Saturday, August 30, 2008

A Member of the Club

Four Hundred Fifth Post: A Member of the Club (20080830)

There is a book called “The Mad Scientists’ Club”. In it a group of kids get together and go on some grand adventures like making a UFO or finding an atomic bomb. When I was in the 4th grade, I found this book in our school library. A good find considering our library only had about 7 interesting books in all.

There were 2 Mad Scientists books in the library, that is, if you could get your hands on one. It was a popular book. Well me and my friends were inspired by the book and decided to make our own club. There were about 5 of us. We called ourselves “The Wolverines”. Long story short one member moved away, we got older, and we never had adventures as grand as the Mad Scientist.

But I did learn some things. The idea of a group as a kid is fun. Of course the activities of the club are more fun than when you’re an adult and have to join a club. Some people call this club a job. Ideally it’s a career and you are fulfilling those child hood dreams. But if not don’t worry we tend to belong to many groups, one of which is the family.

I joined the Army Reserves at 17. This was the biggest club I have ever joined. All my childhood dreams of what is was like to go on adventures with the club you belong to were in my thoughts. However this club was a bit more serious. The first day of my Basic Training our Drill Sergeant met us with a face covered in cammo. He was the only Drill Sargent with cammo because he had been running exercises out in the field. He left quite a first impression on us.

Latter that night we met our second Drill Sergeant. Before I had left for Basic Training, everyone said the Army training was watered down from what it used to be. Tell that to these two Drill Sergeants! We were up over an hour doing exercise because we did not shut out the lights in time. I found it impressive that they could yell at us as a group and yet still find the time to yell at us individually.

Long story short, we all join clubs in our life. Some are not as innocent and fun as when we are kids. Later, most are often more serious and demand us to be an adult. Which is ok, because it is a different time in our life. And you can belong to as many clubs as you like. What’s important is that you make the most of your membership.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Fun Times with Monkey Vines

Four Hundred Fourth Post: Fun Times with Monkey Vines (20080826)

When I was a kid about second to third grade my friend and I would go explore the woods. In the woods there was all kinds of things to explore and find things such as a tree stand or collecting rocks or insects. But the best thing was finding monkey vines.

In case you do not now, monkey vines are these vines that attach themselves to the top tree branches. When you find one that is in a clearing you then cut at the bottom and then you swing on it. We usually had trouble cutting the larger ones because we were using a Swiss Army knife, saw. (We had a Swiss Army knife because Macgyver always carried one with duct tape.)

Not much of a story here. I’m just thinking back to the interest in what nature held. I’m just noting the interest we view things as a kid.

But there is a question do kids go outside today? I know the importance of “screen time” (as Leo Laporte describes it). But other that boy and girl scouts, are kids missing out on things that aren’t electronic, video games, or related to the Web?

Someone once called my generation the Nintendo Generation. And I knew he was right. I once figured out how many hours I watched tv and played video games in my 5th grade standardize test and it came out to over 40 hours a week!

Of course it is what you do with the screen time that counts. Remember that 17 year old who found out how to change the service provide to one other than AT&T. That is all self taught. They don’t teach electronics in most high schools.

That is why you hear the game industry developing educational games. But today a lot of games already do that. For example, imagine a teen playing Madden. If he is just going to play it for hours its just a form of entertainment. But if he is into football and learns the plays, rules, formations, etc. he can use it at real football practice. So in effect, he is balancing “screen time” and “real time”.

Another application would be the math of the statistics of the football game. There is some serious math that goes into fantasy football. And why stop at football. Almost all games today come with a level editor. That teaches design, art, programming, math, etc. And then to flight simulators that can actually teach someone to fly.

So everybody needs to balance their screen time with their real time. I bring up this subject because I want to make computer game mods that will do just that: balance screen time and real time. It will be interesting to see if I can balance them myself will making mods.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Emma Sue

For Hundred Third Post: Emma Sue (20080807)

On 20080519 I got to meet Emma Sue. She is quite the lady or rather quite a pig. My sister had just picked her up and brought her home in the back of her Jeep. While she was trying to pick her up and take her inside, Emma Sue jumped out of her hands and hit the ground hard. But the hard landing didn’t stop her. She got right up and started running. And incase you don’t know piglets are fast, very fast.

The piglet was zig zagging then decided to run up the road. We followed in pursuit. I was running right down the middle of the road. The pig then shot up across the neighbor’s yard. I bet he was surprised to see a pig. We lost it when it reached the woods. There was just too many thorn bushes to get through.

Right then, I knew we weren’t going to see the pig again. To my surprise, a different neighbor had found the pig about 2 miles away on a back road. The pig was too tired to move. He brought her back the next day after calling around seeing who had lost a pig.

If you are interested in seeing Emma Sue just go to YouTube and search with keyword “ConstructorsCorner”. There you will see her eating treats.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

YouTube Junk

Four Hundred Second Post: YouTube Junk (20080805)

Has anyone else noticed the junk on YouTube? I mean what looks like pornographic and nude images. Google has made it hard to find a video. They have a list of the most popular videos, but that is filled with garbage. Some hackers knowing how to get to the top of the list is what is happening.

Sure you could search for a topic by keyword, but that is going to limit what you see. Once you watch a video you see another 6 to choose from, but this doesn’t show all choices. So what you are seeing is very limited.

As far as adult and copyrighted material, no one needs it. There are plenty of other sites that offer that. YouTube is about user based content. That is what makes it unique. That is what makes it interesting.

BTW search “ConstructorsCorner” keyword on YouTube to see my videos

Vista is Good

Four Hundred First Post: Vista is Good (20080805)

In a previous Blog post (395) I said it wasn’t worth upgrading to Vista. The fact is this is not true. In November 2007 I bought a quad core PC. It came with Vista. So even though I read bad things about Vista, I felt I could always downgrade to XP. But I have been using Vista for 9 months and have had no problems with it.

The only program I can’t get to run is AutoCad 14 which is a Windows 95 program. I have not tried the free virtual machine that is available from Microsoft for free. Maybe it will work under the emulator.

I’ve also been listening to Leo Laporte a lot lately. He is asking people if Vista is really that bad. He says it is more secure and has a nice interface with improvements under the hood. I agree with him. When the Amazon Kindle came out it had bad review which was all from people who never used a Kindle. The same is true of the Playstation 3. Before I bought one I was looking at the Wii which I couldn’t get (but latter purchased). All I new about the Playstation was that it was expensive and had no games. But then I saw on YouTube a company was putting Yellow Dog Linux on the Playstation.

Well I ended up buying a PS3. And although it had a slow first year, it isn’t true that it doesn’t have good games. Try WarHawk, MGS4, Drake’s Fortune, Eye of Judgement, etc. So I guess marketing and public perception don’t always pick a product truthfully.