Friday, October 24, 2014

Friday Addendum

Alan Eustace Jumps From Stratosphere, Breaking Felix Baumgartner’s World Record

Whoa. And what a simple approach, too.

Also, DO NOT FORGOT about Halloween Costume Count 2014. It's still a week away, but it's coming.

Friday Links!

Leading off, from Meg McReynolds, and this is a stunning piece of writing about Mississippi: A Ride Down Paradise Road: Ole Miss and State are undefeated, and Mississippi can't explain what it all means.

From Dan Willhite, and this is fantastic: The Physics of the Death Star. Also, and these images are absolutely stunning: Breathtaking Aerial Landscapes of Iceland by Sarah Martinet. Another, and it's tremendous: New destinations past Pluto for New Horizons: A scan with the Hubble locates some Kuiper Belt Objects for it to visit. One more, and here's a spectacular comeback: Pluto Is a Planet Again, According to Harvard Astronomers. Wait--incredibly, there's one more, and it's fantastically strange and wonderful: Bears and Mechs in 1920.

From Eric Higgins-Freese, and these are terrific: 40 maps and charts that explain sports in America.

From Marc Klein, and this is a glimpse into a secret, bizarre world: The Adultery Arms Race.

From C. Lee, and this is amazing: Gauss Gun. Also, and this is hilarious, it's Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Supreme Court Animals.

From Michael O'Reilly, and this is fascinating: The Stuntmen Who Blacklisted Blackface.

In anticipation of Halloween costume-counting, J.R. Parnell sent in this link: Popular Halloween Costumes of the Last 25 Years.

From Jonathan Arnold, and of course I want to stay here: The Deepest, Darkest, Oldest, Loneliest Hotel Room in the World.

Here's an interesting business story about craftmanship from Steven Davis: Noticed: J. HILL’s Standard.

From Matt Kreuch, and this is fantastic: Texas kindergartner gets 3D printer Iron Man hand.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Radio!

You guys sent in some terrific radio show information after yesterday's post.

First, Doug Perini e-mailed about The Vintage Radio Place, which has a huge collection of vintage radio shows.

Roy Seney let me know that there is an online archive for every episode of CBS Radio Mystery Theater, and it's here: CBS Radio Mystery Theater. I'm listening to an episode right now, actually, and it's excellent.

Geoff Engelstein sent in this entirely terrific remembrance:
I remember when I was probably around 17 (~1980-81) I was playing with my radio and bouncing around the dial, and then stumbled on a science fiction radio show - that turned out to be the first episode of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, being broadcast out of NYC.

I was (understandably) just blown away, and tried as hard as possible to be around each week at the same time to listen to the next installment.

The thing about radio dramas like that back then is that they weren't really advertised anywhere. You just had to discover them. Plus it was completely enhanced by the fuzziness of the signal and the way it faded in and out. You had to work for it back then, and really LISTEN, which I think just amped everything up.

The books came out years later, and many folks still don't know or haven't heard those original radio dramas. But to my mind they are still the best rendition of that story, by far.

I was so happy when I was able to get them on CD - special ordered from the BBC and shipped from the UK - and was able to relive those days curled up in bed straining between the static to hear what happened next to Zaphod Beeblebrox.

Also, Chris Volny sent this in:
1. I started listening to Radio Mystery Theater exactly the way you did; I was playing (illegally) with my brother’s radio, found it and was hooked. I was probably about the same age too, at 13 years for me it would have been 1975. Several years later, 1982, I had joined the US Air Force and stationed in Japan was put on the midnight to morning shift. I walked into the shop and heard Radio Mystery Theater on the Armed Forces network! That was awesome, but I was the only one who appreciated it.

2. Fallout 3 has a mod for the in-game radio called X Minus One! I’ve listened to all those episodes while wandering the Washington DC wasteland. 

Seriously, that is the best gaming mod ever. It makes me want to fire up Fallout 3 again, just to install that mod.

Wings! Remastered

I've written many times about my fondness for the Cinemaware games that came out for the Amiga 500. They're a wonderful collection of worthy games.

