Monthly Archives: December 2008

Rock Band Has No Soul (or Funk or R&B)

rb2This Christmas, we picked up RockBand 2 for the kids. We already had Guitar Hero 3 for the Wii and with our addition of an XBox 360 this summer, we wanted to spread the love.

First off, the game is killer. We bought the special edition, so it came with a guitar, drum set, and microphone. We all thought that GH was fun, throw in the drums and the mic?! Killer! I think the band-as-a-game concept is just brilliant. It is interactive, challenging, and quick (most songs are 4 minutes or less). Invite a few friends over and you can literally party for hours.

Now to my gripe. I grew up in the 70’s, so there was that time when a lot of Black people listened to rock. This was the time of pre-MTV, let alone Yo! MTV Raps. So outside of Black radio, much of what you heard in public was what was popular for the main stream. And when MTV did come out, we were bombarded with rock in all its glory: David Bowie, Guns n Roses, Pat Benatar. So I can rock out with the best of ’em. I have a ball rockin’ to these songs in RB2.

But for what MTV did not play, Pops made up for it with LP collection. Dayton, EWF, Parliament, Con Funk Shun, Sly & The Family Stone. These were the bands we grooved to at parties that our parents had in the basement. The deep base riffs, guitar solos, and don’t mention the vocals. To me, just as killer as the rock bands featured in the game. If there were a group of bands that could be featured in RB2, then these would be it.

So it was more than disappointing to find so little soul (or funk or R&B) in RB2. There is a Beastie Boys song or two (does that classify?). But none of the greatness that defines 70’s an 80’s music for a large swath of America (and the buying public, I might add).

But wait! RB2 has downloadable content!

But NO! Even there, I can’t find anything.

I went out to the RB forums to see if there were any announcements about forthcoming DLC that may venture into the funk or soul world. Whoa! I know the internet is famous for enabling pissants to be bigger pissants with the wonderful world of anonymity, but dude we are talking about music in a game. There are some serious bigots on those boards. I found a few forum threads discussing diversity in RB2. Here is a nice gem:

If more country songs are offered for DLC, my rock band is going on ebay! and GHWT here i come. i wouldnt be so angry if they had release at least one or two rock songs as well. but come on guys this weeks DLC is pathetic.

So, this cat is saying that if Harmonix puts more country music out as DLC, he’s selling his game!? First, it is DLC, meaning you have to pay for it and download it. If you don’t want it on your system, don’t buy it! I would hate to see what he thinks about funk or soul music.

Hopefully, HMX has heard of The Long Tail. I think that adding these genres as DLC is a perfect example of how this concept can translate into additional revenue (and satisfaction for lot of people).

I want to be Verdine dammit!

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Net neutrality under attack!

Many people don’t keep up with the latest tech news, unless it something awesome and amazing. But sometimes, it is the least hyped stories that have the potential for the most impact to society.

One issue that has been batted around for some time is Net Neutrality. The basic concept is that companies that provide access to the intertubes must not restrict said access (whether through complete blockage or speed reduction) to any web content. For example, SBC cannot degrade the download speed of your internet access, if you visit  the Apple iTunes site. The net must be neutral to all.

I read this earlier on Slashdot. FTFA (emphasis is mine):

AOL, Yahoo! and MSN subscribers will continue to have access to content but will no longer be able to access their e-mail through the third party Web site. Instead, Yahoo! and other third party e-mail will be accessed directly at the MyFairPoint.net portal.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I’d be pretty pissed if somone told me I could not just type in http://gmail.com and get to my email account. I would not want to look at Fairpoint’s stinkin ads!

I really feel for the people in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont (where FairPoint is set to take over), if they have no other internet access option. I hope we see the one of the first “net lockdown” revolts in early February.

Fairpoint might be wise to learn a little history about pissing off those Northeasterners

Almost here!

bsg

I’m really looking forward to the next season. Although, it’s going to suck that this is the final set of episodes. I’ve really enjoyed what Ron Moore has done with the show. Very edgy, a great cast, and a great story. I hope that the new Caprica prequel will be just as good.

