I got a Chumby! It arrived just in time for my birthday – yay!! It’s the new “Pearl” (2009) model, and it’s so freakin’ cute I can’t stand it. And it’s squeezable. And for those who don’t know, it’s basically a small, touch-screen, WiFi-enabled computer, with speakers, all sewn into a padded leather bag. It displays a rotating set of animated applications called “widgets”, which you can select and configure from the chumby.com site. So, aside from being what I think is the world’s coolest alarm clock, it also does things like displaying news feeds, weather forecasts, my friends’ flickr photostreams, and my friends’ Facebook photos. So it’s a digital picture frame, but it goes out and grabs all the newest pictures automatically. It plays audio (Pandora, SHOUTcast, and other streaming audio, plus anything on your iPod, plus anything on your own server/network), and video, and games (via the touch screen and tilt sensor). And it’s open-source, so you’re welcome to hack the software, write your own widgets for it, or even hack the hardware or the casing.
Primarily, I got it to replace my latest broken clock radio. After almost a decade of dealing with one crappy alarm clock after another – some cheap, some expensive, and none capable of decent FM radio reception in our apartment – I broke down and decided that I was going to just buy The Mother of All Alarm Clocks, capable of streaming internet radio, and infinitely extensible/configurable in software, just so that I might never have to buy another clock radio again as long as I live. Everything else was going to be a bonus. As it turns out, I got quite a bonus. After a couple of weeks, I can honestly say that I just love the chubby little thing to bits…
If you want to play with my Chumby – well, no. So far I haven’t allowed anyone to touch it. It is… my precious. HOWEVER, there is a way… The fine folks who make the Chumby will let anyone create (and share) a VIRTUAL Chumby. So, just by copying some code into this blog post, I’m able to share my Chumby with the world. The widgets that display my personal info (or yours, if you’re one of my social network pals) won’t do so in the virtual version, for obvious privacy reasons, and you can’t really interact with it (touchscreen, squeeze button, tilt sensors) the way you could with a real one. But otherwise, this virtual Chumby is a pretty good copy of the one sitting in front of me (except that mine’s Pearl, and this one is Mocha), and shows you some of the same widgets that I actually see here! If you wait a bit, you’ll see it cycle through different widgets. And if you see that cowbell widget, be sure to click it for MORE COWBELL!
In other news, back in October, Em and I passed our US Sailing Basic Cruising certifications! That means we can now charter sailboats (under 30′ in length) from our sailing club, OCSC. We took our friends Matt & Jocelyn sailing on Saturday – my very first charter! We sailed on Sunday, too, with our friends Benjamin and Sabrina – they’re the ones who got us started on all of this (thanks, guys!), and they’re also Basic Cruising certified, so Benj was our skipper on Sunday. There wasn’t much wind this weekend, but it’s still amazing to just be out on San Francisco Bay in a sailboat… If you’re in/near San Francisco, hit me up – maybe I’ll take you sailing! Failing that, try listening to this YouTube clip – it might put you in the same state of mind.
Here’s something I’ve been meaning to post since our trip to Laos – it’s from an early episode of King of the Hill, where Hank and his friends meet their new neighbor. [King of the Hill may have a monopoly on pop culture references to Laos.] Em and I have been quoting this bit of dialogue forever (okay, me far more than Em), since it’s so very funny, because it’s so very sad-but-true. It took me ages to find the clip on YouTube, and then I used the very cool splicd to present you with just the relevant portion of that clip: http://splicd.com/MPrQpZnJgVA/44/70
It gets even better. I was never able to reliably tell (e.g.) Chinese people from Japanese people, from Korean people, from Vietnamese people, from Laotian people, et cetera. I was somewhat amused to discover that, at least anecdotally, residents of those places aren’t necessarily any better at that game than I am. Everywhere we went in Vietnam and Laos, people correctly guessed that I wasn’t from around there, and then incorrectly guessed where Em’s ancestors lived. So there. If you want to have a go at this silly game yourself, visit the very funny http://www.alllooksame.com/ – it’s a fun way to waste a few minutes. Personally, I think the world would be a better place if we didn’t make quite as many assumptions about nationality based on appearance, and if we discarded the notion of “race” altogether. [Of course race still exists (for better and worse) as a social/political construct, but the idea of an objective, scientific basis for race has been pretty well discredited for quite some time now. I do wish that more people understood that...]