From C. Lee, and this is an excellent read: Sebastian Seung’s Quest to Map the Human Brain
. Also, and this is quite clever: XCOM Ballet
. One more, and it's terrific: Kurt Vonnegut graphed the world’s most popular stories
From Geoffrey Engelstein, an interview with the designer of Risk Legacy: PRACTICE 2013: Rob Daviau
From Gridiron Solitaire Artist And Ideas Man Fredrik Skarstedt, and this is some incredible card magic: Penn and Teller Fool Us // Shin Lim
From The Edwin Garia Links Machine, and this is an amazing discovery: Remains of English Jamestown colony leaders discovered
. Also, and this is quite odd, it's Why is the US still using a Nazi tall ship?
From Steven Davis, and it's more Action Park: The world’s longest inflatable waterslide is 1/3 of a mile long
Here's an article from Gus, written by Jonathan Quick, about elite NHL shooters: Elite Snipers 101
Ever wanted to see the exact other side of the world from your location? Thanks to a link from Meg McReynolds, you can: Antipodr - Find the other side of the world
. One more from Meg, and it's excellent: Reviewed: The CDs In The Used Car I Just Bought
This does not sound excellent at all: AP Investigation: Olympic teams to swim, boat in Rio's filth
. Also, and this is pretty fantastic, it's Sometimes the Best Photos Are the Ones That Don’t Make It Into Print
And Detroit is Here, Basically
We leave early Saturday morning. Gloria is staying home to take care of the tiny terror. I won't have access to my regular e-mail all week, so if you send me something, I won't respond until the 10th or later.
There's plenty of content written for next week that will auto-post while I'm gone, including a new Musiquarium from Chris Hornbostel.
Eli will be version 14.0 on Friday. It's hard to believe. And we have been so fortunate that he is still the same happy, warm kid he was ten years ago.
He's also a kangaroo. His trainer measured his vertical jump before his workout yesterday. Remember that he'd been measured after an introductory workout and his vertical was 26.5", but he was also tired.
Yesterday? 29.5". Yikes.
My vertical, when I was in college, was 29".
"I've got the family record now, old man," Eli said in the car yesterday, laughing.
"Yes, twenty-nine and a half with an asterik," I said.
"What? An asterik? Why?"
"I think Jason may have mismeasured by two to three inches," I said. "That's kind of a complicate device, and I thought I saw him make a mistake."
"Now that's just sad," Eli said, laughing.
"I'll remove the asterik when you hit thirty inches," I said. "Or when you dunk. You may dunk by the time you're fifteen."
"I may be taller than you by the time I'm fifteen," he said.
"With an asterik," I said.
Willie is Dead (your e-mail)
JL sent in an e-mail adding a new layer to the Willie is Dead e-mail:
A report on the economic reasons spam is almost certainly deliberately shoddy and unconvincing. I've seen it summarized as "if you're fishing for idiots use idiot bait."
Here's the paper: Why do Nigerian Scammers Say They are from Nigeria?
Here's an excerpt:
Far-fetched tales of West African riches strike most as comical. Our analysis suggests that is an
advantage to the attacker, not a disadvantage. Since his attack has a low density of victims the Nigerian scammer has an over-riding need to reduce false positives. By sending an email that repels all but the most gullible the scammer gets the most promising marks to self-select, and tilts the true to false positive ratio in his favor.
Framed that way, it makes perfect sense. You could apply this to almost anything.
In other news, Willie is still dead.
Ten minutes? That's Barely an Intro
Ian Jalbert saw my Starcastle and raised me Transatlantic:
Introducing the first album from the band Transatlantic
(released in 2000), who began as a sidegroup of several prog rock bands:
1. "All of the Above"
I. "Full Moon Rising" (7:11)
II. "October Winds" (5:54)
III. "Camouflaged in Blue" (5:22)
IV. "Half Alive" (2:02)
V. "Undying Love" (3:57)
VI. "Full Moon Rising (Reprise) (6:33)" 31:00
2. "We All Need Some Light" (Neal Morse) 5:45
3. "Mystery Train" 6:52
4. "My New World" 16:16
5. "In Held ('Twas) in I" (Gary Brooker/Matthew Fisher/Keith Reid, arranged by Morse/Stolt/Portnoy/Trewavas)
I. "Glimpses of Nirvana"
II. "In the Autumn of My Madness"
III. "Look to Your Soul"
IV. "Grand Finale" 17:21
Yes, two of the tracks are split into segments because the songs are so long!
Okay, a thirty-one minute suite as the first cut on your first album--ambitious.
I'm listening to it right now, and while I don't like it nearly as much as Starcastle, I respect the half hour:
Unsuitable for Boarding (the big little cat post) and There's Been a Starcastle Sighting
Yes, I'm combining cats and prog rock today. Stir well.
"I'm picking up Gracie today," Gloria said about noon.
"You are? That's great!" I said. She just had surgery two days ago.
"Well, not exactly," she said. "The vet said she was 'unsuitable for boarding'."
"Uh oh," I said.
"She's started howling and hissing at anyone that gets near her," Gloria said.
"Seven and a half pounds of unchained fury," I said.
Apparently, she managed to terrify everyone at the vet hospital. Behold the great beast!
Since she is apparently banned from boarding, Gloria is staying here while we go to Detroit. I think she would have stayed, anyway, because she didn't want to board her so soon after surgery. Cats are usually fine if someone comes by once a day and feeds them and cleans litter boxes, but Gracie needs closer attention right now.
I had to go pick up a few things at the pet store for Gracie's crate, and on my way home I was listening to Sirius XM--the Deep Tracks channel.
It's a great channel for hearing songs that you haven't heard in decades.
Then I heard a song and I couldn't believe it ever existed. I'd forgotten it existed, actually, but as soon as it started playing I remembered.
The band was named "Starcastle." Starcastle was a bunch of guys who thought they were in Yes combined with a keyboards player who thought he was in Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Plus sometimes the drummer thought he was in Rush.
It was ridiculous, but it was amazing, too. The first song off their first album was ten minutes long.
It was ridiculous, but in sort of a great way. Who does that? Who would even try that?
It's called "Lady of the Lake."
Over ten minutes long and entirely unapologetic. You can listen to it here:
Starcastle - "Lady Of The Lake"
Willie is Dead
The post title was the subject line of an e-mail I received yesterday.
