Switched

(See also: Switching)
I have officially made a big change in my life, and I’m glad you’re here to listen to my story. I’m sure I’m probably like a lot of you, and my story may be familiar to some of you. It’s a sad story, in places, and in some others angry, and by turns both frustrating and annoying (in as much as those can be separate experiences), but in the end I hope my story will help those of you still stuck in the place where I was, and may show you the light at the end of the tunnel.

I am a Mac owner. A double-Mac owner, in fact. And here’s how I did it.

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August 30, 2007  9 Comments

Into the Bowels of Rapture

I’m an Xbox 360 gamer, but not a very good one. Of late, I have been enamored with the culture and process of game building more than the actual playing. I find it particularly fascinating how like film making the process has become, and how much is riding on some of the games being produced, and how long they remain in gestation before birth.
Unlike my life on the web, I don’t know anyone who actually gets their hands dirty making video games. I can therefore only imagine what it must be like to sit in front of your screen and meticulously create characters and worlds that must be both interactive for the player but also move the plot forward, in those games requiring a plot (which is nearly every game released today, other than Massively Multiplayer Onlines — AKA MMOs — like World of Warcraft or the continual stream of mini-game oddities that Nintendo specializes in). Then there’s the whole years-in-development cycle that can doom a game because technology is moving forward at such a rapid pace that a game that you were designing for a platform three years ago has suddenly outlived its intended platform altogether.
Think about the frustration that must cause by itself, and then consider that a game you’ve devoted years of your life to goes out onto the shelves and no one buys it. That carefully crafted character is lost in a bad, pointless, derivative plotline, or saddled with ordinary weapons and uninteresting facial expressions, or worst of all, does “nothing new” to advance the science and art of video gaming.
Because today, “fun” is rarely enough of a driver in order for someone to plunk down their $50 or $60 to spend a couple dozen hours with your creation. Fun is everywhere. Fun is ordinary. The bar keeps getting raised and the longer you sit on your ideas, the better the chance that someone else is going to beat you to the punch.
Which brings me to “Bioshock,” 2K Games latest salvo into the world of First Person Shooters, or FPS. A First Person Shooter is exactly what it sounds like: your main goal is to wield a weapon of insane caliber and unheard of potential destruction value and aim it at a variety of bad guys (or, in some cases, the general and annoying populace) and kill them all before they kill you. You’re often a loner, but sometimes you get a team of soldiers to help you out, or hinder you depending on how bad their AI (artificial intelligence) happens to be, and lately each game in this mode is looking for its own particular spin on that fairly simple formula.

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August 23, 2007  1 Comment

Comcastic? Try Fucktardic

I’m going to bring my little tale of woe to you now, so that I may be able to help others like myself who find themselves trying to deal with the ass-backwardsization of customer service in the “I don’t have a choice” world of cable.
Where I live, I have one choice for cable access, and it’s Comcast. I suppose I could go with one of them there space disk broadcasters like Dish or AT&T or the one owned by Rupert Murdoch, but I elect to stick with good old coax and a screw-in connection because, damn it all, I’m an American! And also, the fog here is something fierce, and who wants to keep moving and mounting a big plastic dish over and over?
I am also an early adopter of cable-modem technology, Way back when I was living in Boston, I subscribed to Roadrunner, as it was called then, and had such great reception that I decided it was the only way to go — until such time that I was a multi-millionaire and could afford fiber to my doorstep and a T-3 in the basement pool room. So when I moved to San Francisco in 2000, I chucked the lousy DSL from PacBell (before they were SBC (before they were AT&T)) and brought in my reliable and money-saving cable friends to wire me up good and solid.
And so it was until about four weeks ago, when the reliably solid world of cable connectivity came crashing down around my ears and I was forced to deal with the lunacy, idiocy and stupidity of the world of one-size-fits-all cable customer service to please, please, please fix my reception issues.

