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.

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.

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.

Inevitability Of Time

Every morning that I go to work I say to myself, “Let’s just try to get through another day.”  It’s a ridiculous thing to say though because I’ll “get through another day” regardless of my efforts.  Time will shove me along until it’s lunch time.  Then I’ll relax into the booth of a nearby restaurant and will savoir those moments of sweet freedom.  But of course Time will be there, continuing to push me along until lunchtime is over.  I’ll go back to work and think, “Only four hours left.  Just gotta get through this.”  But I will absolutely get through this, I have no choice but to get through this, because Time is still there dragging me forward until it’s quitting time.  Then I’ll race home to enjoy the evening away from the office.  But here’s the big surprise, Time is still there!  Pushing me forward, forward, always pushing me forward until bedtime, morning time and then another work day.  Which it will mercifully push me through to the end.  The inevitability of time is both a blessing and a curse.  Whatever you’re going through Time will push you through it until it’s over.

Time pushes us along,

Through good times and bad,

If we sing a song,

Or cry and feel sad,

Time is merciless and does not judge,

Whether we run or walk or trudge,

Time carries us through good and bad,

So there’s time enough for both to be had.

 

Collect All The Things

Heroes of the Storm is launching their 2.0 update soon*  and I’m pretty excited about it.  I love collecting cosmetic things for my video game characters and 2.0 is bringing new stuff to amass.  And it brings ways to collect them without having to spend real life money (back in my day HotS skins cost real money and we liked it!).  I still won’t be good at the game but at least I’ll look good while losing!

Collecting is something that most geeks are into.  We collect Funko Pops, books (both Comic and Just Words varieties), pins, cards from Magic The Gathering and other CCG’s, board games, consoles, computers, dice, stuffed animals, action figures, toys, posters, empty soda cans (when I was a child) and internet memes.  And a million more things besides.  When we see a set of something we only have two choices, ignore it completely or COLLECT ALL THE THINGS!

It’s weird to think about our ancestors and wonder where this desire evolved from.  How was an urge to collect things helpful when we were hunter gatherers?  Was there a benefit to collecting one of each mammoth bone?  I can imagine it would help impress potential mates to have a full mammoth skeleton in your possession, but the tribe might get angry when you tried to carry the whole set to the next hunting camp.  In fact I’m pretty sure primitive humans didn’t have a concept of ownership, which seems to make collecting things pointless.  Unless everything you collected was to be shared with the tribe instead of shown off to make everyone jealous, which is why we do it today.

Collecting digital things in video games is a little strange because you can’t show them off to people unless they play that game.  In real life you can exhibit anything to anybody.  I have a collection of Lego sets on display in my home (if you display it then it BECOMES art) and I can show those Legos to anybody.  My sweet transmog set in World Of Warcraft impresses nobody who doesn’t play the game.  And when you tell them how long it took to collect all those appearances it doesn’t make it seem more valuable to non-gamers it just makes you look like a crazy person.
I do really enjoy setting my video game character apart from everyone else’s video game character.  When you play a game like Heroes of the Storm Gazlowe always looks the same and that gets boring.  Until, that is, you get a new skin for him.  And once enough different skins exist then when you see Gazlowe on the other team he looks different than he does when you play him.  And when you see a teammate play him in the next game he looks different still.  And that variety is fun and keeps things visually interesting.  So personally I like video games to have as many cosmetic things as possible.  Not only so I can obsessively collect them all.  I mean it’s mostly so I can obsessively collect them all.  But it’s also a little bit so we can change things up and keep things visually interesting.   I have a short attention span so if I’m going to play Gazlowe enough to get level 10 I’m going to need to change his outfit.

Of course collecting things isn’t all about impressing other people, not primarily anyway.  It’s ultimately something you do for yourself.  You see something you like, Legos or HotS, and you think, “How can I reach out and hug this thing I like so much?”  and the answer is to collect it.  To display it.  To smile when you gaze upon your collection and think, “Should I arrange them alphabetically or by color?”

* As I write this it isn’t out yet, although in a weird time travel way when you read this it is already out, what’s the future like?

Wondering and Wandering

Work has been especially busy and stressful lately and it’s not going to get better for a while.  Ordinarily I would use sick leave until the hard work was finished but this time I specifically have to do it myself.  Even if I stay home sick the work will just wait until I get back.  So, reluctantly, I am working hard all day.

This has me thinking about how to recharge myself in my free time.  It’s important that I come to work tomorrow ready to think straight, work hard, and not scream profanities at the first person who can’t remember their password.  So what’s the best way to do that?

How do you recharge your brain?

I’ve struggled with concentration all my life.  And work is asking me to concentrate and focus almost all the time lately!  So I’ve been looking for leisure activities that let my mind wander.  The idea is that I can let myself get all my non-concentrating and un-focused thinking out of my system at home so I can buckle down and pay attention at work the next day.  To do this I look for activities that occupy my brain enough to not be bored but that are easy enough that my mind is free to think about … whatever it wants.  If my mind wonders about some random thing it can wander over to that thought and think about it as long as it wants or not at all.  Like letting a puppy run around and smell things.  I’m letting my imagination run around smelling whatever it wants.  If that metaphor doesn’t make sense it’s because I lost focus halfway through this paragraph.

