Geek-out time!

Okay, displaying my geekery here more than somewhat. For those who don’t know, the success of the Wii has both Sony and Microsoft working on their own solutions for non-traditional, motion-based video game controllers. The PlayStation Move is much more similar to the Wiimote than Microsoft’s offering for the XBox 360, which is called Kinect. Kinect basically uses cameras and an array of sensors to track objects, including human bodies, in 3-D space without you having to actually hold anything: you just move and gesture, and things happen on the screen. Naturally, Microsoft doesn’t want anyone else messing with it; and naturally, the thing was reverse-engineered within a day or two of release and now techy folks are starting to do wild and crazy things with it.

Which is all just a long preamble so that I can post this cool video:

This guy takes video from the Kinect camera, adds the depth information that the Kinect also provides in real-time, and creates a 3-D extruded video that can be viewed from any angle. If you’ve seen Minority Report, you can see that the result looks pretty much like the scene where Tom Cruise watches holographic videos of his lost family — except now anyone can do that, not just a Hollywood studio, using $150 of retail hardware. I’m looking forward to what’s next! (Especially since, for now at least, I have no interest in the Kinect for actual, you know, gaming…)

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Griftopia

Still reading feverishly about the ongoing financial crisis; next up is Matt Taibbi’s Griftopia: Bubble Machines, Vampire Squids, and the Long Con That Is Breaking America. Taibbi’s books and articles for Rolling Stone are in the grand muckraking tradition that combines a comprehensive command of the facts, close attention to the unfolding stories that really matter (as opposed to the distractions offered by the powers-that-be to divert our attention from their activities), a healthy (in both senses) dose of cynicism, and a profanely impassioned devotion to both the unvarnished truth and the rights of the little guy.

This latest offering conveys Taibbi’s characteristic mixture of outrage at the perversions and venality of America’s ruling class — albeit mixed with a kind of grudging half-admiration for the ingenuity with which that class maintains its privileges — and head-shaking chagrin at the fecklessness of the ruled, whose misplaced passions make them such easy marks for the grifters who rule them. Chapter One offers a perceptive diagnosis of the Tea Party phenomenon, and why it is destined to fail to deliver on the dream of an Ayn-Randian utopia on Earth for its followers. Chapter Two, which I am just starting, is titled “The Biggest Asshole in the World”. Any guesses who that might be? Read the book to find out – it’s worth it, I promise!

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Due Date

Saw Due Date the other day with Rob and Froggy. It was tolerably obvious from the trailer that it would basically be an Apatow-era remake of Planes, Trains and Automobiles, with Zach Galifianakis as the lovable, well-meaning screwup and Robert Downey Jr. as the uptight, self-involved, but not totally irredeemable asshole. Still, I wasn’t expecting the connection to be quite so on the nose. In fact the two main characters meet in a scene that is basically a direct quote of the taxicab scene that starts PT&A, with Downey as Steve Martin and Galifianakis as both John Candy and Kevin Bacon. Rob told me later he couldn’t ignore the fact once I pointed it out to him, which hurt his enjoyment.

It’s not a bad movie, actually, but slow (especially at first) and a bit too loose for me to enjoy it fully either. It does start to add up toward the end, though. Maybe save this one for a rental.

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Weekend in Millbank

Thanks to Lisa and Derek for another fine weekend in Millbank. I got to spend lots of time with young Sam, and even credit myself for a few rescues (including those ever so fascinating electric outlets, and a metal kitchen implement or two). Even crawling crab-fashion (not upright, as in this video, but similar), the boy gets around. It was also a pleasure to meet Lisa’s friends Neil and Tanya (apologies if the spelling is incorrect). Lisa, gifted chef that she is, prepared a melt-in-your-mouth pork roast accompanied with rice and roasted veggies, topped off with fresh-baked pumpkin pie accompanied by one of Harrow’s better rice wines — all delicious! Call it a weekend well spent.

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Call it a buck fifty in dumbass tax

Turning 40 sucks, except in comparison to the alternative of course. Now that I’ve reached that milestone, it behooves me to start looking out for my health a bit better. I visited the doctor today to look after a couple of things, including arranging a complete physical. Turns out it’s been some time since my last visit – I didn’t even know he’d moved his office. So, after arriving early and paying for 90 minutes’ parking at the old Ottawa Street location: d’oh! But at least, when he brought up a prostate exam he named a date that’s still five years in the future, so that’s some consolation.

In other news, starting to get things together for the move. First of all, big thanks to Julie for coming through with cardboard boxes totally unasked – you rock! Next up, I have made some progress getting quotes from movers, and I’m pretty close to making my choice. (Thanks to all who offered to help, and I will totally be taking advantage of you guys one way or another.) Then I start looking around the place for seldom-used items I can start packing up early, and my gaze falls on those sad, dusty racks with all those CDs. I love my music collection, but for some years now, we all know that new music either gets ripped to the computer or iPod first thing (if it comes on a CD), or else comes over a wire to begin with. While I’ve ripped quite a number of the older CDs as the listening occasions have arisen, quite a few have been neglected and basically unlistened-to. So in conjunction with packing, I’ve started the project of popping them in the computer one by one and at last getting them all onto the hard drive. The music will live in cyberspace from now on, while the actual CDs will be relegated to storage, and I’ll get a bit of living space back. The toll so far: numerous trips from the TV to the computer to swap discs, one spill (nothing major – Colvin thru Cowboy Junkies, zero damage), and an annoyingly large amount of time spent online chasing down album art so I don’t lose that part of the experience altogether.

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Leaving the air conditioner on

Even though I don’t live in New York, somehow the NYTimes has found out about my habit (just occasional, I swear) of leaving the air conditioner on when I’m out so I can come back to a cool apartment. That’s one of the compensations of renting: on the dark side, you pay someone else instead of yourself to live in a neglectfully-run, dehumanizing filing cabinet for human beings; but on the bright side, utilities are included!

When the Green revolution comes, of course, we’re all going to have to pull our own weight and bear the full costs of our wasteful, carbon-spewing, nature-despoiling, more-or-less profligate resource usage. After all, negative externalities don’t fix themselves — that’s what makes them externalities, after all. It may not be exactly responsible of me, but I plan to keep enjoying it while it lasts.

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