Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Reveal

We're back with Micheal Transbottom the Third, to reveal to our homeowners the transformations that have been wrought on their lives;

"Okay, Sub-Saharan Africa, we know that you've been through some rough times. AIDS, constant war, and famine can really wear a person down. So for your room we've decided to provide you with an in-home SPA!!!"

"New Orleans, San Diego, you guys worked really hard to recover from devastating acts of natural violence. We wanted to make sure you knew we had your back, so here's random support across the country for your sports teams!!!"

Etc. I don't mean to be down on Extreme Makeover, or any show that attempts to better the lives of others through community effort, but the shocking truth is that the poorest family in America is richer than some 90% of the world. As we click past Halloween and into the season of avaricious lusting after stuff, let's all consider doing something bigger than ourselves.

Places that can happen (local and otherwise):

Heifer International
Oregon Food Bank
CASA of Multnomah Co.

And of course you can test your mad vocabulary skillz and feed people at the same time - Free Rice, yo.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Ignite was awesome.

Everybody knows this by now, but Ignite Portland was a smashing success. Good food, lovely beverages (although this didn't affect me, the alcoholic ones ran out), GREAT speeches. Some highlights:

Steve Morris' talk on pitching to investors was both relevant and engaging, although the slides were a little "slidey" for my taste - fairly dry, and often too full to successfully absorb in 15 seconds. The guy clearly knows his stuff, though, and was in the right room.

Adam Duvander's talk was great and provided me some solid reading. I met Adam at an open coffee last month and was glad to see him do so well.

Both the StepChange guys were great, but Kevin Tate's talk on emergence was absurdly revealing and packed to the gills with references to books that I should have read by now but haven't. I like unicycling as much as the next guy, but I think hands down one of the best presenters was KT.

Crystal Beasley's presentation had hands down the best slides in the first half. Visit I Hate Hummer for a peek at her latest project, which involves, well, hating Hummers.

The second half was substantially lighter, although hilarious. You just had to be there, or wait for the video, for a lot of these. Of particular note in the "awesome slides" category was Hideshi Hamaguchi, who presented on "thinking like the Japanese" and had beautiful slides.

The dog of the bunch was Keith Gerr's random assortment of comments about things. He was out of time with his slides, didn't really have a single "burning idea," and generally speaking was baffling to try to understand. Not to be a Debbie Downer, but this one was really quite weird.

That aside, it was great! Kudos to all sponsors, presenters, and

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Is Apple the new [Insert Here]?

Jason Kottke suggests that the Apple = new Microsoft rhetoric is coming. I have no reason to disagree, but I like a different metaphor, and not only because it's October; is Apple the new Red Sox?

Lemme 'splain - I believe that the Red Sox will win the series. I believe it despite the removal of Wakefield from the roster, despite the Cinderella streak the Rockies are on, despite my general love of the NL. Having won two in the last four years, the question then becomes, "who are we kidding with this lovable underdog nonsense?" They're as big as the Yankees, their budget is as big as the Yankees. They're an 800 lb. gorilla. But the questions surrounding the public shift in consciousness about their massiveness are bigger and more varied than "are the Sox the new Yankees?" The human takes on popularity, mind and market share, and cultural shifts are interwoven.

So back to Apple. Yes, they're the Red Sox. They are flying high on devices that make all the spouting about portable tribes a reality. They have incredibly beautiful computers (well, they always did) that put the "you" in Unix, and can even run Windows if you must. They are an 800 lb. gorilla. The reaction one way or the other is going to depend more on the service culture they generate than anything else (though I concede that there are many, many anythings that will impact this). Apple is currently famous for cool, but one of the things I've always liked is that they're growing famous for service and support. They don't just design products that are (to me) intuitive, they help people who don't find them so intuitive. Just ask my mother, who started with an iMac (at my insistence) and now has a little MacBook for travel.

Red Sox won the Series, and Apple launched the iPod. The fans cheered and hooted and raved, and then there was a small moment of "omg, now what" among Red Sox/Apple Nation - we're not the underdog! The curse is broken! What the heck do we do with ourselves? What they did, by and large, is stay the course - Sox are awesome, and so is Apple. Win a second series/release the iPhone? You're still awesome, and the fan core still thinks so; it's the rest of the world that will swirl, the people who saw an iPod and said, "yeah, that's neat" or who read an article on the 0-3 comeback and thought, "those scrappy millionaires, look at them go." NOW you're, how you say, hegemonic. Now there's an outsider looking in, hoping for a shot at the big time, dreaming of wrestling the Badass Motherf*cker wallet from your iron grasp.

Microsoft, as you may have heard, plans to solve their own nipped heels problem by buying everything in sight. Apple probably won't do that - doesn't fit the model. They'll have to differentiate the old fashioned way - by earning the respect and trust of an ever-growing clientele. Shocking, I know. I wish they could just synergize some mindshares, or something. Sounds better, less "brick and mortar."

Friday, October 19, 2007

OBT Starts with a Bang.

The first program of Oregon Ballet Theatre's 2007-08 season has its last performance tomorrow, and having just been I strongly encourage you to beg, borrow or steal tickets and go see it. Christopher Stowell seems to have that great Director's knack of finding the right roles for the right people, and this program positively brims with promise of things to come. At one point I thought to myself that these dancers both understand and honor the burden of being the company for an entire state.

(That's not to say there's not other dance out there, but let's face it - you look to ballet as the harbinger of quality. These folks get that, and they mean business).

