Saturday, December 21, 2013

Me and my obsession with the future

You may have recently heard one of my rants about the acceleration of human progress and any of the many potential outcomes of that acceleration. If you have, I applaud you for patiently listening, and hopefully I can explain the obsession a little better now. The thought process was triggered by a recent look into the short videos of Jason Silva. You may be familiar with the recent spread of his video "Existential Bummer" which went viral sometime in the last month. If you'd like to check out his page and see more, it's here.

I would recommend checking out "We are the Gods Now," which covers, at a high level, a lot of the futurist ideas that he follows. The whole problem with this is that futurism is just a bunch of supposition, right? The value of the exercise can certainly be questioned, but I think that there is immense value in the imagining of the future. Would cellphones exist in their current state if no one had imagined the tricorder? Maybe, maybe not, but I would argue that imagination is the prequel to reality.

The main thing that got me excited about all of this was the idea of acceleration and our apparent natural ignorance to it (watch the video if you want his explanation). As I thought about it and looked back on my knowledge of the last few decades, from 1980-1990, 1990-2000, 2000-2010, and even 2010-2013, I was amazed to realize that progress is really accelerating at a visible, and astonishing rate. I believe we are at the inner curve of the exponential spike. Amazing things that used to happen over the course of a decade now happen in weeks. It feels like I have a hypothetical conversation and within months, the reality is there. We are moving past computer technology into serious robotics, with investments from major companies like Apple, Google, and Amazon. Self-replicating nano-robots that can construct micro-bridges have been invented. And chemicals that can not just slow, but apparently reverse the aging process have been discovered. And those are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the amazing things happening daily on our planet.

So when I say that I truly believe I will live to become immortal, I might sound crazy, but I really believe it. If a bus hit me tomorrow, that would obviously change things, but if no buses hit me, I believe I will live to see immortality, and much much more -- the possibilities will be only be limited to our imagination.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Curated Awesomeness

Meghan and I have been much more proactive in our cultural pursuits over the last few months (and if things go as planned, for months to come). Whenever we can, we try to hit up a restaurant from our list of places to try (usually happens on date night). When we go to watch a movie, we try to force ourselves into watching an independent, foreign, or classic film before we default to the latest blockbuster. And every pay period, we buy an album to listen to for the next few weeks. We alternate picking the album, and we have to listen to the whole album (them's the rules!).

From that, we've certainly experienced some things we didn't like, but more than that, we've experience a lot of amazing things that we loved. So I thought I'd take a moment and list out some of my favorites in case anyone else would like to enjoy these discoveries (and maybe they're not a discovery for everyone).

Some warnings: these are my opinions, not Meghan's. I'd imagine she'd agree with a good chunk of these, but probably not all. Also, the recommendations assume a similarity in taste between you and me.

Food

Winner: Pago
Runner Up: Forage

These two are both fine-dining experiences, but of two very different styles. If you want delicious, best-in-class food that will blow your mind, then Pago is the place for you. Personal taste issues aside (like with me and the deconstructed clam chowder), everything was superb and delicious. The wine selections were great, the ambiance was warm and cozy, and the service was good. The price point is also about half of what you'd spend at Forage. With wine, I'd expect about $50/person.

Forage, on the other hand, is a much fancier experience. With a single menu and a wine or juice option, you are committing to eating exactly what they've decided you get. The focus here is less on eating the most delicious food of your life, and more on experiencing food in ways you never have before. A glass covered tray filled with smoke from the burning branches inside is the setting one of the 14 courses that we got. But don't expect that when you go, all the ingredients are local and the menu constantly changes. Expect to be there for about 3 hours, but it will be worth it. The service is absolutely amazing. I've never been somewhere that managed this level of service without making me feel the least bit uncomfortable. They were very clear from the beginning that things would be explained to us, and every question we had was met with pleasant answers. Every trip to the bathroom results in a napkin being refolded and placed nicely to wait for us, and every trip to our table from the staff was a well orchestrated routine. It's also important to note that the juice option, which we assumed was an afterthought for the random non-drinker, was actually a very thoughtful and unique experience. Our driver was the only one that had the juice option, but he was kind enough to share sips with all of us at each course (thanks Alex!). I'd say that unless you are really a wine person, the juice option is actually a more diverse and exciting experience. The cost is going to be about $120/person with the juice option, and $150 with the wine option. There is a light and heavy wine option as well... be warned, the heavy option is a LOT of wine.


Movies

Winner: Singin' in the Rain
Runner Up: Wadjda
Honorable Mention: Casablanca, The Godfather

Gene Kelly was like the Justin Timberlake of the 50s. What a freaking stud. The cast of this movie are actors, singers, comedians, tap dancers, musicians, dancers, etc. The amount of talent these individuals had is enough to make this worth watching alone, but on top of that, the plot is surprisingly fun and familiar. We all experience that reluctance to participate in dated culture that we feel won't really speak to us in modern times, but I think I've begun to learn that the problems of people are fairly universal and timeless.

Wadjda was an extremely insightful film. I would not watch this if you have problems with foreign or independent films, but if you can handle those, I think the movie was a beautiful insight into a culture we see everyday on the news, but yet are extremely unfamiliar with. The story follows a rebellious little girl in Saudi Arabia who wants a bike (which girls are not supposed to have and/or ride), but realizes her only chance of winning it is to win a Quran reading competition at school. At the same time, her mother is dealing with the stress of her husband potentially marrying another woman. The movie is beautiful and moving, but even more impressive when you hear about the difficulties they had filming this in Saudi Arabia. The female director had to do any outdoor scenes from inside the back of a van, as the crew were not her relatives.

