| < retrospect: 19 apr >

(3) bye, emma
In other news, yesterday I made the call to bring Emma's discomfort and weakness to an end. It was sad but less wrenching than in previous weeks when the right course of action was less obvious; even though she seemed to perk up a few days ago (probably a side effect of not making her take meds), yesterday she couldn't even hold up her head properly, though she enjoyed a bowl of tuna I gave her an hour before her final trip to the vet.

Emma was a fine cat. I really appreciate that she liked being pet but wasn't really a lap cat, so she'd keep company and then enjoy the petting and attention when the human was willing/able to give it. (I never knew her during her fat cat days with Amber and Karen and David -- too me she was always a skinny old lady.)

This photo, the final photo with her, tries to show off another one of her lovely features: she had terrific two tone fur, darker grey towards the end, lighter towards the roots. It made it so pretty!

RIP Emma. You were a sweet old cat.

  ...of the moment  
I'm kind of worried this will bring Russia and the USA closer together, in a shared populist loathing of Chechnya.
"Again to paraphrase some dude on twitter- the Elvis impersonator who tried to poison the President is the 10th craziest story this week"
-- This is an awesome story. Go Evergreen and UMass Amherset!!! Sometimes just paying attention is enough. (I guess economics is pretty far from being sufficiently "peer reviewed")
"We should be careful to get out of an experience only the wisdom that is in it -- and stop there; lest we be like the cat that sits down on a hot stove-lid. She will never sit down on a hot stove-lid again -- and that is well; but also she will never sit down on a cold one anymore."
--Mark Twain
Getting iTunes to keep ratings and metadata when moving to a new machine is like pulling teeth. Hack the XML-- maybe THAT will "just work"

(2) the pr3vent trilogy
So Anna Anthropy has written a book, Rise of the Videogame Zinesters. As you might guess from the subtitle ("How Freaks, Normals, Amateurs, Artists, Dreamers, Drop-outs, Queers, Housewives, and People Like You Are Taking Back an Art Form") the book is a rallying cry for the idea that everyone should make games.

I liked the book a lot, but there was a point of emphasis that didn't resonate for me, and I decided to try to put my response into game form. Actually, I was inspired to write not one, not two, but THREE games! I present the "Pr3vent Trilogy: DESPERADO DORIS, PEACEMAKER, and NERD NEEDS IDEA, BADLY". You can play any one you want, and I hope you pay attention to its message, whichever one you choose:

OK, so what's this about?

In her book Anthropy writes about the game: Calamity Annie (which is terrific btw, and you should go download and play it immediately)
There’s a videogame about a dyke who convinces her girlfriend to stop drinking. Mainstream gamer culture by and large does not know about this game. I know about this game because I made it.
The thing is I was lucky enough to be a playtester for this game (though admittedly never hunkered down to get good enough at it to see the plot conclude) but if someone asked me what it was "about", I would have said it was about gunfighting (the primary "play mechanic" is a very clever translation of the good 'ol Western gunduel into mouse-and-screen form, where you have to keep your mouse-driven crosshairs holstered 'til it's time to draw.) The story was a nice touch, but at the time I considered it mere "flavor text", the stuff that often adds layers of meaning to a game, but could be taken away or radically modified without changing the game's core.

In the book though Anthropy emphasizes the story-telling aspect of game-making and she has lead by example (her very personal dys4ia- another game you should play online right now, and this one you don't even have to download, just play online) but as a gamemaker, I just want to say: it's ok if the story is an afterthought, and it's valid when the purpose of making a game is to explore gameplay rather than to model to an external theme. My impression from reading the book, especially the lovely and poetic section What to Make a Game About? which begins
Your dog, your cat, your child, your boyfriend, your girlfriend, your mother, your father, your grandmother, your friends, your imaginary friends, your summer vacation, your winter in the mountains, your childhood home, your current home, your future home, your first job, your worst job, the job you wish you had.
and continues for 10 more paragraphs and well over 100 more suggestions, is that she considers this central to the gamemaking mandate, and I'd just like to remind folks: it's ok if your game isn't "about" much of anything at all. (Personally, this is why I think videogames are interesting-- you can tell stories in many media, but only with videogames can you make real time, viscerally pleasing interactions.)

So, that off my chest, I want to ramble about one more thing: this book talks a lot about how gamemaking is a possibility for nearly everyone, and that you can make many fine games and tell many crucial stories as a lone auteur, or with the help of a few friends-- and I know the author's disdain for most big-budget "AAA" titles. But still, I have to grapple with the limitations of the tools the amateur has... there are certain kinds of game experience that are still far removed from what an individual can make on their own. In particular, there is a certain thrill and meaning present in games that strive for "living breathing worlds", ones that can put a player in a world close enough to our own that the empowerment ("I can fly!", for example) and differences (the permission to have a casual disregard for life and limb and property, for example) have greater resonance. These games have something you can feel in your gut in a way you won't with a retro, 2D, or otherwise iconically presented game.

