The Matrix makes a great babysitter

Matrix baby

So here’s a news flash: if your kids spend a lot of time in the “digital realm,” there’s a new study that seems to show children lose some social skills. Personally, I think that depends on what you qualify as “skills” – because if you include the ability to swear colorfully (and why wouldn’t you), I’d argue that children gain quite a bit of skill in that particular area.

Of course this is going to be reported and I doubt will surprise many people. It’s a pretty small study group (100 kids) and not very well controlled, but what it does demonstrate is that in just five days the children in the group that were without electronic devices showed a marked improvement in recognizing other people’s emotions in photos and videos. To me, that just shows that if there is indeed a loss from spending too much time in front of a screen, it’s one that can easily and quickly be recovered. But hey, I’m not a psychologist – and, more importantly, I’m actually excited by the prospect of children growing up heavily integrated into a digital lifestyle. I can’t help but wonder what life will be like not for children of this generation, but for their children and even grandchildren.

I don’t picture a world where people don’t know how to interact – instead, I’m picturing a world were data flows at an incredible rate, where fact-checking can happen instantly, where the whole of human knowledge is at your fingertips 24/7, without having to do the tiresome chore of speaking into your phone. A lot of people panic at the thought of children raised in the “new” information age, but what about the idea that this will be a generation that interacts with people all over the world in a very personal – albeit digital – way, being able to immerse themselves in distant lands, languages and cultures far more thoroughly and cheaper than any of us can imagine.

Perhaps a digital Tower of Babel will rise again and we’ll all be able to communicate a little clearer and gain a better understanding of each other – even if we can’t see each others’ faces (although I think that’s already being developed).

02 Oct 2014

If I had a million drones…

A northern white rhino

From Wikipedia: One of four northern white rhinos translocated to Ol Pejeta now living in a semi-wild state.

While watching a PBS clip on elephant poaching and the rangers that try and protect them, I was really struck by the need/practicality of drones in that area. Here’s a perfect example of a situation that would HUGELY benefit from a fleet of drones: a massive area that is difficult to cover on vehicle/foot that could easily be monitored with a small fleet of unmanned drones. Obviously I’m not the first to think of this – the Ol Pejeta Conservancy not only thought of this, they launched a very successful Indiegogo campaign in 2013 to raise $35,000 towards an unmanned drone that would help them catch poachers. The perfect blend of cutting-edge technology in some of the wildest country in the world. Their campaign did great and raised almost $46,000 there and another $20,000 from other donation sites, allowing the purchase and deployment of the drone as well as numerous RFID tagging equipment.

So now poachers are being stopped and the rhinos are safe and everyone is impressed at this technology, right? Wrong, of course.

Kenya did a mass-ban of drones in the private sector. Because of course they did. They’re a “security threat.”

Yet another perfectly good solution brought down by paranoia and ignorance of technology.

30 Sep 2014

2014 MS MuckFest – Team Bubby Titches!

Here are the pics from our team at the 2014 MS MuckFest in Newtown Square (Philly), PA. It was such a fun event – we weren’t there to seriously compete, we were just there to raise money for a good cause and have a great time. Both of which we accomplished! We had so many laughs on the course (and – according to my memories, at least – provided many to our fellow Muckers)! It was a blast, and already we’re talking about what we’re doing for the 2015 MuckFest (tshirts!).

Winning!
Here's the winning team, right here. We've already started warming up by shoving children out of our way in the lines for the porta-john.
The Spinner
The best part of the post-race was sitting, drinking beer, and watching people fall off of this.
Spider Web
First time through you go under it, where a bunch of ropes are "webbed" together. Next time through, you go over it, where a fat man rolls across the top while yelling "parkour!"
Up n Over
Climb up, climb down. Or hover at the top trying to throw your chubby leg over the lip until everyone behind you gets sick of you taking so long and shoves you over...
Swing Set
This is where I'll be trying to kill myself later.
Warming Up
The pre-run beer is the most important beer.
Pacing
Gravy was following behind me, watching for signs of stroke.
Wrong way, tubby!
And here I'm wandering off the trail into the bushes. To vomit. Again.
Tumble, fat ass!
This was my favorite part - tumbling into the net 20 feet off the ground. Because F Acrophobia!
Over the top!
I think it took Chris about five seconds to climb over this entire thing. Parkour!
Hurry up, fat boy!
Gravy was kind enough to wait at the bottom of the cargo net to make sure I didn't plummet to my death. Or to witness it.
Safe at home plate!
While Chris executes a perfect slide out of the tube, I come tumbling out like... like something that doesn't tumble very well.
Illusion!
It only LOOKS like Gravy's holding on with both hands. And feet. Chris is actually taking a nap.
One-Handed Swing
Yup. Gravy rode that rope around using just one hand.
Gravy Splashdown!
Gravy executed a perfect cannonball, but lacked the distance. Obviously I needed to show him how it was done!
Showing Gravy How It's Done
So this is (one of) the part where I almost died. In my efforts to show Gravy how to properly launch off of the swing, I forgot that the swing actually - you know, swings. As I pushed off, it swung back, and I went face-first into the muck. HILARITY!
Proper Splash
Here I show Gravy how to make a PROPER splash - by falling face-first into the water.
A Nice Swim
Did the water just get warmer?
Pull, fatty!
At this point I wasn't sure who I was playing tug of war with, but I was pretty sure I was losing.
The Face of Exhaustion
Right at the end. I'm ready to collapse for a beer.
Walk of Mud
Gravy, showing off the goods.
DRAG YOURSELF!
You can't tell from this pic, but my back was barely touching the mud, I was going so fast!
Handsome Devils
And this was us when we started...
Backwash
It's hard to reach your back - Gravy actually had a nice lady step forward to hose him off... if you know what I'm saying...
Feels good!
Gotta get all that mud tucked away.
Chips n' Gravy
Nuff said.
Just Desserts!
This might have been the most delicious beer I've ever had in my entire life.
Mud Show
Yeah, I did great at cleaning myself off. Just like every other shower I take...