Casablanca... The Godfather... these are classics for a reason. They are amazing movies. Watch them.


Music

Winner: Pure Heroine - Lorde (Songs you'd know: Royals, Team, Tennis Court)
Runner Up: Synthetica - Metric (Songs you'd know: Breathing Underwater, Youth Without Youth)

People are pretty familiar with what music they like, but I do think it's good to constantly explore. I'll say that the we got a few albums that got listened to a few times and we never really went back to (except maybe for a few select songs). The only one we have listened to from beginning to end over and over again is Lorde's Pure Heroine. The 17 year old from New Zealand wrote the lyrics to this music when she was 15. Impressive given the fairly accurate social commentary, creative imagery, and self-awareness that are in the album. Obviously give it a preview somewhere to make sure it's your cup of tea, but I definitely think it's worth a listen.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Iceland: Day 6 & 7


Day 6 started fairly late for us. We didn't wake up until later because there weren't really any presentations that day we were super interested in except the final CCP Presents show. So we headed over to the Harpa and settled into our seats for the presentation. I posted on Facebook about how no company pushes the edge of gaming like CCP does, and if you're a gamer and interested in knowing why, I recommend you watch the whole thing... unfortunately, what I thought would be easy to find on YouTube, I have yet to find, so I have nothing to link you. On the other hand, I can link the much shorter trailer that they released, which is certainly cool, but doesn't really show the "pushing the edge of gaming" stuff:






Some of the other cool news was a deal with Dark Horse Comics that they have to publish comics around the top 4 stories of EVE (currently being shared and voted on). They are also working with Director Baltasar Kormákur on a TV Mini Series about EVE. The tagline is "Based on a true story 20,000 years from now". Since the show will be based on real stories from the EVE Universe that the players have created, it's a pretty exciting project.

From here we sat around and waited for "The Party on top of the World" to start. We ended up talking a lot more with the developer I used to fly with, which was fun. We got to talk to him a lot about the difficulties of being an American in Iceland, how they develop relationships differently, etc. One of the Icelandic developers joined the conversation and he was really cool, but it was also fun to sit and watch him avoid any sort of eye contact with anyone.

From here the party finally started to get underway. As a quick note, tickets to this party are sold to the Icelandic public, so it's not just a huge man-party as you would expect, a lot of locals come to the party as well. For some reason, my memories of the evening are not all intact, so I will do my best to remember.

There were several areas to the party, a lounge room with a DJ and drinking, a room for where all the bands were playing and then an outside area for standing and a long bar. The first thing we got to do was watch a Folk Metal band called "Skalmold"... I'm not usually into this level of heavy music, but man I loved these guys' music. The funny thing is that you typically hear this kind of music and think of it negatively, like it's angry or sad, etc. but these guys were so happy playing their music and jamming away and everyone was just having a great time. I actually ran into their drummer and bassist in the bathroom later on and spoke with them, telling them how much I enjoyed their show. They talked about how the music was supposed to be happy and the two guys were just really really nice guys (they're Icelandic, so of course they are, right?).

From there we wandered around more and I continued to drink. Prior to that actually, the developer who I flew with before introduced us to his wife since we had been chatting so much, and at this point we walked over to an area where several of the developers were. At this point, we somehow got into a conversation with the Executive Producer of World of Darkness for like an hour, and you guys are going to hate me as I attempt to remember everything we spoke about, but here's that attempt:

1. He has specifically been working for Whitewolf for 22 years. Everyone at Whitewolf was offered a job, but CCP was clear that they did not want to be a book publishing company. A small group of employees broke off and started their own company to continue the tabletop book work. 


2. He tries very hard to make sure that the game stays true to the original game as much as it can, but it's not always possible (wanting to be able to kill people while they sleep or other weird things he mentioned that just seem stupid in an online game). There were several good examples he gave, but it's hard to remember them.

3. I brought up the "female demographic" thing and he said "who said that? because I didn't, I would find that offensive, I know nothing about what women want." So apparently I got that wrong.

4. I asked "how long is Dust 514 going to need the limelight before WoD can start showing off it's stuff?" and he responded with "just this year."

5. I also asked about the blood hunt again and whether they were really going to let people's accounts be permanently destroyed and he said absolutely, and I said, but someone would have to do something to put themselves into that position, right? And he said "exactly".

6. He also mentioned that each vampire would have their own "Haven" and that this is where you could do a lot of things you would not be allowed to do out in public. He said there is a fine line there, where if it's cool and vampire-y and done right, it'll be great, but if it's not in can really just be bad and that's what they are trying to balance.

7. They have around 200 testers right now and occasionally open it up to employees to do more stressful testing.

8. He actually said the name of the vampiric move the girl used in the video (he pulled out his phone and showed it to us again) but I can't remember the name.

9. We asked about mobile and so he pulled out his iPhone and showed us the mobile access right there. It's what you would expect to be able to do... manage your character, communicate to the game, etc. inside a mobile interaction. He showed us the actual character sheet and I really really really wish I had photographic memory, because all I can remember was that it looked like a World of Darkness tabletop character sheet (which is a good thing, right?), and had a cool picture of his character avatar.

