Who Am I Talking Too?

My dog always has to go outside when I play Heroes Of The Storm with my friends.  At first I thought I just noticed it more when playing online because of the inconvenience of telling everybody, “AFK doggy BIO.” in voice chat and then leaving for a while as I take her outside.  But I’m starting to think that she actually wants to go outside more often when I’m playing online.  Or at least I think she really comes over and stares at me more.

 

Action shot of her staring at me while I’m online gaming, doesn’t it look like she wants something?

 

Ordinarily when she needs to go potty she comes over to where I am in the house and just kind of stares at me for a bit.  So when she stares at me as I game I assume she needs out.  But sometimes while I’m gaming she’ll come over and stare at me thirty minutes after she was just out.  That’s statistically unusual for her.  So what gives?

 

Staring at me doesn’t necessarily mean she needs to do her business.  If I’m eating for example it just means she wants some of my food.  And other times she just wants to be petted and then she’ll wander off and go to sleep.  So what if the staring during Heroes of the Storm is something else, besides begging for food or attention or needing to water the lawn?

 

I’m starting to think it’s because I’m on voice chat.  I wonder if she’s just confused about why I’m talking out loud when nobody else is home.  She must think I’m going completely insane!  Maybe she wonders if I’m talking to her, and she’s staring at me trying to figure out what I want her to do.  She’s like, “I’m right here, why are you telling me to ‘push top lane’, whatever that means?”

 

I’m going to continue to take her outside when she stares at me because if I’m wrong and she does need to ‘start streaming’ I want her to do it outside.  But maybe after the third Doggy Bio Break in one gaming session I’ll wait a bit before going again.  I think we’re both just totally confused by the others behavior.

American Truck Simulator

I’m continuing my experimentation with racing games today with the kind of fast paced high speed maximum velocity racing game that makes NASCAR fans hearts beat faster.  American Truck Simulator!  This game simulates being a truck driver.  You get to stay inside the lines, keep under the speed limit, and corner very carefully so as not to damage your cargo.  My adrenaline is pumping just thinking about it!

 

Hauling some kind of construction equipment down a little side street is pretty challenging, those little roads are narrow and full of turns.

 

Okay, this game isn’t an adrenaline junkies wet dream.  But as a generally nervous person this is my dream.  Peacefully driving down the highway, in a virtual world where crashing will have no consequences, I can achieve a relaxed state of mind.  I can “zone out” while hauling a trailer across California.  In short, this game is turbo chill.

There is some beautiful scenery to enjoy, but remember to keep your eyes on the road.

 

A lot of people drive in real life for fun and relaxation.  I’ve always struggled with that, driving is stressful for me.  It makes me nervous.  But I think I can achieve a similar effect to that of people who drive to relax in real life by driving in the video game world.  I find that distracting part of mind with the menial task of keeping the vehicle inside my lane and gently turning around the corners frees up another part of my mind to wander a bit.  But not the way I disappear completely into my imagination when I’m daydreaming in a boring meeting or something, the need to pay a little bit of attention to playing the game or driving the vehicle keeps me anchored a bit.  It helps me think about stuff in a way that other activities don’t.

 

You can haul a big, rectangular trailer.  But I find hauling construction equipment looks cooler when I pause the game to take pictures. 

 

If you want you can run a company, hire workers, plan routes to maximize profits, buy better trucks and trick them out.  There’s a lot “under the hood” if you want.  And you can chose to play it very realistically, manually shifting gears, signalling your turns, always staying within the speed limit.  Or you can get a bit silly, pass people on the shoulder, drive into oncoming traffic, or see how fast you can go while hauling construction equipment.  And there is a lot of challenge there, can you drive cargo from Los Angeles to Las Vegas without a single speeding ticket, collision, or without running a single red light?  You have the freedom to play how you want.  And for me playing it *pretty much* realistically is what makes it peaceful and fun.

 

In closing, American Truck Simulator is not really a racing game.  But whatever kind of game it is, it’s a good one.

 

Here’s a YouTube video I made of me actually playing the game.

