Sep 292014

Or, Why I listen to a podcast on a  topic I’m not interested in.

I listen to a lot of podcasts, and I do mean a lot of podcasts. It’s not unusual to see me with headphones in at the coffee shop, or wandering around the house doing house stuff and getting through 50-60 hours of podcasts. To give you an idea, the podcast app Overcast has a metric on how much time you’ve saved using its “Smart Speed” setting that takes out some of the silent pauses in a podcast. That number is over 60 hours so far, and Overcast hasn’t been out that long. I also listen to most podcasts at 2x speed (or higher), so I get through a lot in a week.

The usual suspect are in my list, and no one who know me would be surprised to find ATP, The Talk Show, Mac Break Weekly, iPad Today, DTNS, Mac Power Users, MacCast, NozillaCast and many others in my list. But one does stand out a little, and that is Isometric, which is a show about the video game industry.

I am not a gamer. The consoles I’ve owned in the last decade are a Wii and a PS3 that I bought last year, after the PS4 came out. The only game I’ve played much at all in the last 15 years or so is World of Warcraft, though I’ve recently decided to stop playing that. I occasionally play something for a little while on the PS3, or I play short casual games on the iPad. The last FPS I played was Unreal Tournament. The only exception to this in recent memory is that I did play all of Beyond Two Souls, but that was more like an interactive film than a game.

But enough about my credentials (or rather, lack of credentials); suffice to say I am not a gamer, I don’t own current generation consoles, I don’t play a lot of games, and so a podcast about gaming and the gaming industry in particular seems an odd choice.

I can’t say exactly what cause me to subscribe to the podcast, but it was something on twitter around episode 6. I went back and listened to all the shows and was hooked, but not on the game talk.

First of all, the show is basically (click to follow on Twitter) Brianna Wu, Maddy Myers, and Georgia Dow talking on all sorts of subjects having something to do with games and gaming while Steve Lubitz tries to keep the show on track. Some sort of track. It goes off the rails. A lot. Sometimes Steve goes off on an extended rant on Nintendo or Pokemon (aren’t they the same thing?). It would be more accurate to say that sometimes it returns to the rails for brief periods. Which is fine, because what makes the podcast so appealing to listen to is that these are four very different people, each of which I can identify with in some way, who are having an intelligent conversation. And that, on its own, is interesting and engaging. They could be talking about cheese and it would still be compelling.

Please don’t talk about cheese.

The other thing that I find interesting is that I don’t find myself identifying with any one of the hosts more than the others like, say, on ATP. I don’t identify at all with Steve, for example, because he’s not only devoted to Pokemon, he’s not a movie buff, he’s only seen like 4 movies ever. I kid. Slightly. Maddy is much more of a gamer than I ever was, and Georgia is a much nicer and more-level headed person that I could ever be, and Brianna—well, she’s like a force of nature; it’s just best to step back and watch from a safe distance.

But the interaction of these four is something special. So if you’ve been avoiding it because you aren’t a gamer, don’t. Give it a listen and I think you’ll find it something quite remarkable. If you’re looking for a place to start to see if you are going to like it as much as I do, I recommend starting with episodes 16-19, in order. Dowabunga, dude!

 Posted by at 06:09:30
Feb 132014

Michael McCollum’s Euclid’s Wall is a Science Fiction novel with a twist: it takes place in a future where almost all technology has been lost and the action all takes place on a old fashion rigged sailing ship. However, this is not your typical post-nuclear-holocaust scifi novel, and in more ways than one almost reads more like Billy Budd or a Robert Louis Stevenson novel in that it is very much a sailing novel.

But it is a science fiction novel, and every time I had a question that I thought wasn’t covered, it was answered later in the book.

I don’t want to give away too much because a lot of the fun is finding out exactly what is going on, but the science is solid, the story is engaging, and the characters are interesting.

McCollum’s detail for solid science in his writing should come as no surprise, he’s worked as an engineer for most of his life, including redesigned a valve that failed at Three Mile Island after its unfortunate failure.

 Posted by at 11:18:20
Dec 182013

George Lucas is directly responsible for six of my favorite movies†. While I do not have a room filled with Star Wars/Indiana Jones memorabilia and I’ve never reëdited Phantom Menace to excise Jar Jar Binks, I am still as close to begin a fan of Star Wars as I am a fan of anything. I don’t want to diminish the importance of those six movies because I love them as much today as I did when I first saw them, mostly. I’ve never been a huge fan of the second half of Jedi and I like it less as an adult.

Continue reading »

 Posted by at 13:08:35
Dec 142013

Almost Human, despite the name, is the best new show of this year, combining high production values and interesting and engaging near-future science fiction with an excellent cast and, at least so-far, above-average writing.



 Posted by at 17:12:31