Tag Archives: technology

I’m a Killer – But I’m a Lousy One

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So, there we were – on a street in China, I think it was – pinned down by an enemy who had encamped himself on the edge of a loading platform. Two of my battle buddies were trapped, and there was no way around him. In my ear, I could hear my comrades begging for someone to please take the bastard out.

I hatched a plan. I crept up a ramp near the platform, and rolled a flash-bang grenade into the doorway on the back of the building. It worked; the enemy sprang from his perch and began to unload his whole clip into the doorway, figuring it was being breached.

I shot the poor bastard right in the side of his head. He dropped his gun, grabbed his face and fell to the ground, dead.

In my earpiece, I heard the exclamations of joy from my colleagues as they rushed forward. Alas, my victory was short lived; as the flash-bang had led one enemy to believe someone was exiting the door, the other enemies inside were alerted that someone was possible breaching their little pillbox, and so the baddies began pouring out onto the platform, each gunning for yours truly. I died. Quickly.

If you’ve been wondering why this blog has not been more frequently updated since, say, late November, you have Activision’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 to thank – at least for my absence. As for my cohorts on the blog, I don’t know what their excuse has been. One or two of ‘em had a baby or something stupid, I don’t know. Another probably has the clap, and a couple are teachers who are just too timid to post anything interesting, and so choose not to post at all.

Whatever. Pansies.

As for me, I’ve had Modern Warfare 3. See, this blog – like any other blog – isn’t about you, the reader; it’s about me, the writer who shills out $20 a year for the domain name (and that wasn’t even my first choice). It’s my therapy, my loudspeaker, my hobby. I figure, if I’m going to be writing for myself anyway, I may as well send it out into the world somehow, and since people don’t publish pamphlets anymore, I use this blog.

N00b

I'm not a n00b -- but I get killed as often as one.

So, as I come in from work, feed and wash the kid, tidy up around the house and settle in for a little “me” time, I have a few pursuits to enjoy. I can read, catch up on my sewing (yes, I have things that need mending, what of it?), watch a movie or some television, or write. Since I compose these little diatribes on a laptop, it’s rather easy to combine the “watching television” and “writing” things.

Or, I can play videogames. And, for damned near two months, this has been my pursuit; largely owing to the addictive nature of Call of Duty, which I enjoy, even though I’m rather awful at the game.

Seriously, I’m bad. I’ve had messages from people asking me to leave their team. I often finish in the last three on my team, if not dead last. I consider myself a real asset to my team if my kill-to-death ratio is 1:1. And when others finish below me, or when I finish in the top three on my team, I realize that my team has some serious problems. I am regularly and frequently “pwned” by the same enemy, killed over and over and over for the duration of a match.

But, then, I’m a very casual gamer; I’m not some out-of-work 20-something who has all day to sit around in his underwear at his parents’ house and play Call of Duty. I have a daughter, a wife, a house and a job; Call of Duty is a leisurely pursuit; not a major part of my life.

Now, I have learned enough to make myself at least dangerous – if not particularly scary – in the game. I no longer just crouch in a corner and hope no one happens by, nor do I run devil-may-care through an open field figuring that there’s no one around who’d take a shot at me. And, in many instances, I’ve got a 50-50 shot at taking out an enemy if left to fend for myself one-on-one.

But, I get shot in the back a lot, and if there’s more than one enemy in my crosshairs, I’m usually able to take out only one before his buddies do me in. I also get stabbed a lot, and I’m prone to getting sniped and bombed – though I survive a lot of grenade attacks, somehow.

Still, it’s entertainment, and rarely do I get so mad that the game is no longer fun. And if a group is simply way too lethal for me to be competitive, it’s a simple matter to resign myself from the lobby and join another group, searching for greener, easier-to-kill grasses.

Given that I’m writing this blog, you can be sure that I’m not playing Call of Duty tonight, so if you’re hoping for easy quarry, don’t hold your breath. And I’m hoping to begin posting more, because writing these blogs – and my popular “Dispatches from the Road” posts – are rewarding in and of themselves.

I Dream of Geeky

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Roomba

My best friend. I heart it. I heart it hard.