This is my second letter to you, once more my name is Barrister LOUIS ERIK HANS I am the personal attorney to Mr. Willie who died few years ago, May his gentle soul rest in peace, Before his death, he deposited One Trunk Box/Diplomatic Personal Treasure, containing the sum of $8.700.000.00 (EIGHT MILLION SEVEN HUNDRED THOUSAND U.S. DOLLARS ONLY) with a security company here in The Netherlands.
Periods are in desperately short supply in the Netherlands, so expensive that only the financial elite can afford them.
I do particularly like that "Willie" refers to "Mr. Willie".
I think I've aged twenty years in the last two weeks, but the new version of GS art--absolutely all the art--has been put into place. All the coding to support it has been done. A build is out to the beta testers.
Screenshot of the new announcer panel:
The one thing I'd still like to do is revise the crowd. The little rectangles are cards themselves, ostensibly, but I don't know if anyone is buying that. Trying to make a crowd is remarkably difficult, though--the tiny size of each fan makes it very difficult to create "people" images that work in that space.
With Gracie just having had back surgery, it's looking less likely that Gloria will be going with us to Detroit (goalie camp) this year.
We always go together, so it's difficult.
"I know this is ridiculous, but I'm afraid that you guys will have a great time without me," Gloria said. "Then you'll move to Michigan by yourselves." She kept talking, and while she was talking, I pulled out my cellphone. "What are you doing?" she asked.
"Texting Eli," I said. "OPERATION WANDERER cover has been blown. Deny everything."
"Ha ha," she said.
It's utterly insane around here right now, so apologies for the small amount of content.
I'm trying to get the new test build out (just uploaded it) so the beta testers can see all the new graphics and try to break something. That's been an exhausting effort for the last week or so--for Fredrik, too, because he has tirelessly created and revised so that everything looks just right.
Plus, our poor little cat Gracie had back surgery today, believe it or not. She had been walking around with her tail down, then she couldn't control her left leg. She had a severely herniated disk in her back that resulted in 90% compression of her spinal cord (I think that's what they said).
I never said I would pay for a cat to have that kind of surgery, but she's only 10 and we all love the little annoyance. Eli 13.11 is very, very close to both our cats. So hopefully this will help stabilize her and she can resume knocking things off counters.
Eli has been a counselor in training at magic camp this summer. Today, one of his campers (who I think is about six) gave him a little puppet of himself. Have a look:
Big smile: check. Hair flow: check. Giant shoes: check. Juggling balls in hand: check.
More German Industrial Facilities Made Into Resorts
Should I have added an exclamation point to the title? I think so!
This is from Jan-Willem:
The Tropical Islands Resort isn't the only industrial facility in Germany to be made into a resort. In the '90s an unfinished nuclear reactor was turned into an amusement park named "Kernwasser Wunderland" (Nuclear Water Wonderland). It's still open, and apparently receives about 600,000 visitors per year, though they have sadly renamed it to the generic "Wunderland Kalkar". I think I saw commercials for it on Dutch tv in the early '00s, when it still had the original name.
List of Attractions
Leading off this week, from Frank Regan, and this will always be my favorite computer, advanced for its time by almost a decade: The Amiga is 30 years old today
From Craig Miller, and 360 degree videos are very, very cool: Samsung 360° GearVR Trailer
. Also: WARCRAFT: Skies of Azeroth
From Steven Davis, and this is both relatively useless and extravagantly wonderful: Franz Liszt’s La Campanella played on a glass harp
. Next, and this is fascinating, it's Surprising Applications of the Magnus Effect
. This is absolutely stunning: Red Lipstick Resurrected
. I have no words for this next link: An Abandoned Indonesian Church Shaped Like a Massive Clucking Chicken
. One more, and it's tremendous: 1810 – Automaton Trumpet Player – Friedrich Kaufmann (German)
From The Edwin Garcia Links Machine, and this is an obscure bit of history: KLM’S ARCTIC AR-10
From jdv, and this is a full-on Star Wars alert, discussing the use of miniatures in the prequels: Practical Effects in the Prequels- Sets, Pictures, Models, etc.
From C. Lee, and what a fascinating article: The U.S. court system is criminally unjust: How your weight and the time of day can decide the outcome of your court case
. Here's how to break a car window when you're trying to save yourself, not someone else: Break a Car Window with a Headrest in an Emergency
. Next, and this is important news for lots of us: A 2-Minute Walk May Counter the Harms of Sitting
From Marc Klein, John Urschel is all kinds of awesome: For Ravens lineman John Urschel, math and football equally important
Dogs and RISK
David Gloier sent in two notes.
First, about dogs in cars with the windows rolled up:
Please don't forget to mention dogs. If people see a dog in a car unattended, they need to break the window as well. Dogs only cool with about 10 percent of the efficiency we do, so time is even more of the essence.
Second, on RISK Legacy:
And Risk Legacy just
appeared again today in multiple online stores...apparently Hasbro did do
another print run despite denying it to email requests! Go get it!
There's an RPS post
today about a new game called "Bounty Train". Here's a description from the developers:
Bounty Train is a complex, tactically challenging game. The player has to keep many balls in the air — dealing with real time skirmishes with bandits, trading good for the best prices, resource management, train optimization and keeping the line (and train) in good repair. In addition, Bounty Train confronts the player with historical events, from the onset of the Civil War to the assassination of Abraham Lincoln — and depending on player choices and performance, the course of history may be changed.
Well, I'm in. That sounds excellent. A dash of FTL in there doesn't hurt.
I'm still baffled why there aren't more games in this time period, particularly during the Gold Rush era. That's a perfect era for a game, a roguelike where you travel West to try to find your fame and fortune. Titled with appropriate foreshadowing, something like A Fortune In Gold.
Someone make that game, would you?
RISK (your e-mail)
This is an e-mail from Braden after the RISK post last week:
If you guys are enjoying Risk, you should try and track down a copy of Risk Legacy (looks like it's getting harder to find...), which Hasbro put out a few years ago. It plays as a quicker, leaner version of classic Risk, but in a 'campaign' format, like a RPG - you play 15 times on the same board and then the game is over.