10. He also showed us a picture of actual in-game character models with clothes on his phone (so showing us the actual in-game fashion so far, not just the concept art) and that was cool. It was cool how close they got to the coolness of the concept art, but at the same time, the in-game clothes all seemed much more realistic.

11. Control would be by parts of cities, not just a whole city. So you can control part of a city, it's not all or none.

12. Meghan and I's memories are both failing us but part of the conversation was around group combat. He said something about testers and feeling like they died before they knew what happened, or something that they are trying to work out there, but our memories are really failing us on this one.

13. Before we said goodbye we got his e-mail from him and were told we could get an office tour if we were ever in Atlanta.

From here we parted ways (got a picture of course), and we over to talk to the dev we knew. His wife was also there and from here I also met and started to hang out with 5 of the 6 circus performers in the Icelandic circus. These guys were great and we had a good time. I also managed to get information from a cute Icelandic girl on behalf of Travis. Unfortunately, Travis, I can't say I represented us well, so we'll see...

The next day we went to the oldest cafe in Reykjavik for breakfast, which was fairly american in style (their egg yolks have a very different color from ours and I want to know why...). Later on we went to the nicest restaurant in Iceland and spend a pretty penny on a nice 4 course meal. The opening course was really good (seafood based), but the next one was a little spotty. It was Puffin, which I personally did not like, another bird of some sort that I did not like, and then Whale. I liked the Whale a lot, but that was the only portion of this dish that I liked. Next up was goat's shoulder and some other meats with fancy mashed potatoes and other such stuff. There was one part of the goat that was ridiculously delicious and we both enjoyed this part a lot. The dessert was 4 pieces... a sorbet, a flavored yogurt, a dark mousse, and a brownie. Meghan liked the sorbet, I liked the yogurt, and we both loved the dark mousse and brownie. The brownie was the best brownie I've ever had (I'm not really a brownie fan and this was delicious).

And that has essentially been it. The rest of our trip will be relaxing and prepping to go home. We did take a walk down to the CCP Offices yesterday, but were turned away for an office tour (yeah, pretty disappointing tbh). Today there was a random parade as well, and we are going to go get more of those delicious noodles from the first day.

We are excited to see you all soon!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Iceland: Day 4 & 5

I want to start this one off by talking a little bit about jet lag. This is something you hear about often and maybe have experienced before. This is the largest time zone change I have ever dealt with and it has been a much different experience than I expected. I'm certain other people have had different experiences.

I never thought jet lag would be this bad or have this negative of an experience on my trip. I'm probably making it sound worse than it really is, but it's certainly something I will consider heavily when planning trips in the future. The first day we got here, we ended up napping, staying up super late, and then sleeping late into the day. That evening, we took sleeping pills so that we would sleep at the correct time for this time zone and I had hoped this would put us on schedule. It did not. The next evening we were up until 3 AM, and when I went to bed I was up for another 2-3 hours trying to fall asleep. This meant that we woke up late for the first day of Fanfest. Fortunately, CCP doesn't really open with anything ridiculous and they save all their big presentations for the evenings. That evening after the Charity Dinner and a couple of hours at a bar with CCP's CEO, CMO, Devs, etc. we went home and once again took sleeping pills to try and get to bed at the right time. We woke up the next morning feeling groggy and not well rested. I also wonder if the dead sleep caused by the pills had anything to do with the tweak in my back which I initially felt a couple of nights ago. With the state of my back and Meghan falling asleep during presentations, we came home to rest and literally watched the CCP keynote online. I am hoping the time spent recuperating tonight means we will be in full force tomorrow. So my point is this... jet lag is something to consider seriously... you need to be prepared for the consequences and effects it will have on your trip. If I'm wanting to "vacation", I will probably not choose a destination that will involve jetlag, particularly if I'm wanting to experience certain things. If my goal is "traveling", then I will just count on not "vacationing" and being semi-miserable for the sake of traveling. I don't think the two mix well and I'll be planning on that in the future.

That being said, let me recap the last couple of days!

We woke up late on Thursday morning and managed to rush over to the Harpa for Day 1 of Fanfest. One advantage is we did not have to stand in a line for registration and we really didn't miss much as far as presentations go. The first presentation we went to was on ship balancing. I used to fly in a corp called Club Bear, which was an elite solo/small gang pvp corp run by an internet famous YouTuber named Kil2 (in game). I was a big fan of his and somehow managed to finagle my way into his corp. His knowledge was something that CCP apparently wanted, so he was recruited and hired by them to contribute to the ship balancing team at CCP. I say that because it was cool to see him there and having him present this information. If you know nothing about EVE, none of this probably makes any sense to you. The ship balancing stuff is really cool. It's something that EVE has not historically done well, but now that they have built this dedicated team, it is really going in a good direction. I got excited for the changes to the Amarr ships (Paul's race, and Meghan and I have both agreed, the coolest race), and all I could think the whole time was how much I wanted to fly Amarr... and specifically the Apocalypse, which was one of Paul's favorite Amarr ships and is great at killing some of the most annoying ships in the game (namely the Falcon and other Force Recons).

After that we went and ate one of many $40 meals (hamburgers).

