KTKC Stunt

As I’ve already said, I don’t have a team set up to accept donations this year, but I am still promoting the cause. Lots of men are affected by male-specific cancers. This is a big deal. So, please watch this video, in which I pet a spider, in the wild, that is nearly as big as my finger.

The more times you watch this, the funnier it gets. But, cancer isn’t funny at all. That’s why you should hop on over to the Kilted To Kick Cancer home page, and drop a few bucks on one of the donation teams there. If you choose to drop a massive donation instead of just a few bucks, I’d encourage you to pick one of the underdogs and completely troll the system. :P

Enjoy the Silence Redux

My lovely wife posted a song that we ran across while we were on a YouTube wander together last week. But, she didn’t post the version of the video that we saw. It’s quite a bit more chilling with the WWII imagery, as seen below. I recommend viewing in full-screen mode.

I was never much of a Depeche Mode fan, but it is truly beautiful when musicians rework a well-known piece into something so fresh and relevant. Jennifer’s Granddad, who was in the infantry in WWII, told me on his death bed with earnest tears in his eyes, “war is hell.” With current global tensions at a level that have not occurred within my lifetime (including the U.S. and Soviet Russia with doomsday missiles pointed at each other), I can’t deny the feelings of dread that we may be heading inevitably into another world war.

God help us all.

Guns, Games, and… …Misogyny?

My attention was recently brought to one Anita Sarkeesian. Thank you, JB! She’s a YouTube personality, a video gamer, and apparently a vocal feminist. Watch her whole video if you care to, but this link should take you straight to the money line. In case you don’t feel like clicking over, allow me to quote Miss Sarkeesian:

The belief that women are somehow a naturally weaker gender is a deeply engrained, socially constructed myth, which of course is completely false.

BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAHHA! I like her. She’s funny. Did you catch that, Jennifer? You have no excuses anymore. That I can do more sit-ups or push-ups than you is not actually a fact, but merely a social construct. You can’t draw my bow? Not so, that’s a myth! And, if I’m carrying more firewood than you? The idea that you can’t carry as much is completely false. In fact, when they’ve had to dumb down the standards for a woman to get into the military, that’s just the patriarchy in action. Granted, I’ve met a few gals that could mop the floor with my happy ass same as I’ve met a few guys that my lovely and girly wife could pound into hamburger meat, but these are the exceptions to the overarching rule that men are naturally stronger than women. Attempting to relabel that fact as a “socially constructed myth” simply does not make it not so.

I don’t want to be too hard on Sarkeesian because between her platitudes and stale talking points she does manage a couple of valid points, and every now and then even teases at even-handedness. However, one could probably make a blogging career tearing apart her screeds line by line. Without doing a full analysis of all her videos, I’ll spitball a summary and call her one of the tragic cases that could be quite the powerful egalitarian if she’d simply drop the stale talking points, buzzwords, and made up BS that’s so popular among modern feminism. Men and women are in fact different and that’s okay. It doesn’t make girls better than boys or boys better than girls. If I thought that women were inferior, I wouldn’t have married one. In fact, women have great power that they derive from sources other than their physical strength. And, I do love me some powerful women!

In the dating world, the shrinking violets never really kept my interest. It sounds mean for me to say that I got bored of them, but facts are facts. One of the big reasons that I was attracted to Jennifer in the first place, and one of the reasons that it’s been working so well for like seventeen years now and I’m still attracted to her is that she’s a powerful woman. Indeed, I’ve been known to say that when the zombies come, I would prefer to be back to back with her over anyone else. In the above linked video, Sarkeesian bitches about the recurring theme of the damsel in distress in video games. Let’s be real though. We men have an inborn desire to save the girl, stemming from eons ago in less civilized times when it was necessary for the survival of the species for the stronger to protect the weaker, and video game designers have been cashing in on that survival drive since there have been video games. Cheap trick? Perhaps. If you dramatized my life into a game, sometimes I’d save Jennifer but other times she’d save me. Most of the time, we’d be working through our challenges together. The thing is, video games aren’t supposed to be realistic. Games play off of fantasy because mundane games would be boring. If you don’t believe me, click that last link and I dare you to enjoy.