I was trying to think of where the worlds of what an amateur can do and full, rich worlds overlap. The mod-ing community comes to mind: people who rip into the binary guts of, say, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and make it more their own. If I try to envision a more general purpose "gameworld construction kit", something with the open-ness of ZZT but a world more like our own, it ends up looking a bit like "Second Life" which as far as I can tell is the most dedicated attempt to make Cyberspace and VR as presented in 80s and 90s cyberpunk a reality. I've never gotten into that realm, though I appreciate how it has been open to people creating in it, and sometimes even being financially rewarded for their creative efforts. (Though in practice I think the appeal is more for people who really dig creating an alternate persona for themselves than for 3D-physics junkies like me.)

Anyway, go get this book, and then go make some games!

  ...of the moment  
"Life is an illusion, but an illusion we must take seriously."
--Aldous Huxley

(2) give me the 70s

-Most recent addition to my music collection. I like the lowrent goofy fun of the video

  ...of the moment  
Reminder that rich plutocracy is 3rd world sign- RT @screwjaw U.S. Downgraded to 3rd World Nation-
A great walk through the odds and awesomes of Javascript. Some clumsy examples, but worthwhile: JavaScript Garden
I hope that the sequel to Scribblenauts lets me write "A better game than this" so I can create the Game Singularity.
"me in 2001: I wonder what kind of graphics games will have in 10 years! me in 2011: I wonder what kind of graphics games have these days..."

(1) three geeks
3 flavors of geekness:
C=64 retro game geeks! What makes it kind of cool is if you think of it as "The Matrix" of the C=64 -- being able to peek at all the numbers behind the world of the game, in real time...

Disney Geeks!

Finally for the gadget geeks... what's thought to be the next iPhone... (more videos and details at the link)

  ...of the moment - the odd parallels between tampon and cigarette ads... - my new team is beta-ing an app to help kids 13-18 think about career options...let me know what you think! :
Even Zynga’s designers seem well aware that their game is repetitive and shallow. As you advance through Farmville, you begin earning rewards that allow you to play Farmville less. Harvesting machines let you click four squares at once, and barns and coops let you manage groups of animals simultaneously, saving you hundreds of tedious mouse-clicks. In other words, the more you play Farmville the less you have to play Farmville. For such a popular game, this seems suspicious.
Heh. Wish I understood the draw of this kind of game better, maybe I could make money.
You know, Dunkin Donuts iced tea is really good and fresh-tasting. Trying to get away from gunky sweeteners, this might be the stuff.
"I solved all the girls," he whispered at me, wide-eyed, nostrils flaring, "by induction."

(6) smashenfreude
Yesterday I made a Java Toy in honor of the Klik of the Month Klub #22:

The Joy of Smashing

Knock the pyramid of bricks down (each brick beneath the level of the table) in order to... get a bigger pyramid of bricks to knock down! I didn't have time to add in a timer or score system, or the arrows showing where bricks might still by flying through the air.

This drew heavily on my experience at the OLPC Physics Game Jam, and the code itself is mostly ripped up and remixed JBox2D demo code...

(I can't believe the word didn't exist on Google before now! I might have to make more and more extensive toys and games around the concept.)

  ...of the moment  
Quidditch tourney with BU, Middlebury, UMass, Emerson tomorrow? They do know it's imaginary? Or at least, damn difficult to get flying brooms.
I'm getting jaded - a new desktop PC is barely worth a twitter now not like - worried that with a fastish PC I'll now code java toys for computers that are as fast...

(4) capitulation
One idea springing from a greekish outlook is that communication channels should be as permanent as possible... you never know who you might forget to tell about a new email address or phone number, or what old one someone researching how to contact you might find. (And there is a certain delight in finding an old email address on some forgotten website or Usenet posting that gets a response.)

So it's with a heavy heart that I'm dropping "catchall"s for my domains. For over a decade, I've been happy to be able to cavalierly say "anything @ gets to me, so use whatever you like". Dylan is the only one I know who tried playing with that, but in practice it was harder to explain than just giving a normal email address, so I gave it up.

For a long time, I've weathered a storm of spam, since if they tried a "dictionary" style attack, sending to host of random usernames at my domain hoping to get a match, they all went to the same place. More troublesome are those moral-less, scuzzball, vile, scabrous, cowardly greedmonkeys who make their Spam look like it came from my domain, since then I would also get a host of bounces, and even the occasional plaintive handcrafted "please don't send spam here" message. (The scary part of this change is knowing that this will still go on, I just won't see it.)

