Fantasy v. Reality

I had lunch today with a good friend, and he was brimming with excitement about the release of a new game – “No Man’s Sky.”  He explained the premise and then went into the details of the game.  After lunch, he sent me videos of the game.  It has been at least 10 years since I’ve played a game seriously (save dinky iPad games) so I am not compelled to buy it/play it myself, but I was very impressed with the whole thing.  Very well done Hello Games, very well done.

The whole conversation, though, spurred thoughts about my general dispassion for the game vs. his overflowing excitement.  He is very very excited to see what the game holds because of it’s inherent randomness of all game variables – terrain, plant/animal life, gravity, etc.  All I could think was: “yeah, but it is not real.”

On a different day, the same friend sent me an article where the author shares his views on technology in general, and effects it has on our day-to-day lives and spiritual lives.  My thoughts on this article manifest themselves in my excitement (or lack thereof)  for this game.

Movies, games, internet forums, writings and musings (blogs) all have the potential to remove one’s self from reality. The author’s quote of Pope Francis’ regarding our total human person being a culmination of all of our acts can be used to highlight this. “We are the sum of our experiences,” and if our experiences include regular dives into fantasy worlds through movies/shows, games, etc, then our lives become ruled more by fantasy, not reality.

People choose their level of immersion.  Just as the author chooses to manually French-press his coffee, we are able to choose how much we are immersed technology. Notice that I say “immersed,” not “embraced.” Embracing technology is ok. It is all an exercise in self-control.  My friend tends to immerse himself more, and I try not to become too immersed – he would rather play video games, I would rather go to a shooting match 🙂

What am I getting at? We need to be deliberate in how we employ technology to enhance our lives. Technology for automation is good in my opinion, and has the potential to make the quality of our lives higher and more safe. Technology that takes us away from reality, however, can be dangerous if used to excess.

The good news is that we have God-given free will – and we can choose NOT to be hypnotized by fantasy. We can define the extent to which we rely on technology, and what that means in our lives.

How do you feel when you get home?

This whole “having a son” thing has been very eye-opening in many ways.  He is *almost* 9 months now, and keeps surprising me with the things he can do, understand, etc.

One of the absolute best moments happened to us this past weekend – we had just returned home from a trip to see both sets of grandparents.  My wife and I were so happy to bring him “home” to see family – we stayed at my parent’s place for awhile and then her parent’s place.  Understandably, he was very timid.  He’s also in the midst of his “stranger danger” phase, so he was also very clingy.  Even still, he seemed to warm up and have a good time with his relatives on both sides.  On the flight home, my wife and I commented on how well he did and what a good time he had.

I did not foresee what was coming next.

We landed very close to his evening bottle/bedtime, so we rushed home to get him in bed so we could hopefully put him back into his normal routine.  He was very hungry by the time we got home, so my wife took him out of the car to get him changed, and I made his bottle.  I fully expected him to eat his bottle and fall asleep as it had been a very long day for him.  I dimmed the lights, sat in our eating spot, and let him start on his bottle.

Halfway through the bottle, he pulled away and looked at me with excited eyes and a *very* big smile!  He then sat up and started looking around, and babbling at different things.  It was obvious that he didn’t want to finish his bottle at that time, so I thought “sure – let him down and he’ll wear himself out.”  Then the most amazing thing happened:  he started crawling around the room, babbling, and looking back at me with the same smile – as if to say “Dad look!  It’s all of my stuff!!!”  He spent the next 45 minutes crawling around the house – not wanting to be picked up – looking around the house.  My wife and I joked that he was checking to make sure nothing was stolen.

My wife and I were very excited to bring him to her old home and my old home, but we were very happy to see our son so excited to be back in *his* home… in *our* home.

I write post this in the hopes that I never forget how happy and excited he was during that hour – it was incredible.

Privacy – How much have we given up?

Howdy folks! Long time, eh? I finally took a little time to provide a little care for this site.

Anyway – to the point. My friends and I used to joke about our stuff becoming self aware. Hell, we even used to wish for it… especially my car. Boy, I wish my car could talk, jump, drive itself….. I digress.

These days, technology self-awareness seems attainable – that is, if it hasn’t happened already. Technology situational awareness is already there. Need proof? Check out your smart phone.

