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Oct 14 13

The Tomorrow People

by Ethan

The Tomorrow PeopleAs a kid in the 80’s, I watched The Tomorrow People on Nickelodeon every afternoon. It was a British sci-fi show for kids, produced from 1973-1979. Recently Matt Baum of The Two-Headed Nerd Podcast called that show “Doctor Who for kids”. The elevator pitch is teenagers with psychic powers hiding in Cold War London. A 70’s sci-fi spy show… scary monsters & scarier governments… earnest overacting… and quintessential British science fiction: low-budgets and high concepts. I adored it. It only ran 68 episodes, or fourteen weeks of Nickelodeon’s Monday through Friday schedule. I watched the entire run over and over. (There was a short-lived revival in the 90’s that I missed.)

Last year I read that the CW was remaking it and was predictably torn. It was a great property and I have strong memories of it, but I don’t watch anything on the CW. I’m just too old to invest time in the teen soap genre. But TMP is like that local band you loved in college that never hit it big. You want them to succeed.

I watched last week’s pilot. It was a great pilot, which is not the same thing as saying it will be a great show. It introduced the characters at an appropriate pace and set the stage for the rest of the season. It was better than I had hoped. I’m looking forward to the next episode, but I don’t have a feel for whether it would be a good show for someone who didn’t watch the original.

The pilot of the new series
The original pilot on YouTube
Harbinger, the closet thing in comics today

Oct 1 13

Well said

by Ethan

[via kottke]

Sep 27 13

Switching from iOS to Android

by Ethan

androidI bought my first iPhone in August of 2008. I waited a year for 3G and GPS and was pleasantly surprised when they worked out subsidized prices with AT&T. Because AT&T is terrible in my home, I switched to Verizon and the iPhone 4 in 2010. I’ve been out of contract for six months and was just waiting for the right opportunity.

After five years of iOS, I have switched to Android. In 2010, I stayed with iOS because there were no viable alternatives, but I hoped there would be some next time around. And Android has greatly improved in the past three years. After doing a ton of research, I settled on the Moto X.

Here are the four main reasons, in order of importance.

  • Google’s services are a big part of my electronic life. I’ve been using Gmail for 8 years. My wife and I share a Google calendar for our family calendar. Our grocery list is a constantly edited Google doc. I’m big on Google, but Apple is not. All Google services are second class citizens in the Apple ecosystem. They make you jump through extra hoops. I use Gmail but I can’t set it as my default email app, it has to be Apple’s Mail. The final straw was when Apple launched its own Maps app last year. The UI is excellent but the backend data is clearly inferior. (Funny but potentially dangerous example.) This was a case where Apple made a decision that was bad for its customers but good for its business. I’m tired of it, tired of the hypocrisy from a supposedly customer-first vendor.

  • Boredom. I’ve had iOS for five years now. I wanted something new.

  • Android lets you tinker. I like tinkering. I know that I’m in the minority, and that my experience is not generalizable to everyone. But I want to tinker and try new things out and make the phone mine. It’s also why I prefer PC over Mac. This never bothered me in the past because iPad and iPhones were too small a platform to do meaningful tinkering. It’s like trying to optimize a TV remote… why bother? But now smartphones are more powerful and there are lots of possibilities.

  • iPhones just aren’t cool to me anymore. (This is reason is high in vanity, but it’s a reason). I’ve heard people say Facebook stopped being cool when our moms joined it. iPhones are mainstream now. Middle-aged adults who will gleefully tell you they are “tech-challenged” have iPhones. Not everyone wants to tinker, and that’s fine, but I do. Getting an Android is in a small way about getting my geek cred back. By tinkering rather than just accepting what Apple gives me.

    I’ve been taking notes of things I learn during this switch. I’ll post them here if I think they’re interesting.

  • May 29 13

    Stork Club Vintage Dice

    by Ethan

    diceThis past weekend, my wife lead a family-wide effort to purge some of the clutter that had accumulated in the past seven years. My particular responsibility was the “electronics closet” in the office, where I have stashed a decade’s worth of computer parts, including two complete PCs that are not hooked up.

