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Archive for June, 2013

Attention Ray Kurzweil.  The singularity isn’t near.  It’s here.  That moment when man and machine merge into one isn’t forty years away and it’s not going to come in the form of a way to download our brains into a computer.  Rather it’s emerging in the present day in the form of extreme body modification.  That’s because a guy by the name of Rich Lee has decided to turn his own body into a human Raspberry Pi adding functionality as desired.  His latest act: implanting magnets into his ears that act as invisible headphones when they are stimulated with a magnetic coil necklace that he wears.

As Wired UK explains the, “The coil necklace is completely hidden by his clothing, and the scars from the implants are also unnoticeable, so it’s unlikely you’d realize that as he was standing in front of you he could be listening to music. In a way it’s reminiscent of the  bone vibration Google Glass uses instead of conventional earphones.”

For a generation of people who have grown up with iPod ear buds glued to their ears that sure does sound amazing.  But there is more to this project that meets the eye since Mr. Lee has devised a whole litany of potential uses for his new best friend.  As he tells Wired, “Listening to music is nice and probably the most obvious answer, but I intend to do some very creative things with it. I can see myself using it with the GPS on my smartphone to navigate city streets on foot. I plan to hook it up to a directional mic of some sort (possibly disguised as a shirt button or something) so I can hear conversations across a room. Having a mic hooked up to it and routed through my phone would be handy.”

He adds, “You could use a simple voice stress analysis app to detect when people might be lying to you. Not to say that is a hard science, but I’m sure it could come in handy at the poker table or to pre-screen business clients.”  And that’s not all.  He also plans to, “give himself a kind of bat-like echolocation ability by rigging it up to an ultrasonic range finder — as objects get closer, the in-ear hum builds, and as they move away it gets quieter.”

If this isn’t the coolest thing I’ve ever heard of (pun intended) then I don’t know what is.  Just imagine the possible applications for this technology from FBI informants secretly recording conversations without fear of getting caught to devising entirely new ways for people to experience the World around us.  It just doesn’t get any better than this.

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Did this man just invent the greatest thing ever?

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Everyday I check Facebook and I’m not sure why.  It’s more of a habit than a choice at this point as my interest wanes with every status update.  What was once a way to keep in touch with long lost friends is now an advertisement infested cesspool filled with pictures of babies and cats.  If Facebook were a person it would be Tim Tebow for what was once beloved is now hated despite the fact that it did nothing wrong.

But all is not lost.  Thanks to the incredible people behind unwhatever.me we now have the power to reclaim Facebook and make it ours once and for all.  All we’d have to do is follow their extremely easy instructions and download the plugin of our choosing to Google’s Chrome browser.  Then viola!  Any annoyance is miraculously removed from your page and replaced with the content of your choosing.  Which means that from now on anytime one of my friends posts a picture of one of their children I will instead see a picture of Brittany Snow!!!  And here’s the best part: if by chance I do wind up wanting to see one of these pictures I still can.  I’d simply click an undo button to reveal the hidden content.

Here’s a look at all of the extensions currently being offered as taken from their website:

“UNBABY.ME

The plugin that started it all. Get those babies out of your Newsfeed once and for all.

UNSPOILER.ME

Install this to stop spoiler alerts before they ruin your precious stories.

UNADVERTISE.ME

Brands have been sneaking their way into your feeds. Get rid of ’em now.

UNPOLITIC.ME
Guns. Abortion. Your mind is made up, and no Facebook rant will change it. Block it all.
UNGOD.ME

God’s got a lot of pitchmen. And you’ve heard the sales routine enough already.

UNFOODPIC.ME

Nice homemade bruschetta, pal. It’s f*cking toast. As Ramsay would say, “Shut it down.”

UNPETPIC.ME

Pet owners are as insane as new parents. Stop them in their tracks.

UNWEDDING.ME

Everyone is settling down and throwing huge parties and they’re all the same. Delete.

