Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Turn to page 34, if you dare...

Ah, the "Choose Your Own Adventure" novel. The cornerstone of my love of fantasy and adventure stories. I can't say it helped foster any sense of commitment though. I rarely made a choice without keeping my finger at the proverbial fork in the road, just in case I had to back-track. Sort of went against the point of the medium, but I couldn't have anyone falling off a cliff or being vaporized by an alien death ray. Not on my watch.

Further proof that everything that was old is new again, CYOA is trying out downloads of their classic series designed specifically for iPods. The first title , The Abominable Snowman, is currently available for free (until Jan. 25th). It looks like they want to get some feedback during beta testing, and what better way is there than using the word "free"? The downloads include full color illustrations and sound effects, in addition to the author's own voice telling the story.

So, anyone up for a little retro reading?

Choose your own iPod adventure [Via Crave]

Thursday, January 18, 2007

We've found 'em, boys

"We've found 'em, boys. Let's bring them in!"

"Er, we had to eat Tom, but everyone else is fine."

Encouraging words to any would be rescuers' ears. Not so much for Tom's dog (who's up for adoption now, it seems).

In the wake of the recent disappearance and rescue of the Kim family (in which there was no eating of anyone), I've become very interested in all things "survival". Not in the "hunker down in the basement stockpiled with assault rifles and canned goods so the Commies can't get us" kind of way. I just mean that as my family has grown, "what if..." pops into my head a lot more often than it used to.

As a proper geek, I am obligated to scratch this itch by finding equipment and researching obsessively. For that's the answer to pretty much any problem - equipment and research. And equipment in particular, whether it be high-tech or low, is quick to fan the flames of my heart.

I recently ran across this watch on a travel blog, Gadling. The Emergency is made by Breitling, a company whose motto is "Instruments for Professionals". They produce precision timepieces for professional divers, pilots, and wannabe divers and pilots with deep pockets. Unless you're in the music biz, you can't just go throwing the word "instrument" around unless you mean business. And they do. How serious are they? Well, the Emergency is equipped with a transmitter capable of sending a distress signal reaching approximately 100 miles. The transmitter utilizes the aircraft emergency frequency and can operate for up to 48 hours. In a situation where there are no cell towers to help rescuers triangulate your position and things look like they're about to get a whole lot worse, the Emergency is a great insurance policy. That is serious.

Breitling Emergency [Via Gadling]

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

...and we're back

Hello again, fans. Thanks for your patience as we muddled through our little hiatus.

Truth is, we were on an expedition in the jungles of Guatemala looking for the Lost Idol of Cacapoo. We were inches away from snatching it . . . but the authorities were tipped off and they had an "escort" waiting for us. We would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren't for those meddling kids and that dog of theirs.

We tried to explain that the idol belonged in a museum, in the US, where unsupervised kids could put their greasy little hands all over it while mom and dad fought over visitation schedules after the divorce became final. It was the idol's destiny. They weren't having it. Perhaps we went too far when we mumbled something about it becoming ours when "the good ol' U-S of A finally annexes your whole damn country". Apparently, mentioning Manifest Destiny is a faux pas in Guatemala. Suffice it to say, we were shown the door soon thereafter. Touchy people, those Guatemalans.

I mean, hey, in general, if looting the graves of fallen empires and robbing countries of their national treasures for our personal gain, especially when said governments don't have the resources to feed their own citizens, much less protect priceless artifacts which represent the very identity of their people, is wrong, then I don't want to be right.

So, until we can get our legal status cleared up, I guess it's back to the geek grind, no?

[Hello to Dean, who helped bring us out of hiding!]

Thursday, November 16, 2006

At any cost...

Is appendicitis any excuse for losing your primo spot in the Playstation 3 queue? Hell, no! You've got a spork and a common blood type. You know what to do. Now how does that prayer go again, "Yea, though I walk in the valley of the shadow of death..."

And don't worry . . . if you lose consciousness the crowd will make sure to push you forward the second the gates open. That'll be your signal to float away from the light in time to re-animate your corpse and grab the last PS3 from the shelf. You won't have lost your girlfriend (doesn't understand importance of high def gaming), big toe (frostbite), and now vestigial internal organ (just had to go today, didn't it?) for nothing. Now go home and take a shower. Oh, you'll be playing, right. Well, you may want to squeeze one in before Thanksgiving. Especially given your recent surgical procedure. I'm just saying . . .

