Return to 2016

On the personal front, 2016 for me was a year I learned a few things:

  1. Learned to pick padlocks, and then subsequently went out and replaced all my padlocks
  2. Taught my little one how to ride a bike in less than 4 hours
  3. Had my phone stolen, and realizing it was just a phone and replaceable
  4. Tried to be more handy – fixed the fireplace, installed the new washer (and fixed the subsequent leak), helped build a shed, fixed security sensors, replaced a headlight, and installed some shelves.
  5. Learned where my tire jack was after running over a piece of concrete at 70 kph
  6. Learned that buying things for life is a sound investment. So hello duvet, kettle and decent appliances.
  7. Got my orange belt in martial arts
  8. Learned a lot about website security and performance when troubleshooting massive server physical memory usage during the Christmas holidays

Could you eat 450 hot dogs in a month?

Before you answer, consider this – that’s an average of 15 wieners a day. That’s a lot of nitrates.

A student from my alma mater attempted to do just that for the month of April on a bet with his roommate. There was $1,500 on the line. It’s McMaster University so I’m compelled to root for it, regardless if it is for academic or gastrointestinal fame.

At least he has a good attitude about it. Easy come, easy go:

We do make crazy and stupid bets all the time. I guess we just like to bet on things because gambling on every day things makes them way more interesting and unless you run really well most of the money is just going to get passed back and forth. Well until you make a huge month long eating bet anyway. I hope I don’t lose this money back to him in May.

Yes, he won. Fans are already urging him to put the proceeds toward a $1,000 buy-in for an online poker tournament.

Global snacks

My dad travels a fair bit, and he’s been recently giving me all manners of snacks he’s picked up on the odd airplane or hotel around the globe. 

Global snacks

From left to right, top to bottom:

  • Dragonair peanuts (double-wrapped in plastic with its own serviette)
  • Lay’s paprika flavoured chips from the Netherlands
  • Cereal mix from Switzerland
  • Cathay Pacific peanuts, from Hong Kong
  • Arnott’s biscuits, Australia
  • Walker’s shortbread cookies, Scotland

Not shown is a TimeOut bar from Dubai that has been consumed by my wife. The most interesting thing I find about the chocolate bars he brings me is how “clean” their packaging looks – I suppose its because they only need to say what they need to say in one language instead of two.

The new desert of the real

The world’s most powerful virtual reality simulators are not in a million-dollar laboratory – they’re available on CD-ROM for $50 at Best Buy.

During high school, Woofer and I briefly talked about using the then hottest game titles (Doom II and Quake) to make virtual reconstructions of the McMichael Canadian Art Collection.  Those shoot-em up games came packages with tools that allowed aspiring CG artists to construct their own levels that could then run on the game engines.  We figured, if we could somehow remove the guns, it would be cool to be able to browse through this art gallery via virtual reality.

Unfortunately, the discussion didn’t go further, because we felt the graphics engine was not powerful enough to render and contain the hundreds of individual textures that would make up the paintings.

But now, the technology is here. Witness this video demonstration of a Half-Life 2 map containing Franklin Lloyd Wright’s Kaufmann House and acreage in astonishing visual and audio detail (Source: Digital Urban blog):

Or the large-scale reconstruction of portions of New York, Tokyo, and Las Vegas as witnessed in Project Gotham Racing 3:

There are now dozens of PC games with powerful graphics engines, and where the game developers have thrown in for free the very same tools they used to build their fantasy environments.  Giving SDKs out to your fanbase can drastically increase your product’s lifespan; the most popular multiplayer FPS ;today is Counter-strike, a Half-Life mod created by two university students. 

Giving away the tools also means opening the doors to thousands of creative minds. Now, these SDKs are being used in ways once not thought possible.

Creating CG movies with videogames (a genre called machinima) has recently become popular, but many have now realized that the very same tools can now be used to replicate environments found in real-life. The software is cheap, the authoring toolkit is documented and robust, real-world physics and human models are pre-existing, and anyone with a PC and a copy of the same game can replay one’s creations.

Interested in modeling real-world environments? Look at what your kids are playing at home. Don’t underestimate ubiquity and simplicity.

In space, no one can hear you spend

While looking at the live webfeed of the Christie’s Star Trek auction two weeks ago, I caught a good glimpse of some of the innards of the Christie’s Star Trek: The Collection auction catalogue. And so, I had a moment of weakness. I logged in and bought the damn thing.

The next day, we went off to Silverlotus’s parents for some Thanksgiving turkey, and the very next day after that, this arrived in the mail.

It was really expensive, at $60 US plus $19 shipping. It’s two silver-covered full-size paperbacks on heavy-stock glossy paper – the entire package weighed in at an impressive 4 lbs. They thoughtfully also included the two Star Passes, which would allow me into the auction room should I ever come across a time machine.

The text in the books are identical to the online catalogue – even the interesting bits of trivia – but you really need to read this in book form to comprehend the enormity of memorabilia here. Data’s poker visor! Vulcan mummies! Worf’s spine! It’s full colour and the pictures are rather handsome, although I’m still nursing a bit of buyer’s remorse. Hopefully it’ll be worth something someday; apparently only 10,000 copies have been printed.

The source address was also a street in New Jersey called Enterprise Drive, so that was pretty nice.