The problem with this is the number of email aliases I've used. For a while I thought of trying to track spam by using a special address for every site, like if I posted to "" (not that I would) I would use the address "". I never extracted much useful information from doing this (except that newyorkerforum seems to have been harvested by the spammers pretty badly) and now it means there might be some accounts I won't hear from again. (The other problem was talking to people on the phone, when I tried to tell someone from the company "Foobar" that my email address was " at", it would sound like I was confused about how email works.)

So, starting fairly soon, these are the only email usernames that will work for me:

Le Sigh. I hate Spammers so very much.

Game History of the Moment
Making the rounds is some insider information about the planned Sequels to the Hitchhiker's Guide text adventure. There are some objections to the publication of private, in-company email but it's still fascinating to read, and the site includes a semi-playable prototype of the game.

(8) where the wings have no shame
Ah, the joy of Liberal Guilt: I've started taking my daily coffee without milk, just to see if I feel better with less dairy. But if the Dunkin Donuts worker is African-American, I have to admit I catch myself before asking for it "black".

The sweetener issue comes into play too. "Black with sugar" sounds like a pickup line. Maybe "Black, an Equal" is a more positive message.

Or I'll just stick with saying "no milk".

Newsquote and Links of the Moment
But defining the current surge as a "Plan A" is a dangerously dishonest move that ignores the history of the Iraq war to date. In fact, since 2003, we have run through at least six plans, none of which has succeeded. The Petraeus plan is something more akin to Plan F—truly, the last Hail Mary play in the fourth quarter. And if it fails, then we better start considering Plan G, also known as "Get out of Iraq."
--Slate's Phillip Carter on the latest moves in Iraq.
Slate has had some interesting stuff lately. I enjoyed the gusto Blogging the Bible displayed for the book of Solomon, and today's meditation on the SkyMall's SnacDaddy product as a message about American culture is not to be missed. (In response to the SnacDaddy's promise to hide the discarded bones and how "your mess is kept out of sight while the wings keep coming.": "Thank God, because as everyone knows, looking at chicken bones after having eaten chicken parts can result in devastating moments of existential doubt: I too will become nothing more than bare wing bones someday. Kinda Beckett-like.")

(45) beep bop boop
Game and Map of the Moment

--I made this map playing through INVADER... you play a little lost Space Invader trying to get home, with only John Wu-style dual-wielded laser guns for protection. It's a lovely short story of a homebrew retrogame, a great way to spend an evening. It has an interesting mechanic where you can only shoot sideways, sports finely-tuned boards where you can just barely squeak by, and a forgiving nature where you can keep trying a level 'til you get it. It's Windows-only (and a few PCs seem to have trouble with it and its DirectX nature... plus sometimes it take a bit to load after you start it up) but it's a great download (headed by the same gal who did the Crossroads page I linked to a few days back...she may also be plotting a sequel to that.)

Anecdote of the Moment
I gave Ksenia a lift to the T this morning. Since I'm going to my yoga class after work, I was carrying my PJ-style pants I wear for that. She said "Nice Pants". I was going to suggest that she follow that up with the rest of that pick-up line, "bet they'd look great on my bedroom floor!" but then I realized, no, she's already seen these pants on the bedroom floor... along with too many other clothes, especially when we let the laundry go to long, and to be honest they don't look all that great there.

Video of the Moment
Via boingboing, India

(10) the hand that builds the cradle
Project of the Moment
Lately I've been lax in charging my cellphone, and I realized that that might partially be due to not having a "cradle" for seems like a small thing but being able to plop a phone into a handy little throne for it is a lot easier than fiddling with a wire and plug. So I thought I'd haul out my legos, too long dormant, and get buildin', just a kind of wrapper for the wire I already had.

This is what the table I dumped my Lego bin onto on looks like. I do have a lot of Legos. It looks more impressive in real life, I think, because it's a deep layer for pretty much the whole thing. This is one of the first times I decided to go with a table top as work space rather than the traditional might've been a mistake. Legos are falling off in all directions.

Close up of the pile, meant to give a slightly better sense of scale...

Here's the final result. Bigger and clunkier than I envisioned, but I was so happy to get something that seemed structurally sound while still allowing for easy connection and disconnection of the phone and the little plug that I don't want to give it another go. I didn't spend too much time on aesthetics but did add a few frills at the end.

Man, I almost hate to say it, but it actually feels like I might have "too many Legos". It was tougher than I remember to find the pieces I was after, though maybe I'm just out of practice. I think Legos meant more to be as a 3D modelling tool before computers and video games could render 3D images with no problem.