 

The Fall

A man stands up.  Where was his phone?  His lap, his pocket, his hand?  Now his phone is in the air.  Falling.  The man raises his left foot and moves it forward.  His phone impacts the floor.  Sound vibrates through the air and hits his eardrums.  Electrical impulses shoot form his ears to his brain.  His mind recognizes the sound of his cell phone landing on the ground.  Adrenaline.  Where exactly did the phone land?  His foot falls, completing the step he began a moment before.  His foot is on his phone.  He shifts his weight to the other foot.  He looses balance.  Now he is in the air.  Falling.   Sound vibrates through his bones as he hits the ground.  Electrical impulses shoot from the body parts that hit the floor the hardest.  He’s hurting.  His hands feel the floor.  Searching.  His left hand finds his phone.  Lifting it, bringing it to his face.  His eyes scan it.  Electrical impulses shoot from his eyes to his brain.  His mind is relieved.  The phone is okay.  His body is hurt.  His body will heal.  The phone is fine.  Relief.

Personal Assistants

An important person like myself naturally has a personal assistant.  I couldn’t get through the day without her.  She schedules my appointments and makes sure I’m on time to meetings.  She answers questions I might have and tells me about good places to eat.  And in the middle of the night I can ask her what time it is so I don’t even have to open my eyes.  I just say, “Hey Siri, what time is it?” and she tells me.  She’s great.
Everything has a digital personal assistant built into it these days.  The iPhone obviously has Siri.  All the Not An iPhone phones have assistants too. Windows has Cortona.  Electronic Digital Assistants are like fidget spinners, everybody has to have one nowadays.
Obvy, I like this because I saw people talking to the computer and the computer answering them on Star Trek.  So many things from Star Trek are starting to pop up in real life that a hard core nerd could almost believe Star Trek is real.  You know, late at night when you’re only half awake and asking Siri what time it is.  I can almost see myself on the bridge of the Enterprise and … I mean, a hypothetical other person could forget Star Trek isn’t real….yet.
There are some privacy concerns with phones and TV’s and other devices listening to you all the time.  If you’re phone is listening for you to call it’s name does that mean it’s listening to everything?  Who else can listen to your phone listening to you?  It’s not something I have to worry about too much because nobody cares if I’m asking Siri what time it is in the middle of the night.  And I can’t think of a single conversation I’ve had today that anybody would want to listen in on.  Usually I can’t make people listen to me even when I’m talking right at them.  Plus there’s all kinds of security to prevent people from spying on you through your phone.  But it’s important to point out that this technology isn’t perfect.  Unlike nuclear energy and gun powder this new technology could potentially have negative side effects.
There’s still a long way to go before we maximize this tech.  A robot voice in my phone that can schedule things in my calendar is nice and all.  But until we put that AI in a robotic body that can walk around and play basketball and give hugs we’re only taking advantage of the minimum of what this technology is capable of.  Siri needs a body.  So she can carry my luggage and do stuff.

Project CARS

I’m not a Petrol Head (that’s what they call car lovers on Top Gear which is in the UK, I guess in America we’d say Gas Head) nor do I play a lot of racing games.  Super Mario Kart is probably the racing game I’ve spent the most time in and it’s probably not what Gas Heads would call “hardcore”.  But lately I’ve been trying out more serious racing games.  Which brings me to today’s article, a review of Project Cars.  A game that is at least twice as serious and half as silly as Mario Kart.

Catching air, this time on purpose!

Project Cars has everything you want in a racing game.  It has cars and places to drive them.  Some of the cars go very fast.  Some of them look like race cars and some look like ordinary cars.  And some look like Go Karts, because they are Go Karts.  And the game keeps track of how quickly everyone finishes the race and the fastest person wins.  I don’t know much about racing games but Project Cars seems to have it all.

Even if you aren’t fast you can still enjoy the beautiful scenery.

The graphics are great.  There’s a course where you drive down the California coast that is just gorgeous.  Even if you spend most of the time spinning out and crashing into the railings there’s some lovely scenery to look at.

Proving it’s more realistic the Mario Kart, Project CARS let’s you in the cockpit.

The number of things you can customize in the garage is staggering.  You can decrees the traction control which allows you to “drift” and also makes it easier to “spin out of control and crash”.  You can modify a million other things too and save those changes per track.

I’m in the blue and yellow one.  It looks fast.

I haven’t tried the online play but the option is there if you want.  I probably should play online a bit, if for no other reason than to make other people feel better about themselves.

Here’s a YouTube video of me actually playing Project CARS.  Watch me and mock my complete lack of skill.

In conclusion I give Project Cars a 5 out of 5.  The only thing that would make it better is blue shells and banana peels.