In the box are sealed compartments with different criteria to open them, as you play the game you'll be 'unlocking' more rules and cards that flesh out the world and each faction so that future games reflect past decisions. The board gets stickers placed on it by players, as well as written on permanently. At the end of 15 games no one else will have a board like yours. (you can keep playing, it just doesn't change)
I played with three of my friends over the course of a few months and it was one of the best board game experiences I've ever had. If you research it, watch out for spoilers!
Here is a good non-spoiler review:
RISK Legacy review
That review is pretty fantastic. And I received at least half a dozen e-mails recommending this version of the game, even though it's out of print.
We were actually playing RISK Black Ops, because Julian Murdoch--in one of the nicest moments ever--got me a copy (it was a limited edition with only 1000 printed). I'd been sitting on it for years, waiting for Eli 13.11 to be interested.
We play a strange variant, though. Unless one of Eli's friends is over, we play four-person with just the two of us and have a country draft. So you can get in odd situations where you need to attack one of your two selves in order to secure needed territory. What it does do is make a two-person game much, much more interesting.
We don't actually use some of the rules in this edition of the game, but the addition of cities is a major improvement and we do use them.
I'd forgotten how much fun I had playing RISK in high school. It's just nice time, moving armies around, rolling dice, and talking smack.
Kids in Cars
I saw a video this morning about what to do when you see a kid inside a locked car with no adult around. Because it takes five minutes, I'm going to save you about three minutes and summarize it for you.
First off, you don't have much time. The temperature in a car can rise over 20F in five minutes. Locked cars parked in sunlight can reach temperatures of 170F, incredibly.
Babies and small children aren't able to regulate their body temperatures as well as adults, so they're basically helpless in a situation where temperatures are rising rapidly.
Here's the important part. If you need to break a window (and if you can't find the parent immediately, you might well have to), don't waste your time pounding on the center of a window. That's where it's strongest.
Instead, run to your car and get a tire iron. Go to the opposite side of where the child is sitting. Hit the window where you see the red dot below:
That corner/low spot is the weakest part of the window. If you hit the window in the center with a tire iron, it will still take many attempts before the window breaks. If you hit in the very low corner as illustrated, you can do it with one or two swings, usually.
I haven't seen anything about kicking in the window, but if there's no tool or anything else available, at least aim for the correct spot to give yourself a better chance.
Adam Sandler was on the Dan Patrick Show today.
Okay, I know Sandler's movies aren't really good anymore (some of the early ones were at least a guilty pleasure), but everyone says he's the nicest guy in Hollywood, and that counts for something. Anyway, during the interview he was asked about his first skit for Saturday Night Live (his first skit as an actor--he was also a writer).
It was called Sabra Price is Right
It was also incredible. Not for how funny the skit was, but because of the people in the skit:
I stopped watching SNL at least twenty years ago, but the concentration of talent on the show has, at times, been staggering.
Manuals (Blasts From The Past)
Tim Lesnick sent in these images last week:
Now that's a set of manuals that brings back memories. And the cloth map was fantastic!
Gridiron Solitaire #201: Screenshots of new version
Gloria and Eli 13.11 were in Shreveport Thursday-Sunday, so I had a window to put in all the new art Fredrik created in the last few months. Background screens, card decks, etc.
Putting in background screens sounds easy, but not when you have so many elements on each screen that need to be repositioned. It was a huge amount of meticulous (my least favorite) work. I didn't have a choice, though--that four-day window wasn't going to happen again, and goalie camp is coming up.
It wasn't easy, but I made it through. All background screens except one are in place now, and one of the two new card decks is in, along with all the code to support deck choice in the options menu. Fredrik is sending the other deck later today, and I requested a few small changes in the background screens.
What's left? There's a new scoreboard, and that's going to be an epic pain in the ass, because all the scoreboard elements have to be perfectly placed. Still, though, I've made a huge amount of progress, and hopefully the game looks substantially better.
Screenshots (and these are from the actual game, not mock-ups):
You'll see a little fuzziness in East/West in the next screenshot, but that's because East/West is part of the background graphic (as well as elements I place on the screen at run-time because the user can edit the division names). Fredrik's removing that and it will be clear.
Next are two offseason management screens:
That last screen, in particular, is much more dynamic than it was previously.
The button font has been finalized, but text fonts are still kind of in flux at this point (which is why you might notice that they're not completely consistent between screens.
I think a 95% complete version will be in the tester's hands before the end of this week.
Leading off this week, from Ken Piper, and what a story: The Mob's IT Department How two technology consultants helped drug traffickers hack the Port of Antwerp
. Also, and this is entirely strange: A Researcher Made an Organic Computer Using Four Wired-Together Rat Brains
From 3Suns, and this is just incredible: Earth Wind Map
. Next, a real-time map of hacker attacks, and it's mesmerizing: Norse Attack Map
From Brian, and this a tremendous article on A.I. evolution (actually, self-evolution): On the Origin of Circuits
From Mike Gilbert, and of course: The most dangerous amusement parks in New Jersey
. Hello, Action Park! Plus, there's this: WATCH: Action Park riders splash down world's longest water slide
From C. Lee, and this is also true for the interstate highway system: How railroads, highways and other man-made lines racially divide America’s cities
. Also, and this is a great story, it's How a precocious 11-year-old girl gave Pluto its name
. Next, and this is tremendously clever: A little known hack from Japan to get your notebook organized
. One more, and it's fascinating: Nearly every job in America, mapped in incredible detail
. Last one, and it's highly useful: The mathematically proven winning strategy for 14 of the most popular games
From Matt Kreuch, and if you ever wanted to mountain bike down a glacier, it's your lucky day: Megavalanche Glacier Carnage
From The Edwin Garcia Links Machine, and these are amazing images: Breathtaking ruins of the Soviet space shuttle program
. Next, and wow: The Really Big One: An earthquake will destroy a sizable portion of the coastal Northwest. The question is when.
This is a tremendously poignant article: 'Everybody Has a Killer in Their Family': Growing Up Black in West St. Louis
. And this is fantastically strange: America Used to Give Out Weird Participation Awards for Nuclear Tests
. DQ Reader My Wife was a big fan in her younger days: The Original Ghostwriter Behind Nancy Drew Was One of The Most Interesting YA Writers of All Time
From Steven Davis, and this is fascinating: Music Publishing Economics
Winding up this week, from Eric Higgins-Freese, it's How Did We Get to Pluto So Fast?
The Shortest Decade: Things Fall Apart
Yes, this is entirely to allow me to make a Chinua Achebe reference.
