Thursday, June 13, 2013

Next Generation

Whew, there's a lot of dust in here. *cough, cough* Not that anyone is paying attention to this blog anymore, but I'm on vacation and I've got some thoughts on the future of video games.

I watched the Microsoft reveal of the Xbox One live, on my lunch break. I liked a lot of what I saw, but I had reservations. I have been on-board since the first Xbox, and after my Sony HDTV crapped out after just a few years, that company has proabably gotten the last cent it will ever get from me.

I rarely buy games when they first come out, and I only buy consoles after they drop in price. I hardly have time to play anymore, and Halo 4 has shaken my faith that Microsoft can carry the torch Bungie handed them. Most of what's been floating around the gaming press is interesting to me, but for the most part not relevant, as I plan to wait at least a year to get a new console. That being said I wanted to crow about correctly prediciting the cost of the new console.

I didn't put it in writing, but I did tell a coworker that I thought the Xbox One would have an MSRP of $500. This week that was confirmed, but it seems to be a surprise to many gaming writers. To me it only made sense, and the reason they are charging $500 is because they can't get away with $1,000.

I don't know of any other device on the market that will do what the Xbox One will, assuming it does everything they say it will. Voice and gesture command of the entire enterainment center through one device. Who wouldn't want that? I'd prefer if it would act as a cable box and DVR, too, but Blu-Ray and instant switching between movies, games and TV, without fumbling for a remote, seems almost worth it to me, and that's where I think the analysts missed the boat.

If it only played games and apps, then pricing it like the PS4 is sensible, but it's basically a kind of A/V receiver, (albeit one that you might connect to an actual receiver) and those are easily in this range. They've still got a lot of PR problems to fix but by the time I decided to upgrade, that will be ancient history in internet terms.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Miles to Go?

People in Baton Rouge are crazy, especially when it comes to LSU.

Tiger Mania has been on my mind for the last couple of weeks. I haven't been keeping up with the Bayou Bengals, but when I heard the fans were coming down hard on the coaches, I had to find out why. Hearing allegations of poor clock management and poor play calling sounds like some heartbreaking losses were stacking up for the Tigers, so you can imagine my surprise when I found out they were undefeated at the time.

Only in Baton Rouge could you find a mass number of fans unhappy with a 7-0 start to the season. Just a few years ago they were cheering Les Miles for his gutsy play-calling on his way to LSU's second BCS championship of the decade. Now those same fans are berating that same style; I guess it's making the game too interesting for them.

I've only watched a couple of games this season, and only half-heartedly at that. What I've see from Miles and his coaches is solid work. In the Auburn game, it wasn't anything the coaches did that led to that loss. The defense played a great game to keep the score close, and that game showcased some of the most outstanding punting you'll probably see all year. Auburn had to fight for nearly every yard of turf, most times starting on their own goal-line.

It was the play of the offense that let everyone down in that game. The plays called were dead on, as were many of the passes, but key throws were dropped by receivers that should have been able to catch them. Open men dropping balls that, if caught, would have meant serious yards, and maybe more points.

In the end the defense spent too many minutes on the field and were worn down by the stellar play of the probable Heisman Trophy winner for this year. LSU fans will try to blame the coaches, but they're not on the field. If the players can't get their heads in the game, the coaches can't step in and play for them.

I'm a fan of Les Miles. He seems to be a decent man who cares about the players in his charge, and has faith in those players to make the plays. Otherwise he wouldn't call the fake punt or go for it on 4th-and-1. I'd love to see more coaches like Miles, who bring excitement to the game, and I'd hate to see anyone fired over the fickle nature of the fans.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Dood.

A birthday post from a good friend triggered some nostalgia. "The Dude abides." - The Big Lebowski.

Over the past few months, I've been catching up on content generated by one Wil Wheaton. He's a terrific writer and stories like his are what I hope to one day commit to the bits and pixels that make up this blog. He's a few years older than I, and as I read his work, I see his footprints on the path to maturity that I am walking. It could be the same for all 30-somethings of our generation, but I find it comforting that someone else has had nearly the same feelings and been able to express them in such an eloquent way.

He has also been blogging for a few years longer, and has a rich catalog of prior material to troll through for inclusion in his podcasts and books. I have little doubt that he will find himself, in his later years, with the extraordinary undertaking of culling from scores of missives, those stories to include in his memoir. His children will also have the gift of a written account of who he is and why. I would like the same for mine.

Remember Spin-jas? I guess their closest corollary would be Bakugan or something like that. They were these little tops with ninja torsos that loaded into handheld, spring-loaded, launchers. In a small arena, the two gladiators would whirl like the Tasmanian Devil, gliding toward each other to impact briefly and fly away, with the winner being the last one remaining in the ring. Today I found this to be a metaphor for my experience with D&D, which was the subject of the Radio Free Burrito episode I was listening to at the time.