By the way, I'm sure there are Lego lawyers who wish I would call them "Lego bricks" rather than "Legos". Well, nyah, that's not how Lego works, but as long as you keep your quality edge you can still have your niche over junk like Mega Blox even if your name gets "Kleenexed/Xeroxed".

Funny of the Moment
Q. "How's your wife?"
A. "Compared to what?"
--Henny Youngman routine, via this Slate article on Michael Eisner.

(3) handyman kirk
Handyman of the Moment
I was delighted with how well my hacked up closet rod solution came out: rather than the very-breakable wall attachments in the plaster, I put 'em across some modular storage from Bed Bath and Beyond. $45 to make 4 stacks of 3 to put the 2 rods in. Plus, my cousin Ivan and I did SO much yardwork, like 15 or 16 yardbags full.

Meme of the Moment
Memepool linked to this article on personal ads, as well as this kind of odd Supermodel Personals parody site. "It's so fun when you're pretty and go grocery shopping. You can laugh and make fun of everything, and race the carts the around, and take 100 items to the express lane, and everyone thinks it's cute and endearing instead of obnoxious and stupid."

Articles of the Moment
Slate with good articles on Osama's "offer of truce": William Saletan argues that it's just a power play, and Lee Smith on how much trouble our government has in moving beyond the Cold War-like "single organization" mentality.

Enigma of the Moment
Machine of Mystery! How very "Myst" like...

More Housework of the Moment
So Peterman thought with a title like "Handyman Kirk" more photos were in order.

You know, in general housework isn't quite as bad as I tend to remember, it is relatively satisfying...the trouble is every task goes on longer than you want it to, and it really helps to do it with a buddy. Half of why I bribed Ivan to help out was for the company...
Steps Before
Steps After (still drying)
(Thanks Peterman!)
Bags o' Yard Waste Ahoy
(Thanks Ivan!)

(2) coffee
Joke of the Moment
I've started making my own ice coffee pretty much every morning. (I've already written about my new found admiration for the power of ice...) It saves me a buck or two, and the quality is more consistent. Anyway, lately every morning it makes me think of this joke:

"Waitress, this coffee is awful! It tastes like mud!"
"Well, it was just ground this morning..."


Link of the Moment
Block Death: A Museum of Horrors where Lego minifigs meet their untimely demises. Be sure to use the little arrows to view the scenes from different angles (and/or moments in time.) Those poor little yellow dudes hardly ever know what hits 'em.

Small Business of the Moment
Via Bill, Would you pay a buck to see one million toothpicks? I would! This is a really cool idea.
I remember a book my sixth grade math teacher had, with a thousand pages of a thousand dots each, with many important numeric milestones and world records on the way to a million labeled. But with the toothpicks, you can see every one at once, and that really is something.

(2) in space, no can hear
Quote of the Moment
"An astronaut with diarrhea would-- w--... You don't want an astronaut with diarrhea."
--Interviewee on a Frontline Documentary on the Meat Industry, via Ranjit.

Link of the Moment
Is this our Ranjit, of Wheatish Skin Color and Good Teeth Align? Mmmm, probably not. But if every visitor to this page today followed that link, its hit-counter will double!

(1) kung fu fighting
Decided to try to cut back on my cussing. It's just too easy a mode of speech, and then your swears are less effective when you really need them.

Link of the Moment
Stick Figure Kung Fu Theater -- really fantastic! I love how there are controls to take it frame by frame as well. Be warned though, the site its on is known for it's raunchy and really horrifying content, and some of the banner ads on that page might not be appropriate for most audiences. (I'll let you figure what audiences is would be appropriate for.)

KHftCEA 1998-04.2 April KHftCEA 1999-04.1 April

KHftCEA 1999-04.1 April

empty dorm room;
two red earrings
by the unmade bed
Massachusetts Institute of Technology physicist  Walter Lewin has calculated that there are 80 billion trillion atoms in a dollar bill!
--Ripley's Believe It or Not!, 99-4-15
"Lets remember to pray for Mrs. Lance- she injured herself quite seriously, breaking her leg in two places."
"Sounds like we have to keep her out of those kinds of places..."
--Mrs. Wood and Mrs. Israel
"Don't call me a bitch when we're making love, it really pisses me off."
mo gets $47.68 for her coins'
KHftCEA 1998-04.2 April

"The lamp works"
          --note on floor lamp on curbside
Dear Betty,
          thanks for the room
& board... You're swell...
Too bad about Kirk, huh?
          Sarah & Dylan
          --unmailed post-holiday card (written next to scratched out greeting to 'Dave  & Sue')
"Which will last longer - Mickey Mouse or Walt Disney Incorporated?"
          --Koan posed by Danny Hillis
Interesting conversation between some christian scholar types 1 table over at the 1369.

< retrospect: 19 apr >