Thursday, June 22, 2017

Friday Links!

EDIT: Well, this posted a little early, but not too much.

From DQ Reader My Wife, and this is stunning: A 100-Year-Old Church in Spain Transformed into a Skate Park Covered in Murals by Okuda San Miguel.

From Wally, and this is cuteness overload: This is What Happens When You Teach an AI to Name Guinea Pigs. This is an interesting read: One Award-Winning Chef--and His Surprisingly Cheap Eating Habits.

David Sedaris is a very, very funny man: Leviathan: Ways to have fun at the beach.

From Steven Davis, and this is very funny as well: Making a Marriage Magically Tidy. This is a fantastic video: Pictorial Webster's Inspiration to Completion.

From Jeremy Harder, and this is fascinating: Killer whales are stalking boats and stealing their fish.

From DQ VB.Net Advisor Garret Rempel, and this is an utterly incredible story: Freak snowstorm doesn't stop 4 who complete Yukon-Alaska bike relay — by unicycle.

From Meg McReynolds, and these are adorable: Disney Illustrator Imagines A Life With A Pet Octopus.

From Chris Meadowcraft, and this is amazing: Japanese robot sumo wresting is incredibly fast.

GameTek

This is from Geoff Engelstein, longtime DQ reader and outstanding game designer:
I do a segment on The Dice Tower podcast called 'GameTek', linking games, math, science, and psychology.

2017 is, incredibly, the tenth anniversary of GameTek, so to commemorate that I've put together a 300 page book with my favorite essays.  I think that you, as well as DQ readers, would enjoy it.

If you'd like to check it out:
GameTek: The Book.

I'm in.


Another Observation

Handling this new phone is like trying to wrangle a small seal at a fish rodeo.

Observation

Based entirely on a one-afternoon survey, every salesman in America wears shorts and offices at Panera Bread.

The March of Time

Efficiency at 26: going out with two women on the same day.

Efficiency at 56: icing your elbow while you mow the lawn.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Stuff and Other Stuff

I was serving at the YMCA today and there was a very tiny person (under five) tennis class going on two courts down. While they were picking up the large red and yellow balls, I heard one kid shout "RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!", and three other boys, with absolutely no hesitation, started running like mad.

When you're four, that phrase apparently requires no fact-checking.
***

Gloria's new bag has a face.


I may have added the eye.
***

There are a few foods here that terrify me. I draw your attention to the following offering:


When I see the words "fish" and "dip" together, I'm reminded of two other words: "human" and "suffering".
***

It was 78 yesterday (sorry, Phoenix!), and while I took this picture a few weeks ago, it still looks the same: a lovely day in Grand Rapids.


Also, I activated my phone today and it appears to be working fine.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Limbo Phone

I've had my Droid Turbo for almost three years, and I've written about it (positively) several times. It's a terrific phone with an absolutely massive battery.

Now, though, it's really been showing its age, and what was cutting edge is now driving in the slow lane. Plus, I've been having trouble transferring videos over to my PC, and since those are almost all video footage of Eli 15.11 in goal that he wants to review, that's a dealbreaker.

I've looked around for a phone for at least six months, maybe longer, but couldn't find anything that felt right in my hand. Nothing.

Last week, though, I bought the HTC U11.

It's fantastic, and the camera (according to DxOMark) is the best cellphone camera they've ever tested. Snapdragon 835 processor, etc. Killer specs, and it feels great to hold.

It's been almost a week and I haven't activated it yet.

The phone is an unlocked version, but it's certified to work with Verizon (according to both HTC and Verizon), so there shouldn't be a problem, with the operative word being "shouldn't". Verizon is notoriously awful about unlocked phones, though, and this is no exception.

[An aside: phones should never be locked to a particular carrier, and kudos to Canada for ending all that nonsense. Consumer protection: not actually available in this country.]

People trying to activate their phone on Verizon's network have reported a litany of troubles, and while some of them have been sorted out in the last few days, I want the damn phone to work with no problems when I activate it, so I'm still waiting.


Monday, June 19, 2017

The Manhattan Project (of tennis) #2

A month ago, I wrote about how, after forty years of failure, I was going to finally learn a proper tennis serve.

So I've gotten instruction and hit serves. Maybe not every day, but 28 out of the last 31. In winds that have been utterly ridiculous, doubling as soon as I get out of my car. My instructor knows I've showed up for a lesson when the trees start bending.

My elbow hurts. My arm hurts in general. I have to warm my arm up for 5-10 minutes to even be able to serve.