UNVACATION.ME

You’re stuck in your cubicle while everyone is in Bali. Bring their trip to a sudden end.

UNWHATEVER.ME

Install this and add your own keywords and remove ANYTHING you want.”

For those of you who may have already gotten fed up with Facebook and moved on the service also works on Twitter.  Either way, this is a great service that gives the power of choice back to the people and gives Facebook a real chance at sticking around for the long haul.  Now I just have to hope that no one uses that last plugin to create unblogpost.me.

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Seeing this instead of babies? Yes please!

 

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The latest in a series of posts in which I follow up on an old idea:

My focus as a sports fan right now should be on the NBA Draft which might be on the verge of going down as the worst draft in the history, not just of the NBA, but of all things that could be drafted.  Instead, it’s on baseball.  Specifically, the on going soap opera “As the Yankees Turn” featuring former star slugger Alex Rodriguez and potty mouthed Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman.  The latest saga is as juicy as it gets in a city famous for its tabloid headlines: a knock down drag out fight to the finish with $114 million on the line as Rodriguez and Cashman take turns inserting their foot into their mouth over Rodriguez’ ability to return from injury.

It all started when Rodriguez randomly joined Twitter and tweeted that he had received clearance from the doctors to start rehab games.  A claim that Cashman quickly denied.  He then wasted no time letting Rodriguez know how he felt: “You know what, when the Yankees want to announce something, [we will],” Cashman told ESPN New York. “Alex should just shut the f— up. That’s it.”

Now there are reports suggesting that Rodriguez’ motivation for making those comments and speeding up his return from injury is just so that he can abruptly retire upon returning thereby collecting the remainder of his salary and avoiding an unpaid suspension from Major League Baseball for using performance enhancing drugs.

All this coming on a day the Yankees ran out a starting infield of Alberto Gonzalez, Jayson Nix, David Adams, and Lyle Overbay while getting shutout and announcing that their other veteran slugger, Mark Teixiera, was out for the year with a wrist injury.  For added perspective on the Yankees’ plight consider this: the lowly Houston Astros, whose entire roster combined makes less than Rodriguez does by himself, have outscored the Bronx Bombers this year by three runs.

Which brings me to my point as it is time once again to strongly suggest that Brian Cashman should be fired just like I did last October in post #96 after the Yankees were swept by the Detroit Tigers:

In that post I wrote:

“Cashman is such a skilled politician that he can escape blame for pretty much everything.  The struggles of Alex Rodriguez?  Hank Steinbrenner’s fault for resigning him.  The struggles of Curtis Granderson against the Tigers?  He had poor vision and will be getting tested.  Sabathia’s game four stinker?  Sore elbow.  The team wide inability to hit in the clutch and manufacture runs?  Just a bad time for a slump.  No matter what aspect of the team gets questioned Cashman has an excuse lined up.

And yet despite his expertise at playing the blame game this is a man who is in fact a horrible politician.  This is a man who nearly ran the beloved Derek Jeter out of town when he was a free agent a few years ago telling him to test the market if he didn’t like the Yankees offer.  This is a man who is on record as saying he didn’t want to spend the money to sign relief pitcher, Rafael Soriano, which pissed off Soriano.  The same Rafael Soriano who became the team’s closer this year when Mariano Rivera got hurt, saving the team’s season in the process.  And let’s not forget the fact that this is a man who helped to run Joe Torre out of town because he was upset that Torre was getting all of the credit for the team’s run of success in the late 90′s.”

Flash forward eight months and it’s the same story.  Cashman is still a horrible politician as his tit for tat with Rodriguez bears out.  And worse of all he’s still able to avoid any blame at all for the team’s on field woes since the team has been decimated by injuries to key players like Jeter, Granderson, Teixeira, and Rodriguez’ replacement Kevin Youkilis.

I’m sorry but that’s not acceptable to me.  At some point Cashman has to be held accountable for the Yankees’ woes, even if injuries are to blame, because it’s still his fault that the organization is bereft of major league ready position players capable of stepping in and moreover it’s still his fault that he assembled a flawed, aging roster in the first place.

