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Check-in Spam

August 21, 2011 Leave a comment

Perhaps it’s the big storm rolling through, but I’m in the mood for a good rant!

Email spam has always been my biggest problem with the Internet, but to be honest, I’m finding check-in spam to be even more annoying.

Social media apps like 4Square, Gowalla etc. all provide the option to post your check-ins to your Facebook and Twitter feeds, which some have taken to extremes. Both of these apps allow followers, so if I want to know where you are, I’ll follow you there – no need to spam my Twitter feed with the same information.

Many people cite services like Twitterfeed as ruining the experience of Twitter, with essentially ‘fake’ automated posts being credited to the feed owner. I don’t see that as a fair complaint, since it may be information I am not getting elsewhere, and is not necessarily just a repeat from another app. Automated posts from check-in apps are not the same, and are far more annoying.

To make things even worse, we now have an app like GetGlue, which allows virtual check-ins for activities like reading a book, or watching a TV show – even THINKING about something! At least with location based check-in apps, they verify the check-in is legit, GetGlue is a joke. Some users are checking in tens of thousands of times, having ‘read’ thousands of books … right! I would hate to follow some of these liars on Facebook or Twitter, since of course the app allows cross-posting.

I thought XBox Achievement Whores (see previous blog) were sad and somewhat pathetic souls, but at least they work for their achievements. With search engines trying to include more social date in search results, I can only imagine how these useless automated posts are taxing search databases, much like email spam taxes mail servers, and ruins email for legitimate online marketers.

Hopefully common sense will prevail with these spammers, but that hasn’t been the case on the Internet so far!

Camping 2.0

August 12, 2010 2 comments

I just got back a few days ago after a full week camping (at Point Farms Provincial Park, on Lake Huron in Ontario, Canada – great site if you are interested).

camping 2010

It was more fun than this, really!

For me, camping is all about a tent, the odd tarp, and having to scrub the smell of wood smoke off you when you eventually get home. I don’t buy into using trailers, small or otherwise, if you’re not at least somewhat exposed to the elements, why bother? The main appeal is that it’s just you and the family, no TV, internet, or other distractions. A good chair or hammock, and a good book is also recommended – I got through 2000 pages last week, loved it! I read “Order In Chaos” (book 3 of the Templar Trilogy from Jack Whyte), and “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” (by Stieg Larsson), and highly recommend them both. Cards and board games by lantern, sitting around the camp fire, and days on the beach (well, beach for the women folk in the family, I just burn, so avoid beaches!)

camping 2010 camping 2010

Did I mention the S'Mores? Or the Beautiful Lake Huron sunsets - free with each site!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m no Les Stroud (Survivorman), or Bear Grylls either, but I do like my camping reasonably authentic. That’s why I read with some consternation recently, that Ontario Provincial Parks are looking to introduce WiFi to the campsites. In fact they are trialling it at The Pinery, near Grand Bend, not far from where I was in fact.

My wife works remotely now, so has her laptop and Blackberry, and she is on both constantly. I’m also on my iPhone ALL THE TIME. This was a week where we could not worry about those devices and really get away, with no temptation to go online, since there was no signal – neither her Blackberry (on Telus) or my iPhone (Rogers) got even a single bar 🙂 I’m a Twitterholic, and a big gamer, but I didn’t miss my Wii, Xbox, or PS3 for the week. The kids are big online addicts too, especially my older daughter, yet I don’t recall seeing her laid in the fetal position, twitching, with withdrawal from Facebook… I don’t think she even mentioned it. If your kids are bored while you are camping, you are doing it wrong!

The Provincial Parks are citing a loss of customers to private camp sites that offer free wireless service, specifically mentioning the KOA ones. Every time I see a KOA site they look like a bed episode of Top gear, with trailers parked in some field somewhere right next to each other – waiting for Richard Hammond to set them on fire! The Provincial Parks on Lake Huron are great, with spacious lots, many of them quite private, and easy access to fantastic beaches. Why do people need wireless?

camping 2010 camping 2010 camping 2010 camping 2010 camping 2010 camping 2010

A few more camping pics

World Cup Highs and Lows!

July 1, 2010 Leave a comment

I’ve been pretty cynical about this world cup, but you have to admit, not without good cause!

Even before the events of the England and Mexico games, I wasn’t impressed with refereeing standards at what should be a showcase for all that is best in football. While both Germany and Argentina were deserving winners, their great performances were somewhat overshadowed by atrocious decisions. Referees in football have the hardest job in sports. Usually FIFA just hangs the refs out to dry, but perhaps this time they will get some help. We got the usual crap from Sepp Blatter right after the games last weekend, but the fact that England, being such a high-profile nation, were the victims here, could see video replay actually get a fair trial.