Wings! was one of my very favorites. Flying in a WWI-era plane was an amazing experience because it was so incredibly personal. Dogfighting was very close quarters combat, and it was real seat-of-the-pants flying, because instrumentation was so primitive.

Didn't know the Immelman Maneuver? You weren't going to last long. Couldn't accurately shoot the gun? Same.

Wings! also wound through a deeply personal story of war, so both the flying and the time in-between missions felt personal. And for the era, the gameplay was tremendously engrossing. There were three types of missions--dogfighting, strafing/bombing ground targets, and destroying weather balloons--and they held my interest for the duration of the game.

If all that wasn't enough, Wings! also has one of my absolutely favorite endings to a game.

That's a lot of gaming love in one package.

So when I saw a Kickstarter for a remastered version in HD, I backed it, of course. It came out a couple of weeks ago, and I'm very happy to report that (through fifteen missions) the development team has done a terrific job. The game looks great, the solid gameplay feels unchanged, and I'm just as sucked into the experience as I was twenty years ago.

This is an important piece of gaming canon, and if you've never played it, you should rectify that immediately. Here's the Steam page: Wings! Remastered Edition.

The Fight

I would normally put up a link on Friday, but this is such a soaring, gripping piece of writing that I'm going to mention it now instead.

If you're not familiar with James Baldwin (1924-1987), he was an American poet, essayist, and playwright. He was tremendously influential, and his writing is concentrated and powerful. I was fortunate to read his poetry a long time ago, and I still remember the effect it had on me. Still does.

Anyway, in 1963, James Baldwin was sent to Chicago to write a story about the Floyd Patterson-Sonny Liston fight. Back when boxing was still influential, all kinds of non-sportswriters were sent to write about boxing matches.

What emerged from this assignment is simply one of the most utterly memorable essays ever, written with an incomparable rhythm. Anyone who loves words and how writers put them together must begin reading immediately.

Here you go: The Fight: Patterson vs. Liston.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

82


When I was 13 (man, I was the same age as Eli 13.3!), I was fiddling around with the radio one night and stumbled on a program called CBS Radio Mystery Theater.

I still remember sitting in the dark, listening to this program, the only light coming from the radio dial.

I'd never listened to a dramatic program on the radio before, and I was mesmerized. There's a measured pace to radio programs, a kind of breathing between beats, that lets the plot develop in a manner that can be quite gripping.

I listened to this program every night for weeks, then eventually went on to other interests, but I never lost the fond memories.

I have satellite radio in the Accord Hybrid, and a few days ago I stumbled onto a station called "Radio Classics" (Channel 82). It has a ton of old-time radio programs, and they're just as absorbing as when I was a kid.

Driving to pick up Eli 13.1 from school today, I heard an old program called "X Minus One". It's a science fiction program, and here's an interesting note about the shows:
The stories for the show came from two of the most popular science fiction magazines at the time; Astounding and Galaxy. Adaptations of these stories were performed by Ernest Kinoy and George Lefferts. They even wrote a few original stories of their own. The writers of the magazine stories were not well known then but now are the giants of today. These stories came from the minds of Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, and Poul Anderson to name a few.

The episode I heard in the car today was called "A Logic Named Joe" (episode 31), and if you want a good example of the genre, there's a full archive of the show here.

If you have satellite radio, and want to listen to something relaxing (but engaging) in the car, this might be right up your alley.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

What the Hell Tuesday

Double content tomorrow, because today featured no food from 9:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. and two and a half hours of standing in a rink watching hockey practice, so I'm shaky from hunger and freezing cold. Double bonus.

Tomorrow, though, you'll be updated on the improbable career of Enormous Bottoms as he tries to reach the major leagues with the most unbalanced ratings in the history of baseball. Plus, a new rule for developers (in addition to the now-canon "Don't be a dick"): don't make death threats.

Monday, October 20, 2014

A Niche Scammer

Hello,
My name is Jeff Wilson and i will like to know if you carry (SAW BLADES) for sale.If yes , reply me back with your website so that i can select the one that am interested in purchasing from your company also i will recommend a freight company for the picked up.hoping to hear from you soon.