The program started with William Forsythe's "The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude," new to OBT this year. The piece was something of a standby at SF Ballet, and so it's no surprise that Stowell would want to bring it here. Forsythe wasn't kidding when he said "exactitude" - this is a hard dance for all five dancers, and only Stephen Houser performed flawlessly - but the energy was there and the missteps were minor. It's a great dance and I hope Stowell keeps it close. With such a small season (four programs + Nutcracker) it's unlikely to see an immediate repeat, but every other year this is a great chance to give young dancers some serious work.

The juxtaposition of the big, spacious, shape-centric "Thrill" with "Mostly Mozart," a return performance from its 2006 premiere at OBT, was fascinating. The dancers, for the most part, remain within a hand's grasp of each other, and although there is a great deal of movement one can't help but think that you're watching a much smaller stage. That combined with the call-and-response, introductory motif and then silence during the dance, made for a haunting and physical performance. With breath cues and sliding feet clearly discernible, particularly during the trio dances, this was a heck of a spectacle. The pas de deux was absolutely amazing, and the re-introduction of music took the narrative force up a notch - or two, or three. Dazzlingly sensual, great fun, and an entirely different kind of thrill (but no less exact).

At that point I would have been fine even if Stowell had concocted some maudlin nonsense out of "Midsummer Night's Dream." He did not; he chose instead to bottle the wit and wisdom of the bard and pour it into dance. See, I'm the one concocting maudlin nonsense, but seriously, this was a delight. Stowell has created a place for the whole company, plus kids, to roll around in the leaves and enjoy. It's not worth recounting the story (you know it already), or dissecting the choreography (it's a comedy). Just go and see it, either tomorrow (today by the time you read this) or whenever it's on again. It's a flagship ballet for OBT, a stake in the ground, a triumph.

End dance geek moment. We now return to our regularly scheduled ephemera.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Ignite Portland lineup is set!

Hey, hey, we have presenters! Sadly, none of them are me :P But I'll bang the drum again next quarter, and in the meantime the deadline really helped me develop the concept. I'm bout 7/8ths done with the speech and will have lots of time to make funny ha-ha slides.

Meanwhile, it's not too late to sponsor the inaugural Ignite Portland. I've been telling attorneys that this is a chance to show up amidst a flock of techies wearing a gigantic "I get it!" button, but so far no dice. Will follow up once this is posted.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

A plug is a kind of item...

So in my perusing of the 2007 Interactive Fiction competition, I came across Inform 7. Inform is the language that Infocom used on all those awesome text adventures of our collective youth - Zork and whatnot. The 7th iteration is heavy mojo, because it's meant to be a natural language, object oriented narrative device. You use Inform 7 to tell a story about the story you want to tell. For example, if I wanted to make sure that the player in my text adventure could accuse people of crimes, I would tell Inform something like this:

Accusing is an action applying to one visible thing and one value. Understand "accuse [something] of [crime]" as accusing. A crime is a kind of value. Crimes are sabotage, murder, theft, blackmail, and arson.

Check accusing:
if the noun is not a person, say "Reifying stuff isn't going to get you anywhere - try accusing a person." instead;

and so on. I'm actually trying to figure out how to ensure that the [crime] is limited to the "approved list" enumerated in the code. But that's not the point.

The point is that the wonderful world of IF authoring has taken a leap into the darkness that is natural language programming. I'm slightly surprised that this didn't generate more of a stir when it was released (although I may have just missed the buzz, and anyway, in the world of teeny communities the group of people who write and play interactive fiction is one of the teeniest). For someone who is used to thinking of IF as a series of stage notes, the freedom of the system is amazing.

It's also just enough rope to hang myself, of course. It's already quite apparent from my perusal of Usenet posts on the subject of Inform 7 that I need to be brave and work on learning Inform 6, which represents the heart and guts to Inform 7's brain. However, if one was mechanically unambitious and just wanted to write a good story, they could do it in Inform pretty dang easily.

Which makes one wonder why we can't create all sorts of relational databases this way...probably we can.

Compare Adrift and TADS, which appear to be the two other "easy" authoring systems. I have some experience with Adrift, which I was using to author a "print your LRW paper" law school adventure before my laptop, in a fit of irony, imploded. TADS I know nothing about, except that it's got more multimedia-style capacity (little embedded sound files, images, etc.).

Ignite Speech Kicks Local Man's Ass

So...taking a lot of time to get my shtick ready for Ignite Portland. There was a time that this would have been a piece o cake, but the format restrictions plus my natural state of repose/procrastination is making it hard to get any traction on the text.

This is one of those posts that might as well not exist, but I feel strongly that I shouldn't let my pokey puppy nature completely kill the blog. So, I'm alive, I gots stuff to say, yada yada. :P

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Taste of Mexico - viva upscale taquerias!

So I've seen this place on 21st a couple of times and we finally got a chance to get over there for lunch (it helps that it's in the same row o' goodness as Ken's Artisan Bakery and City Market NW). We were both pleased as pie with what came out of the kitchen, both in terms of presentation and in terms of actual, you know, eating.

Carmen had the flautas, which were quite tasty, while I went for boring and got a taco/enchilada combo. All the food was yummy, but as usual the portions were enough for two meals. I'm actually getting ready to bust out the leftovers for lunch today.

Anyway, go check it out. There's tons of options down there (and the great great coffee house next door) so even if not in the mood for Mexican, you can find some way to feed yourself. ;)

Now playing: - Mockvitational Part 4
via FoxyTunes

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Casual Gameplay Design Competition 4!

The entries are starting to appear over at Jay Bibby's Casual Gameplay site. This competition is becoming quite the marquee event, with around 50 (!) entries this time around.

If you have some spare time or need an excuse to create some spare time, go check it out. I only had time to glance at the entries that have revealed so far, but they both seem like fun. Now if I just had the time to play them :)

Now playing: Richard Ashcroft - Money To Burn
via FoxyTunes