While all the press has been focusing on the big mistakes made by the tournament referees, lets not forget that some officials have been very good. With England out of the World Cup, the outstanding Howard Webb has a great chance at being the WC Final referee, and it would be well deserved. Webb’s odds have probably increased given the Lampard disallowed goal, as FIFA is a very politically driven organisation, and it would be a consolation gesture to the English FA if Webb was to get the gig. Howard Webb’s head also has the distinction of being the only thing at the world cup rounder than the Jabulani ball!

The Jabulani Ball

The Jabulani Ball

Less has been made of the Jabulani ball in the past few games, but it still seems as erratic as ever, and goalies are still being made to look bad. When Gianluigi Buffon and Iker Casillas, arguably the two best goalies in the world, think it’s a terrible ball, you have to listen – Cassilas famously comparing it to a “beach ball”. They are not alone though, with pretty much universal agreement that the ball is affecting player performance. Outfield players have seen crosses, shots, corners, and free-kicks balloon off into the proverbial ‘Row Z’, while the travails of the goalies is already well documented.

I don’t think the strange movement of the new 8-panel ball is solely to blame for the goalie errors – although I don’t recall seeing as many goalies totally miss punches as I have with the Jabulani. Starting with Robert Greene and throughout the whole tournament, goalies have been treating the ball differently, preparing to catch it differently, and trying to simply block it away, or punch it, instead of catching it. The hype surrounding the ball seems to have frightened them, and many fumbles have resulted from poor technique and lack of confidence. They are expecting it to do something strange, so even when it doesn’t, they are liable to make errors.

Some goalies, however, didn’t seem to start the tournament with a lack of confidence. Schwarzer and Kingson were outstanding early on, putting in solid and confident displays that probably made Capello jealous! Eventually though, the Jabulani had its day, and they both fumbled balls that lead to goals. Some outfield players also figured out the ball, to a degree, and we have seen some outstanding strikes, sadly they seem to be fewer and farther between than in previous World Cups. If you believe the player himself, Maicon’s amazing strike from an impossible angle was intentional, and if so certainly shows that the Jabulani can be tamed. Japan scored two outstanding free kicks in one game (poor Denmark), and Tevez’s strike against Mexico was probably the pick of the bunch. There have certainly been highlights in South Africa.

Ronaldo

Ronaldo - and from the Russian judge?

Unfortunately, the highlights have been overshadowed by discussions of refereeing, the ball, and of course the dreaded Vuvuzela. I won’t say too much more on the annoying, droning plastic horns, but it is nice to see that right-minded teams and organisations worldwide have already banned them from future sporting events… if only FIFA had! On top of these low-lights, the usual suspect has reared its ugly head… no, not Tevez, diving. Some of the on-field antics of players at this world cup have beggared belief, but I have to admit, not as many refs were conned as in past tournaments. I don’t recall seeing as many refs telling players to simply “get up”, and that’s great, but where are the yellow cards? Cristiano Ronaldo, especially, seemed to be the ‘victim’ of his own press. Even when he was fouled, refs were ignoring his petulant pleas, and rightly so – the boy who cried wolf! His reputation preceded him, and for once refs acted accordingly.

Worse even than diving are the con jobs – the rolling around or grabbing your face like you were just assaulted. These unsporting behaviours are even more unsavoury because they are not just intended to con the ref, but are attempts to get your fellow professionals carded or dismissed. Sadly, some worked. Until FIFA gets serious about the diving and cheating, the reputation of the game will suffer. I would gladly give up goal-line video replay to see FIFA institute retrospective reviews that targeted cheats and divers, rescinding cards when required, and meting out punishment when warranted.

Finally, after discussing the seedier elements of the game, I think it is only fair to single out Uruguay and Mexico for their final group match. Both teams only needed a tie to advance, and the concern was that they would just collude to achieve that result, seeing them both into the knock-out stages. Far from it! This was probably the most entertaining match I’ve seen to date, and it was clear from the start that both teams were out to win. That game momentarily restored my faith, the integrity shown was a breath of fresh air – which sadly only lasted until the Brazil v Portugal game.

Whatever the outcome from here on in, the World Cup in South Africa has been newsworthy, and a financial success – and as far as FIFA are concerned, that is all that matters. I still think that Spain will win it … I would love to see Uruguay go all the way though.

Go Go - Diego!

Go Go - Diego!

Its been a long road, getting from there to here!

