUR SOULS! If you don't count wall-graffiti (good old spray paint), we have no means to spontaneously express ourselves. We can't "find ourselves" - the market's already found us and filled us with map pins.

At our local mall, events-management sub-engines emit floods of locative data. So if Debbie and me sneak in there, looking for some private place to get horizontal, all the vidcams swivel our way. Then a rent-a-cop shows up. What next? Should we go to Lovers' Lane? There aren't any! They eliminated all those! They were tracked down with satellites and abolished with Google Maps.

Okay, sure: I know I sound pretty depressed. Us teenage poets depress easily. You know what they tell me whenever I rant like this? "Get a hobby." Play imaginary fantasy computer games! That is allowed me! Wow, thanks! When she nursed me as a baby, my Mom dropped me right on my head to play Wonder-World of Witchcraft. I sure know where that story goes. If "religion is the opiate of the people", then immersive multiplayer 3D virtual worlds are hard-core Afghani heroin. My Mom will never make it back into the labor force: Mom's way too busy building herself up to 146th-level SuperMasonic Tolkien-Fantasy Ultra-Elf Queen. Like that helps! Look, I can show you Mom's gaming environment, right on the screen here. My Mom's a Welfare Elf Queen (CR) (system crash) (hard reboot)

Debbie: why do you access me, when you know that makes things hard for me? Why do you tag, and link to me? Why do you telephone? And why, why, why do you write me silly notes on paper? I am so sick of you, Debbie. Why, why do you hack me? It is just to see the things that you know I am writing about you...

Debbie, you believe in us. You think we are the future.

I am so miserably happy, just now.

Original link.



Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Stock News: What the heck is going on with Delta?

So, I bought 200.00 worth of Delta stock around a year or so ago at .75 cents. After the 14.99 trading fee that got me about 246 shares, yay me.


Then, it just sort of floated around .70-.80 cents for a while, dipping all the way down to .30 at one point (where I wish I had 100 bucks I could have bought more stock with), before returning back to the .70-.80 mark.


Then, all of the sudden last week it got hot, and I don’t know why. As of when I write this, the stock is at 1.69, which is more then double what I bought it at. Now, I’m in this for the long haul, hoping it gets back to a reasonable level so I can start a college savings fund with the proceeds from my 200 dollar investment. However, I smell something fishy. This thing has been gaining 20-50% each day, which can’t be sustained obviously.


Where will the stock go? Up? Down? Who knows?


I hope it stays up, but I can’t help but suspect some sort of market correction sooner rather than later.


If you want to see the monthly trend click here.



Thursday, September 14, 2006

Video Game News: What Are You Doing on November 19th?

Well, if you've got 250 bucks and someone to stand in line for you, you could be playing the Nintendo Wii.

I'm excited to finally know when I can get my hands on one of these. I've already got the 360, and had no real incentive to get a PS3 (especially at 600 bucks) since it's basically just a Sony 360.

The Wii on the other hand is different and offers something the others don't as far as game play is concerned.

We'll see if Nintendo can turn around the misfourtunes of their business follies of the past ten years and once again be taken seriously on the home console video game market. If the Nintendo DS is any indication, I think this Wii thing might just get over and be a hit. Look for it to be THE HOT item for kids and adults alike this Christmas.


Monday, September 11, 2006

Where are the posts?

My posting has been lack luster as of late. The reason? I’m working on a new format for the blog. It’s a project that’s going to take a few weeks, but I hope when I’m done it will better reflect the look and feel of what I want my blog to be.


I’ll still put up things as I see fit, or commentary on events I want to talk about. However, postings won’t return to usually until after I get done with the project. You’ll know it when it happens since things will look a lot different.



A Day of Remembrance

September 11, 2001…I’m not going to go on about what the day means to me, or lessons we’ve learned. I’ll leave those thoughts up to you. Today is a sad day, and a day of remembrance and dignity.

2,973 people passed away today.

I don’t know if I ever really got over the sadness of that day. Tears still well up in my eyes as I watch footage, listen to stories, and remember the events. Every person deals with issues in their own way, and I’ll continue to deal with this in mine.


Wednesday, September 06, 2006

TiVO News: The Origins of TiVO

I'm sure some of the readers out there have a TiVO. I probably would too if I didn't already have a built in DVR with my cable box. Evidently, someone has found leaked footage of the origins of TiVO. Before the Feds cover this up again, I share with you the YouTube video:

Crazy stuff, huh?

Who knew?


Transformers The Movie News: Funny Comic

Being that I won't be posting much about Transformers anymore, since I do the podcasts each Saturday, I'm saving the posts for really big news.

