Monday, March 30, 2009

Preach on, brotha...


Thursday, March 26, 2009

Jesse Cook

One of my more recent Internet discoveries (thanks, Laura!) is the awesomeness that is Pandora. This is one of those applications that really shows the power of what the Internet can be. You tell it a song or artist you like, and it goes out and finds music that sounds similar. Not just stuff from the same genre; most any online music streamer can do that. Every song in the Pandora database has been tagged with certain musical elements (based on the Music Genome Project), and the application draws from that database to play music that sounds like the input you made. I tire quickly of hearing the same music over and over, so being able to define a certain style and hear multiple artists is great. It’s the perfect place to discover new music that you would’ve never found otherwise. And it’s totally free.

Also, Pandora works through my Squeezebox, which is one of the coolest things ever. More about that in a later post.

One of the artists I found on Pandora was Jesse Cook. His music is described as rumba-Nuevo Flamenco with percussion and afro-latin influences. (And get this, he's a Canadian born in Paris. I KNOW!) His music is absolutely some of the coolest stuff I’ve ever heard. You can get a taste of it on Amazon, or just load up Pandora yourself and type in his name. Devout Baptists should probably avoid it, as you WILL want to dance.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Obama on Leno

Say what you want about his politics, but the guy does have a certain charm about him...

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Best advice ever given

You don’t tug on Superman’s cape.
You don’t spit into the wind.
You don’t pull the mask off the ol’ Lone Ranger.
And you don’t mess around with Jim.

Thank you, Jim Croce.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Golden Buddha

Golden Buddha Golden Buddha by Clive Cussler

My review

rating: 2 of 5 stars
I'm always wary of books by popular authors that are written with someone, such as this initial outing in the Oregon Files, written by CLIVE CUSSLER (with Craig Dirgo). Does this mean Cussler wrote it with Dirgo helping out from time to time, or (as I suspect) did Cussler create the universe and the concept, and then Dirgo actually wrote the book itself? Regardless, this first offering in Cussler/Dirgo's new series starring Juan Cabrillo left something to be desired.

The concept itself is sound: an undercover, high-tech super-boat and its crew sail around the world performing what are effectively mercenary missions. This is Pop-Tart reading - you can consume a lot of it in a small amount of time, but it's ultimately not very filling. While I like the premise, the text itself seems somehow cumbersome. There are a lot of characters, few of whom are fleshed out enough for the reader to keep straight. The storyline itself is pretty contrived (we're meant to believe twelve guys can take on the entire Chinese military?), but I can go with that. Mostly the book just seemed like so much fluff - a lot of words for very little return.

All that being said, I understand that Golden Buddha is the weakest in the series, so I might give it one more try and see if Cussler/Dirgo (or Dirgo/Cussler) can focus the storyline and characterization a little more in the next book. Until then, I think I'll go read a Dirk Pitt book - some pure, unadulterated Cussler.

View all my reviews.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Watching Watchmen

Ann and I went and saw Watchmen last night. It is an admittedly high-quality film; the special effects are top-notch, and it's a very faithful representation of the book, which had an elaborate and very interesting storyline. It's also a very intense movie which certainly earns its R rating. This is not a movie I'd want to watch with my mother-in-law. I'm just sayin'...

If you don't know what Watchmen is, however, or have never read the book, I can't imagine that this movie would hold any appeal for you. My only draw was in seeing how the book itself was adapted for the big screen, and if I hadn't already read the book I don't think I would've been able to follow the storyline at all. Ann was a trooper and sat through all two hours and forty minutes with me, although we both agreed that I now owe her three chick-flicks to make up for it.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

A possible future for technology

It's been amazing to watch the steady progression of personal technology, especially over the last ten years or so. It's almost impossible to predict where we'll be in another ten - futurists have a way of being completely wrong about what's coming down the pipeline. Admit it: the types of technology we use today are completely beyond the imagination of someone living fifty years ago. I don't even know how you could describe "reading a blog on the Internet" to someone who doesn't even understand computers.

