Austin Zoo Review

The mighty Austin Zoo.

I knew it existed, but in 15+ years of living here I never went. I had heard too many times that “it’s just some rescued animals, like goats and stuff”.

It’s true, but the place is a lot nicer than I had pictured. And while there were some goats, they also had some pretty good animals: bears, lions, a senile tiger, wolves, alpacas… and by far the most enourmous, impressive, mutant pig I’ve ever seen. That alone was worth the 45 minute drive (yeah, it’s far from my house).

And for those of you who have two year old kids obsessed with trains: there’s a little train you can ride!

Two thumbs up.

Selfie from the train. The ride is pretty long, as far as little train rides go. About 10-15 minutes.
It’s hard to tell by the photo, but that pig is basically the size of a smallish rhinoceros.
Ilán and Lucas looking for the missing tarantula.
A bear.
Lion (left), myself (middle), Ilán (right).

Early vote

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¡En español!

Yesterday morning I exercised my newly acquired right to participate in the American democratic process.

This year’s choice was especially difficult, since none of the candidates is a demagogue that praises brutal foreign dictators, denigrates women, brags about sexual assault, demonizes immigrants from my country, denies scientific knowledge, nor provides a platform for white supremacists to come to crawl out of their holes.

The process was exceedingly easy. Voting station was in the library by my house. All you had to do is follow about 200 signs like the one below, positioned 12 inches apart, to the polling station. Only two people ahead of me in line.

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There were so many of these signs, that when I arrived I joked out loud: “Is this where we’re supposed to vote?” I thought it was funny. Everyone else disagreed.

You vote on these machines that were probably state-of-the art back in the Bill Clinton vs George H. W. Bush. Not hard to use for me, but definitely something that would confound my mom. Doing a write-in must be especially rough, kind of like typing on a new Apple TV. Good thing “Mickey Mouse” is not that long of a name.

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Conveniently located in a corner outside the library: a taco truck! Delicious!

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To Our Boy on Your Birthday

Happy 2nd birthday to our beautiful little weirdo, who loves cauliflower but hates berries, whose favorite car color is brown, who can seamlessly shift between three languages in the same breath and never mix them, who takes care to translate everything Papi says in Spanish into Hebrew for Mami and vice versa, who runs and plants huge kisses on us out of the blue, who suggests his cheek as a suitable alternative when Papi asks to eat his pulke, who is so insanely intelligent beyond his years that we often shake our heads in wonder at one another, who makes us laugh daily.

We love you so very much, little man. Happy second birthday!

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Separated at Birth? Ken Bone and Señor Barriga

The whole world tuned in to the Second US Presidential Debate and saw their faith in the human race decline steadily for two hours… until Kenneth Bone showed up to save the day.

But here’s my personal conspiracy theory: few realize that Ken Bone is actually a Mexican undercover agent with excellent fashion sense trying to steer the campaign away from crotch grabbing and towards taco trucks on every corner.

Specifically: Ken Bone is secretly Mexican tycoon  El Señor Barriga.

Judge for yourself:

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Happy 5777

Time flies… it feels like just yesterday it was 5710, barely a year after the founding of the State of Israel.

Ok, not really. But it will after you see these five Rosh Hashanah greeting cards (cartisei bracha)  from 1949. My mom found them in a box that belonged to my great-grandfather zeide Elias Zack. For the most part, these are well known photos, but it’s still cool to see in this format.

kartis-bracha-1949-1Let’s see if I can track down who these Yaffa, Nili, and Baruch Sandomirsky were.

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Here is a download link for all five as separate PDFs scanned at insanely high 600 dpi, in case you want them. If you do download, be nice and leave a comment? kartisei-bracha-1949

Velma is Living

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Velma is Living debut at Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar.

Velma is Living – A Neo-Noir Narrative Musical Adventure by director Dan Jimenez has come out (Facebook page). Great movie.

Also, it’s my movie acting debut, playing the part of Christopher Wayne Thomas: a rugged bar goer who mostly sits and cheers for the almost 10 seconds of on-screen time and has no talking lines. You may have briefly read about him here. Yes, I look amazing with that mustache. I used Stanislavsky’s system of acting and I think it shows. If only I were a member of the Academy, I might have a chance of an award. Most (all) of my scenes (the one) were shot last November.

In any case, I have no idea how you may watch it yet, so you will have to sit tight. I will update this post when I get more info.

Congratulations to the director and all the crew, and thank you for the opportunity.

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Playstation VR

I’ve played with the Oculus Rift, the MS Hololens (AR not VR) and the HTC Vive.

For completeness, I had to go check out a demo of Sony’s Playstation VR which was being demo’ed at a local Gamestop.

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Free demos!

The main difference between the Playstation VR and the Rift/Vive is that it works with the Playstation 4 gaming console instead of a high end (~$1500 and up) decked out gaming PC. The headset itself is cheaper too: $400 vs $800 for the Vive. So if you don’t have any pre-requisites, this is a much cheaper way to get into VR – and no, I don’t think of Google Cardboard as a viable alternative.

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Playstation and Move controllers not included.

The VR headset itself is slick, as one would expect from Sony. The way it sits on your head feels comfortable. There’s no elastic bands nor cushions involved.

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Flying a spaceship in VR.

They would let you play one out of five games, and that’s it. I chose to play Eve Valkyrie in which you get to fly a spaceship and have space dogfights. I had never played before, and the demo dude didn’t explain how to play, so I was on my own. This compares poorly to the Vive demos at Microsoft, where they guide you through a few very simple, very different games.

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The headset is much lighter and much cooler, as in it doesn’t have plasticky cushions on you face making you sweat.

But whatever, I got to fly a spaceship. You see yourself sitting in the cockpit and it wasn’t too hard, although I had no idea who I was shooting at. You can do barrel rolls and those made me a little sick. Interestingly, I felt mildly sick for a few hours and it was those barrel rolls. YMMV.

The headset seemed to be of good quality and the immersion and tracking seemed to be on par with the other systems in spite of the cheaper price and specs. But the fact that you can walk around in the Vive still sets it apart, in my opinion.

As ugly as it gets