Thank You
Jeff... 

What I'm curious about here, obviously, is what else might be in capital letters. If SAW BLADES are one possibility, what are the others?

VIOLIN BOWS
WINDMILLS
HUMAN SKULLS



Updates!

First off, in reference to the insurance application (asking if I was engaged in any dangerous occupations), here's more information from Jens Fiederer about explosives (via Wikipedia):
"The use of explosives in mining goes back to the year 1627, when gunpowder was first used in place of mechanical tools in the Hungarian (now Slovakian) town of Banská Štiavnica. The innovation spread quickly throughout Europe and the Americas."

That's much, much earlier than I thought. And probably much more dangerous as well.

Joshua Buergel sent in some interesting information in regards to the "reviewer affinity" tool I wanted to see:
While such a thing doesn't exist for video game reviews (as far as I know), such a thing does exist for board games. BoardGameGeek has the excellent "GeekBuddy" feature. Yes, that's what it's called. If you identify a user with similar tastes, you can add them to your list. Then, looking at any game, you can call up what your buddies rate it, instead of the general population.

Okay, this doesn't qualify as an update, but here's C. Lee with some important information:
Up until now, I’d always assumed “disinfect” and “sanitize” were synonyms, and then I happened to read the label on a bottle of toilet cleaner:

“To disinfect: Let stand for at least 10 minutes.”

“To sanitize: Let stand for 30 seconds.”

I feel like a great light has been shed, like I’ve gained a glimpse into the hidden workings of the universe, and now I wonder if I will ever stay in a hotel where the paper strip informs me that my toilet has been disinfected for my protection.



Friday, October 17, 2014

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, a masterfully written story by Michael McKnight: The Split: Twenty-five years after Donnie Moore's death, it's time to dispel the myth that the pitcher killed himself because of a playoff home run. The truth is both darker and more relatable.

From Stephen Davis, and you must read this (DQ Film Advisor and Nicest Guy in the World Ben Ormand, this particularly means you): Bunville Weenies (the story of a toy line that should have been huge, but wasn't). Also, and this is terrific: Interactive Origami Sculpture. One more, and it's excellent: NYC's Steamy History.

From Jonathan Arnold, and this is fascinating: Rating Chili Peppers On A Scale Of 1 To Oh Dear God I’m On Fire. One more, and these are stunning: Beautiful Chemistry.

From Daniel Willhite, and these are both excellent: Can't do math? Dance it out, and SHINE for Girls: Every girl is good at math. Some don't realize it yet.

From The Edwin Garcia Links Machine, and this is mesmerizing: French soldier’s room unchanged 96 years after his death in first world war. Also, and this is fascinating: ‘Without his shoes, I couldn’t walk’: a cobbler with a mission.

From Chris Pencis, and wow wow wow: Drone racing is a thing, and the first-person video is spectacular.

From Aaron Ward,  and drones are everywhere: Cirque de Soleil Deploys Drones for Art.

From Jesse Leimkuehler, and Doug Walsh will particularly appreciate this: One Man’s Photos from an Epic Road Trip Spanning 26 Years, 177 Countries, and 500,000 Miles.

I know I've said this before, but the competition is over. This is the best headline ever: Dwarf stripper gets bride pregnant on her hen night.

From Tim Lesnick, and this is epic: Hawk vs. Drone! (Hawk Attacks Quadcopter). I'm a big fan of hawks.

Ending up this week, and I know I've linked to it before, but man, it's so much fun: PULP-O-MIZER: the customizable pulp magazine cover generator.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

#GoodGrief

I really didn't want to write about this, but it's gotten so stupid that I've had enough.

This is in reference to--and I'm breaking up the name so that I don't get idiotic e-mails from Google vigilantes--the group identifying themselves as "Gamer" plus "Gate".

A "movement" ostensibly dealing with ethics and integrity must itself have ethics and integrity. If it doesn't, it's not a movement. It's a mob.

Also, please remember that people who bully others, and enjoy it, are broken in fundamental ways. People who make threats to harm others are even more fundamentally broken. These threats are reprehensible.

