My thoughts on the Nintendo Switch

So I got a switch once they were available after launch but I got the neon one and for some reason it had a system board error. I got my replacement one (Slate grey, SO SLEEK) 48 hours ago and I have some thoughts on it. This is probably the coldest of hot takes given how long it has been on the market but here we go:

I unboxed the thing and again marveled at the fact the entire console is just the little iPad mini sized touchscreen. It puts out roughly Xbox 360/PS3 style graphics when you dock it to the HDMI enabled mount at 1080p. It’s, like most Nintendo stuff except the Wii U (which felt plastic and kinda cheap), an impressive piece of kit.

Gaming around the house is fun and easy, even though I can already do that on my iPad mini. Late night Mariokart is going to be a big thing for me I think.

Zelda. I’m only partially into it and it’s such an amazing game. I actually am now putting off Horizon on PS4 to enjoy Zelda fully. By going stylized in terms of art they really maximized the look of this title either playing it on a 65-inch screen or on the console’s touch screen. Again I would rate the graphics on Zelda as very close to high quality Xbox 360/PS3 level in this tiny little thing. I can’t wait for some more optimization work that will probably yield stylized looks exceeding PS3 level quality.

I want every console maker to consider making a “previous gen” type experience like this. I can’t wait for Scorpio but man if you could give me an Xbox 360/Xbox One experience in this form factor I think you could still hit the consumer level 299/399$ price point pain for the fact it’s tiny, sits in an entertainment center like it’s hidden, and enables mobile experiences better than any second screen experience I have had to date on iOS or Android.

I worry Nintendo will orphan it.

The battery life sucks but I cannot really complain because it’s working pretty hard.

While the Vita promised this type of experience, the Switch is everything the Vita should have been. I love my vita but this is the new hotness.

I still think Nintendo should port all their titles to other platforms and charge a premium for the software. But hey what do I know, they seem to be doing pretty well without doing that.

“Nintendo Switch” is still sort of a weird name. But not as weird as “Wii U”

I don’t think I’ve been this pleased with a Nintendo device since my ex camped out to get me a Gamecube or I got my DSi.

Zelda. Wow.

 

I have a Jerry Pournelle story.

“We have an unusual request about this week’s security bulletins release. If you have the time can you talk to someone on the phone?” This was from my Waggener Edstrom liaison.

It was 2004 and I would get these requests often in my part time role as communications person for Microsoft’s Security Response Center. The PR team and I would weigh who the request came from, their audience, and several other factors in deciding who we would get on the phone with as opposed to responding in email. Not for spin or positioning purposes, (you can’t really spin a security vulnerability although many have tried. They tried and failed? No. They tried and died) but more use of time vs. how many people would be reached.

“Sure.” I said. “What’s the outlet?”

Waggener Edstrom has served as the major PR firm for Microsoft for such a long time. There’s a reason for that, they are whip smart and I knew that if they were asking for my phone time it was worth doing.

“It’s a gentleman who runs a fairly well-subscribed newsletter, he’s written for Byte and a lot of other publications back in the day. His questions are mostly technical about the attack vector, it seems like a good place to get any additional information out.”

It was a slow day for me, a Thursday as I recall and our monthly release had happened that Tuesday so most of the pressing outlets like CNN or the LAtimes/Boston Globe/NYT gamut or Wired or whatever had already had their calls with me, so I said sure let me set up a 30 minute block of time and give me five minutes prep for us to decide whether or not to do this or over email.

I stupidly never asked who the gentleman was who I would be talking to.

Ok prep for the call time. I’m in my office which back then was decorated in what my Wagg Ed support team referred to as “affluent freshman college dorm room” style. I had cool lava lamps and a projector with a liquid oil pattern cast on the wall, blacklights, a nice futon etc. Meetings all over the MSRC were sometimes held in my office just because. Once, our fearless leader kicked me out of my own office to have a meeting, but that was before we started pranking his office with greek architecture. I digress.

I picked up the phone for the prep, keep in mind my role here in my life was directly communicate guidance for Microsoft customers in regards to security threats and vulnerabilities and patches. We’re 60 seconds into the prep discussion when I finally open the newsletter and look at the web page and find out the caller is going to be

Jerry. Fucking. Pournelle.

*record scratch* *narrator voice* This is me, you may be wondering how I got here.

Well let’s start with The Mote in God’s Eye. The Niven and Pournelle team-up was formative for me because their voices were so interesting individually, but that story meshes so seamlessly (unlike say a Peter Straub/ Stephen King mashup which worked so brilliantly *because* of the slight tonal discord) that it made me seek out all of Pournelle’s other work. I had already consumed Niven’s.

“We’re taking this call” I blurted. “We are taking this fucking call. We are sooooo taking this call.”

I think I freaked the PR team out a little bit.

So now I’m 60 seconds away from speaking to Jerry. Fucking. Pournelle. In some random space in my life where his interests and my role collided and neither had anything to do with the fact I was a huge fan. I knew about his newsletter and website and his interest in computers and tech, I just had no idea *that* was the person I was going to talk to. And now it was my job.

