Friday, October 31, 2014

Costume Count 2014!

Okay, send in those spreadsheets tonight and tomorrow! I'll have results early next week.

If you've never done this before, just send in an e-mail/spreadsheet/napkin with the following information:
--costume character (as best you can determine)
--quantity

My favorite, from several years ago, is still the little girl whose costume I couldn't identify. I asked and she said--proudly--"I'm Paris, France."

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, from Guy Byars, and what a counterfeiting story: The Great Paper Caper. Also, and the headlines just keep on coming: Man drops cigarette, runs over own head.

From Roger Robar, and this is one great dad: Dad Plays Leia to his Daughter's Hans Solo.

From C. Lee, and this is fascinating: Bolts from the blue: the history of life in the universe may have been governed by the frequency of giant stellar explosions.

From the Edwin Garcia Links Machine, and this is a terrific read: The man with the golden blood.

From Steven Davis, and this is beautiful: The Xylothek ~ A Wooden Library. Also, and the link title is no exaggeration: The Most Epic Safety Video Ever Made.

From Jean-Francois B., and while this might not be the greatest headline ever (dwarf stripper pregnancy, hello!), it has to be close: Necrophilia among ducks ruffles research feathers.

From J.R. Parnell, and this is fantastic: What’s Harder Than Skiing at Night in an LED Suit? Filming It. Also, and these would make for an interesting vacation: Ghost Islands: Eight of the Eeriest Abandoned Places on the Seas.

From Dan Willhite, and this will really bring back some memories: hand-drawn gaming maps. Also, and this is one of the most remarkable stories you'll ever read: Welcome to the Jungle (a story of persistence).

From DQ Reader My Wife, and these are some of the best product reviews ever (including the phrase "Satan's Diarrhea Hate Bears", which you just have to respect): Haribo Sugar Free Gummy Bears 5LB Bag.

Here are two links that are quite remarkable. The first is Why every newborn you see on Facebook is wrapped in the same baby blanket, and the second is one of the coolest inventions I've ever seen: Synthesizer transforms weather into live streamed ambient tunes.

From Craig Miller, and as it turns out, they actually had a point: Why Van Halen demanded "no brown M&Ms".

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Oculus Rift DK2

The future of reality is blurry. For me, at least.

I received the DK2 and spent several hours installing it today. There were several little janky things I had to overcome, but overall, I'm very impressed with the build quality in general.

Unfortunately for me, though, the headset comes with two different lenses: "A" and "B". The "B" lenses are for nearsighted people, but apparently, not as nearsighted as I am. No matter which lense I use, and no matter the distance, I can't get even modestly sharp text. Actually, I can barely even read text, which is not how I've seen the unit described in various places, so this is obviously a me problem.

Wearing glasses makes everything tremendously clunky, so I'm trying to avoid that, but I'm kind of at an impasse at this point.

I did take a look at the demo scene included with the configuration utility, and even blurry, it's pretty mind-blowing. This is a very impressive piece of hardware. And I'd be willing to spend the time necessary to get Elite or Euro Truck Simulator 2 working, but the blurriness would make it relatively pointless.

Eli 13.2 used the "A" lenses, because he has 20/15 vision, and he said it was "kind of" sharp. Plus, he was blown away by the little demo scene.

I'm going to spend some time tomorrow trying to get more things to run. There are several different modes, and I spent quite a bit of time trying to find things that would run in "native" mode, but almost nothing does. So I'll try some of the other options and see how I do, then report back.

If I could just get past the blurriness, though, everything else would just be details. The headset is comfortable, the effect is amazing, and I desperately want to get this working.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

This is Big News

Thanks to Rhett Dornbach-Bender, I just found out about this:
For fifteen years, people have been asking about a sequel. We’re really excited to be working on a new game, tentatively called Six Ages. It’s an equally ambitious game, and won’t be out until 2016. 

But wait, you ask. Who are these mysterious developers who are now working on a sequel? What original game are we talking about here?

King of Dragon Pass.

That's right. One of the most interesting, original games ever made is getting a sequel. Boom goes the dynamite.

Here's a link to the post: Happy Birthday!

I have an Oculus Rift DK2 unit in my study, and a sequel has been announced to one of my favorite games of all time. Should I run out and buy a lottery ticket?

Election

"Hey, have you decided who you're going to vote for in the mayoral race?" Gloria asked.