RSS chaos

It appears that our RSS feed went all wonky yesterday. I know my reader picked up 24 "new" posts last night, which of course were not really new at all. Sorry for the clutter. Just think of it as an opportunity to re-read our award winning work.*

* [By "award winning work" we mean "several people have actually read said prose and not sustained long term psychological damage". Good enough for us. - ED]

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Beware of the fringe geek

We geeks are everywhere. Just when you think you can recognize (and ostracize) us instantly by our awkward appearance and lack of social graces, a fringe geek will sneak up on you and become your closest friend. Insidious, aren't we?

You see, we come in many shapes and flavors. The most common species, computerus geekapedae gravis, is well represented, but other groups, such as weekend beekeepers and air/sea show attendees, secretly fly their very own geek flags. Take the model car builder, for example: Always looking for a new challenge. Doing in adulthood what he always longed for as a child. Trying to reconcile these feelings against a desire to be completely normal, boring, and average. Geek. Geek. Geek.

Luckily, for both the closeted and openly geek, there's a marked upswing in geek-as-cool. Our model-building brethren can now proudly display art catered to their calling. Jellio is selling life-sized snap-out model inspired art designed to hang on your wall for all to see. The example you see here is the Drive In model. The price is, not surprisingly, quite steep ($3000).

No one said coming out was going to be easy.

Jellio Drive In - Autoblog

Monday, November 06, 2006

Dangling a carrot

This painting by Casey Wheldon was mentioned on BoingBoing a few days ago. You have to love any pop art references to Star Wars. Is this considered cruelty to AT-ATs? Click on the image for a larger view.

Painting of kid riding an AT-AT - BoingBoing

Friday, November 03, 2006

Drink from the bottle...with a little class

Ah, Firebox. Always bringing us the best in random crap. And I don't mean "crap" in the pejorative sense. No, no, crap can be great. Behold, Beer Bottle Goblets. One part whimsy, one part beauty. For $24.95 you get a set of two glasses made from salvaged bottles of Grolsch, Sol, or Corona. I fancy the Grolsch glasses myself. Nice use of an already attractive design. I especially like that they don't have all of that branding on them (like the Sol and Corona bottles do). Just the subtle grain relief pressed into the glass that any beer snob will recognize instantly. Cheers.

Beer Bottle Goblets - Firebox

Thing's robotic twin

If you've been hanging around here much, then you know how we feel about robots, particularly disembodied parts made to resemble those of humans. I couldn't sleep with this thing in the house. All creepy crawly, just looking for a "fleshy" to snuff out.

Yeah, What on Earth is selling these things as novelty gifts for $16.95, but this is clearly a ploy to get us to bring them into our homes. These plastic hands respond to sound by playing the right hand part to several popular piano tunes. But is that all they can do? Will they lull us into a false sense of security with their Minute Waltz and human-like movements? What will happen once "The Signal" is sent out from Master Control? We'll let someone else figure that out. Vigilance, friends!

Pianist Hand Concert

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Down the hatch

Everyone enjoys a good colonoscopy now and again, right? What? That's an exit only in your book? Hmmm, what to do, what to do. Given Imaging has a solution. Say hello to the Pillcam. It is, in case you haven't guessed, a camera small enough to be swallowed. The Pillcam takes thousands of snapshots of your gooey innards as it passes through your body. Delicious! It seems that some insurance companies are even covering this slightly less invasive diagnostic option. Technology is always taking the fun out of going to the doctor, no?

Not your father's colonoscopy - Crave

Sorry for the delay...

Sorry for the lack of posts recently. We've been relocating the GeekPlex, and the move has consumed most of our attention. I think we're back now, so watch this space for more inane chatter.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Build a better meal

Good design is good design. That was a really insightful sentence, wasn't it? You know what I mean. Designers are taking bits and pieces of classic designs and applying them in non-traditional ways. Take for example the LEGO Man. He's simple, he's got interchangeable parts, and he's held every job possible, from firefighter to wizard. If you met him in the street though, you'd probably think of him as more of a drifter with "multiple personality disorder" than a hero, given that he can't hold down a job but can remove his own legs at a moment's notice. Such is the hypocrisy of society. LEGO Shop at Home has drafted LEGO Man and a few other random LEGO blocks into culinary service. While it may seem strange to apply toy design to kitchenware, I think LEGO's got it right. Severed heads aside, the other products are whimsical, but still very attractive.

