Hey, I’ve grinded that!

A couple months ago, I got Tony Hawk’s Underground for my playstation 2, and it’s been fun to play levels that consist of places I’ve been to (like Balboa Park in the San Diego level and the Vancouver level). What’s really freaky though, is being in Vancouver today after playing the game for the past few months. It seems like every street I walk down, I realize there’s a prominent feature that’s in the game. Outside my hotel window, I can see planter gaps, bus stations, and bank buildings I’ve seen exact copies of in the game. I’d only been in downtown Vancouver once before, so I sort of got to know the city better in the game before this most recent trip.

SXSW highlights

– My favorite panel was the one about robots scraping info from the web. I think I liked it because it seemed advanced and covered new ground I hadn’t seen before. While I may be biased, my second favorite panel was a Creative Commons-moderated one on film rights and copyright. Half the audience was from the SXSW film track, so it was great to see things from their perspective. I’d love to see SXSW do more to mix audiences and viewpoints.

– I hope the Fray Cafe audio was recorded and will be online soon. Lance was, as ever, absolutely marvelous.

– Everyone that met Jonathon Abrams, the creator of Friendster, used the word “ass” somewhere in the sentence used to describe him. I heard it several times during the week as I seemed to be missing him at various functions. When I finally saw his keynote and panel, he defintely lived up to the reputation. And it wasn’t even the amusing, self-effacing kind of asshole I can appreciate and enjoy. It was just plain asshole.

– A lot of people do a certain flavor of comedy where the shtick is their delusion of grandeur, but it almost always falls flat. Neal Pollack‘s version of it works for some reason, and sounds funnier than it reads. His “panel” had the most people leaving that I’ve ever seen in a SXSW talk, but his brand of dry, cynical comedy appealed to only about five people in the entire large keynote room (myself included), which were just about the only people left in the end. I love writers and comics that take chances like that.

– We decided to go bowling after a couple parties late Monday night, and I let it slip to my video game fiends friends that I owned my own DDR setup at home. Being that I’m a tall, uncoordinated dork worthy of laughter, we just HAD to play it when we noticed the arcade at the alley had one. So we all play a round of one versus the other and near the end, a couple of 17-18 year old kids are getting noticeably impatient waiting for us to finish. As we were leaving, we overheard the two guys say “I’ve never seen old people play before.” Our ages ranged from about 25 to about 32, but it was the best line ever.

– On the last night I went to the Bruce Sterling party, and after midnight or so we sauntered off to a local watering hole, stayed until closing, then went for a late night bite to eat at Katz’ (whoa, check out the new localized google results on that one). We left Katz’ sometime after 3, and after a long walk back to the hotel, it wasn’t until 4am on the dot that I got to sleep. Right before I nodded off, I realized my flight was at 7:45, and I’d have to leave the hotel by 6 at the latest to make it through everything on time. That meant a 90 minute nap, at a cost of about $180 for that night in the hotel. It wasn’t the best $2 per minute of sleep. Maybe next time I’ll just sleep in the airport.

Bring on the drinking

Looking back at the last couple weeks of posting here, I noticed I’ve been slowly becoming a whiny asshole. Amid a crapload of work deadlines, this year’s SXSW won’t exactly be a vacation, but once I’ve gotten my work done for two announcements at SXSW, it’ll be time to relax. It’s been great to catch up with everyone so far and I’m looking forward to the panels this week.

I hope they fly planes better than they design sites

Imagine you booked a flight directly on United.com instead of using Orbitz because you wanted to get the extra miles on your frequent flyer account. You ordered the ticket weeks ago and the flight is coming up soon, but you need to look up the flight number, time it is leaving/landing, and other sorts of information.

Here’s a quick usuability test: Take a look at united.com (244kb jpg) and tell me how you’d expect to retrieve info on your upcoming flight.

hightlight this text with your mouse for the answer:
None of the forms will log you into anything that will get your answer. there are 90 links on that page, and the correct answer is one of them. Down in the lower left, there’s a link that is bold, in the middle of a list marked “My Itineraries”. Clicking that takes you to a page about itineraries, making you decide if you actually want “All United Itineraries” or just “United.com Itineraries” as if you should know the difference (do they think we’re all travel agents that are hip to their lingo?). Clicking one of those will take you to a login form, which then finally, gives you travel info on your upcoming flight. That’s the only way to get the info from their site.

The luckiest gut in the world

I stopped in a 7-11 the other day for the first time in ages and noticed they’re doing the free iTunes pepsi contest with their slurpees. I always thought 7-11 did Coca Cola slurpees, but it’s all just sugary frozen brown stuff anyway so I decided to give it a chance.

Long story short: I’ve had three slurpees in the past week after not having one for almost a year — but I’ve won all three times. You gotta play to win, as they say.

Now, I could be extremely lucky (a 1 in 27 chance of winning three times in a row), or 7-11 could be making every slurpee a winner. I don’t know which hypothesis is correct, but I’m going to be collecting more data this week and I’ll be sure to let you know if I ever lose.

While my copy of Garageband gently weeps

The Jay-Z Construction Set is a blast to play with. I grabbed some of the purposely remix-friendly acapella tracks and laid it on top of a certain classic.

After hearing the Grey Album remix, the Black on Black remix, and the Black and Tan remix, I figured there should be a Black and White remix. When I thought of the whitest sounds possible two names jumped to mind: Michael Bolton and Kenny G. Seeing how Kenny G does instrumentals and I have an acapella track, it was an easy mash.

Let me preface this by saying I don’t really know what I’m doing audio software-wise, so I just simply laid Jay Z’s Encore over Kenny G’s Songbird, and grabbed a chunk that has its moments. I’m sure a real DJ could whip up a better version of this abomination fairly easily, but I was just farting around in audio software and figured I might as well upload it.

Here’s a taste of Kenny Z’s Encore (1Mb mp3, 60 second snippet)