    I was in a ruthless purge mood, which is good, because I had a lot of unneeded crap. For instance, ten (10!) PC/monitor power cables. In that frame of mind, I found a pair of six-sided dice. I almost pitched them, one-by-one. They weren’t together… I found one and then the other 15 minutes later. And also, I have tons of dice and they looked really old.

    And I was right. The “1” on each die was replaced with a logo for “NYC Stork Club“. I looked that up. Wow! I have no idea how I came to own these. Neither does my dad but he found this on eBay. Best I can figure is I got them from my grandfather somehow, or perhaps my wife’s grandmother, who lived in Yonkers.

    Bakelite. Pretty cool. I have a game night coming up that uses 2d6 for the core mechanic. I’ll be using these for that, although they would be perfect for a 60’s era Cthulu game night. “Stork Club” has an Overlook Hotel feel.

    May 16 13

    The Tragic Beauty of Google+

    by Ethan

    I don’t know much about itches, but I believe the conventional wisdom is wrong: from Google’s perspective, Google+ is not a social network meant to compete with Facebook. Rather, it’s an identity system that follows you everywhere.

    Think about it: what is more valuable? Inane chatter, memes, and baby photos, or every single activity you do online (and increasingly offline)? Google+ is about unifying all of Google’s services under a single log-in which can be tracked across the Internet on every site that uses Google analytics, serves Google ads, or uses Google sign-in.

    Every feature of Google+ – or of YouTube, or Maps, or any other service – is a flytrap meant to ensure you are logged in and being logged by Google at all times.

    Google’s mission is ostensibly “To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

    That was once true, but a better formulation today is: “To organize user information and make it universally trackable and marketable.”

    Make no mistake, Google+ has been a massive success; credit to Google for their willingness to be misunderstood and portrayed as a loser even as they mine information Mark Zuckerberg can’t even dream of.


    May 6 13

    Review of Wolf Hall: A Novel

    by Ethan

    “Hilary Mantel’s tremendous Wolf Hall is Game of Thrones if every chapter was told from Tyrion’s point of view.”

    Wolf-HallThat was a line in a review I read and it was enough to hook me. It’s apt, too. The book’s star is Thomas Cromwell, who was adviser to King Henry VIII in the 1530’s. It’s historical fiction, all the persons and events were real, although the scenes and dialogue must be extrapolated.

    I very much enjoyed this. The lack of a fifth star is due to two things, one of which isn’t the book’s fault: there were so many dramatis personae that I had trouble keeping them all straight at times. But since these were real people, I can’t really fault Mantel for including them. I did find her prose hard to follow at times. It’s third-person POV and at times I lost who was speaking. I tried to listen to part of this via audiobook and that exacerbated the problem.

    These are small complaints. I only know the broad strokes of Sixteenth Century English History. I know Henry broke from the Catholic Church in order to divorce his wife and marry Anne Boleyn. This book is about how that (and other things) came to pass. Really enjoyed it.

    May 6 13

    More than half of the world’s population lives inside this circle

    by Ethan

    More than half of the world’s population lives inside this circle.”

    [via SuperPunch]

    Apr 18 13

    In Iceland, Tap Cellphones To Avoid Incest

    by Ethan

    I might be link-bating the wrong sort of internet searches, but this is pretty cool.

    Kozar_The_Malignant writes “Students at the University of Iceland have written an Android app that helps you avoid dating your cousins. The app accesses the Icelandic national genealogical database that contains information on all living citizens and their ancestors going back 1,100 years. Tapping two phones together will bring up an alert if you share a common grandparent.” Just one of the consequences of having a population small enough and well documented enough to have a well-known genetic makeup.

    via slashdot

    Mar 31 13

    Brian K. Vaughan is the head writer on Under the Dome?

    by Ethan

    Y: The Last Man and Saga writer Brian K. Vaughan is one of the main writers of the new CBS show Under the Dome, based on the Stephen King novel of the same name. And last night, we got the first glimpse of some footage, and Vaughan talked about how he aims to take a 1,000-page novel and turn it into a TV show that could run for years.

    Read more…

    Okay, this just popped to the top of my Must List. I had no idea that BKV was involved in this.

    Mar 27 13

    Amazon X-Ray Goes Prime Time With TV Support

    by Ethan

    OMG, this. I have talked about this for a decade.