Friday, February 05, 2016

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, from Steven Davis (who also appears later), it's In a Huge Breakthrough, Google’s AI Beats a Top Player at the Game of Go.

From Roger Robar, and man, this is beautiful: Afterglow: Lightsuit Segment.

From Wally, and this is quite interesting: The Cornish Pasty (History). It's also the first Cornish Pasty link to appear on DQ. Next, and this is quite a ghost story, it's Six Boy Scouts Murdered by a Witch Still Haunt a Virginia Road. This is fascinating reading: Sha Na Na and the Invention of the Fifties. Eagles rarely do not kick ass: Dutch Police Are Training Eagles to Capture Drones.

From Steven Davis, and this story has spectacular photos: SWALLOWED BY JAWS: On Jan. 15, legendary surfers took on Maui's skyscraper-sized waves. Next, and this is utterly incredible: Behold! A Telescope (or Tunnel) Book of the Crystal Palace. Red alert for DQ Film Advisor Ben Ormand: The 100 Jokes That Shaped Modern Comedy.

From Rob Funk, and this is a remarkable story: How A Slot Machine Mechanic Flew 150,000 Miles Over 64 Days Without Landing.

From C. Lee, and this is both clever and beautiful: Forget dog-earing and bookmarks that fall, make your own easy origami bookmark instead! Next, and this is painful but a tremendous read: Challenger, Columbia, and the lies we tell ourselves.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Pants

I wasn't going to write any more about Peter Molyneux.

I've defended him for years--decades, really--even though his entire philosophy seemed to be "Deliver anything, promise whatever."

I defended him because the "whatever" often turned out to be extremely interesting, although in no real way resembling the "anything" he promised.

Godus, though, was indefensible.

Yesterday, his bloated corpse suddenly burst to the surface again, bobbing away as "Godus Wars" was released.

A combat relative of Godus, it was free to existing owners of the original, failed product.

No downside, right? That seems reasonable.

Well, except for one thing: 22cans didn't tell anyone that after the first "continent", unlocking the next would cost $4.99. And on for each new continent, presumably.

Well.

What kind of stupid asshole would even try this? Promote how Godus owners get this for free, but all you're essentially giving them is a demo of the new "game" which they then need to purchase.

I'll tell you what kind of stupid asshole. The same kind of stupid asshole who would wipe the game forum clean because the comments were overwhelmingly negative about the paywalls.

In retrospect, it's clear that Godus Wars launched as a separate product solely as a platform for in-app purchases.

How sad.

Today, after nuclear weapons-grade criticism of the "demo + $5 +$5 + etc." pricing model, 22cans announced that they're removing the paywall.

They sounded surprised that people cared.

Molyneux also had a remarkable interview with Eurogamer yesterday--remarkable because he quite seriously portrayed himself as the victim in all this.

It all reminds me of a little boy I wrote about a few years ago. He was standing with his mother, and suddenly, he said "Mommy, somebody peed in my pants."

Yes, Peter. Somebody indeed.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

This Seems Solid

Here's an idea: what if Peter Molyneux was required by law to turn his admittedly fantastic ideas for games over to someone else to actually make them?

Traffic! (your e-mails)

I was expecting some traffic e-mails, and you guys didn't disappoint.

First, Adam W sent in a Google Traffic image of Seattle, which--like Austin--doesn't have nearly enough highways for its population:


That's ugly, but it's nothing like Washington, D.C. in the recent snow storm. Tuller sent this in:


That is, without question, the absolute worst Google Traffic image I've ever seen.

I took a quick look at Bejing last night. Some of their big roads were black. I've never even seen black in Google Traffic before. I assume it means "abandon your car".

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Where It's Even Worse

You can see these images much better if you click on them to enlarge.

We have bad traffic in Austin, thanks to people who don't want to pay taxes and (simultaneously) vehemently object to toll roads.

Austin is at least a decade behind in terms of building roads, and what are they doing now? Building a single toll lane onto the primary commuting highway in the city.

What's happening with that toll lane, though, is disaster.

The project was supposed to be completed last September. The toll lane runs north/south for about eleven miles.

I'm stuck in traffic so often and for so long that I've started counting the active workmen on the toll project on any given day. "Active" includes anyone, even if they're not working at the time.