 

Gang Wars

There’s a turf war raging in the world today.  Gangs roam the streets doing battle with those who sport enemy colors.  They aren’t limited to one neighborhood or city or country.  It’s a worldwide epidemic.  Coordinating on Facebook and Twitter and … I don’t know SnapChat I guess?  They strike deep into their rivals territory then drive (or bike) away.  There’s a three way battle for the world raging right under your eyes.

 

I’m speaking of course about Pokemon Go.  It’s been out for a while now but it’s still pretty popular in certain circles.  Even though about 75% of the people I know who had played it at launch have stopped the remaining 25% of players are still trying to Catch ‘Em All.  And a subset of that group is hard core.

 

Now I haven’t gotten hard core about Pokemon Go myself because … I’m lazy mostly.  But I hear stories, which I assume are true because life is more exciting that way, of people who coordinate the capture and retention of Pokemon Go Gyms.  Basically places in the world that are Pokemon Go Gyms can be battled over in the game and if you control a gym you get … I don’t know but I guess it’s good.  I’ve never gotten good enough at the game to capture a gym myself.  But these folks will literally call their teammates and all drive out to a gym together to capture it, or to re-capture it if another team grabs it.  So, according to reliable sources (i.e. coworkers)  if you capture one of these gyms and wait there for a few minutes four or five cars will pull up, retake the gym, and then drive off.  It sound awesome and also terrifying.

 

I like Pokemon Go.  I started playing again recently because it’s finally summer in Alaska (Pokemon Go was not much fun in the Alaskan Winter, although that probably didn’t stop the hardcore players)  and it’s a great excuse to get outside and get some much needed exercise and sunshine.   But the idea of coordinating with other people to this level and paying this much attention to it 24/7 … that’s not why I play video games.  I’m casual, in all things I’m casual.  I have a lot of respect for the hardcore and I see the appeal, but if I ever do capture a gym and then later on I lose it I’m probably not getting out of my chair to go reclaim it.  I’ll just say, “Nice while it lasted.” And keep watching my show.

Obsoletification

 

Cursive handwriting is becoming less common these days.  (Cursive speaking on the other hand is alive and well.)  There’s a lot of debate about whether we should make an effort to keep cursive handwriting around or if we should just let it go.  I don’t really have an opinion.  I never use cursive myself because … it just never comes up.  But if people want to keep teaching it in school that’s fine with me.  There’s lots of things they taught me in school that I never used again, what’s one more?

 

What’s interesting to me is the idea that a style of writing that used to be common is potentially fading away and what other things might also fade away in the future?

 

What about typing?  With voice to text systems we might be at the very beginning of speaking to our computers instead of typing to them.  I love talking to Siri on my iPhone.  Every electronic thing is getting a virtual assistants that you can talk to these days.  Dragon Naturally Speaking and other programs have let us compose letters, documents, even books by speaking to the computer.  So will we reach a point in the distant future when we stop typing on keyboards all together?  There’s problems of course with speaking to the computer.  Other people can overhear you for example.  Not ideal for an office environment or working on the train or texting from the toilet in a public bathroom.  But will we overcome those issues in the future?  And if so … will there be a generation of kids who never knew that old fashioned keyboards had the alphabet out of order?

 

Self driving cars look entirely feasible, before I die I might be chauffeured around in a self driving car.  And I don’t mean that I’ll be in a self driving car at the time that I die, just that they might become common in my lifetime.  If they do will people stop learning to drive themselves?  My guess is that not everybody will.  I bet people will drive manually for fun the same way people ride horses for fun.  But driving could be something only enthusiasts learn instead of everybody.  And considering how everybody drives that could be a good thing.

 

Many toilets flush themselves when they sense you’re … finished.  Will we forget how to flush in the future?  Many people seem to have already forgotten.

 

With online shopping we don’t have to go the store much anymore.  And now there’s little buttons you can tap to reorder things.  Or systems you talk to that order things for you.  And systems that detect when they’re low on supplies and order things automatically.  Will we forget how to go shopping in the future?  Is it so bad if we do?

 

There’s all sorts of things that we may stop doing in the future.  But just like making our own butter by hand I bet people who grow up without these things won’t even miss them.

Desktop Versus Laptop

I have thought about the pros and cons of desktops and laptops for decades and the debate rages on.  So today I’d like to discuss the differences here in a completely fair, balanced, and unbiased fashion.

