Friday, August 29, 2014

Friday Links!

Sorry, we're a little light this week heading into the Labor Day weekend, but the link quality is strong.

Leading off this week, from Steven Kreuch, and this is such a moving and inspirational story: My Name is Ken. Ken is a tetra-quadriplegic (all four limbs are paralyzed), and he's a gamer.

Here's another absolutely tremendous story, this one sent in by Guy Byars: The Most Amazing Lie in History: How a chicken farmer, a pair of princesses, and 27 imaginary spies helped the Allies win World War II.

From Meg McReynolds, and this is going to suck up at least thirty minutes of your morning, guaranteed: Where We Came From and Where We Went, State by State.

From Sirius, and I had no idea this was possible: Biting The Hand That Cooks You: Severed Cobra Head Bites, Kills Chef.

From C. Lee, and this is pretty fantastic: These Are the Brave and Fluffy Cats Who Served in World War I.

From Phil Honeywell, and while this is in German, here's a translation of the opening:
Two years is the little robotic Mars Curiosity on its way to the surface of the Red Planet. He fights his way over rocks and dunes and is often exposed to sandstorms. He regularly photographed themselves at work. The before and after pictures of NASA showing how the mission has changed him.

Here's the story: Ganz schön mitgenommen.

From Tim Lesnick, two links about video games and art. The first, and it includes what might be my single favorite game ever, it's Dwarf Fortress is changing how the MOMA preserves art. The second, and it's a terrific read: New MOMA exhibit embraces the art of video games as it explores their design.

These are wonderful images: pre-revolution American cars in Cuba.

From Marc Klein, and this is fantastic: The Rise of Beefcake Yoga.

From Todd J., and yes, I live in this state, sadly: From Texas, where everything is bigger, the 99-pack of beer.

From Eric Higgins-Freese, and this is both interesting and discouraging: Is America Dreaming?: Understanding Social Mobility.

Finally, here's a fascinating story to end the week with: The Making And Unmaking Of Preston Zimmerman, American Soccer Player.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Size

We spent quite a bit of time the last two weeks watching the Little League World Series, which I've never done before.

If you turned 13 before May 1 of this year, you were too old to play. So, at most, the oldest kids in the LLWS were three months older than Eli.

The kids were huge.

Not all of them, but it was incredible how many of them were 5'8", 150 or bigger. One kid was 6'2".

Eli is 5' 6 1/2", and weighs 105 pounds. He's in the 95th percentile for height.  There were dozens of kids who absolutely dwarfed him--at least five or six on each team. And tons of kids weighed over 150 pounds.

It was men against boys, in many cases.

That made me think about youth sports, then sports in general, and how size-dependent it's become. To have a chance at becoming great in a sport, in most cases you must fit inside a certain size profile.

In Eli's case, to fit the size profile of an NHL goalie (I know--preposterous--but I'm never betting against him in anything), he needs to be at least 6'1" and 190 pounds. The average NHL goalie today is 6'2", 198 lbs. It's fine to be taller than that--good, even--but being more than an inch or two shorter is a huge liability, and it will significantly affect a scout's interest, no matter the skill of the goalie.

Fortunately for Eli, if his doctor is right, he'll be about 6'3". With his feet already size 12s, and his hands already as big as mine, his size is going to be part of his potential. But I think about those other kids who have worked so hard and are going to be 5'8" as adults, or even 5'10".

That's why trying to understand who has the most potential is so difficult in the adolescent years. Some kids grow early, then stop. Then there are kids who are just too small, but have huge growth spurts later.

For a kid, it's not easy.


Supply

This may not be interesting to anyone besides me (always a risk), but it blows my mind.

When I was a kid, my favorite thing to do on the weekends was watch football. I still remember the schedule, too. There was always a Saturday afternoon college game at 2:30. If I was lucky, there was also a game at 11:00 in the morning, but that wasn't very often.

On Sunday, either NBC or CBS had a doubleheader, and the other network had a single game (they alternated doubleheaders).

In 1969, when I was eight, that was 100% of the football games available on television.

About 20 games of college football. 42 games of pro football (14 game season, no bye weeks).

62 games in total, not including bowl games and the NFL playoffs.

ESPN is showing 52 college football games this weekend (from Wednesday-Monday).

In one week, ESPN is almost showing more football than I watched all season when I was a kid.

I know that forty-five years is a long time, but not to me. I still remember the anticipation on Saturdays, looking forward to the games. That early Saturday game was a huge bonus! And I can still remember details of many of those games, even today.


Immediately

Please go play this right away: Gridland. Also, say goodbye to your afternoon, because this game is as compulsive as a slot machine.