Although this doesn't fall into the "really big news" category, I thought it was funny enough to share. PVP is an online comic strip I read each day, and thier most recent comic pokes some fun at all the hoopla on the Transformers message boards on like AintItCoolNews and stuff, and all of their complaining about how various robots look and whatnot.

Here's the comic, enjoy.If you want to check out the PVP site, which I suggest you do, go here.


Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Podcast: Weekly Transformers The Movie Podcast

A neat thing about getting a Mac is that it comes with some cool free software from Apple known as the iLife suite. The program that I like the most from iLife is Garage Band, a prosumer sound mixing program. It allows you to mix your own music as well as other audio projects. Garage Band was also engineered to be used for making podcasts, and that's just what I've been doing.

I participate in a Transformers the Movie message board on a website called Below Top Secret. I was recently asked by someone to fo a weekly podcast for the board recapping everything Transformers the Movie related. So that's just what I've done.

This is the first podcast in what will be a reocurring series. I'll probably post them every Saturday until the movie comes out, as long as there is new for that week. In the weeks there isn't news I might just toss around ideas and whatnot, or just post a podcast that says there isn't anything to report. Who kows?

This is around 20 minutes in length, since it's the first podcast, and should catch everyone up to date on all of the info so far. The regular podcasts should only be around 5-10 minutes each week.

Click here to take a listen.


[Edit: On the message board I'm "The Big O," which is why you hear me refer to myself that way]

Fantasy News: Draft Time

So I had my first fantasy draft this past weekend. Actually, it was my second, sort of. Last year at my previous job we had a fantasy league, but I didn’t have any idea what I was doing, missed the draft, got stuck with computer picked players, and still managed to place 4th out of 8. Back to this weekend, I have my first “live” draft this weekend, and I don’t think I did bad…I didn’t do good, but not terrible either.

Fantasy Football is an odd game, since I don’t really understand the “fantasy” thing. Playing in a Madden League is fantasy, since you control a team and play in a league and stuff. Fantasy Football, or any fantasy game for that matter, is really all about math, which I don’t find myself fantasizing about often.

For those who don’t know, the premise of fantasy sports is that you “draft” players onto a “team.” Depending on the performance of the players on your team in the respective games they play they earn points. Each week you are matched up against another team in your league. The team with the most points at the end of the week wins. While there is skill required in knowing how to draft and how to manage players (i.e. what players to start what weeks, managing bye weeks, etc.) there is little to nothing the actual player can do to effect the outcome of each week.

Which brings me back to math, odd isn’t it? You see, fantasy sports is about knowing percentages, and figuring out how to give yourself and your team the best percentages. What the best of the best fantasy players are able to do is figure out a “worth” for each player, which is a statistical value that player represents, or in other words the amount of points that player will earn each week. This is more than just who is the best player, it involves knowing what teams that player will face, the defenses they’ll come across, and the offensive technique their team uses. In other words, more than I’m willing to take the time to get into. However, a lot of people do, and it can be a very interesting hobby to be in.

I compare it to the statistic junkies of baseball. For years, baseball fans have had a plethora of statistics to look at and drool over. They can tell you how a pitcher does against left handed batters on the third Tuesday of every month when the humidity is over 80% AND under 80%. Some of the stats out there is just crazy. Football never really had something like this until Fantasy sports came along. Then all of the sudden there were people looking at how a running back performs against a 4-4 package, or how certain wide receivers do against nickel packages. I mean, sure, some people KNEW how these backs performed, but you didn’t have the stats somewhere, and now you do, and much much more.

Once you get your percentages on players down, then you have to figure out how other members of your league value those players, and then navigate the draft process to make sure you don’t waste draft picks earlier than you want to get the players you want. This was the area I didn’t know much about, and it didn’t help that I was the last person to pick in my league. Actually, I don’t think it would have mattered since I didn’t know what I was doing, but you get my point.

Some people are really really good at the draft process…I was not, but I knew that going in. So I did some homework. I did research. I basically copied what “professionals” said I should do. Yeah, so, I didn’t do the real nitty gritty work myself, but that’s what these people get paid to do….I get paid to write manuals and functional specifications. I took a few rankings sheets, put them together, and had a list of 200 players ranked by position. I drafted based on my list, not on who I liked or whatever.

My team isn’t bad, it’s not great, but not that bad. I’m gunning to finish in the middle of the pack, around 5th or 6th, since we have 10 people in the league. If I can make the playoffs (the top six teams move into a playoff at the end of the season) I’ll be very pleased, even if I’ll get whooped up on. I think those expectations are realistic. I’ll leave the real playing and fighting and complaining to the guys who are really into this stuff, like Ryley, who just happens to be the commissioner of the league I’m in. Me? I’ll check in, manage my team, and partake in some of the fun antics, but I’ve got to many video games to play to have time to really get into it. I know, priorities, right?