A reader who wishes to remain anonymous sent in this e-mail last week after the Friday link about people with disabilities. I haven't played the game he mentions, but I'm going to, and I can attest that he has always been a thoughtful and perceptive correspondent.
When I saw this thread (A powerful reddit thread reveals what it’s like to have a disability
), it immediately got me to thinking of
a game I played once. I was wondering if you might have heard of it. It’s
called “Katawa Shoujo”, and is a visual novel, a Japanese genre of game very
much like a choose-your-own-adventure book. Like many visual novels, it falls
into the category of “dating sim.” Essentially you play the part of someone who
has recently developed a disability, trying to adjust to his new life at a
school for the disabled.
The reason I ask is because the story of the making of
Katawa Shoujo is one of the most fascinating stories in all of gaming in some
ways. It was put together by a group of people from 4chan of all places, the
armpit of the internet. So you would expect it to be the most horrible thing
ever created by a human, full of crassness and cruelty. Somehow the exact
opposite happened. It is a frank, thoughtful, nuanced game that deals with
disability in a mature manner. I’m not sure I have ever been so surprised at
when I saw the result of the efforts of this bunch of people from the worst
community on the internet. Not only that, Katawa Shoujo is an amazing example
of what games can accomplish as an artistic medium.
The reason I bring it up is (and it shames me to say this),
in my life I’ve always been a little afraid of those with disabilities. I
wasn’t sure how to act around them, because I’d never known anyone with a
disability. It sounds simple to say “you act the same way you would with anyone
else,” like that’s the most obvious thing in the world, but I don’t think it’s
obvious at all. For all I knew there could be a whole etiquette around this,
and by acting normally I might do something extremely rude without meaning to.
Essentially, I was terrified of hurting someone’s feelings, so I just avoided
people with disabilities all together. It was something that had always
bothered me, but I didn’t know how to go about changing it, because if I asked
someone about it, I might end up hurting them inadvertently.
When I first heard about it, I immediately wanted to play
Katawa Shoujo, though I had never played a visual novel and thought “dating
sims” were pretty silly. It occurred to me that playing this game might provide
a safe environment for me to work through some of these issues that had always
bothered me, without the danger of accidentally hurting someone or asking rude
questions through ignorance. It worked like a charm. I got answers to my own
questions, and odd as it may seem, by spending a lot of time with these
characters, it desensitizes you to the discomfort a lot of people feel around
the disabled. By the end of the game you don’t even notice the disabilities
anymore, and you certainly don’t care about them. The cast are just a bunch of
characters you’ve come to care about and feel comfortable with. I honestly
think that Katawa Shoujo made me a better person, and playing through it and
feeling my own perceptions and attitudes changing was a powerful experience. I
say without hyperbole that it changed my life. I am eternally grateful to those
who made it, because it allowed me to fix some things about myself that I had
never liked, but wasn’t sure how to change.
The reason I wrote this email, though, was because this is
such a clear illustration of the power of games. They allow you to experience
things in a way that a book doesn’t, through agency and immediacy. By taking on
the role of the main character directly, a game’s experiences can be more
powerful than those you read about happening to a character in a book.
Moreover, their distance from reality can allow us to experience things safely
and comfortably that might otherwise be very frightening and uncomfortable for
us. Well, and also, because the story of such a thing, this strange, sensitive
work that came out of the bowels of 4chan is such a noteworthy one.
If you’re interested in reading more about it, I think this Kotaku
covers the high points well.
[He also sent in this follow-up later in the day]
First, as a “dating sim”, this
game does contain explicit material. As I recall there is an option to disable
adult content, which is common for this type of game. I would however be
hesitant to do so in the case of the Hanako story branch, since the most
powerful scene in the arc occurs during one of these sections.
Secondly, if I’m not mistaken,
the five arcs were written by five different amateur authors. As such they vary
widely in quality of writing. I’d say the Hanako arc is strongest, and the
Shizune arc the weakest, with the other three falling somewhere in the middle.
The Rin arc is probably very hit or miss depending on whether the reader has an
artistic bent, because it delves into that mindset a lot.
The Shortest Decade
Back in 2006 (I looked up the post), I bought six pairs of cargo shorts.
Single sourcing and whatnot. I wear shorts at least ten months of the year, and these shorts had so many pockets that I think I could sneak into Canada carrying two months of food with no problem.
Nine years later, they started getting holes. All of them, at roughly the same time.
"Well, I have to go buy shorts," I said last weekend. "Everything has holes. It's only been nine years, too."
"More cargo shorts?" Eli 13.11 asked, smiling.
"Why do you care?" I asked.
"Because if you buy more cargo shorts, I get to MOCK you for another decade," he said.
"Hmm, I like the sound of that, but no promises," I said.
I wound up going to the closest department store (Kohl's) by our house, because I'm lazy. Twenty minutes later (at most), I was back home.
"Wait, are you back already?" Gloria asked.
"I was buying clothes, not televisions," I said. "How much time do I need?"
"What did you get?" Eli asked.
"Well," I said, "because they were on sale at half price, I got five pairs--of cargo shorts. Commence mocking."
"Nice!" Eli said. "I look forward to that."
$25 a pair and all the same brand, but different colors. Still mostly tent-like. See you in 2024.
The Tropical Islands Dome
Last week there was a link to a story about the Tropical Islands Resort in Berlin, which is basically a tropical world built inside a massive dome. DQ Reader Patrick Harris sent in some excellent supplementary information.
past the building every few weeks when we're visiting my parents-in-law, and
I've been there once. What's not in the article is that the building itself has
a rather interesting history.
It was built around 1999-2000 on an abandoned Soviet
military airbase by a company called CargoLifter (it's still known as the
"CargoLifter Halle" here in Germany). The company wanted to build
huge airships for heavy transport duties. The building is not actually a
hangar, but a construction facility for airships, some of the largest that have
been built since the Hindenburg disaster. Inside was a cutting table that was
The CL160, the first airship to be built, was supposed to be
able to carry 160 metric tons of cargo. It would have been 260m long and was
supposed to be able to fly up to 10000km.
With the dot-com crash came the end of CargoLifter's
ambitions, and the company went bankrupt after building just one prototype.
It's considered to be the largest freestanding steel dome in
the world (there are no pillars inside). I believe that I had a flyer once that
showed that the Eiffel Tower could be put inside (if laying on its side), as
well as most skyscrapers around the World Trade Center.