All that being said, I'd like to take a stab at predicting what technology might look like in the future. Specifically, I'm going to guess what sorts of technology my son will take with him to his freshman year of college. The Monkey just turned five in December, so he should be going to college 13.5 years from now, so I'm discussing what might be available to him in the summer of 2022. I'm going to assume that he'll have the higher-end of consumer electronics, which isn't too big a leap given his already evident proclivity for gadgets (and my tendency to be willing to purchase them).

As a point of reference, let's look at what sorts of technology were available 13 years ago, around the summer of 1996. At the time, the cell phone market was just beginning to take root in the US. I myself had a decently-powered computer (I think it was a 486) and it probably had a first-generation 3D graphics card. The first Palm Pilot was released in 1996 (although I didn't get one until late 1999); it had half a megabyte of onboard memory, almost laughable by any modern standard. All televisions were tube-based; the first flat-panel screens hit the market in 1997. The hard drive in my computer was about 500 MB in size, about 1/1000th what I have now. I'd never even heard of an MP3 file, although I was admittedly a little behind the curve on that one. The only Internet connection I'd ever used was dial-up.

Today I have almost continuous access to the Internet through my work and home computers, the wireless network at home with several devices connected, and my cell phone. The iPhone has changed the idea of a palm-held computer. My graphics card has as much onboard memory memory as that old hard drive, and my current hard drive holds 300 GB (with a planned upgrade to 1 TB). In fact, the smallest thumb drive available on Newegg, at 1 GB, costs less than five dollars. I challenge you to find a non-flat-screen TV for sale. And Stephen Colbert recently did a (quite funny) joke about how outdated dial-up Internet is.

Okay, so that's where we were, and that's where we are. Obviously much more could be said about how far technology has come, but you can surely come up with your own examples. So here are my predictions for what the Monkey will have with him when he starts college in 2022.

He will not carry a laptop or desktop. His only computer interface will be through a hand-held device, probably about the size of a cell phone. It will, of course, act as a cell phone, but it will also serve as every other computing device he needs. It will have the capability of interacting with a monitor and keyboard, probably wirelessly. He'll be able to walk up to any available workstation, consisting solely of a monitor and keyboard, and it will with little or no effort connect to his device and customize itself to his liking. He will have no other use or need for a separate computing device.

Chances are his data will not even be stored on this device, so it will have no need for internal storage. It will have an always-on connection to the Internet, and every bit of data he needs will be stored on remote servers. For example, he will not "buy" MP3s off a service; he will have a subscription that gives him access to his music, which will be streamed as required to his device when he needs it. Losing the device will be almost inconsequential; you just go buy another one, tell it who you are, and all your information is available. This sort of technology exists in a primitive form today. I use the Steam gaming service. I buy a copy of a game online and download it to my computer. If I go to another computer, I can log in to the service, download another copy of the game, and pick up where I left off.

There will be no difference between a computer and a television. Instead of waiting for a specific timeslot for a television program, the Monkey will simply be informed on his handheld device when the program is ready, and the next time he's near a monitor he can watch it through the device, again streamed realtime while he's watching it.

I suspect books will still exist as we think of them, but they will be far more rare. The Monkey will be used to reading books on his handheld or a monitor connected to the handheld. "Old-style" books will be reserved for particular needs: large color pictures, easy reference, or maybe just nostalgia.

To the Monkey, immediate access to any piece of information will be completely natural. Navigating the enormous amounts of information available on the Internet will be second-nature and he will be able to process the information in ways that are alien to me now (and probably will still be then).

Note that I'm not making any sort of statement on whether this technology is "good" or "bad." My simple point is that I think this is where technology is headed in the next decade or so. It seems far-fetched, but when you reflect on how far this sort of wizardry has progressed in the last 13 years, it doesn't seem too out there. I'll revisit this topic from time to time, but until then plan on meeting me back here in the summer of 2022 to see if I was even close to the mark.