The SciFi channel has a great (and very funny) three season recap to get you through the essentials, if you’ve never seen the show. But I recommend, you purchase the DVDs and get caught up the old fashioned way.

Official gripe: I love Lt. Dualla and Simon, but can we please get a few more major Black characters. I know in the future, race won’t matter, but damn…

Spectacular!

BA recently featured a picture of the space shuttle from The Boston Globe’s Big Picture series. I like this shot. Then I realized that I had only clicked through through 1 set out of 3. After looking through the rest (warning: there are some very tough-to-look-at images in the bunch, the most difficult requiring an extra click-through), I found this beauty.

milkyway

I hate to admit it, but like most city dwellers I have never seen the Milky Way with my own eyes (upper right cloudy looking area of the picture above). There is just too much light pollution to make out that wispy cloud in the sky where the bulk of our galaxy shines down upon our pale blue dot.

I’m going to make it a goal to make my way to a dark sky site somewhere in the next year. Is there anything more beautiful?

Intertubes In Space

sdo

A few months back, NASA announced the successful testing of the first deep space network using a relatively new protocol (Disruption-Tolerant Networking). This was pretty cool in itself. Developing a new protocol especially one that is fault-tolerant at distances that are measured in light-minutes has to get your creative juices going.

I thought of this when I read about the Solar Dynamics Observatory finally getting a slot on an Atlas 5 launch package in October 2009. This new robot will enhance our understanding of our closest star, peering into its depths where the existing SOHO and TRACE observatories can not. The article mentions that SDO will download 1+ TB of data daily! That got me thinking about how they are going to transmit that data down to the the blue marble (and thus to the ramble at the beginning of this blog). Here is what I found on the SDO specs:

  • The rapid cadence and continuous coverage required for SDO observations led to placing the satellite into an inclined geosynchronous orbit. This allows for a nearly-continuous, high-data-rate, contact with a single, dedicated, ground station.
  • Nearly continuous observations of the Sun can be obtained from other orbits, such as low Earth orbit (LEO). If SDO were placed into an LEO it would be necessary to store large volumes of scientific data onboard until a downlink opportunity. The large data rate of SDO, along with the difficulties in managing a large on-board storage system, resulted in a requirement of continuous contact.

So the team is relying on an inclined geo orbit. The primary download station will be devoted dish antennas at White Sands, New Mexico. The mission is set to last for a minimum of five (5) years. 1TB per day = 90 Petabytes of data! Damn! I’d love to work on a system to mine that data!

Black Google Network

tshirtI style myself as a Black Nerd. Most times, it is tough to find other folk that have an African American cultural background and at the same time, be a straight-up tech head, or in my words a Black Nerd. I read about this post about the Black Google Network this afternoon. Now, I am not sure if these folks would classify themselves as nerds, but working for the top nerd company in the world (at least right now), I bet there are a few in the bunch.

It would be nice to be able to network with other folks like myself. I have a link to the Black Nerd Network in the sidebar. Seems like they are getting a good start and I hope I can be a part of spreading the love (btw, I have an aversion to social networks, so I have not joined their FaceBook group). In a few weeks, I’ll be moving to one of the top tech towns in the U.S. Hopefully, I can find a group of black nerds to get my tech on with. Ms. Calrissian can only take so much of me talking about the latest telescopes, breakthroughs in nanotechnology, and espousing my opinions on where we need to go with our space program.

I want to be a Jedi, like my father!

The Old RepublicA few weeks back, Ta-Nehisi Coates blogged about having issues with your special someone if you’re an avid WoW player. I commented that that was the reason I had not signed up for any MMO anywhere. Then came news that you might not get the coveted job you always wanted if you’re exposed as an MMO’er.

And now, BioWare is close to releasing what may be one of the most badass MMOs to date. Star Wars: The Old Republic is shaping up to be a big thrill ride for Star Wars fans across the globe. Check out the latest trailer for some lightsaber goodness.

Do I dare risk the blissful and stress free times at the Calrissian household?

Note to BioWare: Please don’t mess this up!