About two years after CargoLifter went bankrupt, a Malaysian
company bought the building to develop the Tropical Islands resort. They claim
to be profitable, but many people have their doubts about that. In the
beginning, there were several problems. The most important was that all the
plants died, over and over again, due to the lack of sunlight. They had to
replace most of the outer shielding with a special UV-permissive membrane in
order to let more sunlight in. Heating the whole thing costs millions every
year. The building was designed for a sustained inner temperature of about 18°C
(they originally built 136km of floor heating just for that); now it's
constantly heated up to 26°C. The facility uses 1.3 megawatts of power. My
wife says the water is still not warm enough for her tastes. :-)
On Trademarks and Such
DQ Intellectual Property Advisor David Novak weights in on the Redskin trademark decision:
To answer your question, no, not exactly. In short,
the Redskins would still have common law trademark rights in their name and
logo as well as rights under various state laws. Having a federal registration
for a mark is certainly valuable (that’s why people get registrations), but it
is possible to enforce trademark rights without having a federal
registration. It’s just a little more complicated and expensive. As
funny as last season’s South Park episode Go Fund Yourself was, the law in it
wasn’t 100% accurate.
For an overview as to why there is a good possibility that
the trial court decision will be overturned and the Redskins will get to keep
their federal registration you should read this article by professor Eugene
Volokh. He’s a law professor at UCLA specializing in first amendment law
and has been following a similar dispute between the USPTO and a band
comprising five Asian-American gentlemen who want to register the name of their
band, The Slants: How an Asian American band name case may affect the Redskins trademark.
Standard disclaimer stuff: for information purposes only, doesn’t constitute legal
advice, there is no attorney-client relationship, blah, blah, blah.
Tennis and Other Smack
The smart talk goes in both directions when we play tennis.
I stand at the service line, waving my arms.
"Dad, what are you doing?" Eli 13.11 asks.
"Sorry," I say. "I can't see with all the smoke that came off my last shot."
I hit a nice passing shot.
"Hey, do you want some ointment for that burn?" I ask.
I hold my serve.
"Good grief, I just gave you that game," Eli says, as we change ends of the court.
"No respect for the serve," I say.
"Dad, come on, it's not like your serve is good," he says. "It's like coach pitch."
That's my boy.
I've also gotten him into RISK, a game I played on many weekends in high school (with incredibly fond memories). Kamchatka. That's all I'm saying.
One of his best friends comes over and we play a three-player game. Diplomatic negotiations are intense, and Eli keeps trying to get his friend not to trust me. I keep a large edge, though, by simply telling the truth, which is the last thing they expect. Then they start attacking each other.
His friend goes to the bathroom near the end of the game. I have a dominating position on the board. "Lies," Eli says. "You lie."
"What?" I say. "I haven't lied once."
"The WHOLE THING is a lie," he says.
Remarkably perceptive, I think.
Stephen Totilo wrote a touching tribute to Satoru Iwata today.
Iwata passed away yesterday, at age 55, after a prolonged battle with cancer. That's a year older than I am, so I have a keen understanding of how cruel death would be at that age.
Here's Totilo's story: The Game Maker Who Became CEO: What Satoru Iwata Meant To Nintendo
Gridiron Solitaire Something or Other: New Stuff + Frustration = Well, I Don't Have An Answer Because This Stuff Doesn't Add Up
I'm putting in all of Fredrick's new background screens now.
Very, very time consuming and tedious, but boy, the game looks terrific with a fresh coat of paint. Here are a couple of screenshots:
The fonts on this next screen aren't finalized (or their size), and the white/yellow bars you see are for the team's primary and secondary colors. They're not loading properly anymore, and neither are the default ratings, and I have no idea why.
What's particularly strange is that I didn't change anything in the code-behind, just XAML for element positioning and layout. Why would that effect things like loading lists. It's an ancient mystery, my friend, an ancient mystery.
Plus somehow the default options for debugging in Visual Studio 2012 have changed, and now I get these kinds of messages, which I'm not familiar with at all:
A first chance exception of type
'System.ArgumentNullException' occurred in PresentationCore.dll
first chance exception of type 'System.ArgumentNullException' occurred in
first chance exception of type 'System.ArgumentNullException' occurred in
into: Stepping over property 'CardDisplayandLayout.TeamCustomize.get_lblTeam1OffRun'.
To step into properties, go to Tools->Options->Debugging and
uncheck 'Step over properties and operators (Managed only)'.
into: Stepping over property
'CardDisplayandLayout.TeamCustomize.get_lblTeam2OffRun'. To step into
properties, go to Tools->Options->Debugging and uncheck 'Step over
properties and operators (Managed only)'.
A first chance exception of
type 'System.ArgumentNullException' occurred in PresentationCore.dll
This is a very good example of how I know what I know and nothing else. Stuff like this totally baffles me, because I've never seen it before. I followed the instructions in the message, but I'm still not seeing what I used to see in terms of debugging messages, which is all I want.
Specifically smart, generally stupid. I think that sums up my coding knowledge in a nutshell. Well, maybe not "smart". "Semi-competent" seems more accurate.
Friday Links (addendum)
Man, this is a juicy story: The gruesome, untold story of Eva Peron's lobotomy
From C. Lee, and this sounds fantastic: You Have to Play This 1,600-Year-Old Viking War Game
. Also, and this is fascinating, it's What Shakespeare Plays Originally Sounded Like
. One more, and I think this is going to be huge: Toss your manual overboard—augmented reality aims at big industry
. There's plenty more from C. Lee, and this seems to correspond with my own experience: Poetry is going extinct, government data show
One more, and I'm going to give it a separate paragraph even though it was also submitted by C. Lee because of its importance: A powerful reddit thread reveals what it’s like to have a disability
From Steven Davis, and this is some serious beatboxing skill: Nicole Paris (Mentor vs Apprentice Pt. 2)
. Also, and this is entirely bizarre, it's This Simple Trick Makes You Feel Like You’re Being Burned
From The Edwin Garcia Links Machine, and this is absolutely amazing: The Giant Waterpark Inside an Old German Airship Hangar
. Also, and this is a fascinating read: When the End of Human Civilization Is Your Day Job
This explains so much about so many: Why I’m Always Late
This next link, from Eric Higgins-Freese, is nothing short of incredible: Stuff in Space
. Here are more details: Here's a Real-Time Map of All the Objects in Earth's Orbit
From Michael Gilbert, and like he says, "What could possibly go wrong?"