Eggcited!

Here in the Evyl Robot Empyre, we eat a lot of eggs. They’re a cheap source of good protein and fats, they can be prepared in many different ways, and they just taste good. There’s not a whole lot of food that is more enjoyable than eggs collected from home-kept birds. Unfortunately, city code won’t allow the keeping of laying birds on a postage stamp property such as the one on which we live. Yesterday, Jennifer saw a message on MyFace from one of our mutual friends who we met years ago at Appleseed. She posted the question of whether anyone would want some free eggs as her chickens and quail have been more prolific than her family could consume and that they were “swimming” in eggs. Um. Yes please. Jennifer told our friend that we’d take as many eggs as she felt like pitching our direction; that they surely would not go to waste.

I was afraid that (but fully prepared to) I’d have to drive out to the boondocks to collect on the offer, but she specified that she wanted to meet for delivery at a school that is almost two miles from my home. SCORE! This morning I drove Grandpa’s truck to the school and met up with the Eggspress. There were a couple other people who met up with her to take egg donations as well. She had mentioned that she was also taking donations on used egg cartons as her family reuses them and never buys eggs at the store. Jennifer and I had quite a few of them saved up that we were going to try to start seeds in, but we’d given up on that idea so I bagged them up for her.

She rather hesitantly said, “Jennifer said you’d take as many as I’d give you so…” and she proceeded to pull out multiple egg cartons. She explained that the dozen chicken eggs were unwashed so I’d need to rinse them prior to consumption. She also explained that the other chicken egg cartons had two dozen quail eggs each, in addition to handfuls of 10-egg quail cartons. She asked if I could save the smaller cartons for her as she reuses them. I offered to let her take those with her and transfer the contained eggs to some of the chicken egg cartons. She thought that was a good idea so we stood there, transferring eggs between cartons on the cooler in the bed of the pickup; chatting about raising birds, Appleseed, and shooting in general. Of course, I thanked her profusely and headed home. Upon my return, I decided that I had better inventory my haul.

Eggs

That’s 183 quail eggs. That’s 183 dark and sultry, buttery, tasty bite size morsels. I accidentally dropped one on the floor while counting. The membrane under the shell is tough enough that it didn’t leak though. So I ate that one. Including the chicken eggs she gave us and the grocery eggs that we already had in the refrigerator, that makes a total of 212 eggs in the refrigerator. Guess what’s for dinner tonight? When we eat eggs, I usually have three jumbos. It takes about three quail eggs to equal one jumbo. It usually takes about four home raised chicken eggs to equal three jumbos. So, if I was eating these alone, and ate them every day, it would take me about a month to consume what we have in there. That might make me tired of eggs, and I don’t want to get tired of eggs. Then again, we do have a teenage boy here. Somehow, I suspect that we’re still going to come up with some pickled quail eggs before all is said and done.

our friend said that once we’re ready to start keeping our own quail, we can get live eggs from her for hatching. Apparently, start up is far more successful with local eggs than ordered ones. I suppose that makes sense. When we move, I’m pretty sure we’ll be working this into the plan. In the meantime, I’m glad when someone else can’t eat all the eggs their birds produce and we get the overflow.

I’ve Been Biting My Tongue On This Whole “Privilege” Thing…

I’m not providing the links here for the sole reason that it seems that anywhere I click on the internet people are going on and on about “privilege.” It’s apparently the new, hip point of contention to talk about lately. The context in which I’ve seen it used insinuates that being a pale-faced male puts me at an inherent social advantage over all non-pale-faced, and/or non-male individuals. This stance automatically assumes that there is universal sexism and racism ruling our society that overwhelms all other forms of discrimination, in every meaning of the term.