Throughout my formative years, I would have fleeting encounters with Dungeons and Dragons, which were just enough to make me aware of it, but I had no way of getting into the game. I remember nights at my grandmother's house where my uncle and his friends were gathered around a folding card table, the intensity of their focus and enjoyment drawing me to them the way a gas giant attracts a new moon. I think I was in first or second grade at the time, and way too young to play with teenagers, much less grasp the fundamentals of the game. I can still see my uncle's character sheet, a jumble of numbers and words in a format that made no sense to me then, but in which I would now be able to see a fully realized character. It's like 'The Matrix,' where they look at the symbols crawling down the screen and see a blonde, brunette, or redhead.

The next flash is watching the D&D cartoon on Saturday mornings and cheering on the party in their struggle against Venger. Again I'm in my grandmother's house, but this time in the den, and I have not a care in the world.

A third instance is the movie 'E.T.,' which to this day can still crit against my will stat to sell me a bag of Reese's Pieces, but didn't have a lasting effect on my wisdom where D&D is concerned.

When the Third Edition Ruleset came out, my group of friends began to get together to play. Two of the guys used to play all the time in high school, but for the rest of us, it was our first campaign. Andy was the Dungeon Master, and he made it a great experience for all of us. I wasn't able to make it for every session, and I missed out on some fun nights, from the sound of it.

One of those nights had a twist thrown into it. Andy had created a drinking game tailored specifically for us. He took each mannerisms unique to each person, and certain group interactions, and made up some cards with each one. Each person that night was required to pull one from the deck, which would be their secret drink trigger. I wasn't there to play, but I have heard tales of this night that had me in stitches, and still bring a smile to my face as I think of them. The greatest card, from my point of view, was the one based on me. It is called the Curse of the Cajun Surfer, and is based on my overuse of the term 'dude', which sounds more like 'dood' when I say it. I consider this the greatest, because even though I wasn't there to trigger it personally, everyone in the group had picked it up in the half-mocking way of close friends.

I don't remember who exactly pulled "The Curse," but they got hammered that night because it had become such a part of our everyday lexicon. One of the guys even wrote a song about it. It's hard to believe that all happened nearly ten years ago, because it is still so fresh in my mind as to have happened ten months ago. It has achieved near legendary status among us. As testament, to this day, when making a call to one of these friends, the first word spoken is not "Hello," but "Dood."

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Days of the New(s)

So, it's been two months since I dropped my last crumbs, and I need to get my writing groove back.

It's like a muscle, and I feel that if I neglect it any longer, it'll atrophe and become more of a vestigial appendage. I got to reading some of my earlier material, and I want to connect with that same gonzo columnist style I tried to emulate then. It could have something to do with reading an issue of Car and Driver while waiting for a vehicle inspection to finish. The guys writing that magazine have ways of making words talk. Another inspiration has been Wil Wheaton's work, both on his blog and in his books, which has been really great to read. As a matter of fact, I'm listening to his podcast, Radio Free Burrito, right now. With that out of the way, let's get to the real post.

The new year has brought about new changes to the 39 Newsroom. In the first month of the year I was working a dayshift on Saturdays, but the dayside reporter was taking her leave to complete the gestational cycle of her progeny. Instead of assigning someone to cover that shift, the powers that be decided it would be better for me to turn natpacks on those days. In those four weeks I did more of those than I had in the entire nine years of my career. I shared one of them in a previous post, and I'll collect the rest of them here.

Bringing Ice to Life

Sprite Step-off

Cirque Dreams Auditions

U.S. Marshall’s Jewelry Auction

Maybe I should embed those, but it's the quickest way for me to get this done, right now, so that's what you get.

In the weeks after doing these stories, I got into a funk, which took me a while to figure out. What was happening during this time is that everyone was getting new equipment as we transistioned to our HD workflow. This rollout was kind of slow, and I was one of the last to get new stuff. That was fine, but what was getting me down was that, with the new HD gear, all the SD video I was shooting was only good for that day's story. Here's a little inside baseball as to why this bothered me.

We in the news business have a saying, "You're only as good as your next story." The work I do today pretty much has no point past it's final frame of video in the newscast. That's our blessing and our curse. If we do a great story, we want that moment to last forever, but if it's just a cluster of a day, assuming I didn't destory the newscast, we get to do it all over again tomorrow. For me as a photojournalist there was a subconcious caveat to this. The video we shoot today becomes the file we pull for years after. Need a shot of kids in a classroom? Pull some file. What happens when a station moves to HD is that SD file becomes less useful, only to be used if doing an update to an old story. What was happening is that I was shooting video that wouldn't even be considered for file, because it was SD, so it had no life past it's airing in the newscast.

