10,000 Pixels In Your Pocket

I wrote another article for SFist, this one about Apple’s announcement and the new video iPod. The comments section is pretty funny. As angry and bitter about computers that I am, I’ve got to laugh at being called an Apple-hater, as I’m sitting here using Safari on my Mac mini hooked up to the second iPod I’ve bought and an iSight camera and an Apple wireless keyboard and two variations of Apple mice sitting next to my second PowerBook and knowing that I sold a PowerBook to one friend and convinced another friend to buy an iBook. Part of me wonders what you’ve got to do to be a real Apple devotee, but then the rest of me doesn’t want to know because I’m not sure I could afford it.

Oh yeah, and the guy who said that the obsession with expensive gadgets is a manifestation of a greater socialogical (sic) ill of consumerist excess and social withdrawal? Well, no shit, Brainiac.

Anyway, the new iPod. No, it’s not that big a deal, just a thinner version of the iPod with a wider screen. It’s actually really nice, from what I’ve seen, and the best design of an iPod yet. It’s just not the big “video iPod” that all the blogs were leading up to. Great product by all accounts, just nothing astounding. Not even I can justify getting one, unless something… happens… to my existing iPod.

I was never convinced that any mobile device could play video worth seeing, until I saw the Sony PSP. I said it before, but including Spider-man 2 with the thing was a great move on Sony’s part. I don’t think it sold people on the idea of buying movies on UMD — it didn’t sell me on the idea, anyway. But it did show that it’s actually practical to watch an entire movie on a handheld. The problems, as I’ve said enough times now that I’m already sick of hearing myself saying it, are that UMDs suck and memory sticks don’t hold enough. It’s going to take a real video iPod, with a hard drive and everything, before you see people getting excited about mobile video.

Just for yuks, and to see what the video quality was, I did download a couple of videos from the iTunes Music Store. They’re nothing to get all excited about — they didn’t draw much attention to it in the press releases, but did mention it at the actual presentation, but the video is only 320×240. (And I’ll admit that the two videos were “Limp” by Fiona Apple, and “Least Complicated” by the Indigo Girls.)

Browsing through the video store was kind of neat, because at this point it’s still mostly old, old stuff that makes you say, “Oh yeah, I remember that video!” I’m having to flashbacks to sitting in the living room watching “Night Tracks” on TBS waiting for them to play “One Thing Leads to Another” by the Fixx again. As soon as they have “The Warrior” by Scandal Featuring Patty Smythe, I’m totally buying the hell out of that.

As for the TV shows, I’m skeptical I’ll ever use it. If I were using something like an iMac as my whole home media center, I could see how it would be cool — but then if you’re using an iMac instead of a bigger TV, then are you in the market to pay two bucks a pop for episodes of TV shows that were broadcast the night before? All the shows are DRM’ed with Fairplay, so it’s not as if I could copy the video file to a PSP, either. Or burn it on a DVD. They’ve still got to work that part out, I think.

I remain indifferent to the boogie

Another SFist post is up today, about the robotics convention I went to last weekend. I have to say it was kind of a disappointment (the convention, and the column), probably because I’ve been jaded by all the money that gets poured into E3 shows. I’d expected to see more ASIMO and AIBO and less Lego Mindstorms and circuit boards.

In other news, the Wallace and Gromit movie is just awesome, probably my favorite movie of the year. I was thinking there’d be no way they could keep up the level of the shorts in a feature film, but they did. I also saw Serenity a second time, and it was still good, but I don’t have much desire to see it again. Now the wait’s on until DOOM.

And apart from that excitement, I’ve been playing a lot of DOOM 3 (because I’d been feeling guilty I hadn’t given it enough chance, when it turns out I had), waiting to get into a Battleground in World of Warcraft (I’m not yet convinced they actually exist), and playing the Sims 2 expansion pack, “Nightlife.”

They did a good job with it; in fact, I think that this is the expansion pack they should’ve released first. I still believe that the “University” expansion is too separate from the main game; when most of us were still just looking for more content for the main game. One of the things that always impressed me about the Sims franchise and kept me from getting totally burned out on it was that they were really committed to making the expansion packs have real content instead of just being shovelware. But with “University,” they went too far in that direction; just an updated “Livin’ Large” pack would’ve been welcomed.

“Nightlife” is the right balance — it’s the same theme as the old “Hot Date” pack but adds a lot more, and it’s all well-integrated into the main game. All the new interactions and locations are welcome, and there’s just a lot more to do. I’m one of the sad little people who plays it like a soap opera, setting up families to watch them intermingle and fall in and out of love and make each other’s lives miserable, so I appreciate all the new features making it easier to get your computer people to get other computer people into bed with them. It’s still frustrating in places, and the pack introduces a whole bunch of new bugs, but on the whole it’s engaging. Probably not enough to draw in somebody who’s not already interested in the Sims, but good for those of us who are.

