Friday, January 30, 2015

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, from Meg McReynolds, quite possibly the most cogent explanation of the United States I've ever read: Which of the 11 American nations do you live in?

This is a fascinating and somewhat bizarre story: 11 Secret Weapons Developed By Japan During World War 2. All I know is that "Fukuryi Suicide Attack Suits" may well be the greatest band name I've ever heard. And as an offshoot of that link, here's a link that's equally interesting: How the U.S. Cracked Japan's 'Purple Encryption Machine' at the Dawn of World War II.

I don't know if this breaks your heart, but it breaks mine (there are some great pictures of past ads in this article): SkyMall, Purveyor of Garden Yetis, Files for Bankruptcy.

From Eric Higgins-Freese, and this is wildly entertaining: These 16 historical selfies show vanity is timeless.

From The Edwin Garcia Links Machine, and this is a mesmerizing video: Undeveloped World War II Film Discovered. Next, and this is entirely charming, it's Korean girls taste American snacks. This is terrific: Time and Again - 15 Countries In 4 Minutes (2014 Time Lapse).

From Sirius, and this is quite amazing: Spider spins electrically charged silk. Next, and this is fascinating, it's Astronomers Caught Some of Space's Most Mysterious Radio Bursts in Real Time.

From Geoffrey Engelstein, and this is remarkable: Kickers are Forever.

From Scott Gould, and surely, this is a record: One Ball and 3 Injured. What a game of Cricket!!

From J.R. Parnell, and this is excellent: The Original Concept Art From “Back To The Future Part II” Is Awesome.

From Steven Davis, and this is mind-blowing: Scientists Develop Hydrophobic Metal That Causes Water to Bounce.

From DQ Fitness Advisor Doug Walsh, who says this is the best action sports video ever: One of those days 2 - Candide Thovex.

Closing out this week, and this article is fascinating: We're in a Technological Arms Race with Bears for Our Food.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Sunless Sea

Sunless Sea has already been available via Early Access on Steam, but it reaches version 1.0 on February 6.

I've been playing it for a few weeks, and it is a deeply atmospheric, unusual experience. Here's the description from the Steam page:
Take the helm of your steamship and set sail for the unknown! Sunless Sea is a game of discovery, loneliness and frequent death, set in the award-winning Victorian Gothic universe of Fallen London.

What strikes me most is how carefully this game has been crafted. It is beautifully constructed, and if it were a physical good, it would be handmade. 

I don't want to give you any spoilers, because the game is quite unique, but it is absolutely worth large amounts of your time.

Gridiron Solitaire #151: Title Screen

Fredrik is on fire this week, so have a look at the new splash screen for Gridiron Solitaire:

That's not final (and the slogan is just a placeholder), but man, I like how that looks. And how did I not even think of a league needing a branding slogan? Of course the GFL needs a slogan, just like it needs a logo.

The question is whether the slogan should play it straight (like Fredrik's), or if it should reference the solitaire aspect ("Champions, one card at a time", as a silly example). Regardless, I'm working on a slogan now.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Gridiron Solitaire #150 (starting a new number sequence here): Stuff

Example one of stuff:

As part of the "sexifying" of Gridiron Solitaire, Fredrik is redesigning the interface screens. The reason this looks so staggeringly better than the original is because I designed the originals. We both want to move the game from the 1950s-era nostalgia into more recent times, and this is an example of the more streamlined look.

Here's a second example:

Note the cohesion between the two screens--very, very nice. There's also going to be a tab to move to a second screen where custom weather profiles and a few other new features can be selected.

I don't know how other people make games, but I tend to to have a process where I find the weakest thing  and try to make it better. So on the in-game screen, I felt at one point that the event messages were the weakest part of the game, and I spent a week improving them. A few months ago, the team history page was the weakest area of the game, so the team museum concept was born.

I've repeated that cycle dozens of times, and right now, there's no question that next on the list are the interface screens and the card decks. And it's fun. I'm going to enjoy playing the game even more when this is done, and I'm hoping everyone else will, too.

Putting in the new interface screens, for me, is going to be much less complicated than coding new functionality. Mostly, I'll be repositioning elements against the new background screen, and that's much less work than starting from scratch.

Work on the scoreboard/in-game changes are still proceeding. I'd like to drop this as a content stun-bomb reward, though, so I want to deploy it all at once. That means I have a little time to prepare as Fredrik continues to work through the interface screens. Plus, there are only three or four final card poses for the new deck (out of thirteen), and that will be part of the new content, so there's a bit more time there.

In the meantime, I'm going to use Unity for "Hockey Superstar Adventure!" Lots of support available online, plus there's a plug-in for Visual Studio (which is huge for me, because I am very familiar with Visual Studio now).

That's going to be a second ton of work, but after doing GS, I'm dumb enough to assume that a ton of work is just work, one ounce at a time.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015


Chris emailed me yesterday in reference to my post about teaching hockey positioning to younger kids and basically said, "Hey stupid! You're a programmer! Why not make it an app?"

Gee, that's actually a great idea.

This is going to sound stupid, but I kind of forget that I know how to program. Even though I made a game, it still feels like something that other people do, not me.

This would be perfect, though, for several reasons.

Coaches teaching positioning to young kids is frustrating and time-consuming. However, those same kids are doing wildly complicated things in Minecraft. I see seven and eight-year-olds playing Minecraft on tablets all the time at the rink while their siblings are playing hockey. So young kids are certainly capable of understanding complexity, if it's presented properly.