A few weeks ago, I counted 41 people.

Today, for the first time, I counted 92, which is the first time I've been above 80.

92 workmen in 11 miles.

What's happening here is that the contractor submitted a ridiculous, artificially low bid--and won. Now the company isn't even bidding on additional road contracts because this one has been a disaster, and with no ongoing business in road construction, doesn't care what kind of shitty job they do on this one.

I think they've concluded that they'll lose less money by defaulting and paying whatever fine they have to instead of actually carrying the project on to completion.

Even when this toll lane opens, it's not going to help much. At peak times, the highway in question must be 40% over capacity, at least. Even if 10% of commuters use that toll lane (which seems highly unlikely, since it's variable pricing and will be relatively expensive during rush our), it's not going to do much of anything.

Today, out of curiosity, I looked at a few other traffic maps for huge cities. Mexico City, for one:


If you've never looked at Google Maps, red/black is a standstill, red is a near-standstill, orange is 20-30 MPH (roughly), and yellow is above 30 but below regular speeds (again, roughly). That was just the middle of the day in Mexico City.

Here's 7 p.m. in the London area:



Seriously, London, what the hell? It looks like every city within fifty miles of London is basically locked up.

The gold standard for traffic hell in the U.S. is certainly Los Angeles. New York has horrible traffic, but they have excellent mass transit and just don't care. Los Angeles, though, has an incredible number of roads, and they're all a disaster. Have a look:


I'm not sure how anyone can stand to commute, except that many people must go in off hours. Rush hour looks like a nervous breakdown.

Monday, February 01, 2016

The Big Hockey Update Post

Man, Eli 14.6 has had quite a season so far.

He's 15-2-1, with a .925 save percentage and 1.61 GAA (goals against average). In 2016 so far, he's 5-0 with a 1.00 GAA.

His team has won 11 games in a row and is in second place in a very, very tough league. They're going to make the playoffs and have a chance to win the league, which doesn't happen to Austin teams very often.

He still has another six weeks or so before he tries out in Michigan. Now he needs to give'r, but he's been doing that all season.

A few months ago, he told me that there are levels in goaltending:
1. Block the puck
2. Control the puck
3. Control the game

He has worked very, very hard the last two years on #2, where shots are either caught, covered, or sent safely into the corner.

This season, for the first time, he's had level three games. When a goalie gives up no rebounds and makes good decisions, it sucks all the air out of the rink. There's no drama, no loose pucks. It's demoralizing for an opposing team, because all teams try to create chaos in front of the net, and when they can't do it, it's deflating.

Eli's goal is to make every game boring.

Last year, one of the supervising coaches involved with the hockey program was mad at Eli because he didn't get angry when he was pulled during a tournament game. Eli had been sick the entire holiday break, wound up with pneumonia, and that was only his second game back.

His team had been getting pounded all season (his average shots against last year was 40), but they had made a tournament final.

And he got blown up.

I think it was 4-0 halfway through the first period when he got pulled. He sat on the bench and cried for about ten minutes, then pulled it together and tried to help out on the bench.

This coach (not Eli's team coach, who made him a captain and had nothing but good things to say about him) told me, in so many words, that Eli was soft, that he should be angry when he gets pulled.

"He's the least angry kid you've ever met," I said. "I"m not going to try to change his personality just because you don't understand him. Anger has nothing to do with how much he cares."

We kind of left it there, but the implication was that Eli wasn't tough enough, even though this was the same kid who had played through a cracked rib in practice when he was 11.

A few weeks ago, Eli was at the rink watching travel league games with our other teams, because he coaches the Squirt goalies. Everywhere he went, there were kids around him, both younger kids and some of his own teammates.

That same coach walked up to me a few minutes later. A short distance away, half a dozen younger kids were all talking to Eli at the same time. He just stood there with a big grin on his face, trying to answer all of them at once.

"He's everyone's big brother, isn't he?" he said.

"Yeah," I said. "Everyone has value to him."

"He really is a gentle giant," he said, smiling.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Friday Links!

Steven has a slew of links below this, but I wanted to separate this one and use it to lead off the week: A global guide to the first world war - interactive documentary.

