Future meeting

You walk into the room, shake hands with everyone. Somebody offers you a coffee, which you gladly accept.

The meeting goes really well. People take turns scribbling their ideas on the whiteboard, refining the message and the strategy.

At the end of the meeting, you say goodbye to everyone. Then you walk across the hall to your bathroom and take a refreshing hot shower

Because you never left your home, and neither did the other people in the meeting. It was all done remotely, using future technology.

How long before this is a reality? Maybe not that many years from now.

Virtual vacation

Vacations to beautiful tropical resorts can be very difficult. You have the problem with air travel, of immigration, and, just in general, the hassle of getting to the point where you are finally sitting on the beach and relaxing. And the expense tends to be prohibitive for most people.

I wonder whether we will ever get to the point where people will generally opt for a shared virtual reality experience of such vacations. Of course it doesn’t replace the real thing, but for the purposes of relaxation and getting a break from daily life, at some point it might be good enough to be a viable option.

We are certainly not there yet. But I suspect that we are getting to the point where it’s a reasonable thing to at least talk about.

In praise of long flights

I used to think of airplane flights as a waste of time. But then I discovered the wonders of being alone with nothing but a notebook computer.

Before getting on the flight, I generally decide on a programming project I’d like to work on. The major consideration is the time of the flight.

Short hops are good for quick tasks. But those long flights — like the six hour hop between NY and California — are pure gold.

You would think that being stuck in a cramped little seat would be a problem. But the very unpleasantness of an airline flight makes it even easier to tune everything out.

When the world around you is not fun, but the world on your screen is filled with endless possibilities, it’s easy to focus on the task at hand. And where else can you find six hours when you can be sure that everybody will leave you alone to get some programming done?

When will it no longer matter where you are?

Imagine you are having a business meeting with somebody. You know that they are somewhere on the planet, because people generally aren’t found anywhere else, but you aren’t really focused on where.

It might be the middle of the night for one of you. But neither of you is really thinking about that, because for both of you this turns out to be a great time to meet.

How soon will we get to the point where location on the planet simply stops mattering, for most business purposes? The question is important because the completion of this trend will mark a fundamental shift in the world’s economy.

After that, your economic value will no longer depend on where you are. That will profoundly expand your choices of where to live, what kind of climate you prefer, where and how to raise your kids.

When will it no longer matter where you are?

Words that aren’t

Doing the daily New York Times Spelling Bee has really attuned me to the arbitrary nature of word existence. There are so many reasonable combinations of letters that sound like they should be words, but aren’t.

Why is cloop not a word, or grithing? Wouldn’t it be great to have your very own pet spreech, or to go for a brisk early morning pelunk?

Maybe, in some parallel universe, all of these words exist. It’s cool to imagine such a place.

I wonder if there is a word for that?

Widget Wednesdays #11

Today’s Widget Wednesday is an experiment in rapid prototyping.

This afternoon I gave myself a little coding challenge: Could I implement a program for drawing colorful animated kaleidoscopes in under 30 minutes?

I also set some basic ground rules. Notably, I didn’t let myself use any code written by anybody else, other than what’s already provided by the standard Javascript 2d Canvas interface.

What I ended up with isn’t very fancy, but I kind of like it. You can play with it here.


Today I was talking with someone I’ve known for a while. I had always known him to be an intelligent person, interested in people and ideas.

I happened to mention that I was going to see a theater production of Jane Eyre. He gave me a blank look, because, it seems, he had never heard of Jane Eyre.

He said the name reminded him of the name of a character in Game of Thrones, and he went on for a bit about how many times he had binged Game of Thrones. In that moment I felt a yawning gulf between us.

And just last week I was talking to a young playwright — a very good one. He was telling me that he had an idea for a play that would be told successively from the varying points of view of different characters.

I said, “Oh, like Rashomon!” It turned out that he had never heard of Rashomon.

I found myself wondering whether the classics are simply fading from our collective consciousness. Perhaps they are now thought of as culturally irrelevant.

Yet the classics contain so many wonderful ideas, ways of thinking about and expressing things, and deep insights into the human condition. That’s why they are classics.

I found myself wondering what to say to the young playwright. Should I just let it go?

Reader, I harried him.

Talking titles

I’ve noticed a fascinating phenomenon in titles of some literary works. Sometimes the title tells the whole story.

I’m not talking about cheap examples like “Snakes on a Plane” (and really, what else do you need to know about that movie?). I mean titles that tell the tale in a more stealth way.

My favorites are the titles that seem at first to merely be descriptive phrases. But when you look more closely, they are actually complete sentences.

I was most of the way through one of my favorite novels — Vernor Vinge’s “Rainbows End” — when the author revealed that the title was not just the name of a place, but also a complete English sentence.

And that sentence explained key themes of the novel. I was delighted by that.

Similarly, it wasn’t until after I saw the recent film “Free Guy” that I fully understood the title. I had thought it was merely a catchy phrase. It’s actually an accurate synopsis of the movie, in one terse yet brilliant sentence.

I wonder how many other examples are out there of titles that turn out, when you look more closely, to have an alternate meaning that sums up the theme of the work.

Great theater

This evening I went to see live theater. It was a great original play, with a brilliant cast.

Don’t get me wrong, I love movies as much as anybody. But every once in a while something reminds me – there really is nothing like the theater.

Gathering your toys

I spent the last week working on a simple animated drawing program. I originally wrote it as a stand-along program. You can see that version of it in my “Widget Wednesdays” post from several days ago.

Yesterday I modified the program so that it can be inserted into other programs as a kind of add-on. Then today I incorporated it into another software project.

So now I can play with it in various ways, and combine it with other stuff. It’s a great feeling to be able to do that.

This kind of reminds me of one time when I was a kid and my toy plastic dinosaurs had all become scattered. Then one day I finally managed to find them all and gather them together.

Once they were all in the same place at the same time I could once again take them on adventures and tell their stories. And what could be better than that?