World of Warcraft has been a great way to let my mind wonder and wander.  Doing the daily World Quests is easy and I’m basically on autopilot.  Even other solo question things are fairly easy to do and free up my brain to think about whatever it wants.  (Although I have noticed its thoughts are inspired by WoW.)  But it’s still a thing I can do without placing any rules or constraints on my concentration.  (Are there ducks in WoW?  I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen a duck in WoW.  Sorry, random thought.)

Farming Simulator is a game I’ve played a lot of that lets my mind wander a too.  It’s mostly about driving large farm machines and the act of driving around an ideal little farm space is wonderfully relaxing.  And since there’s no danger of me driving into a tree or losing and arm in a giant machine in the video game my mind can wander all it wants.

Farming Simulator combines my five year old love of big machines with the peaceful tranquility of outdoor life.  And the mind is free to wander when you’re basically driving in circles all day.

But there’s a completely different option other than letting my mind wander, and that’s to occupy it fully.  Reading a book has been a big one for me lately.  Reading demands my full attention more than watching TV does because if I lose focus the book doesn’t continue playing in the background (Unless it’s an audio book I suppose.)  That extra concentration is a big deterrent to reading sometimes, if I’m tired and think I might like a nap then watching TV is the way to go.  But I’ve been enjoying the fact that while reading a book my brain is sort of being guided along the path.  Instead of being a hyperactive puppy running around randomly the story takes my mind on a walk and keeps it leashed so it doesn’t go off into the bushes.  (I’m really enjoying the Mind Is A Puppy metaphor.)

Ultimately I don’t know which is better for recharging my batteries for work tomorrow.  And there’s obviously other things like diet, exercise, and getting plenty of sleep that are important for that sort of thing too.  But when I really think about what I can do to help me feel ready to face the day tomorrow it at least makes me aware of what I’m doing and how it affects me.  Just paying attention to my mental state and trying to respond to what it needs probably helps a lot.  Otherwise I end up at bedtime thinking, “What did I even do in my free time today?  I’m not sure I did anything.  I can’t go to work tomorrow, I haven’t even started recreating!”

And the boss does not give you a day off because you forgot to do anything fun last night.

1d20

When you’re a geek you’re gaming life is left largely to chance.  Literally.  Random numbers are a huge part of most geek games.  You roll dice in D&D and table top war games and board games and even card games.  Video games use random number generators that you never see to do the same thing.

What’s weird is that we play these games largely to test our analytical and strategic abilities.  We spend all this time thinking up brilliant plans and maneuvering pieces into optimal positions and then hope the random numbers come out in our favor.  No matter how perfect your plan is it all comes down to a little bit of chance.  Is that a metaphor for life?   Because if it is then that’s super depressing.

Randomness isn’t all bad, it gives us a chance to win even when we’re playing badly.  And as someone who almost always plays badly that’s a really great thing.  Nothing upsets your opponent more than playing poorly but winning because they rolled a one.

There are a million superstitions surrounding the random number generators.  People blow their dice, or talk sweetly to them, or throw them away if they have a bad night.  People roll new dice a hundred times to break them in.  People yell at you if you touch their dice.

Back on the NES there was an Ultima game, Exodus maybe, that had some spell that would either do tons of damage or almost none.  It seemed completely random until you realized (or read about it in Nintendo Power) that it wasn’t random at all.  The enemies were animated, and by animated I mean they had two pictures and it cycled back and forth between them.  In one picture their left foot was down, in the other their right foot was down.  This gave them the appearance of walking in place which doesn’t seem like a very intimidating thing for monsters to do but back in my day that’s all we had and we liked it.  The spells success or failure was based on which animation frame was active when you cast the spell, in other words if you pushed the button when the monsters left foot was down it succeeded brilliantly and if their right foot was down it failed.  The mind blowing thing was that after hours of crossing my fingers every time I cast the spell I suddenly had complete control over it.  With just a little practice I could nail it each time.  Ever since I’ve been searching for patterns and tricks that would let me take control of any and all “random” things in my life.  If you ever see me rolling dice and you pay attention to my feet you’ll notice I always lift my right foot.  I’m always hoping that someway somehow real life is just as easy to manipulate as an 80’s video game.

I have a whole spiel on how I think life might be a giant simulation (which validates the idea that nothing in the world is truly random and maybe I can control it by lifting my right foot).  Kind of like the matrix except I’m the only real human and you’re all NPC’s.  But I rolled some dice before writing this post, an even roll would mean this article and odd would mean the simulation thing.  So if you want to hear my simulation theory you’ll just have to hope I roll odd Tuesday night.