Friday, August 01, 2014

Friday Links!

From Robin Clarke, and this is entirely remarkable: Getting Up: The Tempt One Story.

From Sirius, and this continues to be a remarkable course of discovery:Siberian Discovery Suggests Almost All Dinosaurs Were Feathered.

From Wallace, and Valve certainly knows how to take the piss out of themselves: Valve Time.

From John Willcocks, or rather, his wife: The Unexpected Joy Of A Copenhagen Metro Commute.

From Craig Miller, and this is a fantastic read: THE HARGRAVE FOUR: THEY WERE ALL DESTINED FOR NFL STARDOM, UNTIL EVERYTHING FELL APART. Sorry about the caps. This is a magnificent piece of writing.

From Marc Klein, and this is very poignant: The Tattered, Haunting Remains of Abandoned Airports. Another aviation-related story: An Ingenious Plane Design That Makes Room for Your Carry-Ons.

From The Edwin Garcia Links Machine, and this is fascinating: What is this machine inside a secret underground room under NYC? Also, and this is quite interesting, it's Measuring cultural evolution by tracking where notable people were born, died.

From Michael M., and this is just an amazing story: Octopus mom's incredible record: 53 months with eggs in Monterey Bay.

From Brian Witte, and this is stunning: Nasa validates 'impossible' space drive.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

DQ Now On Auto-Pilot

The title says it all. Please enjoy your pre-recorded entertainment until I return.

Command and Control

If you wonder how we survived The Cold War and nuclear proliferation, after reading Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety, I believe the correct answer would be "miraculous luck."

This book is an absolutely brilliant narrative documenting our absolutely spectacular series of blunders and near-disasters in managing and controlling our nuclear stockpile.

I'm also absolutely sure in saying that even though we were tremendously inept--and miraculously fortunate--the Russians were much, much worse. After reading this book, it is absolutely beyond comprehension how a nuclear device has never accidentally detonated.

The narrative is tremendously gripping, and this is a fine piece of writer's work. It's also worthwhile as a historical document. In short, if you have any interest in the nuclear weapons era, The Cold War, or even history in general, this is a terrific read.

Also, Cupcakes

Gloria made rainbow cupcakes for Eli's birthday:

Yes, those are multiple layers of color inside the cupcake itself. These are #1 for my next birthday, too.

Eli 13.0!

A fierce competitor, but still a kind and gentle person. And goofy.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

EA Access

Well, this is interesting.

Electronic Arts announced yesterday that they are starting a program called "EA Access". Here's a description:
For a $US4.99 monthly fee, subscribers will get access to a library of EA games the company is calling “The Vault”. The announcement didn’t go into much detail about what games will be included in this collection. To start, EA said that it will offer four main games, all of which were released in 2013 or early 2014: FIFA 14, Peggle 2, Madden NFL 25 and Battlefield 4.

Additionally, subscribers will receive a ten per cent discount when purchasing any and all EA “digital content” on the Xbox One. That includes full games like Dragon Age: Inquisition and premium services like Battlefield 4 Premium.

Oh, and one more thing: EA Access subscribers will get early access to upcoming titles “up to five days before the release date.”

The service will cost $US4.99 on a month-to-month basis or $US29.99 for a full year’s subscription.

I haven't seen someone else mention this (which is why I'm willing to), but it appears that this is another step in the "games as services instead of products" model. That's where this is all headed, and ten years from now, I seriously doubt that games will even be sold in physical form anymore.

Remember, it's a service, not a product. In other words: it's not a discrete sale, it's a revenue stream.

Are you getting a good deal here?

Well, if there's even one game in "The Vault" that you would be willing to pay full price for, then it is indeed a bargain. Plus, EA has to offer games that are playable over the long term in order to entice subscribers to stay subscribed. That means the quality of games offered should be reasonably good.

I do see this as a gateway drug, though. You might be getting a good deal, in certain situations, but I think this deal is potentially much better for EA.

What's to stop EA from inserting a 30-second ad at the end of each quarter of a game in Madden? Nothing. Are they going to hound you to the ends of the earth about DLC? Hell, yes. This opens up doors for EA, and remember, since you're not buying a product, you won't be able to resell anything.

It may not be a bad thing, though. Would I pay $14.99 a month to have full access to EA's back catalog? Sure. If this initial test is successful, I can see subscription-based catalog access becoming a popular model for larger companies.

