The Big Think

June 6, 2006


Filed under: Technology — jasony @ 11:42 am

Update on the Roomba. Yes, it arrived yesterday, and yes, the Fedex guy didn’t even ring the doorbell. I wonder how much stuff Fedex has to replace because it gets stolen? Good thing I was looking out the door every three minutes. 🙂

We unpacked the vac and set it on its charging station for the recommended 16 hours. Why, oh why, do the tech gods taunt us so? It’s hard enough waiting for the delivery truck to drop off our new gizmos, but to suffer the indignities and hardships of having to wait for the batteries to charge is just too cruel. A guy can only read the instruction manual so many times.

So this morning we got up and eagerly hit the “max” button. We spent the following 90 minutes following the little green monster around the house and dutifully “roboproofing” the spots where it had trouble. The tassles on the area rug in the living room seem to be the only place where it gets hung up. It also likes to catch the corner of the rug and dive under it. We laughed at it as it went scurrying beneath the rug and popped out the other side. Clearly we have to do something about that carpet.

The roomba eventually cleaned just about the entire downstairs, picking up an amazing amount of crud-and not just the obvious stuff. About 30 minutes into the job I stopped the bot and checked the debris container. It had a significant amount of grunge in there. Considering the fact that the bot had largely stayed on our carpet, we were really surprised at how much dust and dirt it managed to find. People online typically report the same thing: that the unit will pick up a ton of junk the first few times you use it, and from then on, as long as you use it regularly it will keep the dirt in check.

What amazed me was how single-minded it was about vacuuming one room at a time. It would occasionally find its way into another room, but it seemed like it realized that it hadn’t finished the job in the first room yet and would immediately scurry back there. Once it finished a room it went on to the next, and then the next. Uncanny. I checked online and iRobot says that they have programmed this behavior intentionally. I don’t see how it can be 100% certain that it’s in the same room, but the performance is impressive. There are even sensors around the front edge of the bump sensors that allow the bot to make a graceful turn around table legs without crashing into or scratching things.

We’re very impressed with our new little bot. Erin wants to take a short video of the roomba and the robomower both doing their jobs and post it online. I realized today that we’re living in the impossibly sci-fi future of the fifties. Robotic servants to do our housework as we wile away the days in leisure. I guess I have to go pour myself a Manhattan, put on my leisure suit and listen to bebop.

The Sport of Kings

Filed under: Humor and Fun — jasony @ 11:15 am

A new sport: Extreme Ironing.


Filed under: Games — jasony @ 9:23 am

My friend Jan gave me a copy of Square-Enix’s seminal RPG Final Fantasy X a while back. After sixty hours of play over several months, I finally finished this massive game. I used to think that games like this were childish and time wasting, but that’s like saying a thick book isn’t worth reading because there are other things you could be doing. The designers and storytellers of these games put as much thought into their work as the best authors or moviemakers, and the fact that they have such a large canvass, and a longer time to tell their stories, gives them the kind of pallet to paint some remarkable experiences.

FF:X had an epic thousand-year storyline, dozens of characters, a huge world to explore, and moral and ethical dilemmas worthy of Proust. I was sad to see it go and it ended in typical Japanese RPG fashion: poignantly resolving the moral dilemma with selfless sacrifice (think Glory or The Mission).
I told Erin how it ended and she said: Ah, just the way you like it.

I’m glad I played it.


Filed under: Quoth — jasony @ 9:15 am

Rejoice we are allied
To That which doth provide
And not partake, effect and not receive!
A spark disturbs our clod;
Nearer we hold of God
Who gives, than of his tribes that take, I must believe.

Then, welcome each rebuff
That turns earth’s smoothness rough,
Each sting that bids nor sit nor stand, but go!
Be our joys three parts pain!
Strive, and hold cheap the strain;
Learn, nor account the pang; dare, never grudge the throe!

For thence—a paradox
Which comforts while it mocks—
Shall life succeed in that it seems to fail:
What I aspired to be,
And was not, comforts me:
A brute I might have been, but would not sink i’ the
Robert Browning, expanded via Barryland (this was so good I had to repost it here. Thanks Barry!).

Welcome to The Big Think: where a post about video games is followed by nineteenth century English poetry.

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