Thanks to the Penny Arcade for the info…

Are my kids hiding something?!

voltronThe other day I went to record NatGeo’s Journey to the Edge of the Universe in HD (still haven’t watched it yet, but I want to make sure I have pure uninterrupted time) and noticed that the DVR was nearly full. So I start deleting a bunch of old stuff (mainly Mrs. Calrissian’s reality junk, Keyshia Cole and Brutha) and low and behold there is an episode of Voltron saved on there.

Now, I didn’t save it. The Mrs. may have. So that leaves one of two suspects. I can’t see my daughter actually sitting down and watching Voltron. Well maybe if I sat with her. Now my son, maybe. No one confessed, not sure why, it’s not like they’d be in trouble.

But needless to say, I didn’t delete it! I’ll have to watch that after JEU.

And yes, the Black Lion will kill all of the rest and not break a sweat!

Asteroids, CMEs, and GRBs, Oh My!

sun_layers

If I were going to write a book, I would probably tease it on my well-read blog and keep the public guessing and salivating for its release. BA did this for his new book, Death From The Skies. And I was pretty well stoked when it came out. I had a few other books in the pipeline to finish first, but I should have put this one at the head of the class.

In my opinion, this book rocks! I finished it in under three days. It uses the perfect blend of scientific detail and witty humor in describing the many scenarios of space-based disaster that could affect our little pale blue dot. It does not overwhelm the reader with hard to read or understand jargon. I’m a big nerd, so delving into the details of the life cycle of stars and how they eventually run out of fuel was right up my alley. Walking back through time to the Big Bang (and coming to understand that it was not really a bang) was equally fascinating.

I came to understand a lot more about things I’d only scraped the surface on up until now; for example, CMEs (why they occur) and GRBs (where they originate from). Just a month ago I was playing around with the Sky mode of Google Earth and stumbled on a layer that plotted the most recent GRBs across the visible sky. Reading the chapter on GRBs gave me whole new perspective on the word devasting!

I would recommend this book for the casual person that may be interested in space science, as well as to the hard-core tech heads like myself. It is always nice to be able to come across someone that can explain something so profoundly technical and scientific in terms that are readily understood by the masses. Now if we can only get these types of materials as required reading in high school to help stimulate the next generation of scientists.

Great job Phil!

A little Friday dustup

rockem

One of the disadvantages of working full-time is that I can’t blog til I get home. Then I have to settle in, eat dinner, talk with the kiddos about school, then I get some daddy time. And before blogging, I have to check on my websites, answer emails, and clear out my Google Reader.And when I want to blog about something I read earlier in the day, everyone else already has. đŸ˜¦

Heather Headley had that Me Time song. Can someone make a “Daddy Time”?

OK. Now on to what I really wanted to blog about.

Apparently, there is a rumor floating that current NASA top-dog, Mike Griffin, is data-blocking on the Obama transition team. The team has asked NASA to clarify the status and costs of a number of projects including the embattled Ares program. The questions focus on savings that can be achieved from scaling back or canceling the program. But, they also ask what would be the result of receiving increased funding. So as promised, Obeezie is looking at all options.

Either way, I think the signs are there for Mike: Your time is short, money.

With the change that Obeezie and company are promising to bring to D.C., I can only hope that this spills over into NASA. The programs coming out of NASA have for the most part been very well done (big ups on the long lasting MERs). However, a lot more could be going on if there weren’t the big drags on the department budget due to some colossal cost overruns: space shuttle (keep or replace), ISS (finish and expand or abandon), MSL (now we have to wait two more years), just to name a few.

Later in the day, Mike said all was cool between him and the transition team. I think it’s best for him to play nice, if there is any chance he’ll keep his job (which I don’t think there is).

If I had 10 million dollars

Many people fantasize about what they would do if they won or inherited a ton of money. Buy new houses and cars. Take expensive vacations. Definitely quit work.

But not me (well I would do the things above, but they would not be the focus of my new found wealth). I would donate a lot of it to the X Prize Foundation (or something like it). The X Prize Foundation started in 1996, but the idea of offering a reward for achieving a very hard to reach goal extends way back in history.

To me, there is no better way to spend away your pile of gold, then to offer rewards to those explorers and entrepreneurs that have a vision to help make this a better planet. Last week, the Northop Grumman Lunar Lander X Prize awarded it’s first ever prize to Armadillo Aerospace. For their efforts, AA collected $350,000 and the admiration of nerds around the world.