Also, trying to teach five kids positioning at one time is incredibly difficult. Focusing on one kid at a time is much easier, with a higher chance for success. And the app can stress that learning how to play a position makes hockey much more fun to play with friends, because everyone is working together.

If you create a game that teaches hockey positioning and sneaks in good lessons about teamwork, then boom. Trojan horse for the win.

Plus, in addition to helping kids better enjoy a game that they love, which would make me very happy, this app would have to be on mobile devices, because that's primarily what kids use. So it forces me off VB.NET (even though I don't want to leave) and onto a development platform that compiles to a variety of operating systems. That would be hugely useful for the espionage game or whatever else I wanted to try in the future.

I've been thinking about this virtually nonstop today, and I fleshed out some framework. It would be a game called "Superstar Hockey Adventures!", and it would have a visual style reminiscent of the old Humongous games (Putt-Putt, Backyard Football, etc.).

The basic premise would be that when you choose a position, you become a citizen of a city (Centerville, for example). The mayor of the town is happy to help you get acquainted with all the things you can do in Centerville, so that you can enjoy your time there as much as possible.

After learning the city limits of your town, you get to learn about its various neighborhoods, and who lives there. Eventually, no matter where the puck is, you know what neighborhood you belong in and why.

The five cities (positions) make up a state. And when you start a game, you can add the names of your friends, so that you're all traveling together. You're on a hockey team in a state, playing with your friends.

When you master one level, you go to another state (actually, scratch that--you go to another country). You have a little passport, and every time you go somewhere new, your passport gets a new stamp.

As you progress, your hockey team gets better and better. At the last level, you're "playing" at the World Championships. And if you understand all your positional responsibilities, you win the world championships and get a special certificate of achievement to print out.

I know this is just a skeleton, but I like the level progression and the rewards. And I think kids would like it, too.

Monday, January 26, 2015


I just realized that dividing the positional zone into two areas, with one area have 2X situations and the other 1X, is not the most effective.

The effective way is to decide, up front, what the total number of areas will eventually be for a single positional. So let's position X has 10 possible positional areas (which is responsibility at a very detailed level, eventually). So when you divide into two positional areas, the new area would be only 10% of the total possible situations. You're biting off a very little chunk of space and defining a few very specific situations where the player should be in that little space.

That's much easier to learn, and it's easier to design drills around as well. It's like Simon Says--the coach puts the puck or players into a particular situation, and they decide whether to jump into the small, new area.

So you have a big space initially, and players skate around in that space all the time. Then you take little chunks of that space and become more specific, building gradually into a more complex understanding of the entire space.

Input (yours)

I've discovered over the last couple of years that the travel hockey program in our community has a problem, and even if you're not interested in hockey, I think you might find the processes involved interesting.

So bring a snack. Have a seat. Nice to have you here.

The problem, at its core level: in many situations during a game, kids don't know where to be on the ice.

That seems like a simple problem, and a simple fix, right? It's not.

Here's why.

Our program, at the House level, teaches using the ADM (American Development Model). This model works quite well for teaching skills, and I think it's a very strong teaching method.

However, when kids want to go from playing House to playing travel, they don't understand very much about positioning, because the ADM focuses on skills, not tactics.

That's an oversimplification of more complex issues, but the bottom line is that on any travel team we have, probably 5 kids on the team have a good understanding of positioning, 5 have somewhat of a grasp, and 5 are downright confused.

That doesn't mean that the kids are never in the right place. The problem is not starting out in the right position at the beginning of a play. It's staying in position and reacting to what's happening with the puck/other players to adjust their position accordingly.

I've seen coaches try to instruct players on positioning, but it tends to be very rigid and only covers a few possible situations out of many, and it almost entirely focuses on memorization, not understanding at a conceptual level. And it is so specific and memorization-heavy that kids have a difficult time mastering it.

I don't learn well that way, either, and so I thought there must be a better way to package the information.

When I try to understand how different sports work, I always come back to one idea: space. Most team sports, and many individual ones, are fundamentally about creating or controlling space.

Hockey certainly works like that. The entire game revolves around the control of space, and it seems like it would be a useful way to explain to a young person as the basic concept for his position: on defense, you move to increase your control of space; on offense, you move to create space.

Too simple? Yes. As a concept, though, it seems like an acceptable starting point.

Second step. If you consider defense, offense, and the transitional states (defense to offense, offense to defense) as four separate situations, then it would be useful to start with one situation. Since kids love to score, let's start with offense (as the father of a goalie, it's hard for me not to start with defense, though).

Here's the concept. Every position in offensive situations has a movement range that covers 95% (at least) of the possible situations. Some of these movement ranges overlap with other players (because there are so many possible situations), but every player has a defined range.

So for the first time a young player has positioning explained to him (I mean very young, like seven years old), he just learns his movement range for his position. When you play position X, you are going to skate in this area on the ice.

It doesn't matter if he's in the wrong place in specific situations (he learns that later)--the only initial objective is that the player be inside the general movement range for their position.

That seems very doable, even for a young kid. In fact, he should be able to learn his positional movement range on both offense and defense. The transitional states are more complicated and less intuitive, so those can come later.

Three months or so after you introduce the concept of a positional range, you tell the player that his big island of space is going to split into two pieces, and why. So instead of just skating inside one big area, his big area is now two smaller areas, and he needs to understand the situations for each area.
[Aside: It's a very rock-paper-scissors approach, though, because in any situation, the player should either go to the puck, the man, or into space.

