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January 26, 2016

 

Easter Egg: The Leftovers & National Geographic

Spoiler Alert: First of all, if you don't know about HBO's The Leftovers, you have been missing out one very surreal and interesting show. Go watch. Then read this:

The Leftovers, the show, was co-created by one of the creators of LOST, so as you might expect there is the potential for lots of hidden clues. There are layers upon layers of plot lines revolving around the central characters. So it warrants many repeat viewing.

While re-watching episode seven, I happened to notice a very interesting coincidence: the issue of the National Geographic magazine that keeps appearing in the episode contains headlines that almost all pertain to events in the show.

Is it really a coincidence. (Is anything on The Leftovers really a coincidence?)

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January 25, 2016

 

Retro Gaming with the Raspberry Pi

As mentioned before, there are a lot of really cool things you can do with the recent proliferation of tiny computers. Specifically for me, the Raspberry Pi provides a perfect solution for retro-gaming.

For some time I was contemplating ways to create a simple, easy to use, inexpensive retro-gaming system – a way to play all the classic video games I grew up with. I had high hopes that the Nintendo Wii Virtual Console would accomplish this, and it did to a large extent, however it had some pretty glaring omissions when it came to game and system selection (For example: missing games like Castle of Illusion on Genesis, and the entire Atari catalog). And oddly, it seems to take eons for classic games to get released on the virtual platform, and even more strangely, when the updated Wii U system came out, they started all over again slowly re-releasing games. They should have dumped them all online much sooner for classic game enthusiasts to take the Virtual Console platform seriously, but I digress...

I considered several options to build my own system, but pretty much all them involved a computer running some version of Windows, making them a fairly costly option (unless I was willing to try buying a used computer on Ebay). Ultimately this would result in a fairly clunky experience, using multiple emulators to cover various video game machines, switching back and forth on an outdated version of Windows.

Then I stumbled on the Raspberry Pi, and the Retropie and Emulation Station programs. Retropie, along with Emulation Station, creates a very nice interface for playing classic games across multiple emulators. When you put them together you have one cost-effective, excellent platform for retro-gaming.

For less than $100 you can get a Pi, a couple USB controllers, a micro-USB charger, and a large capacity (not that it would be necessary) SD card and once configured you have the perfect retro-gaming platform. This Lifehacker article does a great job explaining the process of setting up a retro game console on the Raspberry Pi.

Should you choose, you can find all sorts of interesting cases and accessories for the Pi online, including control pads that look identical to the original NES control pads.

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January 24, 2016

 

Tiny Computers

Just a couple years ago a charitable organization was formed in the UK with the goal of creating small, affordable computers, to make hardware more accessible for those interested in learning to build/code. This movement just happens to coincide nicely with the development of smaller processors and electronic components needed for smart phones and all of the increasingly smaller devices in our lives, and with that comes a convenient surplus of available tiny hardware.

Their creation, the Raspberry Pi, is a credit card-sized circuit board with a CPU, RAM, and multiple ports for accessories – basically a computer the size of a deck of cards that costs under $30.

Since the original Raspberry Pi there have been several new releases with updated specifications. The Pi 2 includes a gig of RAM, and faster quad-core CPU. It's actually more powerful than the first computer I ever purchased, which ran windows 98, despite the fact that I could fit the Pi 2 in my pocket. Even at it's tiny size, the Pi can run older Windows, as this video demonstrates,. But it's much better suited for operating systems tailored to its configurations, such as the version of Linux released by the Raspberry Pi foundation.

There is a free slimmed-down version of Windows 10 (Windows 10 IoT Core) available for the Raspberry Pi 2, and paired with the Microsoft Hololens Augmented Reality headset allows you create some pretty amazing things. Learn more about Windows 10 IoT Core here, and get it here.

The Raspbery Pi Zero is a smaller version of the Pi with only the bare essentials, and not much larger than the circuit board itself. It's about the size of a thick business card and could easily fit in a wallet, yet it has the same computing power of the original Pi.

Initially intended as an educational device, the affordability and extensibility of the Raspberry Pi make it a device with nearly limitless possibilities. And with the ever growing Internet of Things (IoT) there will be increasingly more and more ways a Pi, or similar small computer, can enhance our lives.

Other folks have taken notice, and there is an increasing number of Raspberry Pi competitors out there, including C.H.I.P. which is basically a slimmed down Raspberry Pi that costs only $9. And just yessterday I read about a Kickstarter campaign for the Pine64, a more powerful competitor to the Raspberry Pi that runs on a 64 processor, has 4K video output, and can run Android OS, all on a board slightly bigger than the Pi 2, and only costing $15. It blew it's Kickstarter goal out of the water. So it's likely we'll continue to see an explosion of small computers supporting the IoT.

