Humans fighting giant beasts! I’ll pass.

How many games shown at E3 featured humans fighting giants, or giant beasts, or zombies? I’ll admit the games look well executed, but can we get some new concepts? God damn.

Over the last few days I’ve actually convinced myself that Steep from Ubisoft might be a game I could really get into. The intro/reveal felt stiff (can scripted game intros get any worse?) but the idea of it has grown on me. I described it to a friend as Skate but on a mountain range – which seems like a phrase the PR people should have used to sell it.

Increasingly I’m looking for fun gameplay experiences that don’t demand solid 2-3 hour blocks of my time (sorry, Metal Gear Solid V, I love you so much but I’m also a husband and dad). Ori and the Blind Forest filled that spot really well for me – a game that is as rewarding in 20 minute blocks as it is in 2 hours of play.

Steep genuinely looks like something I can add into my unwind-at-home routine really easily: an open world mountain I can ride pretty much endlessly, while finding new lines and spots.


Register for the Steep beta.
15 mins of gameplay (Polygon).
15 mins of gameplay (IGN).

Reading List

A collection of #longreads from the last week.


800

New York Above 800 Feet

We are currently in the midst of another clambering epoch. The city has 21 buildings with roof heights above 800 feet; seven of them have been completed in the past 15 years (and three of those the past 36 months). In this special New York Issue, we explore the high-altitude archipelago that spreads among the top floors of these 21 giants.


dogs

A New Origin Story for Dogs

Some say wolves were domesticated around 10,000 years ago, while others say 30,000. Some claim it happened in Europe, others in the Middle East, or East Asia. Some think early human hunter-gatherers actively tamed and bred wolves. Others say wolves domesticated themselves, by scavenging the carcasses left by human hunters, or loitering around campfires, growing tamer with each generation until they became permanent companions.

It still blows my mind that all breeds of modern domesticated dogs came from wolves.


iceland

Iceland’s Ghost Fleet

Ironically, the same Icelandic search team that was dispatched more than four decades ago to try and rescue the crew at the crash site is now being dispatched every single day to rescue tourists trying to find the crash site.

But even as viral images and music videos are luring crowds to come find this dead plane, the story behind its final descent has remained a mystery. No one seems to know why this thing crashed, why it was abandoned, and why it’s still lying on the beach.

Blogging? Blogging.

I’ve finally re-re-re-fired up this blog as a blog.

Regularly reading Dave Winer write about the open web, and where blogging fits in around all these walled gardens, has made a lot of sense to me lately.

I post very regularly on Google+ (you should follow me there), and for a while I’ve felt like my mini-rants were worthwhile, but perhaps not ‘blog worthy’. That line of thinking is horse shit, of course. A blog can be whatever you want it to be, and whether people are actively reading it or not shouldn’t necessarily be the primary motivator for me.

So here I am, desperately trying to post daily-ish, even if it’s just sharing a great link or two. I’m hoping that staying motivated by staying disciplined will help me become a better writer (of blog posts, at least).

And at the very least if no one ever reads this, at least it’s still mine.


Further reading:

“A good blog exists independently of people reading it. Even if no one read my blog, I’d still write it. Not exactly sure why. Maybe it’s something like this — I would still cook even if I was the only person eating.” – A note about blogging

“We can avoid this, it’s not too late. You have a choice. Post your writing to places other than Medium. And when you see something that’s interesting and not on Medium, give it some extra love. Push it to your friends. Like it on Facebook, RT it on Twitter. Give people more reasons to promote diversity on the web, not just in who we read, but who controls what we read.” – Anywhere but Medium

“Other than writing a daily blog (a practice that’s free, and priceless), reading more blogs is one of the best ways to become smarter, more effective and more engaged in what’s going on. The last great online bargain.” – Read more blogs

“I’ve said this 1,000 times before and I’ll continue to repeat myself (since I get new readers fairly consistently) but the only thing that matters when writing (publicly, privately, for personal use or professionally) is that you write. Period. Nothing else really matters.” – Results from a Blog Experiment: 365 Days and 5,000 Posts

Don’t Call It A Choke

Photo credit: ESPN

After The Oklahoma Thunder lost Game 6 to the Golden State Warriors, tying the series at 3 all, the “choke” echo chamber started firing up.

Honestly, I’m completely over the ‘choking narrative’.

It’s lazy.

Why analyse the series when you can just yell “CHOKE”, right? Seven games worth of defensive rotations, pick and roll coverage, cross matches, game-to-game adjustments, shooting slumps – don’t worry about it. Just yell ‘choke’.

It’s dismissive.

The choke narrative completely ignores the fact that another team (The Warriors) was actively trying to beat them. And it completely minimises the sacrifice and hard work that the OKC players and coaches and staff made, not only for this series, but for the entire season.


It’s myopic.

Klay Thompson shot an NBA record 11 threes in Game 6. Klay and Steph beat the Playoff record for threes in a series, each. Yeah, OKC ‘choked’ though. The choke narrative ignores context.

