Seattle, Washington The Season of Plugging

Having little or nothing to do with the looming pagan solstice holiday, I find myself with numerous products I want to talk about. So I’m lumping them all into one post.

Now and then, people send me free stuff. Sometimes it’s in appreciation for a mention on my site. And sometimes it’s in the hopes that I will mention it in the future. If the product sounds interesting, I accept it on the terms that I’m not going to mislead anyone about the circumstances in which it was received.

Sumo sent me an enormous bean bag chair. My first encounter with Sumo chairs was at the Penny Arcade Expo last year, where they were scattered by the dozens throughout the convention hall.

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I had an opportunity to take a couple freebies home after this year’s expo, but I brought Melissa to the show one day, and when she bore witness to images like this one…


…she became not-so-interested in allowing them into the house.

The Sumo folks were nice enough to work around that dilemma, and I now have two gigantic sacks of foam balls to sink into, untainted by prior exposure to smelly nerd ass.

The feeling is…decadent. They are preternaturally comfortable. They’re also great for playing videogames on and hurling small children into — I recently played Mattapult with my nieces and it served as a reliable crash site.

While I’m on the subject of PAX, which happened four months ago, I might as well dump out a few pictures from the event that I never got around to putting up.


Sweet nerd love.


Self-made. Brilliant.

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Melissa took the clandestine girls-in-skirts shots. I had nothing to do with them. Honest. But I did notice a pronounced generational shift in how the fairer sex engages with games and gaming culture. They weren’t dragged to the show by their boyfriends. I witnessed enthusiasm that was, to me, almost entirely unfamiliar.

…now before Melissa picks up the phone to yell at me, I should specify that there was no dragging involved and she went out of her own interest. Interest, though, is different from enthusiasm. These girls are a whole other species.


But to remind us how much things haven’t actually changed: here’s a panel on women in gaming…who are also hot.

There was a second panel on non-hot women in gaming. It was held at dawn in the parking garage.

Most of the people I saw at the show were doing this:


It’s an eerie thing walking through a crowd of people who are glued to individual screens and realizing they’re all actually interacting with each other…invisibly.


This is my friend, Dan, who works on Rock Band. Dan let me cut through the line so I could do a lot of this:


Speaking of Rock Band, I am typing right now with hands thoroughly calloused from excessive drum-playing. Likewise, my feet will never know the comfort of sandals, for they are fancy and blister easily. No matter how warm the climate, no matter how casual the attire, I am resigned to a lifetime of sock-wearing. So I said yes to a shipment of PowerSox. They are quite good. The wooly ones are super-cozy and I have not yet gotten over the novelty of "Left/Right Technology."

World Nomads gave me free travel insurance. I’ve never actually made a claim, so I can’t comment on their service, but the rates are good and their policies are explained in plain, straightforward language on the site. When my policy ran out, I paid to renew and I recommend them to anyone who asks.

Now a couple things that weren’t given to me for free:

The Body Bugg. I only learned about this a couple days ago. I cut the salesperson off five seconds into the pitch, as I’ve been waiting for it most of my life. It’s a device you strap onto your arm or leg that determines how many calories you burn on a minute-to-minute basis throughout the day. It measures movement, skin temperature, moisture, and heat dissipation and stores all the information internally. You connect it to a computer with Bluetooth and it uploads all your data to a site.


The site shows you exactly how much energy you burned during all your daily activities. Walking the dog, as it turns out, requires about the same exertion as getting on an elliptical machine, only it’s way less pointless.

You can also enter all the food you ate during the day on the site. It calculates calories in versus calories out and tells you your surplus or deficit for the day. Maintain a 500 calorie deficit every day for a week, and -POOF- you’ve lost a pound.

It takes a nebulous concept that requires commitment and discipline and turns it into a dorky little game that I can obsess over.

After three trips to Africa, I’ve become skeptical about charity. It’s a big, messy, complicated subject. Best not to get me started. But here’s an idea that blows me away and kinda has my hopes up: One Laptop Per Child.

They initially set out to make a $100 laptop to give to children in developing countries. They failed at that goal. It’s a bit more expensive. But let’s cut them a break, k? They packed a whole lot of good stuff into this thing.


What impresses me is how thoughtfully designed it is. They clearly got a lot of good input and actually listened to it. Rather than cutting corners to reach an unreasonable price point, they included software and features that will make it a genuinely useful tool — not to mention durable and hopefully fun.

The thing runs on a ridiculously small amount of power — maybe 1/10th of what the laptop I’m typing this on is consuming. And for homes and schools that don’t have electricity, there’s even a hand crank and several other options for manually generating electricity.

Now, mind you, I haven’t actually played with one yet. I’ve scoured the site and wishful thinking has filled in the rest. But look at the suite of open source software being designed for it and consider the possibilities. This stuff enables, enhances, and encourages creativity of all sorts; whether it’s drawing, music, writing, programming, animation, or a dozen other things. Every computer should have these applications built into them.

Another great thing they’re doing: Give One Get One, which only lasts until the end of the year. You pay $400 and they send one laptop to a child in one of their trial countries and a second laptop to you to keep or give as a gift. I bought one for my nieces for Christmas. Obviously they’re not going to be using the hand crank much, but the bright, welcoming outer case is a plus and the spill-resistant keyboard will probably come in handy.

Look, here’s the thing, technology can obviously be used to enrich lives or drain them of value. I don’t want to see kids in Uganda playing CounterStrike all day and getting fat and lazy like the rest of us, but this thing looks like it has potential.

I’m still about a month away from the next leg of my trip. Just getting started with the planning for Asia. I will hopefully have my map page ACTUALLY WORKING AND ACCURATE by that time.