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August 6, 2007  2 Comments

Attn: Google Money Babies

McSweeney’s is having a problem. Last year, their distributor went bankrupt and left them high and dry to the tune of $130,000, which they are now attempting to recoup via a big sale on all their backlog items and a big auction on eBay of some one-of-a-kind artwork and lavish special packages, including some Chris Ware stuff and Spike Jonze signed magazines or something.
If you have an overabundance of moolah, though, the thing you’ll probably want to pay attention to is a tour of The Daily Show by that lovable Windows OS, John Hodgman his own self! Yes, boys and girls, if you’re looking for that once-in-a-lifetime special can’t-get-anywhere else gift — or if you’re of a mind to spend your own hard-earned disposable income on a New York trip complete with probably meeting Jon Stewart and definitely meeting John Hodgman, you better jump quickly.
The auction ends on June 23rd at 12:43:40 PDT.

June 18, 2007  Leave a comment

Dear Loud Obnoxious Cell Phone Girl Sitting on CalTrain in the Seat in Front of Me

Do you, like, know, like, how annoying it is to, like, listen to you, like, talk so loudly on your, like, cell phone and go on and on about, like, that video shoot? You know? And, like, okay, so, like, I started counting? How many, like, times you, like, said, like, “like?” You know? And, like, it was a lot.
Like, a lot.
And, like, I’m guessing? You know? That, like, you’re unaware of, like, how often you’re, like, interjecting? You know? Like, the word, like, “like,” into every sentence you, like, utter.
And, like, another thing? Okay? You know? Okay, so, like, you kind of, like, utter these, like, sentence fragments? That you turn into, like, questions? You know? And also, like, you never, you know, like, listen? You know? To the other person? You’re, like, talking to? So, like, shut the fuck up. K?

June 8, 2007  1 Comment

TiVo Series 3 for $405

I’m sick to death of my crappy Comcast DVR. The remote lag (whereby clicks on my remote control register several seconds after I enter them) along with shitty hard drives recording programs with drop-outs in the audio and video tracks — not to mention that I’ve had one of the boxes simply freeze up entirely and not know what it is — have left this ex-TiVo owner Jonesing for a hit of some HD DVR reliability and a worthwhile interface without those goddam ads on it.
Thankfully, TiVo is rewarding daddies with big TVs by offering a $200 rebate on the Series 3 box if you buy one before June 14th. Amazon currently offers the box for $605, so with the rebate we can all get our TiVo HD on for just over $400 (before system subscription). I waited about 10 seconds before hitting that one-click buy-now button, myself.
After suffering through Comcast’s version of recordable TV for a couple of years, I can’t wait to have my old pal TiVo back in the living room with me and my 42″ Westie!
P.S. Forgot to mention that the eSATA port on the TiVo S3 is apparently open for business, meaning you can go purchase an eSATA drive up to 1 terabyte in size and grab yourself an eSATA cable and then do a couple of steps that don’t involve cracking the case in any way and, voila, your 30-hours of HD programming can become up to 137 hours. Amazon also (conveniently) has some stylish Seagate eSATA drives that won’t look bad humming along with your wide screen TV for less than $250.

May 31, 2007  2 Comments

Life Serialized

Anyway…
For those of you who have a hankering for nostalgia and the Web That Was, or if you’re simply new to my blathering and are wondering how long I have been doing it and whether or not past prognostications and observations were worthy of a philosopher sage or just entirely full of shit, I’m happy to announce that I have (finally) succeeded in loading in every Life Serial from the glassdog of yore, dating from February 1, 1998 through May 1, 2001 (the infamous coming out episode, a surprise to no one).
Included in the 44 articles are such classics as Food Brick, a tale told of my first drug-induced bout of the munchies, a lengthy disertation concerning my trip to Austin for the 1998 SXSW Interactive Conference, Monica Lewinsky, Kenneth Starr, “The Phantom Menace” and the article that got me banned from ever speaking at a Thunderlizard conference ever again.
I hope to eventually recover The Lance Arthur Experience as well, which goes back to the birth of Glassdog in April of ’96, but there are over 100 of those egregious pieces of crap, and I must confess that I find much of that content absolutely embarrassing and ludicrously adolescent, particularly since I was in my mid-thirties at the time. But it may be an hilarious trip through one man’s pathetic attempts to garner attention in the nascent days of the WWW for some of you with ample time on your hands. If nothing else, it will illustrate that I was writing horrible, self-involved, navel-gazing verbal vomit long before anyone ever heard the word ‘blog.’

