Monday, December 12, 2011

Dark Souls

If one were to go back and play old NES games like Contra or Kid Icarus, I think the nostalgia would be overwhelmed at some point by the cruelty inherent in these older games. There's no saving. There's little room for mistakes. And if you fail over the course of many hours of play, you start over. Who has the time or patience to deal with that kind of thing today? Who would pay money to experience that again?

The makers of Dark Souls apparently thought somebody would. The game has no pause button. There's very little instruction or story. The game is cruel, and when you die, you lose all of your souls, the game's currency. When you go to checkpoints and heal, all of the enemies in the game respawn.

One might think Dark Souls is just a needless nostalgia play, but they only adopt old gaming rules when they support the game's goal: give the player constant stakes. Give them a strong incentive to take care. Make them fearful to fail and jubilant at success. They hit that mark perfectly. I'm no gaming expert (I died 30+ times in the first few hours of play and nearly gave up), and even I have found the game incredibly rewarding. Fromsoft basically made a deal with the player: deal with our hurdles, and we'll reward you with incredible rewards in detail, feel, loot, and fun.

This is an incredible bet for a gaming studio; I can think of no other recent game that attempts to make this deal with the player. But after two excellent games in this vein (Dark Souls' spiritual predecessor is a game called Demon Souls and is similar), I think we may see a resurgence of the high-stakes game. Jaded players need stakes, whether they realize it or not. Here's to more stress and more rewards in gaming's future.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Public Internet Fora

Cross-posting my G+ post here, as it was blog-length. The First Circuit decision I reference is covered here.


I'd like to see a law student comment comparing the recent decision linked to below to the arguments in defense of BART's cell shutdown. Clearly the 1st Circuit feels the 1st Amendment protects the ability of a person to film and post police activity via cell phone in a public square. The means of posting for any near-term journalistic purpose is an internet connection.

Some things for the student to consider: does it matter that a cell shutdown delays, but doesn't permanently enjoin, the communication of the speech? Must the government have a security concern, or can they stop immediate broadcasting arbitrarily?

I'll jumpstart the comment by providing some early thoughts. What comes to mind for me is the doctrine of a semi-public or private forum's transformation into a public forum based upon access. We tend to think of this caselaw as being about physical grounds - the military base, when opened for 1 day for a public parade, becomes a public forum and folks can bring anti-military posters on the grounds for that day only.

Similarly, when the BART folks decided to create cell service in BART stations, they unintentionally made such stations a "public internet forum," if not a public physical forum. This is why we shouldn't conflate BART's ability, for safety reasons, to control protests in BART stations, with their ability to control the non-physical public forum created by internet access.

I'd thus like to propose that BART may be able to make a valid constitutional argument that the physical forum of a BART station can be closed for security reasons if viable alternative physical fora for speech are available. But they cannot constitutionally invoke a security-based argument for closing a public internet forum except in the most extreme of circumstances (ex. specific knowledge of a cell phone bomb trigger in the area). Once the government decides to provide internet access and create a public internet forum, an individual should have the right to invoke a right like the one seen the case below (use a cell phone to record officers in public), and not have the means of speech dissemination inhibited by the government. Closing the internet public forum and delaying the speech dissemination is unconstitutional except in instances of immediate, specific, and deadly security concerns. Physical-space-based concerns, such as overcrowding, simply aren't valid for public internet fora.

Now I need a law student to make my normative argument about public internet fora into something grounded in some actual cases beyond the one below. :) If someone does it, I'll look forward to reading it!

By the way, I also recommend my former boss Nicole Wong's thoughts on this matter.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Google+ Invites

I'm posting a lot of nonsense there. If you'd like to join, but haven't received an invite, use this link and you'll get one.

Monday, July 04, 2011


The product I've been working on for half-past forever, Google+, is finally public. This product long caused me to state in vague terms what I did at Google. I'm very happy to no longer say "I still do Google Earth," or "I do ads stuff," when probed on my daily activities.

Check it out at Sign-ups are opening from time to time, so keep plugging away if you're interested.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

News Tip

So far as I can tell, there is only one good source for nightly news on TV: PBS Newshour. One hour of commercial-free coverage of the top 4 or 5 stories of the day, plus a special report on something. They preview all of this for you in the first 30 seconds, so if nothing strikes your fancy, you turn it off. Also, don't miss Shields & Brooks on Fridays. The best weekly conversation on politics on TV.

As Adam Carolla noted, all cable TV news options are horrors. They are not worth your time. All network TV news shows are lacking in depth (partially due to time constraints) and easily distracted by stupid political stunts. My wife and I were proud to say a few weeks ago that we had no idea who Casey Anthony was. Such is the power of watching PBS Newshour: you can stay blissfully ignorant of incredibly stupid things.

Now, I don't begrudge people watching other news sources. I do think it's a waste of your time, but I also waste my time on things (see: baseball). I just think we should all recognize what's actual informative news and what's just a diversion. I'd really prefer not to be an NPR/PBS San Franciscan who considers people who don't follow what I follow to be inferior. Note the use of the word "prefer"; it is very easy to be sucked into the SF superiority vortex. Patting oneself on the back is a more popular physical activity than yoga here. Thankfully my abundant self-awareness keeps me from such self-congrat . . . shit.