Still, I serve.

50-100 serves, day after day. I go about a week between lessons, locking the motion in, but getting feedback before I develop bad habits.

How much can 2,000 serves change your service motion? Quite a lot, as it turns out.

I still have a hitch in my motion, but it's much smaller than it used to be. All kinds of other issues have disappeared entirely. I hit grooves where I serve 10 balls in a row and they're all the same--same motion, same contact point, same landing point.

Eli's coach told him last week that he's hitting about 115 MPH on his first serve now. His serve is like trying to return a flaming meteor. But if I keep improving, maybe I can still win matches for a few more months.

There's an Elizabeth Kubler-Ross process I'm going through, sort of the Three Stages of Tennis Death. Stage one: he's never beaten me. Stage two: I can still beat him. Stage three: I used to beat him.

Flint

I haven't written about Flint and the water crisis, because I get so mad about it I can't even write coherently, but if you want to see a bunch of people who should go to prison, here you go:
A Guide to the 15 Powerful People Charged With Poisoning Flint.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Ugh-Oafmatch pricing error (mine)

Good grief. Operating at well below capacity yesterday--apparently--I put in the wrong price for Oafmatch. It's $5.99, and quite a bargain.

Friday Links!

From Meg McReynolds, and this is just amazing: Patek Philippe Pocket Watch, ca. 1914. And a follow-up: Patek Philippe complicated pocket watch.

From Steven Davis, and this is just nuts: A 19 year old freerunner takes on the ‘World’s Largest Parkour Course. It's large: Bigger Than T. Rex: Spinosaurussave. This is amazing: Gaudí’s First Built House Opens to the Public for the First Time in its 130-Year-Old History. This is remarkably clever: The Roman Empire’s 250,000 Miles of Roadways Imagined as a Subway Transit Map. Quite random: Sandwich Bag Fire Starter.

From Wally, and it's quite interesting: Why All of Upstate New York Grew Up Eating the Same Barbecue Chicken. The last one is classic: 20 of the Worst PC Setups – May 2017.

From C. Lee, and this is not encouraging: What Gets Stolen From Restaurants? Everything. This is a fascinating perspective to understand world population: What Would the World Look Like if There Were Only 100 People? This is discouraging: The Konami exodus.

From Lummox JR, and this is brilliant: MIT Has Developed Colour-Changing Tattoo Ink That Monitors Your Health in Real Time.

From Tim Lesnick, and this is stunning: Bird caught in amber 100 million years ago is best ever found.

From Brian Witte, and this is mind-blowing: Scientists got an image of a person’s face just by scanning a monkey’s brain. This images are just stunning: Every summer, men head into the Siberian wilderness to hunt for mammoth tusks.

From Eric Higgins-Freese, and it's very clever (as a revenue stream for the company who makes them): Japan’s Bizarre Anti-Crime Orange Balls – A Unique Way to Stop Crime.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Undiscovered, Unappreciated, Unknown

I have a strange affinity for match-three games.

I don't know why, other than that Puzzle Quest was a unique, highly entertaining piece of work when it was released. So I like these games now, and occasionally run across one (like Ironcast) that turns into an unstoppable compulsion for a few days (or weeks).

Right now, it's a game called Oafmatch.

It's a pretty standard mix of battles, monsters, spells, and equipment, but boy, it does all of them well. The battles have a substantial amount of strategy to them, and the entire package is just extremely well done.

It's also a good example of how difficult it is for solid games to get publicity on Steam. Game gets released, game is on the front page for a few hours, game disappears without a trace. Tough environment.

Enhanced Steam says the game has sold between 2-3k copies in the month since launch. It deserves much better.

Here, check out a couple of screenshots:



Nice right? The visual style is both amusing and very pleasing, and the music is almost disturbingly catchy.

So if you like match-three games, this is a good one to try. $5.99, but with the Steam Summer Sale coming up late next week, you might be able to score a copy for a bit less.



Wednesday, June 14, 2017

It's a Hot One

I've never been so hot in my life.

First off, there's this:


Grand Rapids beat Syracuse 4-3 and won the Calder Cup.

What I'll remember the game for, though, is not the Calder Cup. I will remember that I have never felt so hot in my life. 

As soon as we walked in, I was struck by how warm it was. I just had on regular jeans and a short sleeve shirt, and I sweated during the game.  At length. Not kidding, it had to be mid eighties or higher. Plus the humidity was off the charts.