Desktop Pros:

Desktops are generally cheaper than laptops.  Unless you count Chrome Books in the laptops category.  Or look at super high end gaming computers.  Suffice it to say that desktops are cheaper than laptops except for when they’re not.

Desktops are easy to tinker with.  You can open up a desktop computer and swap components or rearrange the interior cabling or store Red Bull’s inside them.  But if you’re the sort of person who likes to take computers apart but can never get them put back together correctly then maybe the ability to dismantle your computer isn’t a good thing.

Desktops are actually very portable.  As a teenager and while I was in my twenties I would regularly take my desktop computer to friends houses to play multiplayer games with them.  That’s not entirely necessary these days with the internet fad being in full swing.  But the point is that it’s entirely possible to put your desktop computer in your car, drive somewhere else, remove it from your car and reassemble it in a new location.  Then play video games on it with your friends until after midnight and do the whole thing in reverse to take it home.  Although I’ll say the whole process was a bit easier when I was younger.  Maybe computers are starting to weigh more?  They sure feel heavier than they did when I was twenty.

Desktop Cons:

There aren’t any cons.  Desktop computers are great.


Laptop Pros:

Portability.  If you want to take your tiny computer into a public restroom and video conference with your mom while you’re on the toilet then a laptop is for you!

A laptop can be placed under the leg of a table to help steady it if one of the legs is shorter than the others.

Laptops are excellent for hitting people upside the head.  That’s risky though as you may damage the laptop.

Laptop Cons:

Laptops are tiny little computers with tiny little screens and tiny little processors and tiny little hard drives that you can’t easily open up to repair or upgrade and they cost too much.

They are dumb.

The Conclusion:

In conclusion I think you’ll find that my data is impeccable, the analysis was fair and based on sound reasoning.  And that the clear winner is the desktop.  Now if you want to buy a laptop because it’s portable then you certainly should do that, but I will not be accepting video conferencing requests from you.

Creativerse

I’ve been playing Creativerse on Steam lately and really enjoying it.  Creativerse is basically a Minecraft clone.  But I feel bad saying that because whenever people call something a “clone” it sounds derogatory and I don’t mean it derogatorily here.  A clone of something you like, if well done, can be a wonderful thing.

I enjoyed building stuff in Creativerse, even if my buildings are all just boxes.

Creativerse has a lot of the things I like about Minecraft but adds nicer graphics, built in recipes, progression in the form of unlocking new recipes, and a great system for playing online.  It just released recently so I think we can expect it to only get better from here.

My first home was, just like when I play MineCraft, a cave I dug into a mountain.

Somebody who’s already played Minecraft will be right at home here.  I played for hours without looking up anything on Wiki’s or YouTube because everything was easy to figure out.  It’s nice to play a new game and not need to go through a tutorial.

Why do I love farming in video games so much?  I have no idea, but I do.

It has crops to plant, animals to care for, and food to cook.  All the basic “digital farming” stuff you’d expect in a game that tries to simulate living in a world.  You don’t starve to death but the foods give various buffs or regenerate health.  The farming system isn’t as robust as I’d like it to be but it’s good enough.  Hopefully they’ll expand it later maybe?

Of course if you dig down deep enough you find a lava level.  Because of course.  I hear there’s a layer below this lava layer but I haven’t gotten deeper than this yet.

There’s a bunch of different Biomes just like in Minecraft, many on the surface and some more straight down under the ground.  For now, while the game is new, I’m very much enjoying wandering around exploring the world.  Finding new things and seeing what I can craft out of them.  And just seeing the sights.  Plus you can Teleport straight back to your home so you never get lost!  That might seem like “easy mode” to some but for me it makes exploring a lot more fun and relaxing.

The animals are totes adorbs.

It’s free to play so you can try it on Steam for nothing.  But they do charge twenty bucks for a “Pro” version that comes with a glider and other perks.  They have an online store so some of the fancy block types cost real life money to unlock the crafting recipe, that part kind of stinks but nothing they sell is necessary (and once you’ve bought the block you can craft it an unlimited number of times from resources found in game freely).  If those microtransactions mean the game will continue to be developed and improved then I’m okay with that.  I haven’t found any mods for it yet, and that’s the one place it may fail compared to MineCraft is it may not be modable (or not modable as easily as MC at least).  But for me these downside don’t stop me from enjoying the game.  If you liked MineCraft I expect you’ll like Creativerse.  And hey, free to play means you can give it a try easy peasy.

