Monday, October 12, 2015

Rebel Galaxy

I'm playing (five hours so far) the review copy of Rebel Galaxy, the newest game by Travis Baldree.

I'm not sure anyone has a better pedigree. Fate, which was one of my favorite gaming surprises ever. Torchlight and Torchlight II.

Here's something. I've finished every game Travis has released. I can't say that about any other developer in gaming.

Rebel Galaxy is certainly a departure. Fate, Torchlight and TII were all similar games (unfairly simplifying, say "Diablo with a wicked sense of humor"), but Rebel Galaxy is not like them in the least.

Rebel Galaxy is much more like a streamlined Elite mashed together with Star Control II. Maybe a little Sundog in there, too?

Regardless, it works.

I'm going to take an unusual path through the game, because it seems like all the Streamers are emphasizing combat-heavy paths. Instead, I joined the local Merchant's Guild for 10,000 credits and am currently running trade missions, trying to build up a little cash while trying not to get blown up.

I'm going to write about this for most of the week, but let me just say initially that in an era where the most visible space sims (Elite and Star Citizen) are huge and complex, Rebel Galaxy comes off as a breath of fresh air. It's still huge, but the learning curve is much, much smaller.

It's not intimidating in the least, and everything you need to do fits on a standard gamepad.

This is going to be one of the must-have games of the fall: beautiful, rich and accessible.

Friday, October 09, 2015

Friday Links

From Geoff Engelstein, and this is interesting data: NHL Coaches Are Pulling Goalies Earlier Than Ever.

From Craig Miller, and this is amazing: This is what it looks like to land on Mars. Also, and this is incredible (John Harwood Space Alert): NASA Releases Trove of Over 8,000 HD Photos from the Apollo Moon Missions.

From Mark Lahren, and this is just awesome: Tribe performing 'Supercollider' on Conan O'Brien Show 1994.

From David Foster, and this is hilarious: Jaws 19 - Trailer.

From Steven Davis, and this is some sobering data: The Reign of Recycling. Next, and this guy is a crazy songwriting wizard, it's Blank Space: What Kind of Genius Is Max Martin? Next, and this is fascinating: Fold & Cut Theorem – Cut any shape from only one cut. This is remarkable: From 1975-1980 Activist Adam Purple Built a Circular Urban Garden in New York that ‘Knocked Down’ the Surrounding Buildings. Next, and if you're interested in space, you need to read this: The sky's gone dark. Last one, and it's an excellent read: Every flood Has a Silver Lining? The Florence Flood of 1966.

From Eric Higgins-Freese, and DQ Reader My Wife will be happy to hear about this: Playing Scrabble Changes the Way You Use Your Brain.

From C. Lee, and this looks pretty fantastic: Sony’s DIY kit MESH.

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Move, Countermove

I have this habit (I prefer to call it a "technique") of walking into Gloria's study, delivering information, and quickly exiting.

I did that today.

As I was reaching the edge of her study, she said "Eh eh eh eh eh." I'm not sure I spelled that correctly in a phonetic sense, but it was the universal sound that means "don't do that."

"Yes?" I asked, actually meaning "no."

"I think I've figured something out," she said. "When you look at me when you're talking, I'm more likely to remember what you say. I seem to remember poorly when you're not looking at me."

Just unpack that statement for a minute. Let it roll around in your brain for a little while. It is absolutely a compressed piece of genius.

"So I have to weigh an increased chance of you remembering what I said versus a reduced chance of me being able to get out of the study after I say it," I said.

"Hmph," she said, not approvingly.

"This is a complex situation," I said. "It requires further study."

Wednesday, October 07, 2015


We still have one functioning viewing portal to the outside world. It's in my study.

I was half listening to a movie today while I worked, and a character said that he grew up near the beach, and that being there always calmed him. 

I hadn't really thought about it in a while, but I feel the same way. 

It's not the beach for me, exactly--more the atmosphere of the sea. I grew up next to Corpus Christi, which is on the southern Gulf Coast. 

This coast is not like the fabulous West Coast, where every step seems to multiply your energy. The West Cost, to me, is both wonderful and overwhelming, extraordinarily sweeping and dramatic. 

The Gulf Coast isn't nearly as nice, but it has a calming effect on me.

There's nothing dramatic about the Gulf Coast. It's the low-rent version of a coastline. In many places, it's not even beautiful. 

A coastline that isn't beautiful. Imagine that. 

I grew up only a few miles from the bay--in crow flying terms, two miles, maybe three. I can't remember if I could smell the water from our house, but that slight tinge of salt is unmistakable--it smells like nothing else, and you can't forget it. 