June 12, 2010 Leave a comment

For anyone paying attention, you’ll notice it’s been just over a month since my last blog. You’re probably expecting me to apologise, and trot out the usual excuses – “life intervened”, “too busy”, “haven’t had time” etc etc … well I’m not. I had plenty of time, just check my Raptr gaming profile, or my Twitter feed.

So why just stop for no apparent reason? Why indeed. Last night was the season finale of Stargate Universe (SGU), a show I have really enjoyed, but one of those that took a pointless mid-season break. Get it now?

I can understand the summer break in TV shows, it is all about money after all. I could even understand a short Christmas break, but a couple of months? Or longer – SGU was off the air for about 4 months here in Canada! They are just taking the piss.

Caprica

Caprica next on the block?

I don’t recall how many shows I’ve lost touch with, and just lost interest in, over the years due to day and or time changes, or just due to them taking the dreaded “hiatus”. My wife and I used to love Boston Legal, but after it took an extended break, switched times and days etc, I lost touch and didn’t even realise it was back on. Caprica looks set to become the next victim of my apathy. Nine brilliant episodes, then poof! That show was advertised, prior to its debut, for longer than it ran!

It doesn’t help that PVRs, TV on DVD, services like Hulu, and on-demand have changed the way people watch TV. Personally, I don’t watch live to air TV anymore, or very rarely. My PVR is my best friend, and I often wait for entire seasons to be done, just so I can watch them back to back. I don’t watch ads, so I doubt any TV folks care what I have to say, but I don’t believe I’m alone in my viewing habits.

Stargate Universe

Are they taking the piss?

TV on DVD has really complicated the landscape, and I am really worried that we will see more and more mid-season breaks. Why? There is big money in TV on DVD. SGU took the opportunity to release a half-season DVD set (Season 1.0) … WTF? Was it really a case of taking the opportunity, or a planned move to gouge the fans? Perhaps I’m being cynical, but I don’t like the direction in which the industry is developing it’s new model. The rest of the SGU Season 1 (called Season 1.5) is due for release July 27th – which, coincidentally, is my birthday!

Don’t get me wrong either, as I stated in previous blogs, I love TV on DVD. We are currently working our way through The Sopranos, and I’m dropping (not so) subtle hints that the Chuck Season 2 DVD set with the 3D glasses would be a great Father’s Day gift… Yvonne Strahovsky in lingerie, IN 3D… now that’s entertainment!

My concern is that the window from air to DVD is being artificially manipulated just to get the cash in more quickly. Yes, it’s a cut-throat business, and I hope someone on the inside comments on this blog. I would love to be shot down here, and have all this paranoia devalued, but sadly I don’t see that happening.

Anyway, rant over, I have to go watch SGU: Incursion Part 2 … I have it on my PVR from last night.

The Top 10 Least Plausible Sci-Fi Movie Premises

Science Fiction, in most cases, requires some suspension of disbelief, but there are always those that push the envelope, and some that just shred it.

10. The Day After Tomorrow
I’m no Al Gore, and I don’t think I’ve ever even met a climatologist, but something about an ice age that creeps up in a few years, and not over a much longer timespan, seems very off to me. The cartoon Ice Age is probably more scientifically accurate.

9. The Core
So, the Earth is about to blow up or somesuch… again, and a MANNED drill/tunnel machine to the center of the Earth is the best option we have. I want the guy who pitched that idea and got it funding selling my used car.

8. Wanted
During my over-education, I actually took a graduate level course on “Naive Theories of Physics”. It was full of cognitive psychologists and philosophy students, and was a really interesting course. It is amazing how naive people are about the way the world works. Anyway, bottom line, if you don’t want to ask the scientists, ask The Mythbusters – you can’t bend bullets, Kari said so. Next.

7. Fantastic Voyage (and Innerspace)
… as well as tons of other rip-offs, including a very good Phineas & Ferb episode. Shrink someone down so they can travel inside the body???

6. Starship Troopers
A fun space-Marine romp, but the science behind those giant bugs is beyond suspect, they simply couldn’t support their own weight.

5. Avatar
Unobtanium. Really? Really?

4. The Fly
Genetic manipulation? Okay. Teleportation? Why not. The two combining to modify him into a part-fly abomination? Er, no. No less plausible than Spiderman as well, I suppose.

3. Zombies!
Okay, not a single movie, but movies like the brilliant 28 Days Later, plus Resident Evil, Shaun of the Dead, and Zombieland are some of my favourites. I love Zombies. Lets face it though, no matter how mad a cow becomes, it’s pretty unlikely it will start eating other cows, then pass that disease onto humans. What’s next, a strain of Bird Flu that mutates and passes to humans, giving us the ability to fly?

