Steve plays with photobooth

Steve as Pop Art

There’s an article coming out in the Ann Arbor News this Sunday where they interviewed me about the community blog I run as one of my (too) many side projects, They needed a head-shot of me and I don’t really have one, so Annette took a real picture that I sent on to the newspaper. But after I got done with the real picture, I started playing around a bit with the Apple application, Photo Booth. It’s fun, albeit only modestly useful. Anyway, I put together a tiny flickr set of Photo Booth head-shots, including the one included above.

Super-duper cool iBook Mod

I found this via boing-boing while looking for something else: The Kowal Portable Typewriter and Adding Machine, which is the creation of one Mary Robinette Kowal, who is a professional puppeteer and sometime writer.

I wouldn’t want to copy exactly what she did here of course, but this does get me to think. I have an iBook which has been sitting largely idle since I set up my fine dual monitor desktop set-up at home and since I’ve made use of a very sweet 17 inch Powerbook owned by EMU. But this is just the kind of thing that I could/should do to my slightly older but still quite usable G4 iBook to make it a very groovy writing machine.

A Walking Score, with a grain of salt

There’s a web site called Walk Score, which calculates how “walkable” your neighborhood/house is in terms of nearby restaurants, stores, parks, schools, etc. It’s kinda cool, but I don’t completely trust it. When I typed in our address, I got a score of 49, which means that it is on the line between “not walkable” and “some walkable locations.” That seems about right, but when I plugged in the address of a colleague/friend of ours who lives within easy walking distance of Main Street in Ann Arbor, her house also scored 49. Hmmm. Well, as the Walk Score web site points out, its formula doesn’t calculate things like things within walking distance that you would actually want to walk to.

How the Wii was won

Finally, we got one. But first the story:

Yesterday was quite the day for people waiting around in lines for things. There was the whole Harry Potter frenzy, of course. Three small tangents about that: first, the Huffington Post collection of Harry Potter stuff, including some spoilers, some funny parodies, some interesting analysis, etc. Second, I heard that there was a mob scene at the midnight party at Arborland Borders– like thousands of people packing the entire parking lot. This was not on the radar for anyone in my household, including my wife the HP enthusiast and scholar. And third, Annette is about two-thirds done reading.

BTW, here’s a kinda cool flickr set of pictures from a HP book sale party in London.

In more local line-waiting news, there was the Ann Arbor Art Fair (which we avoided entirely, though yesterday would have been a nice day for it weather-wise), and the grand opening of an Apple store in Briarwood Mall. I’ve been waiting for this arrival of a branch of computer Mecca right here in town and the first 1,000 customers got a T-shirt. So since Will and I had some errands to run anyway, we went out to the mall. A lot of other people had a similar idea. At 9:30, a half-hour before the store opened, the line looked to me to be over 1,000 people (though the newspaper suggested it was a lot less), which seemed like a lot to go through to walk through a store and to get a T-shirt.

So Will and I wandered down to the EB Electronics game store. There was a small line there and we got in it, and, by about 10:30, I had spent way WAY too much money for the Wii that Will and I had sought for so long. It turns out that Nintendo, the Wii’s maker, had asked retailers to hold Wiis until Saturday this week. Lucky us.

On the way out of the mall, we walked back past the Apple store. There was still a gazillon people patiently waiting to walk through a store in the mall. Crazy.

Anyway, there wasn’t much Wii-ing until late in the day because we needed to get ready for some friends coming for dinner and to continue the housecleaning for the in-laws who are arriving today. But we did finally hook it up and it was good. Here’s Will this morning playing Wii tennis:

There’s a ton of other features with this that we’ll have to figure out, but so far, it looks like the Wii is delivering on what it promises: a different and group-oriented approach to the video game experience. Wii on, my friends, Wii on.

The futility of Wii stalking

All right, you Wii making bastards, I give up. Eventually, Will and I will get one; but it’s going to be based on luck/chance and that’s it. Here’s why:

On Thursday, I dropped off Will at his day camp and then went over to the Food (W)Hole to have some coffee and a bagel and to check my email and browse blogs. There’s a GameStop store in this strip mall complex, and I’ve gotten into the habit of poking my head into the store when I’m around and asking if they have any Wiis. The answer is always no. But on Thursday, when I was there when the store opened, the dude at the counter said “no, but I think there might be some coming in on today’s UPS delivery,” which was going to come in some time between 11 am and noon.

So I went next door to the Panera, got some coffee, and set myself and my laptop out front. I was able to get some work done from Panera’s wifi connection and enjoy the lovely day while waiting for the UPS truck to bring the Wii that would soon be mine. Life was good.

Around 11:30 or so, the big brown truck arrived. I packed my stuff up, feeling very clever at my Wii stalking and very confident that I too would soon be playing virtual tennis and boxing and bowling. But when I walked in the store, I saw a small group of geeky guys hanging around. It turns out they were in line, and, as one of the geeky ones informed me, if you weren’t in the store, you weren’t in line. Two of these guys had been there since the store opened– that is, they were standing around inside a game store for 90 minutes waiting for a Wii. In other words, while I was hanging around outside and actually enjoying some fresh air, these guys were hardcore stalking.

Well, since I was sixth in line, I thought it was worth hanging around. So me and my five fellow geeky Wii stalkers waited anxiously as the UPS guy disappeared into the back of the store followed by the game store dude. Oh, the anticipation! Would there be six games? Would there be only two? But a few minutes later, the game store dude came back out and said “Sorry folks, no Wiis today.” Jeez. He might as well have said “Sorry folks, Christmas is canceled this year.”


So that’s it for me. As far as I can tell, the only way to buy a Wii console nowadays is by spending way too much money or by pure chance. One of my former students bought a Wii this way, and this seems like my best bet.

By the way, if anyone out there want to buy me a Wii, let me know.

iPhone envy

I am supposed to be working but I was just scanning through Boing Boing’s entry on the Jesusphone— oops, I mean the iPhone. People are obviously collectively drugged stupid on Apple’s excellent marketing, but the reviews generally seem enthusiastic to say the least.

While I do want one of these things, that’s not going to happen for a while. I bought a new cell phone a couple weeks ago, a purchase in which I was COMPLETELY ripped off and an example of being an idiot for not doing a little more shopping. In any event, I’m locked into a two year contract, and that’s okay because I don’t have any problems with Verizon. Plus I for one am interested in seeing the second or third generation of the iPhone that will inevitably come out within the next eight to 12 months, one that will probably include more memory. Plus I’m pretty sure my wife would respond to the suggestion that I buy one of these $600 phones with the $100 a month service plan would be “over my dead body.”

Still, I am pretty sure that my next phone/iPod will be one of these things.

As a sidenote: I wonder if Apple will market something like the iPhone that isn’t, well, a phone? I mean, as it is, the iPhone can connect to a wifi network for doing various internet things. Hypothetically, I don’t see why one would have to have a phone and/or a service plan in that device, as long as a user would be happy with getting online only via wifi. I’d almost rather have just that device than one that is also bogged down with a phone.

Even more reasons to get a Wii

Rejected Wii Games – Watch more free videos

I’ve been fascinated by the Wii for a while now. The original plan was that Will and I were going to go and buy one while Annette was at this conference she was at last week. Well, besides the fact that I was simply too busy to do this sort of thing, you just can’t buy these things right now. Go ahead. Try. I dare you. I stopped by a couple of different game stores around town to ask, and the people who work at them told me that people literally are waiting at the door in the morning to find out if the delivery truck came in. These things stay in stock for hours at best.

Well, maybe Will and I will try again this morning on our way to his day camp today. Regardless, we still won’t be getting these games….