We then went and watched a presentation on security status changes and low-sec stuff. There's some new stuff that will allow you to get your security status up without farming npc pirates for hours on end. The item used will also be a low-sec exclusive drop and provide more lucrative ways to make money in low-sec (which also means more people trying to make money who can also be blown up). Pretty good stuff I think. The drop rates will be low enough and cost high enough that you can't really just pay to constantly keep your security status high while also pirating, so I don't think it's a highly exploitable system, it just makes hitting -10 feel like less of a point of no return.

After this we got a presentation from the Lead Game Designer on their principles of design and why they do what they do. There was not a lot of meat to this presentation from a game perspective, but it was very interesting and one of my favorite presentations.

From here, we went to presentation on merging the economies of EVE and Dust 514. They have hired another economist to oversee the economics of Dust 514, and the presentation was jointly given by the two economists. The general story is that they are going to move slowly and be careful. EVE is a developed economy and Dust 514 is an emerging economy and throwing the two together needs to be done with great care. A lot of funny comparisons to Iceland's own economic issues were made. Good stuff.

Next up was the Dust 514 keynote. Uprising is the next major update for Dust 514 and it comes out on May 6th (so like... in a week). If you have tried Dust 514 before and not like it or not tried it at all, I would highly recommend trying it after this update. The amount of stuff they have done is amazing given this is still a beta update. The graphics are going to improve drastically, and there is going to be tons of new content, plus a myriad of updates to the systems to make them easier to understand and more approachable. We also saw a demonstration of the EVE map in the Dust 514 game and how the new district conquering system works. It's pretty awesome and given the vast amount of planets in EVE, I'm hoping that myself and a small band of friends could maybe someday lay claim to perhaps a single planet. At the very end, the CMO got up to talk about how they are going to advertise this to the FPS crowd out there. People are in a prison called Call of Duty and he's there to set them free (that's how he put it). We got to see the TV spot that they will be using later in the year (when it comes out of Beta I assume), and it was focused on the idea of the dust (nothing yet on why it's 514) and this idea of death and rebirth, death and rebirth and it was pretty cool.

After all this, most of the Fanfest crowd went home, but I had signed us up for a charity dinner that the company puts on. It's $125 a plate and you get to eat dinner with the CEO, executives, and developers of CCP. I was skeptical of whether it would really be a great experience (still good for charity in either case), but it definitely ended up being one of my favorite parts of the trip. After we grabbed a flute of champagne, we headed over to a table and sat down. We introduced ourselves to the others at the table and began chatting. The first developer to hit our table was CCP Guard, who is in their community relations and is the star of all their developer videos (kind of the face of EVE). He was obviously very charismatic and fun to talk to, but was very hesitant to give any good info on anything game related (Meghan noted that she could tell he was making an explicit effort to look at people when he spoke to them, but in general was more comfortable looking at the table, just as was described to us about Icelandic people). He did tell me that throughout January they had done heavy internal play testing on World of Darkness and that the rewards had been significant because they really wanted people to participate. My guess is that there were quests and that was the basis of winning. The top winner got a trip to anywhere they wanted in the world, and others got computers, etc. so it was obvious that the company was serious about the testing and wanted to invest in it, which was cool.

The next person who came and sat down, I did not recognize, so I didn't get too excited, and then I found out she was the Development Director for EVE, so that was very cool. A lot of the conversation was around the development methodology that they used. Being in that field, I could certainly appreciate the conversation , but it wasn't exactly the stuff I really wanted to talk about. The most interesting part about the conversation with her was hearing about how bad morale had been at CCP after the Incarna debacle when the players basically rioted against them and then they had to do down-sizing at the company. It was interesting to hear the first person perspective on that, and how big of a deal the following expansion had been because the teams literally felt like that was there test of whether or not they could keep the company alive. That was very interesting.

The final person to sit down with us was the Executive Producer of Dust 514, and this is where it got exciting. Most people at Fanfest are EVE people. A lot of EVE people have played Dust 514 but it certainly isn't their focus. I ended up being the most knowledgeable and engaged Dust 514 player at the table and so it turned into a big conversation between me, the Executive Producer, and Meghan, who knows a lot from just watching me play and spotting for me (her way of participating in a game she doesn't necessarily enjoy playing). This guy was high up enough that he could tell us stuff if he wanted to and loved to hint at a lot of things. At one point I mentioned the idea of the Battle of Endor in Star Wars in relation to EVE/Dust 514 and he looked at me and said "that's the exact reference we use when we talk about our ideal end-state for EVE and Dust". They want a ground battle that brings down the shields on the POS, that is then assaulted by the EVE ships, which is then boarded by the Dust mercs, etc. etc." that was pretty cool. I asked him about when we would see the stuff that they had said would be coming out for the PS Vita and he said "soon, but I can show you, right now", it was at this point that I was like "yeah, this was totally worth it", the guy goes and grabs his PS Vita and I sit there and get a personal look at the dev version of their PS Vita platform. How freaking cool. Yes, I am now going to go buy a PS Vita...

Then, I asked him a question that he didn't know the answer to, which he did not like. So he ran around to all the people in the room that report to him, and none of them knew the answer, which bugged him even more, so he got on the phone right there and dialed one of his employees in Shanghai and woke them up to get me an answer to this question. I felt kind of bad, but I also felt kind of cool. I think that guy hates me, though.

