Category: Me

Goodbye to the Crazy Sideburns

I shaved off the insane sideburns that I had been sporting for the last couple of years. They served me well. I enjoyed the attention and compliments that I would get on them, and I did a great Martin Van Buren impersonation (see figures). But, alas, it was time to move on. Also, they were less than comfortable in 100+ degree weather.

Is this the real Martin Van Buren?
Or is this Martin Van Buren?

I’m worried now that no one will recognize me. I wouldn’t.

I have face blindness, aka Prosopagnosia. I didn’t know that there was a name for my condition until very recently. I just thought that I had a bad memory and that there were actually only 3 or 4 actors in the world: Matt Damon, Sandra Bullock, and Lawrence Fishburne, right? Well, when I scored below 50% on this test, I started to suspect that I may have a problem besides forgetfulness.

My chops were about more than just face decoration: they were how I recognized myself. Now that I don’t have them, I feel lighter and cooler, but a bit worried. I rely on extreme features like huge sideburns, beards, unicorn horns, mohawks, and Frank Zappa noses to identify all but my closest friends and family. When these things change, I get confused and uncertain.

If I see someone I’ve previously met, but they’ve changed their hair, or lost weight, or aren’t in the context that I associate with them, I’ll sometimes get a feeling that I’ve seen this person before, but I’ll have no idea who they are. This has happened with people I ought to know quite well…including some relatives and business contacts.

So, just in case you have face blindness like me and you’ve met me within the last few years, here’s the before and after shot. Unlike with the Martin Van Buren pictures, both of these are actually me!

Me, two weeks ago, with chops and long hair.
Me, today, with short hair and no chops.


Nano-Uh Oh

So, it doesn’t look like I’m going to be able to finish my 50,000 word novel this month. I don’t quite have 10,000 words now, and it’s November 18. Darn. The good news is that this is the most fiction I’ve written since college, and I’m having a lot of fun with it when I actually do manage to find/make the time.

On another writing note, my first post on went up last week. Check it out.

Looking for safe work…like boxing, for instance

Alternative computer interfaces (i.e. other than keyboard and mouse) have become a bit of an obsession of mine lately. The primary reason for this new obsession is the recurring tendonitis in my right (mouse) wrist.

As far as my wrist health is concerned, the last two years have looked like this: months of pain, followed by a decision to finally go to the doctor, followed by months of unsuccessful treatment with anti-inflammatory drugs, followed by a visit to the rheumatologist for a cortisone injection. The injection completely knocks out the inflammation for several months, after which the pain returns and I go back to trying not to use my right arm and hoping that the tendonitis just goes away by itself.

Some might say that I should just go to the doctor when the pain returns and demand another injection. But, even though no one has told me as much, I have a sneaking suspicion that anything that works that well can’t really be good for me. So, I’ve started looking for ways to do my job differently.

Talking instead of typing is the obvious first choice. I recently checked out the latest speech recognition software. It’s impressive, but I’m not yet convinced that it’s a viable replacement for the keyboard. Even with the wrist pain, I can still type much faster and more accurately than the computer can take dictation. Also, I run a small company with a small office. My co-workers would go crazy if they had to listen to me whispering sweet business and programmer-speak to my computer all day long.

Other alternative interfaces, such as tablets, touch screen interfaces, pen-like devices, and trackballs are fine–and if my job involved drawing or moving pictures around, I’d have plenty of choices. Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of good ways to input words or code into a computer without using your fingers or your voice. Brain-computer interfaces aren’t nearly advanced enough, and my toes are just not long enough to press ctrl-alt-delete to log in, much less to type with.

So, when my wrist finally gives up the ghost, I’m considering taking up a safer profession–like boxing. Let me explain.

A friend of mine was among one of the lucky (or persistent) first people to get their hands on a Nintendo Wii video game console. The main attraction of the Wii is that it uses wireless controllers that can detect motion in three dimensions. What this means is that the golf game for the Wii is played by actually swinging the controller as if it were a golf club, for example.

Last week, as part of my research, we spent an afternoon playing various games on the Wii. One of the games that comes with the Wii is a boxing game in which players stand side-by-side and punch towards the screen. The screen is split down the middle—each player sees a character representing himself facing and punching the character representing his opponent. Note: to the players, this is all very cool. But, as my friend’s wife pointed out, it looks very dorky to someone else in the room watching two people duke it out by punching perpendicularly to each other.

The next day, while I was watching Rocky Balboa (aka Rocky VI), it occurred to me that I am really not that unlike Rocky. Besides the obvious–both of us are incredibly muscular–there’s also the unfortunate fact that we’re both suffering from ailments which make it more difficult for us to do our jobs.

The Wii could be the first version of the ultimate in alternate interfaces for people with jobs that require stresses that their body can’t handle any longer. For anyone who’s seen the latest Rocky movie, you know that virtual reality plays a key role in instigating the fight at the movie’s climax. I suspect that if there’s another Rocky movie, 80-year-old Rocky will use something like the Wii to crush his opponents while avoiding further head trauma.