Thanks to RPS for finding it.


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Wayback Machine

Michael Gilbert will see your Amiga 500 and raise you a Commodore 64--in its original box!


See that little white sticker placed vertically on the box? Mike's comment:
The white sticker on the front is where my mom wrote my name & dorm room number when I went to college (1986).

That is a good slice of just about everything: computers, moms, and college.

Here's another image (a little blurry, but no matter):


"Welcome to the World of Friendly Computing." I think that was a very fair description of the C-64 and all the wonderful experiences it provided.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Possibilities

So this seems like a big deal as a proof of concept:
Without a doubt, the Oculus Rift will be the be-all and end-all of our most cherished nerd fantasies (until the holodeck comes.) Example: This game to train like Luke Skywalker in Star Wars—a remote floats around you firing stun blasts that you have to deflect with your lightsaber.

If you're too lazy to watch the video (don't be like me), here's a quick summary: it's a lightsaber training app where you use the DK2 headset along with "a new wireless motion system" called STEM System. The STEM system can either put a controller (with a handle) into your hand, or it can track motion via a wearable bracelet.

Combined, it's stunning. It's a JEDI training simulator, essentially, but it looks incredibly immersive and accurate.

Seeing that made me realize the unbelievable potential that Oculus Rift, in combination with something like the STEM system, has for sports training.

Can't get to the batting cage? Just dial up any pitch speed/type of pitch you want and take batting practice in your living room. Plus, you could practice against higher speed pitches than usual without risk of getting hit, or fouling a ball off your foot. The lightsaber video seemed realistic enough that I believe it would work quite well for becoming familiar with higher speed activities in sports.

Oh, and goalie training simulator? This looks like it could be incredible, if the motion tracking is extremely accurate. One of the critical aspects of being a goalie is reaction time. Actually, it's a critical aspect of almost every sport. Anything that could improve your reaction time would be invaluable to an athlete.

Here's the STEM System website, in case you're curious. They're still in the prototype stage, but man, what potential!

A Very Clever Suggestion

From Steve West, in reference to the "early access is driving me crazy" post I made a few weeks ago (yes, I should have mentioned it then):
Is there a way to flag a game that’s in early access so you get emailed when it launches as ‘complete’? Or even that you get an email when it updates?  

Boy, I would love to have that feature.

Also, an extension idea for that feature. Why can't I tag development companies or even individual developers and get notified when they have a new game released? I can do that with music and new album releases. Why can't I do it with games?

Monday, August 25, 2014

It Lives!

In isolated instances, anyway.

I've written before about my love affair with the Amiga 500. It was a remarkable computer, ahead of its time to a degree that has never been matched.

Much to my surprise, DQ Visual Basic Advisor Garret Rempel had an Amiga 500 as a kid. Even more surprising, he still has it, along with almost 100 games, and he's putting it up for sale.

He even has the original box the 500 came in, which blows me away. I'm not sure I could find the box 30 minutes after I brought mine home.

If you've never experienced the Amiga 500, and you want to see it in all its glory, here's your chance: Amiga 500 For Sale.

Gridiron Solitaire #119: It's Jumping Around Here

First off, I think the window backgrounds in the team museum are going to be very popular. These aren't final, but have a look at a few prototypes.



I particularly like the background for the big city stadium. You see those lights from a different perspective in-game, and Frederick was very clever  in terms of how he changed the perspective while still evoking the stadium.

Like I said, not quite done, but substantial progress. And the coding for this is essentially done, which lets me work on other parts of the game.

For instance, Visionary Annoyance John Harwood said that matching the penalty card with a wildcard should not result in any yards gained. That's not how I was doing it, but he's totally correct. So I reduced the frequency of penalty cards (easier) while removing any yardage benefit when matching a penalty card (harder). Hopefully, that balances out in the middle in terms of difficulty. Plus, it presents some interesting strategic decisions in terms of using the wildcard to remove a penalty card (for zero yards gained, but opening up the board) or using the wildcard to make a yardage-positive match instead (but ending your chances of removing the penalty card on that play).

That's a much better match for decisions that coaches have to make about penalties in real football.

I'm also, um, rewriting the sound code.

I'd written some very situation-specific code, with an unbelievable number of different sound levels, but the problem was that those sound levels were not really distinguishable by the human ear. So if I had several hundred situations where the difference in volume might be 5%, that was just wasted code, because no one could actually hear that small of a difference.

I made a little soundboard that let me tinker with relative sound levels at different effects, and I think it's helped me understand the size of the difference necessary to actually sound different. So using that as a basic principle, I'm trying to simplify the sound code while also making it more effective.