I've been in high school gyms in summer that felt cooler. 

Grand Rapids had a high temperature of 93 on Monday and it was almost 90 on Tuesday, and I'm sure there's no kind of cooling capacity for those temps.

I can only guess that it was probably the worst ice in history. Ice can't be hard in those temperatures, and soft ice is a disaster for skilled players.

Remember the Celtics-Lakers series in the mid 80s? Boston Garden wasn't air conditioned, and I remember one Finals series in particular when it was over 90 in Boston. 

Ah, here you go: In '84, it was hot stuff.

It was 97 degrees inside Boston Garden at tipoff. One referee didn't make it past halftime, a victim of dehydration. Everyone had leg cramps. 

At least I didn't cramp up.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Tuesday Chaos

Eli thought we had tickets to game seven of the Calder Cup on Wednesday (he handled getting them), but what we actually have are tickets to game six tonight.

We're at the rink right now, won't be home until 5:30, and the game starts at seven. So it's going to be a little crazy.

Grand Rapids Griffins versus Syracuse Crunch, with Grand Rapids leading 3-2 in the series.

Maybe the Best Trailer in History

Nintendo won E3 with this single trailer, as far as I'm concerned:
Super Mario Odyssey trailer

It's impeccably bonkers.

Mario can throw his hat this time, and if the hat lands on an enemy, Mario becomes that creature. Game changer.

The open world looks terrific, there are all kinds of wacky moments in the trailer, and it's exactly what I wanted to play as soon as I saw it.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Maybe the Worst Trailer in History

Let me get this out of the way first: I like Terry Crews.

His first few Old Spice commercials were absolutely hilarious, and he parlayed that into a role on Brooklyn Nine Nine, where he's genuinely funny.

So when I found Crews was going to be in Crackdown 3 as Commander Jaxon, I thought it was a good move. And maybe it is, but the E3 trailer is absolutely awful.

Have a look: Crackdown 3 Trailer.

Yeah, that's crap.

What I loved about Crackdown is there was a realistic sense of physicality. You did superhero things, but somehow it never looked stupid.

In this trailer, though, guys are flying all over the place in ways that don't even make sense. It just looks like a bunch of random stuff thrown together, then called a game.

I hope I'm wrong, because the original Crackdown was a top five game on the Xbox 360, and one of my favorites. Not looking good, though.

Release date: November 7.

An Alarming Similarity

We went to a graduation party on Saturday.

The graduate is the brother of one of Eli 15.11 teammates, and he's taking a gap year to (hopefully) play in the BC. He's shot on Eli during goalie lessons, and he's a terrific kid.

Graduation parties, though, can be pretty awkward. Grandparents, extended family, hockey friends, school friends--it's a unique mashing together of people.

We did play cornhole, though.

We stayed for about an hour and a half. On the way back to the car, I said, "Well, that was a bit awkward, but I'm glad we came."

Eli said, "Me, too."

"There's only one other event I can think of where everyone has to attend," I said. "Graduation parties are just extended funerals with cornhole."

Friday, June 09, 2017

Friday Links!

From Steven Davis, and this brings back some memories: Territorial History of the USA: Every Month for 400 Years. Next, and this is quite amazing, it's The Amazing Triple Spiral (15,000 dominoes). Next, and she's remarkable, it's Lily Hevesh, the number 1 domino artist in the world. This is fascinating: Why knights fought snails in medieval art. This is an excellent read: St. Monday and the Sharing Economy. This is remarkable: With No One Left to Defeat, Go AI Retires to Solve the World’s Problems and Play Itself. This is excellent: How zip codes helped organize America. Last one, and it's very powerful: A social board game.

From Theo Halloran, and Eli 15.11 read this: Reid Duke: Letter To Prospects Attending The NHL Combine.

Some of these are very, very funny:  What Are Your Favorite News Bloopers?

From C. Lee, and this is remarkable: This Amazing 17th Century Lock Has a Few Clever Mechanical Tricks.

From Wally, and this is a very deep rabbit hole: Interactive Scottish Clan Battlefield Map.

From Rob, and it's fascinating: Sorting Algorithms Animations.

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Sidebar

LeBron James is the best basketball player I've ever seen.

He played 45:31 last night out of 48 minutes in an incredibly high-paced game. The Cavs were +7 with him.

He was out of the game for 2:29. The Cavs were -12 without him.

There's a very good case to be made for the Golden State Warriors being the greatest single-season team in history. They're also one of the best defensive teams in the league this year.