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January 23, 2016

 

A Cloverfield/Portal connection

While I was researching the still shocking revelation that a Cloverfield sequel was happening I realized that the director, Dan Trachtenberg, sounded kinda familiar. He used to co-host a couple podcasts I watched back in the late 2000s (the Totally Rad Show, and later GeekDrome), part of the Revision3 podcast network.

However, I was more interested to read that more recently he directed a pretty amazing short film based on the video game Portal. (Portal, along with Portal 2, happen to be my all-time favorite video games!) The film, Portal: No Escape, is excellent. It captures the essence of the game perfectly. This gives me some confidence that the Cloverfiled sequel could be very good. Check out Portal: No Escape.

Portal is set in the Half Life video game universe, and so this film based on Portal reminded me of the fan-films by the Purchase brothers, which are set during the events of Half Life. Produced for next to nothing, the two-part film series Escape from City 17 were so well done, they were mentioned on Valve's very own blog. Watch Part 1 and Part 2 of Escape from City 17.

I hope that this Cloverfield micro-budget sequel generates enough money so Bad Robot can make a feature length Portal film! There were conversations not long ago between Gabe Newel of Valve and Abrams about working on a film version of Portal and/or Half-Life. Watch this video of a convention between Abrams and Newel about video game and film possibilities. Perhaps there could be a cross-over between Cloverfield and Half-Life. The Cloverfield monster does seem very much like a creature you might encounter in Half Life, it would fit right in.

Play the game

I could go on and on about how awesome are Portal and Portal 2. If you consider yourself a casual gamer and have never experienced either, then I have to recommend trying out The Orange Box. For just $20 you can get the original Portal, Half-Life 2 (including Episodes 1 and 2), and Team Fortress. You can buy it through Valve's Steam video game service for PC and Mac, or pick up a copy for Xbox or Playstation. It really is the best deal in video game history.

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January 16, 2016

 

Super Mario - Dry Erase

Just having some fun at work with a wall covered in dry-erase paint.

super mario map

View original

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Cloverfield 2! What?!!!

After years of periodically checking the Cloverfield Wikipedia page's sequel section for any news on a possible sequel, this morning I was shocked to discover a new surprise trailer for what is almost certainly a Cloverfield sequel, and it is coming out in just a few months! They did it again!

I was fairly obsessed with the movie Cloverfield. The best part of the experience was the sneaky viral way it was marketed. From the sudden surprise trailer before Transformers, to the sly fake websites advertizing products and mysterious Japanese corporations, etc. This led to dozens of fan forums speculating what the movie was all about. Because other than being about a giant unseen Godzilla-like monster who trashes the Statue of Liberty then proceeds to ruin some guys going away party, we didn't really know much … which made the anticipation awesome!

Now this new film appears to be somehow connected. But it also looks like a film that is very much a departure from the style of the original. There was a theory that a second Cloverfield film would be another found footage style film but from someone else's perspective which could have somehow intertwined with the original, and might perhaps provide more clues to the events in the first film. Instead, this film looks a contained thriller. It appears to be about a survivalist/prepper (played by John Goodman) living in an underground bunker with a couple people he who he claims to be protecting from devastation above. Could that devastation be from the creature in Cloverfield? The other cast include Mary Elizabeth Winstead (who was the grown-up daughter of John McClain in the recent Die Hard films) and John Gallagher Jr.

Now going from the trailer alone there are no obvious connections between the films. However, apparently the film-makers have gone on record that the two films are connected, and even without that knowledge there are some facts that remove any question that they are. First, its a movie made by the same production company, Bad Robot Productions. And, has Cloverfield in the title (the title reveal even displays “Cloverfield” first). The trailer by the way is brilliant! Very similar to the trailer for Cloverfield, in that it begins with a positive atmosphere then seems to shift in tone to something more terrifying.

Other Similarities:

Many fans wondered if somehow JJ Abram's Super 8 was connected to Cloverfield, which also featured a viral marketing scheme, and featured a story focused on an encounter with a large alien creature. Both films featured a heavy military presence, and at the core of both stories is the theme of movie-making (in Cloverfield the entire film is presented as found-footage, and in Super 8 the film focuses on a group of adolescent aspiring filmmakers who inadvertently film a disaster that becomes key to the events of that film).

Here is my theory: 10 Cloverfield Lane is somehow a bridge between Cloverfield and Super 8. John Goldman’s character is a witness to the events in Super 8 (who was a child then) which have driven him to become a survivalist in case of any future alien encounter, and is thus ready when the events of Cloverfield take place.

