REAL REALITY, VIRTUAL REALITY AND REALITY TV REALITY – BY TOM CURLEY

I’m having a real problem with reality lately. And it’s not from taking too many drugs. I think it’s from not taking enough drugs. The problem is that we have too many realities to choose from. We have reality TV, which everyone knows is not real at all.

We have our real reality, which seems to be a really bad reality TV show and is very surreal.

And very now we have Virtual Reality, which is oddly, very real.

“Cool”

I recently made the leap and got a VR (Virtual Reality) system. In this case the Sony PlayStation’s VR platform. There are currently two others out there, the Occulus Rift and the HTV Vive. Which one is better? It depends. Mostly on which one you own. The Vive is the most expensive, the PlayStation the least. I’ve seen all three. Frankly, they look pretty much the same. By that, I mean AWESOME!!

“Whoa!”

Unfortunately, I can’t describe the experience. You have to experience it. Imagine being inside an HD movie. Everything is to scale. You can walk up to people, walk around them. They are human-sized. Not TV-sized or big screen movie-sized. It’s amazing. The only downside is that the games and movies available right now are sort of skimpy. There’s a Batman game in which you literally become Batman.

“I’m Batman”

It’s incredible, but the whole game only lasts about an hour. This is because of the enormous amount of data the system requires. That will change. Soon. Most of the games involve looking around at things and marveling at how real they are.

“I’m gonna need a bigger cage!”

That all changed when a new game came out called Star Trek, Bridge Crew.

In this game, you are on bridge of either the Federation Starship Aegis or the original Enterprise. The detail is amazing. You can sit at any one of four stations.:  Helm, Tactical, Engineering and, of course, the Captain’s chair.

Each station has its own console and responsibilities. Helm steers the ship, sets courses for both warp drive and impulse drive. Tactical fires phasers, photon torpedoes, scans other ships and objects, transports people on-board the ship and can disrupt enemy ships functions, such as disabling their shields, weapons, engines, etc.

The Engineering station fixes the ship, re-routes power, etc. (I need more time!) The Captain runs the show.

Here’s where it gets cool. The whole program is linked  to IBM’s Watson super-computer. When you play in solo mode you are the Captain. Your crew are AIs (artificial intelligences). You can talk to them in normal language. You can say “Helm prepare for warp.”

Helm AI will respond “Yes sir.”

Engineering AI will say “Charging the warp coils Captain.”

When you are ready you actually can say “Helm, ENGAGE!” And it does!

“Engage!”

The Watson computer is constantly learning. You can just talk to it and it tries to figure out what you want to do. This means that when you are being attacked by five Klingon Cruisers, you can shout “Red Alert! Raise shields, arm photon torpedoes, fire phasers at that goddamn Klingon!  Helm! Prepare impulse. Get us the fuck out of here!” And it does.  Of course, there are glitches, but for the most part, it works.

The solo part is not what the program was built for. You can play the game with three other real people. It doesn’t matter what system they own. They all work together. You have to work together to finish a mission and the missions are not easy. Usually, you blow up the ship.

“I think we’re about to die”

It’s a lot of fun. The first time I tried playing with real folks I was at the Tactical station and our Captain was a 14-year-old. The conversation went like this.

ME: Tactical is ready Captain.

CAPTAIN: Helm, prepare to warp the Devos system.

VOICE OFF IN THE DISTANCE: Honey, it’s time to leave!

CAPTAIN: Ma! I’m busy!

MOM: I don’t care what you’re doing, it’s time to go!

CAPTAIN: But Ma! I’m on a starship!

MOM: I don’t care where you are, get your butt up here.

CAPTAIN: But Ma! I’m the Captain!

The rest of us were laughing our asses off. The engineer recorded the whole episode (you can do that) and posted it on his Facebook page.

One other time we sat at the space dock for a half hour because the engineer seemed to have no idea how to energize the Warp coils.  I was the Captain.

ME: So, engineering, figured out how to energize those Warp coils yet?

ENGINEER: Uh, yeah.

ME: Well, we don’t seem to be moving.

ENGINEER: Uh, yeah.

ME: Let me guess, you need more time?

ENGINEER: Uh, yeah.

Eventually we got so bored that the tactical guy started blowing up our own ships. Yeah, you can do that.

What I find odd is that many of the reviews of the game are sort of negative. They complain that you can’t get up and walk around. You are stuck in the chair in each station. Excuse me? That’s what they do in any Star Trek episode. They sit in their  friggin’ chairs and to their friggin’ jobs! I mean what would happen if Captain Picard ordered Worf to lock phasers on a Romulan ship and fire … and he’s off wandering around the bridge.

PICARD:  Worf! What the hell are you doing?

WORF: Uh, walking around the bridge Captain.

PICARD: Are you kidding me!! For Christ’s sake, get your ass back in that chair and fire those Goddamn phasers!

WORF: Well normally sir, I stand at my station.

PICARD: Oh for Christ’s sake!

Ever since November 8, 2016 I’ve been obsessively watching all the Star Trek series — because Star Trek Reality makes more sense than our real one.  Now, until our surreal reality TV show reality returns to real reality, I’m going to spend as much time as I can in the Star Trek Virtual Reality.


Engage!

THE SOIL, GROWTH OF AND OTHERWISE

When I was a teenager, my mother plied me with books. Some were entertaining. Then, there was Knut Hamsun.

