Monday

The Game of Chromebook


Moving away from my Mac was hard but choosing Chromebook really didn't take a lot of brain-power. 

I've been in the market for a laptop for over two years since giving my adored MacBook to my wife. While I still had visitation use privileges on the weekend, not having my own laptop took a toll on my word count and productivity. But the sad reality remained that we simply could not afford another laptop, at least not another Mac. 
And that was the problem. I'm a die-hard Mac guy, so looking at a more affordable machine was out of the question. 

Enter the Chromebook

I'm not sure how I got turned onto the notion of a Chromebook but it may have been at a visit to our local Apple store, ironically, that put the idea in my head. The sales person at Apple compared a MacBook Air to Chromebook (I have no idea why he would do that). As he was reviewing the adorable features of the Air, I started to tic down a list of things I actually needed a laptop to do.

I do almost, if not all, email and social media on my phone and I don't do games. Video productions are created either on my phone or on my iMac in the office. So I don't need a blazing fast processor, a heap of memory, or warehouse-size hard drive.

I need a reliable, stable laptop for writing, publishing, researching...and what else? And I need to be able to do that anywhere from my comfy office to the front seat of my twelve year old Honda and a few places in between. That's about it.

The cursor of the mind blinked a few times...and I was off to explore Chromebooks.

I walked out of the Apple store and before hitting the parking lot I learned new terms, understood new device specs and looked at a few Chromebook reviews (all on my iPhone 7). The Mac OS has been my sole system for a long time, going back to system 6.5! Even looking at another system was akin to adultery, yet there I was.

Learning the new tech and terms that came with investigating a new piece of tech was interesting but it didn't distract from what seems to be a rather featureless machine. Still the attractive price of the Chromebooks that kept me from abandoning my investigation.

The final selling point (on deciding to purchase a Chromebook) came from digging a little deeper into the world of Google Docs. I found the platform could be manipulated to meet my needs and was the unending customization with the features I wanted (and only the ones I wanted). Honestly, I could care less about 99% of the features on most word processing programs. Added bonus, the Chrome OS follows the same customization plan.

So, in the end, price and manipulation brought me to the Chromebook. And since I'm (one of the few) blogging on Googles Blogger platform...we're going to give this Chromebook thing a try.

Straight out of the box

I was working on an article within 5 minutes of opening my new Chromebook for the first time. Having my Google accounts set up certainly helped speed things along, but there were no complexities to hold me back - I just got to writing.

That's my goal; just get to writing.

And this is where it all circles back around; I can just write my stuff. No distractions. Working on a system that caters to me - with only the features I want may speed my progress (and perhaps increased my daily word count).

Time will tell if this $300.00 trip down the Chromebook road will work out, but I'm certain we're off to a good start.

Train Trip

We're heading to Albany to attend a conference for a few days and traveling by train.
It's exciting. Neither of us have done this before...traveling by train and not having our car with us. It's an interesting dynamic.

Sunday

Rio 2016 and Olympic Memories

Notes on early memories of the Olympics

The Olympic Games in Rio 2016 bring out a lot of memories (as do all the Olympic games). My attachment to the Olympics goes back at least four decades. Perhaps like you, the images of athletes in various sports drew me to the Olympics in the first place. Unlike other sports, the Olympics has a little something of everything. The all-around competition on the World Stage is bigger than the Super Bowl or World Series as far as I'm concerned.

Those athletic images are blazed into memory and are pushed to the fore every time the Olympic Anthem is played.

That Olympic Anthem still strikes a cord with me and stirs emotion with the same vigor as Gonna Fly Now and the Star Spangled Banner.

Watching the opening ceremony is still cause for celebration - I love seeing the athletes march in to the Olympic venue, the uniforms, the flags of all nations proudly displayed.

And waiting to see the major attraction of the opening ceremony - the lighting of the Olympic Caldron. The torch having been carried in by a relay team, some past athlete ascends the stairs and ignites the flame as most memorably done by Muhammad Ali in Atlanta 1996).

It is the notion that spirit and competition is alive...that I am alive...we are alive...and able to do things...capable of doing things...regardless of our current state.

Looking back to the days of three-network television, I remember Wild World of Sports. In the days of get-up-turn-the-dial T.V. Wide World of Sports had it all; running, jumping, cycling, racing,  boxing, mountains, skiing, swimming, and more. It was one stop shopping without changing the channel. Wide World of Sports introduced me to the Olympics (and mountain climbing) and Lake Placid.

Indeed, spanning the globe to bring you a constant variety of sports.

The voice of Jim MMcKay saying "the human drama of athletic competition" and the iconic phrase "...the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat..."


