Monday, May 29, 2017

Below

I am reading an absolutely riveting book called "Below."

The best way I can describe the writing style is to say it's sure-footed. Everything fits. There are no awkward bits. It's just rock-solid, eminently readable prose.

It's also well-drawn. I have a vivid sense of what the world feels like, and the prose make it feel absolutely tangible, which is not an easy thing to do.

The story? Well, here's an excerpt from the Amazon page, and I've edited it on purpose:
The late wizard Visak left his fortune hidden in the vast underground ruins of the Elder Kingdom, safer than any bank. Brenish, a mediocre highwayman but a brilliant liar...

That may sound a bit standard, but believe me, the execution is everything, and this is an absolutely ripping yarn. I've read half of it in two days and find it extraordinarily difficult to put down.

Now, as good as this all is, here's an even better part: one of you guys wrote it. Lummox JR, to be exact, who is a semi-frequent links contributor.

Enough. Here's an Amazon link: Below.

An Idea

We were at the rink by 8:30 this morning.

Eli 15.10 sees a holiday as a day to move up in the standings, so to speak, when everyone else is taking the day off.

I had an idea while I sat in the parking lot after he went in.

I took a picture from the front of the rink, facing into the parking lot. And I'm going to take one every time we go to a rink for the next year.

That should make an interesting time-lapse video, eventually. In the meantime, here's the very first picture:


Friday, May 26, 2017

Friday Links!

From Wally, and this is really quite wonderful: An AI invented a bunch of new paint colors that are hilariously wrong. Next, and these are beautiful, it's These rare color photos of Paris were shot 100 years ago, and they’re amazing. This is very impressive: Image-to-Image Demo.

From C. Lee, and this sounds very promising: Hitachi’s breast cancer screening method promises less pain. Now, a slew of links:
“I misspoke”, a weaselly phrase
Dangerous shortage of essential antibiotics is all about $$
The animals that look helpless but are secretly fearsome

Also from C. Lee, and it's widespread (I think George may have this, actually): The Mystery of the Wasting Housecats.

From Lummox JR, and this is a fascinating story: The Lost Typefaces of W.A. Dwiggins.

From Chris Meadowcraft, and I think Eli is going to try this: Watch a boxer beat up a tennis ball hanging from his hat. Also, and this is utterly fascinating, it's The colors of Mister Rogers’ cardigan sweaters, 1979-2001.

From Steven Davis, and this is very fun: Makin’ Moves: A Wild Animated Dance Short by Kouhei Nakama.

From Eric Higgins-Freese, and this is a happy update to a sad story: Whatever happened to Star Wars Kid? The sad but inspiring story behind one of the first victims of cyberbullying.


Thursday, May 25, 2017

Poor Choices

We were accidentally watching a baseball game for a few minutes last night. That's what happens when the NBA and NHL playoffs are having an off night.

Gloria saw this:


"What is going on there?" she asked.

"What do you mean?"

"Those socks," she said.

"Maybe that's a personal fashion choice," I said.

"I don't think so," she said. "Look there are two other guys just like that."

"Good god," I said. "Do they take a little car from the dugout to home plate?"

By the way, if you can't stand to watch baseball anymore, but wish you could, try the Sunday night telecast on ESPN. The announcing team is Dan Shulman, Aaron Boone, and Jessica Mendoza, and combined, they are incredibly entertaining.

A Temporary Team Picture

Eli 15.10 took a picture with his random team at the Muskegon Futures Camp:


Nobody even tried that cool scowl look. They were all too happy to be there.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

President, General, Spy #2

I wanted to go a little bit more in-depth today about what I see in this project that appeals to me so much.

For one, I find geopolitical sims fascinating, but very intimidating to play because of interface complexities and the minutia of rules. So I would like to play a game with complex AI, but not a complex interface. I also like the idea of having to make decisions with limited information and managing the consequences.

Also, I like the idea of a two-layer system. The first layer is the basic rule set that defines how the user takes actions and their effects. The second layer consists of many, many exogenous events that must be responded to, and these events (along with starting values) are what customize any scenario.

In a geopolitical sense, I think regional conflicts have been severely underrepresented. And I find many of those regional conflicts to be far more interesting than global ones. Researching and releasing these regional scenarios periodically for a small cost ($.99 or $1.99 a pop) would keep the game fresh and make it possible for me to continue working.

Plus, researching these scenarios would be a blast. Users could even suggest scenarios.

