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


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.

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.

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:

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.

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.

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.

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.

In every hotel room, one of the following will not drain properly: sink, bathtub, toilet. This rule presumably extends into alien worlds.

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:

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.

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.


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.

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


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.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Friday Links! (supplemental)

This is a searing and brilliant read: The Front Lines of Ferguson.

Friday Links!

Leading off, from Brian Witte, this is a long and utterly fascinating read about another facet of Alan Turing's genius that has long gone unrecognized: The Powerful Equations That Explain the Patterns We See in Nature.

Also from Brian, and this is really something, it's Oldest College Football Footage (1903). One more, and it's terrific: Derinkuyu & The Underground Cities of Cappadocia

This is a fascinating and wonderful article: Everything You Need to Escape from Alcatraz.

From Wallace, and this is quite the PR stunt: I Drank a Cup of Hot Coffee That Was Overnighted Across the Country. Also, and this is utterly fascinating, it's Inventories of war: soldiers' kit from 1066 to 2014.

From The Edwin Garcia Links machine, and this is tremendously poignant: Homeless Fonts.

From C. Lee, and prepare to feel ancient: Kids React To Typewriters. Also, and this is terrific, it's The never-ending conundrums of classical physics. Yeah, this one is interesting, but depressing: German gun designer’s quest for a smarter weapon infuriates U.S. gun rights advocates.  One more, and it's about one of my very favorite authors: Chasing Haruki Murakami.

From Matthew Teets, and this is hilarious: How is this an issue? Just ask ten f-ing interview questions.

From Eric Higgins-Freese, and this is both a good explanation and an extreme bit of annoyance: Can Atoms Ever Touch?

From Marc Klein, and this is fascinating: Why Great Ideas Always Come In the Shower (and How to Harness Them).

From Aaron Ward, and this is just incredible: Watch this robot build itself using origami.

From Connell Smith, and this is incredible: Scientists reconstruct speech through soundproof glass by watching a bag of potato chips.

Thursday, August 14, 2014


Rules! is currently available at the App Store (iOS) for $1.99.

It is absolutely, insanely good.

The premise is simple, seemingly. There's a grid of numbers (and a picture with each number), and you must clear these grids using rules that are given to you by the game. As the game progresses, you must remember more and more rules.

How many games, though, have rules involving mustaches and whales?

It's totally entertaining and addictive. I have an audio recording of Eli 13.0 giving amusing play-by-play commentary (in the normal course of playing the game) that I'll put up next week. In the meantime, buy this.

You will not be sorry.

Detroit (your e-mail)

Specifically, in response to the goalie stick strangeness at the hotel, I received this from a very nice fellow who wishes to remain anonymous:
Back when I used to live in Wisconsin, I spent time as a clerk for a local Holiday Inn Express.  We used to dread hockey season as those were some of our most stressful guests.  I don’t know what a typical hockey weekend out for you is like, and truthfully, I can’t see you ever setting this example for Eli, but a typical hockey weekend for us looked like this.  Enter the kids, usually loud and fairly unsupervised.  Running, hollering, etc.  Equipment didn’t need to be stored at the desk at the time, so that was usually carried up to the room to be played with later.  The coaches and parents would stroll in after the kids, beer or drink usually in hand, a cooler on wheels following them.  This procession would go on for the next half hour or so while everyone got their rooms squared away and then there would be hours of meet ups afterwards.  These meet ups usually involved the hockey players going from floor to floor to talk, racing up and down the stairs, down the halls and ending up in the snack area or pool room.  Adults would convene down in the common area and drink, usually.  Things would taper off around midnight, one o’clock, for the most part.  Guest complaints were many, supervision was minimal, and the one or two staff on duty at night were usually constantly addressing the fallout.  From a hotel perspective, almost not worth it.  One year we didn’t take hockey teams.

I don’t know how much of my experience mirrors other hotels in the region, or across hockey in general, but out of all the travelling sports teams, hockey was easily the worst. 

He also followed up with this:
The hotel always expects a certain amount of noise from groups of kids, it’s only natural.  What surprised me was how normal the coaches and parents treated the combination of lack of supervision of the children combined with their own partying.  At first I thought that was a fluke, but it didn’t take me long to learn differently.

If that's the kind of behavior they were seeing at our hotel in Michigan, I can much better understand that "no sticks in rooms" policy.

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