It doesn't even have to be those three, but it needs to be a rock-paper-scissors kind of format, because trying to remember more than three things is a pain for almost everyone. So if a kid knows that, at any moment, he should be doing one of three things, at least he's narrowed down the possibilities.]

Back to positional areas. The two areas don't have to be equally sized--in fact, they probably won't be. For future purposes, one area should have 1X situations where the player should be there, while the second area should have 2X the situations.

See how this works? Three months later, that second area with 2X the situations is going to be divided into two pieces. Now, there are three possible areas inside the player's positional area, with an equal number of situations requiring his presence in each.

This kind of incremental approach seems like an easier way for kids to learn, even if they're older. And teaching this way seems like it would create a more fundamental conceptual understanding than simple memorization.

Okay, so what I really want here is your input. Is this a reasonable way to teach? Are the building blocks small enough that they would be easily understood? Or is there some reason that this just won't work or doesn't make sense?

Friday, January 23, 2015

Friday Links!

From Rob Funk, and this is fantastic: Have We Found Alien Life? Microbes That Eat and Breathe Electricity Have Forced Scientists to Reimagine How Life Works--On This Planet and Others.

From Simon Jones, and this is a great read: The curious case of the sweaty nipples.

From The Edwin Garcia Links Machine, and this is fascinating: Education plus ideology exaggerates rejection of reality. Next, and this is remarkable, it's Raspberry Pi Engine Control with Real-Time Adaptive Extreme Learning Machine (Linux). This next link is fascinating, believe it or not: Example of an economics exam from Harvard University in 1953. One more, and it's breathtaking: Clear Roof Breathes New Life Into Historic Spanish Church.

Speaking of breathtaking, have a look at this link from Matt Kreuch: Zoomable Andromeda Galaxy. Also, and all I can say is "Wear a cage, people!", it's Blood, Sweat and Teeth: Wild Nights with an NHL Dentist.

From J.R. Parnell, and these are entirely wonderful: 15 Creative Long Exposures Capture a World Unseen. Also, and this is fantastic data visualization: NYC Taxis: A Day in the Life.

This is a terrific article from a very unique perspective: Silk Road Mom Learns Sad Truth About Son.

From DQ VB.NET And Extreme Weather Advisor Garret Remple: Don't leave your car, professor says.

From Jonathan Arnold, and I have no words:
Oregon Was Founded as a Racist Utopia.

A bevy of excellent links from C. Lee. First, it's How Books Became a Critical Part of the Fight to Win World War II. Next, and I now have the book referenced in this article (but haven't read it yet): Did Civil War Soldiers Have PTSD? Next, and it's whimsical (and true): Parachuting Beavers Into Idaho's Wilderness? Yes, It Really Happened. Lastly, and bean cookers can celebrate, it's Don't soak your dried beans! Now even the cool kids agree.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

HoloLens: There Can Be Only One Answer

Eli 13.5 and Gloria watched the HoloLens demo last night, then Eli went upstairs to play a little Just Cause 2.

"We are required by law to get one of these the day it's released," I said to Gloria.

"How much does it cost?" she asked.

"HOW MUCH DO WE HAVE?" I answered.

Today, I was driving Eli home from his off-ice workout, and I was telling him the story of the conversation I had with his mom last night. "So when she asked me 'How much does it cost?' I answered"--

"HOW MUCH DO WE HAVE?" he said. No, he didn't hear me answering Gloria last night.

Oh, and

Sorry, there's a funny bug report story, but the post ran so long anyway that I'm going to save it until next week--that's why it wasn't included.

Gridiron Solitaire Number Unknown: Scoreboards and Bug Reports

I think we've almost reached the point of agreeing on the new scoreboard, and I thought you guys might be interested in the process.

Have a look at Fredrik's first image:

We started lobbing ideas back and forth. I focused on the announcer first, wanting to lower his position by having the text ticker start next to his body. Plus, I wanted Fredrik to try extending the second layer of the scoreboard horizontally to that there would be a larger difference in height between the scoreboard tiers. Here was the next iteration:

That was heading in a good direction, but the scoreboard width of the second tier wasn't working. So Fredrik lowered the height of that tier, added the video board (since it will now be displayed all the time instead of sharing the space for text messages), and here's the result:

I thought about this particular image. I liked it, but something was nagging at me. Phil, one of my favorite beta testers, looked at the image and suggested different scoreboards for different stadiums. That's a great idea, but object placement would kill me, so I started thinking about how it would be possible to customize the scoreboard.

I went to look at some stadium pictures on the web and I quickly realized something important: the unique identifying mark of most scoreboards is a top tier above the data where the stadium or team name is displayed.

Well, duh. Why didn't I think of that before?

When the video board is added, it will display flush with the top of the field. And that custom border at the top is going to be unique for each stadium. There's enough room up there to do all kinds of cool things, and it's going to be a separate visual element, so it's easy to change without changing the scoreboard element itself.

That may not exactly be how it's going to look, but it's close. I'm still trying to figure out if I could incorporate the home team's primary colors into the scoreboard itself (easy to do, technically, but would it mess up the display of data in combination with certain colors? That would be a big problem with some of the more garish colors). So that's still in process.