This encompasses many of the things I talked about last week. Rapid prototype with early-stage feedback. Lower costs. A longer tail. And I do think there is a solid market (niche, but solid) for a sim like this, particularly with all the crazy things going on in the real world right now.

Now, for this not to be a giant fraud (to myself), I need to actually have a working prototype by next weekend. We'll see.


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Truly One of the Most Moving Speeches Ever

This speech is remarkable and incredibly powerful:
Read New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu's Remarkable Speech About Removing Confederate Monuments.

President, General, Spy

A geopolitical simulation where there are only three units: President (diplomacy), General (military), Spy (espionage).

One action per turn with one of these units can be taken. Actions might last several turns, some actions can be linked with others, and new actions can be initiated while others are still ongoing (but only one new action per turn).

Both regional and global levels of play, with the regional modeling historical conflicts involving 4-8 countries.

Individual countries start with asymmetric ratings in the following categories:
--government stability
--military power
--diplomatic ability
--espionage network
--food supplies
--relationship level with other countries

This is a very, very small subset of what I want to do, but I've purposely limited scope right now in order to get a nasty looking prototype up and running by next weekend. The prototype will only have 4 countries.

The objective is to model both regional and global conflict with a smaller learning curve than current geopolitical sims, but with a deep AI.

If you're wondering about the AI, I feel pretty strongly that I won't have problems with that. There is a surprising amount in common with the Gridiron AI, believe it or not.

Actions available to the player in the prototype, based on unit type:
President:
--ask for food
--give food
--visit country
--propose alliance
--accuse

General:
--build army
--invade
--defend
--reduce army

Spy:
--sabotage
--gather intel
--defend from sabotage
--destabilize

All actions have positive and negative consequences.

Gridiron was, at its heart, a situational management game, and that's what a geopolitical simulator should be--a situational management simulation.

Okay, there's lots more, but that's enough for now. Just let me get a prototype up and running, and then we can really get to work.

A Question of Ownership

I have a laptop, but it's not mine.

I'm at the rink while Eli 15.10 is working out with his trainer.  It's an hour workout.

That's the perfect length of time to write about President, General, Spy. I was looking forward to an hour of uninterrupted concentration.

Then Microsoft started installing f-ing updates. Not downloading, just installing.

Twenty-seven minutes later, they were done.

I'm not kidding when I say that I spend more time installing updates on this laptop than actually using it for something. It's just an update kiosk, basically.

Oh, and then there are the Dell updates.

The perfect PC for Microsoft: a computer that will only install updates and allow purchases. No actual productivity is allowed, because while you're producing, you can't be buying.

After I get home, I'll try to write up the PGS post.

Monday, May 22, 2017

President, General, Spy

Coming tomorrow. Please wonder.

Well, This Is Surreal

It was only 14 months ago that Eli 15.10 was playing for the Texas "A" Championship in hockey.

Last weekend, he went to an invitation-only USHL Futures Camp with the Muskegon Lumberjacks.

He belonged, too. He didn't get get an invitation to the main camp, because a 15-year-old who's 5'11" 3/4 and 137 lbs. isn't physically viable in major juniors, but his level of play was very strong.

Just needs to keep working and getting better, and I think he might actually get a chance in a couple of years.

Plus, his team this upcoming season is looking downright beastly. Four kids made it to Nationals, and two others were drafted by the USHL.

Crazy times, for sure.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Friday Links!

Leading off, this is an entirely fascinating read: Terrifying 20m Tall Rogue Waves Are Actually Real. Also, this is an incredibly powerful story: My Family’s Slave.

From Steven Davis, and this is a terrific video: 1953: Who Wouldn't Want to be a Miller? Next, a Grammer Nerd Alert! 50 Years of Stupid Grammar Advice. This is fascinating: How British and American Spelling Parted Ways. This is a great story: Strong Coffee, Stronger Women. These are simply astonishing: The Incredible Sand Sculptures of Toshihiko Hosaka.

From C. Lee, and this is an excellent read: Why You Should Re-read Paradise Lost. This is a great read: The X Factor of Ancient Athens. I still love fried chicken: A Fried Chicken Bender in South Korea. Next, and this is concerning: Sullied seasoning: Sea salts come with a dash of microplastics.

From Theo Halloran, and this is an absolutely phenomenal article: Riding the Bus with Jagr.

From Wally, and this is unbearably witty: NOS Lucas Replacement Wiring Harness Smoke Kit. Well, this is certainly something: The boss who lives as a medieval knight. If you ever want to know why you should drive a newer car instead of an older one, here you go: ANCAP crash 1998 Toyota Corolla in to 2015-built counterpart.