When I was young, we lived in a not-so-nice part of town. My friend, Reefer, would bicycle to my house with his Crown Royal bag full of marbles and we’d play in the driveway. My dad ran off a hooker getting high on spray paint on the sidewalk in front of our house more than once. Sirens were ubiquitous and the rowdy bar down the street provided the white noise to my sleep. One time, some guy driving a school bus stole the push mower out of our back yard. It wasn’t even a nice lawn mower. At my school, either the Latinos or the black kids had the whites outnumbered at least three to one. The term ‘minority’ didn’t make any sense to me until we moved the summer before I attended second grade. I’m not about to claim that I didn’t get special treatment back then. I was a good kid, but my teachers kind of babied me. Whether that was because I was sweet-natured and well behaved, or whether it was because I was shorter than the other students and looked like Opie Taylor, I have no way to say at this point.

Jennifer and I once ran a youth hot-rodding/performance tuning group at church. We modified and tuned cars for performance with the kids, and talked to them about personal character and God. It was a pretty special time. While we were working on an engine swap in a Civic, one of the boys called from under the car, “turn it to the left to loosen it, right?” One of the kid’s fathers tried to donate a Porche 944 Turbo to the group, but complications kept that from being finalized. Since this was a decently affluent part of town none of these kids were from extremely bad backgrounds, but we had a pretty good spread of upbringing. A couple of them lived in trailers and would not be seeing the halls of higher education without hard work and scholarships on their part, and others had dads with spare Porches that they wanted to donate to the cause. I can think of two particular guys in the group that became pretty good friends that could not have been from much more different upbringings in life, but on Saturday morning, with wrenches in hand, they were equals, and they were buddies. Both of these young men were white. It should be of no great surprise that one of them is a Representative in the Oklahoma House, and is running for the U.S. Senate. He was set up for success from the day he was born. I’m not saying that the other one has no chance as such accomplishments in life, nor am I saying that Mike hasn’t worked hard for what he’s done. I might not agree on every point in Mike’s political stance, but I’m proud of both of those guys.

It is a true, unmitigated fact that some individuals start in a better position to succeed than other people. I know that I had a better start in life than my young friend Reefer. To that end, I’ve known a lot of people that were born with a silver spoon in their mouth that caused me the ache of jealousy. To claim that race is the sole contributing factor to an inherent life advantage is unadulterated, petty racism. Anyone who claims that boys are set up for greater success than girls have evidently never been in, nor even heard of a classroom; and that’s only one example to illustrate the fallacy of their sexist stance. If you believe that being a white male grants privilege over anything else in life, tell that to Sasha and Malia Obama. Those girls will get whatever education and career they ever want, and they’ll have an armed detail for the rest of their life. Now, that’s privilege. Indeed, “check your privilege” is a loser’s excuse. What the assertion boils down to is, “the only reason you’re successful is that you were born into it and I’m not good enough to seize the American Dream and make a better life for myself now.” I would be personally horrified to make such a statement. First of all, never compare yourself against anyone else. They didn’t steal the success that should have rightfully been yours. Secondly, if you’re jealous of a guy like Herman Cain because he’s such a successful businessman, instead of tearing the other guy down, tell yourself, “I haven’t made my first million yet.” Incidentally, I’m still personally in the process of making my first million.

Yesterday, after getting soaked in the rain and eating hamburgers with Jennifer’s parents, we settled down with Teen Bot and were enjoying some video games. The doorbell rang and I saw my neighbor from down the street in the monitor that feeds from the camera on the front door. He took a drag from his cigarette and immediately rushed toward the gate into my back yard. When I got to the door, I opened it to find multiple neighbors from all down the block walking in my front yard. Needless to say, I was a little confused. As I stepped through the door, the smell of wood smoke filled my nose. The man who lives across the street from me, let’s call him Joe, asked me, “is your house on fire?”

“No,” I said, “I didn’t smell it until I came out just now.”

“Well it’s coming from somewhere,” Joe said as I came out into the yard.