Action Park hopes new waterslide will break world record
From DQ VB.NET Advisor Garret Rempel, and man, what a great project (with lots of instructions if you want to make your own): Kids Climbing Play Structure - Building a Climbing Wall and Cargo Net
From Marc Klein, and this is a tremendous article: The Endless Fall of Suge Knight
From Daniel Willhite, and this is quite mesmerizing: worldometers
From Sirius, and oh my: 'Centipede from Hell' Found in World's Deepest Caves
. Also, and I assume centipedes are taking over the world some day, it's TEXAS-SIZED CENTIPEDE FOUND CRAWLING AT GARNER STATE PARK
Crazy Trip Dispatch #8: Matera, Italy
DQ Fitness Advisor Doug Walsh is back! Here's his latest dispatch.
have the pleasure of writing to you this time on a milestone day. Today we
pedaled our 10,000th
mile (that’s 16,000+ kilometers for our metric
friends) en route from the coast of the Adriatic Sea to the mesmerizing city of
Matera in southern Italy. Italy? Yes. After I last wrote during our time in
Japan we went to Indonesia and spent the better part of six weeks in Bali
before returning home to the United States to join my wife’s family in the
spreading of her father’s ashes. We returned to Italy two weeks ago to collect
our bicycles and gear and continue along our original journey, right from the
very same hotel we last pedaled into six months ago. Game on!
weren’t nearly in the cycling shape that we were in last December and, failing
to take this into account, I routed us right onto a mountain stage of the Giro
de Italia (that’s the “Italian Tour de France” for you non-cycling fans). The
mountains came in waves, the mercury soared, and much suffering ensued. On our
fourth day in the mountains of Abruzzo I managed to flag down the driver of the
lone pickup truck I’ve seen in Italy and convince him, through hand gestures
and my butchered Italian pronunciation of several awkward noun-verb pairings,
to drive my wife and her bike to the top of the pass. Things have improved
since and she’s no longer threatening to call a divorce attorney.
spent each day this past week riding south along the back of the Italian boot,
with the Adriatic’s sea breeze in our face and miles of olive trees, tomato
plants, and vineyards flanking our path. What better way to cap off a five-hour
ride in 100-degree heat than a dip in the sea! The heat has been unbearable but
nearly every campground we’ve stayed at this week was right along this
irregular coastline. The first beach we hit, in the region of Abruzzo, was all
cobbles and pebbles. The second, just a hundred miles south, on the part of
Italy’s eastern coast resembling a bulbous ankle bone (also known as Gargano
National Park) was fine white sand. And then the last, another sixty miles
further south in Puglia, had no beach at all: just a sprawling, irregular slab
of coral reef that jutted from the sea. While odd to see beachgoers sprawled
out on towels atop a large, spiky slab of rock, I’m sure it was even odder for
the bikini-and-Speedo crowd to see us wearing our baggy mountain biking shorts
and my wife in a merino wool sports bra, at their beach. We retreated to our
camp before the fashion polizia were called in to assist.
must say however that the camping experience in Italy takes a bit of getting
used to. We unfortunately never encounter any primitive campgrounds on our
route and thus end up staying most nights in developed camping resorts,
complete with all day snack bars, a restaurant, and grocery markets. They also
feature round-the-clock noise. Italians, as we’ve come to appreciate, like to
stay up late. While most grocery stores and shops close each day between 1:00
and 4:30 p.m., the restaurants and pizzerias don’t reopen until 8:00 p.m. Those
nights we decide not to cook in camp, we’re often ready to break down the door
when the restaurant finally opens for dinner. And there we sit, alone, until
the locals begin to fill up the tables an hour or more later.
in camp things don’t get any easier for the exhausted cyclist as many of the
campgrounds have a dance floor or activities for the kids. Activities that
entail megaphones and very loud music that, even on a weeknight, doesn’t get
turned off until midnight or later. Can’t blame them though, after all, folks
are on vacation. Fortunately, we’re often so tired that we fall asleep for an
hour or two anyway after dinner, until a particularly catchy beat or upbeat
voice wakes us up around midnight. It's not all bad though. Our fully-loaded
bikes draw a lot of attention and though we seldom encounter any
English-speakers, we’ve become adept at describing our trip in multiple languages.
People become so excited about hearing our story they often energetically offer
to do us little favors, like refilling our water bottles or bringing us over
some food. And sometimes I get to return the favor by fixing a child’s bicycle.
We missed all of this during our cycling through Tuscany in the winter, as the
campgrounds close in October. We’re saving a lot of money doing it this way,
and meeting a lot more people, but we sure slept better in those hotels during
speaking of money, we’re headed to Greece in a week’s time. Anybody got a line
on some drachma?
As a Note
This may be the end of the logo for the Washington Redskins, if the appeal doesn't succeed:
Redskins Dealt Major Defeat In Battle Over Mascot
If they don't win the appeal, what this means is that anyone could market merchandise with an exact copy of the Redskins logo and the team couldn't do anything about it, because no trademark violation would have occurred.
I think that's correct. Legal eagles, please help me out if that's not right.
Longtime friend of DQ Joshua Buergel co-designed a card game called "Hocus", and it has a Kickstarter campaign: Hocus: A magical card game
Here's a description:
Hocus is a card game for 2-5 players that plays in 30 minutes. The origin of the idea was: "what would poker be like with spells?" Hocus is about using your unique spells, carefully managing the cards in your hands, and scoring big when your opponents aren't watching.
Hocus is deeply interactive, as you must observe and react to the play of opponents, judge the pace of the round, and make the most of your limited turns.
The Kickstarter page has a ton of interesting information, and funding is going great--the game has already reached its 16K goal with 16 days to go. So if you're interested, head on over and check out the Kickstarter, where you can reserve a copy for only $15 (plus shipping).
As soon as I heard (literally, ten minutes ago) that Joshua had designed a game, I went and reserved a copy. During the beta test for Gridiron Solitaire, Joshua had some tremendously thoughtful feedback on time and how it was used in the game. He understood time in a gaming sense far, far better than I did, and GS became better because I incorporated his feedback.
