Media American

Street Tech cofounder Peter Sugarman’s wife, Linda, died of cancer one year ago today. Our condolences to him and to all who knew and loved Linda. Peter sent me this little piece via email and I thought it might resonate with others here who know the power of panel lines, word balloons and india ink.

The answer I give, if asked my political persuasion, is “Media American.” I’m all about the story, what it tells, how it’s told. I make mention of the Media Gods, because I actually believe that my Higher Power talks to me through the mass media: movies, TV, country music, and comic books.

Back in 2004, there was this one particular high-tone comic book called Identity Crisis. They brought in a novelist to write the thing. It dealt with some pretty mainline DC superheroes: Green Arrow, Flash, Atom. The Elongated Man (a.k.a. Ralph Dibney) was central to the tale, as he felt most keenly the cost and loss that drove the story. His darling wife, Sue, was murdered.

For those of us who read them, comic books are real. This was all that and more: the shock of her death, the crushing loss to her husband Ralph, the abrupt emptiness of his life. At the funeral, he was so broken down, he was not able to hold onto the cohesion of his face. His power, after all, is his ability to be pliable. Literally holding himself together was all that he could manage.

Still, Ralph is a hero. Not only that, a detective. He throws himself into the pursuit of the killer. But he is also a man bereft, stunned by grief. He’s not sure how to live, how to relate to the woman who chose him above all others, who shared his life, who is now gone and not coming back. Green Arrow, who had himself died and come back (something not all that uncommon in this particular universe), gives him counsel. “Talk to her. Listen to me — I know. Talk to her, Ralph. She can hear every word.”

The killer, unsuspected and one of their own, is found out. More cost, more loss. The hard choices, and the consequences of choices made, play out. The story comes to a close in the bedroom of Ralph Dibney, Adventurer, Detective, Widower. Ralph’s always been a bit of a joker, has a pretty good sense of humor. He’s telling (his dead wife) Sue a joke, a bad joke, but well told. He does not accept her silent protest, that she’s heard this one before. “How do I know? ‘Cause I’m your husband, that’s…” He pauses, listens, understands that she has to go, tells her not to worry. They’ll speak later. He tells her he’ll talk to her tomorrow. He tells her goodnight and elongates his arm to click off the lamp over on her bedside table. The next panel is black, the bedroom dark. There is a final word balloon, one that has no “tail,” so we’re not sure who said it. “I love you, too.” Is it Sue (gone on) or Ralph (left behind)?

I can tell you this. It does matter. It is true any way you look at it. It is true, and comforting, and sad, and it is why we tell stories. And THAT is why I am a Media American.

The INQ’s Unique Graphics Card Buying Guide

The “science” of benchmarking computer processor performance has always been a dark art, with so many innocent variables and so much nefarious results-fixing that it’s almost impossible to trust what you read. The UK’s Inquirer tech zine has taken an interesting approach to try and figuring out which graphics chip/card delivers the most bang for the buck by averaging all of the benchmark results published in popular tech journals and websites. If there’s anything close to fairness in this market sector, this approach may be the way to find it.

MagLED Conversion Kit

Like most self-respecting geeks (along with Coppers and EMTs), we love the Maglite flashlights here at Street Tech Labs. But, we love the superbright LEDs, too, something Maglite doesn’t offer…yet. But now you can have your peanut butter and your chocolate in the same confection ( to speak), thanks to the TerraLUX LED Replacement Kit. It replaces the bulb on your Mini-Mag with an LED that offers 20 Lumens of bright white light, has a focusable beam, and unlike the typical incandescent bulb, won’t burn out or break when you drop the light. Of course, at US$20, the damn thing costs almost twice as much as the Mini-Maglite itself. Maglite is also rumored to be coming out with an LED version soon, but if you can’t wait, have your credit card standing by and click here.

[Via Kevin Kelly’s Cool Tools]

Garmin Launches New Wrist, Handheld, Car GPS

Following up on the success of the Forerunner line, Garmin has introduced a new unit – the Forerunner 305. This has a much sleaker look than previous units, and can be easily used for biking, running or other sports. It has a heart-rate monitor like the 301 it replaces, and updated GPS receiver hardware that makes it quicker to acquire a signal and more accurate. Price around US$375 (!).

Garmin also introduces a new version of the Palm OS-based GPS, the iQue 3000. The new version is slimmer, has a more custom look and a lower price of around $400.

The Nuvi is the latest car navigation system from Garmin, and it looks like a solid entry with USB and SD support, 700MB internal storage, 3.5″ screen, and MP3 playback. Price unknown, but you can follow the adventures of this little wonder in CES-land by checking its blog. That’s right, the Nuvi has its own blog. Nutty ad execs…what will they think of next!

Hello Kitty comes to the Nano

I see a red door and I want to paint it… pink and cover it with oodles of Hello Kitty heads! If you can’t get enough of the Kult of the Kitty and want to pimp out your nano with Hello Kitty cuteness, now you can. At least, Japanese school girls can, thanks to a series of Kitty-fied faceplates offered there. No word on if the Kitty skins will head Stateside.

[Via Akihabara News]

The Year in Charts and Graphs

It’s nice to know that good won out over evil in ’05, as this Google search graph on “the Force” vs. “the Dark Side” clearly shows. Yoda also proved he still had more schoolin’ to offer than Luke “Skywalker,” and when it comes to magical realms, we’ll take “Middle Earth” over “Hogwarts” any ole day.

These graphs are part of Google’s Zeitgeist section, which shows search trends for the past year.

Wired’s Weird Robot Roundup

If you’ve gotten the Jan ’06 issue of Wired, you’ve seen that our favorite creepy robot, Albert Hubo, made the cover. The cover story is the “50 Best Bots Ever.” It’s a disappointing piece of fluff that’s got little to do with informing people on real world progress in real world robotics. First off, there are 15 fictional robots in the list. What is the criteria here? Most popular? Ceratinly not. Commander Data and the B9 from Lost in Space are not here. Most influential in real-world robotics? That doesn’t appear to be the case either. Cool factor? Well, there’s no Bender from Futurama or Rosie from the Jetsons.

More significantly, there’s no mention of BEAM robotics anywhere, no Robosapien, no Kismet, no COG, no DaVinci cart, no MyRealBaby, no Furbie, no Mecho-Gecko, no HelpMate, no swarm bots, no battlebots, no Heathkit Hero. In the grand scheme of robot evolution, aren’t all of these more important than Astroboy and Gort from “The Day the Earth Stood Still”?

Here’s to ’06!

2005 can kiss my shiny titanium and cobalt-chrome implant!. Here’s to a MUCH kinder, gentler 2006… and to gadgets that don’t suck.

Thanks for all of your support for Street Tech in the past year and look for bigger and better things for this site (including some cool announcements soon) in the year ahead.

May all your battery and signal strength indicators stay maxed…

Your pals at Street Tech Labs