"Um, I like Bumgardner," I said. "And I like that Bleeto fellow for City Council."

"Bumgardner? Bleeto?"

"I meant Bamgurdner and Bletsper," I said.

"You have absolutely no idea what you're talking about, do you?" she asked.

"Less than that," I said.

Cleaners and Bandits and Rats, Oh My

There's a station on Sirius XM called "Electric Area" that is dedicated to electronic/dance/house music.

Actually, there are several, but Eli 13.2 and I listen to this one in particular. If he's headed to practice and needs a little energy, we put on that station and listen to music at 128 beats per minute.

Instant energy transfusion.

Plus, and this is the best part, as soon as the music starts playing, we both start bobbing our heads like we're in "Night at the Roxbury." I like that feeling so much that I will occasionally put the station on, even when Eli isn't in the car with me.

It's not really music that I enjoy. It's just the energy that can be drawn from the music.

Today, I turned it on, and incredibly, I actually heard a song I kind of liked. I looked on the display and it read "Clean Bandit-Rat". Okay, that's kind of an odd name for a band, but this is house music. So I forced myself to remember, because I wanted to hear the whole song.

Clean Bandit-Rat. What a name.

When I got home and looked up the song, I discovered that there is, in fact, no band named "Clean Bandit-Rat". There is, however a band named "Clean Bandit", and they have a hugely popular song called "Rather Be".

Oops. Maybe they'll consider changing their name.


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Halloween Costume Count Friday

Don't forget. Pestering will continue.

Make Better Decisions, Him and Her Edition

Him (this was sent to my phone yesterday, for some reason):


Her (the only two items purchased):


Oculus Rift DK2

It looks like the OR DK2 will be in the house later today, so if you guys have any setup tips or must-sees, please let me know.

I've got so much else going on that I don't think I can set it up until tomorrow, but of course I'll give you full impressions when I have them.

Believe it or not, I bought one of the early Sony Glasstron models way back in the 90s. It had SVGA resolution, weighted a ton, was incredibly uncomfortable, and was a total failure in terms of user experience (for me, at least).

So I've been waiting for 15 years for a decent virtual reality experience. I'm very much hoping that the wait is over.

Monday, October 27, 2014

The New Generation

I could have sworn I wrote about this, but I can't find it in the archives.

Eli 13.2 came up to me a few months ago and said, "Dad, can I play Grand Theft Auto?"

"No," I said.

"But my friends are playing it," he said.

"No," I said.

"But--"

"No."

"Why not?" he asked.

"Well, here's the short list," I said. "It's misogynistic, homophobic, and racist."

"Oh," he said. He takes all three of those things seriously, as he should.

"Plus," I said, "in many ways, they're not even good games. There's a huge amount of content, but lots of it is just filler. I don't even mind you playing shooting games at your age, but I don't want you playing crappy shooting games."

"Well, is there an open-world game that I could play?"

I thought for few seconds and said, "Yes. I can think of a game that's a little older, but it's open world and it's incredibly fun."

"What is it?" he asked.

"It's a game called 'Crackdown'," I said.

This is how Eli 13.2 learned about Crackdown, and he began playing the next day.

Today, after about a two-month interruption for school, he finished the game. The ending--with the deflating twist--blew his mind.

He did have to call in the old professional to finish off Zuang Lun Wang, but other than that, he did it on his own. With some consultation.

Now, if Crackdown 3 is good, we'll have to buy an Xbox One. Maybe they'll include a co-op mode.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Friday Addendum

Alan Eustace Jumps From Stratosphere, Breaking Felix Baumgartner’s World Record

Whoa. And what a simple approach, too.

Also, DO NOT FORGOT about Halloween Costume Count 2014. It's still a week away, but it's coming.

Friday Links!

Leading off, from Meg McReynolds, and this is a stunning piece of writing about Mississippi: A Ride Down Paradise Road: Ole Miss and State are undefeated, and Mississippi can't explain what it all means.

From Dan Willhite, and this is fantastic: The Physics of the Death Star. Also, and these images are absolutely stunning: Breathtaking Aerial Landscapes of Iceland by Sarah Martinet. Another, and it's tremendous: New destinations past Pluto for New Horizons: A scan with the Hubble locates some Kuiper Belt Objects for it to visit. One more, and here's a spectacular comeback: Pluto Is a Planet Again, According to Harvard Astronomers. Wait--incredibly, there's one more, and it's fantastically strange and wonderful: Bears and Mechs in 1920.

