Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Everything new is old . . . again

So what is a next generation console game? According to this BBC article, and the fine folk helming Halo 3, it's this:
We're expanding our ability to empower our fans to really take the game and make it their own.

Halo 3 will include tools to let gamers edit their own game movies and share them among friends, swap photographs from games, as well as re-build many of the maps the makers have provided, through a feature called Forge.
This sounds really cool, really innovative. Ground-breaking. Sort of a Web 2.0 vision of console gaming, that nobody has ever even conceptualized before, much less put on store shelves . . . Oh wait tic, maybe this has been done before. In fact, this is really just about game mod tools--which have been around at least since 1991 - with the Bard's Tale Construction Set. I personally didn't use the BCS, but I did play the Bard's Tale series a *cough* few times. And if I hop in my way back machine I can remember the Adventure Construction Set, also on my C-64 but back in 1985. I had this really cool Star Trek adventure where you had to repel a bunch of Klingon boarders and then storm their ship. But I digress. Granted, this is a bit different since it's difficult to build much of a developer community when the majority of people transfered files on a 5 1/4" diskette. But here's the thing:


Not that that's a bad thing--the market clearly is ready to support it, and would like to see it again.

Here's my takeaway on a professional level. Chances are excellent that whatever you're working on, it's been done before too. PBL for instance. You could say that it started with Howard Barrows in the late 60s and you'd be right, but whether or not he created it with a blind eye to educational theory it has clear conceptual ties to Dewey and the broader educational reform movement, and that's just taking one step back in time.

We are really good at putting our conceptual blinders on and forging ahead, perhaps covering territory that's already been done--which isn't a bad thing in and of itself, I'm a big fan of replication research, but when you replicate inadvertently, that's a very bad thing. In general, you want to tweak the design a bit--explore an outcome that the initial study didn't, or modify the intervention slightly. And the best way to move forward is to read what's already been done to help inform your replication work. Lit review, lit review, lit review. Probably the most glossed-over practicum experience in any doctoral program--which is bad since doc students produce such a huge amount of the primary research.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Annunciation is key

So, Deonne, Sarah, and I were at a PI conference in D.C. early this week up until the morning of 9/11. For the most part I didn't think about it too much. We did get a chance to walk the mall on 9/11 before our flight and decided to tour the capital building (where the senate meets). For those of you who haven't been, I highly recommend it, especially if you have someone with you who has been there before. All of the museums were free, as was the tour of the capital building, and there are some dang cool museums too (we went briefly into the holocaust museum, but only had about 45 minutes before we had to hop on the Metro). The Metro is very easy to work with (although I still managed to almost get on the wrong train just about every time--a special thanks to Deonne and Sarah for not letting me head out to the burbs. Oh, and the announcements left a lot to be desired, a bit like the speaker at the drive through).

Anyway, back to the capital building, they gave us what my colleague Kathryn DiPietro (who spent several years in Tennessee) would call a "come to Jesus" talk about the security measures. This involved saying in a loud and clear voice that we were not to leave any belongings in the capital building for any reason, and that we could not bring anything we could eat or drink into the building. This was backed up with very capable steely-eyed flat bellied professionals wearing sunglasses despite the clouds and rain, carrying rifles that (as Danny Vermin might say) could shoot through schools. So I'm a little nervous about the details, and even though Deonne was assured that gum was okay, I decided to confirm with one of said steely-eyed flat bellied professionals and asked "but gum's okay right?" at the second (of three!) checkpoints. Turns out that it's extremely important to emphasize the "m" in gum. Because it sounds a lot like "n" and I got a look (this one was not wearing sunglasses) that made me want to rethink my life.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Something is seriously wrong here

I had no clue about this but according to this article we've got PZEV (partially zero emission vehicles) being sold in 8 states that are illegal to sell in the remaining 42. Now, this isn't necessarily about improved gas mileage, but it is about clean air. As an example of just how clean the air can be:
As the California Air Resources Board has noted, the tailpipe emissions of these cars can be cleaner than the outside air in smoggy cities.
Which may not seem like a big thing here in cache valley, except when you think about our inversion, which can spike us to the top of the list for poor air quality. The cost looks to be about $400 for these cars, which IMO doesn't necessarily price people out of buying a new car, and that's assuming all those costs are passed on to the consumer. Honda, is partially eating these costs on the Accord, and I'm sure there's an economies of scale issue here--if they weren't building two of the same vehicle, and were building more PZEVs that cost should come down. So why I ask you, can't we legalize these vehicles in all 50 states? Better yet, why can't we mandate them? We have the worst vehicle emissions standards in the developed world. Bar none. There are big clean air offenders like China who have cleaner vehicle emissions standards than us, and I don't think we're doing our auto manufacturers any favors by keeping our standards low because their vehicles are often illegal to operate in other countries.

I'm so grateful that the clean air act is protecting us from the sub-humans who would actually attempt to buy a PZEV for use in a state that doesn't have these standards. I would shudder to think that anyone is actually trying to curb pollution.