Extended reality house

May 6th, 2020

Two trends are converging: True extended reality (XR) wearables are getting closer to being a reality, and people are becoming less interested in traveling.

Wouldn’t it be interesting to combine these two trends and start designing houses meant to be experienced while wearing XR wearables? In reality, the ceiling might be quite low, and the walls bland looking. But while you are wearing your XR specs, you have beautiful tall vaulted ceilings with a nice skylight, and wonderful wallpaper.

I can think of at least two interesting superpowers this would give you. First, you can redesign your home at a moment’s notice. Second, you can travel to another city, check into a similarly designed Airbnb, and be right back in your own home.

You might come up with other superpowers I have not mentioned.

Optimal emotional variance

May 5th, 2020

There are people who are always on an even keel. They don’t get too excited or happy, and they don’t get too sad or depressed. It’s just a constant and very reliable flatline.

There are other people who swing from enormous highs to enormous lows. One moment they’re on top of the world, the next they may be ok nged into the depth of despair.

The first group never really experiences the joyous thrill of being truly alive. The second is able to experience true ecstasy, but has a rough time of it when they go through those low patches.

I wonder whether there is a perfect middle place, poised at some precise location between these extremes. To lead a happy life, what would be the ideal degree of emotional variance?

Recently at a bank

May 4th, 2020

This past week, somebody I know drove to a bank, put on a mask that hid her face, and walked up to a teller window. She then passed a note to the teller containing a list of instructions for the teller to follow.

Until recently, this would have been a description of a crime scene. Nowadays it is called being considerate.

May the fourth be with you!

Hodgepodge

May 3rd, 2020

For any given fictional universe, it’s fun to imagine characters we think should be in that universe, but aren’t. I have a particular fondness for adding imaginary characters to the fictional universe of J.R.R. Tolkien.

Hodgepodge is a character who lives in a little hut, about a day’s journey from the Shire. A small and wizened gnome of indeterminate gender, Hodgepodge is your go-to provisioner if you are planning to venture forth to battle Evil.

After you tell of your intended quest, Hodgepodge will pick up a small cloth sack, and proceed to place within it what seem to be random items. A hatpin perhaps, or a length of golden thread, or three mustard seeds.

You never know how or when these items will will prove useful, but they inevitably will. At some point along your journey you will find that each item solves a problem that you never anticipated facing.

Hodgepodge asks no reward but the simple pleasure of hearing the tale of your successful quest upon your return to the Shire. Later that evening the little gnome will dutifully transcribe your tale into a large and well worn hand-bound volume.

Those words will live forever, as your tale is retold for generations to come. In this way you will achieve immortality.

Weekends, virtual and otherwise

May 2nd, 2020

Weekends become somewhat odd during the pandemic. We aren’t going out on Friday and Saturday evenings, so any entertainment becomes virtual.

There is no actual commute to and from an office on weekdays, so that differentiator is gone for now. Any delineation between weekend and weekday becomes primarily a matter of willed definition.

Which means that the concept of a “weekend” has an opportunity to become more flexible. A weekend can now be whatever we want it to be.

If I can get all my work done in three days during this stay-at-home time, then who is to say that my weekend cannot be four days long? And what if I could finish all of my work for the week in a single day?

Should I then take a six day weekend? Is that even a thing?

In the end, I suppose, our own minds provide the limit on the length of the weekend. At least it is for those of us lucky enough to find gainful employment during the outbreak.

I, for one, would not want to sit around for a six day weekend, just kicking back and watching movies. Two days or maybe three are quite enough for me. Give me a good project to work on, and I am a happy man.

But I still plan to take weekends off. :-)

Celebrating the physical

May 1st, 2020

There is something deep with our natures that craves the physical. The simple touch of another person’s hand conveys connectedness in a way that speaks to us beyond any technology.

As we are forced to maintain our distance from one another, perhaps our ability to cherish such physical connection will increase. A touch, a hand upon the shoulder, a simple hug, will come to be seen as the infinitely precious things they truly are.

Maybe this increased awareness will allow us to appreciate each other more. Perhaps, amidst all the despair, I would like to think that our greater recognition of each others’ presence will result in an uptick in simple human kindness.

I realize what I am doing — looking for silver linings in the very dark cloud that is covering our world. But that is no reason not to do it.

Watching the video of a Zoom meeting

April 30th, 2020

There was a meeting today of some of the people in our group who are working on a project together. I am in the group, but I had a conflict and so could not attend the meeting.

The meeting organizer kindly recorded key parts of the meeting. He sent me a link to a video, which I just now finished watching.

It was very informative to “sit in” on the Zoom meeting, even if only forensically. But in a way the most interesting thing is what happened at the very end.

As the meeting wrapped up, everybody said goodbye. Each participant smiled and gave a wave into the camera before signing off.

Although it made no objective sense, I found myself smiling and waving along with everyone else. Obviously I was not there, and the meeting had long ended, yet I found the compulsion to join in at that moment to be overwhelming.

On a completely rational level, it was a very strange thing to do. Yet now that I think back on it, I am not sorry that I did it.

Rewatching “Raiders of the Lost Ark”

April 29th, 2020

One silver lining in this very dark pandemic cloud is that we can cheer ourselves up by going back and watching favorite movies that we have not seen in years. Yesterday I rewatched “Raiders of the Lost Ark”.

I had remembered it as a great film, but I had forgotten just how very great it is. The screenplay by the great Lawrence Kasdan didn’t hurt. Also, once again I was reminded why Harrison Ford is a national treasure.

And of course why Spielberg is Spielberg. :-)

The action is non-stop thrills, the pre-CGI effects from ILM are breathtaking, and even the minor characters have elegant character arcs. Most of all, it’s a beautiful and fond love letter to adventure films of the 1950s like Secret of the Incas.

And how can you argue with a movie where the main character’s best friend is none other than Gimli, son of Gl√≥in?

Poem for a pandemic

April 28th, 2020

it’s what I like to do
it thrills me without fail
spending time with you
when we disinfect the mail

Essential chocolate

April 27th, 2020

Sometimes, in difficult times like these, you really need very high quality chocolate. Fortunately there is an excellent, and appropriately pricey, chocolate shop near here.

They are practicing proper social distancing, with everybody wearing face masks and with strict rules about one customer at a time entering the shop. Their chocolates are out of this world.

Of course, every time we choose to leave our abode and venture out, we are making a choice that needs to be weighed seriously. Given the mental and emotional stress of living through the current situation, I think this trip was well worth it.