One more thing. Fredrik sent me a card redesign, and it is drop-dead sexy. Have a look:

Yes, I totally love that look. Twelve more to go!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Project HoloLens

The Internet has lost its collective mind over this today: Project HoloLens: Our Exclusive Hands-On With Microsoft’s Holographic Goggles.

I would try to explain what this product does, but I can't, because when I watched the video, my brain exploded. So while I'm trying to clean up the mess, you need to hit the link and go take a look for yourself.

Cooler than the Oculus Rift? Incredibly, yes. Next next gen? Yes.

When will it actually be finished? Sorry, that appears to be unknown, although demo units are supposed to be available at the Windows 10 launch later this year.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Electronic Arts and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Service Day...

This was sent to me by someone who wishes to remain anonymous.

It is epic.

Here's the set-up: around Thanksgiving, A. Nonymous tried to purchase something through Origin. His credit card was declined for no apparent reason, and his band verified that they had not declined the purchase.

Easy to sort out, eh? Well, read this. Wonder why people don't want to buy games from big companies? Welcome to Exhibit A.

Please: names have been replaced with "XXXXX" and "-------".
Hey Bill,
I had to share this with you.  I have had 6 back and forths with EA about this issue of my not being able to make a purchase since I last emailed you.  I have been struggling to resolve it and will click on the "contact me by phone" link and wait for a call 4 hours later and pray that it resolves my issue.

On the 10th I got this email:
My name is --------- and I am a specialist here with EA, I would firstly like to apologize again for the length of time you have been waiting for a reply from our team regarding your issue. We greatly appreciate your considerable patience and understanding. It has been a pleasure speaking with you thus far. 

I am a huge gamer myself XXXXX so I understand when problems like this occur it is extremely inconvenient. You are through to the correct department anyway XXXXXX so rest assured I will do everything I can to explain what the situation is with your account.

We have reviewed your transaction history and thank you once more for providing this valuable information for us on your initial contact. We understand your anxiety and worry when this occurred. We understand payment problems can be stressful so I can assure you we will do our very best to explain the situation to you.

From reviewing and investigating your transaction history, it would appear your most recent transaction(s) has been rejected by your card issuer/bank. We would advise contacting them for further assistance before re-attempting any other potential purchase. We do not have the precise information as to why this payment may been rejected hence advising contacting the card issuer.

I am sorry to bring this negative news to you today. I am a huge gamer myself so I understand your frustration with this matter. I have been playing games for years thus I completely empathize with firstly any billing problem occurring and secondly the fact that you cannot purchase a game you obviously wish to play. I cannot apologize enough again for the considerable time you have been waiting for my reply -----, I hope this reaches you safely. I do hope this is helpful and will put your mind at ease. Please contact us again if there is anything else we can do to help you going forward. Again thank you for your patience and understanding. All the very best in the future and I hope you continue to enjoy our games.

First of all I never talked to this dude.  Second of all he says that the transactions were rejected by my bank... my bank claims that's not true as do my other credit cards that I've tried to use.  So he closes the account and says essentially "Sorry, it's not me, it's you."

So on the 12th(!!!!!) I talked to someone that my issue had been "escalated" to who said they were reaching out to the proper people to solve it and they would be in touch with me.  so 3 days later I get this email:
Hello! My name is ------ and I will be the Specialist assisting you today. I wanted to start by thanking you for your patience and apologizing for the wait time that you have experienced thus far. Just so you are aware, once I accepted ownership of your case, all of your responses will jump to the front of my personal queue, so the dialogue between us will be much quicker than the amount of time it has taken to get to your case.

Now let’s get started. From my understanding and after reviewing the case notes and previous correspondence, you are having problems placing an order in our system. I am a gamer myself and I completely get your frustration. I hate running into these types of issues when I’m trying to get my game on, but know that I am here to help and intend on doing so!

I would like to begin by asking you if the issue persists. Sometimes, these issues work themselves out but if not, please let me know and I will personally run this down and get it figured out for you. 

Anyway, thanks again for taking the time to reach out and like I said, I am confident that we can get to the bottom of this for you; I would just ask that you be patient with us while we work through everything.

Finally, I wanted to make sure that you had all the resources you could need for any future issues. We have an extensive knowledgebase full of troubleshooting and general knowledge located at as well as Answers HQ. Answers HQ brings all of the EA community together to offer support to each other and I’ve personally even found a lot of solutions that we use based on how awesomely supportive our community is. You can find it at I know these don't help with the current situation but I just wanted to make sure you had them for any possible future needs.

Hope to hear from you soon,
EA Games Specialist

So many wonderful things about this.  The first is that this guy has taken ownership of my case but I haven't talked to him when I've tried to reach out since.  Second of all their solution is to just plug in your card again and see if it magically works!  Thank you magic wand. I love that they suggest that I just use their online forums which are useless and full of people with the exact same problem and no solutions.  Good going EA.

The very best most special part is the signature "Hope to hear from you soon," because there is no method to contact the guy in the email.  If you reply to the email it goes to a generic ea email and you get an email saying no one will see it.  No phone # attached... nothing.

So finally today, after encountering this issue around Thanksgiving... I waited to get called back after 4 hours of hitting the "call me" button I get a phone call.  That guy can't help me but he'll bounce me to someone who can... and then I get put on hold...and the phone disconnects.  I just started laughing.  But a miracle occurred and a woman from EA called me right away and when I told her what happened she just laughed a little sadly about their systems and she ended up telling me exactly what the issue is, gave me XYZ (which I've been trying to purchase for months) for free and then afterwards sent me her email.  She said she'd get it sorted in 24 hours and let me know and if there is anything she can do to contact her personally.