They also haven't lost since March.

In three playoff games against them, James is averaging 32 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 assists. Oh, and he's also shooting 55% from the field.

Last year, in seven playoff games against them, he averaged 30-11-10.

I know: Michael Jordan. And I know Jordan never lost in the Finals, while James is about to lose for the fourth time in seven consecutive trips.

In fairness, though, the first time James took Cleveland to the finals (before he went to Miami), it was with the worst supporting cast that had ever made it to the NBA Finals. That team was absolutely wretched. Remember this cast of future Not-Hall-of-Famers?
Zydrunas Ilgauskas
Drew Gooden
Larry Hughes
Sasha Pavlovic
Daniel Gibson
Anderson Varejao
Donyell Marshall
Eric Snow
Damon Jones
Shannon Brown
Ira Newble
Scot Pollard

Yeah, that's awful.

His last two losses in the finals have been to the Warriors, a team that would have easily beat any team the Bulls ever faced. Jordan could score 40 every game against this year's Warriors and his Bulls still wouldn't have beaten them.

Jordan was a brilliant, incredible player. He's the second best player I've ever seen. But LeBron keeps every player on his team involved, and he can do absolutely anything and everything.

Guard anyone on the floor. Shoot threes. Drive the lane. Post up at the elbow. Post up on the low block. Make consistently ridiculous passes. Rebound. Block. Steal.

It's an incredible package, really, and I've been fortunate to watch both his and Jordan's careers in their entirety.

I've also been very fortunate to see Golden State in their prime. The Showtime Lakers were all kinds of fun, but they were nothing like this. Every minute is a highlight reel with the Warriors.

This is the best the NBA has ever been, for me. And I don't even have time to watch many games, but the best teams have a level of skill that is absolutely staggering.


Wednesday, June 07, 2017

You People

Suggestions from yesterday's blockade post (not mentioning names, because I want to protect their personal lives and employment).

1. No need for water. It's still a "navel blockade", because cats have navels.
2. Use an orange in the picture instead of water and it would still be a "navel" blockade.
3. Aren't catamarans more stable?

So much groaning.

Indeed


"Did you see that there's a playing card in the front yard?" Gloria asked. "That's strange."

"And then the murders began," I said.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

A Second Career

I found my second career. Computer programming was just a head fake.

I was serving this morning and there was a couple two courts down who looked like they were in their eighties (and moving pretty damn well, too). I finished serving and walked back to the car, but forget my jacket on the court. I walked back and picked it up, and when I was walking back out, the old guy said, 'You're too young to be forgetting things.' "

"I'm not too young," I said, "but as soon as I forget something, I don't want it anymore. As soon as I realized I had to walk back and get it, I told myself 'Eh, I have other jackets. I never even really liked that jacket. Maybe I should just leave it.' "

He was laughing so hard I thought he was going to fall and break a hip.

So there you go. Octogenarian comedy. I'll be going on the assisted living circuit within weeks.


Blockade


I only wished I had put a cup of water beside him. Then it would have been a naval blockade.

Monday, June 05, 2017

President, General, Spy #4

I was working on starting values for all the countries in the test scenario (Central America) when I realized that the CIA Fact Book had a huge amount of information.

I looked at government type for all countries and realized that I could just take the information directly from the fact book.

Then I slapped myself in the face. Hard.

I don't need fifty different types of government in the game, and even if I did, I wouldn't need it now. There's a development stage plan, and I'm sticking to it. Here it is:
1. Board game rules
2. Board game AI
3. Government types and personalities
4. Internal political stability
5. Geographic influence
6. Event layer
7. International or regional assemblies

Basically, stages one and two will be very rigid, just to get a simple prototype working. The rules will be simple and absolute. The AI will be the same (think blackjack for the dealer).

Stage three will start to add nuance. Different kinds of governments, along with different personalities leading those governments (stabilizer, destabilizer, opportunist), will lead to different behavior. Stage four will add the possibility of coups and insurrections, which will further affect how the leaders behave. Stage five will add onto stage four, because political stability is influenced by geography, and this will also make regional scenarios feel more individual.

As I work through these stages, the rules originally laid down in stages one and two will become less rigid and more probability based, with existing statuses both inside and outside the country having large effects. So the AI will go from being rigid to being dynamic.

The event layer--stage six--is what what will hopefully make the game feel alive. There will be hundreds of possible events that must be responded to, and responding to these one-offs will deeply influence the course of the game. This is also a way to make regional scenarios feel very custom, as events will be drawn from that historical era--not the exact event, necessarily, but if a leader (or a few) was assassinated in that era, the chances of someone being assassinated will go way, way up.