Plenty of yearly franchises are losing steam, and how many of them are worth $60 every year? Big companies are going to have to be more creative to get us to pony up.

In many ways, and I'm very sorry to see this, the marketing of the product has become much more important than the product itself.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


Sorry, it was going to be a very late post tonight anyway, but Eli 12.11 hurt his hip during warmups tonight for the last tryout session, so it's after 10 and he's still up. I'm exhausted and have hours of work to do tonight, so I'm going to take a rare weekday off from posting. Thanks for understanding and see you tomorrow.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Gridiron Solitaire #115: Surprises

As I was playing a game last week to test something or other, I saw the halftime stats clipboard displayed for the hundredth (or thousandth) time.

Something about this clipboard has always bothered me.

I've never done anything about it, though, because even though it bothered me, I didn't know why. It was functional, and I left it alone.

This time, though, I knew why.

What was wrong about this clipboard was that I had focused on the broadcast television aspect in the pregame show, then abandoned it at half-time. The clipboard bothered me because it was part of an inconsistent presentation package.

When I realized that, I had an idea.

So even though I was ass-deep in the new Team History Museum, it was time for a side project. Four days later, this was the result:

It's easier to read, much more dynamic in terms of presentation, and it has branding, with the TV network logo in the bottom right, and the league logo subtly in the background.

In spite of the side project, I still made good progress on the Team History Museum this week. Visually, it doesn't look that different now, but quite a bit of real data is being loaded and displayed now, instead of just using dummy data. Plus, the single-season display layout has almost been finalized. Take a look:

It's still dummy data for the player career totals-- I'm working on that later today-- but some of the team data is live (and "XCALC" marks the stats that aren't live yet).

Frederick is working on a bank of player portraits, and when you purchase a player in the off season, he will be assigned a portrait for the duration of his career.

This is going to be a challenging week, because goalie camp is coming up, team tryouts finished this week, and Eli 12.11 becomes Eli 13.0 on Thursday. Still, I need to have team history 90% finished before then so that the testers can start using it.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Friday Links!

From Daniel Wilhite, and this is some disturbing news about our old adversary kudzu:Invasive kudzu drives carbon out of the soil, into the atmosphere.

From Dave Schroeder, and this is a fascinating economics read: The Rise and Fall of Professional Bowling.

From The Edwin Garcia Links Machine, and this is mind-blowing: Thousands of leaked KGB files are now open to the public. Also, and this is stunning, it's Saharan remains may be evidence of first race war, 13,000 years ago.

From Eric Higgins-Freese, and this is quite mesmerizing: She Takes A Photo: 6.5 Years.

From Scott Gould, and this is excellent: Watch How This Supermarket Got People To Buy Their Rubbish…

From Sirius, and this is quite beautiful: The first 1000 digits of pi.

From Rob, and this is best viewed on a PC: THEN & NOW: Watch Detroit change before your very eyes.

From Marc Klein, and this is a terrific read: The Surprisingly Savvy Weird Al Internet Machine. Also, and I've known about this for years, it's What playfulness can do for you: research discovers the many benefits of being a goofball.

From Jesse Leimkuehler, and this is such a moving story: Teenage son discovers his deceased father's ghost car in Xbox rally game.

From Meg Lawrence, and man, this is so beautiful: Permanent Link to This 144-Year-Old Wisteria In Japan Looks Like A Pink Sky.

From Jonathan Arnold, and this is an entirely wonderful idea: Rejected (Disney) Princesses.

From Matthew Teets, and this was a noble endeavor: My 14-Hour Search for the End of TGI Friday's Endless Appetizers.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

David Braben

David Braben said something extremely interesting in an interview with Rock, Paper, Shotgun. He was asked about Star Citizen in relation to Elite: Dangerous, and this is what he said:
What’s great, actually, is that the more good games come out – especially in this – we’re moving the focus of the industry. If you look at the focus of our industry five years ago, it was on first-person shooters. Because there was conspicuous success from Call of Duty, we got Battlefield, loads of others, some of which were good, some of which were less good, and two of them have won out really strongly. I think what this now is doing is showing that there’s a latent demand for space games, and the more the merrier. 

Braben is absolutely correct when he references a latent demand for space games. There is a lot of latent demand in my study, at least, because I find the possibilities in space games infinitely more interesting.

I believe he's also correct when he talks about moving the focus of the industry. Corridor shooters are so inherently limited that they have seriously damaged, particularly on consoles, the quality and creativity levels of AAA games. Thank you, Activision.