Monday, June 13, 2011

8 Blog Facts, Courtesy of Google Analytics

1. Twice as many visitors use Chrome to visit this blog than any other browser.

2. People spend about 90 seconds on the site.

3. Android and iPad are tied for the most popular mobile means of visiting the site.

4. 80% of visitors use Windows.

5. There are a decent number of French, Russian, and Spanish language visitors.

6. Traffic comes almost equally from my ad and organic search traffic. Clearly the ad is useful!

7. Besides "that's news to me," "bankruptcy" and "google lawyer" are popular search terms that lead one here.

8. That being said, sometimes weirder stuff leads to traffic. Like "91 toyota pickup 38s behemoth" and "any narrative skit for a poor wretched man with biblical lessons to draw as a lost son who finally comes home".


Thursday, June 02, 2011

Going to Vegas Tomorrow

A colleague asked today about appropriate Vegas attire for a club. Goodness knows I'm no expert, but the funny thing about Vegas clubs is that shoes are key. They won't let you in with tennis shoes, even nice black ones. Gotta be leather, gotta be fairly nice. You can go jeans, you can go no jacket at most places if you have a collared shirt. But if the shoes could be used to hit a forehand winner, you have no shot of getting in short of paying-off the bouncer.

I know this rule well, as I brought the jacket/Adidas combo 7 years ago to LAX at Luxor. I was on the list for a birthday party that rented out a good part of the club. It didn't matter. Note that I was, and probably still am, too cheap to buy shoes on-the-spot to resolve the situation. I went back to my friend's house.

I half-expect that someday even a jacket and good shoes won't be enough. Some bouncer will tell I don't value the club experience and don't have the face of a clubber (is that what they call them?). "You look ok, but I can tell this is not for you." And homeward I will head.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Back in San Francisco

It's been a long time since I spent a Monday - Friday in San Francisco. Observations about Brazil and Hawaii:

Brazil - casual, cheap drinking and good conversation every evening seemed like the local routine. Very fun, relaxed place. Absolutely no one outside of my office spoke English. At all. Including at a very popular museum. They had to find a fellow visitor to translate the tour for me. I got a one week membership at a local gym via gestures and semaphore.

Kauai - undeveloped. The north is stunning, like everyone says. All goods are ridiculously expensive, even for San Franciscans. Lots of fun stuff to do - we hiked, surfed, snorkeled, golfed (both mini and full), and ate. Surprising number of good places to eat. The little town of Hanalei is particularly stuffed full of good casual or sit down food options.

Despite all that fun, happy to be back.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Woefully Unprepared

You know you've been travelling a bit too much when you realize the night before a flight to Brazil that you have no place to stay. I kinda let that item slip past me. Thankfully, a Brazilian contact came to the rescue.

I also didn't feel like packing last night, so now I'm packing a few hours before my flight leaves. I also haven't planned a single non-work activity. I don't even really know what the city I'm going to looks like. I think all of my Brazilian energy went into getting the visa. Now I'm tapped out and just hoping to show up on time.

This is how your turn a work trip into an adventure.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Obvious Sentiment of the Day

Florida is very tropical. Quite different from California in this respect. California is palm trees, desert, and rattle snakes. Florida is palm trees, marshes, and alligators.

How are they similar, besides palm trees? A big one: Orlando and Orange County should declare themselves separated at birth. Two warm, Republican places in which countless acres of orange groves were sacrificed for 1. theme parks and 2. planned communities.

Miami Beach is pretty great - it's a grittier but prettier Santa Monica.

I don't know what Tampa is, but I enjoyed a Rays game. Gave me Kingdome flashbacks, though Tropicana Field is a far better, more intimate dome. Probably about as good as dome/AstroTurf baseball can get. Not competitive with any of the new parks but not a terrible experience either. I saw the construction in Miami of the Marlins' new joint. Tampa folks must be jealous.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Going to Florida Next Week

Trying to determine what is better about Florida than California. There's gotta be stuff, but I haven't come up with anything yet. Not weather, not universities, not food, not beer, not wine, not sports teams. That's most of what I care about in this world. I suppose it's competitive in lunacy and intrigue. After all, the game is Germany or Florida?, not Germany or California?. I'll look out for that.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

One fun thing

One fun thing about (barely!) bringing this blog back to life is looking at site traffic. I get a little stipend from work, so I run ads too. Fascinating that the ads on search actually kinda work. Six people clicked already!

I've also learned that a majority of you use IE. Go Chrome. It's better.*

* I refuse to annotate this endorsement despite the FTC guidelines' mandate to contextualize blogger testimonials. Enjoy your unconstitutional guidelines while you can, FTC. Boo.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Just like that

We have a new domain: Very easy to buy a custom domain, it turns out.

Read a Real Blog

By the way, check out a real blog, The Red Humor. It's beautifully written by a friend of mine. I expect a book deal shortly.

Back From the Dead! (kinda)

I see Tom has long given up on blogging here, and I don't blame him. I haven't been active here in 7 years. But I thought I'd at least repost some items I do share via Twitter and Reader, with the occasional real blog post thrown in. I'd also like to use this page to test some of our ads and analytics products from a user perspective.