The Crow's Dream

Philosophy, geekery, and the meaning if life, and what I read this week…

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The First Watch I Can Use

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Back in elementary school, my classmates wore calculator-watches. I used to gaze at them enviously knowing that I could not use them fully. As someone born without a left hand, my relationship with watches has always been one of love and limitation. Often, while looking at a feature list, I wouldn’t ask what the watch could do, but tried to figure out what I could do with the watch. My options were limited, since some operations required that I pressed two buttons at once with a non existent thumb and index finger. I actually ended up using a chest strap heart monitor instead of a wrist one because I simply couldn’t use the first option. Some of the watches I owned were beautiful, but difficult to put on. I broke many bands using my teeth to put them on, and don’t get me started with adjusting the time. I’d go the whole day displaying the wrong date rather than taking my time piece off, in order to avoid having to go through the ordeal of using my mouth in a public place to pull on the, by now chewed, leather band. I loved watches though, and because of that love I learned to accept that they were never meant, at least not fully, for people like me.

I heard about the Apple Watch for the first time during the “Spring Forward” Keynote. My main concern was wether or not I was going to be able to use the device. As I saw it, I had two options. One of them was to wear it on my left arm above the elbow. The other one was to ask my wife for help whenever I had to put it, and to use Siri for every other action. Neither one of those options seemed very appealing, but I was used to it. I assumed that, once again, I was going to have to figure out not what the watch could do, but what I could do with it. I figured that being able to tell, not only the time, but the state of my calendar, and to get notifications would be enough. I wasn’t angry or frustrated, because I was so used to watch makers not giving me a second thought, I didn’t think there was a problem.

On the day that I got my watch I went ahead and put it on. No big deal, I didn’t even think about it, but I didn’t need help. I didn’t have to bite the end of the band, or to ask someone to help me. I just wrapped it around my wrist and secured it immediately. Best of all, taking it off was as easy. Then, when I had to put in a passcode, I used my arm, and I was able to key it in on the first try. When I wanted to read something, using the end of my left arm, I could move the digital crown with the ease, and I was able to click the side button to send my wife a few taps, and even a rudimentary sketch. I’m fairly sure that Apple engineers didn’t think about me specifically, but I’d like to think that the idea of someone without full mobility would want to use their creation went through their minds at some point, and that thoughtfulness matters.

I use my watch to keep track of meetings, and to see notifications. I keep my to do lists, count calories, and capture stray thoughts with Day One (my favorite app). I love using pomodoro timers to keep on task too. And yes, I can access music and a calculator, though my headphones aren’t orange. I do use Siri a lot, but I do it because I want to, not because I have to. On mother’s day, I paid attention to the beautiful rural road on the way to the farmer’s market instead of looking at my phone the whole way. I only took it out to take a couple of photos. I am not going to review everything about the new device. It is a great watch, and it makes my life easier. It took only a couple of days for it to fully integrate into my workflow, and I enjoy having all the things I could never access before with any other watch, but updated and better.
It has been a little more than a week since I got it. I have been able to use every feature. 

As I was thinking about this post, I thought that I was going to have to mention that I couldn’t send my heartbeat to my significant other, but I figured out a way to create two points of contact on the screen, so never mind that. It is incredible that a complex machine, which normally adds difficulty to the user experience, has actually given me full access to a watch for the first time in my life. The funny thing is that it felt so natural, I didn’t realize how significant a change it was until a few days after I had been using the watch regularly, and began to remember my previous experiences. I am told that’s how design works. It doesn’t announce itself boastfully, it just fits into your life, and makes it better. 

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Written by Hector

May 20, 2015 at 3:13 pm

The Avengers: A Review

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Avengers was probably one of the best movies I have ever seen. It was a crowning jewel of Marvel’s cinematic renaissance, which has made the company a powerhouse over the past few years. It is hard to believe that Marvel went from almost disappearing, back in the 90s, to accompany that can make a superhero movie that is not only accessible, but also mind blowing, to geeks and mainstream audiences alike.

 Usually, when you watch a movie based on a popular franchise you hear from purists complaining about their beloved characters being modified in order to fit a director’s perception of what the mainstream will embrace. Invariably this type of storytelling leads to bland and boring moviemaking. Just think about this about the betrayal most fans experienced when it was announced that the Ninja Turtles were actually going to be aliens, rather than mutants. Avengers succeeded because Marvel had the guts to trust that a good story combined with their characters would be enough to please the audience. They were right. Shortly after the movie I received a text message from a friend whom I don’t think has ever read comic books as habitually as I do. The message read: “Amazing!” And I knew that he was talking about Avengers.

 Finally Marvel has done what me and my friends, back when we are 13 years old, only dreamt about, but never thought would be possible: A movie combining all of our favorite superheroes in the kind of extravaganza that only a genius or a 10-year-old dressed up in a superhero costume can dream about.

 While I haven’t enjoyed everything Joss Whedon has ever made, but the guy knows how to tell a story. Just ask the thousands of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans who followed the show in rapture until it ended. Mr. Wheaton took the by now trite alien invasion ploy and turned it into a multilayered drama that contained just enough romance, political intrigue, corrected development, and action to appeal to almost anyone who loves a good story. The timing in the movie was impeccable, and every actor, from the superhero team to the lowly waitress who gets interviewed at the end had enough presence to carry themselves next to each other.