At the edge of our very small town, the road sloped steeply downward about thirty feet, and then the road ran right alongside the water. There was no beach there, just a small bit of sand that led into scrubby bushes. The water wasn't a stunning shade of blue, either. It was green, and it got murky and muddy as soon as the wind began to blow. 

The mosquitoes were incredible, too.

Still, though, there were days, days when the wind was light and I could smell the water and hear the waves slowly washing into shore. 

It gets inside you somehow, the sea.

If You're Having A Bad Day...

This will certainly help, and immediately:
Little Football Players Abandon Game To Dance Like Champions.

Tragic Television News

The repair guy called this morning and said the repair would cost about $250. That's both great and terrible news.

At least it's not in the gray area where a decision would have been tough to make. I guess OLED is going to have to wait for a few more years.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

The Future (Follow Up)

I forgot to mention that Microsoft is not the first company to do this. Motorola actually introduced the Atrix 4G in 2011 with optional docks that could turn it into a desktop, but the OS was Android. For this to work, I think desktop users need to be able to run the apps they normally run on their desktop PCs (be it Windows OS or Apple OS X).

The Future Moving Into The Present Faster Than I Can Imagine

I was talking to Eli 14.2 last week and said to him that one day, people's phones would also be their computers.

"No way," he said. "How would that work?"

"Phones are getting much more powerful every year," I said. "Even now, most people have plenty of processing power in their phones to do whatever they need. The phone needs an HDMI port for a display, and a couple of USB ports for a keyboard and mouse."

"I just don't see it," he said.

"Plus there needs to be a storage port so that users can add capacity as needed," I said.

"When will that happen?" he asked.

"Soon," I said. "Five years. Ten, at most."

More like five days, actually. Microsoft announced it today: Microsoft's Display Dock turns your Windows phone into a mini PC.

I really like what they're doing here.

Monday, October 05, 2015

Dilemma (of the TV sort)

We have a venerable 55" Panasonic VT50, which is beautifully calibrated and has an unbelievable picture.

Well, venerable in an electronics sense. It's about three and a half years old.

Panasonic doesn't make plasma televisions anymore. Neither does anyone else.

It's currently at a local repair shop, and repairing it isn't going to be cheap--at the low end, probably $600, and at the high end, over $1200.

What I really want, though, is to not get it repaired.

LG recently dropped the price on the 55" 4K Flatscreen OLED from $4,999 to $2,999. That's too much to pay for a television, but the picture is drop-dead gorgeous. And my local retailer is willing to waive sales tax AND throw in a three-year service warranty.

That's about $800 in free stuff, roughly, even though the television is still too expensive. That doesn't mean I don't want it, though.

I was managing this okay until I actually took the Panasonic to the repair shop today. There's this curious effect when there's no television on the stand in the living room. When the Panasonic was still there, even when it was broken, it seemed like a gigantic hassle to replace it with another screen instead of getting it repaired. Now that it's off for repair, though, there's just this big gaping hole in the living room that would be so easily to fill with an OLED.

If it was under $2,000, I don't think I'd be hesitating. Instead, though, I'll probably get the Panasonic repaired and hope it hangs on for another year or two.

I can still hope for the repair shop to give me a ridiculous estimate. Then I'd have no choice, right?

Hockey Update

Eli 14.2 lost his first game of the season on Saturday.

In his defense, he made 30 saves on 31 shots and lost in a 15-round shootout. And he saved 12 of the first 14 shots in the shootout.

I've never heard of a longer shootout. 15 rounds takes a long, long time.

It was quite a game, probably the best game he's ever played. In 31 shots, there was exactly 1 shot that he didn't catch, cover, or direct into the corner. And, of course, they scored on that one rebound.


He played not nearly as well on Sunday, but won 5-2.

He's played 8 games this season, with 7 wins and 1 loss in a shootout. Goals against average of 1.72.
Save percentage of .931.

In terms of quality of play, it's the best stretch he's ever had. And he's earned it, inch by inch, with the hard work he's put in.

Friday, October 02, 2015

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, from Jason Woolf, and this is a riveting and heartbreaking story: The Reckoning: Football, Love, and Remembering Paul Oliver.

From Shane Courtrille, and man, this is a fantastic read: How to explain the KGB’s amazing success identifying CIA agents in the field?

From Steven Davis, and this is an excellent read: How the NFL—not the NSA—is impacting data gathering well beyond the gridiron. Next, and this is terrific: Daniel Thompson, Whose Bagel Machine Altered the American Diet, Dies at 94. Next, and this is one of the best reads of the week, it's The Avenger: After three decades, has the brother of a victim of the Lockerbie bombing solved the case? One more, and it's fascinating: Hit Charade: Meet the bald Norwegians and other unknowns who actually create the songs that top the charts.

