Love letters, part 2

July 30th, 2014

Second attempt:

“My Darling, I do not deserve you — you are so much more than I am. If I am but a brief moment in time, you are eternity itself. If I am a mere housefly, you are a winged eagle. If I am one of those little holes in a postage stamp, you are the Grand Canyon. If I am an insignificant atom, you are a planet. If I am a planet, you are the Sun. If I am the Sun, you are the Milky Way galaxy itself!!!”

“What?”

“No, I wasn’t trying to say you’re fat.”

Love letters, part 1

July 29th, 2014

“To write a good love letter, you ought to begin without knowing what you mean to say, and to finish without knowing what you have written.” — Jean-Jacques Rousseau

First attempt:

“I miss your eyes, bright like the lights from inside a refrigerator full of yummy food, I miss your lips like two pomegranates ripe enough to eat but not, you know, so ripe yet that they start to smell funny. I miss your nose that sticks out of your face so proudly, telling me that you are here well before the rest of you does. I miss your elbows, your knees, that little mole you have that I noticed one day but never told you about because it is in such an embarrassing part of your body. I love every part of you, and I just, well, um, wanted you to know that.”

Hummus and Pita, part 4

July 28th, 2014

Pita knew that his offer would not be refused — since everyone knows that the Baba Ghanoush loves music. And so Pita began to play upon his baklava.

And it was a sweet pastry of music indeed, composed of layers upon layers of delicate music, sweetened and held together by notes of pure honey. For nobody could play the baklava like young Pita.

Eventually his listener, lulled by the magic of his playing, fell into a deep reverie, and began to doze off. And that is when the young man saw his chance. For he knew that this was not the true Baba Ghanoush, but the Foul Mudammas in disguise.

Taking out his trusty shish kebab, Pita plunged the sharp blade into the stomach of the sleeping monster. And lo and behold, fatoosh! out came Hummus, alive and well, if somewhat the worse for wear.

Once they were sure that the monster was well and truly dead, together they traveled back to the cottage, where their Dolma wept with joy to see them. She was glad to see that they had brought with them the coin purse of the treacherous Foul Mudammas, which indeed contained a fortune.

“Ah my sons,” their Dolma said proudly, “I knew you would come back to me, and that you would turn our tzatziki into a fortune. But tell me Hummus, how did it feel, to be trapped inside the belly of such a foul monster?”

Hummus looked at his Dolma, and he looked at Pita. Then he shrugged. “To tell you the truth, it falafel.”

fini

Hummus and Pita, part 3

July 27th, 2014

After several days, their Dolma began to become worried. “Pita, we have not heard from Hummus. I am afraid all may not be well with your brother.”

“Never fear, Dolma dear, I will see to it.”

“Ah, you always were a clever boy,” she said. “Here are the other ten tzatziki. I am sorry that I have nothing else to give you, other than my blessing.”

“There is no greater gift,” said Pita solemnly. With that, he kissed his Dolma goodbye, strapped his baklava to his back, and strode confidently out into the world.

Pita was smaller than his brother, but he was very bright. Fortunately, he was blessed with the confidence of the clever, and so he was sure he could turn ten tzatziki into a fortune, and help out his brother as well.

About a mile down the road, he ran into the Baba Ghanoush. “Greetings, Baba Ghanoush,” he said.

She looked at him with her one good eye. “Young man, I see you have ten tzatziki. Would you like to turn that into a fortune?”

Pita was intrigued to see that Baba Ghanoush was wearing her eye patch on the wrong eye. “It is rare indeed,” he thought to himself, “for someone to change one good eye for the other.”

“Is everything all right?” asked the Baba Ghanoush, seeing that Pita looked concerned.

Pita thought this over for a moment. “Oh yes, everything is just fine, Baba Ghanoush. But what is the rush? For I have brought my baklava, and everyone knows that you love music.”

Hummus and Pita, part 2

July 26th, 2014

Alas for Hummus, he was not a very good Tabouleh player. One by one, the young man saw his tzatziki disappear into the rather large coin bag of the Baba Ghanoush.

Seeing his concern, the Baba Ghanoush made him an offer. “Tell you what,” she said agreeably. “I will give you a chance to get back your money, and then some. Let us play one more round. If you win, you can take anything that is mine. If I win, I can take anything that is yours.”

Eyeing her large bag, Hummus eagerly agreed. After all, he had nothing else, so what did he have to lose?

In a few minutes it was all over — the Baba Ghanoush had won the final round. “And now, I take my prize,” she said, smiling. And before his eyes, she changed shape.

“Baba Ghanoush,” said Hummus in surprise, “you look just like the Foul Mudammas!”

“That is because I am the Foul Mudammas!” she said menacingly.

Hummus turned pale at this unexpected turn of events. “But what can you take that is mine to give?”

“You!” she said, smiling, as she opened wide her scaly jaws. In a mere moment, fatoosh! she had swallowed him whole.

