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cowtown

October 9, 2007 Leave a comment

I ran the Sacramento Cowtown Marathon this past weekend, and enjoyed it thoroughly. A lingering case of bronchitis had threatened to derail my training and the event itself, but I felt good enough after the first half (the marathon course is a double loop) that I slowed down my pace and just focused on finishing the whole thing.

right after the race

As a course, I have to say the Cowtown was a vast improvement over the Napa Valley Marathon course: faster, flatter, with better organization. It was certainly smaller in attendance, but there were more water and aid stations. For a hot day in October, the set up was perfect.

I want to thank everyone who contributed to my fundraising for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Particularly, I’d like to express my gratitude to Matt Mullenweg and Jeff Veen for their very generous support. Having people behind you is one of the primary motivators for finishing, and I appreciated all the encouragement I received.

One thing I was not prepared to believe about marathons: they actually do get easier after the first one. My calves are tight, my knees are sore, and I’m walking around like a village drunk in an Irish novel… but I feel great. My recovery proceeds well, and I’m already thinking about doing the Las Vegas Half Marathon in six weeks.

Categories: entertainment, play

approaching a local maxima

June 27, 2006 8 comments

Did you see the Portugal v. Netherlands match? Meu Deus! Portugal advanced, and now Rachel, Mike and I will cheer on our boys against England. I must admit, I’ve enjoyed cheering on the English since Garry taught us the chants and songs in the Mad Dog years ago. My favorite? Versus the Germans, “Two World Wars and One World Cup” works pretty damn well.

Never thought I’d be forced to root against England. Damn shame.

Especially because today I finalized on tickets for the vacation we’ve been planning for a bit – we’ll be headed to London to visit friends and celebrate some birthdays (mine included). If you’ll be in town second week of August and looking to have a bite (especially at St. John), do let me know.

Meanwhile, Adam spoke at AP. We all got an opportunity to eat at Koh Samui afterwards, and discuss the implications of his “Everyware” presentation. His thoughts on the necessity of exposing the “seamfullness” of location-aware systems in the future is something that’s been on my mind of late, with regards to what both Dan and Nick Carr have been citing as the generational effect of technological development.

I’m convinced that for the first decade of development and popularization of RFID and ubicomp systems (is 2006 to be considered Year One?) the experience will be inherently seamfull – I think of it like the spread of cellular networks, with deadzones appearing on the edges and in-between every area of service, ultimately to the frustration of most users. I’m inclined to think that there will be an entire generation of people with no choice but to be aware of the change in state as they move from data-enriched environments to traditional “flat space” and back again.

If the system emerges with obvious seams, and no means or standards to even come close to ensuring a frictionless experience, will the generation that follows be inclined to reduce the perception of those seams between overlapping systems? Or will they persist as vestigial alerts on whatever interfaces they employ, like the subtle changes in provider status message my phone registers as I move from Louisville, to New York and back to SF? Food for thought.

To wrap it all up, Will Wright and Brian Eno spoke tonight at the Herbst Theater. All 900 seats sold out, and you couldn’t swing a dead cat over your head without hitting a blogger. I’m sure you can find a write-up if you look around. My own thoughts on “one pixel errors,” generative systems, and the pursuit of ultimate success probability spaces vs. local maxima will find their way into a post (maybe), once everything that was discussed has a chance to sort itself out in my brain properly.

In the meantime? Pictures from McCormack and Elaine’s wedding!

kevin slavin and big games

June 13, 2006 1 comment

The longer I am in the world, the smaller it seems to get.

My friend Cary works at frog design, on the other side of South Park from the Adaptive Path office. A friend of his had come into town for the Where 2.0 conference this week; Cary had asked him to speak to his colleagues about his work on Big Games, and was kind enough to invite me along to participate as well. Turns out the friend is none other than Kevin Slavin, a friend of Adam's, and someone whose work and ideas I find both interesting and inspiring.

Some background: Kevin started up area/code with Frank Lantz last year to pursue the development of Big Games, which they define as "large-scale, real-world games." With examples like PacManhattan and CONQWEST in their portfolio, they are evolving that meaning and demonstrating what this type of play can mean in pretty amazing ways.

Kevin's manner of presentation is friendly, open and unassuming – you can be lured into a comfortable rhythm by the way he speaks, and not realize the things he's saying are truly stunning. The work area/code is pioneering hinges on concepts that forge interfaces between datascapes and physical environments; they're working out means for incorporating these into single experiences, entirely oriented around play. And they're succeeding in novel and compelling ways.

In the matter of an hour, Kevin was able to weave all the following together: what semacodes are good for [and what they are decidedly not], "read/write urbanism", sign code conspiracies, public secrets, a reference to They Live, advice on how to prototype something that takes place on 20 city blocks square, and recontextualizing what we're "supposed to do" with the devices we work with every day.

That would have been more than enough, but he also gave us a sneak peak into a game still in development, and where area/code looks for game concepts. The thing I already love about Kevin and Frank's brains is that they find a certain wacked-out inspiration in the same things I do: Jazz funerals' "second line", Mardi Gras krewe histories, even the Vodun loa Baron Samedi. area/code have set their sights very high, tapping rich veins of material, and building engaging and novel experiences out of them.

After the presentation, I was delighted we got a chance to talk a little bit more over a couple rounds of bourbon at Nova. I asked what role ubiquitous computing elements might eventually play in Big Games, and Kevin wound up making probably the most salient point I've heard about ubi comp since SXSW: when the time comes to familiarize people to (and make them comfortable with) the ubiquitous technology embedded in their physical environments, games will prove invaluable. Why? Because it stands to reason that if adoption of these systems is to be widespread and without unnecessary friction, the means of their introduction might need to be voluntary and oriented around play.

Kevin will be addressing the Where2.0 conference on Thursday at 1:30pm. If you're there, be sure to check out what he's got to say – I gaurantee you he'll leave you with quite a bit to think about.

Categories: everyware, influences, play, ubicomp
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