At this point what’s it going to take to get the Yankees’ ownership group to admit that Cashman isn’t the right man for the job?  Is it going to take Robinson Cano walking as a free agent?  Or will the final straw be when Cashman challenges Rodriguez to a fight on PPV which is seemingly where that saga is heading.

I don’t know.  All I know is that the Yankees are headed in the wrong direction and in the post George Steinbrenner era there’s only one person who can fix this mess.  And his name isn’t Brian Cashman.  It’s Craig Shames.

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They both need to go.

 

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When I was watching the news this morning I saw a story about a 90 year old principal who was finally retiring from her post. It blew my mind to think that this woman has literally lived the equivalent of two more of my lifetimes.  Naturally I soon began wondering what it would be like if I had to relive my own life twice over.  Would I be annoyed by the prospect of having to go through all those years of schooling all over again or would I look forward to the opportunity to continue my personal growth?  Would I make the same mistakes, spend my free time doing the same things, and continue to hang out with the same people?  Or would I change things up, become more open minded, meet new people, and head down a different path? 

Of course there’s only one way to find out and that’s to actually turn this exercise from a thought experiment into reality.  This is why I think that all of us should have to relive our entire lives every thirty years.  Here’s how it would work: 

You’d start out as a baby which means that you’d get to hang out with your mom all day.  Then when you’re a toddler the time that you’d normally use to learn your primary language you’d use to learn a second language.  Since you already know how to walk you can instead use that time to learn ball room dancing.  Eventually you’d start elementary school again doing your best Billy Madison impression.  This time around you’re older and wiser so instead of asking “when am I ever going to need this” you’d already know exactly when you’d need it.  In fact, instead of receiving a broad liberal arts education like you did the first time through you could instead use your second pass to brush up on all of the specific skills that you now know that you need while targeting your weaknesses.  On days when you didn’t feel like being in class you’d make your way to the nurse’s office where instead of pretending to be sick you’d have a whole litany of legitimate ailments to choose from.  On the bright side you’d get to spend your summers attending an adult science camp where you’d learn how to code and make smores.   

Eventually you’d make your way to high school where instead of being the shy wallflower that you were the first time you’d now be the big man on campus who stars on intramural sports teams and gets all the girls.  You’d still be a nerd at heart though so you’d spend your Friday nights hosting game nights just like the way you used to stay in and play Risk.  When you’re 46 you’ll have to retake your driving test which is probably something that we should be making people do anyway.  When you get to college you’ll finally be able to pick up that Masters degree in sports management that you always wanted enabling you to take an internship after graduation selling tickets for the New York Yankees.  After a few months you get hired to a position in the front office where you spend the next ten years overseeing the team’s international scouting department putting to good use that second language you picked up when you were three years old for the second time.  After retiring to South Florida for two years you’re ready to start all over again.  This time though you’re looking forward to the experience knowing that you’re about to learn how to square dance and speak Mandarin.

Of course none of that is ever really going to happen but it would be great if it did.  By reliving our lives three times over we’d be committing ourselves to a lifetime of learning, of self improvement, of constantly challenging ourselves to overcome our fears which if you think about it are all of the things that we should be doing anyway.  But instead we put all of those things off while we waste away our lives chained to a desk at a 9 to 5.  Is that really the way that we want to live our lives?  More importantly, is that really the way that we want to live the next two of our lives?

They say that youth is wasted on the young.  That by the time you are old enough and wise enough to capitalize on all of the knowledge and life experiences that you have amassed throughout your lifetime you’re too old and broken down to do anything about it.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.  We can take back our youth.  All we’d have to do is be willing to start all over again and again.

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Is reliving our lives the answer to finding true happiness?