It only took 3 months to get in touch with someone who could help me.  A miracle.

God I wish their games were on Steam.
Isn't that great? Canned customer support e-mails (that aren't even grammatically correct), total disconnect between the issue and actual reality, and a 5-minute problem that has taken (at this point) two months to resolve (and it may not be resolved yet--let's not celebrate prematurely).

Well, I Certainly Hope So

Monday, January 19, 2015

The kicker

It's always a running joke about me that I am better than normal at most things, but not great at anything.

One of those things, surprisingly, was kicking a football.

When I was in high school, I went through a few weeks where I really enjoyed taking a football and kicking tee out to the football field and seeing how far I could kick a field goal.

I wasn't particularly interested in kicking as a skill; I just wanted to know the maximum distance I could kick a field goal.

I found out on a lovely fall day, with no tailwind. 48 yards. I can still remember the feeling of the ball exploding off my foot, and how that ball was in the air forever before it came down, just over the crossbar. I didn't really care about kicking after that, because I knew I could never kick a football harder.

Eli 13.5 enjoys kicking, too, so we go out occasionally when we want to do something relaxing.

With very little practice, he can make 35 yard field goals, and I'm expecting that by this time next year, he'll have made one from 45.

Today, I kicked a few. It's never felt right, trying to kick as an old man, but today the ball felt good coming off my foot. I made one from 30 into a headwind, but just barely.

"So if headwind is costing me 2 1/2 yards, which seems reasonable," I said, "then if I come out and kick with a slight tailwind, the net gain compared to a headwind would be 5 yards, which means I can still make a 35 yard field goal."

"That's a lot of circumstances, dad," Eli said, laughing.

He'll make a 49-yarder some day, but I still have the big foot for now. Historically speaking.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, from C. Lee, and this is an incredible story: The murder that has obsessed Italy. Also, and someone should do this here, it's Small Hokkaido bookshop’s unique service is getting business from all over Japan.

From Steven Davis, and this is fascinating: the long and intensive process to create a hand-colored lithograph. Also, and this is incredible: A Rare Flipped Iceberg in Antarctica Photographed by Alex Cornell.

From Eric Higgins-Freese, and this is mandatory reading for all of us: How the Oreo was Invented.

From The Edwin Garcia Links Machine, and this is amazing: 132-year-old rifle found leaning on tree in Nevada park. Next, and this is brilliant, it's Animator Dillon Markey Reinvents the Failed Nintendo Power Glove as an Indispensable Stop-Motion Animation Tool. Also, and this is quite remarkable (I guess it's a "technology dance"): Pixel - extraits.

This is a terrific story about living in Whittier, Alaska, surely one of the oddest places to live on Earth: The Alaska Town Living Under One Roof. Also, and I didn't know there was a word for this: What High-Speed Cameras Can Tell Us About the Smell of Rain. One more, and it's both sports and boardgame related: The Packers Got Everyone in Green Bay Playing Settlers of Cataan.

From Jonathan Arnold, and if you want to go to Mars someday, you'll want to read this: All You Have Eaten.

From Meg McReynolds, and this explains quite a lot: The Psychological Reason 'Billie Jean' Kills at Weddings.

Thursday, January 15, 2015


The repressively cheery tone of holiday letters terrifies me.

No matter the event, it's presented in an impossibly cheerful way.

In downsizing news, Johnny lost a leg this year, and it couldn't have happened at a better time!!!

(Andrew, please note: I'm specifically NOT referring to your annual holiday letter, which is entirely delightful)

Baseball: This Would Work

I write several grouchy old man posts a year about how baseball is so tediously slow that it's unwatchable.

That doesn't mean I don't want to watch it. I just can't, in its current form. The pace of the game is unbearable.

In 1974, the average length of a major league game was 2:29. That's the era in which I became a fan. Today, 40 years later, the average game length is 3:09. And the extra 40 minutes is coma-inducing tedium: excruciating time between pitches, endless trips to the mound, etc.

Incredibly, Major League Baseball, which is at least as progressive as [insert your choice of organizations from the 15th century HERE], is actually experimenting with ways to fix this.

Most prominently: a pitch clock.

How it works is simple:
...we know how it'll work from its use in the Arizona Fall League: pitchers have exactly 20 seconds from the moment they receive the ball to come to the set position for the next pitch. It'll be tracked by on-field scoreboards visible to pitchers and umpires, and if they fail to come set, the umpire declares an automatic ball.

That seems simple. Was it effective?
The pitch clock was one of a handful of innovations tested out in three Arizona Fall League games, all designed to reduce the length of games, and together they appeared to work. Games average 2:51 in the AFL; the three experimental games lasted 2:14, 2:28, and an 11-inning affair that went 3:12.

30 minutes shaved off games? Sign me up.

You can see more details and a video of it working in action here.

Of course, this will probably never happen. Getting MLB and the MLBPA to agree on anything is basically impossible, and has been for decades. Throw the umpire's union in there and it's even worse.

If they ever do this, though, and games actually start lasting 2:40 again (or less) on a regular basis, count me in.