I (currently) use the Nexus 5. As a good techie, I tied it to my main Google account to the phone and started using it. The day I ordered it, I fired up maps.google.com to search for the closest Sprint store to activate it. When I input my starting location, I noticed that my address had been aliased as ‘Home.’ I didn’t alias this manually. Best I can figure, Google assumed that I had shipped my phone to my house, and so it now knew that I lived at 1515 Mockingbird Lane (points to you readers for getting the reference without Google). Interesting, right? It gets spookier.

After 1 week, the phone began theorized that the place I travel to every morning was ‘Work.’ So, the phone prompted me – ‘Do you work at this place? Yes/No.’ I hearkened back to grade school when kids used to pass each other the same type of note. Quickly, my senses shifted from a nostalgic haze to a keen awareness about the amount of information my PHONE knows about me. …and that’s just MY PHONE.

Now, think about technologies like Nest, August, etc… the sprinkler systems that check the local weather to determine when and when not to water. In the next 10 years, most if not all of these technologies will talk to each other to automate your life.

While this sounds cool, think about how this works. Each machine must somehow monitor your behavior, and then make inferences as to your preferences. Repeat that last sentence to yourself, and then think imagine EVERY mechanical device around you just… watching you.

How does this pertain to privacy? Well, for each of these technologies to become smarter, some PERSON has to first monitor your behavior (and many many others) to create the heuristics to make the machine work. In other words, someone will mine the GPS in your phone, car, iPad, etc. These insights will be cross-referenced with your search habits in the search engine of your choice, and your purchase history from your favorite online retailer.

Are you ok with this? I’m on the fence.

2013 Toyota Camry Hybrid SE – First Weekend Thoughts

If you read my previous post, I’ve reluctantly traded in my 2007 Corvette Coupe – and I bought a 2013 Toyota Camry Hybrid SE.

A big change for sure.

Background: I’m a muscle-car guy, and always will be. I’ll buy another Corvette one day, and I hope it is a C7. My first car was a 1976 Firebird. I love them! So why a hybrid?

2 reasons.

First – my driving habits reflect the “business case” for a hybrid: Drive a lot of miles ~30-40MPH. Over the past 6 months per the Corvette’s computer, I drove an average of 27.9 MPH. My daily commute is 50 miles round-trip, and will soon be closer to 90 miles round-trip – same high-traffic conditions, just moving farther away from work. Maintenance on the Vette for a 90 mile-per-day commute is higher than I am willing to pay. Over 2 years I’d essentially need to get two sets of new tires (1600 per set), 12 oil changes (100 each), brakes (500), etc, etc. You get the picture.

Second – I had a great buy on the Vette, and consequently the folks at Toyota (Sterling McCall in Houston to be exact – talk to Robert Savala if you’re interested. He’s fantastic) cut me a fantastic deal. Given what I bought the Corvette for vs what they gave me on trade vs the cost of the new Camry, I was able to walk away with a lower monthly payment over the same loan period, a brand-new car that gets over twice the MPG, can carry twice the number of people, AND money in my pocket. The business guy in me couldn’t pass it up.

Initial Thoughts

The Camry is nice, both inside and out. I opted for the entry-level one (SE trim) because in my mind, if I’m getting a hybrid to save money on gas, my ROI equation becomes less favorable if I spring for the leather and the moonroof. That said, the SE interior is really nice, and comes standard with a bunch of “gadgety” type stuff – push-button start, touch-screen information center/media center, bluetooth, iPod integration, and steering-wheel controls. Definitely enough for a point-A-to-point-B car.

Driving it is similar to driving Katie’s Honda Accord. Nothing special, but it doesn’t feel underwhelming. In the 60ish miles I’ve put on it thus far, handling seems fine, and acceleration is ok for what it is – it’s still no Vette of course.

The biggest thing I need to get used to is when you “start” the car, I’m never quite sure that it’s actually ready to drive. There isn’t much noise as the gas engine doesn’t always turn on. Also, I can’t comment much on cabin noise because since you don’t have much by way of engine noise, I think you tend to hear other things better. Given that, though, I’d say cabin road noise is low/medium-to-medium. Not as quiet as a Range Rover, but not as loud as the Vette.

All in all, my sub-100mi review is that I like it. I’ll post more thoughts as I put more miles on it.