2. Terminator 5: The Governator
After failing to kill John Connor by military means, Skynet gets sneaky and sends a T-1000 back in time to infiltrate the political hierarchy. The Terminator becomes Governor of California, then draws john Connor to him with a series of ads promoting the state. Then the Governator breaks his will with punitive laws against Humvees, cigars, dirt bikes, skate boards, and rock music. It was a movie, right?

1. Armageddon
I can’t stop watching Armageddon. I’ve stayed up until 1 or 2 in the morning on a work night because I simply can’t compel myself to turn it off, it’s like suspension of disbelief porn… although Liv Tyler may have something to do with it too! It’s hard to even know where to start with Armageddon … shuttles taking off side by side, exploding space stations, the shuttles approaching the comet, the ridiculous ‘moon buggies’, the actual drilling sequences, or Ben Affleck in a decent movie other than Good Will Hunting. It all beggars belief!

Don’t get me wrong, as I’ve pointed out, some of my favourite movies are in this blog. Perhaps if an idea is so outlandish it becomes more plausible, there is some social psychology behind that somewhere, I’m sure. Anyway, I’m also sure I’ve missed some other less than plausible plot lines and movie premises – what are your favourites?

Are You Embarrassed by Your Video Games?

April 17, 2010 2 comments

I have a long and inglorious gaming history. My Twitter profile states I am an “Avid (but useless) gamer”, which is pretty accurate.

Online games are pretty easy places for an old fart like me to get embarrassed, but I was pretty bad back in the days of my first multiplayer experiences – Hexen on the corporate LAN after hours. I did better playing the original Worms multiplayer, which is still one of the most fun online games ever.

Fast-forward a few years and Battlefield 1942 was the next online lowlight for me. Perhaps using a tag of ‘fragbait_newboy’ was asking for it. I spawned so often in that game I considered changing my tag to frogboy!

I’d like to think my online inabilities are due to age and declining reactions, so perhaps Microsoft need to take pity on folks like myself. Forget “Live”, let’s petition them to create a service just for us old folk, so we don’t have to put up with all those young kids with lightning fast thumbs.

Walrus
Walrus

Interactive gaming has perhaps the greatest potential for embarrassment, though. We have a Wii Fit Balance Board, which appraises your levels and makes your on-screen avatar, or Mii, look how it thinks you are. Wii Fit told me I was fat, and morphed my Wii into something resembling a Walrus.

Nintendo also has a vitality sensor now, designed to monitor you during physical activity. Some games can now use the sensor to detect your ‘fear’ level and back off on the scares. So not only does it insult you physically, the Wii is now capable of questioning your manhood!

We are now approaching a new era in embarrassing possibilities, though, with the advent of Project Natal from Microsoft. A recent demo of Natal was impressive mostly for the fact that the motion sensing system detected the gamer as female!!! How the hell does it do that? More importantly, will it detect my man-boobs and perform gender reassignment!

A good old fashioned RANT : This Miley Cyrus’ sister debacle is trying my patience!

February 7, 2010 Leave a comment

I consider myself an intelligent person, and also a reasonable one … well, actually I consider myself reasonably intelligent, but that’s pedantic. As such, I try not to jump to conclusions. I try to take a balanced view and wait for the evidence to present itself to me, not just respond in a knee-jerk manner to 3rd party heresay, without knowing the whole story.

For those unfamiliar with the state of affairs, Miley Cyrus’ 9-yr old sister Noah has apparently signed on to be the ‘face’ of a new line of lingerie for children. For those under rocks, Miley Cyrus is Clark Kent to her alter-ego Hannah Montana.

Here’s my dilemma. I want to withold judgement on this, but I have no desire whatsoever to see a 9-yr old in lingerie, so am having a hard time deciding whether I should be outraged or not! Now, lets face it, seeing “9-yr old” and “lingerie” in the same sentence is patently ridiculous, but perhaps it’s just some innocent line of pyjamas and sleep-over wear that they are trying to garner free press for with the “lingerie” tag … but I somehow doubt it. I heard some mention of “fishnet stockings for 5-12 yr olds”.

Miley’s parents seemed to be helping her navigate superstardom quite well, then came the Vanity Fair pictures. Now their other daughter is involved in what appears to be even more debatable. You have to wonder what these Hollywood parents are thinking!

Having two young daughters (young, but still older than Miley’s sister, by the way!) I can’t help but feel saddened by the report on this. I hope it’s spurious, and all fairly innocent – I really do. Rant over.