Manuals (your e-mail)
In response to the manuals post I made last week, Jim Riegel sent in a wonderful e-mail that he was kind enough to allow me to share with you.
I work primarily as a network engineer for a small business.
We’re a shop with 8 folks – half are administrative personnel and the other
half are technicians. It’s tough to run a company at a certain size
because you’re too small for one person to handle all the dispatch, phones and
accounting, while dealing with client meetings, etc. As a result, the
techs mostly just wear the technician hat and the rest get to wear many hats.
On the technical side, it’s a very lean operation. We have a rough ratio
of 250 to 1. That’s 250 machines being supported for each engineer. Given
that our customers are spread over an area that covers a circle centered on
Washington DC and goes out in an 80 mile radius, not counting the Georgia,
California and Ohio branches of a couple of companies, that’s a lot of ground
to cover and a small number of folks.
The reason it works is a combination of remote access
software, automation, and a policy of only hiring the best available
technicians. We need people who can solve things, quickly, accurately, and with
a minimum of headache. One of the hats I wear is hiring. Screening
candidates and technicians, finding people capable of doing the work,
etc. There’s a very interesting and frankly alarming trend. Only
people in a certain age range are capable of performing the work. People
older than 50 or so came to computers too late in in life. People younger than
30 came to computers when they were far, far too easy. The best age for
technicians and engineers are the folks born right in the early to mid 70s who
got into computers because they were gamers in the days of DOS, EMM, rewriting
batch files to get specific games to play, fighting with drivers, and manuals
that were insanely long. You’re right that it created a different
relationship with the game and the manuals were often required because a
picture paints a thousand words and a pixel paints about two. The
suspension of disbelief needed to think that you were controlling a starship in
the game Star Command when you were looking at Dwarf Fortress style graphics
was pretty high. The manual (and commands to operate your ship) were highly
complex and demanding.
In ’86 I was living in England (Air Force kid) and my father
bought a Kaypro XT machine. Replete with a 4.7Mhz processor. It was a
massive step up from the TRS-80 Model III I cut my teeth on or the Tandy CoCo
that came next. I played Gunship on that thing and loved the fact that
there were cardstock keyboard overlays to help you remember the 70+ keys used
to control the helicopter and its weapon systems. But it led to a great
dissatisfaction in one other regard. The color was only CGA. The video
card, according to the manual, was capable of EGA. This was in the days before
VGA, so going from 4 colors to 16 was a HUGE upgrade in visual fidelity and I
was very, very unhappy that the little Sears TV that we were using as a
computer monitor via some RGB connector proprietary to Sears wasn’t getting the
job done. In TV mode, it was clearly capable of cranking out tons of colors, so
it wasn’t a limitation of the TV. Therefore it had to be a hardware
configuration problem. The Video card had two input jacks on it.
Moving the 15 pin video connector from one port to the other changed the color
scheme but still only produced four colors. The solution? The
manuals. The Kaypro itself came with a ring bound 300 page manual that
broke down everything about the guts of the machine, up to and including
electrical diagrams showing how the capacitors and circuits connected.
One of the things it included was detailed pinouts for the two video connectors
on the card. The Sears TV came with a very similar manual. Shorter, but
still including circuit diagrams and pinouts for all the connectors. A
bit of studying and not ten minutes later my fearless (and determined to see
more colors damnit) self chopped the end off of the video cable. I then took
the individual strands of wire and based on which wire strand (color+stripe)
went into which pin on the connector, I quickly mapped out what color the 15
pins were on the cable, stripped a ¼” of insulation off each of the 14 wires to
get connection and manually inserted the wires one by one into the correct pin
It was horribly unsafe from an
electrical standpoint but by studying the manuals, not caring (or knowing)
about the cost, and with the unbound guts of a fifteen year old, I got my
sixteen colors in about 30 minutes. My dad got home and was
simultaneously shocked, delighted, impressed and horrified. All of it in
equal measure. He was a bit of a tech head (and a career pilot) who had built a
HAM radio from a kit and knew a fair amount about wiring, electronics, etc. It
never occurred to him to simply rewire the cable. It did absolutely occur to
him that I put a couple thousand dollars of hardware at risk because I wanted
more color for a game. He promptly ordered a custom build it yourself connector
kit from Radio Shack and when it arrived a few days later from the States, he
taught me how to build the connector properly, get the cables secured, etc. and
do what I did safely and properly. Good lesson, good bonding moment.
Bottom line though, I support a family of five, without a
college degree, in the Washington DC metro area (which ain’t cheap) with a
solid lifestyle all because of those manuals. Because they taught me to learn
the machines inside and out. It’s more than just a love of the games –
which you’re absolutely right came with those days – it’s a skill set that existed
only for a short window and it’s gone now. There are some brilliant engineers
working for companies such as Microsoft and Samsung, but the pool for people
who actually get their hands dirty in an on-the-scene, save the small business,
help restore the server so we make payroll kind of a tech? Those are
The Summer Sports Drought
I heard this phrase over the weekend:
His physicality added to his timber sports I.Q.
That was on ESPNU for the Collegiate Timber Sports Regional Championships (or something).
We also watched professional bull riding this weekend. And drag racing.
Once the World Cup ends, it's a wasteland out there.
Chris Crawford has a Kickstarter for Siboot
that ends in two hours and has less than half of the $50,000 it was attempting to raise.
The Kickstarter is fascinating, because this new game is based on the Storytron
engine, which was in development for what--two decades?
Crawford's last released game (Patton Strikes Back: The Battle of the Bulge
) was released in 1991. So why should we care now?
I may not be able to construct an entirely logical answer to the question, but I do care. I want to see what this eccentric genius (and I think that's a fair description) has been doing with his time for the last two decades.
I don't even think it will be a fraction of what he'd hoped for, because his dreams seem far beyond his grasp, but there's something vaguely noble about plugging away for what constitutes forever.
The good news is that Crawford has said even if the Kickstarter fails (it will), the game will still get released. And while I don't think the game will succeed, I do think it could be a very important failure.
In many ways, important failures--ones that spur innovation from other developers--are far more relevant to the timeline of gaming development than unimportant successes.
Make Better Decisions, #17
Yeah, apologies for the aspect ratio.
We were eating at Krispy Kreme Sunday morning, and I looked out the window and saw a kind of burly guy sitting in the outdoor area.
Then I noticed his dog.
