Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Dangers of vanity surfing

Wikipedia may curse at you. But maybe it's just me.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Stories for the stations of the London Underground

I bumped into this web site, Minor Delays, I think it was on metafilter. The author aims to provide a short story for each station on the London Underground. The one story I looked at looked interesting, but I can't say I've spent much time on it yet. It's just that the idea sounded interesting.

Some days everything I encounter sparks a story idea. And a lot of the story ideas, even the ones I end up writing down, don't make any sense to me later. They represent fleeting interests or enthusiasms. My current conviction is that the most important thing about a story idea is that it interest you enough to get you to finish the story.

I'm much more interested in story structure now, and believe that any story idea that is to be turned into a real and satisfying story must have a lot of work done to it. But that doesn't make me any less subject to fleeting enthusiasms.

I'll throw a small amount of work at almost any idea that I like, but on the other hand I've got several stories that I've been writing and rewriting for years. And the interesting thing here is that is still get a big kick out of working on them. Some of them are probably stories that I should just abandon. I've got one that I've abandoned several times and I still come back to it...still trying to get a solid story out of it.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

_The Chess Players_, movie by Satyajit Ray

I watched this movie last week. It gave an interesting view of colonial Indian conflicts with a foreground plot of two rather silly chess-obsessed noblemen. It was fun and interesting but lagged in parts, which I mostly attribute to not being used to Indian movies and then encountering it in subtitled form. There are a lot of funny moments in this film, and my ten-year-old was able to appreciate it too. There were tragedies as well, and I think the impact of those was lessened by the cultural distance. I think I'll see more Indian movies, I think they'll grow on me.

This film was recommended to me by an Indian lady I worked with long-distance. I don't know much about the progress of the British East India Company's takeover of India but I know a little more now, thanks to browsing sparked by this movie. A very interesting subject.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Lily birthday photos

Here are some belated photos from Lily's birthday party...a simple affair involving cupcakes and a backyard pool.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Facebook and privacy...interview with a Facebook employee

I thought this interview with a Facebook employee was pretty interesting. It talks about how much detail Facebook stores about user viewing....and points out that of course that data, as well as all your profile information et cetera, is viewable by any Facebook developer who wants to query their database.

Meanwhile, here's a picture of my girls and a friend in silks, from Jan 2010.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Steam Birds flash game: turn based dogfight

I've rather enjoyed this free flash game. It has a nominally steampunk setting, but really it's about aerial dogfights. It's turn-based: you plot out your move, then the game animates the results of your choices. The computer controls your opponents, and all planes move at the same time.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Scott Pilgrim Saves the Evening

Saw Scott Pilgrim vs. the World Monday night. It was awesome. Now I want to read the comic. Guess I'll start saving my quarters.
Picture taken from the Scott Pilgrim movie site

We got free babysitting from grandpa on short notice, so I had to pick a movie. Pilgrim's trailers looked pretty good but really gave me no idea what it was about. A skim of a review on the Austin Chronicle let me know that the plot involved Scott falling for a girl and then having to fight her seven evil exes. They had me at "seven evil exes." Also, it mentioned he was going to fight them video-game style. Let me just say that Michael Cera doing video-game-style-kung-fu is inherantly awesome.

The actors who play the exes are also awesome. Jason Schwartzman, whom I didn't remember I'd seen in Bored to Death until I looked him up, was fantastic as Gideon. Also, Brandon Routh as Todd.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

How can anyone put the hate on Wikipedia when it throws me gems like 'Dark Claw'

Also, how is it that I never heard of the 'Amalgam Universe', a DC and Marvel mashup extravaganza? See, I don't see how anyone can throw any hate Wikipedia's way when it makes such a great starting point for any question.

For example, a question like "Who is Dark Claw?"

Short answer = Wolverine + Batman mashup.

Anyhoo, I find Wikipedia useful at work and at home. I'll get tossed a project at work where I suddenly need to be an expert on some widget; Wikipedia gets me started (it's usually not a physical widget; it's more like a concept, such as IMEI. Or, I'll learn that my gaming education has lacked much information about Glorantha, and here's my primer.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Dirty Dungeon adventure generation method

I'm kind of enthralled by this idea, the Dirty Dungeon, for how to generate a dungeon adventure based on  maximum input from the players. It amounts to a coordinated brainstorming session with rewards for submitting ideas. But it also gives you chance to use skills for research and history that often don't get used in a game session. And it's built around the solidly practical idea that adventurers might want to research a dungeon before they head off into it.

Picture is from yet another automatic dungeon generator, one that gives you suggested contents for the dungeon as well as a map; I liked this one a lot.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Hotel room in Japan comes with big N-scale train layout

Four separate tracks to run trains simulataneously. Bring your own trains or rent them from the hotel. Some guests turn off the lights and play with the trains until dawn.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Forbidden Island board game

This game was mentioned in an episode of the webcomic PVP, so I took a look. It looks really interesting. It has a cooperation goal: everyone works together to rescue some artifacts. And the board changes during the game as various hexes sink under water (and get flipped, therefore, to reveal their opposite, sunken, side). Neat stuff. 

UPDATE... Here's the link to the PVP episode that mentions the game.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Gary Kurtz on Star Wars; Putting Your Characters up a Tree

Metafilter recently linked to this entertaining article in which Gary Kurtz, producer of The Empire Strikes Back, talks about toy sales ending up becoming so important that they distorted the Star Wars franchise.