At this point, I'm also talking to the Creative Director of Dust 514 who was dragged into this debacle and he's like "are you going going to the icelaniskaskia barterbuten?" which basically means "Icelandic Bar" and we're like "no, what's that?" and he's like, "oh, everyone from CCP goes there at night during Fanfest", and I was like, oh, cool, yeah we totally will.

So we got up, left and began walking home. We ran into another cute Fanfest couple from Switzerland who were walking in the same direction and Meghan got to do some girl talk on the way home. The bar was like a short walk from where we were staying, so we went on over and walked into a very crowded bar. Lo and behold, there was the CEO, CMO, Dev, etc. galore. I also saw some EVE-famous people and got to explain a lot of that stuff to Meghan. Shadoo... famous fleet commander of Pandemic Legion. Rooks and Kings, currently the most small elite group in EVE. So the company was cool, but it was crowded and hard to have a conversation or really talk to people, so we had a couple of beers and then went on our way.

We stopped by the 24 hour market to grab some orange juice and muffins for the next morning and Meghan laughed a little too hard when she saw the Doritos and they were called "Cool American", instead of "Cool Ranch".

Also a quick note on our flatmates. There was one other couple here for the first few nights and they were very cool and we had a lot of conversations with them. They are from Brooklyn and we basically exchanged info and have open invitations for a place to stay in New York (or them Salt Lake City if they come through). They have left and we now have a girl who is staying for the weekend before heading to Sweden to see family. She also seems nice.

So after some reading, we went to bed. I'm actually going to finish some books because of this trip (yay!).

This morning we woke up and my back really hurt. I started getting ready and took too long, and we ended up having to rush out the door. We made it to the World of Darkness presentation 5 minutes late, but didn't miss much. Here is the breakdown on that in a list, because I find it easier to organize my thoughts that way:

1. There is going to be a big focus on this game having platform presences on PC, Browser, and Mobile. When asked what level of interaction you would have on the browser and mobile (since you obviously wouldn't be able to walk around and play your character), their response was that you would be able to have a meaningful interaction with significant impact on the game from browser and mobile.
2. They then shared a screenshot of a bunch of their fashion stuff. They have been very open about this game primarily targeting the female demographic, and this page was the only one I got a screenshot of.
3. They talked about working on the game mechanics for crafting, since in their words, someone as powerful as a vampire is not going to be sewing shirts.
3. They then began to walk through all the tools that they had built in 2012 that would allow their smaller sized team to take on the large scale development that this game would require. They basically walked us through developing a building using the tools, and showed how easy it was to create a very cool looking building that would be 100% unique without having to build it all from scratch.
4. Then they did a graphics demo, starting with puddles, and showing how when it rained, you wouldn't just see raindrops, but also puddles, which had reflections and ripples, etc. they also showed distorted glass and a lot of other very impressive graphics.
5. He also showed a tool that they used to build Disciplines (vampire abilities) and subsequently allowed them to tweak numbers, timings, attached animations, etc. with very little work.
6. Then he went through an explanation of why they were not ready to show the world any in-game footage and how we all had to put our phones away and if they caught you recording you were going to ruin it for everyone, blah blah blah, and then literally a bunch of scary Icelandic dudes walked in and started monitoring the crowd while this footage showed. It used the in-game engine, but a lot of the graphics were post-processed and he wanted to be very clear on that. The art team had created this sequence as a target to use in building the game. Most development efforts involve creating a product and then spending a lot of time improving the performance of said code, so I can understand that at this point, nothing graphically beautiful is going to perform very well. Here is how the sequence went:

A female vampire in red pants and a black leather jacket is looking at her phone and a few yards away is a man standing next to the building and smoking, she walks seductively up to him. He puts his hand on the small of her back and pulls her in, they are about to kiss, but then in a flash she has grabbed his neck, lifted him a foot off the ground, and slammed his body into the wall. She then pulls his head to the side and bites into his neck. Far in the background, you can see 3 vampires that are fluidly jumping and maneuvering over roofs and buildings in the background. She drops the man and then leaps up a wall and over a railing, taking on a very casual gait as she walks into the scene of a nightclub. She walks past a distorted window looking into the club and you get an obvious graphical money shot of their capabilities as the club music plays in the background. She passes by the club and then quickly accelerates, jumping a good 50 ft. to the next rooftop. As she lands she goes invisible and walks across the rooftop. She runs into a male vampire who is charging up some sort of power. She steps in puddle and makes noise, causing the vampire to turn, but she quickly reacts with a power of her own and he is thrown off the building and lands on the ground behind it. She jumps down and begins feeding on the male and as she is doing this two other female vampires land on the ground in front of her, ready to fight, and then the sequence ends.

7. During Q&A a few things were revealed. There will be multiple cities, but cities will be huge in their own rights, and they will be connected by mass transit systems (subways or something like that). In order to prevent factions from reinforcing areas too quickly, these systems will only work at specified times. So you can't get from Boston to New York whenever you want, and if you're holding more than one city, you have to be smart about where you keep your people. They also spoke about how the cities themselves are tactical landscapes and they have to take that into account when building them. A skyscraper that gives you a tactical view of your enemies movements is a major advantage and so placement of things like that has to be considered. Also, they want to make it so that cities will slowly change appearance depending on which clan controls them. This is not something that's going to be a high priority right off the bat but a "cool thing to add later".