It’s arbitrary.

What’s an appropriate number of wins or losses before a team chokes? If OKC went up 3-2 after a 2-2 tie and lost, is that still a choke?

It’s dickish, and do we really need more dick behaviour in the world?

If you’re a genuine GSW fan you’re excused, but for the rest of you: ease up. You just witnessed an incredible series in which both teams laid it all on the line in a Conference Finals matchup for the ages. Maybe take some time to appreciate it.

Vaundog

My dear friend Vaughan would have turned 40 this year.

Vaughan and I bonded through music and basketball. We sat for hours with a Dr Sample SP-202, a Tascam 4 track, and an old hi-fi record player with a paper towel ‘slipmat’, creating loops and beats and experimenting with sound.

loops

Some time around 2000, Vaughan bought a Pentium computer with a decent sound card, which upgraded our musical noodlings from 4 tracks on tape to 16 tracks of digital thanks to a free version Cool Edit Pro. Over the years Vaughan wrote and recorded many songs in his various Auckland flats, on the farm in Kaihere, and alone in the Coromandel while renovating his parents’ new house. I’ve had a collection of his tracks backed up for years now (first on old data CDs, then an iPod and now in the cloud).

Since Vaughan’s passing I’ve struggled to listen to his music at all. Attempting to do so has brought on a deep sadness which conflicts heavily with my enjoyment of his music and those golden memories of hanging out.

But this changed for me in March when his sisters celebrated his memory on his 40th birthday in a Facebook post. Listening to his music now I still feel his loss, but the sadness has diminished over time. I’m able to enjoy his art again. I miss you Vaughan, but I’m glad I can still hear your voice in your music.

Twitter’s Mobile App Timeline is a Clusterf*ck

I had to leave work early on Wednesday and with just over a quarter left of the Thunder vs the Warriors game I thought I’d stream the rest of the contest on my commute. Sadly, I had no such luck as the NBA app doesn’t stream video on Android N at the moment (sadface).

So I decided to follow along on Twitter.

I’m rubbish at curating Twitter lists (the concept and execution is pretty obtuse, which doesn’t help) but I follow a bunch of great NBA Twitter profiles, so my timeline lights up during these Conference Finals playoff games.

Instead of using Falcon Pro, my go-to 3rd party Twitter client, I thought I’d give the native Twitter app a shot to enjoy those sweet, juicy in-line Vines people share during the game. What I experienced instead, was an avalanche of fail as Twitter bombarded me with everything BUT the tweets I was interested in.

Let’s take a quick look.

I Have Recurring Corneal Erosion Syndrome – What The Shit?

My daughter, for as long as she’s been able to move her arms and grab things, has held our ears for comfort. Even now – she’s two and a half – she’ll demand “EAR! EAR!” if she needs to ‘recharge’, as we call it.

EAR!

When she was smaller and we’d read stories and settle her before bed, she’d quickly reach up behind her, searching for an ear. Three separate times in the space of about a year she reached blindly and thumbed me directly in the right eye. Thumbnail first. Oh dear God, those tiny, razor sharp toddler thumbnails. The pain of eye trauma is unique and comes in waves. All three times I thought I was going to vomit.

The pain subsided after a night’s sleep each time, with the assistance of painkillers and ice. But since the last incident I’ve had ongoing problems with my eye. I’ve regularly woken up in the night feeling like my eyeball is stuck, and simply moving my eyeball (close your eyes now and try not to move your bloody eyeballs!) would quickly spark intense pain and tears making it very difficult to sleep.

After several relatively unhelpful visits to local doctors and optometrists, I finally went to the Eye and Ear Hospital in the city and got a diagnosis! Recurring Corneal Erosion Syndrome. It sounds bad but put simply, due to ‘mechanical trauma’ (EG: a thumb to the fucking eye) the cornea gets damaged, and this tends to dry out the eye. The cornea can then stick to the eyelid, and separating them too quickly can cause more damage to the cornea… a vicious cycle. Treatment is pretty simple: gel and drops in the eye every day.

Every time I go through a relatively obtuse but non-life-threatening medical incident I wonder: how the hell did people manage to get through this kind of thing 100 years ago? 800 years ago? We’re extremely fortunate to be living when and where we live. To be able to wander into a building that’s packed to the rafters with experts and walk out with a solution to my problem is incredible, and we take it for granted.

A few thoughts as I move forward with my life and hopefully out of eye-hell.

Advice for prospective parents: your kids will beat the hell out of you.

Yes, even when they’re babies. They’ll swing their arms around, flail wildly, hang from your neck, kick you in the balls, pinch you, poke your fucking eyes, jump on you, jump off you, and play the drums on your head with cutlery. And more. Yes, even the babies. If you have your first newborn in the house: beware. You weren’t previously living in a house where the other residents were learning to do things like breathe or use their muscles for the first time. You are now.

Medical science is incredible.