Just then, the other neighbor came back into my front yard with his cigarette, laughing, “it’s somebody’s grill. They’re across the fence trying to get some grilling in between the rain.”

In my confusion, I probably looked aggressive. In the rush, I failed to pull on a cover garment, and my M&P45 was in full view. Joe raised his hands toward me, and with big eyes he said, “I am SO sorry. I didn’t mean to disturb you.”

“No,” I smiled and shook my head, “I appreciate you Joe. Thank you for looking out for me. That’s what neighbors are supposed to do.” I’d like to think that I’d do the same thing if the roles were reversed. I don’t know if he saw my gun or what, but he did seem alarmed there for just a moment.

Because of the topic on hand, I should mention that Joe is black. His recent bride is also black. Their kids are the best on the block, well-behaved, respectful, and confident. I’ve caught Joe when he didn’t know I was watching, gently giving them words of reproach or advice. They’re good people and a great family. His next door neighbors are another black family. She is the daughter of my next door neighbor. They were also in my yard, investigating the source of the mysterious smoke. On the other side, our neighbor is Native American. Frankly, I like my black and indian neighbors more than many of my white neighbors (but the one with the cigarette is a good guy too). :) I would hate to think that any of them resented me because I’m a white male, with “privilege,” in the same way that it would be quite bigoted of me to look down on them for their ethnicity. I like them for who they are and feel like they deserve no less opportunity than is granted by the privilege and benefit of living in this, the very Land of Opportunity.

The phrase “check your privilege” is insulting to all of us, all races and gender, and it should be an affront to any who ever hear it spoken. It’s a tool the talking heads and race-baiters use to fan the coals of the race war they want so badly. I don’t have time for people who give up on themselves so easily because they think their pigmentation has them locked into some kind of caste. That may be the way other societies work, but not this one. It’s an excuse to hate white males. It’s a way to give up and claim that everyone else is racist, although it is incredibly racist in and of itself. It claims that it’s impossible for me to have four out of eight adjacent neighbors that are very much not white. It’s a lie, and an ugly one at that. It’s a suggestion that when I do finally make my first million, I’ll have done it on the backs of minorities and not by my own talents, skills, and hard work; and that demeans us all, male and female, of all races. Check my privilege? No, check your attitude, friend.

*edited for grammatical and spelling errors 5/28
**and then again for the President’s daughter’s name.

An Accidental Gun Project

When I began shooting regularly, my parents had a handful of guns in the top of their closet. Most of those have since moved to my brother’s gun safe. One that I toted home with me is a Winchester 69a that belonged to my Grandpa. It’s a .22 bolt action with a five-round detachable box magazine. It will feed and fire shorts, longs, and long rifle cartridges. It’s been fitted with a Lyman micrometer peep rear sight. With its 26-inch barrel, it’s very quiet to shoot and is a serious tack-driver. Indeed, this rifle has taken more wild game than all the other guns in the house combined. For one-shot drops on rabbits and squirrel at 50 to 100-yards, I see that trend continuing for quite some time in the future. The gun has no serial number, so we know that it’s a pre-’68 for sure. Without citing sources from my many internet wanderings, it appears that Winchester replaced the model 69 with the 69a in 1937, so it can’t be any older than that. It also seems that they changed the angle on the bolt handle somewhere around 1954, and this copy has the old style bolt handle. So, that gives us a 17-year window in which this rifle was made 60 to 77 years ago.

before

That’s it between a couple 10/22s in a line up of rifles. There were the accumulation of dents in the wood, worn lacquer, and faded bluing, but it’s all honest wear. For as much action as this gun has seen, it’s in very nice condition. Note how the bolt handle is in the white. That was blued from the factory.