Scorching into my inbox this morning:
Behold, you are reading a letter from the President Barack Obama USA. Finally, I have received lists of the names of people who are Involved in money laundry and terrorism Which your name is Among the names that was submitted to me and I have ordered to release arrest warrant to the IPA to quickly carry October Their duty and make sure that They get you arrested and summon you to the court immediately Which They Will Be on Their duty on Thursday morning the
assigned since you are trying to play ball with me.

You have failed to comply with Them all after the warning and instructions given Beheerder Beheerder to you, but since you are Also Among the terrorist we are facing in the country, I will make sure that personal I wipe away the crime in the state and I promise you That You will definitely pay with your life because I am here to protect the interest of my people and not to put Them in shame, you suppose to support this government and not to spoil it. Since It Has Been confirmed by Benin Republic government that Actually this fund belongs to you and here the law demands That It can not be release to you Unless you Provide the certificate Which is OWNERSHIP CERTIFICATE DRUG And That Is what the IPA Has Been demanding for a very long team now. For your own good, I am giving you today last chance to tell me the the President why you have failed to Provide the certificate and why do you fail the IPA That Is working under my instruction Which you know that once you disobey Them you have disobeyed me as well.

Do note that if you failed to get back to this office Within 24hours, you will be apprehended and charge to court immediately for Involving in money laundry and terrorism and there you will see my face. You will only be free if you get back to my office by promising That You Will Provide the fee for the Which certificate will cost you only 100usd to obtain infor- mation it Within 48hours Otherwise you will be in soup, BE WARNED!. I will advise you on what to further Top the Top They once hear from you in other to resolve this matter amicably. Contact Mr Jeff Kennedy So that He will Provide you the certificate once you have send Them fee.

Kindly Respond to this message.

1. I have ordered to release arrest warrant to the IPA
2. Beheerder! Beheerder!
4. the fee for the Which certificate
5. I will advise you on what to further Top the Top

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Athlete

Sure, after twelve years of reading this crap, you thought you'd seen everything there was to see.

You are incorrect, sir!

We went to San Antonio for a game last Sunday, and the rink has a separate area (where there used to be a second sheet of ice) where they hold events.

We walked into the rink an hour early, and in the non-ice area, there was a dog show going on. The best kind of dog show, with dogs running through obstacle courses.

We all found this knee-slapping hilarious (and totally entertaining), because some of these dogs were tiny. Very, very tiny. But while they had different sizes and levels of skills, every dog was full one of thing: enthusiasm. Every single one looked entirely thrilled to be running through a maze, and there was tail wagging aplenty when they were done.

This small warrior was our favorite. He was not the most skilled, perhaps, but his enthusiasm was boundless.

The Deep Freeze

We're in the deep freeze.

For the last week, the average high temperature has been 20 degrees below normal. The average high this time of year is 61F, so the average high has been 41F for the last week.

Doom cold.

Garret (who lives in Winnipeg), you can start laughing now.

Here's the hard thing, though: when you live somewhere and have a wardrobe that supports average early-January highs of 61, you don't really have adequate clothing for an average high of 41.

I go from outside (40F) to the rink (40F) for several hours, then back to the outside (40F). I'm so cold that when I gets home, it feels like the house is 40F.

I wear layers. Layer after layer after layer. Not enough, though. I even bought a pair of gloves yesterday, which I've never really worn (no one really needs to down here). Buying the gloves was amusing, because I went to REI, and it looked like a post-holiday sale. It was mobbed. Even Austin Guy (who wears shorts every day, all year long) was stocking up on cold-weather clothing.

Tomorrow, it starts to warm up. Not in the rink, though.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Gridiron Solitaire Number I've Forgotten Completely: The Future

I haven't been posting about it, but stuff's going on around here.

I really, really want two new card decks, both with more athletic/action poses. One would just use the jersey numbers (no numbers on the outside of the card at all), while the other would be a 'big" number deck, with the numbers on the edges of the card being the primary focus.

A user would have three decks to choose from: original, jersey numbers only, and big numbers.

Conceptually, I want to use as many of the big image poses as possible on the new deck. So the players on the card deck are also players in the big images that get shown for certain events during the game. It ties up nicely.

In addition to that, though, Fredrik has two very cool ideas.

The first is to have the announcer in the bottom left-corner of the screen to "announce" text events, instead of having a scoreboard dropdown. That makes so much sense that I'm embarrassed I didn't think about it originally.

His second idea is to modernize the scoreboard, and incorporate the little game window as part of a big video screen. That's also an excellent idea, because with more modern-looking players, it makes sense to modernize the scoreboard as well.

Here's a very, very early screenshot, and it requires some explanation, so hold your horses after you see it:

Here are some notes that help this make sense (it will be easier to see if you click on the picture to expand it).
1. the scoreboard is not final, obviously, but you can see that it's definitely tarted up quite a bit, with some nice shading and colors. Plus, the little game window underneath is going to be physically "attached" like a video screen, although this version isn't quite there yet. You can see what we're trying to do, though.
2. Those card images are placeholders, since some don't even show the jersey number, but you can see how those poses pop with that bright white background. Plus, there's a drop shadow around the cards that just slightly lifts them off the field (and looks really, really good).

It might be possible for the deck with big numbers to use poses where jersey numbers aren't displayed, because the numbers will be so large on the outside. For the other deck, poses where the jersey numbers are clearly displayed will be used. I really like the idea of two "dedicated" decks, though.

