Archive for May, 2010

It’s the little things …

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

Patch says,

I continue to be busy with real life stuff, with little time for gaming.

But this is me, so “little time” doesn’t mean “no time”.  Highlights from this week include Toy Soldiers, which is a Tower Defense game that provides an answer to that itch to hop inside one of your towers and shoot at stuff (you can also fly planes and drive tanks), and Protect Me Knight, which is a sort of survival/tower defense hybrid/retro nintendo love letter.  (with local co-op!)

Both games pay a lot of attention to atmosphere.  The conceit of Toy Soldiers is that you’re playing with a vintage miniatures set come to life, and the devs execute with a great deal of charm, and plenty of grace notes, from the old war song that plays over the opening screens, to the “vintage” box covers that grace every loading screen.

Protect Me Knight is all about retro, and I think that I’m about to get tired of retro, but not so tired that the opening cutscene (hint: it involves blowing on a cartridge) didn’t pretty much instantly win me over.

The gameplay is good in both.  I’m such a picky gamer.  Don’t like games that have atmosphere and no substance.  Don’t like games that have substance, and no atmosphere.  Happily, there are game designers out there willing to put in the work and hours to please me; we live in a fine era for games indeed.

Chirp: Honesty on the Internet

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010

Red says:

I just read an interesting article by Eve Simon talking about how to use Twitter for branding.  While she was talking specifically about ways of thinking that apply to businesses using Twitter to leverage a customer/client/user base, if you apply what she says to your personal tweets, you hit upon some of the things I have been thinking about lately.

Historically, the way to approach the Internet was with extreme caution and lots of thought about how to protect your personal information, often even including your real name.  This kind of caution and paranoia comes easily to me, and makes a lot of sense.

About two years ago, one of my major aliases got compromised, and I felt violated.  It was not done maliciously, just thoughtlessly, and I realized that not everyone thought the way I did about security and safety.  With the recent, and not so recent, mess over Facebook’s lack of privacy (which Danah Boyd has expounded upon at length with a great deal of thought and intelligence), privacy on the Internet, what it means and what rights individuals have to it is the question du jour.

Bear with me, but my next step is theology.  I was raised Quaker, with the associated beliefs in integrity, equality, peace and simplicity — which doesn’t gel with paranoia or falsely representing myself.  Two years ago, I wouldn’t have said I was falsely representing myself by having an alias; after all, I am the same person under all the names I use, and I maintain integrity under all of them.  But with all the thought about privacy issues, I’ve had to consider my different personas.

Even when I write or meet people under my own name, I have different things which I feel are appropriate to disclose depending upon my audience.  I am different people at family gatherings than I am with friends, and different again with co-workers or students.  Those differences translate to virtual space, though with a different set of splits, and I am an egoist on Myspace, a series of obscure non-sequitors on Facebook, and an artist on Twitter.  I know who my cross-over readers are, and I draw parallels in the different virtual mediums tailored to them.  I am honest in all, but selective.

And that selective goes back to the first article about building a branded identity on Twitter.  Is there a way to brand as nothing more, less, or different from one’s self?  As it becomes increasingly difficult to hold identities separate from each other, is our world forcing a more complete honesty, a deeper level of integrity upon us?  Will we find other ways to separate the different parts of ourselves despite the gravitational spiral towards transparency that the ever amassing data base that is the Internet is building?  Do we have a right to do so, or a responsibility to work on becoming a unified whole?

Perhaps transhumanism will be as much about unity of the individual as it will be about any genetic and technical modifications we make.  Radical transparency may have as much influence on the evolution of humanity as fire once did.

I find that strangely comforting.

Dinner Broken

Monday, May 17th, 2010

Patch says:

I wish we had a bugtracker for society.  Lacking one, let me make this an official bug report.

Over the course of the past few centuries, for various reasons, our culture has managed to move the big meal of the day from midday to evening.  This causes many problems, but whinging about bad dreams from eating too late, or obesity from eating and then resting, really misses the main problem:

Dinner is bad for romance.

You go out on a date.  You eat a big meal.  You follow it up with a big desert.  Now you have several problems.

1)  Burps and farts, which are the natural outcome of a delicious, rich meal, have a tendency to break certain delicate romantic moods.

2)  The complex array of lingering tastes and aftertastes from an appropriately constructed meal often makes for kisses that are more … richly flavored than we might want them to be.