Steven sent in so many links that he gets a second paragraph, and this is an excellent analysis: A mucky business: Systematic fraud by the world’s biggest carmaker threatens to engulf the entire industry and possibly reshape it. This is also fantastic: How Much of Your Audience is Fake? Marketers thought the Web would allow perfectly targeted ads. Hasn’t worked out that way.

From C. Lee, and this is entirely wonderful: Shirley Curry plays Skyrim. Next, and there are a limitless number of interesting stories from WWII: Hacking When It Counts: GI Ingenuity.

From Geoffrey Engelstein, and here's the actual academic paper on urinal selection optimization: The Urinal Problem.

This link was sent in to me as "outside solicitation", for lack of a better description, and I always reject those. However, it happens that it's also an outstanding resource, so I"m going to link to it anyway: Artsy: Discover, Research, and Collect the World's Best Art Online.

From Michael Gilbert, and any Action Park link is a good link: After spate of injuries, Action Park told to close water slide.

From John Willcocks, and this video is just stunning: This totally crazy wingsuit video made me stop breathing.

From Brian Witte, and this could be quite a breakthrough: Plastic-Eating Worms May Offer Solution to Mounting Waste.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

The Ghost In My Brain

This book is mesmerizing: The Ghost in My Brain: How a Concussion Stole My Life and How the New Science of Brain Plasticity Helped Me Get it Back,

I mentioned it a few weeks ago, as part of the post about Pete Thistle's Dad (Fix Dale's Brain).

A few days ago, I started reading it myself, and it's incredible.

Clark Elliott was a DePaul professor doing cutting-edge research in artificial intelligence. Then his car was rear-ended, he suffered a severe concussion, and for the next eight years his life was catastrophically difficult.

As a scientist, though, he took reams of notes about what was happening to him, so it turned into a rare opportunity to document, from a personal perspective, the function and dysfunction of the brain.

The way that he explains how the brain struggles to function after a TBI (traumatic brain injury) is one of the most fascinating things I've ever read.

Here's the short version, and believe me, the book is 1000X better than this. First, he explains that if we wrote down everything our brain knows in a 12 point font on regular paper, the paper would stack all the way to the moon (238,000 miles).

And back.

That's nearly half a million miles of stacked paper, full of everything that a single person knows.

Then he explains that how much someone knows isn't the amazing part. What's amazing is that we can access that information and pull information from that massive repository in less than a second.

After the concussion, Elliott's ability to access that information was overwhelmingly impaired. There were times when he could no longer understand the concept of "left" versus "right". He could be standing outside his car, with the key in his hand, knowing that the key had to go in the lock, but unable to understand how he could do that.

In one incident, it took him six hours to get home after giving a lecture--with a car, and only ten miles from his home.

You probably know someone who has struggled with post-concussion syndrome, or maybe your kids have sustained concussions while playing sports. This book will help you understand what's happening to them and why it's so difficult for them to explain it to you.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015


This is one of those rare days where I didn't write earlier, just got back from hockey practice, and I'm running on fumes. So I'm going to turn in and I'll be writing again tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Discrete Streams

I saw a couple when I was at lunch today.

He was eating his food. She was sitting beside him, on her cellphone, surfing the Interwebs or whatever. I've seen this so often lately, and it's become a concern.

What I am concerned about is people being together but being apart.

I don't mean for loners like myself. I have always been together but apart in many ways. It's very fundamental inside me. I only rarely feel connected.

Out there, though, are huge swaths of people who have always been connected. Cellphones and the mobility of data have increased their remote connections to people, but their intimate,  in-the-moment connections have been transformed into something far less rewarding.

I've noticed this very much with parents in the last six months, as part of my daily breakfast trip to P. Terry's. Parents are with their children, or at least in physical proximity, but they're not paying attention to them at all. Instead, they're fiddling on their cellphones for long stretches of time.

I don't understand how you bond with another person if you're not engaged with them when you're together.

I never thought that anything would fundamentally change how people communicate with each other, but this seems to be a collateral aspect of cellphones making so much of the outside world available at any moment.

I'm not sure where this ends up, but I know it will be somewhere else.

Kickstarter: Yes, Indeed

Jordan Weisman, the creator of BattleTech and MechWarrior, is back with the first turn-based BattleTech game for PC in over two decades.

That's all I needed.

Battletech Kickstarter.

Site Meter