I was hoping to release this version by Wednesday of this week, but it's not going to happen for testing reasons. However, I'm very hopeful that Labor Day will work out. That's still almost a week before the NFL season starts.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Friday Links!

This is a phenomenal week for links.

Leading off this week, from Jonathan Arnold, and what a story: The Strange & Curious Tale of the Last True Hermit. He also sent in a second link, and it's excellent reading as well: The amateur geneticist who surprised science.

Joshua Buergel sent in a link to an absolutely wonderful article about early golf games: Leader Board. I'm sure I played hundreds of rounds of Leaderboard (Amiga) and Mean 18 (Apple IIGS).

From Steven Kreuch,  and in a week where everything in this country seems to be going wrong, this is such a nice moment: Little League coach gives great post-game speech to kids after loss. I can't begin to tell you how much respect I have for that coach. Also, and of course this is fantastic: Watch as we stride into war atop a cave dragon in Dwarf Fortress.

From Matt Kreuch, (that's no coincidence), and this is fascinating: Jellyfish Sting Under The Microscope In Slow Motion.

From Stephen Davis, and this is also fascinating: Art and Craft: A Documentary about Mark Landis, One of the Most Prolific Art Forgers in U.S. History.

From Ryan Brandt, and this is some hard-core Cold War business: The Cheshire ATT facility.

From Michael M., and this is an excellent read: Fukushima's legacy: Biological effects of Fukushima radiation on plants, insects, and animals.

From C. Lee, and this is quite amusing: Slippery Squirrel.

From Eric Higgins-Freese, and if you like college football, you're going to love this : 25 maps that explain college football.

From Wallace, and this is entirely droll: Response to Government Moving to Ban the Word "Government."  One more, and the Golden girls as comic book heroes is the best idea ever: Team Gold Force.

From Sirius, and this is quite amazing: Scientists find traces of sea plankton on ISS surface.

This is from me, and it's a stunning article: The bizarre history of X-ray records and early music piracy.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Mystery of the Lobby Phone has been Solved

From Matthew Sbonik:
The lobby/house phone is there in case the front desk clerk is away from the desk. At the hotel I worked at the house phone was not even 10 feet away from where I would stand behind the desk, but the phone system is designed so that I can direct all incoming calls (including the house phone) to a cordless handset instead of the main console so I could take the handset with me wherever I was in the hotel and still be in contact with guests/incoming calls. It works really well for smaller hotels that might just have one person at the desk who might be called upon to deliver towels or do other things besides just being at the desk. 

Detroit! (part 3)

Remember cherries? I got a picture from a menu. Thanks to some oddity in Blogger, this picture is showing up with the wrong rotation, but just turn your head and be amazed:


A burger--with cherries! And like I said, I love cherries, but philosophical objection raised.

OUR FRIENDS
We have friends in Trenton because of goalie camp, and they are some of the nicest people I've ever met. They also have a wonderful seven-year-old boy, and I believe this is his whiteboard:


I believe that is a list of imaginary opponents defeated in some kind of sporting endeavor. How many of us did that? I know I did.

THE TIGERS
On Sunday, we went to the Tigers game. We always go to the Tigers game on Sunday, and it's always hot. It was only 80 and sunny, but it was still hot.

One of the problems with baseball is that so few people at a baseball game actually watch the baseball game. I went out after the third inning, and here's what I saw:


Did they rush back to their seats when the fourth inning started? No. There were about 40,000 at the game, and at any single moment, I swear that at least 15,000 weren't in their seats.

Don't even get me started about watching pro baseball in person. It's not good. It makes drying paint look like speedboat racing.

The stadiums, though, are wonderful, and in Detroit, the baseball and football stadiums are very close. How close? This close:


RANDOM STORY INSERT
Eli has a friend that he spent the night with a few weeks ago. His friend needs glasses, and just got a pair, but he doesn't wear them. At least, he doesn't wear them until it's time for bed--and then he puts them on. "What are you doing?" Eli asked.

"I need glasses to see," his friend said.

"What do you need to see when you're sleeping?" Eli asked.

TAKE A LITTLE TRIP WITH ME
We were walking along the waterfront after the game and I saw one of the finest low rider bicycles ever. All chrome, handlebars up so high that the rider could barely reach them, and a gigantic boom box on the back, blasting out music. The walkways were crowded, but the sea parted when he rode through. It was fantastic.

THANKS FOR THAT
Eli said something about my "immense mass" at one point. "Thank you for adding the 'm'," I said.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Detroit! (part two)

Sorry, it's been a while since part one of this story, which you can read here.

