Academic Writing: That Feeling You Get When…

I did it! I’ve completed my paper! It’s so exciting to reach a culmination in one’s work. It feels like you are at the top of the world. Well, almost. As you may recall, I’ve been tackling a profound issue as a side initiative at work. A few years ago, I became interested in concepts relating to the technologies that are being developed that may be directly  integrated with our bodies and help us perform more effectively than we otherwise would be able to. You’ll probably already have heard about cybernetics, and gene therapy, so it should be no surprise that very smart people are working on making the stuff of science fiction reality.

I am looking at a very specific subset of  this technology and its ethical implications. In the process of exploring the topic, I’ve had the opportunity to share ideas with some of the leading minds in the field, which has been a great experience. I feel I’ve even helped develop some new ideas that should help move the field forward.

And this is where I get back to the “almost done” part of this entry. It doesn’t matter how great a paper is, until it gets published in a peer-reviewed journal, it doesn’t mean very much. I’ve found the journal I want to submit it to, but now have to modify seventy-plus references to comply with a text format that is slightly different from what I had been using. Strangely, this seems more daunting a task than the months I’ve spent reading into the topic, digesting the ideas and writing the manuscript. Yet, it must be done if I am to submit the paper.

The devil is in the details!

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Xbox One vs. PS4: Competition at last

A great analysis of the current state of the console competition between XBox One and the PS 4 by After Dark Gaming.

After Dark Gaming

Microsoft is still playing catch-up in some ways – but Sony’s competent launch is finally starting to see a genuine challenge from Redmond.

Xbox One vs. PS4

It is not a novel observation to note that Sony’s success thus far with the public perception of the PS4 is not down to any radical, brilliant innovation on their part, but rather down to the fact that the company’s relatively conservative and perhaps even unimaginative strategy is being executed competently and sensibly, which contrasts with the ungainly flailing and flapping as Microsoft attempts to turn the corner on a host of unpopular and ill-conceived platform strategies in a very public way.

The same scenario was played out at Gamescom this week, albeit in far less dramatic form than it was at E3 a few months ago. Sony turned up to the event effectively to confirm that everything is going smoothly – it announced price drops for…

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Kickstarter in Canada Launching on September 9th

Canadians will be able to start their own projects on Kickstarter as of September 9th.

Here are the requirements that must be met by aspirant project leaders to be eligible for the service:

  • You are a permanent resident in Canada either creating a project in your own name or on behalf of a legal entity with a business number.
  • You have a Canadian address, Canadian bank account, and government-issued ID (driver’s license or passport).
  • You have a major Canadian credit card.
  • You are 18 years of age or older.

Here’s to Canuck creativity unleashed!

Spartan Ops

The original Halo came out just as I was starting to get deep into the commitments of my first real job. I enjoyed spending my bachelor evenings with a buddy screaming at each other as we would toss plasma grenades down the hallways to see if we could make them stick to some baddies before reveling in the satisfying thud as the glowing baseballs went off. Real life has a tendency to get in the way of such activities, though, and I soon found myself neck deep in work. Since my buddy was the one that owned the Xbox, and I didn’t even have a TV, the investment to get up to carrying on my interest in Halo seemed to be a pretty high barrier to entry. As the franchise blossomed, it all but faded from my memory.

343 Industry’s series of short videos titled Spartan Ops has sparked my interest anew. It is a well-shot, fast-paced miniseries that is worth getting into for any science fiction fan. Although there are clearly bits for which I had no knowledge of the evidently deep background lore that has developed over the game’s three subsequent iterations, I was still able to enjoy it deeply.

The videos are available on Youtube, but I have embedded them all here, if anything to make it easier for me to go back to watch it again in the future.

While I’m at it, I might as well include the Halo 4 Story, which has been stitched together to form a single continuous clip. It has helped me fill in many of the blanks. Ideally, this should be watched first if you haven’t diligently been playing Halo.