If I have a mantra – outside of, of course, “go big or go home” – it’s “better life through science.”

I am a firm and hearty believer that technology, function and design are benevolent forces, key to advancing our quality of life. I believe that advances in science will allow us to live longer lives in cleaner environments with more leisure, and I believe that these are all good things.

Now, I am not at all blind to the fact that we live in a consumer culture, where things are purchased, used for a brief period of time and disposed of, and that this has created an incredible burden on our planet. We’re sapping resources, transforming them into a state that will take millennia to biodegrade, and then burying them in the ground to leach into our groundwater and cause irreparable damage to our environment. But I am also convinced that science, too, will show us the way through this morass.

Also, while I admire and respect the consumer culture that brings us the technologies that change our lives, I do not participate in it. Most of my gadgets have been my wife’s hand-me-downs, which I’ve been given as she took on the latest and greatest new tech, giving these devices a few more years of use before permitting them to lose their charge forever in the bottom of a drawer.

Other devices, though purchased new, simply linger forever. My old Dell desktop saw almost 10 years of constant daily usage before finally being retired to the basement, and only then because my wife was starting grad school and needed the desk cleared off for her studies. I was raised not only to not discard something that still has use – by my grandparents, who were consummate hoarders – but neither to replace something that is still functioning. Though my ancient Dell could no longer play the latest games or run the latest software, it still surfed the Internet, printed documents and allowed me to write, which was really all I used it for anyway.

Still, though, there are those things that are game changers – that completely alter my habits and how I live my life. Some of these I resist because I realize the negative consequences that they might bring to bear. My BlackBerry was one of these. My wife encouraged me to get it so she could use the BlackBerry Messenger to text me (and she does – constantly), but I became extremely fond of the access it afforded me to news, social media, the ability to take and share pictures, etc. It was becoming dependent on the device that I feared, and indeed I did. When I accidently brought my BlackBerry into the Gulf of Mexico in the pocket of my swim trunks on a visit to Saint George Island, I was despondent the rest of the vacation.

And then there are the things that change my life more than I anticipated. My iRobot Roomba is one of these.

We bought it, in a way, for my daughter, who had not yet been born. We have hardwood (well, laminate – hey, they were cheaper, look the same and better life through science and all that) floors throughout our house, and three cats. Our floors were perpetually filthy, with grains of cat litter sticking to your feet and tufts of cat hair rolling across the floor like tumbleweeds. When our daughter arrived, we reasoned, the floor would be her entire world. Something like a vacuum-cleaning robot sounded like a steep but reasonable investment.

Now, I introduce guests to the Roomba before they meet my family. I get hard looks from my wife when I describe the robot as “the best thing that ever happened to me.” I call it “Buddy Roomba,” and I do not allow anyone to talk ill of him in my presence.

Other labor-saving devices have been worth their weight in circuits, too. My Whirlpool Gold Silent Partner III can sanitize baby bottles, soak and scour dishes and strips food off even the filthiest of plates. The Shark Vac-N-Steam works flawlessly on my hardwood floors with only electricity and water.

And some devices don’t even need electricity. With flood lights about 20-feet off the ground on our porch, a little $10 light bulb grabber on a long pole has saved me from the periodic nerve-wracking task of climbing up onto the railing of the porch to change bulbs.

Anything that helps me get done with what I have to do faster (Shark Vac-N-Steam) or enables me to do it more frequently to improve my quality of life (Roomba) is worth the investment.

Still, I visit Wired.com’s Gadget Lab blog, and I drool. I watch the videos online for the other iRobot devices, and I drool. They have a vacuum robot to clean your pool! I want one, and I don’t even have a pool! I’d dig a hole in my backyard and pave it and fill it with water, just to use one of these damned robots! They’re great! And little gets me as giddy as the need to purchase some new technology, as I at last have an excuse to read all the reviews and product details. I actively avoid Radio Shack and Best Buy because I know they’ll just depress the hell out of me.

Eric Rudolph and Ted Kaczynski were dolts. Technology, properly applied and genuinely appreciated, is a wonderful thing.