Our Category: Commentary

Is VR the next 3D? (maybe) Kinect? (maybe) Wii? (maybe)

0 Commentary | Gaming No Comments

Virtual Reality is a pretty magical experience under the right set of circumstances. Having tried now all of the big players in the space between Vive, Oculus, HoloLens etc, I can say without question that VR and Augmented Reality have finally broken through to the consumer.Yet I have begun to figure out some of the obstacles that are going to seriously impede adoption, and they aren’t new ones.

Let us, for a moment, skip the cost of the actual hardware and supporting hardware. Eventually this entry point will come down and it’s low hanging fruit to start there because the technology is so new. Suffice to say for the moment that it’s incredibly expensive compared to other “good enough” technologies that are focused on entertainment as the gateway for broad adoption.

Let us further for this discussion skip the virtual store/User Interface. Much like phones and operating systems this will eventually solidify when someone hits the right metaphor or construct that makes obtaining apps/games and navigating between them easy and (more or less) simple.

So let’s assume you have brought home Bob’s Amazing VR platform, and Bob’s Amazing VR platform once properly setup and connected leads you to magical experiences.

There’s a massive gap in the middle of these two things that could kill VR as dead as 3D Blu Ray, or Kinect games, or even the fact few play the Wii anymore (arguably the most successful of these technologies from a usage standpoint).

That gap is the friction involved to enter the experience.

3D Blu Ray exposed the same complaint I often heard about the Kinect: “I can’t just sit down and get into it.” First you must make sure that your Blu Ray player supports the latest firmware, your glasses are available and not in a dusty corner somewhere, they are charged and/or have fresh batteries, they are properly synced to your TV, that you have enough glasses for everyone, that the TV and the Blu Ray player are in sync on the 3D signal, that you upped the brightness on the TV to compensate for the dimming effect 3D has, and lastly that everyone has a proper viewing angle. You perform all these actions and pop in your Blu Ray only to find you accidentally popped in the non-3D copy and have to get up to go back to the case to get the 3D one. Never mind the fact the primary way you consume movies or TV now might be streaming for which there is little 3D content. Add to that, I hope you don’t get a headache from the 3D syncing.

Let’s look at Kinect. Similar problems arise. The idea of motion activated gaming seems like a winner on paper, and the Kinect sensor is a marvel of engineering. But its utility is really limited to gaming experiences for which you have to rearrange your living room, calibrate the sensor (sometimes even in between games) to properly sample the game space, and deal with situations that typically confuse the sensor like the family dog entering the space or someone in the background going to get a drink from the kitchen. A few magical moments don’t really compensate to overcome wondering if you really want to move the couch and coffee table out of the room again to play Dance Central.

The Wii managed to keep the entry to experience friction low, but content was limited to Tennis. Or Bowling.

Now let’s look at VR. Depending on how Bob designed the VR rig you at the very least have a headpiece to wear. It may or may not be tethered to a base unit that is not meant to be moved. The headsets are a long way from an uncomfortable motorcycle helmet but are also a longer ways away from feeling like no headset at all. It’s Yet Another Thing ™ you have to take the time to get right before you can experience what you want to experience. It may require calibration. The magical experience you had over at a friend’s house might be completely different because he has Joe’s Amazing VR Platform not Bob’s but you didn’t know there was a difference. Like the 3D glasses, you probably feel a little goofy wearing the setup, and your friends video’s of you flailing around on Youtube don’t really endear you to your investment. Once done with your experience you have to stow everything away, which means finding a place for the helmet and equipment.

The friction point here is time.

We’re all competing for time. Microsoft isn’t competing against Sony with the Xbox. Sony isn’t competing with Nintendo. Everyone is competing for time. Because between movies, streaming, phone games, casual games, console games, going out to dinner, reading a book, and the fact there is more quality content above the “garbage” bar than at any point in history, there is no time. So much so I’m convinced I have past the point in my life where even if the content stopped tomorrow I would not have enough hours left in my life to experience it all when combined with work, sleep, and food.

Each of the scenarios I described above involves time. And remember, we already gave a free pass to the cost of entry and the ease of accessing content. That adds even more time.

