Friday, April 25, 2008

How does a company redeem itself for one of the strangest gadget designs of our modern era? This video/game/novelty is a darn good start. It's amazing what designers will think of when they're given the freedom to explore.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Hey, a new web 2.0 toy in the right column. I'm a bit late to the party on this one, but I got Twitter so I could follow a few of my favorite comic writers. Fun facts on Twitter- Barack Obama is way at the top according to twitterholic. Hilary Clinton is on the top 100, but Warren Ellis, a comic book author, ranks above her. Geeks know what's up.

Thursday, April 17, 2008


That's my job in a nutshell, especially this past month or so. Most of the work I do really does resonate with me, but now and then I do something for someone that makes me wonder who would ever find it appealing. Those are the jobs I get overridden on, the vanity pieces and fixations of people with no design sense and an overwhelming sense of self-importance.

It's been nice to work on fund raising efforts to support the school because it feels altruistic. But it's also interesting to wonder about the messages we're putting out and who is actually responding. It's pretty clear who the smart people in the room are at the meetings- they're the pragmatists who decide to try anyway to support the school. So, despite my complaints to anyone who will listen, I do actually work with some great people. Still, like George Carlin said: "Why do the people who know the least have to know it the loudest?"

Ah, oh well. It's nice weather again, so time to take the bike out and reject the internal combustion engine in the name of recreational fitness. I'm also looking into getting a bike carrier for my car so I can take it to ride in other areas.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Picture a room full of sweaty, mostly-drunk rock fans and punks of varying stripe clamoring for the headline act of the night during a sound check that includes a banjo and an accordion at full volume from massive Marshall stacks. To those unfamiliar with the Dropkick Murphys this may seem like a strange juxtaposition. Hell, I've been a fan of the band for nearly ten years and I thought it seemed odd. But the lights went down, the crowd chanted the traditional “Let's go Murphys! *clap clap clap-clap-clap*,” the aforementioned banjo launched into the opening of State of Massachusetts, and it all fell into place.

Part of the appeal of a live Murphys show is that so many of their songs have choruses and interludes written to be sung and shouted by audiences who can't sing. Boys on the Docks, one of their earliest songs, has about five lines at once for the masses to chant raucously. The audience also sings the first verse in the traditional Amazing Grace before it gets quite a bit louder than tradition would hold. And one of my personal favorites, Barroom Hero, has the entire intro and frequent chants of “oi oi oi!” left to the crowd. At one point Ken Casey said to the audience “hey, how about a drinking song?” Funny, but it gets better. They called up as many women from the audience as the stage would hold to serenade them with “Kiss Me, I'm Shitfaced,” a humorous song of amorous male boasting. The end chorus includes a short line wherein a woman insults the singer's manhood, but the young woman randomly chosen onstage didn't know the line, which was funny anyway.

Standout songs included my personal favorites listed above, as well as their new material. Usually a crowd will go nuts for a band's familiar hits and take a break during the new stuff. Many in this crowd knew the new songs already and sang along. You don't often see that level of support for newer material. My favorite of the new songs was Johnny I Hardly Knew Ya, loosely to the tune of When Johnny Comes Marching Home. They ended the show as they always do with Skinhead on the MBTA* and let a bunch of people on stage. I was about twenty feet back so I made my way forward and I was three feet away when security stopped letting people up. Nuts. They then launched into Citizen CIA, an amps-to-eleven blasting double tempo parody of military recruitment and the policies of said agancy. What a night.

*It should be noted that skinhead refers to the original, or traditional skinhead subculture and not the facist offshoot. There's a big difference. The song is a parody of Charlie on the MBTA.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

How to Build a Better Flu Shot

I had the flu last week, despite having gotten a flu shot in November. My illness coincided with several news reports of the vaccine being ineffective. Given enough time on my hands, I came up with this list of models and methods for producing a more effective vaccine. It seems the first one in the list, the Sony, was used this year.