Friday

New season of The Walking Dead started early

And the first episode is entitled Poke`mon Go

I learned a lot during my twenty-minute walk through a local mall at 8:30 last evening. There were the usual happenings for that time of day, retail employees taking out the trash and prepping stores to close while lingering shoppers made their way to exits or enjoyed that last few sips of whatever they were drinking from the white paper cup.

But there was something else.

Other beings who I can only describe as "roamers" - like the nickname given to zombies on some past episode of The Walking Dead - were scattered throughout the mall as well. They were doing various, random things; standing still while facing a wall, looking blankly down while standing at the edge of a water fountain pond, or simply shuffling slowly along.

It was my son who first noticed them.

He said something about starting a count and quickly began counting "1...2...3...4...". Within a minute or two he had counted to "12". In our twenty or so minutes in the mall he counted "32".

He was counting people playing Poke`mon Go, an augmented reality game that has people hunting critters that aren't there, in places nobody else can see...with a cell phone. As my son explained the game, I started people watching. The definition of Schizophrenia came to mind and the term itself began to flash in upper-case through my minds eye.

What bothered me about this was not the number of people playing the game itself but the expressionless, emotionless faces. While a few giggles or smiles could be seen in the screen glow, the majority of these folks (all ages, by the way) seemed to have vacated their personality.

I had a quick flashback to the past weekend as I picked my girls up from volleyball camp at a local college, prior to any knowledge of Poke`mon Go, mind you. Four individual college students, one on a skateboard, one on a bike, and two walking, stopped in their tracks for no apparent reason. There they stood, frozen, staring at their phones-as if they'd all received the same message (or command) at the same time. I expected to hear Rod Serling begin a narration explaining the situation and informing me that I'd "entered the Twilight Zone."

According to Wikipedia: 
Schizophrenia is a mental disorder characterized by abnormal social behavior and failure to understand what is real. Common symptoms include false beliefs, unclear or confused thinking, hearing voices, reduced social engagement and emotional expression, and a lack of motivation.  

We've become accustomed to fixation on our mobile devices and seeing people reading text, email or whatever while walking around. But Poke`mon Go seems different to me.

Proponents of the game claim that there is a positive impact on physical and mental health. Some sources go to extremes by stating that Poke`mon Go cures social anxiety and depression while others proclaim that this game will ward off diabetes and metabolic syndrome as it causes people to be active. And people seem to be buying into these claims without the smallest of scientific evidence.

Even Forbes is expounding the benefits.

A recent Forbes on-line article proclaims "Five ways Pokemon Go is Actually Good For You" -

I'm skeptical - but let's review:

According to Forbes, Poke`mon Go has the following benefits:

  1.  Lots of walking. My observation: yes people were in fact walking. The pace of the walking seemed to be just enough to break inertia at rest. So, yes, there is walking but not even close the pace you'd need to increase heart rate or gain any fitness benefit.
  2. You get some fresh air and sunlight. My observation: well, maybe. Every person I saw in this random, non-scientific observation was inside the Mall...one player told me "this is nothing, wait till lunch time" meaning there will be a lot more people playing inside the mall. 
  3. It's Educational...according to Forbes "To catch Poke`mon, you use Poke`balls, which you can get when you visit Poke`stops. And Poke`stops just happen to include many landmarks and historical markers, including those hidden ones in your own neighborhood." My observation: somebody is smoking crack. Really? This game will not only cure your depression, anxiety, but get you fit and healthy while educating in history? I can't take this point seriously. 
  4. It brings people together-litteraly in real life. My observation: It brings people together just like a collection of driverless bumper cars. Like the random groups of roamers (zombies) from The Walking Dead, these people seemed to just float around-totally disconnected from their environment. 
  5. It offers mental breaks without getting too far off track. My observation: Is anyone reading the
    STTNG "The Game"
    news? There have been numerous reports of car accidents caused by playing this game while driving and it is certainly as deadly as texting while driving. I'm reminded of the Star Trek TNG episode "The Game" that causes the Enterprise crew to lapse into some augmented reality 
    mind-control state as a result of mental break gaming. 
I freely admit that my years of study in domestic preparedness sometimes causes me to wear my tinfoil hat too tight, but Poke`mon Go frightens me. This game is taking the attachment to our connectedness to a new level and subtly introducing augmented reality to the masses. I'm not sure I want my reality augmented. The data collection concerns (based on what we know as of this writing) are growing as is the potential for abuse. There have been a couple of cases where players have entered remote areas while playing and been assaulted.

As fiction becomes reality, I'm concerned about the next installment, at what comes next after we've accepted augmented reality as our own reality. We seem to readily accept a game-app to tell us where to go, what to look at, and don't care who is doing the programming or collecting the data. We're willing to wait for the next message, or command, to come in.

There is a threat here. And like John Nada (Roddy Piper's character in John Carpenters 1988 film, They Live) I'm wondering if I'm the only one who sees it.