Not only did I get a prompt diagnosis, I was prescribed a course of treatment, and the ingredients of the medicine for my eye sound like the names of an alien’s stepmother. It’s absolutely gob smacking to me how completely idiotic humans can be, and yet we have centuries upon centuries of learning and discovery that has progressively protected us, and kept us safe, and healed us faster and better, and stopped us from dying as easily. The next time you get great medical treatment, take a little time to really appreciate it.

Donate to a medical charity. Today.

I live in Australia where most healthcare is free and the standard of care is high, but many people don’t have access to basic health services and care. Our family regularly donates to Doctors Without Borders. Do a quick bit of research and choose a medical/health charity to send a few dollars to a few times a year. Wink.

UK Artists Make More Money from Vinyl than YouTube

Vinyl | punyweakling.com

“The fact that sales revenues dipped in a record year for British music shows clearly that something is fundamentally broken in the music market,” BPI chief executive Geoff Taylor told the Guardian. So who’s responsible? Taylor places the blame on “dominant tech platforms like YouTube,” which he says are “dictating terms so they can grab the value from music for themselves, at the expense of artists.”

Recorded music as a consumer item is less than 100 years old as an industry, and the tech behind it has changed rapidly. Taking a long view historically, there’s been very little stability in the music industry as a commercial undertaking at all. The Internet has redefined an industry that’s already been completely redefined multiple times since records became popular. We’re still at the very start of this adjustment period, and the entrenched entities are flailing about a bit while the dust is starting to settle.

Blaming dominant tech platforms for year-on-year discrepancies is myopic, but the music industry as a whole – and record companies in particular – have never been particularly visionary beyond the hunt for profits. “…dictating terms so they can grab the value from music for themselves, at the expense of artists” – yeah, that sounds familiar.

Read: Music artists are still making more money from vinyl than YouTube (qz.com)


Related:

Subscription-based music streaming, on the other hand, has yet to prove itself to be a viable model, even after hundreds of millions of investment dollars raised and spent. For our part, we are committed to offering an alternative that we know works. As long as there are fans who care about the welfare of their favorite artists and want to help them keep making music, we will continue to provide that direct connection. And as long as there are fans who want to own, not rent, their music, that is a service we will continue to provide, and that is a model whose benefits we will continue to champion.? – Bandcamp

Blerging About I/O

Chris Lacy kindly asked me to join him on The Blerg, re-treading some ground from his first I/O Keynote breakdown with Koush Dutta.

Chris had more thoughts on the keynote in the days since, and wanted to get me on the horn to sound out a few ideas and hear my impressions of the presentation. Have a listen here:

The Blerg #26: Google I/O Keynote followup with Karl Smith

…and be sure to subscribe to The Blerg on your favourite podcasting app.


Links:

Don’t Use Allo…?

Google is giving consumers two options: Insecure with a wonderful user experience, or secure with an inferior experience. What do you think the masses are going to choose? – Motherboard

I think this article misses the point somewhat. When you need the app to be useful you’ll use the useful features, and when you need it to be secure you’ll turn encryption on.

The fact is, for me at least, 99.9% of my comms are completely innocuous. If the Google assistant can make a small handful of things easier for me, then I’m totally fine with that.

Also this cracked me up:

Early sentiment about Allo is overwhelmingly positive…

They’re obviously not on G+.


Link: Don’t Use Allo (Motherboard)

Google I/O Prediction: Hangouts

The I/O keynote is in a few hours, and while there’s been a ton of announcements and app updates leading up to the event there’s been no mention of Google’s maligned Hangouts app. So here’s my fearless prediction: expect a huge Hangouts announcement/release to a standing ovation during the keynote.

There’s just no way the app has been lacking in features and overall stability for this long (not to mention the apparent favouring of the iOS version of the app over Android) without the Google team having something up their sleeves.

Hangouts :(


UPDATE: Prediction wrong! Hangouts was just as neglected at I/O as it seems to be in it’s day-to-day life. Google did announce a new messaging app that seems to be targeted much more at the mass-market, including stickers and a built in Google assistant (don’t call it a bot?). Also announced was Duo, a one-to-one video chat app which looks very promising indeed – low friction, simple to use, good quality video!

Further reading:

The Melbourne Artist who Spent 15 Years Stealing Silverware Used by the 1%

Forked

For the last 15 years, Melbourne-based artist Van T. Rudd has been obtaining the forks with which the uber-rich have feasted with at the five-star hotel Rudd worked at in Melbourne. The fruits of this 15-year collection process is Rudd’s The Rich Forks — 40 forks as readymade objects still full of food debris and saliva.

Meet the Melbourne Artist who Spent 15 Years Stealing Silverware Used by the 1% | The Creators Project

The Roadhouse

My better half very kindly surprised my on my birthday last week with a brand spanking new Nexus 6P. The camera is great, an in certain circumstances just plain excellent. I love this candid shot I snapped of my daughter waiting for her ‘milk-milk shake-shake’ at The Roadhouse in Fitzroy.

Taken with Nexus 6P, edited in Snapseed.