Spartan Ops 1

Spartan Ops 2

Spartan Ops 3

Spartan Ops 4

Spartan Ops 5

Spartan Ops 6: Scattered

Spartan Ops 7: Invasion

Spartan Ops 8: Expendable

Spartan Ops 9: Key

Spartan Ops 10: Exodus

Spartan Ops 11: Exodus Conclusion

And to top it all off, here’s the preview for Halo 5, which now makes much more sense to me (and still looks awesome!)

Project Spark: Making a Game of Game Making

Microsoft has come up with a terrific idea with the concept of making a game that enables you to make a game in near real time. This Project Spark demo at E3 certainly seems promising. I wonder what they have going on behind the scenes to make all of this happen? It is worth keeping an eye on.

PASABI!

Wasabi's first fusion burn is unforgettable.

Wasabi’s first fusion burn is unforgettable.

We like exposing our toddler to a wide variety of foods. Having an open gastronomic mind creates so many opportunities to appreciate the world, but it doesn’t just happen on its own. Kids have a natural tendency to shirk away from foods that they perceive as unusual. I believe that this has something to do with our primitive survival strategies back when we were still learning to play with fire. Early exposure to a wide variety of nutritional experiences in a supportive environment help plant the seed for the future.

One of the staple celebratory foods in our household is sushi. From an early age, we let our boy have some of the rolls. We are careful not to give him any of the raw fish to avoid picking up parasites, but he is otherwise happy to munch away on the veggie rolls, wakame salad, and other assorted goodies that make up a great sushi dinner. He is extremely fond of the pickled ginger, and would be happy to drink a bucket of the soy sauce all on its own. Thankfully for his health, we are thoroughly grossed-out at the prospect and limit him to a few drops of the dark ichor.

We had assumed that he would be overwhelmed by wasabi, so we never bothered giving him any. I can barely survive the mighty punch a tiny dollop of the green stuff. When I muster up he courage to indulge in a bite, my sinuses instantly combust, and my eyes water almost as profusely as my nose do, sending me scrambling for the closest glass of milk to quench the burn. I am left with a feeling that someone swung a sledgehammer at my head, and my tongue dangles lifelessly from my mouth. I could scarcely imagine what a dose of the nuclear goo would do to a toddler.

A few days ago, he finally noticed the verdant dollop gracing the takeout platter. He stood up on his chair and pointed at it insistently.

“Quoi ça? (What’s that?)” he asked pointedly.

“It’s wasabi. It’s a got a lot of kick. It is spicy.”

“Wasabi!” He pointed at it again.

“It may be a bit much for you, dude.” I try to talk him down from what would probably be one of his biggest mistakes that week.

“WASABI!” He insisted.

“I’m not sure…”

“WA-SA-BIII!” he interrupted.

“Ok, you asked for it. Don’t say that I didn’t warn you.” I reached out and poked a tiny speck onto the end of my chopstick. My wife cocked one eyebrow up in the universal spousal signal for “is my boneheaded husband really going to do what I think he is?” She curled her lip, instantly freezing the chopstick’s progression towards my son’s mouth. I found myself in a bit of a dilemma.

“WAAAA-SAAAA-BIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII!” our child bellowed. That’s it. He’s in for it now. I popped the chopstick in as he was taking a big gulp of air to power another scream. His lips closed tightly around the stick. He held it in his mouth for a moment and then closed his eyes. It was almost as if the little fellow was savouring some flavour that I could not even begin to guess at. I slowly pulled the chopstick out of his mouth.

He beamed a huge smile. “Wasabi!”

I was now thoroughly confused. How on Earth was my son still standing there, not a care in the world? He should have been a babbling mess on the floor by now. Maybe it’s a delayed onset wasabi? Seconds ticked by. Nothing. My confusion began to grow exponentially.

“Papa! Wasabi!” He pointed once again to the platter. Meh. I guess this is an impotent batch. Whatever, knock yourself out. Here’s another scoop, kiddo. I hefted on a slightly larger glob onto my chopstick and nonchalantly placed it on his extended tongue.

I am not quite sure what happened next, but the larger quantity of wasabi must have crossed some sensory threshold, since he started hopping up and down energetically on his chair.