Hummus and Pita, part 1

July 25th, 2014

One fine spring day Hummus and Pita came home to find their Dolma waiting for them.

“It is time,” she said, “that you boys learn to make your way in the world. Hummus, since you are the eldest, you need to lead the way. Here are ten tzatziki. Go use them to make your fortune. But beware the Foul Mudammas!”

Hummus was a fine strapping lad, but none too bright. Fortunately, he was blessed with the confidence of the stupid, and so he was sure he could turn ten tzatziki into a fortune.

About a mile down the road, he ran into the Baba Ghanoush. “Greetings, Baba Ghanoush,” he said.

She looked at him with her one good eye. “Young man, I see you have ten tzatziki. Would you like to turn that into a fortune?”

Hummus was pleased to see that opportunity was coming so quickly. “Yes ma’am,” he said. “How do I do that?”

“I suggest,” the Baba Ghanoush said pleasantly, “that we play for it. Perhaps a round of Tabouleh?”

Hummus loved games, and so they had a go of it.

(to be continued)

Vancouver on a summer evening

July 24th, 2014

Vancouver on a summer evening
Is nothing like New York’s crazy hot neurotic
Shifting energy.
When you walk down a Vancouver street
In the summer coolness,

The open sky above is huge
Filled with clouds that paint pictures in a palette
Of gray and blue,
Pictures that always seem to lead
To the mountains beyond.

The traffic here is different too.
Even on a busy street, sometimes, without warning
The cars disappear
And for a moment there is no city at all
Just the stillness of night.

Riding the sandworm

July 23rd, 2014

Since experiencing the Valve demo (and comparing notes with colleagues who had a similar reaction), I’ve found myself being a lot more inventive. Reaching that last one percent toward a sense of “this is real” has clearly convinced me, on some deep subliminal level, that this is something worth devoting brain cells to.

I have found myself coming up with new thoughts on visual languages for communicating in a shared virtual world, ideas for how to wander freely around a large open outdoor space while experiencing VR, for how to use detection of weight shift and changes in walk to make things happen in the virtual world, and lots more.

Let’s take just that last one. Wherever you go in a walk-around VR, you’re still standing on the ground. This limits what you can do convincingly. For example, taking off into the air like Superman might be problematic, because you can still clearly feel your feet on the ground, supporting your weight.

However, flying through the air like the Silver Surfer might be just fine, since you are supposed to be standing on something. Similar arguments can be made for riding on the back of a dragon in Pandora or a giant sandworm on Arrakis.

But then it becomes important to detect subtle shifts of weight. And you want to have that experience even if you were walking around before you took flight, which means that solutions that require you to stand still, like the Wii Fit, are inadequate.

Since I now know that it’s going to matter, I’m having a splendid time working out technological solutions that will be up to the job. I am looking forward to riding that sandworm.

Disagreements (a sonnet)

July 22nd, 2014

Sometimes in conversation you may find
My disagreements placed upon the table
And then I try to really speak my mind
But rarely do I find that I am able
To truly put my money where my mouth is
Instead I merely hem and haw and fret,
At which point things can rapidly go south. Is
There some better strategy? I’ll bet
That if we both could read each other’s thought
Instead of trying to prevaricate
We might not find ourselves to be as fraught
With conversations breaking down. Oh wait,
      If you really knew just why I think you’re wrong
      You might not stick around for very long.

Cetacean vacation

July 21st, 2014

One of the criticisms leveled at virtual reality is that it can be isolating. Rather than being with other people, the argument goes, VR users are spending their time in a made-up world.

As Applin and Fischer and others have noted, this criticism contains within it a very misleading view of the human condition. In fact, we all live in a made-up world. With our extensive use of clothing, medicine, housing, utensils, written language and more, even the most “back to the earth” among us are living a highly virtualized existence.

So I don’t feel that I am betraying some key principle of “authenticity” as I let my mind wander over the possibilities that have occurred to me after experiencing the Valve VR demo — possibilities that would never have occurred to me after trying on “almost good enough” technologies, such as the Oculus Rift or the various CAVE environments I have visited through the years.

And I find that all of the experiences that occur to me are ones that actually draw me closer to other people. For example, I would love to be a dolphin for the day, going on a mini-vacation with a friend — who is also being a dolphin — as we explore the great barrier reef.

Unlike human scuba divers, my friend and I will be free to chat away as we visit one fantastical undersea wonder after another. And of course we will be able to swim a lot farther and faster. :-)

Or perhaps my friend and I can be flying dragons swooping and gliding through the floating islands of James Cameron’s Pandora. Thinking of this last possibility, I am struck by the difference between a mere stereo iMax movie and the experience of true sensory immersion.

In point of fact, I remember thinking, when I first saw the beautiful and intricate visualizations of Middle Earth in Peter Jackson’s Ring trilogy, that one day even this will seem primitive, in the way most people now think of black and white silent films as primitive.

Now, for the first time, it is clear to me what kind of future alternative experience is coming along to make that happen.