This is both bizarre and fascinating. Country rap? Driving and Dying in the Service of the Country Rap King.

From Steven Davis, and this is just wonderful: The Foldscope – A Paper Microscope that Costs $1. Next, and this is fascinating: New genetically engineered American chestnut will help restore the decimated, iconic tree. I had no idea that Teller taught Latin at one point: Teaching: Just Like Performing Magic. Next, and I had no idea where this came from: The origin of the dancing inflatable tube man.

From DQ Reader My Wife, and this is just ridiculous: World's Fastest Rubik's Cube Solving Robot.

Wally sent me this next link with the comment "Now THIS is a SPORK!": design awards. Also, and do you remember the Night Gallery episode where the earwig burrowed through the villain's brain? That's what the song with this video will do to you, but man, it's cute: guinea pig bridge. Well, this is quite bizarre: Cute to “a little sinister”—the beauty of US spy satellite rocket launch logos. Next, and this looks unbelievably useful: Fakespot | Analyze and Identify Fake Reviews.

From Les Bowman, and this is, well, something: How “House Hunters” became the most unstoppable juggernaut on TV.

From C. Lee, and what a fantastic headline: Humans aren’t as cooperative as we thought, but they make up for it via stupidity: Economic experiments that supposedly show cooperation may instead depict confusion.

This is terrifying and very, very sad: Former Giants Safety Found to Have C.T.E.

From Sean, and this is entirely delightful: Risks Life to Prove Physical Law.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Of Note

With Eli 14.5 trying out in Detroit in six weeks, here's an article about the history of Detroit-area corporate sponsorship of Tier One teams: The Big Business of Little Hockey Stars.

At goalie camp, it's always surreal to hear a goalie parent talking about the billionaire that's partially sponsoring their team for the season. What I was surprised by, though, was how well-grounded all these parents seem. That may have more to do with the kind of person that particular goalie camp attracts, but they're all nice people.

It will make for a good story, no matter what happens.

Arcen Games

RPS has a sad post about Arcen Games today: AI War Devs In Financial Difficulty, Layoffs Imminent.

I went and bought their newest game, Starward Rogue, immediately.

I'm not going to say that I love all of their games, because I bounce right off some of them. There's almost no one else, though, that makes this flavor of dense, complex, intriguing games anymore, and some of their games (including my favorite, The Last Federation) are borderline masterpieces.

If anything Arcen is much better at making games then marketing themselves, and man, that's a tragic reason for a company to go under. They spent more time at making games than branding, and isn't that what we want?

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Uncertainty

Loyd Case, one of my favorite all-time tech writers, has a new website called Uncertainty.

As is true of anything Loyd does, it will be terrific.

In Dreams

I consume information very differently today than I did three decades ago.

I used to concentrate on one thing at a time, for an extended period of time. The closest I ever came to informational multi-tasking was playing a game with the television on.

[Aside: that television, by the way, was an off-brand, tube 27" model (HUGE for it's day, and it weighed tons) that I hauled up two flights of stairs by myself because I was consumed with getting it hooked up as quickly as possible.]

Today, instead of a single-stream focus for extended lengths of time, everything comes in bits and bursts. Fragments of information, for seconds at at a time. I'm constantly scanning.

Scanformation, I guess.

I've written before about how this makes me feel different on a second to second basis, and I don't really like the feeling. A bit unsettled. Less calm.

When I woke up this morning, I realized there has been another side effect: I dream differently now.

Instead of long narratives and complete stories, I tend to get a rush of fragments instead. It's interesting, certainly, but I like it less.

I enjoyed waking up with a full story in my head.

This makes me wonder if kids are never going to experience some of these things the way I did, because of the way they've consumed information their whole lives.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Long Dark Steam Key [UPDATE: IT'S GONE}

First person to e-mail gets it. Hurry. Thanks to Daniel Willhite for his generous contribution.

It's Apparently North Korea Day

I was watching the NFC Conference Championship Game last Sunday in the car on the way home from another hockey trip.

The first commercial in every set at the breaks was a Dollar Shave Club Commercial. The same commercial, every single time. I saw it so many times that I felt like I was in a North Korean indoctrination center.

Oh, Come On!