I’m Wrong

Nobody is right about all the things all the time.  It’s statistically impossible* to be right all the time.  Which means you have, all of us have, a bunch of beliefs that are probably wrong.  That we’ll probably figure out are wrong at some point in the future.  Wouldn’t it be great if we could just sit down and go through the list of things we believe and figure out which ones are wrong now and just get it all sorted out?
I believe a lot of things.  That NASA is good for humanity.  That shooter games were the better when I was young.  That one day Self Driving Cars will be the norm and the people who want to drive by hand will do it as a fun hobby.  That Picard was the best captain.  That Dungeons and Dragons 4th edition was the best edition.  That we as a people need to be able to disagree and discuss our different points of view without hating each other.  That reality TV is probably not “reality” at all.  That Pepsi is better than Coke.  That The Hobbit trilogy of movies was fun, but the book is better.

I believe a lot of other stuff stuff too that I won’t list here.  Because people listing things they like on the internet is overdone and because the list would be longer than <insert humorously long thing here>.  The interesting thing is that I’m probably wrong about some of these things.  Now this doesn’t apply to things like my liking Pepsi over Coke because that’s just personal preference.  But ‘NASA being good for humanity’ or’ Self Driving Cars will one day be common’, stuff like that I might be wrong about.  I am almost certainly wrong about several things that I believe right now.  And what’s infuriating is … I can’t tell what they are!

Is NASA good for humanity?  I think so.  I think the technological progress we make when exploring space is a very tangible benefit to the world.  And learning is a good thing in general, it advances humanity.  But am I wrong about NASA?  Are there better things we could spend our money on?  It seems like NASA’s budget is usually around one percent of the US budget, that’s a terribly small percentage but it would still be a lot of money for many other programs.  Would another government program be more beneficial to humanity?  I think NASA is a good thing to spend our money on but how can I be certain?

Will Self Driving Cars be common place in the future?  Well this is a prediction, it’s a guess about the future, and predicting the future is always hard.  It seems to me that once people can Tweet, read FaceBook, eat breakfast and take a nap safely while the car drives them to work people will jump all over that.  It’s scary though, people are nervous about Self Driving Cars, it’s entirely possible that fear will prevent the technology from catching on.  Or even being legal, people afraid of self driving cars might lobby for laws against them.  So it’s hard to be certain about this.  Plus there’s the possibility that they won’t work very well, I believe we have the technology and will continue to improve the technology to build very safe self driving cars but it’s at least possible that I’m wrong about that.  I think Self Driving Cars will be awesome, but how can I be certain?

We as a people need to learn how to disagree and discuss our different points of view without hating each other.  That sounds like a great idea to me.  But it presupposes that currently people are hating each other when holding different points of view.  I feel like everything we see in the news media and social media is people hatefully shouting at each other for believing differently.  But what if that perception is faulty?  What if most people can sit down and discuss different points of view with civility and respect for each other?  What if it just seems worse than it is because shouting is entertaining enough to be shown on our various media’s while calm discussion is not?  I’m confident that we should discuss differences politely, but how can I be certain that we aren’t already doing that most of the time and I just don’t see it?

Those are three things I believe that aren’t just personal preferences.  And when I look at each of those three things I think I’m right about each of them.  But I know that I can’t be right about everything, no human is right about all the things all the time, so I might be wrong about one of these things and not even realize it.  I might be staring at something I wrote that is wrong right now and I don’t even see it!

Usually when you change your mind about something it’s because you’ve learned something new.  Or you’ve learned that some fact that you had based your old belief on is wrong.  Or you’ve had an experience that causes you to look at things a new way.  It’s hard to think about things you believe and reevaluate them without any new data.  So the best thing to do is keep learning.  Keep seeking out new information.  Keep listening to people who believe differently and find out why they do.  Then, as you learn and grow, go back and reevaluate things you used to believe to see if they still make sense with what you know now.

Every once in a while I drink a Coke, just to see if I still like Pepsi better.  Go out today and drink a Coke.  Or if you already like Coke best then drink a Pepsi, you know what I mean.

*Is it only statistically improbable or is it close enough to impossible that we can just round it off?