As many of you already know, we recently hosted a blog shoot. We had the pistol range and clay throwing station same as years previous, but in addition to the 500-yard rifle range, we added a 100-yard rimfire rifle range with some swinging steel targets. There were several of us who lined up on the firing line with our .22 rifles to ping the swinging targets with a brace of guns that satisfactorily represented the last century in history. The Winchester has been wearing what’s left of the long strap of a M1907 sling (the other strap broke) that I rigged up as a basic sling until I can do something fancier. I went to sling up in a hasty seated position, and as I drew the front bead on the round plate that I intended to ring, I felt the sling slack off. It didn’t ‘pop’ so much as just kind of let go. My first thought was that the old leather had given out and I’d finally have to get a new one. I dropped the mag and cleared the chamber and stood up to inspect the damage.

As I did so, I chunk of walnut swung down, tethered to the rest of the stock by the still intact sling. And then, I remembered the small crack that I’d seen in the wood grain ever since I could remember this gun. The crack had run right where the lower butt plate screw went into the stock, about the same depth as where the rear sling swivel bottomed out in its hole. Upon closer inspection, it was obvious that it was indeed this old crack that had finally given up and let go. So, I bagged up the old gun. I wasn’t going to let it ruin the fun. We would deal with it later. When we were finished with our weekend, I pulled out the gun, took it down, and started pulling fixtures off the stock to get a better idea of what I was dealing with.

broken

I really couldn’t have asked for a better break. In the above picture, you can see a few of the dents and dings in the wood. The butt plate is labeled “MOD 72″ on the back side. When I was growing up, my dad worked on pianos for a living. I’ve seen him repair countless piano legs with similar breaks. Often, a leg would be cracked but not broken through. He found that the best way to approach that was to complete the break, glue and clamp it, and refinish after the fact. If simply gluing and clamping was sufficient to hold up a piano, particularly a concert grand or one with a heavy player mechanism, then I figured it would work just fine for the stock on a .22. I decided that if I was going to go to the trouble of gluing the stock, I may as well sand it down and refinish it. If I was going to bother doing that, I should probably steam out the dents. And, if I was going to refresh the stock that much, I may want to do something to the metal, even if only a little spot rebluing. Crap. What had I gotten myself into?

I got on the phone with my mom to explain what happened and propose my solution. It’s technically her rifle on long-term loan, so I didn’t want to do anything to the gun without talking it over with her first. We discussed that although the gun is sentimentally special and a great rifle to boot, this model is not particularly rare or valuable. I told her that although Winchester offered a couple different rear aperture sights optionally, that I believed this one was an aftermarket add on, as the gun also has the notch elevation adjustable rear sight dovetailed to the barrel. I also told her that it was wearing a model 72 butt plate, so it was probably made of mixed parts anyway. She agreed that it sounded like I had weighed the options and gave me the go-ahead. So, I started with some Gorilla brand wood glue. I went a little heavy on the glue. It was a mess.

glue

It can be tough to get a good clamping angle on a piece like this, with non-parallel lines and ergonomic curves. On advice from my dad, I bought a package of rubber bands and put them around the stock one by one. I dabbed off excess glue as it bled from the crack as the rubber bands put more and more tension on the joint. You might not think of it, but you can get a lot of tension from a bunch of rubber bands. I used the whole package and not much wood was showing on that end of the gun when I got to the end of them.

banded

I let that set up and cure for a couple of days before touching it again. When I unwrapped it, I was pretty pleased on how the joint came out. There was a light film of excess glue that had dried on the surface of the old lacquer, and the crack was still visible, but it was honestly tighter than it had been prior to breaking completely.

glued

And then, I sanded to get the old finish off. I thought about using a chemical stripper, but that stuff is just nasty. So, I sanded.

sanding01

And sanded some more.

sanding02

When I had it clean and smooth, I steamed out the dents in the wood. A good clothing steam iron works great for this. Where I thought I was going to have to use wood filler, my 1800-watt Rowenta popped dents out with surprising ease. I put an old t-shirt between the foot plate of the iron and the wood, so I wouldn’t accidentally burn the wood. I don’t know if that’s really a danger, but I didn’t want to risk it. With the dents raised, the specs of lacquer that were trapped in them became like tiny plateaus on the wood that sanded off with little effort.