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#242 – Kindle Worlds

As an aspiring author I know how hard it can be to bring an original idea from concept to finished product.  Just when you think you’ve got it all figured out writer’s block strikes throwing you off your game.  Starting and stopping more than the bowel movements of a man with constipation is no way to go about writing the next great American novel.

Which is why I’ve always been drawn to fan fiction as it’s much easier to work with existing story lines, locales, and characters than it is to reinvent the wheel all over again.  The only problem that I’ve run into up to now is trying to decide what franchise to work off of. Despite my geeky tendencies I’m no fan boy so that rules out Star Wars, Marvel characters, comic books, and super heroes.  I’m also not a tween girl so that rules out Twilight and anything else having to do with love torn vampires and wear wolves.

So what does that leave?  James Potter and the Enchanted Broomstick has a nice ring to it don’t you think?  Or perhaps my old friends Ben and Hurley could use some company on that mysterious Island of theirs.  Either way, if you’re like me and have been drawn to the concept of fan fiction then you are in luck because Amazon is about to set off a fan fiction writing craze with the launch of Kindle Worlds.

According to TechCrunch, “the idea is to let fans create stories around original properties from other authors, offering them up for purchase on the Kindle book store. Amazon then pays out royalties to both the original rights holder, as well as to the fan fiction author, with the author making around 35 percent of all net revenue for works over 10,000 words.”

That sounds great but there is still one giant hurdle that Amazon is going to have to  clear to make this work: securing the proper rights to all of that intellectual property.  To that end CNET reports that, “As the program is just getting off the ground, Amazon has signed up one rights holder so far — Warner Bros. Television Group’s Alloy Entertainment division. This agreement paves the way for fan fiction based on the “Gossip Girl” series by Cecily von Ziegesar, “Pretty Little Liars” by Sara Shepard, and “Vampire Diaries” by L.J. Smith.”

In other words there’s no really reason for me to care about this project right now.  However, if I can be patient and wait for Amazon to secure the necessary rights I could eventually find a landing spot for that long lost Dirk Pitt manuscript that I once started to write.  Of course it was only five pages but hey it’s a start.  And once you get started you never know what can happen when it comes to fan fiction.  After all, Fifty Shades of Grey started out as Twilight fan fiction.

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Fifty Shades of Grey started out as Twilight Fan Fiction. Will Amazon Worlds help you create the next mega hit?

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The other day I was walking home with my roommate when we passed by a young couple having what appeared to be an argument.  I say appeared to be because they were speaking a foreign language and so I have no real way on knowing whether they were breaking up or making dinner plans.  All I could do was make a snap judgement call based on their posture, body language, and mannerisms.  Now, I’m no Sherlock Holmes but I was able to deduce that something was off.  Concerned but unsure of whether or not to interject we would up walking by and going back to discussing plot holes in the Fast and the Furious 6.  A riveting conversation to be sure but was it worth turning our back on what could very well have been a desperate cry for help?

Unfortunately, I’ll never know the answer to that.  But what if it didn’t have to be this way?  What if we could always know what someone else was saying regardless of what language they were speaking?  What if my mom could know whether or not the girls in the Korean nail salon were talking shit about her when she’s getting a pedicure?  What if my sister could know what my brother in law is saying when he’s speaking in Russian to his parents.  What if any of us could know what is being said about and around us as we dine in restaurants, ride in cabs, or walk down the street?

I believe that in the not too distant future such a way could exist.  All we’d have to do is kidnap a bunch of engineers who worked on Google Glass and get them to design a comparable hearing aid.  Instead of asking, ‘can you hear me now?” we’ll finally be shouting in unison, “Yes, You Can Hear Me Now!”

But how would it work?  It’s simple.  This sleek, stylish designer ear piece would be implanted in your ear where it would reside unbeknownst to all.  Instead it would connect wirelessly to a receiver concealed as an earring.  Instead of looking like your grandmother you’ll look fashionable.  This design skirts around the biggest issue facing Google Glass: how to make it desirable to the in crowd.