Be cool man. Be cool.

Now I’m on the phone with him. He asks how I am and how my day is. I managed somehow to hold it together and chat like all this was perfectly normal but I didn’t trust myself to not screw it all up so I just said “before we get to your questions, if I may, your fiction has been a huge influence on me. I’m a fan and I’m a little weirded out that I’m talking to you”

I know that’s what I said, verbatim, because I had it typed in notepad to read from so I would not screw it up.

He laughed and spent like the next two minutes just sort of shooting the shit with me. Then he delved into his questions which were clearly from someone who wasn’t just a hobbyist, he understood the ins and outs of the threat and he wanted to articulate why applying the updates was important in the newsletter.

At one point I got bold. I said, “Well on the one hand the attacker could do X but on the gripping hand the patch does Y.”

He stopped me. “If I were to use that, there would be three elements, with the “on the gripping hand” being always the third. That’s how moties work. It helps see past a binary choice!”

I still use this today. I say things often like so: “On the one hand X, on the other hand Y. But on the Gripping hand….” and when it gets spotted by people for the reference I usually get an email or nod to the effect “I got what ya did there” and when people are confused I get to explain it and introduce them to The Mote in God’s Eye.

I have Jerry to thank for that. The call was simple and perfunctory, we got his questions answered, he was gracious and kind with my fanboyism. But that moment where he took an element of such a foundational influence that he and Niven had written and riffed it as “No no no say it like this, and people will get it” was one of those moments in my life where I was flummoxed and not at the same time, and won’t ever forget.

We never spoke again, I cannot claim to have known him or that we were Facebook friends or anything. I doubt he would have even recalled the conversation within a month or two of it just because he probably had lots of conversations like that with people.

I am just one more of millions affected by his work in some way saying, thanks Jerry. Thanks for the stories.

Have you had a break today?

About two weeks ago I went back into the hospital. This time it was not a life-threatening issue, the shunt in my liver had become occluded which caused a minor upper gastrointestinal bleed. Luckily I had been warned the symptoms and signs 2 years ago when I was really sick and they installed it so it was caught immediately. I wasn’t even admitted into the ICU, they performed a quick minor surgery to clear the occlusion, observed me for 48 hours to make sure it worked, then sent me on my way.

Hospital stays suck, even when you are in MCU not ICU. The last time I was there was for three weeks and for 90% of it I was under a strict “no Internet” policy.

So for this stay I decided to do the same thing even though it wasn’t mandatory.

Our bodies are capable of an infinite amount of energy along a timeline that ends when we die. However, we cannot just create infinite amounts of energy at once or on demand. During my last stay, it was explained to me that despite my protests that being on the Internet and being able to interact would help me mentally, physically that would divert energy my body needed to heal.

After I left the hospital (I’m fine by the way, everything got fixed up and I feel pretty good!) I felt so good mentally I decided to continue restricting my Internet both for my mental health as well as I ended up getting busy with work.

I am happy to report it was great.

I love the ability to interact with anyone at any time of day online. I love Twitter’s capabilities and Facebook and reading the web and basically just sucking up communication like a vacuum. But at the same time, it comes at an energy cost and a mental health one. There’s only so many new terrible Trump stories you can read each day and stay happy.

I turned off my phone this past weekend and took Basil to the beach. It was marvelous. I’m slowly learning you don’t have to respond to every text, read every headline, respond to every Facebook post, or feel bad about just unplugging for a bit.

I would not say I’m shutting down on Internet usage or that it is bad. But except for short bursts like live snarking something on Twitter or engaging in conversations on Facebook I do plan to spend less time reading the Internet and more time watching a TV show (American Gods is astoundingly good) and writing than feeling like I have to be up to speed on all things at all times.

I’m just closing the aperture a little bit more and trying to be more focused on being online.

I did not mean to worry anyone, rest assured that I have some protocols in place since I live alone that if anything happens certain people get “activated” for help if I need it.

In the meantime, I highly recommend the occasional Internet break. Try to go a couple of days of it. I found that I stressed less, was more relaxed and had a lot more creative thoughts than just sitting down and making hashtag jokes on Twitter. :>

Think pieces on Pivots and Whiskers on Kittens…

This is a think piece on pivots.

Except it’s not.

But now you can’t get it out of your head.

This is how the current presidential administration operates to the average person. They take a statement that in and of itself is at least reasonable to consider: “surely all these illegal people here are stealing jobs” or “The middle east is filled with Islamic terrorism and they already hit us once” and, from there policy is made without actually considering the data.

And the media has failed us by refusing to use plain language to call it out because it’s too busy inside a bubble of its own creation to speak plainly for fear of appearing adversarial. They would be better served by simply not reporting the administration at all, or at least stop giving it front page treatment. But they are addicted to clicks.

If you don’t believe me ask yourself, who, outside of the media and some West Wing fans, even understands the obsession and meaning of the word “Pivot” right now?

A pivot in the current environment isn’t truth, it’s lying with style. Not much thinking required on that.