AND SPEAKING OF SILLY
After getting read the riot act by the hotel upon check-in, the first thing we see in the elevator the next morning is a man in a kilt and a cowboy hat. I have no explanation.

ROBERT'S RULES OF TRAVEL ORDER, #2
In every hotel room, one of the following will not drain properly: sink, bathtub, toilet. This rule presumably extends into alien worlds.

A NEW BLOCKER COMPARED TO AN OLD GLOVE
This glove has caught a ton of pucks (and dropped a few). It was as white as the blocker last year when we bought it:


A HIGHLIGHT
We were looking at a website that had elaborate architectural renderings of each letter of the alphabet done by an Italian artist in the 18th century.

When we got to "J", it was missing.

"Where's the 'J'?" Eli 13.0 asked.

"There was no 'J' in the alphabet until the late 19th century," I said.

"Oh, okay," he said, continuing to look through the letters.

"Actually, its addition was quite controversial," I said.

A few more seconds passed.

"WAIT A MINUTE," he said.

F-ING CHERRIES
We went to Ann Arbor on Saturday--it's only a 30 minute drive from where we were staying, and we all thought it would be cool to see the university and the enormous football stadium (which seats 110,000).

There was a "tournament" match (an exhibition, really) between Manchester United and Real Madrid, but I figured attendance for that would be 35,000 tops. No big deal.

There was quite a bit of traffic going into Ann Arbor, but Google Maps neatly rerouted us around almost all of it, so no worries. The city was crowded, though, so we parked in the first garage we saw downtown.

Gloria wanted to try a southwestern restaurant downtown that had excellent Yelp reviews. Southwestern food in Michigan is conceptually a high risk, obviously, but I went along.

I ordered a tostada with buffalo brisket. In theory, that's pretty safe. In practice, it was buffalo meat between corn cakes--with cherries.

Cherries?

The salad had cherries. I get that. I like cherries. Just not on a tostada.

"How was your food?" Gloria asked.

"The buffalo brisket is fantastic," I said. "But there are cherries in this!"

"Cherries?" she said, laughing.

"F-ing cherries," I said.

It became a running joke that everything we ordered--omelets, pizza, pasta--would have cherries. Some of it did.

So we finished lunch, and started walking toward the stadium--and 108,000 people joined us. It was, in a word, crowded.

When we finally reached the stadium, we couldn't get in, of course, so Eli and I took a few comedy photos of what we could see.




"NO BAGS ARE ALLOWED IN THE STADIUM," boomed a voice over the outside loudspeaker.

"What about purses?" Gloria asked.

"No purses," I said.

"Oh, I'm sure they allow purses," she said.

"THIS INCLUDES PURSES," the voice said.

"I can't believe that!" she said. "Maybe they have lockers for purses."

Eli started laughing. "No, mom," he said.

"They do not have 40,000 purse lockers," I said. "I say that with one hundred percent confidence."

The worst part of walking along with 108,000 people? Turning around and walking AGAINST 108,000 people.

WHAT? DIDN'T THEY HAVE AGRICOLA?
We stopped at a convenience store on the way back to our car, and in front of us at the counter was a guy who was so drunk he could barely walk. What did he buy? A giant box of Magic: The Gathering cards. Why would someone that drunk buy Magic cards? Why did a convenience store SELL Magic cards? I have no idea.

He walked out in front of us, staggering along the drunken tightrope.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Wasteland 2 Release Date: September 19

Boom.

Crazy Trip Dispatch #4 From Doug Walsh - EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND

He's still at it, and he's far, far afield at this point. If you want to see some tremendous photos, hit the link at the bottom of the post. It's all Doug from this point forward.

August 15th, 2014
Have you ever wondered what happens to a hurricane after it spins its way off the eastern seaboard? Perhaps, like me, you assumed it fizzled out over the cold waters of the northern Atlantic, caught a gyre, and died a frigid death somewhere over Greenland. I can confirm that this is not what happens.

After a month spent visiting our family and friends in New Jersey, culminating in a second teary-eyed farewell party (the hazards of living a bi-coastal life), we were finally launched into the European leg of our trip. Our desire to complete our circumnavigation without the use of air travel meant 8 nights aboard the luxurious Queen Mary 2. With wardrobe by Goodwill, we managed to doll ourselves up for even the most formal evenings on board the liner. Our rags-to-riches interlude had us chatting with Roger McGuinn (The Byrds) and George Takei (the Facebook) during the crossing, the latter of which was overheard telling others about our cycle trip. Oh my, indeed!