I have an idea. Maybe the people threatening physical harm to women could go mention this to their moms. Just explain the situation. I'm sure they'll be very understanding.

Now, if you extract the incoherent rage from the alleged point--the ethics of gaming journalists--maybe we can unpack something that isn't entirely idiotic.

Not idiotic. Just dumb.

First, we need to distinguish writers who discuss games as an entertainment medium, or discuss them at a level about single games. They can be honest.

At the game review level, though, with a big gaming website, it's impossible.

I'm not saying that everyone is compromised, but the entire structural foundation of the "gaming website" industry is a wink wink, nudge nudge with gaming companies that provide them with the revenue they need--via advertising--to survive.

Big gaming websites live inside a box. That box is their financial dependency on the industry they cover. They are as honest as they can be inside the confines of the box.

Gaming websites depend on gaming companies for both revenue and access. If they lose either, they won't exist. They're not hunting for Pulitzer Prizes. They're Entertainment Tonight.

This is why I haven't gone to IGN or Gamespot for years. It's just not financially possible for them to be objective. It's not rational to expect them to be objective.

Let's say IGN decides on full transparency. This means that when they did a preview, they'd have to state up front where the preview was done, and whether the developer/publisher flew them out to see the game. Was their hotel paid for, and what about food? Were they taken out for some kind of event that night?

You might think that would be enough, but it wouldn't be--not for full transparency. In addition, IGN would have to disclose any advertising revenue realized (or anticipated) from the game.

Even then, it doesn't account for everything. It would be simple for advertising for Game X and Game Y to be tied to the review score of Game Z.

Is that kind of transparency ever going to happen? No.

That's why I read sites like Gamers With Jobs. Rock, Paper, Shotgun (which is no longer small, but their writing resonates with me). Pocket Tactics.

Here's a tool that someone needs to create. You would go to this tool, select your favorite games, and you could find reviewers who rated these games highly. Then you would have an idea of which reviewers had similar tastes. That would be far more useful than Metacritic, because it would be tailored to your preferences. You could also set alerts when these reviewers had new reviews come out.

This would help you filter out static and tune the Internet gaming radio to your particular frequency.

Make Better Decisions, #9 in a Series

Submitted by a reader who wishes to remain anonymous.

I worked at a grocery store for much of high school.  A young man (no older than 21, and maybe not that old) came through my line with three items:  (1) a pregnancy test; (2) a 6-pack of Cost-Cutter (yes, that was a brand) beer; and (3)  a pack of condoms.   

This was before ubiquitous debit / credit card access, and in any event this gentleman looked like perhaps he would have continued to subsist in an all-cash economy into the future. So he began to dutifully count out his change and discovered that he hadn't accounted for tax; accordingly, he was roughly 75 cents short.   He looked at the three items on the belt and then solemnly pointed at the pregnancy test.  "Put that one back."   

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Rebel Galaxy

Remember two weeks ago when I said I had played a space game that was going to be huge?

It was officially announced today. It's called Rebel Galaxy.

This is the first project from Double Damage Games, which is is the new company of Travis Baldree and Erich Schaefer. Travis was extremely nice and let me play an alpha build of the game, which consists primarily of sandbox mode.

First off, this game is just gorgeous (click on the screenshot for a larger view--it's worth it):


That's my ship heading to a mission waypoint, traveling at warp speed.

I've played for a few hours, and here are some early impressions. First, space feels substantial. It also feels independent and unscripted. I've run across all kinds of harrowing situations on my way to accepted missions. Second, the control scheme on a game pad is just terrific. Everything you need to do is mapped to a control. This means the control scheme is not as complex as Elite: Dangerous, which will make it more pick up and play. Third, some of the alien encounters definitely give off a Star Control II vibe. That's always a good thing.

The Torchlight series (and Fate before it) is vibrant and full of life. The mind reels at what the creative forces behind these games could do in an open-world environment. I absolutely can't wait.

Here's an excellent preview at Polygon: Rebel Galaxy, the newest game from the men behind Torchlight and Diablo.