Currently I’ve got the Gordon family moved in with the Wayne and Prince families; I’m hoping that Bruce Wayne will make the moves on Diana Prince and kick his current wife Selina out to the curb. I think the only thing geekier than having comic book families in the Sims would be Lord of the Rings families, but I never claimed to be highbrow. As an example: because the Sims 2 doesn’t have a “young ward” option, I had to make Dick Grayson Bruce Wayne’s son. None of the game’s built-in aspirations are really suited to the Batman, so I just figured he was obsessed with family and should have the family aspiration. So now all his wants are “Tickle Dick” and “Play with Dick.” Which is high comedy.

Imaginary Prom Dates

I wrote another thing for SFist that’s up now; they’re getting lighter and lighter, I’ve noticed. This week I’m going to some big robot convention in San Jose, hopefully I’ll be able to get something more substantial from that instead of just letting Eve do the research while I add TV references.

And it turns out I need help with the TV references as well. I found out this week that for years I’d been mis-remembering the most important thing to any Generation X aspiring trendy hipster: Brady Bunch trivia. See, I always thought that when Jan made up the name of her imaginary boyfriend, she chose “Ron Glass“. And I always thought that was awesome. What better way to get attention away from Marcia and stick it to your uptight mom and homo dad, than show up at the big dance with a black man 20 years your senior?

And then when she showed up with the big black afro wig, that just knocked it over the top. Jan had gone past living out some predictable mid-70’s white girl Mandingo fantasy, and had blossomed into a true nubian princess.

But I was looking around the web, and it turns out the name she picked was George Glass. Who’s way more boring. Still, it turns out he was an associate producer for Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? which I guess is kind of funny.

Eet ees Scieyencia!

I’ve got yet another post up at SFist, so check it out if you’re so inclined.

A lot more interesting is the story about the ski jump on Fillmore Street yesterday. I drove by it on the way to lunch yesterday, and although traffic was backed up on Broadway, it was pretty well-handled. I didn’t see much of it, but after looking at the photos of the event on flickr, I wish I’d stopped to check it out. I have to admit I thought it was a stupid idea when I first heard about it. After seeing it, well I still think it’s a stupid idea, but I also think it’s a stupid idea that’s totally wicked awesome. Locals never seem to appreciate when I say that San Francisco is like a theme park with panhandlers, but this is exactly the kind of thing I’m talking about.

And it sounds like there’s a ton of other cool stuff going on this weekend, like Serenity which I already knew about, but also Mirrormask if you’re into Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean, and a Free Bluegrass Festival in Golden Gate Park. Makes me wish I didn’t have actual work I had to get done this weekend.

Do you like magic? No. I LOVE it.

Haw haw haw! Fooled you! The Terry Pratchett book signing was last week! So here I sit with a still-unsigned copy of Good Omens and apparently the onset of some degenerative brain disease. Hopefully nobody tried to go on the basis of that blog entry. And if you did, hopefully you didn’t drag somebody out of work and halfway across the city for a no-show. I’m feeling like such a moron I’m going to do the rest of this one like Jackie Harvey from The Outside Scoop.

Item! People have been saying that “Arrested Development” is great for a long time now but I never believed it. Even after watching their little mini-marathon a while back with Martin Short on it (which was damn funny, I don’t care what anybody says). But after watching last night’s episode (“For British Eyes Only”), I’ve finally come around to realizing this is the best comedy on TV.

I mean, I could watch 30 minutes just of Portia di Rossi doing the chicken dance and still be plenty entertained, but they actually add jokes and stuff. “Has anyone in this family even seen a chicken?” The Rumsfeld/Hussein photo. Dave Thomas giving an international phone number via flash cards. Wee Britian and the Itsy Bitsy IRA. “At that moment he was struck by something from his childhood.” “I think they came for the free chicken,” and then the people all bend over for the chicken feed! And all that was before “We’re not here to talk nonsense to Bob Loblaw.” I don’t care if I am coming late to the party asking if I can play too; this is awesome.

Item! I was watching “The Daily Show” tonight and was reminded of why I don’t shave. I end up looking like a cross between John Flansburgh of They Might Be Giants, and Ed Helms. Eh, whatever. Considering the alternative, I guess I’ll put up with the Daily Show comments for a while. Better than being called “distinguished,” which I actually was called and which everybody know just means “old.”

Item! Serenity opens this weekend! I’m totally going to see it! If it’s not sold out and there’s not a long line! I just don’t know what to dress up as, since there’s no equivalent of Boba Fett, and Blue Sun T-shirts are just played out.

Item! Mike Doughty formerly of Soul Coughing is still playing at The Independent this weekend, this time I swear to God I got the date right. I’m going to see that too!

Item! My second post for SFist is up today. The usual day for these things is Friday, but it turned out there were enough news links from the past couple of days to fill up a column. Plus, they’re kind of fun to write.

You want more of me

Admit it. So to give the people what they want — rambling, seems-insightful-at-first-glance-until-you-think-about-it blog posts — and as part of my ongoing quest to be more like Rain, I’ve started writing a weekly column for SFist, a blog about San Francisco.

My first post is up today, and they should follow every Friday. The general idea is that I’ll be writing about technology and internet news as it relates to the SF Bay Area. And I’ll get to cover a robot convention! So y’all can help out by forwarding any links to relevant news items you happen to come across. You’ll be glad you did.