sanded

I decided to refinish with Formby’s Traditional Tung Oil Finish for a few reasons. Although this is anything but an actual, traditional, tung oil finish, it is a penetrative varnish, which should more or less get the look of the original lacquer finish, but should wind up more durable and protective in the end. There’s nothing so lovely as a hand-rubbed finish. Although I was attempting to be respectful of the original production, I was not trying to make the gun absolutely ‘correct.’ This one is a shooter, and I intend for it to be taking game and ringing steel for the next 60 to 77 years. The wood greedily sucked up the first few applications of the varnish, and I was able to apply about four coats right off the bat.

varnished

Over the course of the next week, I sanded with 1500-grit between coats and put an additional four or five applications on the stock. I did some simple clean-up on the magazine well plate and trigger guard. I wound up rebluing the magazine release with some cold blue solution, and I did some spot bluing on a couple places on the barrel and receiver. I also hit a spot that was worn thin on the trigger, and I reblued the bolt handle. I’ve had mixed luck with cold bluing in the past, so I was quite happy how this came out.

bolt

After the final applications of wood finish, I let it rest for a few days to cure. After it had a chance to set up, I reinstalled the barreled action in the wood, and reinstalled the furnishings. Everyone who has seen it has been impressed. When Teen Bot saw it for the first time after completion, he didn’t even recognize it as the same gun and thought that I’d bought another rifle!

finishedleft

finishedright

I’m really pleased with the way it came out. Mom seems to approve too. Although, I can feel just a little bit of shift between the wood and metal that I don’t recall from before. I haven’t shot it yet, but if it lacks accuracy that it had before, I may want to bed the action. That and, it needs a new M1907 style sling. It’s nice to think that perhaps Teen Bot’s grandchildren will be shooting rabbits and squirrels with this same gun someday. It was more of a project than I originally counted on, but I’d say it was well worth it.

A Confession

My fascination with robots began when I was a child. In the fourth grade gifted classroom, I watched with envy as the fifth graders got to play with the robot kits. These were simple machines that the students assembled as per the included instructions that performed simple tasks. There was one that would follow a black line on a white sheet of paper. Others would seek out light sources and waddle on spindly legs. They were only robots by the most rudimentary of definitions. I also took a great interest in the software conversational programs in the computer lab at school. I fully knew that all of the responses were pre-programmed, and that there were key words that they were coded to pick from user input that would prompt their selected responses. I also suspected that these could be written far more elegantly, although I didn’t have the know how to do any better at the time. Things quickly changed though.

I voraciously learned everything I could about robotics and programming. By the time I was in the robot unit in fifth grade, the kits in the gifted class were too simple for my tastes. I earned extra credit in that unit for building a robot from scratch that could measure out precise volumes of materials and mix them together in predetermined ways. I intended it to be a chemistry aid, but my parents found that it was a great automated bartender for their parties. That old thing is still in the back of a closet at their house, as far as I know. I kept building machines of various sorts, each one more complex, and yet more streamlined than the last. I sought to code a program that would not simply spit out a sentence from a list like the ones mentioned above, but one that would give genuine, intelligent responses to user input. Could a machine be programmed with philosophy?

I had a grand vision of one unifying machine that would bring together my interests in AI, programming, robotics, and sculpture. The kind of exotic hardware with the raw processing power that I was after was difficult and expensive to get my hands on. I was able to scrape together the funds I needed by delivering papers every morning, mowing every lawn I could, and selling my plasma and semen using a fake ID. Many sleepless nights were spent soldering chips to boards, programming, and silicone casting. I felt like Dr. Frankenstein, obsessed with my work. I was out to make a beautiful, living, breathing creature from the underpinnings of synthetic materials. I wanted the AI framework to have wit and learning ability and to exhibit genuine care for others. There were many failed attempts, but in the end I was successful. The Jennifer unit was my crowning achievement.