Food Stuff

First off, an update on the Schlotzsky's post last week--at least, the part where I mentioned Chipotle. This is from a reader who wishes to remain anonymous:
Just a side clarification from someone who was living in Denver at the time.

Chipotle wasn't started inside McDonalds.  It was started in 1993 in Denver by a chef(Steve Ells) who is  still CEO of Chipotle.  AFter it had quite a few restaurants in Colorado (16 according to Wikipedia,) McDonalds became a minor investor in 1998 and  a major one by 2001.  This investment helped Chipotle expand into other states.  In 2006 the IPO happened and shortly thereafter in late 2006, McDonalds divested itself from Chipotle as part of an effort to get rid of non-core businesses.

Also in regards to Chipotle--where I had dinner last night--sofritas are now available more widely. Here's the description (from Chipotle's website):
We start with organic tofu from Hodo Soy that we shred and then braise with chipotle chilis, roasted poblanos, and a blend of aromatic spices. 

Why would you eat this? Well, the saturated fat content is very low, so it's healthier. Plus, it's a pretty convincing imitation of "Chipotle meat", that particular seasoned flavor common to every meat/chicken option. Very spicy, nice flavor, and once it was in a taco, I never noticed that it wasn't meat. It's vegan, too, in case that's important to you.

We went to a new pizza place on the way back from a practice last week. It's called Pieology, and--conveniently enough--it's the Chipotle Grill format with pizza. You stand in line, choose the ingredients/sauce for your pizza, and they put it in the oven.

It's ready in four minutes, which is pretty remarkable.

The pizza tasted great, too.

This is mostly a California franchise (only one in Texas), but if you're near one, it's tasty and not expensive.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Front Office Football On Greenlight

Jim Gindin is still trying to get Front Office Football Seven on Steam. This is incredibly ironic, given that the recently released (and by all accounts, catastrophically bad) Front Page Sports Football made it to Steam with no problem.

If you haven't voted yet, please do. Jim is the dean of football simulations, and he more than deserves this support. Here's the Greenlight page: Front Office Football Seven

Make Better Decisions, #8 In A Series

I heard a story today that blew my mind.

On a local radio station, there was an interview with Bobby Patterson. Patterson, born in 1944, is a regionally popular soul singer who always deserved a wider audience and more fame than he ever received.

Patterson talked about his entire career, but what stunned me was when he talked about Shreveport (my arch nemesis). He said that there was a time when Shreveport was the regional hub for music in the South, bigger than Nashville (country) or Memphis (blues). I think he was talking about the mid 1950s, because he mentioned The Louisiana Hayride (Elvis Presley performed on the show/tour, among others).

He said that Shreveport would have been the music capital of the South, but that no one was willing to build the recording studios and associated infrastructure. Memphis and Nashville did, so musicians drifted away from Shreveport to those cities instead.




Make Better Decisions, #7 In A Series

The professionally dressed woman in front of me at Walgreen's purchased the following three items:
--"giant" Slim Jim
--string cheese
--cigarettes

Monday, October 13, 2014

Card Dungeon Released for Android!

Card Dungeon is now out for Android, and here's a link: Card Dungeon on Google Play.

Also, the patch to address memory issues (and add some new features) is out for iOS.

Pictures!

Comfortable anywhere:

Fearless explorer:

Easily the most embarrassing picture Eli 13.2 has ever taken, and that's saying something:

This man is not good at driving:

Really--Mariah Carey water is a thing?


It makes sense that George would be a fan of this particular magazine:


Well, um, if you say so.



Earth View Extension For Chrome

There's a post at Gizmodo today that talks about an Earth View extension for Chrome. After you install it, whenever you open a new tab in your browser, you're treated to a new satellite image. It's easily one of my favorite browser extensions ever--the little thrill of seeing a beautiful image each time I open up a new browser tab is a great treat.

Even better, if you want to explore the image in more depth, there's a little icon in the bottom right that tells the location of the image, and you can click on it to open the image in Google Maps.

Here's the Gizmodo article: Earth View From Google Maps Chrome Extension. There are also images taken from the extension.

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