He had a little dog standing on his lap (look above his left shoulder), and they were the most peaceful couple I've ever seen. I watched them for at least five minutes, and neither one of them moved the entire time. Just hanging out together.
This was a good decision.
What was not a good decision were the shoes. Eli 13.11 identified those as vertical leap trainers, and I believe he's correct, because both shoes appear to have the same sole/midsole height.
This was not a good decision.*
*if he's wearing those shoes for some kind of medical reason, though, bad decision claim withdrawn. In that case, nothing to see here, and enjoy your small companion, sir.
Wanted: The Musical Mystery Tour
In the last few years, I think I've come to understand that most of the vital and vibrant music in rock history was made in the 1960s.
Of course, there's lots more good stuff beyond that point, but the 1960s was just incredibly dense with great music. Thanks to Chris Hornbostel and his terrific Musiquarium pieces, I pay more attention when I'm listening to music now, and I'm starting to better understand how much rock music was connected in the 1960s.
What I'd really like to do, though, is learn more.
What I'd like is a curated music tour, and why isn't anyone doing this? Think of how many interesting questions a program like this could answer. What were the most common elements of rock music in the 1960s? Geographically, where was most rock music being created, and how did that affect the sound? How did the Beatles influence absolutely everyone, and what were the most common kinds of influence? More specifically, what did Sgt. Pepper due to the course of rock music? What groups did musician XYZ play in during his career, and how did he influence the groups he joined?
There are hundreds or thousands of interesting questions about rock music history, and it would be so much fun to listen to a podcast where the songs were played and then deconstructed in terms of whatever the theme is for that show.
Looking at you on this one, Chris.
This is a staggering piece of data visualization: The Racial Dot Map: One Dot Per Person for the Entire U.S.
Next, from C. Lee, and this is incredibly sad: The Atlantic Slave Trade in Two Minutes
From The Edwin Garcia Links Machine, and man, this is special: Road to the Stars (1957)
. Here's a brief description from the YouTube page:
Road to the Stars (Russian: Дорога к звёздам) is a 1957 Soviet film directed by Pavel Klushantsev. It combines elements of science education films and speculative science fiction. The film was groundbreaking for its use of special effects to depict life in space.
The film was far ahead of its time in terms of cinematic special effects. In particular, it shows wheel-shaped space station eleven years before Kubrick's famous film 2001: A Space Odyssey.
From Steven Davis, and this is amazing: 142mph Serve - Racquet hits the ball 6000fps Super slow motion
. Also, and this is stunning, it's Amazing wrist-worn kinetic sculptures: not your average wristwatches!
From Meg McReynolds, and this is both hilarious and true, it's The 2015 Running of the Interns
. Also, and this is fascinating, it's The Norse God Family Tree
From Sirius, and we all knew this was possible: Silent and Deadly: Fatal Farts Immobilize Prey
From Kai, and Canada is also considering its development approach in hockey (for goalies, at least): Canada needs to rethink development to compete with top nations
From Eric Higgins-Freese, and this seems like a worthy experiment: A Dutch city is giving money away to test the “basic income” theory
This is a fascinating story, if you ever wondered what life on a submarine is like (seriously, who hasn't?): Confessions Of A U.S. Navy Submarine Officer
The Wonderful, Wonderful Manual (your e-mail)
From Tim Steffes:
I too remember those days of long in the past where you'd get not only an excellently designed manual, but lots of other goodies along with it. Included is a so-so cellphone shot of my Wing Commander 1 collection, from back in the day where floppy discs were actually floppy, and games (good ones at least) included forms to mail in your discs to get the other sizes instead.
As a bonus, WC1 includes four posters that are also 'technical specs' of the ships you fly, and a manual that is actually written 'in character' as if you're reading a magazine on board the ship you spend the entire game on.
It even includes something you'll never, ever find in modern PC gaming - the comment card.
I have its sequel around as well, but it's not quite as old-school looking as it actually has 3.5 inch discs in it (but I did buy a 'speech pack' instead for the game, as things like 'sound cards' and such were just becoming a thing for IBM PC Compatibles). Also, Wing Commander 3 was never on disc that I know of simply because it was absolutely filled with FMV (and very well done FMV at that). CD only.
Since I saw you mention Origin in your last story, as well as ancient PC gaming, I figured I might as well show off some little treasure of mine from that era.
One last bit - some of the screenshots on the back of the box, as well as on the front itself, are doctored or preproduction pictures (mostly there's something wrong with all of the screenshots of you in the cockpit). Everything else is real though.
I've mentioned this before, but I played Wing Commander on the 3DO (it was titled "Super Wing Commander"), and it was just fantastic. The 3DO version was CD-based, and it was substantially enhanced (both graphically and with full speech) from the original PC version. But I don't think I got all that cool stuff.
The Wonderful, Wonderful Manual
Tim Lesnick's pictures reminded me of how much I miss manuals.
Actually, I miss the entire unboxing experience, really. Playing a game in the old days was a process,
not booting the game and playing within fifteen seconds. Open the box carefully, because some of the boxes were works of arts in themselves. Look at the finery inside. A nice manual, at least, plus maybe a cloth map if you were fortunate. Maybe even a coin or some kind of trinket.
I think that felt more personal to me than what we have today.
The last great box I remember (and it's been so long that I'm not sure I even remember this correctly) was Morrowind
. A wonderful game, obviously, but so was the box. A beautiful manual, and I think a second book about Tamriel. Plus a lovely cloth map and a coin.
And if that's all wrong, I do have pleasantly enhanced memories, apparently.
There was just something about a well-written, entertaining manual that let you know the developers cared about their game. It established a relationship with you before the game was even booted up.
Thinking about manuals led me, strangely, to the end of Origin and games like Strike Commander
. I'm still very sorry that no one wrote a book about the development process of Strike Commander, which came on 11 3.5" floppies. Just installing it took over half an hour. Also, if I remember correctly, it ran like total ass unless you had a supercomputer and an inconceivable amount of memory.
There was another Origin game that came on 20+ 5.25" floppies. I'm guessing it was Wing Commander III, but (again) I'm probably mistaken.
Eli 13.11 has no idea what it's like to sit down and read a manual and get thoroughly excited about a game. I'm hoping that will happen for him at least once.
A Blast From The Past
Look what Tim Lesnick sent me:
That's right. 5.25" floppies.