After this session we went and got another $40 meal and then went to the "Dust 514: Improving the Core" session which talked about how they are improving the core FPS experience in Dust 514, and what they are doing short-term and planning long-term. This is where Meghan was falling asleep and my back was really hurting, so after this we went home and we fell asleep. We watched the CCP Keynote from the apartment (which was really awesome... play EVE, seriously), and then Meghan went out and grabbed us food and we have been hanging out since. I also logged into EVE to check the market prices on Oxygen Isotopes, since I thought, "hey, I bet prices on that are going to go up given the changes they announced", and boy was I right. I went ahead and cashed out on that, since it had gone up drastically, but still looked pretty volatile. The pub crawl is happening noisily outside and is continuing on as I type, and we are continuing to relax in hopes that I will be in better shape to tackle tomorrow.

So until then!



Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Iceland: Day 2 & 3

After taking some sleeping pills to force ourselves into the right sleeping times, we woke up at 2 PM the next day (whoa!). We took a stroll down to the Loki Cafe where they had traditional Icelandic food. A video has already been posted of us trying the Putrescent Shark if you want to check that out. Besides that, the food was delicious. We had a quick chat with the guy that was taking care of the place and he commented that he had visited Florida, and was surprised by how many churches there were. He asked us where the money for all of them came from.

After that we went to the "market" and bought some mjolk and cereal so we had a simple breakfast solution while we are here. We then headed home and proceeded to read, game, and relax the rest of our day away. We grabbed a quick pizza at the local deli, which was delicious.

One thing I've noticed while being here, is that I don't necessarily think they serve that much less food than we do in the U.S. but I do think that the process of eating or getting food is a much bigger deal because it is a significant cost. We have so much food in the U.S. I think companies have gone from selling us food, to selling us consumption. There's so much food, the margins become competitive and instead of trying to convince us to eat their food, they have to convince us to just eat more food. Just a thought I've had while I'm here. It's interesting.

On Day 3 we began the first part of the planned segment of our vacation. We went on the "Golden Circle" tour of Iceland. Not only did we see a lot of beautiful stuff on this tour, we were entertained with tons of interesting facts about Iceland! Iceland:

1. Has won 4 Ms. World awards.
2. Has won 8 strongest man in the world awards
3. Has some of the best life expectancy in the world (almost 80 for men, 83 for women)
4. Is the happiest and nicest place in the world
5. Has the most internet per capita in the world
6. Consumes the most energy per capita in the world (all geothermal and feel good, though)
7. Consumes the most Subway per capita in the world (they at one point had McDonald's and Burger King, but both went out of business, apparently Subway is the way to an Icelander's heart)
8. They are 99.9% literate which is once again... the highest in the world.
9. They don't like looking people in the eyes when they talk to them... they only do this if they are in love with you or about to kill you. In "guide school" they are forced to learn how to talk to people while looking them in the eyes.
10. Different than places like Germany or the U. S., blowing your nose in public is considered disgusting.
11. They don't tip unless they think someone did a really really good job.
12. (she didn't tell us this, but my own observation). A lot of stuff in Iceland is just on the honor system. There are locks on things and such, but I have picked up tickets, eaten food, bought things, etc. and in all cases was just trusted that I was who I said I was, or that I would eventually pay. Like you just eat food, and then are expected to go up front and "settle" on your own. We were eating somewhere and a couple came back and paid for their food from way earlier because they both thought the other had paid. The restaurant had no clue they hadn't paid.

Icelandic families are super interesting! Only 5 out of every 1,000 Icelanders will ever get married. Most people just get together and stay that way (or don't). They have the highest illegitimate childbirth rate in the world. This is not frowned up, but just the expected way of doing things. Our guide joked that when she dates guys she thinks to herself "is this the kind of guy I can see my kids visiting on the weekends?" Most everyone has several half brothers and sisters since people will have multiple relationships and kids in their lives. They average 1 kid per person, and get 3 months paternity leave and 9 months maternity leave when having a baby. Everyone in Iceland is related somehow... it's not a question of if you are related, but how much. Just a few weeks ago some students from the University of Iceland released an app that allows you to bump phones with someone and then get instant feedback on whether or not you should be doing any dating, co-habitating, or procreating. Funny! The guide said she had on several occasions dated a guy only to find out that he was her cousin. On the other hand, she said that she could absolutely date her brother's brother, who she is not closely related to by blood (but she wouldn't).

Their energy situation is interesting. One downside is that when you take a shower and use hot water (which you can literally never run out of), it smells like sulfur (aka rotten eggs). They have so much geothermal heat and such that they don't salt their roads, they just run hot water under them. It snowed a whole bunch yesterday, but when you step outside there is nothing on the roads or sidewalks. Their tap water comes from natural sources and is filtered over lava rock. It is essentially a waste to buy bottled water as it is the exact same thing as you get out of the tap (no chemicals added, and the cold water has no sulfur in it).