Knut wasn’t a fun sort of author. In “Growth of the Soil” he wrote about the grim, hardscrabble life of the desperately poor farmers trying to survive in places where obviously no humans were supposed to be living. I’m not sure why my mother felt I should read these books, but I know I found them depressing. Not like my regular life was such a bundle of yuks that I needed something earthier to keep me from flying off into the world of the rich and giggly.

I was not rich and nor was I giggly.

I slogged my way through Growth of the Soil and I felt really bad for those sad people. This book was followed up by one of my mother’s favorites, “Jean-Cristophe,” This is  the novel in 10 volumes by Romain Rolland for which he received the Prix Femina in 1905 and the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1915. It is actually a fictionalized story of the life of Ludwig Von Beethoven. And although it is certainly interesting on many levels, it is also really, really, really long. About 1800 pages in small print.

I read it. All of it. But I was not yet finished with Romain Rolland. There were a few more — and they were also long, though nothing (except “Lord of the Rings”) was ever longer than “Jean-Cristophe.” Actually, I’m not sure how long “Lord of the Rings” is since it depended on the printing, font size, and so on … so let’s call them even. But “Lord of the Rings” was far more fun. We had eating and drinking parties while dressed in appropriate Middle-Earthen costumes.

Hobbits were also fond of the soil. They lived in houses dug into the earth. I hope it didn’t rain as much in Hobbiton as it does around here. A house in mud doesn’t seem as much fun as a warm, cozy hobbit hole.

I’m pretty sure that this early exposure to painful books about grinding, desperate poverty may have skewed my reading interests into lighter weight subject matter. Lighter weight everything. Between learning everything I might ever need to know about the Holocaust and my mother’s policy of serious reading, nothing made me happier than the discovery of historical romance and science fiction. Maybe that was really the idea?

SOIL | DAILY POST

LIFE AS THE HOUSE FALLS APART

I just finished washing the dinner dishes in cold water. I always thought having hot water was a luxury and getting stuff clean was as easy with cold as hot water. I am here to tell you it’s not a luxury. It’s much harder to wash anything without hot water. But we don’t have any hot water. Until Wednesday, we are hot-water free. Today, the hot water heater blew up. It wasn’t old. We replaced it not long ago — a few years — and it was supposed to be a super-duper fancy one which would last for twenty years. I don’t think it survived for five. It did last exactly long enough to be past its warranty date.

Why is that the way it always is?

This is not my first house. I owned two in New York. Two in Israel. This is my third in Massachusetts. And of course, I grew up in an old house that was under constant renovation from the day we moved into it when I was four, until I moved out at age seventeen.

We did quite a lot of work on this house when we moved in. We put in drains, a sump, a pump. We replaced the roof, added vinyl siding. We’ve replaced all the toilets and sinks. All the floors. Front door and back door. The well … and the well-pump twice.

All the toilets and sinks need replacing again and we could use a new bathroom.


This all reminds me I have  finally beat the depression that stalked me most of my life. With all of this stuff going on, I’m not depressed. I’m upset. Worried. Frustrated and bummed. But not depressed. That’s a major change from my younger years. Although I have to say that a sufficient amount of worry can be surprisingly similar to depression. 

Why does everything happen at the same time? Is there some kind of law about this?

My theory is that all houses are money pits. Something always needs doing. When you don’t have resources, you wait. Hope by the time whatever it is goes critical, you’ll be in better shape. Time passes and you know you must do whatever was at the top of the list — in our case, the front door.  The water heater was not on the list because we replaced it a few years ago. Surprise!

But mostly, you knew something would happen. Problems accumulate. When you don’t have money, you wait and hope a day comes when you will be able to manage it. As far as that goes, we are better off than we were five years ago and a lot better off than ten years ago. But the difference is not very large. There’s busted and not quite busted.

Garry, who never owned a house before, is freaked. I, who have owned houses, am bummed and wondering how we will do this stuff. It’s not like we have a choice, either. We need hot water. Oh to have real incomes so we could just take out a loan and be able to pay it back.

I feel kind of stunned, probably because Garry had — just a few minutes ago — asked me the fatal question.


“So … what else is going to happen”?

The hot water heater popped.

Never ask that question. It’s right up at the top of things you should never think, much less say aloud. Akin to “what could possibly go wrong?” This is an evil question that is guaranteed to bring down the wrath of the household gods.

MID JULY ODDBALLS – AND IT’S STILL RAINING

Cee’s Odd Ball Photo Challenge: July 16, 2017


Home again

I think I’ve taken more pictures indoors this year than ever before. Our granddaughter was here earlier to show off her new (old) car and we talked about going shooting.

“If it ever stops RAINING,” she said.

We get a couple of nice days … then it rains for a week. Remember how 10 days ago I went out to the garden and clipped back everything? It is now more overgrown than it was before I clipped it. Unbelievable. The entire tractor is overgrown with Virginia Creeper.

Gibbs cartooned

And butterflies! There was a tiger swallowtail and something that perfectly matched the orange lilies. I have to look it up. Black wings with a bright orange stripes along the base and two tail like projections on the top of the wings, also orange. No, I didn’t have a camera. Kaity and I looked at each other and we had that look you get when you’ve got a couple of photographers, the world is full of butterflies — and no one has a camera.

The colors of the closet