Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Hitting the Beach

I haven't been around to update the website because the family and I have been in New Jersey for Memorial Day weekend. Not much to report, other than the boy really enjoyed hanging with his cousins, swimming in their pool, and playing at the beach. His parents finally got out to see another movie ( Mission Impossible III, which was very fun). His daddy also found the time to complete Christopher Priest's The Prestige (soon to be a major motion picture), as well as get well into Tim Powers' On Stranger Tides. Both books are loaded with cool ideas that I hope take advantage of in future games that I run (especially the Powers book... I really need to run a pirates game at some point).

For friends and family, we have more pictures of the boy posted here.

Friday, May 26, 2006

A Singular Challenge

CNN has an article about Ray Kurzweil and the Singularity Summit that was held a few weeks ago. For those familiar with Kurzweil and the idea of the Singularity, it's pretty standard stuff. However, it did mention that the DARPA Challenge was a particularly good illustration of how quickly technological change is accelerating. In 2004, the competition was kind of a joke. None of the robot vehicles could even complete the course. Last year, twice as many cars entered and four cars finished in good time. The most amazing thing is the the 2007 challenge will be held on city streets, where the vehicles will need to obey all traffic laws and avoid collisions. Now THAT is a pretty cool challenge.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

One More Step Towards a Neural Interface

This is what I want for my next video game controller. Actually, that's not strictly true. I'd be perfectly happy with an interface that is slaved to my actual body movements through motion sensors. Obviously, I'd need a special place to use it (it's hard to jump kick or swing a pretend sword at your desk). But it would be super if I could get a workout while playing video games. I hate the claustrophobic nature of most console controllers. I prefer mice and keyboard over the thumb-rending XBox/PS2 controllers.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Holy Power Quads!

Did you know that Christianist nutter Pat Robertson can leg press 2000 lbs? Well, it says so on his website that promotes his holy fitness shake. Where's the video of him leaping tall buildings in a single bound?

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Treasure Tables

Ok, a new RPG resource just opened up. It's called Treasure Tables, and it has a wiki that looks very promising. The site as the potential to be a great place for one-stop "shopping" for free RPG resources. I hope they keep up the good work.

Monday, May 22, 2006

10 Things I Hate About Commandments

Gratuitous remixed movie-trailer here. Gotta love the Internet. :)

Unintentional Parody

The Competitive Enterprise Institute has made a couple of television commercials that seek to counter calls for regulation in the effort to halt global warming. The first, called "Energy", is like one of those fake ads they run on Saturday Night Live. If you wanted to do a parody of lame anti-regulatory public-relations campaigns, you couldn't really do worse than this add.
"CO2: They Call it Pollution, We Call It Life."
The best bit is how they try to scare people into thinking that if we regulate C02 emissions, it will somehow harm the environment. Video available at their site.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Lab Rats

Thanks to our awesome Slaying Solomon web content crew, updates from the last session have been posted here . Wow, I'm doubly pleased with how the session went. Like I said before, I was feeling a little rusty. It had been a while since I had been in the Buffy GM mindset. But despite not getting an extra three hours of prep time that I wanted, the session really did play well. I was thinking that somebody had to do an episode about a psche experiment gone wrong, and the plot where a supernatural character wakes up in a mundane universe is a classic sci-fi cliche (done at least in the real Buffy and Deep Space Nine).

Friday, May 19, 2006

Learning from Children Learning Language

Something very interesting is going at MIT's Media Lab. Associate Professor Deb Roy, head the Media Lab's Cognitive Machines group, has decked out his house to monitor his own child's acquisition of language. The surveillance equipment will watch for every stimulus that the child receives and try to piece together how people move from simple utterances (like my own boy's "ba-ba" and "ah-duh") to more complex grammatical constructions. I'm very curious as to what they will learn from this experiment. Since my own child is approaching 9 months, I'll be conducting a smaller-scale version of this experiment of my own... albeit without the expensive video equipment and computer processing. Here's hoping that this research is a step towards computers that actually understand language.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Move Along

Nothing to see.
Actually, I mean it. I've been focusing on life stuff and getting more Risus Monkey updates. Speaking of which, I am now honored to be hosting Dan Suptic's second work: Arcadomai. Best... Risus... fantasy... supplement...evar.

Monday, May 15, 2006

SNL Visits Alternate Universe

I missed it on Saturday night, but SNL offered a glimpse at that parallel universe that was created in the wake of 2000 election debacle. Check it out here (courtesy of Crooks and Liars), it's a hoot.