To be honest, I thought that Chris Evans was not going to be able to pull off the role of Capt. America. I thought that Robert Downey Junior’s magnetic personality would overshadow his role, but he actually pulled it off. He comes across as a somewhat older, extremely idealistic, but gifted leader who knows how to take control of the situation and direct his team towards victory. My concern for Mr. Evans’ ability to pull off the role of Capt. America stemmed from Tobey Maguire’s rendition of Spider–Man. He was a great young Peter Parker, but when it came time for him to turn into smart the  Alec personality of Spiderman, he felt a little bit short. Chris Evans was a great young Captain America, but did not lose track of the character when it was time for him to be the older version of the icon we’ve all come to love and trust.

 As I said before, every other actor surpassed my expectations. Scarlett Johansson was unbelievable as the Black Widow, and everyone got enough screen time for the story to feel tight and organized. While I usually never watch movies more than once, this one will make its way into my collection as soon as it becomes available. Seeing the movie’s incredible success overseas makes me hope that producers and decision-makers in big media companies will see that it is quality storytelling, well-developed characters, and attention to detail that make a great movie experience. I am hoping that the incredible amounts of money the Avengers will generate will have a positive impact in the movie industry. Of course, some producers are just as likely to try and imitate the movie’s success by dissecting it and by trying to copy the elements that made it successful. The problem is that you cannot copy good storytelling. It has to come from a place of authenticity, not from focus groups only.

 I can wholeheartedly recommend the Avengers to anyone who wants a good yarn. And yes, you should stay after the credits.

Written by Hector

May 5, 2012 at 3:13 pm

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I Couldn’t Stop Watching This

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Written by Hector

September 3, 2011 at 2:17 am

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You are Responsible for Your Own Entertainment

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The most important thing my friend Roger ever taught me was that I am responsible for my own entertainment. He taught this to me while we waited for a panel at the San Diego Comic Con. I was bored and whining about it, my complaints must have grown pretty annoying, because he turned around and pretty yelled the saying that would become a dictum for the rest of my life “shut up, damn it! You are responsible for your own entertainment!”, yes, I thought I am responsible for my own entertainment.

This statement was empowering because Roger was teaching me that I could find ways to alter my mental landscape in spite of the circumstances around me. I could, for instance, choose to read a book or to contemplate the scenery around me, instead of freaking out about long waits of boring days. This is big stuff. Actually, according to this article, having the ability to control your attention may even delineate the difference between failure and success.

In a study created to determine if children could postpone gratification, by offering them one marshmallow now or two later, researchers found that there was a strong correlation between children who could delay gratification and their success later on in life. Here is a short excerpt:

What, then, determined self-control? Mischel’s conclusion, based on hundreds of hours of observation, was that the crucial skill was the “strategic allocation of attention.” Instead of getting obsessed with the marshmallow—the “hot stimulus”—the patient children distracted themselves by covering their eyes, pretending to play hide-and-seek underneath the desk, or singing songs from “Sesame Street.”

So that day truly changed my life. I’ve learned to distract myself when I need to do something difficult. I read on my stationary bike, or listen to audio books when I do chores. I try to enjoy the landscape, or just the feeling of sleepy relaxation when I am sick. I focus on the present with all of my might when I am doing something important. I listen to people to the best of my ability, and I listen to my thoughts for interesting patterns. Some times I catch myself sleeping while I’m awake, but I remind myself that I should I never, ever allow myself to be bored (unless I want to, which some times is fun). The world is too beautiful for that, but only if you pay attention to the things that matter.

Written by Hector

September 29, 2010 at 8:36 pm

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Mind Hacks: The mighty fortress of belief

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Here is an awesome article about belief. It might have subconsciously inspired my own. Though I didn’t get a chance to read it until today. Enjoy!

Mind Hacks: The mighty fortress of belief.

Written by Hector

July 5, 2010 at 4:43 pm

Librarians are my heroes!

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I was very moved and impressed by this:

I’m going to see if there is a way to contribute to this project, and I’ll let everyone know.

Written by Hector

October 3, 2009 at 5:32 pm

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Bad Retro

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I grew up watching Mexican Wrestler movies. Perhaps that is why I find Ed Wood so fascinating. There is something about retro that enchants me, and I’m not talking about bad retro here, because there is plenty of that, no, I am talking about horrible retro. For some reason, it  seems to me like the people who made all of those terrible movies were actually having fun with the process, regardless of the results they afforded them.

It really takes a lot of courage to put on a mask and to go out in to a ring when you can’t wear a shirt, and all you have for protection is a little silver cape, especially when facing vampire wrestlers. It’s almost as humiliating as presenting a movie where you have to use the same obviously fake settings over and over again, in order to create stories that may seem incomprehensible to the rest of the world, but  the original Star Trek has a following.

Maybe I love these movies because they transported me as a child despite their lack of polish. Maybe the fact that I could recreate them in my own backyard did the trick. I don’t know, but I suspect that I enjoy them because they demand that I surrender myself completely to them. They also give me permission to not take them seriously, because their only aim is to amuse me. I love the fact that we can be absolutely engrossed by a simple story, no matter how basic it is. I love the “beginners mind” displayed by these films.

I do enjoy art and literature, don’t take me wrong, but tin foil aliens will always have a place in my heart.

Written by Hector

September 4, 2009 at 9:15 pm

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