From Eric Higgins-Freese, and these are terrific: 40 maps and charts that explain sports in America.

From Marc Klein, and this is a glimpse into a secret, bizarre world: The Adultery Arms Race.

From C. Lee, and this is amazing: Gauss Gun. Also, and this is hilarious, it's Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Supreme Court Animals.

From Michael O'Reilly, and this is fascinating: The Stuntmen Who Blacklisted Blackface.

In anticipation of Halloween costume-counting, J.R. Parnell sent in this link: Popular Halloween Costumes of the Last 25 Years.

From Jonathan Arnold, and of course I want to stay here: The Deepest, Darkest, Oldest, Loneliest Hotel Room in the World.

Here's an interesting business story about craftmanship from Steven Davis: Noticed: J. HILL’s Standard.

From Matt Kreuch, and this is fantastic: Texas kindergartner gets 3D printer Iron Man hand.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Radio!

You guys sent in some terrific radio show information after yesterday's post.

First, Doug Perini e-mailed about The Vintage Radio Place, which has a huge collection of vintage radio shows.

Roy Seney let me know that there is an online archive for every episode of CBS Radio Mystery Theater, and it's here: CBS Radio Mystery Theater. I'm listening to an episode right now, actually, and it's excellent.

Geoff Engelstein sent in this entirely terrific remembrance:
I remember when I was probably around 17 (~1980-81) I was playing with my radio and bouncing around the dial, and then stumbled on a science fiction radio show - that turned out to be the first episode of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, being broadcast out of NYC.

I was (understandably) just blown away, and tried as hard as possible to be around each week at the same time to listen to the next installment.

The thing about radio dramas like that back then is that they weren't really advertised anywhere. You just had to discover them. Plus it was completely enhanced by the fuzziness of the signal and the way it faded in and out. You had to work for it back then, and really LISTEN, which I think just amped everything up.

The books came out years later, and many folks still don't know or haven't heard those original radio dramas. But to my mind they are still the best rendition of that story, by far.

I was so happy when I was able to get them on CD - special ordered from the BBC and shipped from the UK - and was able to relive those days curled up in bed straining between the static to hear what happened next to Zaphod Beeblebrox.

Also, Chris Volny sent this in:
1. I started listening to Radio Mystery Theater exactly the way you did; I was playing (illegally) with my brother’s radio, found it and was hooked. I was probably about the same age too, at 13 years for me it would have been 1975. Several years later, 1982, I had joined the US Air Force and stationed in Japan was put on the midnight to morning shift. I walked into the shop and heard Radio Mystery Theater on the Armed Forces network! That was awesome, but I was the only one who appreciated it.

2. Fallout 3 has a mod for the in-game radio called X Minus One! I’ve listened to all those episodes while wandering the Washington DC wasteland. 

Seriously, that is the best gaming mod ever. It makes me want to fire up Fallout 3 again, just to install that mod.

Wings! Remastered

I've written many times about my fondness for the Cinemaware games that came out for the Amiga 500. They're a wonderful collection of worthy games.

Wings! was one of my very favorites. Flying in a WWI-era plane was an amazing experience because it was so incredibly personal. Dogfighting was very close quarters combat, and it was real seat-of-the-pants flying, because instrumentation was so primitive.

Didn't know the Immelman Maneuver? You weren't going to last long. Couldn't accurately shoot the gun? Same.

Wings! also wound through a deeply personal story of war, so both the flying and the time in-between missions felt personal. And for the era, the gameplay was tremendously engrossing. There were three types of missions--dogfighting, strafing/bombing ground targets, and destroying weather balloons--and they held my interest for the duration of the game.

If all that wasn't enough, Wings! also has one of my absolutely favorite endings to a game.

That's a lot of gaming love in one package.

So when I saw a Kickstarter for a remastered version in HD, I backed it, of course. It came out a couple of weeks ago, and I'm very happy to report that (through fifteen missions) the development team has done a terrific job. The game looks great, the solid gameplay feels unchanged, and I'm just as sucked into the experience as I was twenty years ago.

This is an important piece of gaming canon, and if you've never played it, you should rectify that immediately. Here's the Steam page: Wings! Remastered Edition.

The Fight

I would normally put up a link on Friday, but this is such a soaring, gripping piece of writing that I'm going to mention it now instead.