Another possibility: there could be a LOST connection. Any fan of LOST knows that numbers play an important significance in the creations of JJ Abrams. The trailer for this film features numbers pretty prominently. The first shot shows keys featuring the numbers 4, 8, 1 and 3 being pressed on a Jukebox (48 is the number of the album - 13 is the track number). 4 and 8 are two important numbers in the show LOST. Later the number 550 is featured on a puzzle box. No doubt these numbers are clues as to what this movie is about, and have an important significance. Underground Bunkers also play a very important role in LOST.

Cloverfield numbers meaning

What do the numbers mean?

Cloverfield puzzle pieces

This trailer is like a puzzle, there are likely many clues

Cloverfield bunker life

bunker life

Living the bunker life

Let the internet treasure hunt for clues begin! I hope John Goodman's character packed plenty of Slusho in that bunker!!!

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January 7, 2016

 

Info-graphic: The Batman and Non-Batman Trilogies

Considering that the next incarnation of Batman on film is looking likely to be pretty bad (and no offense to Ben Affleck, I have come around to thinking he could pull off the role), I thought it would be fun to remember the amazing Christopher Nolan trilogy of Batman films, as well as the non-Batman trilogy that accompanied them, with an info-graphic detailing cast collaborations. In-between Batman films, Nolan filmed another set of films that were just as beautiful, mysterious, and interesting. Many of the same cast members played parts in many of the six films.

Here is a graphic that depicts how the cast from all six films are interconnected.

Download high-resolution version | Download PDF

Maybe I'll be wrong about Superman vs Batman. I hope that I am! I'm still going to see it, I just have that same Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull kind of sinking feeling about the movie.

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January 3, 2016

 

A Force To Reckon With

Star Wars The Force Awakens is a beautiful movie!

I've seen it twice so far. Opening night, and then a few days later. The second time, I just loved it even more. Everything about the movie is perfect. It really feels like JJ Abrams' gift to Humanity. He clearly poured his heart and soul into the making of this film as only a true fan could do.

After being very impressed with the reboot of Star Trek by Abrams, I was intrigued with where he would take a new chapter in the Star Wars saga. The result is really better than any fan could have expected, especially after the pretty awful prequel trilogy. This Star Wars is so well executed, and so true to the original trilogy aesthetically and thematically, and yet feels completely fresh and new at the same time. It stands on its own as an excellent film, with some of the best battle scenes, and the most touching and beautiful/tragic scenes in the series. You would not have to have seen any previous Star Wars films to enjoy The Force Awakens, but it certainly helps if you have. It contains some excellent new cast additions while reconnecting with those we last saw 30 years ago. I already know that this is my favorite Star Wars movie. I thought it would be excellent, but I wasn't expecting that.

Merchandizing Overload

It's becoming a little hypocritical to claim that Star Wars takes place a long time ago in a galaxy far far away when everywhere you turn in this galaxy you're likely to run into some kind of Star Wars merchandising. I've never seen anything quite like the merchandizing for The Force Awakens. If I didn't like Star Wars I might find it somewhat annoying. From Darth Vader Cheez-Its, to R2D2 dehumidifiers, every brand has aligned with the force, and you can hardly blame them the force is very strong with Star Wars merchandising. From car comercials, to restaurants, to sports tie-ins, Star Wars has been merged in to nearly every facett of pop culture. Thus Disney has had to do very little of it's own advertizing.

By all accounts, the revenue that The Force Awakens has blown expecations (which were already very high) out of the water. It's likely that Disney will have a very profitable quarter! Now if they would just buy the X-Men rights from Fox as well, that would make the Marvel Cinematic Universe all the more appealing!

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January 2, 2016

 

Silicon Valley/Office Space Easter Egg

I've discovered another interesting cinematic Easter Egg; a connection between the film Office Space and HBO comedy Silicon Valley.

Silicon Valley is one very funny show. It was created by the hilarious mind behind the amazing comedy Office Space (as well as many other classics, including the shows Bevis and Butthead and King of the Hill, as well as the films Idiocracy and Extract). It focuses on a group of young software developers struggling to get their fledgling company off the ground, while facing stiff competition from rival tech giants. The show is filled with an amazing cast. If you can stomach a very irreverant and dark comedy, and have access to HBO, you should watch the first two seasons!

One of the funniest moments in the first season involves a scene where Urlich (one of the leads, and the source for a lot of the humor in the show) in an attempt to come up with a better name for the company goes on a vision quest (It is especially hilarious when Urlich blows his own mind with the phrase “Technolo-Jesus”).

In this scene Urlich begines to be surrounded by various logos for tech companies, and right about the time where his quest takes a turn for the worse, the Initech logo from Office Space swirls close to his head. (see graphic below)

Image of Silicon Valley left, Office Space right

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December 30, 2015

 

Photos from Fall 2015

I haven't added photos in a while, so here are some recent photos from this Fall!

I made the gallery using the open-source BlueImp gallery software. It works great with mobile devices using swipe functionality.

Panoramic shot of Purcell Park

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