Those problems will get solved with volume and maturity. Smartphones were along long before Apple solved the entry point and ease of use problems. Technology for the moment limits VR until miniaturization can get us to a societal point that contact lenses or even simple glasses make the friction points easy. That is where VR needs to focus its user experiences.

Make your VR platform goal to make the technology as simple and easy to enter into as an iphone app or launching Netflix and VR/AR will reach it’s potential so fast “Screens” as we think of them today will be a thing of the past. It might also avoid going the way of 3D.

Virtual Reality is a pretty magical experience under the right set of circumstances. Having tried now all of the big players in the space between Vive, Oculus, HoloLens etc, I can say without question that VR and Augmented Reality have finally broken through to the consumer.Yet I have begun to figure out some of the […]

There is American Exceptionalism. We’re the Exception to Running a Modern Country Well.

0 Commentary | Politics No Comments

There *is* American Exceptionalism. It’s that we intentionally confuse social welfare with totalitarianism. We confuse economic models with "more" or "less" individual freedom. This belief is actually not the case. Our freedom lies in our ability to speak our minds, limitations on the government to intrude on our homes or compel us to incriminate ourselves, providing a non-violent means of revolution, etc.

What has resulted from our economic model is the situation we have today, no matter who is in office Americans work more for less "life" than pretty much any modern country. Furthermore, we stubbornly resist any idea that has been implemented elsewhere (say, Europe) before we thought of it as being "European". Except for describing a vacation location, the word "European" is pejorative.

I’m an incredibly lucky person. I was born into a place on Earth where, as a white male, I could enjoy "The American Dream" at the lowest difficulty level needed to obtain it.

But today that same demographic doesn’t have the same option. And it’s not being taken away by increasing minority populations or affirmative action or illegal immigration. It’s being taken away by student loan debt, a housing market viewed as a profit center, a health industry that is so institutionalized against change it is actually incented to treat disease for money rather than cure it, corporate taxes that have so many loopholes the effective rate is zero which deprives the government of revenue, politicians that have to worry about re-election more than governing, and finally, a system that feeds direct control of our well being, infrastructure, defense, drug approval, rights, and all the machinations of government into a tiny fraction of the population who gamed the system then used it to buy and sell the politicians they need to achieve their goals.

Their goals. Not our goals. Not society’s goals. Not the country’s goals. It’s hard for the lowest difficulty people, so imagine everyone else.

I’ve left out a bunch. The challenges of sex and race, our privatized prison system and militarized police. Our need to build weapons we don’t need to fight wars we should have thought twice about before getting into.

This article really resonated with me and I urge everyone, conservative and liberal to read it. It’s not anti-conservative or anti-patriotic or anti-liberal to suggest someone is doing something better. It doesn’t much affect our power as a nation state to implement some of these ideas.

http://www.thenation.com/article/after-i-lived-in-norway-america-felt-backward-heres-why/

We used to be a country that took on big social changes or projects. The Civil War. An income tax. The railroads. The highway system. Social Security. Medicare and Medicaid. Federal oversight of safety of everything from cars to food to drugs. Landing on the moon. Rovers on Mars. The space shuttle.

I don’t expect anyone to wholesale change their minds over one article, and there are loads of challenges and caveats to some of what I said above. But when solving these problems the American Way is to let the perfect be the enemy of the good, then work to undo as much of the good as we can because either it wasn’t perfect or it’s a "non-american" idea.

It’s time we looked around, and realized we’re not some lone beacon on a hill that no one else must ever live without. Because we’re feeding our own people, our values, and the very future of the country into the fire that lights that beacon. And it’s not necessary.

There *is* American Exceptionalism. It’s that we intentionally confuse social welfare with totalitarianism. We confuse economic models with "more" or "less" individual freedom. This belief is actually not the case. Our freedom lies in our ability to speak our minds, limitations on the government to intrude on our homes or compel us to incriminate ourselves, […]

Top 5 Tips for Nice Guys: #4 Will SHOCK You!

2 Commentary 2 Comments

(Please note this article is written in a CIS/Heteronormative voice. Probably everything in this article can be considered applicable to a variety of different types of interaction on the sexual fluidity/Relationship diversity scale, however at our core we are still coming to grips with the very concept of gender and whether it’s an outdated way to look at things. From that perspective I felt the topics addressed here would be best spoken in that voice and isn’t meant to be dismissive of the entire spectrum. Secondly, this is a touchy subject. I accept I might be COMPLETELY WRONG in the positions I take here. Keep the discussion lively but civil. Remember, I used to ban people for a living.)