This brings us back to my planned post-retirement career as a professional boxer. In the future, jobs that require long hours of typing–like computer programming or writing–will be left to the young. Careers involving competition, strategy, and the “eye of the tiger”–like boxing and hockey–will be left to those of us who have plenty of life experience and the will to succeed, but who are no longer fit to use a keyboard.

Gangster Fun is Back!

Friday was the Gangster Fun reunion show! It was insane! We were really good. The only bad thing about the night was that the show was sold out before the doors opened, and so a lot of people (including some of my friends) who didn’t buy tickets in advance were turned away. If you were among them, you’ll be glad to hear that it’s looking more and more likely that this was not the last Gangster Fun show ever. It was way too much fun to not do again.

I’ll be posting video here as soon as it’s done rendering and uploading. In the meantime, visit our brand-new Myspace page and be our friends.

The Minnick Test for the Future

Happy New Year. As I’ve done every year since 2000 I hereby declare that I am hopeful that the future is officially started. I would also like to announce a new test for whether it is actually true. I’ve humbly named this test the Minnick Test of the Future. The test is quite simple: when an article about speech recognition software that aims to be funny or make a point about how speech recognition software doesn’t work correctly yet isn’t funny then the future has officially begun. The idea is that if the raiders attempt to score some shuttles distorted by O. well the software works then the technology for talking directly with their computers rather than using keyboards is here and the future along with the.

With the release of windows vista upon us and it’s integrated speech recognition capabilities I was hopeful that this might just be the year for that start of the future that I was looking forward to as the child.

As the future rather? I suppose that. I mean that I suppose knocked. Both Reagan. I’m going to try one more time. The future has not yet arrived. Of the understood that Simpson’s just five.

I’m using Microsoft’s speech recognition software and I suspect that it would work much better if I didn’t write or call so smoothly and was frequently in middle of sentences.

One of the problems with replacing keyboards with speech recognition software is the many writers are notoriously careful and will cause for several minutes in the middle of sentences while they are dictating. Computers have no way of knowing this and speech recognition software often uses context two were improved accuracy. This results in some sentences that were spoken quickly being perfectly readable but other sentence is that may have taken longer to construct being completely garbage.

Another problem the speech recognition is that other people are listening and is not so easy to just dictate something stupid as to see if it works. Speech recognition seems to be in direct conflict with the latest thinking about open offices and may actually stifle creativity.

However speech recognition may also result in more polite comments on blocks and fewer flame wars. In the same way that the anonymity of the Internet makes people feel comfortable with saying things that they normally wouldn’t say, the public nature of speech recognition could have the effect of artists is talk to Peter Davidson, like like the proposition as it is the topic is writing down everything and people are wrong you’re listening and every call for her for whatever gets written down right now it’s even writing down to write down everything them saying his home and the eighties microphone by two. Also, I tend to mumble.

Despite his perfect this 5/8 product got damages but he’s really talking perfect. Certain frequently used words in blog comments don’t seem to show up very well and speech recognition text for instance: that should or you got him of the Fokker.

So what does it take for us to achieve this glorious future of reduced carpal tunnel syndrome and improved human computer interfaces? Apparently, the cost of a keyboard less computing environment is a new computer capable of running windows vista high quality microphone a private office and membership in your local toastmasters.

Picking up the sax again

For a reason that deserves its own post, I’m playing sax again after a 10 or 12 year hiatus. The hiatus started when I sold my last tenor sax to get some money to help pay for moving to California. I don’t regret that. It was a crummy sax, and I figured I’d get a new one in no time.

But I never did get a new one. I totally regret that. About 2 weeks ago, however, I just did it. I bought a Yamaha YTS-61 off eBay. It arrived yesterday, and I’m in love with it.

I still remember how to play, but I now pretty much suck at sax and I really need lessons and LOTS of practice.

While searching around for free internet lessons and sax teachers, I found the most incredible site ever: My original plan was to start taking lessons with a real teacher as quickly as possible, but I think that this site can delay me needing to start incuring that expense for several months. I hope this guy (Alastair Ingram) is doing well with his site, and I highly recommend it to anyone who has any interest whatsoever in playing saxophone.

The problem with blogging

Here’s the problem with blogging:

People who blog often sound like they’re obsessed with themselves (see my last post). The problem with that is that it’s normal to be obsessed with yourself (who else is going to be?), but sounding like you’re obsessed with yourself is frowned upon. So, there’s a conflict.

If you, as a blogger, want other people to read your blog (and become obsessed with you?), you need to try to write as if you’re not obsessed with yourself. At the same time, you need to not sound like a moron (because that turns people off too), and hopefully you have something interesting to say that isn’t totally about yourself (but, most of us don’t have interesting things to say very often).

According to leading experts in blogger psycology, the moment when all this blogger inner turmoil shit hits the fan, Web 4.0 will officially be launched. Stay tuned.

Oh, and I also wanted to mention that I think we saw the beginning of the end of MySpace last weekend with all their problems keeping the servers running during the heat wave. Our 14-year old friend was very annoyed by it.