(Be patient with the link, it's getting a lot of traffic)

Singularity Summit

Responsible Nanotechnology is one of many sites that have posted on this weekend's Singularity Summit . I sure wish that I could have gone. To some, the idea of the Singularity seems like crazy science-fiction, a "Rapture for nerds" if you will. But it is undeniable that the rate of technological advancement is accelerating. Simply extrapolating on these trends, as Kurzweil does, leads you to some pretty wild predictions. While I don't think a Singularity event is inevitable, I do buy into many of these predictions. As an AI developer, I am the most skeptical about our ability to produce sentient AI any time soon. This is not because we won't have the computing power (we certainly will), rather I think this is a software problem that will require some sort of breakthrough. Super-fast computers or networks aren't just going to "awaken". Somebody's going to have to design intelligence. Of course, Jeff Hawkin's On Intelligence may be planting the seeds of this breakthrough.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Now That's a Cool Science Project

According to Wired News:
A 16-year-old high school student has invented a new way of producing electricity by harnessing the brawny power of bacteria.
How cool is that? As the article says, "inventing a new clean and green source of electricity sure tops the old papier-mâché volcano".

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Mutant Polar Bears

This is kind of interesting. I wonder if climate change is forcing polar bears into grizzly bear areas, thus increasing the chances of such hybrids.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Net Neutrality

I've following the latest developments in the "discussion" of Network Neutrality with a sense of dread. The idea that the telecoms and cable companies might successfully push for a tiered-internet that favors commercial interests over public interests seems implausible, but just plausible enough to give me the willies. It's not that I'm not sympathetic to the idea that they should be able to use "their pipes" in the manner of their choosing. But they can't ignore that the there is a huge public interest in keeping the Internet equally open to all users. And there is just not enough competition in the broadband market to give consumers a choice of selecting a more neutral provider. Wikipedia has a good primer on the history of Network Neutrality and the terms of the current debate.

Super Mice May Cure Cancer

Science Daily reports that a cancer-resistant strain of mice has been developed. Better yet, white blood cells from these mice have been used to treat cancer in ordinary mice. Money quote:
"The transplanted white blood cells not only killed existing cancers, but also protected normal mice from what should have been lethal doses of highly aggressive new cancers."

Monday, May 08, 2006

Weekend Update

This past weekend, my wife and I took the boy hiking for the second time. This weekend's excursion was to Harper's Ferry. It was wonderful to get outside with the family, and I am very encouraged that the boy seemed to get such a kick out of it. Of course, he did have the luxury of riding up the mountain on his daddy's back, but I'm not complaining. I love the steepness of the Maryland Heights trail (and we used it extensively for our Kilimanjaro training).
Saturday night was the grand finale of the D&D game that I occasionally play in. Kudos to Hans the DM... that Red Dragon masquerading as a Black Dragon was a really cool trick. Of course, we still made short work of the beastie. Word to other D&D players... 11th level monks really kick ass.
On Sunday, I ran my first episode of Slaying Solomon of the season. It's been a while, and I feel like I was a little rusty and under-prepared. But the session was still a heck of a lot of fun. Updates from the previous session are available here

Friday, May 05, 2006

Word of the Day: "Weenus"

This post on the Panda's Thumb really made me chuckle. After a particularly crazy week, it was particularly nice to learn a new euphemism for my naughty bits. Having fun at the expense of those wacky creationists was just icing on the cake.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

More Star Trek Tech

This article in the Guardian tells of how scientists have developed a plausible "cloaking device". Sweet. Granted, it doesn't sound quite as useful as one would hope (alas, no Harry Potter-esque sneaking around places you shouldn't be), but it does have some potentially interesting real-world applications. Of course, the military is interested.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The Da Oreo Code

Professor Pope has a great take on the whole Da Vinci Code phenomena. He likens the book to a certain mass-produced cookie of dubious nutritional value. For the record, I agree completely. I was sucked into reading both the Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons. I knew that I was reading crap. My wife can verify that I would curse the books at loud as I read them. But I also tore through the books at a blistering pace, which means that I must have been enjoying them on some level.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

European Pyramids

Well, this is pretty darn cool. Apparently, researchers in Bosnia (?!) have discovered evidence of a pyramid that is a third taller than the Great Pyramid of Giza.
Earlier research on the hill, known as Visocica, found that it has perfectly shaped, 45-degree slopes pointing toward the cardinal points, and a flat top.  Under layers of dirt, workers discovered a paved entrance plateau, entrances to tunnels and large stone blocks.
Even if this is total bunk, it's still fodder for an modern occult roleplaying scenario. Cyclopean ruins? Evidence of previously unknown civilizations? Underground tunnels connecting it with other pyramids? The mind races with ideas.