I have to admit that my internet handle is only guilty projection. When Jennifer first powered up, she was so perfect that I simply couldn’t hide her and keep her all to myself. I had to share her with the world, and so registered InJennifersHead.com so everyone could have a chance to appreciate the fruits of my labor. I’ve had very little to do with her website since then, and her interactions have been genuinely hers. She’s programmed to write very well and I took special care in writing her snark module. Those of you who have had the opportunity to meet her can attest to the fact that she looks as natural as you or I. In fact, the only ones who may have ever suspected that she wasn’t a human are those that were at that party back in 2001 when she glitched out and I had to reboot her. To the host, I’m still sorry about the curtains. At the time, I was terrified that I’d hit upon yet another failure, but with a couple of hardware and coding tweaks, Jennifer has been running smoothly ever since.

As I said, there were failed attempts. My Jennifer, the one that you all know and love, is actually Jennifer 2.0. Jennifer 1.0 was admittedly a mess. She was the very face of the uncanny valley, looking not quite like a genuine biological. She had a buggy system too. One night in a drunken rage, she burned a barn down, throwing herself into the flames. I nearly gave up then, but pressing onward, I was able to learn from my mistakes. There were a couple of fatal flaws in the first Jennifer’s positronic net, and I missed some small but distracting details in her case. I took my time with Jennifer 2.0, determined to get every detail perfect. She can drive a car, shoot a gun, work a job, sing, and do pretty much anything a natural born human can. She can even swim, although I’m always paranoid that she may get a leak and damage her circuits. Indeed, if I could do anything differently in her build, it would be to improve her coordination, if that’s even possible.

It seems that I completely broke the mold on her build. Soon after, I built Wee Bot 1.0. The Wee Bot series has since been replaced with the Teen Bot series, but both have been fraught with bugs. I still can’t get him to work right, even on the current revision, Teen Bot 15.0. He’s completely unpredictable. Sometimes, he does exactly what he’s programmed to, but other times he’s defiant and rebellious, and fails to perform even the most simple of tasks. I haven’t given up on him yet, but he’s certainly not a finished work. Especially with the relative ease of interaction with Jennifer, Teen Bot has been quite the frustration from time to time. It was admittedly a pretty scary decision to identify him as a ‘Bot’ to the rest of the world so early on. To my surprise, people have accepted him despite his surly attitude and questionable judgment algorithms.

You must be wondering why I did it. The answer is simple. I was lonely. You don’t think that a guy like me could actually attract a woman like Jennifer do you? Not a chance, building one from scratch was the only viable option for me. And would I do it all over again? Yes I would, in a heartbeat. I do regret that I haven’t been truthful to my loyal readers though. Now that I’ve put all this out in the open, I hope you can find it in your hearts to forgive me. And, please don’t judge Jennifer for my actions. Please do keep reading and commenting on her blog. She didn’t ask for any of this. Well, except for that party where she glitched out and burned the curtains. Hopefully all those bugs are now behind us.

Oculus Rift – First Impressions

Last week Jennifer emailed me a link to Super! Bitcon. This was the inauguration of what is intended to be an annual event. We deliberated over whether or not we wanted to attend. Money has been tight for a while now, and we have tried to be careful how we spend it. Ultimately, we decided that we really didn’t want to miss out on the first shot. So, that’s what we did on Saturday. There was a Commodore 64 present and an Xbox One, and everything else in between was also represented. There were costumes (pics to come), there were contests, there were demos on hardware and software, there were arts and crafts, and there was a lot of stuff for sale. One vendor had a Nintendo GameCube for $18, and another had one for $60. At one table, they had a copy of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past with the original box and manual fairly priced for $85. Another vendor had a similar example and quoted me a price of $40.