We pulled into the port city of Southampton, England and, twelve hours, three trains, and two minor heart attacks later, we alighted in Inverness, Scotland at a decidedly cold 57-degrees North latitude. Pedaling southeast out of Inverness, we rode past the historic Culloden Moor, Cawdor Castle, and up into the Highlands. We struggled on twenty-percent grades, rode through boundless fields of heather, past thousands of sheep, were driven mad by swarming midges, and drank our fair share of Speyside whisky en route to the North Sea coast.

In need of a shower, we decided to camp at the caravan park in Stonehaven. And that’s where we learned the husk of Hurricane Bertha was due to strike in two hours time. This is a good time to mention, for those unfamiliar with the term, that caravan park is, I surmise, Gaelic for “large grassy field without windbreaks.” Four other tents were set up nearby, but most of the campers were staying in small RVs.

The storm arrived on time, forcing a tent-bound evening spent playing cards, reading, and wondering about the integrity of our tent—and those around us. The winds gusted to 50mph, skewing the arch-shaped poles of our tent into italics while the rain beat down with deafening intensity. The alarm watch my wife strings to the ceiling danced up a storm as even the inner tent shuddered and swayed in the ex-hurricane. And so it went all night long. Sleep was impossible. Outside our tent, beyond the roar of the wind and thundering rain, we heard the sounds of people in turmoil. Tent poles were being snapped, gear was becoming projectiles, and rain-soaked campers were fleeing in panic to the safety of the bathhouse. We didn’t get much sleep, but we were dry. And safe. When we woke, there were only two tents left standing: ours and another Hilleberg belonging to two German cyclists. The other tents were smashed, as were the elaborate vinyl front-porch canopies attached to many of the RVs.

Days later, in Edinburgh, we saw this article about the storm. I used to think we overpaid for our Hilleberg, but not anymore. In fact, I think it’s kind of priceless.



Riding On the Left,
Doug Walsh
Two Far Gone

Monday, August 18, 2014

Gridiron Solitaire #118: A Big Week

Here's the layout of the new difficulty options:


This screenshot was taken from the development environment, which is why that funky little icon is in the top left. 

The layout isn't hooked up to any code yet, but that will happen over the next few days. How it basically works is that when you're on a non-custom difficulty, you'll see yardage boxes checked to show you what that setting actually means. If you select "custom difficulty," you can then change any of those yardage settings to your preference.

I'm very hopeful that for people having problems with offense or defense but not both, custom settings will help them enjoy the game more.

One of my favorite testers had an interesting comment about the new Team Museum last week. He said it felt like a storage space, not a museum. Bland.

Have a look:


Well, I'll be damned: he's right.

Even though the museum adds a new season book each year, and Gridiron Bowl trophies will be displayed proudly, it does feel like a storage closet. I spent so much time thinking about functionality that I dropped the ball in terms of design.

I thought about it for a few days, and the tester's comments mixed with my own meandering, and I think I have a much better idea. This is a very, very crude representation, and it's very much incomplete, but have a look:

That window opens up the space, and Fredrik originally included one, but it was taken out because we needed the wall space. As it turns out, though, the expansive feeling is much more important than the wall space. In the background will be a small portion of the team's stadium as viewed from the outside (giving the museum the feeling of being part of a much larger team facility). The stadium's suggestion was tosh's idea (the tester), and it's terrific.

I was trying to think of something whimsical that would suit Fredrik's playful art style, and I realized that we could use placeable objects  much like they're currently used in the lake and coastal stadiums ( where boats and surfers are dynamically placed). Plus, these objects could be trailing team banners or something.

So, for example, a small plane could be flying by, trailing a team banner. Or a big plane. Or a parachutist. Or a guy in a squirrel suit. Or a balloon.

There are plenty of possibilities, and it will make the world around the museum feel dynamic instead of static. This will be lots of fun, and the amount of coding I will have to do to accommodate it is minimal.

One more screenshot. This is now populating with real data:


Individual players now have unique portraits, and those portraits follow them throughout their careers. Plus, and this was a big deal, career totals are now calculating, not just single-season totals. There's still at least one bit of temporary art (the close book icon), but the vast majority of work is complete.

Amusingly, the most difficult element of this screen, by far, was the portraits. You would not believe how much time it took to get them working properly!

Alright, that's enough for this week. Eli is in a day-long camp all week, so I have a big opportunity in terms of time. By next Monday, this essentially needs to be completed and tested. Well, not the art, unless Fredrik is Superman, although that's a distinct possibility.

I have my suspicions.

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