3)  Sexual acrobatics are less fun when conducted on a full and sloshing stomach.  I am not at my best, physically, when feeling like a large, overfed sloth.

Following up dinner with a movie is the current solution to the problem.  This keeps me up past my bed time, however, and romance after the movie tends to comprise falling lazily asleep in each other’s arms (not that I’m knocking falling asleep in each other’s arms, but that’s not the only outcome one might be shooting for).

Report filed.  Now get to fixing it, Everyone.

Virtual Community

Monday, May 10th, 2010

Red says:

One of the wonders of the internet is the way it allows small groups of people with a shared interest, but who may live thousands of miles apart, to form communities.  The problems come up when you suddenly have too many communities and not enough time to devote to all of them.  I love my friends, but sometimes it’s harder having them all be in separate communities than it is having them be physically far apart.

This is really the appeal of social networks, they provide a community based around each person, and you can connect all of your people, not just the ones who love knitting, or playing a particular game.

Of course, then you realize that you still don’t have enough time to keep up with all the fantastic people in this glorious world.

Practice the Impossible

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

Red says:

This week, I have been working on doing things that I can’t do, or haven’t done in a very long time.  It’s been quite exciting stretching unused muscles (figurative and literal) and challenging myself.  Not just challenging myself to do unfamiliar things, but challenging my belief in where my own boundaries are.  The Red Queen advises practice when it comes to believing impossible things, so practice I shall and perhaps one day I will match her skills.

“Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

For now, I’m aiming for two: I can learn to stay upright on roller skates; my twelve-year-rusty skills for throwing pots on a wheel will polish up just fine.

So many games, so little …

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

Patch says:

Today is usually the day that we write about games.  Oddly, this week, I have bought a lot of games, but not had much time to play them (new job means having money, but not having time; oh irony), so I don’t have that much to say.

The Humble Indie Bundle is out this week (and only for this week).  It’s a good chance to get a bunch of games for … well, whatever you want to pay for them, while supporting Child’s Play and the EFF.  I already own most of it, but spent a fair chunk of cash on it, just on general principle (I like to give money to people who release versions of games for Linux — saves me the trouble of rebooting to get my gaming fix).

Red and I are continuing to enjoy Galaxy Trucker.  She still kicks my ass, but I’m getting slightly better …

Oh, and you’ve no doubt played this one, but just in case, go play Super Mario Crossover (flash, free).  It’s thoroughly worthwhile.

Now I think I am going to grab a few spare moments to actually play a little bit of something …

Search-Fu or How to Find Things on the Internet

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

Red says:

In today’s world, knowing things isn’t as important as knowing how to find the information when you need it.  Some people are great at pulling up websites that tell them exactly what they need to know, while others search in vain.  If you do a search for “How to find things on the internet” you will find lots of articles describing search engines, but few hints on how to use those search engines.

I happen to love doing research.  I never liked doing my homework when I was in school, and when teachers assigned us “research” papers so we could learn the valuable skills of … I’m still not sure what, I would groan as loud as anyone.  Now that I’m out in the real world, finding out about things is one of my great thrills.  Sadly, none of the careful lessons in the dewey decimal system, or how to read a card catalogue come in handy for most of the research I do today.  Mostly, I look things up on the internet.

Patch is continually impressed with my Google-fu or search-fu, meaning my ability to find what I am looking for via Google’s search engine.  (Feel free to use any search engine you like, many internet service providers have search functions built into your home page.)  There are people who are much better at it than I am, but after watching Patch doing a search the other night, I was struck by how many little tricks I use for searching that he just didn’t think of.

So here are some pointers for how to make an Internet search better: (more…)

Day to Day

Monday, May 3rd, 2010

Patch says:

I feel as though I don’t have much to write about today.

Things happened today.  I had little minor adventures, learned life lessons, experienced a first that I didn’t really ever need to experience.  I read some interesting blog posts, played a lovingly designed game.  Had an interesting conversation at work.  Watched something funny while eating nachoes on the couch with Red.  Listened to some good music.

Drove a distance with the wind streaming through my hair.

The fact that all of that could have happened and I would have been left feeling blah, like I’m stuck in some sort of daily grind, like I have nothing interesting to say … that is actually enough to start a little bit of a smile tugging at the corners of my mouth.

I’m not going to say something cheesy like “life is miraculous”.  Miracles are things that don’t happen.  Life is all the things that do happen.

And it it sometimes nice to sit, to think, to take stock, to acknowledge having lived.

Now I am going to head toward bed.