In the rear of the main floor there was a vendor who had a pair of Pioneer Laseractive controllers, new in their original boxes. For those of you who don’t know, these puppies are basically Sega Genesis Controllers that have the Pioneer logo printed on them. I wouldn’t mind picking up a pair of them to run on our Atari 2600. These two were priced at $70 each. I chatted with the vendor for a few moments about them. I told him why I wanted a pair, but that I wasn’t prepared to spend what he was asking, although his pricing was not out of line for such mint examples. As we were surveying his wares, I turned around to see why people were standing in line behind us.

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“Jen!” I said breathlessly, “that’s an Oculus Rift!”

I was a big fan of the concept of virtual reality in the 90′s. I remember some mobile arcade thing that was set up at the Dallas Galleria in about 1992 that was selling a few minutes of VR gaming for about $6. At the time I took the bait and put on the heavy goggles. I was immersed in a world of giant polygons. There was a degree of depth perception to the vector graphics, but it was mostly just laggy, hard to control, and bad. The landscape and characters were bland and glitchy from what I can remember. It was an interesting experience, but They cheated me out of my $6; live and learn though. Indeed as a teen, I checked out quite a few products sold under the umbrella of the term ‘virtual reality.’ The vast majority of them were flimflam pieces of gimmick that didn’t really deliver, but were designed to separate consumers from their money. Most of them didn’t offer any actual depth perception at all, but simply put a screen or two within eye-strain distance. Arguably the nail in the coffin was Nintendo’s sadly executed Virtual Boy, which sold poorly due to excessive pricing and sad underdevelopment. The industry got ahead of itself and sold a product it didn’t really yet have the technology to back it up with. Whatever the cause, VR seemed to be swept into the dustbin of history. But, not everyone gave up on it so easily.

OculusVR is a company that was born out of the attempt to improve on these forgotten devices. A Kickstarter with a quarter-million-dollar goal sourced nearly ten times as much funding. Now with the backing of Valve and FaceBook, the money and software support are definitely on hand to make this virtual reality a technological reality. The device itself is still in the development kit phase. These units are far better finished than a rough prototype, but they’re essentially betas. Jennifer, Teen Bot, and I stood in line to take our turn for a few minutes with the demo. (Duh.)

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The experience was remarkable.

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The eyepiece is a lot lighter than I expected, a fraction of the weight of the old units that I remember from twenty years ago. It has motion sensors installed that turn and pivot the point of view with the literal motion of your head.

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The graphics are well implemented and deliver true depth perception as though you have stepped into a digital world. Note the monitor showing a representative view of what I was experiencing in the following picture:

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To steal a cliche, this is the real deal. The screens wrap to the peripheral vision and make for a very convincing show. Even only as a visual display, the sound of the real world seemed to dull and quiet into the background. It was disorienting. I understand that the final release will have higher resolution monitors, which is definitely lacking in the Development Kit. There is a nearly imperceptible lag between in the motion that is dizzying. Each of the three of us experienced this phenomenon and felt as though we were about to fall down when we moved too fast. I actually stumbled as my eyes were giving me slightly different motion information than the rest of my senses. The final version is supposed to be faster, which should mitigate this issue as well. Assuming they address these two minor complaints well, and assuming they can keep the purchase price down, this piece of tech may be about to revolutionize the way you interface with your computer just like the multi-touch screen did with your cell phone.

With what this device promises to be upon release, there are some somber implications. With modern graphics, stereophonic sound, and motion controls, games will become a truly immersive experience in a way that they have never been able to before. I don’t consider myself to be a big gamer, but a really good game will suck me in. A game of that quality experienced like this would certainly make me lose track of everything else. I’d have to set a timer to limit myself. I have to admit that I’m excited to see what OculusVR brings to market as the example we played with on Saturday was quite impressive. Even so, it’s a cautious excitement. We haven’t seen VR like this before, and we don’t really know what it will do to the industry or to society. I will be patiently waiting for the first news stories of gamers who injured themselves by falling down using these things. This thing plus alcohol is guaranteed to result in accidents. It’s only a matter of time before we hear of someone getting their home cleaned out by robbers while their senses are cut off from the rest of the world, or someone getting assaulted while using this in an unsecured fashion.