But that’s not all.  In addition to being stylish and a Universal translator it could also record your conversations so that you can play them back later.  Perfect for learning a foreign language or being able to win every argument with your significant other.  In addition, it can also translate television shows which means that you’ll finally be able to watch those racy prime time novellas on the Spanish language channel.   And best of all it would also come with seamless Google Glass integration so that Google Now can anticipate your needs based on what it hears which means that you’ll be able to instantly win any argument you have with your friends the next time your in a bar.

While I wasn’t able to help out the damsel in distress the other night this futuristic hearing aid offers promise for a better future.  One in which we can fully understand what is happening all around us.  One in which there are no secrets and everyone is on an equal playing field.  One in which we can not only survive in a foreign country but thrive.  And it’s one in which I hope we actually get to partake in one day soon.

The You Can Hear Me Now Hearing Aid would look a lot more stylish than this.

The You Can Hear Me Now Hearing Aid would look a lot more stylish than this.

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#240 – Presto

It’s a Saturday night at 9 pm. You just spent the last two hours waiting on line at the Cheesecake Factory during which time you came to the realization that with enough practice you could win America’s Got Talent by training your stomach to growl the Star Spangled Banner. Just when you’re about to suggest that CBS create a show called Survivor: Cheesecake Factory your name is called. Against all odds you’ve made it.

As you make your way to your table you pass a bunch of screaming toddlers, some punk high school kids at a birthday dinner, a young couple annoyingly celebrating their four month anniversary and what appears to be a dead ringer for Uncle Joey from Full House. It’s an ecliptic collection of patrons and you hate them all but none of that matters for you are about to enjoy an epic meal. The kind of meal that your doctors will later point to as the cause of your heart attack. But you’re not concerned about that right now. All you care about is getting your hands on that menu so that you can decide which appetizer your going to destroy first. And then suddenly it happens. You don’t know why. You don’t know how. All you know is that it just happened.

The it that I’m referring to is none other than that dreadful feeling of doom and gloom that overwhelms our central nervous system causing us to turn into Chicken Little and pronounce that the sky is falling once we realize that we’ve been ignored. It’s the kind of feeling that usually sets in once you’ve been sitting for about five minutes and haven’t received any service yet. It’s a horrible feeling and one that we’re grown all too accustomed to. I’m willing to bet that every single person reading this article has wound up walking out of a restaurant at some point in their life as a result of a bad experience like this. For me, it seems to be a weekly occurrence. Which either means that I’m eating out too much or that the system is broken. I’m going to vote for the latter.

But there is something that can be done to remedy this situation. Thanks to E La Carte’s new tablet ordering system, Presto, those bad experiences are a thing of the past. As Vator.tv reports, “Restaurants who join the platform can leave Presto tablets on each table so that customers can come in, browse the menu, order, and pay at their leisure right from the tablet.”

And here’s the best part. Once you are done ordering you can use your tablets to play games with your guests which in most cases is going to be a vast improvement over the small talk you would have otherwise been forced to make. The advantages aren’t just going to be felt by the customers though. The restaurant stands to benefit as well since a more efficient ordering and payment method means quicker turnaround times which means more business for the establishment. In fact, according to the aforementioned article, “restaurants are seeing an average table turn-rate increase of seven minutes, which is leading to 10% sales boosts and 2X waiter efficiency.”

On the surface it appears to be a win-win for restaurants and patrons alike. The only issue I can foresee is mass adoption as I doubt that a fancy upscale restaurant would ever make this switch as they seem to like making people wait so that they seem busier than they really are and demand for their product is driven up. However, I do think that there are plenty of chain restaurants though like Applebee’s and Friday’s that cater to a younger crowd that would be ideal for this type of format.

Of course there are also going to be plenty of waiters and waitresses who aren’t going to be too happy about potentially being out of a job. But that’s okay. I’m not worried about them getting mad about this. After all, chances are that just like that order you just placed they’re likely to forget all about this.

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With Presto tablets you’ll never have to wait to order your food again.

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