3. The black ticker at the bottom is going to turn on when there's a text event, and the text will display line by line (like it does now). But the font will be larger, because the ticker is larger. The bar will also not extend across the announcer's body (which will let the announcer image itself be reduced a bit in size).

It's very early days on all this--it's going to take several months, at a minimum--but I'm excited by the possibilities.

Monday, January 12, 2015

The Mask

"If you had one word to describe how I look in the training mask, what would it be?" I asked Eli 13.5

"Bane," he said without pausing. That's fair.

I have a unique workout problem. My heart is strong, and my breathing is very strong, but my body is made out of pretzel sticks. I get injured at exertion levels that are way, way too low to challenge my heart.

That's one of the reasons I swim--harder effort possible without additional strain on the body. But I recently did something to a stomach muscle while swimming (incredibly), so now I'm walking on a treadmill until it heals.

We were in a sporting goods store two weeks ago and I saw an altitude training mask. I've never even seen one at the retail level. It's called the elevation training mask, and it's supposed to simulate training at altitudes from 3k to 18k feet.

It's very simple. It basically looks like an oxygen mask with a velcro sleeve to secure it on your face. There are plastic discs with openings on the front of the mask. You get several sets of discs, and each one has a different number of openings. When you want more difficulty, you just replace the discs for a set that has fewer openings.

I started out with the 3k discs, and while it certainly felt strange the first time I used it, the mask was surprisingly comfortable. If you're claustrophobic, forget about it, but if you're not, it's an interesting experience, and it certainly makes exercise more difficult.

Today I put in the 6k elevation discs for the first time, and it was a noticeable difference. I felt like I was having to work much harder, even though the treadmill pace was unchanged. At 18k, I assume I would just be just sucking fumes and then passing out on the treadmill.

This isn't cheap (it's $80), and it's certainly a niche product, but it seems well made and it's improved my workouts without additional strain on my balsa wood body.

Friday, January 09, 2015

Friday Links!

If you've ever played Tetris (oh, come on! You must have played Tetris), you really, really need to see this: Tetris Mastermind Beats the Game With All Blocks Invisible.

From The Edwin Garcia Links Machine, and this is stunning: Nazis’ vast, secret WMD facility uncovered in Austria. Also, and this is entirely adorable, it's Cory Lopez and the World’s Cutest Surf Session. Next, and this is beautiful: Journey Part 1. Next, and this is very clever, it's The Incredible Hulk Hands.

From Michael M., and this is bizarre: Mystery Giant Sharks May Be Everywhere. Also, and this is even more bizarre: 51 years after wreck, 7-inch car part found in man's arm.

This is quite hypnotic: Watching an umbrella get hand made is more captivating than I thought.

From David Byron, and this may be the badass of the century (and she's only seven): 7-Year-Old Miraculously Survives Plane Crash in Inclement Weather. This is a tragic story, but her will is remarkable.

From Steven Davis, and this is fascinating: Rand McNally: Globemakers.

I never knew any of this: How Soap Works.

From C. Lee, and this is an incredible story: Blue versus Green: Rocking the Byzantine Empire: When the spectators at Rome's spectacular circuses split into factions, it threatened to bring the Eastern Empire down. The day was saved by Byzantium's remarkable empress, but only at the cost of 30,000 lives. Next, and this is very touching: A Calligrapher Brings an Elegant Touch to an Officer’s Funeral. One more, and this is fascinating: Even People With “Perfect Memory” Can Be Tricked Into Recalling Fake Events.

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Make Better Decisions #9

This is from DQ San Diego correspondent J.R. Parnell, and here's what he has to say:
Spotted this weekend at our local mall. 

I can't think of a better way to advertise their Dress & Shoes sale...

Next, and I believe no commentary is needed:

This last one is for me, because here's my YouTube "keep watching" screen (what shows up after you watch one video, trying to tempt you into the endless time sink that is YouTube):

Wait, Jenga videos? A bull attacking a woman from behind? Weird Al Yankovic and Jimi Hendrix? Plus I think there's a borderline nose-picker in there.

Oh wait, I forgot that I have a couple more. The first is from The Dollar Store, where Eli 13.5 loves to go spend a dollar or two on a slow day. This is one of the off-off-brands that famously appear in the Dollar Store, and if you're drinking this, well, look at the post title:

Okay, now this is really the last one. We were eating ice cream at Baskin Robbins last weekend, and Eli started flipping through the ice dream cake book. Just check out that license plate:

Wednesday, January 07, 2015


I recently played a lovely little game called "Beeswing", which was another of the Kickstarter gold mines for me last year. Now the developer is trying to get the game on Steam, and I would appreciate it very much if you would go cast a vote in its favor: Beeswing on Greenlight.

Speaking of Kickstarter, Red Door Blue Key mentioned an interesting game this week: Make it so: Into the Stars marks the return of the captain simulator. It looks entirely wonderful, so if you're interested in backing the Kickstarter after having a look, then go here: Into the Stars.

Tom Francis--of RPS and Gunpoint fame--is releasing a video series on making games with Gamemaker, and it's very accessible. If you're curious, have a look: Gunpoints of View: Tom Francis Teaches Gamemaker.

Tom was pretty inspirational to me when I was originally working on Gridiron Solitaire. He didn't know how to program when he started, either.

The Consumer Entertainment Show is in Las Vegas this week, but there just doesn't seem to be the usual excitement this time. LG is expanding their OLED line, which is great news, but there are still issues with manufacturing OLED panels in volume that won't be solved for a while. Panasonic announced a new premium LCD, but the premium LCD they announced at last year's CES still hasn't shipped in the U.S. (oops).