Of course, because of that gigantic blockage, indie gaming has flourished beyond anyone's wildest expectations.

All I know is that the day Elite: Dangerous gets released, I will put on an Oculus Rift headset, and I may never leave.


Well, this is interesting.

Imogen Heap is part of a group who has developed a generative music app that will be available for purchase shortly. Here's how it works:
The Run-Time app generates a one-of-a-kind soundtrack for your run by recording ambient sound (your footsteps, your breathing, perhaps the chirping birds or honking cars in the background) and layering them onto an existing electronic track. Then, as you run, the app plays the song, adjusting the beats per minute so the music will automatically change tempo to match your running pace.

More details here.

I don't know if this app will actually be any good, but it does make me think about the future. Ten years from now, I see everyone walking around with headphones, listening to the soundtrack of their own life, which is generated as they simply live. I see music becoming more focused on a generative process via apps than something that is band-based. Transitive, like almost everything else is becoming. I don't like that idea, but I can see it happening.

In a more now sense, though, I find this kind of app as an exercise companion pretty irresistible. If it supported Bluetooth, I could theoretically use it when I swim. Borderline trance music seems like it would be highly conducive to extending exercise.

The fittest I've ever been in my life, though, was when I was listening to All Things Considered on headphones while I swam. The shows lasted an hour, and they were so engaging that I almost forgot I was exercising at all. So maybe I'm not the dreamy trance exercise guy after all.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Literary Nature of Texts

We went to a water park on Sunday, a near-apocalypse for me. I swim many laps in water, but I do not "ride" things, as a rule. There were many, many people in this park, and most of them were wearing bathing suits that exposed a highly unattractive amount of flesh.

If aliens had a live camera feed of this park, they would be immediately persuaded not to invade.

My texts below are in bold. John's are italicized.

...surviving Schitterbaun* right now
*not its actual spelling

Be sure to have a minimum of 4-5 funnel cakes. Local statute requirement.

I'm in hell. Can't unsee the human flesh.

They likely did their part to adhere to Comal County Resolution 2013-36 (aka The Funnel Cake Statute), so be sure you do the same. Permanent county residency can be ordered by the court for repeat offenders, so we've never been willing to risk it and just chown down on funnel cakes as we should. I can still taste them...sugar-coated misery and despair.

You, sir, are the Hemingway of theme park descriptions.

"I can still taste them...sugar-coated misery and despair." That is absolutely magnificent.

Tony Dungy and Dog Whistle Politics

Tony Dungy, a highly intelligent ex-football coach who is well-respected and has a problem with homosexuals and their "lifestyle", gave an interview recently in which he said he wouldn't draft Michael Sam (ex-Missouri football player, SEC Defensive Player of the Year, and openly homosexual) because it would be a "distraction".

A definition: Dog-whistle politics is political messaging employing coded language that appears to mean one thing to the general population but has an additional, different or more specific resonance for a targeted subgroup. The phrase is only used as a pejorative, because of the inherently deceptive nature of the practice and because the dog-whistle messages are frequently themselves distasteful, for example by empathizing with racist or revolutionary attitudes. It is an analogy to a dog whistle, whose high-frequency whistle is heard by dogs, but is inaudible to humans.

Tony Dungy, who is African-American, was a college quarterback at Minnesota. He never had a chance to play quarterback in the NFL, because black athletes were only considered "effective" in certain positions at the time (1976). Having a black quarterback would have been a huge distraction--all the media coverage, all the questions.

Do you know why it took so long for the color barrier to be broken in some American team sports? Well, based on what club owners said at the time, it was because drafting a Negro player would be too much of a "distraction".

Renting houses to African-American families in all-white neighborhoods? Sorry, it's not you, it's just that you would be a distraction in all-white neighborhood. Nothing personal, mind you.

"Distraction" is a magic word. It means not being fair because fair would be too inconvenient. It's a dog whistle.

Michael Sam's prospects as an NFL player can be challenged because his speed may not be considered adequate (although if you look at this list of former SEC Defensive Players of the Year, it's difficult to imagine that he couldn't contribute to a team), but a "distraction"?

That's just sad.

Even better, Tony Dungy was the leader of the Michael Vick Redemption Tour after Vick was released from prison. Vick was convicted of participating in an interstate dogfighting ring (the details were absolutely brutal). Michael Vick wasn't a distraction?