Next on my list of “most exciting things”, is the Google Lunar X Prize which will award $30 million to the first team to land a privately funded, built, and launched craft to our nearest celestial neighbor. In a previous post I mentioned how the Planetary Society would like for the United States to focus on “beyond the Moon” exploration. It would be great to see the X Prize Foundation take up this mantle and offer a reward for some of the goals proposed by the Society.

Would you like a side of Moon or a helping of Mars?

Why The Moon?I read through a pretty good presentation today about why we MUST go to the Moon (via Popurls via Reddit). While I agree with the premise of the deck (we must go because exploration = advancement of science), I’m not sure if the Moon should be our next destination. BA discussed this a week or so back on his blog. I am a member of the Planetary Society and I fall in line with their plan:

Leave the Moon to other nations and the private sector. The United States should focus on touring NEOs and ultimately Mars. In their mission agenda, A New Roadmap for Human Space Exploration, they advocate the following incremental steps:

  • FIRST human trip beyond the Moon
  • FIRST human trip beyond Earth’s gravity well
  • FIRST human step into interplanetary space
  • FIRST human mission to a Near-Earth Object
  • FIRST human mission to the Mars gravity well
  • FIRST human mission to the Mars surface

To me this is logical, progressive, and daring. I believe that an agenda like this would keep the public excited and tuned in as we attempt to push further and further beyond our home planet. Exactly like something that Shackleton (read the Moon presentation above) would do.

The new Obeezie administration will have some tough choices to make when it comes to NASA and the country’s space priorities. You have people clamoring for a return to the Moon or on beyond, but at the sametime, you have the MSL sucking the wind out of everything, the Ares program on weeble-woble legs, the nation is a serious financial funk, and it looks like no one cares about space anymore.

If you are reading this, do your part. Help to keep the spirit of exploration alive

Do you do hardcore sci-fi?

Ben Bova - TitanI’ve been a sci-fi fan since way back. And being a big tech-head, I’ve always been into hardcore sci-fi.  For the uninitiated, hardcore sci-fi are stories rooted in the real world (as in the currently understood physical laws of the known universe). They could possibly happen. For example, Aliens, Predator, and Star Trek (most episodes anyway) are hard-core. Most comics, Star Wars (gasp, the Force!), and anything to do with “portals” are another flavor. But as a kid, I would read and watch anything.

As I age into mid-adulthood, I’m finding myself becoming more antagonistic towards the semi-fantasy-sci-fi genre. There have been books that I just refuse to finish reading. I think part of the reason is that with our technology being so close to “making things happen”, I can envision a day when what I read becomes true in my lifetime. I WANT to see it happen dagnabit! I just don’t have the patience for anything less.

For example, I classify the techno-military genre as sci-fi. One of the leading, techno-military kings is Dale Brown (dude, get a web designer, no offense). The other day I picked up one of his latest, Shadow Command. I’d read Dale before (Flight of The Old Dog, Battleborn) and was pleasantly entertained. But this latest?! Oh sweet baby Jesus!

The novel was chock full of super-high-tech-ultra gadgets, planes, and military equipment. Most of it was plausible, but it was like genies came down to Area 51 and granted three wishes to Dreamland. Now, I could be way off base. Hell, who knows what the US has in its arsenal. But just the sheer pace of stuff Dale rolled out in this book, had my eyes glazing over and forgetting what the book was supposed to be about. I couldn’t even finish the book.

Now for some good hardcore sci-fi, here are some of my recommendations:

  • our solar system – anything by Ben Bova
  • this area of the galactic arm – Alex Benedict series from Jack McDevitt
  • near future – Little Brother by Cory Doctorow (good for older kids and teens too)
  • apocalyptic future – Dies the Fire series by S.M. Stirling (Sunrise Lands gets a little fantasyish)
  • techno military – the early Tom Clancy (especially Red Storm Rising)
  • honorable mention – okay, chances are zombies are not real, but you have to include World War Z by by Max Brooks (check out the kick ass video for the upcoming graphic novel sequel)