  • The Sony model of influenza vaccination: Build a really nice flu shot and charge a premium price for it, and then get really confused over the notion of "compatibility" when people start complaining about it, or "dropping like flies."
  • The Nintendo model: Spend a fortune developing a lean and inexpensive flu shot that people will go nuts trying to get, then fail to produce enough to satisfy demand. Keep doing this for two years.
  • The RIAA/MPAA model: Ignore influenza for a few years, then go nuts and quarantine %.05 of those infected in hopes that the rest of the population will get the idea and stay healthy. Then watch the influenza spread and grow immune to anything you might try in the future.
  • The Marvel Comics model: Hire the best researchers you can find and let them go nuts producing vaccines to anything they want. The catch is, the medicine only works when a patient takes every variation every week, or the patient won't know what exactly is being cured and may even suspect that new problems are being created as a result of the treatment.
  • The EA Games model: Buy mass quantities of existing vaccine, combine with water to a fine ratio, and annually sell it back with an updated label. Keep talking about the need for new vaccines.
  • The Apple model: Make a great vaccine with the ability to make people healthier and more productive, then sit and scratch your head at why the population doesn't flock to you en masse. Then remember that you forgot to include the ability to play solitaire in the basic design, and so the flu and other viruses will proliferate unchecked.
  • The PBS model: Focus on treating the very young and very old. Though this is laudable, the massive and unaccounted for age group in between are the only ones who can pay for the vaccine.
  • The Secondary Education model: Rely on the widely-held belief that the lengthy and expensive treatment process can only be beneficial and that anyone would be better for it. Stick to this story despite a pattern of diminishing returns in the most recent generation.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Edinburgh, Scotland is an absurdly beautiful city in which you are never more than two hundred feet from equally epic history, coffee, and beer. I spent a week wandering the streets with various combinations of my brother, his girlfriend, and my parents. The former two are currently legal residents, and she was good enough to secure me a place to stay in the room of one of her flatmates who had vacated for the week.

This was taken at around 3:00 in the afternoon. During the winter it gets dark very early, and I don't think I ever got used to it.
What's left of the Abbey at the Palace. The rest of the Palace was much nicer, despite a similar history of ransacking by various angry mobs.

Frankenstein. Seriously, a bar named and lavishly decorated like Frankenstein's Monster, complete with a body on a stretcher suspended above the main area with lights and sound effects every now and then. And of course Guinness.

I don't know much about it, but there's a place called Cafe Numedia. Like "new-media," get it? It was finally my turn to ask "What is Numedia?"

The Brass Monkey is a great bar with a whole room covered with a giant lounging cushion and little tables where they show movies in the afternoon. Words don't do it justice. This was the first place I tried Tennents- a popular local beer that was a bit light for my taste.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

"And you will know them by the ticking of their biological clocks." I loosely paraphrase Stephen Crane here based on conversations I've had recently about post-collegiate women in Indiana. It seems that at a certain age, salary is blood in the water. So I'm told. Details are sketchy, but apparently I'm a blip on the radar as an available 20-something. I really only know what Chris Rock has described of this phenomena, where married women match up their single friends with a suitable pair of chromosomes so they can do "couple activities." This doesn't fit with my plan to die very old and alone surrounded by a lifetime of comic books and game controllers, but I'm flexible. To that end, ladies, here are some talking points (with parenthetical clarifications) for making your case while playing Yente. When I am required to be involved with the process, I'll press pause.

"He's a really good guy." (no we haven't, and no, not with a ten-foot pole, sister)
"He's tall." (he's a gangly fellow, but he can carry a larger armload of stuff than most)
"A really good listener." (finally you have someone to whine to when I'm busy with my own married life)
"Independent." (the long hair and beard make him look like a roadie)
"A lifelong academic spirit." (he still won't finish his master's degree)
"An impressive and diverse array of hobbies." (boxes and boxes of nerdy crap that he'll never part with)
"A music lover." (loud nihilistic bands you'd rather not ever have to hear and alternative radio hits from when you were in middle school)
"He's very practical." (he thinks his guitar amp works as an end table, and he's cheap, too)
"He values lifelong friendships." (he'd rather hang out with his obnoxious buddies watching cartoons- pass the chips)
"You'll really like him!" (you'd better settle now, or you'll be paying your kid's college out of your retirement money)