I will say it's encouraging that Dungy is getting so much flack over his comments. That's a start.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Golf Club

I tried out a recent build of The Golf Club a few days ago, and I was impressed. Everything plays more smoothly, the game looks better (believe it or not), and I only had one beef.


For some reason, and this was a curse with recent versions of Tiger Woods as well, there's a distinct lack of proportionality between how far your golfer takes the club back to putt and how far a real golfer would take the club back on a real-world putt. It's much further in the game, and that makes putting feel quite wooden, not ultra-precise as it should be.

Like I said, there are quite a few golf games that have this problem. But some games have done it perfectly (Headgate's PGA Championship 2000 and several of their Tiger Woods versions come to mind), so it's certainly doable.

The game has been submitted to Sony and Microsoft for certification, and you can already buy "early access" (near-final, at this point) on Steam. If you enjoy golf games, I would highly recommend it, with the putting caveat.

Moon Stuff and Whatnot

I heard something astonishing about the first walk on the moon yesterday. On the Dan Patrick Show, it was mentioned that the U.S. television broadcast of the moon walk got a 93% share.

All three major networks at the time (CBS, NBC, ABC) were broadcasting the feed simultaneously, and there was no cable television at the time, so the size of that number is not surprising. What is surprising, though, is that 7% of the televisions were tuned to UHF stations and watching something else at the time.

Seriously,  7% people? Too busy watching Mr. Ed reruns to see someone walk on the moon? Staggering.

My fondness for Buzz Aldrin's Race into Space is well-documented. It's also well documented that I have high hopes for Buzz Aldrin's Space Program Manager, which has been in development for a while now. Owen Faraday of the indispensable Pocket Tactics noted yesterday that Slitherine has announced an official release date: October 31. Owen's post is here, and he also noted that the game is basically coming out on everything (iOS, Android, and PC).

Can't wait.

Now, moving on to the "whatnot" category, I had an enormous amount of fun a few years ago with a game called Triple Town. Finally, Spry Fox's next game is ready for release, and it's called Road Not Taken. Here's a description:
Road Not Taken is a roguelike puzzle game about surviving life’s surprises. You play as a ranger adventuring through a vast, unforgiving forest in the aftermath of a brutal winter storm, rescuing children who have lost their way. Procedurally-generated levels deliver a limitless supply of possibilities to explore and challenges to overcome. Your actions will influence not only your own story, but that of the villagers you hope to befriend and the town you call home.

Okay, that sounds like 100% in to me (7% greater than 93%, by the way). August 5 on Steam and PlayStation 4, and coming to Vita this fall. Game site: Road Not Taken.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Gridiron Solitaire # 114: Team History Progress

The new Team History Museum has made considerable progress in the last week. Here's a screenshot:

That's obviously still rough, but quite a few changes have taken place. You can see full texturing on the individual season books now. Those player portraits are placeholders, but you can get a general look at what the wall of honor is supposed to look like. Plus, I'm going to do a dynamic layout so that depending on the number of players on the wall of honor, the size and location of their portraits will change.

Also, instead of the individual season books leading nowhere, they're actually hooked up to some data now. Not all fields are working, and there is a ton left to do, but you can see the preliminary season display layout below:

Basically, on the left you have teams season stats, and on the right you have career totals for your currently active, named players. You can see that the player panel layout is sloppy right now, and the portraits are placeholders, but you can see the basic concept.

And yes, I am actually calculating a quarterback's QBR using the official NFL formula.

I'd like to include a few simple graphs (like run-pass ratio), but I don't think I have enough room.

Those little footballs for navigation are going to be replaced with little books with arrows on them, so that you can go from season to season without going back to the bookshelf.

My target is to have this in the hands of the testers, fully functional, by August 1. That may be a bit ambitious, but that's the schedule.

In terms of ambition, I noticed something interesting this week. The Wall of Honor is quite a rabbit hole, because you can go into so much detail and make it so elaborate with selection criteria and displaying all kinds of statistics. The problem, though, is that it's not time efficient at all, because players will only be inducted if they have exceptional careers, and that will take multiple seasons (probably 4+) to happen. I'm putting in a ton of fun time working on this one feature, but in the larger scheme of things, it's not very important. So to hopefully finish a version of this by the end of the month, I'm going to delay the Wall of Honor portraits and coding until the basic version is complete. That basic version will have the enhanced season display, the bookshelf, and Gridiron Bowl trophy display.

And a security guard. Don't forget about him.

Site Meter