She also spoke of the languages they learn. They learn Icelandic (one of the top 10 hardest languages to learn). They know it's hard and don't expect anyone to try and speak it. They have no problem with people coming and speaking English to them. They also learn Danish, but she said most people can't speak a lick of Danish after the 10 years of learning it, because they get no practical application out of it. English on the other hand, they learn really well because of TV and movies (and the fact that a lot of people coming through Iceland communicate to them in English). She then did this funny thing where she switched between an American accent and a British accent and asked why we thought she would speak in an American accent and not a British accent (my self-absorbed American self had never even thought about it). She did both well (I'm assuming the British one had just as much of an Icelandic tint to it as the American one did), but explained that British people didn't like it when you used a British accent with them, and would get offended, while American didn't care at all if you spoke in an American accent. I'm sure Shaun will have something to say about that, but that was at least her take on it. I can confirm, though, that if anyone ever spoke to me in English using an American accent I wouldn't be offended. Unless, of course, they spoke in a very heavy southern accent, :).

After the tour we grabbed some quick sleep and then got ready for the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra performance. We grabbed some Subway on the way over since it was quick and cheap. They had no idea what Meghan meant when she said "provolone" and then we realized they literally had one type of cheese. Also, everyone in Iceland apparently likes their sub toasted and they put tons of Mayonnaise and sauces on their sandwiches (but not enough banana peppers, never enough banana peppers...).

The performance was amazing (I snagged us front row seats). I got asked by a guy up front if I was CCP Fozzie (one of the developers), and it took quite some convincing to get him to believe I wasn't.

For anyone who has had a long history with a game, you can understand that having an experience like a full orchestra playing the music is quite surreal. This is particularly special to me since this is the music that acted as the backdrop to all of mine and Paul's days in EVE together. With the ending of the first decade of EVE, they have now replaced all the music in-game and this performance was the perfect tribute to that beautiful bygone era of EVE.

I spent some of the time telling Meghan of a lot of fond memories I have playing that game with Paul and friends. Being extremely new and attempting to fight off the Blood Raven Assault Squad group that was harassing us (we failed miserably). The Swedish guy that we randomly connected with after a transfer of ISK went to the wrong person. That same Swedish guy convincing Paul that Amarr was the way to go and not Caldari. The long journey Paul had with skilling up high enough to do well with Amarr (who are much harder to do well with), but the satisfaction he felt from having stuck with it (the whole performance, all I could think of was how much cooler Amarr ships are than everyone else's). I told her of the POS siege where I stood over Paul's shoulder and watched as his Dreadnaught's armor dipped lower and lower as every single capital ship's repair drones were on him and two Carrier's remote reps fought to keep him alive. It was a race between taking out the POS and his Dreadnaught blowing up. They managed to blow up the POS before Paul's Dreadnaught went down, but boy was that an intense siege.

Anyways, a lot of good memories! That's all for now. :)


Monday, April 22, 2013

Iceland: Day 1

Day 1

We have arrived in Iceland. There is no ice... very disappointed. ;)

So the trip here was not as bad as I thought. I figured I would be miserable on a long plane ride like that. Fortunately, the plane was not full, so I had plenty of space. We got an early glimpse into Icelandic culture just riding on Icelandair. The stewardesses were dressed more old-fashioned than you would expect, and they were super nice (Iceland was recently ranked the nicest country in the world by something). I finally got to watch 'The Blind Side' (vacation: successful), and watch some videos they had available on Iceland. Apparently, it is the youngest habited body of land on the earth. This was super apparent as we took the 20 minute drive from the international airport to Reykjavik. Imagine an exploding mass of lava coming out of the ocean (or however it happens), and forming a big volcanic mass of earth. Then give it a few hundred/thousand years until basic plant life begins to take hold (moss and grass). That's Iceland right now. People *live* here. It's crazy.

The airport was pretty uneventful. The cops have no guns, which I expected, and it was the beginning of a repeated event, which was seeing a lot of beautiful nice new stuff that's abandoned. Iceland had a major banking boom in the early 2000s, and then they crashed in 2008. The place is beautiful, but also full of large new office buildings with absolutely nothing in them, which is interesting.

So we take the bus from the airport to Reykjavik (it is raining and cold). The bus driver in Reykjavik makes a special stop to drop us off at where we're staying because he's just nice like that (they typically only stop at the hotels). We work our way through a bunch of doors to finally get to our room. What we had thought would be an apartment to ourselves is actually some weird european-type shared apartment with dedicated rooms (like a hotel room), but with a common living room and dining area. I was a teensy bit disappointed that this was not made more apparent to us from the get-go, but no big deal. Maybe we'll meet some cool people.

At this point it is almost 9 AM Icelandic time and something like 2 AM our time. We were some weird combined state of tired and yet not sleepy. We were seriously concerned we would not be able to fall asleep, but we both finally knocked out and slept for a good 6 hours.

At some point a bunch of people, speaking something besides english (how dare they!), were in the apartment. By the time we got up and got out of our room, there was no one to be found, though. I think one of the other rooms is being used and I'm certain that at some point we'll be running into them.

So at last, we step out into downtown Reykjavik and begin walking around. We can very quickly tell that Icelanders enjoy Coffee Shops and Salons. The first place we find for food, the cheapest items are $30! We were told food in Iceland was expensive, so at this point we were a little concerned. Fortunately, this was just a fluke (we ran into a nice restaurant first), and we quickly began finding places at around $10. Turns out if we had turned left instead of right when leaving our place we would have run right into a Subway (they're all over the place, it's weird), where they have nice $5-$6 sandwiches.