So you’re a nice guy. I know, it sucks. You’ve had an encounter with someone that you felt was far more meaningful than they did. You didn’t even think of it sexually even; you just want someone to love. You abhor the very concept of sexual violence, disrespect, or sexism. You go out of your way when interacting with potential partners to really listen and internalize what is important to them. You’re not a prowler or a creeper, and don’t believe anyone owes you anything. Sex would be nice, but you’re ok with that not being an immediate outcome.

You really are a nice guy. You feel like crap however because that doesn’t seem to be getting you anywhere.

First off, congratulations! I’m proud of you. A lot of people would argue that you shouldn’t be congratulated or get a pat on the back for being a decent person, that the very concept of you being a truly nice guy doesn’t deserve to be pointed out because it should be the default state.

Except…

We’re all human. We all fall short of who we want to be sometimes. We should pat people on the back (metaphorically!) if only to remind ourselves to be better than our lowest nature. So… deep breath. Take some solace in the fact that more often than not you are great partner material.

But you still feel like crap. With that in mind, here are some tips that might help you navigate the current thinking and behavior going on in the psychosexual realm that drives a lot of our reconciliation of emotional needs and physical ones (or lack thereof if applicable). And by tips I mean “useful bits of context” not “strategies for getting her into bed.”

#1. Assess the situation.

I’ll say it again, the current environment for discourse on this type of subject sucks for you. However, you have to appreciate how we got here. Generations of abuse, assault, and murder have left a huge swath of our species either afraid to talk or silenced by societal role enforcement. Women in particular are speaking out on these topics precisely because their voice is needed to affect change. Believe me, I have tons of opinions about human sexual and relationship dynamics and I choose not to talk about them accept in certain small audience of friends because now is the time to shut up and listen. No one wants to hear right now about how tough it is to be a truly nice guy in this environment. I know, again that sucks. But sometimes shutting up and absorbing all the viewpoints, even if not applicable to you, is the right thing to do. Everyone deserves an opinion, but not every opinion deserves to have an audience 100% of the time.

No. Sometimes you have to just drop it. Because you have to…

#2: Cope with being privileged.

Being told you’re privileged is ultimately a dismissal. It devalues you as a person and stereotypes you into a societal bucket because no matter what you do that bucket is deeper than any method you could use to climb out of it. Everything you say or do can be dismissed with “You’re privileged and can’t see past it.”

It’s also, unfortunately for your emotions, probably true.

If you’re a white straight male especially: congratulations you are privileged in a large segment of Western society! No, you didn’t ask for it. No, you don’t feel comfortable with it. Yes, you can fight to end it. But you have to cope with the fact you have both hands in the Palmolive and are soaking in it. I’ve even seen guys say out loud, “If I’d known it was going to be this tortuous I would not have taken the choice to be privileged if offered!” or “It’s been tough for me too!”

Stop that. The very fact you are saying things like that reflects your privilege because…

#3: You have to accept the alternative is far worse.

Aw, you’re feeling some sadness over a girl you love who likes men you think are horrible for her? That’s adorable. Try growing up with brown skin in most sections of the United States. Or being female just about anywhere in the world. Sorry but it’s time for some tough love. Your sadness is a valid feeling. What you do with it is what should be your focus. The temporary sadness over a relationship situation will fade, constant fear of sexual assault or harassment or getting shot just walking around whether you’re 8 or 80 doesn’t fade. You have to learn to walk away at some level emotionally and put things into a greater context.

Of course you should tell this person how you feel. And, should it not work out (despite psychosexual programming from Hollywood movies and top 10 pop hits where the persistent suitor usually prevails) you have to take a deep breath and go invest your time and effort with someone else. Yes, friendship is less a life than you hoped with this person. But to hinge everything that makes them valuable as an individual on romantic emotions devalues them as much as being bucketed as “privileged” makes you feel when you read about it. If you can’t get over that simple fact then…

#4: Go attach live jumper cables to your nipples.