03 Jun 2014

Cameras, William Gibson, X-Files, and a Visionary Make-Up Artist

Esther Nairn (Kristin Lehman)

The year was 1998. William Gibson, the father of Cyberpunk, was a hot commodity. X-Files, the edgy I-Want-To-Believe sci fi show was champion of the airwaves.

Together, these should have made an incredible pairing.  Instead, it was rather dumb. The episode, Kill Switch, dealt with some typical cyberpunk ideas – artificial intelligence, transferring consciousness into the internet, and TV-ridiculous hacking. None of it was particularly visionary – mostly it was pretty silly, really. Uploading consciousness to the internet pre-broadband? Ludicrous!

However, a project I stumbled across recently brought back memories of the episode, albeit for a fairly odd reason: eye makeup. (more…)

05 Nov 2013

On Toughness

I’m a regular reader of Art of Manliness – both because they have a lot of great articles, but also because I desperately wish to be a man.

They just posted an article comparing being strong to being “tough” – neither of which I’ve ever been accused.

Teddy Roosevelt

One of the toughest men the country’s ever seen. And they named a stuffed bear after him?

I’ve always wanted to be tough. Well, strong, too – but especially tough. The grizzled old man that can land a great white (well, without the part about being eaten by said great white), the tough old bastard that has a treasured car (without the racism, of course), or even the Santa Clause whose calloused hands and ability to lift fat children on and off his knee hint at the difficulty of living in the arctic circle…

I’m not sure I’m ready to start running barefoot yet (or running at all) or even adopting half of this article’s practices; but it appeals to me. Teddy Roosevelt was taught by his father to “make his body,” and although I’ve only ever made my body into a gelatinous mess, recently I’ve been driven to make it something more. And if I’m going to work on my body, I have to first work on my mind.

I have *some* mental toughness – caring for a disabled spouse forces you to develop some cerebral callouses, and I can say I’ve kept my cool whilst being shot at and while dealing with rioters. I’ve also responded to a few medical emergencies, and although I know that my EMT skills aren’t perfect, I kept a cool head and handled the situations calmly.

But I lack willpower. I’m too prone to choose the easy way when I’m given a choice, and I certainly don’t look for chances to put myself through discomfort! I couldn’t hang with Teddy Roosevelt or Seth Bullock – I’d hate to consider what they might think of me.

But the desire is there.

If nothing else, I’ve got the cold shower thing down – but that’s mostly due to the thick layer of blubber and our fickel furnace.

04 Oct 2013

Ooooo, my brain…

I’m all about the healthy lifestyle now. Or at least I’m *trying* to be. Whether or not that happens is still in question. Granted, much of it is going to rest on whether or not my head explodes…

My buddy Austin is one of the owners at BA Athletics, a local – I don’t know even what you’d call it, because “gym” doesn’t sound right. Basically I think it’s a torture chamber. Complete with gothic devices constructed to ensure maximum pain and suffering – racks, iron balls, lead-filled bags – you know, the usual stuff used to get people to confess to witchcraftery.

So I, in my infinite wisdom, decided the thing to do with this diabetes business was to jump into a class!

And five minutes after it started, I’m curled into a ball with the worst headache I’ve ever had.

Yeah, my getting fit is off to a GREAT start…

14 Sep 2013

Oh. Thanks.

So I got a phone call from my doctor’s office today. The results, the dreaded results!

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been peeing and thirsty non-stop. And for YEARS I’ve been skirting diabetes at every checkup. And wow, really, a 300-pound man has diabetes? Shocking!

Well, there you have it. The signs were all there, so I up and went in for the tests. And lo and behold, whadya know, debeedees!

I don’t even remember what the nurse told me when she called. I do know that it was positive and that they would be calling to set up an appointment for me with the diabetes clinics.

It’s funny – I was wondering what I should write about these days. I knew something would come to me, but I must admit, this one kind of caught me by surprise.

13 Sep 2013

Something stirs…

Man. Who would’ve thought doing a fresh install would create such grief?

16 Aug 2013