So we are here for Fanfest... it's a gaming convention put on by the Icelandic company CCP. I am a fan of theirs and I follow them and several of their developers on Twitter. Including CCP Punkturis (her developer name, her real name is Katrin Atladottir), who is one of their UI Designers and communicates a lot with the EVE Community. So we're walking down the street, and I randomly see this developer who I'm aware of. So, like a creep, I'm like "Katrin?" and she turns. She just barely had a baby (she tweets about this stuff, I swear), and was on a walk with it (her? him?). I explained to Meghan that this was a CCP developer and I asked if I could take a picture with her, which she obliged. This is actually pretty cool because she is on maternity leave (you know, in other countries, they actually give that to people), and probably wouldn't be around otherwise (she actually told me she was planning to swing by Fanfest to see people).

So you are imagining this scenario where I randomly call out to someone by name, then introduce them to Meghan, and explain to Meghan that they just had a baby, and you're thinking "this is the creepiest thing I've ever heard." So you would expect this lady to awkwardly get away as soon as possible. Nope. She strikes up a conversation with us about when we got in and things like that and helps us find a place to eat. Icelanders are so nice!

We ended up eating at this noodle place, which was freaking delicious (particularly the chicken... I don't think I've ever had chicken that good). We then walked around downtown, which is really compact and everything is close, so I am happy about that.

We are now back at the apartment, relaxing and updating you all. Here is what the rest of the trip is going to look like:

Tomorrow: Free day, because as much as I love traveling and sight-seeing, I love sleeping, reading, and gaming just as much, so I've got to make sure there is time for that.

Wednesday: A day tour of major Icelandic sites with CCP developers. Then at night, we are going to go see the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra play a concert of all EVE music to celebrate the 10 year anniversary of EVE. I'm very excited for this, as anyone who has been into gaming before knows that a game's music carries a load of memories and nostalgia with it.

Thursday: Day 1 of Fanfest. That evening there is a charity dinner that they sell a limited number of tickets to where you get to eat with the developers and the company's CEO. The money is donated to an organization that works to get gaming systems into children's hospitals.

Friday: Day 2 of Fanfest. That evening we signed up for a "Pub Crawl," where each developer takes 10 people and you basically go pub-hopping with them all. Should be fun.

Saturday: Day 3 of Fanfest. Really hoping for some big announcements on this day. To close everything off, they throw a party on the last night called "Party on top of the World," (because it's the highest latitude party of that size).

Sunday: Our last day of predetermined engagements. Everyone goes to the Blue Lagoon (a natural hot springs place) to recover from a long Fanfest. Once this is over, we are free to do what we want from Mon to Wed.

So I will do my best to keep this updated, but who knows. We are also crossing our fingers that we get to see the Northern Lights, but apparently April is the last month of the northern lights season.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Terms of Use

Terms of Use: Don't stray too far from "the path." Always work hard to be better than someone else. Prepare to live, but never do it. Eventually die.

Time Travel

I remember when I first learned how to time travel (most adults do it all the time and don't even realize it). I was 9 years old and on a road-trip to Disney World with my family. I decided to concentrate with great effort on myself two minutes from now; the place where I would be miles down the road. More importantly, I imagined my future self remembering this moment where I had thought about myself. It was all very infinite-loopy, but somehow my nine-year old brain had caught onto this quite easily. A second later, there I was, down the road where I had imagined, connected with my future self, and it seemed like only a second had passed in time.

Today I somehow, with what guidance I cannot say, connected with that 9 year old boy and those two points connected through time in the matter of a second. My 9 year-old self was startled and surprised more than anything, this was not the life he had imagined. He was blown away by things he never would have imagined happening in his lifetime. People that had been lost, decisions I had made, experiences that had been had. I sensed his confusion and felt bad for him.

Don't worry little man... go forward, there will be reasons, and it will make sense... most of it anyways.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Prop 8 Overturned! :)

I haven't posted anything in forever, but today I felt the need to. Proposition 8 was overturned by a federal judge today, the judge said:
Proposition 8 cannot survive any level of scrutiny under the Equal Protection Clause," wrote Mr. Walker. "Excluding same-sex couples from marriage is simply not rationally related to a legitimate state interest.
I am very happy to see this proposition overturned. I'm not sure what law even allows such decisions to be brought to a popular vote, but I think it is a flawed system... like 3 lions and a lamb voting on what's for dinner (I know, analogies are bad, but there you have it). While I'm sure a lot of arguments could be made around the role of judges and their impartiality, their job is to interpret the law. A process that seems a lot more logical and well founded than "hey let's vote!"... particularly in relation to civil liberties.

This will obviously be going to the court of appeals, and if necessary the Supreme Court. I hope it continues on the same path. I can't imagine that Proposition 8 would hold up at all under the scrutiny of a court, but then that impartiality question comes into play... so we can only hope for the best.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Review: Zombieland

The gist of it: Columbus (the characters all refer to each other by the town they are trying to get to in order to avoid attachment) is a gutless, paranoid, loner who has survived the zombie apocalypse by following his set of "rules". He runs in with Tallahassee, Wichitaw, and Little Rock... and adventure ensues.

My thoughts: This is by far the best Zombie movie I have ever seen, and while there are definitely some guts flying around, this is not a horror movie. It is 80% comedy, 15% drama/romance, and only 5% guts. I think that all of the actors do a great job, but the comedy award goes to Woody Harrelson (Tallahassee), playing the talented zombie-killing cowboy (and the writer, for creating it).

Anywho... first review in a LONG time, so not toooo exciting.