Because…

#5: You have to learn the hardest fact: The universe and people in particular don’t by default owe you anything, up to and including having the precise relationship you want with precisely the individual you have chosen.

So you have a deep emotional connection with someone that isn’t reciprocated at the same level, and you just want this person to understand how deeply you feel despite their choice and want to tell them. Your mind continually bombards you with the phrase you most want to say “You don’t understand! I’m a nice guy!” When what you are really saying is “I don’t understand! Why aren’t you connecting at the same level?”

You have to drop it. Seeking relationships is like random atoms colliding. I do not believe in any way in the “soul mate” theory, and judging from society’s propensity to have second, or third marriages (five if you are a Republican politician legislating morality SHOTSFIRED) most people actually don’t either. But our songs and books and movies and our culture celebrate the idea such that it makes it hard to let go when the other person just isn’t that into you. If you have to say to someone “But I’m a nice guy…” you have to ask yourself why you are communicating that. To reiterate, what you are saying is “You’re wrong! Rethink your choice!” You’re devaluing one of the most important decisions someone can make: Who they choose to be with. Worse, you are doing it in a way that countless men have coopted as a tactic to emotionally punish a woman for not having sex with him, even if you individually didn’t expect that as the immediate outcome.

So.

I’m 43 and divorced. By no means do I look at this list as a “I figured it out! Just do what I do!” list. But each of these tips (#4 is bracing!) at some level actually can make things better because they allow you to see your immediate gut emotions in a far larger context, which allows you use them to further your own happiness.

I would not want to be with someone I had to badger for months or years to be with me. I’ve certainly had that experience. You always end up sabotaging yourself by forcing a situation because you believe that all relationships (if the person could just see the real you) would yield your soul mate. I’ve failed at that and most likely will do so again. You will too!

It’s how you deal with it that matters.

You’re a nice guy. Again, I congratulate you. But as the old storytelling adage goes, “Show. Don’t Tell.” (why is it called Storytelling then and not Storyshowing…I digress)

Women have a hard enough time dealing with the guys who aren’t nice. I would imagine that as a general group they don’t need another vector by which to have to worry about the choices they should feel free to make.

(Please note this article is written in a CIS/Heteronormative voice. Probably everything in this article can be considered applicable to a variety of different types of interaction on the sexual fluidity/Relationship diversity scale, however at our core we are still coming to grips with the very concept of gender and whether it’s an outdated way […]

No there ain’t no rest for the wicked, till we close our eyes for good.

4 Commentary | Misc | Reflection 4 Comments

I’m sitting in a posh hotel bar in San Francisco. Just a couple of months ago, I was looking at the city from a much different view, that of an ICU bed at Pacific Medical Center.

I sit here now, like I sit each day, wondering a little bit about what I am going to do with the gift I have been given. You see I was dead for a short bit. Well, mostly dead. At one point the Neurologists had concluded they could detect little electrical activity in my brain, my foot and ocular reflexes were zero: no response, that of a person brain dead or with severe brain damage. An ammonia buildup in my brain combined with a septic infection in my lungs had put me into a coma. The verdict was that I was either already gone, or so far gone I would not return in anything resembling a normal state.

Then something happened. Thanks to the charity of my friends and followers on Twitter and Facebook and just awesome people in general, my family was able to all fly in to San Francisco from Dallas to say goodbye and decide when to pull the plug. Things were that bad.
Then I woke up. Then I got better. Then I got a lot better. Then I got almost normal. Then I got pretty much normal. And now I sit here awaiting my dinner (Salad!) and a ginger beer three months later, and I stop often to think about this continue button I got to press.

When I was out at the deepest level, the “he’s pretty much brain dead” level, I was locked in. I was aware, but unable to communicate or move. I was able to prove this later by recounting conversations around me that happened at that time that I otherwise could not have known about. During that, I lived other lifetimes. I had no temporal sense at all. It was the single worst thing I have ever experienced, by far, because I was just gone enough mentally to be so confused I thought it was normal. When I awoke they could have told me I had been out for 5 years, 5 weeks, or the 5 days I was actually out and I would have believed them. It is, for all methods I could possibly think of, impossible to describe. This isn’t a case of “It felt like forever”, this is a case of being left out in forever entirely, so deep you have no frame of reference for the word “forever.” I moved from fragments of lucidity to dreamstates to…well something I simply cannot describe to you.