Through a long series of events, I wound up at the 2015 World Press Freedom Index.

Hmm, Finland is #1 in both press freedom and goalie coaching (don't think it's impossible that we might take a summer trip to Finland one year, either).

The U.S. is #49 out of 180.

Of course, you're already wondering who's at the bottom of the rankings. North Korea, incredibly, was only #179.

What? There's a country with LESS press freedom than North Korea?

Indeed there is, and it's Eritrea.

Here's the explanation:
Deservedly last in the index for the past seven years, Eritrea systematically violates freedom of expression and information. It is Africa’s biggest prison for journalists, with at least 16 currently detained – some of them held incommunicado for years. In 2014 alone, Reporters Without Borders supported about 30 requests for international protection filed by Eritrean journalists who had fled their country. President Afeworki, who is on the Reporters Without Borders list of “Predators of Press Freedom,” does not envisage reforms any time soon and continues to ignore the international community’s recommendations. In early 2014, he said: Those who think there will be democracy in this country can think so in another world.”

Damn. Enjoy hell, "President" Afeworki.

If you want to browse through the data, it's here.

Monday, January 25, 2016

So Remarkably Strange, Sony (Update)

From Adam B.:
Blow wrote about this in a blog post a week or so ago, which I'd send you the link to but it looks like it's currently down. Apparently to set up a pre-order on PSN, you have to submit documentation and get the process rolling months in advance. It seems a bit ridiculous a) that it takes that long to set up and b) that Sony, as an exclusivity partner, did not properly guide him through this process.

Ouch. Way to support your exclusive partners!

Just as a Note

I actually like that everyone in a YMCA league gets a trophy. And now I'm going to get into an unnecessarily complicated explanation of why.

Many people say that the YMCA--and their philosophy--devalue real athletic achievement because everyone is rewarded.

That's not the point.

What the YMCA is trying to do is instill into kids an appreciation and enjoyment of sports, and that enjoyment might in some way help them be both happier and more fit.

That's great. That's much more important than just giving the best team a trophy.

If a kid has true athletic potential and wants to seriously pursue sports, there will be plenty of times where he'll either win a trophy because he won or cry inconsolably because he didn't. There will be plenty of joy and pain to go around.

For the other kids, though, this might be the only time they play in organized sports. Why can't they have fun, get a trophy for playing, and be happy about what they've done?

Eli played in YMCA sports for years. It was a terrific foundation for him as a person, and that's more important than an athletic foundation.

Blizzard!

The Weather Channel was quite funny this weekend, and we watched it quite a bit as we sat in the hotel room between hockey games.

I don't know when they started naming winter storms (to put them on equal footings with hurricanes in terms of drama), but there were dozens of correspondents reporting breathless about wind gusts to 29 MPH (seriously, holding an anemometer in the middle of a street). I know there were moments of dangerous weather in the storm, but since the Weather Channel is on 24x7, they had too much air time to fill.

Here was a typical report:
"I'm standing here in the middle of winter storm Jonah and let me tell you, this is a dangerous blizzard!"

In the background of most of those shots were people sledding down hills or throwing snowballs at each other.

In a hurricane, no one is standing outside throwing frisbees because the wind is blowing 100+ MPH and you might get hit in the face by something flying down the street.

What is this, the Weather YMCA of storms? Does every storm get a trophy now? Are cold fronts going to get names? What about a line of spring showers?

"Isolated shower Jenny is heading directly over the Wal-Mart where I'm standing, and let me tell you, it's refreshing!"

So Remarkably Strange, Sony

The Witness is coming out tomorrow.

I'd like to play it on the PS4 and the plasma screen, so I went to the PS Store today to pre-order.

After enduring the error message they want me to send because sleep mode crashed for the millionth time, the update file, and the series of questions about my privacy, I finally entered the store.

I looked under the "Spotlight" tab. This was a big exclusive for Sony, right? Not there.

Not under "New".

Not under "Coming Soon", or whatever they call it.

This game is released tomorrow and it was NOWHERE.

I actually used the search function and finally found the saddest little game page I've ever seen. One video.

Oh, and guess what? I can't buy it. Nope, no price on that page.

Way to go, Sony! I'm sure Jonathan Blow is thrilled with you right now.

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