As I said above, this was subconciously affecting me, and it only clicked when someone asked if the great video I shot that day (of kids in a classroom, no less) was HD or SD, because they were looking to build the HD file library. Once I figured it out, I was able to shake it off and life got back to normal.

Then I got my new gear. I traded in my large Sony Beta SX for a babycam, a Sony EX3 XDCAM. For the next couple of months I would figure out how to bend it to my will, and I can do most anything I want with it, except zoom into something a block away. I also was able to divest myself of the DNE-700 edit system, and take delivery of a new 17" MacBook Pro, loaded with Final Cut Studio and unlimited creative potential. Now my limitations are the lack of training on the system and time.

I've not become an Apple devotee, but damn if that sexy slab of silver hasn't become as natural for me to use as my camera. I want one of my own, to be sure, but don't know if I can justify the expense. I'll have to start my own business, I think, just so I can have an excuse to buy it. As for those people who say Macs 'just work,' though, you are all a bunch of damn liars. I've had stories miss slot because Final Cut Pro went into Not Responding mode, and lost precious minutes to getting it working correctly again.

This week I got a new piece of kit to assist in our Web first intiative. The station also replaced my work phone, which had developed a large blemish on it's LCD screen. These two items are embodied in one device, the iPhone 3Gs, in the 16 GB capacity. For those of you who follow me on Twitter, you might have noticed the cacophany of tweets that followed the past month of silence. This is indicative of what might have been if I had a phone with either a data plan or unlimited texting. Expect more.

It's been a while, but I created something today, and it felt good. Also, I'm thinking about a podcast, but that would require more work, so I don't think it'll happen, but I have a title. I'll let you know if I get it off the ground. Thanks for reading.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

The Thermostat

Two weeks ago was a cold day in Hell. Tonight it's 40 below.

In retrospect the Colts never had a chance. Oh, it looked like they had things well in hand in the first half of the game, but that was just to keep people watching. The Saints have been a 'team of destiny' the whole season, and that wasn't about to end on Super Bowl Sunday. The team from Indianapolis wasn't just playing against the men on the field, but the whole population of the Who Dat Nation.

Those fans are spread across the globe, and, from what I hear, even hold positions in the Vatican. I didn't see any Colts colors in the pews at morning mass, but I was proud to see people attending in jerseys and t-shirts matching those my family of 3 were wearing. According to sources who witnessed it, the priest in Egan, LA stood before his flock - and removed his robes. Beneath his vestments was a shirt revealing where his loyalties lay, and a horseshoe was nowhere near it. He delivered his entire homily, proudly displaying his fleur-de-lis, and re-robed before performing the rest of the mass.

I read a tweet this week that said, "Unless you're from Indianapolis, if you aren't pulling for the Saints, you have no heart." That could be a little strong, but this country loves an underdog, and the Saints were mainly given lip-service when discussing their chances for the win.

I'm too young to remember the Archie Manning years, but realized in the last two weeks that it doesn't matter. This is the Drew Brees era, and I count myself lucky to play witness to the Manning of my generation. It is a story that will grow into legend. A man who was injured and looking to rebuild joins a team in a city that is broken and looking to rebuild. In the process he realizes why God's hand has led him to this point in his life. He has come to New Orleans to give the people of the city hope. Not the empty hope for a 'change' that others have promised in recent years, but true hope that the impossible is just a word in a dictionary.

The residents of the Crescent City have a symbiotic relationship with the team, and this accomplishment will give them a surge of energy that will do more for bringing the city back, better than ever, than anything the federal government could ever offer. It's a spiritual energy that will sustain itself with each rebuilt home and life.

On Sunday night the streets of the city were nearly empty. Everyone had a line-of-sight position near a television screen to watch the miracle unfold, and when it was over they flooded the streets in a torrent of good will and happiness to begin a party that won't stop until midnight on Ash Wednesday. Sober or drunk, old men wept like babies and kisses and hugs were shared among the married and the single, along with the gay and the straight.

Tonight it doesn't matter, and there's nothing wrong with that.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

WHO DAT!

These two words will be repeated a lot during the next couple of weeks, for good reason.

Tonight the New Orleans Saints won the NFC Championship, which means they've won 50% of the games they've played at this level. Not a bad record. To be cliche about it, with this win they've punched their ticket to Super Bowl XLIV in Miami.