There was no tunnel with a light at the end, there was no sense of anything guiding me or spiritual. There was simply this existence out of time, experiences so far reaching sometimes they hit me out of the blue, not in a traumatic way, but in a way that makes me feel somehow much older. I feel, on occasion, weary mentally. Not unlike I’ve been around in this universe way way too long. It’s not especially unpleasant, and some of the experiences I remember were positive. But it tends to take me by surprise when it happens and it’s sometimes hard to shove aside.

Again, these…reveries I suppose they could be called, are not unpleasant or traumatic. I recovered physically such that I am out of any apparent danger, exercising and trying to eat well. They serve to give me pause and reflection about what happened to me, which is a good thing because I don’t want to forget and become complacent about getting a second chance at so many things. I’m extraordinary lucky to get my health back. I live in a beautiful house on a large plot of land in a beautiful part of the country. I have my dog Basil whose unbridled joy at discovering a simple rock in the back yard never fails to make me smile, and I have a life and more full of friends and people who care about me who I inadvertently scared the shit out of.

Being a writer I am of course mining as much of the experience as possible for pieces to perform, believe it or not there is a tremendous amount of humor to be found in the situation once you’re past it. There will be news on that version of events pretty soon.

But for some reason tonight I thought it best to think about the poignant part of what happened to me, that sense of immense age that hits me out of nowhere sometimes. I’m still me, I escaped any lasting brain impacting issues. My follow-ups are all a-ok.

And even with all the time I felt like I lived in that very weird block of darkness, it still would not be enough time to thank everyone properly who came to my aid, from family to friends. From people I’ve known for decades to people I don’t know at all, but who know me through my writing or performances or work. From people I’ve worked with in the past, and people I work with now at HackerOne. The Internet is a wondrous and complicated thing, full at once with 1’s that are angry at 0’s and vice versa. But it also brings us closer together, and I like to think that as loud and painful as the bad parts are, they are still overall in the minority. Something I try to minimize but sometimes falter at.

Next to me a couple is arguing, from the snippets it sounds like a breakup. Across the restaurant there’s a guy sitting alone like me, reading what I think is the latest Jack Reacher book. My salad is half gone, as is the ginger beer. Moments feel immeasurably longer than that every once in a while, just for a brief bit. But that’s more or less where I’m at too.

I’m only half done.

I’m sitting in a posh hotel bar in San Francisco. Just a couple of months ago, I was looking at the city from a much different view, that of an ICU bed at Pacific Medical Center. I sit here now, like I sit each day, wondering a little bit about what I am going to […]

And We Give Thanks So That There May Be An Accounting In Our Hearts Of Blessings

0 Commentary | Life | Misc | Reflection No Comments

First Thanksgiving alone and spent it awake all night.

That doesn’t mean I’m not thankful for things. I’m thankful for all the good parts of my marriage to Rochelle. I’m thankful for all our pets here and gone (Illusion, Isabeau, Hennessey, Adia, Buddy, Remington Martin, Eowyn Marie, Medallion, Basil Hayden, and Aspen Blue).

I’m thankful for family, heroes, and friends both here and gone (quite literally too many for my brain to hold)

I’m thankful for HBO and Microsoft and the opportunities they have afforded me. I’m thankful for my job now at Black Tusk Studios getting to work on Gears of War. And the apartment I’m in that bridged a difficult gap into a new little place that has a nice sandy beach for Basil to play on that I start moving into this weekend.

I’m thankful for Ikea. If nothing else I will have a bed.

They don’t celebrate Thanksgiving at the same time we do up here in Canada (Canadian Thanksgiving was in October), so today is a work day. I have not decided what bird to cook tonight, it can’t be a turkey of course, too big. But I’ll have my tiny celebration nonetheless and begin to pack for the weekend move.

I hope you and yours have a wonderful day.

First Thanksgiving alone and spent it awake all night. That doesn’t mean I’m not thankful for things. I’m thankful for all the good parts of my marriage to Rochelle. I’m thankful for all our pets here and gone (Illusion, Isabeau, Hennessey, Adia, Buddy, Remington Martin, Eowyn Marie, Medallion, Basil Hayden, and Aspen Blue). I’m thankful […]