May 25, 2007  7 Comments

Porn Yesterday

The first time I ever saw a naked woman — not live and in person, mind you, but just any old picture of a naked woman — I was eight years old. It changed my life forever.
The house I grew up in was part of a developing neighborhood in the southwest corner of Bakersfield, California. My parents bought the house in 1959 when my brother was born, and there was literally nothing else around it but vast dirt fields filled with tumbleweeds, lizards and other lots ready for nuclear family units to move in and start making babies. As a kid, this environment provided an amazing environment for play and imagination. We would build forts out of the dried tumbleweeds, piling them atop each other to 6-foot walls, then bombard the opposing fort with dirt clods that would shatter into clouds of dirt and dust that would go everywhere. We’d plow out ravines and pour water down them to see how water works, imagining that a 90º angle in a water slide would make the liquid suddenly twist sideways (just to save you some time, in case you’re an 8-year-old boy with an inordinate amount of curiosity about physics — it won’t). We’d hunt lizards, giving each species our own names like whiptails and blue bellies and “plain lizards” and bring our captures home to live out their short, miserable lives in our backyard lawns. Every day brought new surprises to the open plains of Bakersfield, but as civilization encroached, it brought with it the trappings of mankind to pollute and sully our pristine meadows of arid wasteland, dumping garbage wherever they wanted to.
Including, and particularly, porn.

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May 5, 2007  4 Comments

The Vegetarian’s Foe

At one time or another, whether due to fear and guilt over the state of modern farming (big “Eeeeeyoooo!” factor) or guilt over the state of the modern midriff (big “Whoooooa!” factor), or both, it’s likely you’re going to consider eschewing delicious meat products and turn to the green section of your local grocer, and I don’t mean the Mountain Dew aisle.
Friend, I’ve been there. I’ve tried. I told myself that it was better for my health, that I was no longer contributing quite as much to the eventual demise of planet Earth and I was helping nature and mankind by decreasing by one the number of people wasting the planet’s resources because we all need one more leg of chicken, one more hunk of pork, or one more juicy, delicious, ever-so-satisfying slice of steak with foie gras and a Cabernet reduction.
But I’m here to tell you friend, that there’s one big enemy in the way of your hoped-for success in this area. And now you can wear a T-shirt to remind yourself when you look in the mirror exactly why you’re heading out the door to your rendezvous with death…

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May 1, 2007  2 Comments

When the Bread Dies, Everyone Knows It

I’ve been to The French Laundry four times, now, and I must admit to myself that I probably won’t be going back. There are a few reasons for this conclusion, which I shall enumerate forthwith, but in short the reason is that it’s hard for me, not being a millionaire, to continue to easily dismiss $400 dining bills for a single meal, no matter how grandiose and wonderful it is.
Getting a reservation at Thomas Keller’s Shangri-La to California-French fusion fare is now the stuff of foodie legend. The restaurant has 16 tables in total, including one in the kitchen (apparently, though I’ve not seen it and at this point I think it may be an illusion foisted on those of us deigning to sit out on the floor with the hoi polloi) and you must attempt to snag one for the two seatings each night by either calling exactly two months in advance, or going online at OpenTable.com and click one of the two available tables-for-four there, choosing either a 5:30pm first seating or a 9:15pm oh my God I don’t want to drive home last seating, keeping in mind that the 9-course menu will keep you there between three and four hours. If you have a special occasion, French Laundry will make special arrangements to sell out the house for God knows how much money, but those are your only options.
I’ve been there now for two lunches and two dinners — they serve the same menu either way so you’re getting the same dishes and paying the same prices (currently $270 a meal before you add in any wine or take the alternates like foie gras for an additional charge) — and, yes, they have all been excellent experiences worthy of going out of my way for, offering some unique tastes that still dazzle in my memory and the best service in a restaurant I have ever had.
But.

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April 27, 2007  7 Comments

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