On a side note, I can't be the only one who's noticed that "geek chic" is really taking off. It seems that the "influence movers", people who mold public tastes and purchases, are really embracing things that just a few years ago would have been fatal to your reputation. Writers for movies and television are making more and more geeky references. Technology is in. Games are in. Weezer will be next year's biggest band (OK, that may be a stretch, but let's run with it, eh?). It's all coming together people.

Lego my...kitchen gear - Slashfood

Monday, October 09, 2006

A little geek reading

I just finished reading a short sci-fi novel by Cory Doctorow entitled Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom. I'd heard mentions of the story (published in 2003) here and there, and I was already familiar with Cory's work for BoingBoing and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, so after some recent appearances on This Week in Tech, I decided to sit down and give Mr. Doctorow a chance.

The man has some interesting views on copyright and intellectual freedoms, and puts his money where his mouth is. Each of his four books (including Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom) is available for download . . . free. I know what you're thinking: he's only doing this because his own mother wouldn't buy a copy. To the contrary, he seems to be doing very well in that department. But Doctorow has also experimentally published his novels under a Creative Commons license which allows for reproduction, distribution, and even, gasp, "remixes" without his review or explicit approval. This seems like any normal author's worst nightmare, but he claims that going this route has his career "turning over like a goddamned locomotive engine". Geek Happens is rocking a CC license too, you know.

Enough about Cory, on to Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom. The story takes place in the 22nd century, a time when energy is free, death has been defeated, and no one has to go hungry. But don't get the wrong idea. This is not some Utopian society where everyone sits around singing and holding hands. With the daily struggles of scraping together an existence gone, people are free to do as they wish; and human nature being what it is, that still involves violence, envy, and the occasional act of kindness. People band together in "ad-hoc" groups to accomplish goals, and traditional currency has been replaced by "Whuffie", a reputation-based currency reflecting the esteem and respect given to you by your peers. Most of Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom takes place in, you guessed it, Disney's Magic Kingdom. The setting is important, as it both reflects how this new society functions (ad-hoc groups, always-on networking), yet reminds us that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Doctorow's style is very laid back.
He avoids long, drawn-out dissertations on the events that molded this future society. Instead, he mentions concepts in passing, and expands upon them as the story unfolds. Post-scarcity economics, deadheading, and the Bitchun Society are all explained before it's over. His focus seems to be on telling a story that just so happens to take place in the future. Technology plays a role, but more to describe circumstances than to awe the reader with visionary ideas.

Overall, I really enjoyed
Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom. It's a great piece and, because it's on the short side, it doesn't require a huge time commitment to get through (I read it during my lunch breaks in just a few days). I plan to read through the rest of Cory Doctorow's novels in the next few weeks. I'll keep you posted as I go through them. In the meantime, download your copy here and let me know what you think.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Resistance is Futile - Part 5

There is no escaping the Pod. We're haunted by visions of Cube dwelling elves and man-made formations visible from space. Even Mickey and his empire have been drafted into the fruit army. Perhaps if we just lay down for a few moments, we'll be able to clear our heads. Ah, yes, sweet rest. Wait a sec, what's that sound? Do you hear it? It seems to be coming . . . from . . . this . . . pillow . . . NOOOOO!!!

Geek equipment shop ThinkGeek presents the MP3 Pillow. Now, I don't think anyone is supposed to believe that this was inspired by any old generic MP3 player, but we can assume TG wanted to avoid one of Apple's now famous "cease and desist" nastygrams.

This standard size pillow not only looks like a giant plush iPod, but it also plays music from an internal speaker. The back of the pillow has a slot for connecting your music player (and not just iPods). Strangely, the buttons on the front actually work. You might want to turn the thing off before you fall asleep though. You don't want to run the risk of skipping to one of your angry breakup play lists and doing something crazy while you sleep. And hide your wallet while you're at it. Who knows what sort of subliminal propaganda issues forth from that speaker whilst you dream of electric sheep. $19.95.

MP3 Pillow - ThinkGeek

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Just to remind, please rewind

Here's a grand piece of g-bage sure to confuse the hell out of all your mindless sheep friends. The DVD Rewinder has been around for a while, but for some reason it has popped back up into the blogosphere.

Many consumers are not aware of the long term damage caused to both DVDs and DVD players when a disc is not rewound after each use. The movie industry has colluded with consumer electronics manufacturers to disable the rewind feature on DVD players in an effort to force us to purchase replacement media and players. Don't fall for their tactics!

We'd also like to note that The Home Depot has added cantilevered and self-anchored suspension bridges to it's extended online catalog. Let us know how your installation goes.

The DVD Rewinder - DV Guru [thanks, Chuck]