Susan Jacoby at the Free Library of Philadelphia

Free Library of Philadelphia LogoI hit tonight’s author event: Susan Jacoby on her book The Age of American Unreason. Jacoby isn’t optimistic about stemming the rising tide of anti-intellectualism and anti-reason. Frankly neither am I. Find out what she’s thinking on NPR’s Book Tour or by reading an excerpt from her web site.

I’ve attended a half-dozen events including Bruce Campbell on his book Make Love the Bruce Campbell Way. Some are free, and you should plan on some extra time to explore the Central Branch if you’ve never been there before. It’s a grand old building as well as a valuable resource–even in the age of Google and Wikipedia.  There’s also a bunch of restaurants in the area as well as a Whole Foods across the street.  Hmm, I should have taken the Touch to check for free wiki … putting it on the list for next time.

Tales in Two Cities

What a crazy weekend! Maybe it’s the weather; maybe it’s the impending return to employment. Whatever it is, I was definitely in the mood to go out–and so was everybody else.

Saturday night at the Bike Stop started out slow but got busy after midnight. I typically only run into one or two people I know despite Philly being a small-town big city. Tonight it was closer to a dozen, and two of those were people who moved out of Philly but happened to be back for the weekend. Some online-only acquaintances were also there in the flesh. It’s the most connected I’ve felt since coming back from NYC in 2004. So what to do when feeling so connected to Philly one night? Go to New York the next night!

V. asked me who I was going to see in NYC, but this was a no-agenda trip to just see who’s there. Turns out, everybody. From Dugout to Eagle to View, I ran into another dozen previous acquaintances and a few new ones as well. We even had a nice chat with the Dugout’s new manager: a drag queen who promised me she’d add some microbrews to the on-tap selection. You have to know the Dugout to appreciate how surreal that sentence is.

No night in NYC is complete without drama–or in this case Telenovela. My latest disagreement with R. came to an end at the Dugout, where I also discovered that he’s a close friend of C., whom I know from “elsewhere”. So we leave the Dugout, all best buddies. At the Eagle, I chat up N. who unknown to me has history with C. who sees us and storms out with S., or so R. tells me. Not being a mind-reader, I do something wrong and R.’s out the door, texting me about how he and C. are pissed at me. So I wander over to The View to end the night talking with T. whom I’d met earlier at the Dugout.

Next time on Los Ficheros De Base! C. and R. are heading down to Florida. Will they completely forget my unintentional slight or hire a Cuban hit man in Little Havana?

Pork Chops and Apple Sauce

As much as I tried to avoid The Brady Bunch as a kid, certain things are stuck in my mind like “Marsha, Marsha, Marsha!” and the titular Peter Brady quotation which sounds enough like Podcasts and Applescripts that I haven’t been able to think of anything else since starting this post.

The real news is that I’ve finally updated My Podcasts page. There no easy way to extract the list of podcasts from iTunes directly, so I had to write an Applescript to do it. I will describe future updates to the list in posts like this so I can just copy/paste from TextEdit into WordPress.

I highly recommend all the podcasts from qdnow.com, especially Grammar Girl and Mister Manners; they’re ideal for info-snacking addicts like me because of their brevity and focus. I’m keeping all the back episodes–all of which I’ve gone through–and will highlight some of my favorites in coming posts.

Enjoy the new list and the code if you’re so inclined, but mind the disclaimer! Applescripts have direct access to almost all applications and could do great harm either by accident or malice. Eventually I’ll move the code over to the coming-soon, new-and-improved wiki on The Core Dump.

Deadly Creatures

Gila Monsters Oh God! Popsucker turned me on to the upcoming game Deadly Creatures. It looks like a WWF version of the nature programs where a bug eats a bug, then a mouse eats a bug, then a snake eats a mouse, etcetera. One screen shot has a gila monster sneaking up on a scorpion. I hope the article is wrong about only getting to play as a tarantula or a scorpion; those who know me, you know I’m going to have to buy a WII just to play as a gila monster! A GILA MONSTER!

Actually, I’d also love to play Okami with the Wiimote if done right. My big problem with consoles, even my trusty PS2, is the typical controller makes for a horrible user experience. It’s unintuitive (A/B/C/D or x/triangle/square/circle? WTF?) and completely disconnected from what you’re doing in the game. That’s what makes the Wii (and the iPod Touch) significant from an interaction design perspective; they improve the user experience by creating an interface where the virtual system mimicks real-world action.

The big hurdle for true virtual reality gaming is feedback. Swinging a device to swing your sword is one thing, but having your swing interrupted by the satisfying thud of steel cutting into orc flesh is another. I’ll admit that I found the vibrating PS2 controller added to play even though I thought it was a silly idea at first. It’s primitive for sure, like Pong’s beeps and blips, and probably a dead end. My money’s on direct neural interface to solve the virtual reality problem in my lifetime. Yes, I would drop a wire into my brain. I might not be the first, especially if it’s an Apple iBrain 1.0, but I’ll definitely do it.