It was an ugly game on Sunday night in the Superdome, and I'm sure more than a few follicles of hair across the Who Dat Nation were either torn out or faded to grey as the seconds counted down in the fourth quarter. Had the offense played to the level fans had come to expect, it would have been a blow out, like last week's game, but that wasn't quite the story. Thankfully the defense came through, proving the axiom oft repeated by coaches, "Offense wins games, Defense wins championships."

Then Overtime began and an entire city and state held its collective breath, only releasing it, during the booth reviews, in prayers that the drive would continue. When the final review put them within field goal range, one kick brought to life the dreams of over 40 years of black and gold fans, and their cries of joy lifted the roof off the 'Dome.

Faith

I didn't see it. For the whole season I've either been working or otherwise occupied when the Saints were playing. The one game I got to see kickoff became their first loss of the season, and Drew Brees' worst performance. I decided to ensure that I wouldn't see today's kickoff by attending the Life Teen mass at St. Anne's. We weren't the only Who Dat's in the congregation, which actually surprised me a little; I would have thought all the others would be watching the game.

After dinner I was torn about watching. I couldn't resist, and thought I'd have to leave the house when Reggie Bush muffed a punt, and the Vikings recovered it near the end zone. I kept watching, to see them score to punish myself, and thought my fortunes had reversed when they forced a turnover. From there I couldn't look away until the final seconds of regulation, changing the channel to ice skating and hoping for a miracle I'd only see in replays. It came in the form of a Brett Favre interception, relegating me to pacing from the front door to the kitchen and back again, wondering what was happening, and hoping it was all working out.

When it was all over I got to share in the joy with friends and family, including phone calls to my dad in Cameron and my 92-year-old grandfather in Abbeville. It's such a great feeling to know that he's finally going to see them play in the big game.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Cold as Ice

We were setting records for cold temps in Houston last week, so it was perfect weather for an ice sculpting competition.

Yeah, I know you folks from the Dakotas and the other frost-belt states deal with substantially lower temperatures, but for the people of the Gulf Coast, 48 hours below freezing is a big deal. Not many people are prepared for that kind of hard freeze, since the mercury only drops that low a few nights a year. I covered people covering plants, pipes, and themselves to wait out Old Man Winter's kick to the 'nards, but found a group of people kicking back on Saturday.

I got to the station Saturday morning before my reporter, which isn't unusual, but when 9:30 rolled around the desk decided to make a call. Long story short the reporter called in sick, leaving me the sole person responsible for gathering the dayside stories. The three items deemed worthy of our time were all in the same area of downtown, but we now had to decide how much time I should spend at each. The desk and I decided the ice sculpting competition would make the most sense as a nat-sound package, and I could still get the other two as VO-SOTs.

The news director thought otherwise. In addition to the ice story, I would have to shoot the Bridal Extravaganza as an anchor package. The third story got dropped. To say I was thrilled would be inaccurate. I was looking forward to doing the nat-pack, but now I was going to have to shoehorn the time to do it around the other package. Any photog who cares knows that a good nat-pack takes the same time and work as a regular package to put together. Time was ticking away, and it looked like lunch would be the next casualty.

I arrived at Discovery Green around 10:10, and I finally found a parking spot around 10:20. Now it was time to load up and go hunting. Camera, tripod, mics, tapes, and an extra battery added up to an extra 50 pounds I would be lugging around for what turned out to be four hours. At least I have a Beta SX camera, and not the 3/4" camera and record deck the old timers used.

After walking a couple of blocks, I found the artists were just getting started. Rectangular blocks of transluscent frozen water were getting unpacked, and the buzz of electric chainsaws mixed with the thump of the bass line pounding from the DJ's speakers. Seven of "the world's best ice sculptors" were making snow to decide who could make the best use of a ton of ice.

While a respectable number of people were there to see these masters at work, the crowd only got bigger as the five hour competition unfolded, and they tried to guess at what the finished sculpture would be. The crowd, and I, were awestruck as a snarling panther's head was attached to the shoulders of the big cat, which was poised in a downward-facing position, ready to pounce on unseen prey.

Unfortunately I wouldn't get to see the finished works, because I had to trudge over to the George R. Brown Convention Center for the other story. The extra layers that kept me comfortable in the cold were now a burden that I had no way of shedding. Cars, cakes, and a kissing contest were all committed to tape, along with the brides and other vendors at the show. From there I schlepped my gear the three blocks back to the car and headed for the station, where I had to wait for an edit bay to get put back together before I could edit.

Overall I'm pleased with the story. It's only the fourth nat-pack I've done, and I managed to really tie everything together. As for the anchor-pack, it never made air. The producer busted it to a VO-SOT, which means I wasted time on that story I could have used for the nat-pack.