If you're not familiar with James Baldwin (1924-1987), he was an American poet, essayist, and playwright. He was tremendously influential, and his writing is concentrated and powerful. I was fortunate to read his poetry a long time ago, and I still remember the effect it had on me. Still does.

Anyway, in 1963, James Baldwin was sent to Chicago to write a story about the Floyd Patterson-Sonny Liston fight. Back when boxing was still influential, all kinds of non-sportswriters were sent to write about boxing matches.

What emerged from this assignment is simply one of the most utterly memorable essays ever, written with an incomparable rhythm. Anyone who loves words and how writers put them together must begin reading immediately.

Here you go: The Fight: Patterson vs. Liston.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

82


When I was 13 (man, I was the same age as Eli 13.3!), I was fiddling around with the radio one night and stumbled on a program called CBS Radio Mystery Theater.

I still remember sitting in the dark, listening to this program, the only light coming from the radio dial.

I'd never listened to a dramatic program on the radio before, and I was mesmerized. There's a measured pace to radio programs, a kind of breathing between beats, that lets the plot develop in a manner that can be quite gripping.

I listened to this program every night for weeks, then eventually went on to other interests, but I never lost the fond memories.

I have satellite radio in the Accord Hybrid, and a few days ago I stumbled onto a station called "Radio Classics" (Channel 82). It has a ton of old-time radio programs, and they're just as absorbing as when I was a kid.

Driving to pick up Eli 13.1 from school today, I heard an old program called "X Minus One". It's a science fiction program, and here's an interesting note about the shows:
The stories for the show came from two of the most popular science fiction magazines at the time; Astounding and Galaxy. Adaptations of these stories were performed by Ernest Kinoy and George Lefferts. They even wrote a few original stories of their own. The writers of the magazine stories were not well known then but now are the giants of today. These stories came from the minds of Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, and Poul Anderson to name a few.

The episode I heard in the car today was called "A Logic Named Joe" (episode 31), and if you want a good example of the genre, there's a full archive of the show here.

If you have satellite radio, and want to listen to something relaxing (but engaging) in the car, this might be right up your alley.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

What the Hell Tuesday

Double content tomorrow, because today featured no food from 9:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. and two and a half hours of standing in a rink watching hockey practice, so I'm shaky from hunger and freezing cold. Double bonus.

Tomorrow, though, you'll be updated on the improbable career of Enormous Bottoms as he tries to reach the major leagues with the most unbalanced ratings in the history of baseball. Plus, a new rule for developers (in addition to the now-canon "Don't be a dick"): don't make death threats.

Monday, October 20, 2014

A Niche Scammer

Hello,
My name is Jeff Wilson and i will like to know if you carry (SAW BLADES) for sale.If yes , reply me back with your website so that i can select the one that am interested in purchasing from your company also i will recommend a freight company for the picked up.hoping to hear from you soon.

Thank You
Jeff... 

What I'm curious about here, obviously, is what else might be in capital letters. If SAW BLADES are one possibility, what are the others?

VIOLIN BOWS
WINDMILLS
HUMAN SKULLS



Updates!

First off, in reference to the insurance application (asking if I was engaged in any dangerous occupations), here's more information from Jens Fiederer about explosives (via Wikipedia):
"The use of explosives in mining goes back to the year 1627, when gunpowder was first used in place of mechanical tools in the Hungarian (now Slovakian) town of Banská Štiavnica. The innovation spread quickly throughout Europe and the Americas."

That's much, much earlier than I thought. And probably much more dangerous as well.

Joshua Buergel sent in some interesting information in regards to the "reviewer affinity" tool I wanted to see:
While such a thing doesn't exist for video game reviews (as far as I know), such a thing does exist for board games. BoardGameGeek has the excellent "GeekBuddy" feature. Yes, that's what it's called. If you identify a user with similar tastes, you can add them to your list. Then, looking at any game, you can call up what your buddies rate it, instead of the general population.

Okay, this doesn't qualify as an update, but here's C. Lee with some important information:
Up until now, I’d always assumed “disinfect” and “sanitize” were synonyms, and then I happened to read the label on a bottle of toilet cleaner:

“To disinfect: Let stand for at least 10 minutes.”

“To sanitize: Let stand for 30 seconds.”

I feel like a great light has been shed, like I’ve gained a glimpse into the hidden workings of the universe, and now I wonder if I will ever stay in a hotel where the paper strip informs me that my toilet has been disinfected for my protection.



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