There's a bit of persistent rumor that Oculus Rift (the commercial version) will ship this year, and that would be great, but there's no confirmation on that yet.

I'll tell you what does seem to be getting traction, though, and that's self-driving cars. I told Eli 13.5 yesterday that within 10 years, he'll be sitting in the driver's seat as a car drives itself, at least to some degree, and that his son might never drive a car in the conventional sense.

There's the sticky issue that I like to call "Who dies?" in crash-inevitable situations where the AI has to choose what to do, but eventually, that will be resolved to a generally acceptable degree.

The idea that this will actually exist and be functional someday entirely blows my mind. Hello, 22nd century in the early 21st.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

2014 Game of the Year

A game in the genre of magical realism simply shouldn't exist.

Yet 2014's game of the year is full of magical realism, with time and reality delicately layered. It is so carefully constructed, so brilliantly executed, that it is nothing short of mesmerizing. Two of the finest moments in gaming I've ever had happened while playing this game. It is so full of memorable moments that it defies description.

It's not even finished, either. What does exist presently, though, is so utterly superior as a game that there is absolutely no question that it is 2014's Game of the Year.

Kentucky Route Zero.

If you have not experienced this game, then you are much the poorer. Please remedy that as soon as possible, and here are a few helpful suggestions so that you can get the very most out of the game.
1. Play in the dark.
2. Play in a quiet environment--ideally, with headphones.
3. Play as slowly as possible. This is not a game to rush through. It is a game to savor, and the more you see, the more you explore, the more you will feel.

This is unquestionably art, and yet being art in no way detracts from the game, and vice versa. It is a beautiful, compelling form of art that could only be experienced as a game.

I'll tell you what Kentucky Route Zero does to me: it makes me still inside. I am so focused, so present, while I play that I fall entirely into its world.

Nothing else even comes close.

Monday, January 05, 2015

Tomorrow: Game of the Year

Sorry, it's been a bit nuts around here today, so it was delayed a day, but tomorrow I'll finish the Game of the Year post.

There is only one possible choice. Any other choice is just wrong. WRONG.


Vic Davis announced recently that he was leaving computer game development to move into board game development.

A couple of things here. First, even though Vic's games were never rewarded with huge sales, he was very, very highly respected as a designer/developer. RPS had an article today noting his move, and just the fact that they found it noteworthy speaks volumes about his reputation.

Vic developed his PC games in Adobe Director, which is kind of an unusual sidenote. Director had reached the point, though, where it wasn't really viable anymore, and learning an entirely new language is tremendously time-consuming. I think that's probably one of the reasons that board games, where he can focus more on design, are an appealing avenue for him. Plus his games definitely have a board game feel.

I've been fortunate enough to e-mail back and forth with Vic over the years, and it's always been a total pleasure. He is thoughtful and personable, and he loves the mechanics of games. Moving into board games seems like a very natural fit.

Friday, January 02, 2015

Friday Links!

From C. Lee, and every state gets an insult: 50 Americans Summarize Their Home State In One Perfectly Sarcastic Sentence. Also, and this is a wonderful way-back link, it's The Roots of Sir-tech. Even better: Making Wizardry, and The Wizardry Phenomenon. One more, and it's an excellent read: A Partial History of Headphones.

A flurry of links from The Edwin Garcia Links Machine this week. First, Why You do Your Best Thinking in the Shower.. Next, and this is thought-provoking, it's Conventional Economics is a Form of Brain Damage. Next, and this is excellent, it's The City in Cinema: Mini-Documentaries Reveal the Los Angeles of Blade Runner, Her, Drive, Repo Man, and More. One more, and this is pretty fantastic: Astronomically Correct Twinkle Twinkle. Last one, and it's amazing: Scenes from The Wire: Then and Now

From Steven Davis, and the title says it all: incredible jenga move. Also, and this is tremendous, it's Animatronic Creature Mechanics.

From Rob Funk, and this is a fascinating read: The Real Story Behind the 1914 Christmas Truce in World War I.

From Chris Pencis, and this is some spectacular driving: GYMKHANA SEVEN: WILD IN THE STREETS OF LOS ANGELES.

Closing out the week, and these are just remarkable, it's Red Dot Awards: young designers imagine the future of everyday objects.

Thursday, January 01, 2015


Our holiday card this year.

Why hasn't someone done this game?

I look through a huge list of games coming in 2015, but there's one game I didn't see: a rogue-like based in the Interstate 76 or Mad Max worlds.

Why not?

The dungeon rogue has been done to death now. There are a truckload of outdoor survival games in the pipeline. But there is no car-based survival game.

It doesn't need to be in first person. Third person works fine.

How can this not be in development somewhere?

Also, if you look through that giant list of games (Thanks, RPS), one game in particular caught my eye: FAR Colony. Here's the description:
Split into two phases, this hard sci-fi RTS is about managing humanity’s first space colony. To begin with you’ll need to pick a landing site and start to set your colony up. This lasts one year of in-game time, at the end of which you’re given a score that governs the difficulty in the simulation-strategy second half. Keeping the colony functioning is then a sandbox, with random events keeping things interesting.

That's definitely worth keeping an eye on.

There are an absolute metric ton of interesting games coming out this year, and if you scan through that massive list, you will find dozens to get excited about..

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