“PASABI” He exclaimed, almost in tears. He had just invented a new word, a mashup of “pas ça (not that!)” and “wasabi.” He had concisely articulated his displeasure in such a novel and memorable fashion that we shall never forget it.

Needless to say, he is much less fond of the green paste, and politely refuses it when we offer it to him. For some strange reason, though, he loves offering me some every time we get sushi. What a little bugger.

Camper Vans of the Dead

We like taking our boy to a big park down the hill from our place. It has plenty of games in it and has tons of sand, so when he launches himself off from perilous heights and plows into the surface, leaving a crater that would shame a meteor strike, he can dust himself off and giggle his way to the next part of the jungle gym and try it all over again.

It’s a bit of a hike to get there, so we don’t go every day, but we made it out yesterday. There is a large open area next to the park. It is typically empty, but is sometimes used as the community fair grounds. On this particular day, several large campers were clustered in an irregular ring in the center of the field. Although it was a little unusual, I didn’t pay it much heed.

We had the rare privilege of being back in the area this evening, so we decided to haul junior back out to the park so he could air out and vent some of the energy his Acme toddler nuclear generator builds up over the day. As he was caroming between play structures like a pinball on Speed, my wife gently clutched at my elbow.

“Do you notice something strange?” She asked.

I keenly  surveyed the surroundings, having perked up from my glassy contemplation of the envy I felt for my son’s boundless energy. Within seconds, I was invigorated, nerves on edge, alive! Were there ninjas hiding in those bushes? Nope. Perhaps angry clowns ready to dash out from around the fairground lodge? Hmmm. Neither. Maybe there was a cloaked UFO hovering above us, levitating a cow up to its hold for unspeakable experimentation. Nada. This is a little disconcerting. What had she noticed?

“Sorry, I’m not seeing anything.” I admitted, slightly downtrodden. What good are my manly defensive instincts if I can’t pick out something unusual?

“Look at the campers. There are lots of them.” She pointed in the direction of the large open area.

“Uh, yeah, they were there yesterday.” I splayed my hands out dismissively. It was time to turn my attention back to the boy. Doubtless he would have found some way to chew his way through the steel plays tructures by now. Where had he run off to?

“But there are way more than there were yesterday.” I could tell she was about to smack me behind the head, so I decided to take her implicit invitation to take a second look. She was right. It’s like if some out of control cancerous cellular division of caravans took place overnight. There were dozens of campers of all shapes and sizes densely packed into the field. A small flag was erected in the middle of the camping area. Where had all of these vehicles come from, and why were they here, in the middle of nowhere? We live in a pretty small community. It isn’t quite in the boonies, but it isn’t in the middle of prime camping territory as far as I know.  It just didn’t make any sense why these visitors would have been drawn to our little park, nestled in a quiet little nook of nowhere.

As I began to grasp the scope of the invasion, my wife pointed to crowds of people milling about, seemingly emanating from the caravan hive. They were slowly ambling about in ones and twos, almost aimless in their demeanor. Since my wife and I seem to share the same brain most of the time, the same idea popped into our heads: this must be a zombie invasion. Zombies don’t spread their disease about by slowly shambling through fields from city to city. They clearly get into campers and set up shop in a new town. Most people don’t see it coming. I mean, who would suspect a bunch of holiday travelers to be the undead?

At this point, we both started laughing at how this started sounding like the setup for a movie like Shaun of the Dead. Soon after, we were arguing vociferously over who would get to be Nick Frost or Simon Pegg in our little horror escapade. At about this point, our kid thundered into the ground at mach chicken, leaving a smoking crater. A loud wail keened over the playground. Oh no! The zombies got him!

Not really, he slowly rose, his face covered in sand, his mouth filled with grit, and dribbling sandy slobber all over his chest. He wasn’t hurt, but his pride certainly took a beating. A swig of water later, and he was away, clambering up a ladder to a higher play structure. We forgot our zombies for a while, and turned our vigilance back towards our progeny.

I’m going to have to keep the story premise we stumbled across in the back of my mind, because I think it can be turned into a rip-roaring adventure. Of course, if Mr. Pegg and Mr. Frost want to use this nugget as inspiration for their next fantabulous outing…