I knew there was a reason those movies went bad, but it's sad to blame it on action figures. I love action figures. The article implies that action figures became the only thing keeping Han Solo alive.

But this article also contained a neat metaphor from Billy Wilder, by way of Kurtz, about writing a story:

“I took a master class with Billy Wilder once and he said that in the first act of a story you put your character up in a tree and the second act you set the tree on fire and then in the third you get him down,” Kurtz said. “ ‘Empire’ was the tree on fire. The first movie was like a comic book, a fantasy, but ‘Empire’ felt darker and more compelling. It’s the one, for me, where everything went right. And it was my goodbye to a big part of my life.”

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Transformer Owl

This video shows an owl whose natural defensive behaviors lead it to take three different 'forms' by changing its posture and how it holds its wings. I found it both hilarious and mesmerizing.

Friday, August 13, 2010

_Ocean_ by Warren Ellis

I just finished this science fiction graphic novel by Warren Ellis, from 2009. I really enjoyed it. I bought it because it was an Ellis book, it had good-looking art, and the futuristic setting appealed to me. I stayed for the spunky main character, and the line, "you can't open a window in space."

Notable for a gun that can't wound, for flying saucers, and for murderous sarcophagi. Check it out.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Profound meditation on corporate websites from XKCD

It's so true, it's not even funny.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Some bikes come back

This fellow lives in Brooklyn, and his bike got stolen, and this is his story about how he got it right back, by orchestrating a sting against the guy who tried to resell the bike on craigslist the same day.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Pimped Eldar Ride

Someone likes their miniature war vehicle more than I like my car. Great paint job here, from CoolMiniOrNot.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Inspiration and Picasso

“Inspiration exists, but it has to find us working.” - Pablo Picasso

My wife showed me the quote above, knowing it would resonate. I'd say that this was my reason for believing everyone should make some art every day. But really I just think it's fun.

Picasso rocking a snapdown hat.
Photo from http://spicezee.zeenews.com/gallery/617.htm

Sunday, August 08, 2010

The Red Bride, short story by Samantha Anderson

I liked this first-person short story on Strange Horizons. It's less than 2000 words but it packs a lot of complexity into that length, under the guise of a bedtime story.

The night before I read this story, I saw a snippet of Kill Bill on TV and it included this image of the Bride from that movie. She probably counts as a red bride:

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Spaceship art in Austin airport

I took a photo of this art in the Austin Bergstrom airport because it looked like a spaceship. I didn't quite know what it was about, though, until I bumped into this article on the city website, which explained that yes, this really is meant to be a spaceship...but a spaceship made from photos of Austin landmarks.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Modesty survey tells Christian Women how Christian Men want them to dress

I'm having trouble getting over this modesty survey. It seems to have been done with some sense of rigor. But the whole enterprise is about telling women what to do, under the guise of providing some guidance in our complex modern world.

I think the part that scares me is I can see some women really wanting to hear the answers to this thing. You know, because they want to marry the sort of guy who would think this survey is a good idea.

To me, it has a subtext of "the women ought to dress a certain way so as not to stimulate men's uncontrollable libido," and that assumption that men can't control themselves puts the onus for self-control, and blame for the results, on women.

Image is a public domain 1912 postcard scan from Wikimedia Commons, showing a bathing machine, a device for preserving women's modesty while bathing

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Old-style tyranid warrior

Received a bunch of old figures from a friend recently. Here's the first one that I've assembled. I had to put this one together because you couldn't tell what it was going to look like from the sprue. It's an old-style tyrannid warrior figure from Warhammer 40k. This one is a little over an inch and a half tall, but has 7 parts.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

The Perils of Badminton

This Youtube vid looks like it's going to be an ordinary sports newsbite about Olympic badminton. But you have to stick with it to the 1:30 mark to see it get weird.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Photos from robot camp

Chloe with friend Sarah (left); they got to be in the same small group

Our friend Sean, Sarah's brother, working on a bot with a vertical conveyor that he used to pick up balls from the floor by pressing them against a wall in a game where you tried to get balls to the other team's side of the wall under a time limit

I envy the kids the chance to do robot camp...not least because they played capture the flag when they had breaks

Notice the manly choir shirt on my boy Ethan here. You can't actually read anything into it since his attire is mostly random but we're happy he does enjoy choir so much.

What, me, mad scientist? I'm going into zoology. This robo stuff is just a sideline.
Ethan and Chloe went to robot camp last week. Chloe's group focused on Lego NXT robots, while Ethan tried a new-to-us system called Vex, which has erector-set-style parts, and a brain that can control 8 to 10 motors. On Friday they had a showcase with some battlebot-style games; it was a lot of fun.

These photos are all by our friend Twila.

Chloe was ready to kill something because her robot didn't work the way she wanted when she displayed it in autonomous mode. I had to trot out a story about my own time at camp, when a program I wrote screwed up on a big screen in a big auditorium. I may have embellished a little.

Chloe came home from day one of camp and started building things with our Lego NXT set, and it was a lot of fun to see her play with programming it.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Crazy steampunk figures

I assume this is for some steampunk wargame or something. Not just steampunk; alternate history Nazi Germany still around with steampunk whatever. More pics at the link.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Illustrated Tweets

These were funny. I enjoyed looking at the pics and then reading the Tweets that went with them.