The last layer is the United Nations layer, basically. At the end of the year, all nations in the scenario will come together for an assembly. This will have a very different feel than the regular turns, with a different set of outcomes possible, because it's the only time countries will come together as a body.

That was a long aside when I was talking about government types, but my point was that I tend to bury myself in detail and go down very deep rabbit holes. Can't do that this time.

Also, to avoid the rabbit holes, I'm trying to use the rule of five, which is an entirely imaginary thing I made up over the weekend.

Types of government? Limited to five. Types of actions a President could take? Limited to five. The same for General and Spy. Five possible actions each.

The reason I'm doing this is that I've realized part of creating is working with constraints. The constraints themselves feed creativity. I need those constraints to work against. It both helps me to control scope and forces me to make decisions about what's important.

All right, tomorrow I'll discuss the rule set I have for actions and ask you for feedback. I'm not going to write about the game this much as we go on, but as I'm just getting off the deck, it's a regular subject for a few weeks.

Friday, June 02, 2017

Friday Links!

From Steven Davis, and these are very clever: Art Therapy: Fictional Self-Help Book Titles Painted by Johan Deckmann. This is quite beautiful, really: DIY Ferrocell: How to make a magnetic field viewer. These are utterly amazing: New Balloon Sculptures Depicting Animals and Insects by Masayoshi Matsumoto. This is a good read: The First Blue Pigment Created in Over 200 Years to be Used in a Crayon.

From C. Lee, and this is fascinating: Dumb robots that make mistakes actually help humans solve problems. This is a terrific read: Moses in the Ozarks: The parable of Italians in the South. This is an important revision in the conventional wisdom for concussion therapy: New Advice to Move More After a Concussion. This is an important reminder: Likelihood of having current CPR training declines with age.

From Wally, and this is a nice save: Historic Van Nuys hangar from opening scene of ‘Casablanca’ saved — again. Next, and this is very entertaining, it's A countdown made from countdowns in movies. This is an interesting story: I'll take the sandtrooper in white: Meet the rebel scum making Star Wars armour sets for a living.

From Meg McReynolds, and this is fascinating: My déjà vu is so extreme I can’t tell what’s real any more.

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Shroud of the Avatar: Forsaken Customers

Well, the mushroom cloud is on its way.

Shroud of the Avatar has consumed 20M+ in development funds, the game is nowhere near completion, and they're trying to attract more capital.

"papajoker" on Reddit did an excellent job of analyzing the Seed Invest pitch for relevant excerpts, and here are a few:
--as of May 17th our current cash position is $528k
--we require approximately $230,000 a month to sustain operations. 
--we have a contract with a Russian company that has already paid us a license fee as an advance against additional future royalties. 
--Episode 2-5 will be on console and mobile
--The software is currently in development and expected to launch in July 2017
--The Company is a business that has not generated profits in recent years, has sustained net losses of $3,068,579 and $3,048,110 during the years ended December 31, 2016 and 2015, respectively, and has an accumulated deficit of $18,089,082 and $15,020,503 as of December 31, 2016 and 2015, respectively. 

Here's a translation:
1. We're broke
2. We've already borrowed against future royalties to get more money, because we're broke.
3. We're whoring this thing out on every platform, because we're broke.
4. The game launches in two months, because we're broke.

The consensus is that the game is presently in an alpha state, at best. So why are they releasing it in two months? Mostly, because they're broke. Also, though, it's clearly because they have no idea when it could feasibly be completed. 

I worked at a computer company once, and the manufacturing director was once asked how long they QC'd a system. "Right up until it ships," he said.

Same mentality.

This isn't even a game, or, at least, that's not the #1 priority. The #1 priority is to create a revenue stream.

There was no reason to ever expect this would turn out well, really. I wish it had, but we all knew this was going to happen.

I do think I'm seeing a pattern, though.

Let's say people give you $5 million to make a game. Do you want to be successful? Create a budget for a $4 million game. Manage to that budget each year. Allow a 10% overage.

Design what you can actually deliver.

That would have been a good ending. Instead, this project is in flames and going off the cliff.

Sit Down, Bus Driver

A common retort for high school coaches (who also drive the team bus) when they stand up and start yelling at the officials during a game.

Austin Mayor Steve Adler’s response to man’s ‘sexist’ comments goes viral

I'll just leave this here:


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