From DQ Live Advisor Garret Rempel, and this is essential information: Origins of 'eh': How 2 little letters came to define Canadians.

From Tim Lesnick, and this is incredible: 3-D printed ovaries produce healthy offspring.

Closing out this week, from Christopher Scott, and mole rats are amazing: Researchers Find Yet Another Reason Why Naked Mole-Rats Are Just Weird.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

The Manhattan Project (of tennis)

Well, it's come to this.

I beat Eli 15.2 6-2 on Monday, but my time is running out. I just softballed him and he kept making errors, but that crap is not going to work all summer. I'm going to get my head handed to me if I keep doing that.

An aside: I'm hoping that at some point in the summer I can say to him, "If you come at the king, you best not miss." Best line ever.

So, in order to beat back the marauder for another few months, I'm doing something unthinkable: I'm working on my serve.

My groundstrokes and volleys are solid. Very solid, for an old man, at least. My serve, though, has always been terrible, from the time I was 15 and had just started tennis.

Forty. One. Years.

That's a hell of a long time to do something wrong. My terrible serve spans five decades and two centuries.

Now, though, the competitive imperative demands that I stave off defeat as long as possible. So I'm now taking secret lessons from Eli's tennis instructor, much to his delight.

Here's how this goes. About every eight serve or so, it feels something vaguely like it should. In rhythm. Comfortable.

Or maybe it's every tenth serve. It's not very often.

Plus, I've been trying to practice this in a freaking hurricane. Today there were 25+ winds steady, with gusts to 45. I'm trying to hit a knuckeball with a tennis racket, basically.

Do that 100 times and it wears on you.

That's okay, though. This is the one time I could see this through. If my arm doesn't fall off, this is happening.





Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Two Stories In One Picture


Story #1: Please refer to the cake on the plate. 

"The cake totally crumbled," Gloria said after she took it out of the oven. "I don't know what happened. It just fell apart."

"I call this the 'Land War In Asia' cake," I said. 

Story #2: Please refer to the flowers. 

Those flowers are not hidden--they're protected. George loves to eat flowers, and I had to improvise a wall to keep him away until Gloria got home and she could safely position them. He sat by the paper towel holder for half an hour, just looking. 

Also of note: the complete Calvin and Hobbes collection is both historically significant and far too weighty for a cat to push out of the way.

A Fine Fellow (Eli 15.10 before Prom)

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Fighting 11 #21: Malaise

Well, this is going poorly.

It's not going poorly because of lack of interest. I'm still interested in what I designed. I think it's interesting, and looks like fun.

Still, though, it's going worse than Gridiron Solitaire went at any point, and this week, I think I figured out why.

I've been struggling for months (years) with the notion that I want to develop games as a career and not a hobby. Lots of people can make one game, working part-time as a hobby. Far fewer can make multiple games and turn those games into a legitimate career.

What I realized this week is that I'm going about it all backwards.

Everything I do starts from ideas that turn into designs. Big, complex designs.

The single most important element of the design, if I want this to be a career, is time. Which is the one aspect I never consider.

Doing a multi-year project to move three thousand units is absolutely not credible in a professional sense. Doing a multi-year project that's a sports game is even worse, because indie sports games have exactly zero traction. That audience isn't going to grow.

So why am I doing it that way?

I think a big part of the answer is comfort. Even though GS was a very unusual design (and extremely niche), I knew I could make it realistic, because I have a fairly deep understanding of sports, particularly the stats aspect. I contributed AI to several projects in the distant past.

In order to succeed, though, I need to stop being myself and become more like Garret.

Garret isn't a one-idea person, and he's not particularly wedded to any of his ideas. They can all be prototyped quickly, he sees what works, and he moves on. What works gets refined and turned into a commercial project. What doesn't work isn't totally discarded--there are usable pieces that can be used in something later.

THAT is the way to be a successful designer and developer. Many ideas. Rapid prototyping.

Expandability, too. I want a modular approach to content so that the game can be expanded as long as it makes financial sense to do so.

Right now, if you release a game on Steam, it disappears almost within minutes. The one-time release approach is usually suicide. There's a much higher chance of success with a game that gets regular content updates and can develop an audience over a period of months or years instead of a few days.

I think Early Access is great for something like this, to develop an audience to shape the game (and promote it) while it's still in development.

To do all this, though, I have to radically change my approach. I know I need to, but that doesn't mean it's any easier.


It's Been A While


I'm almost certain that's an EGA monitor.

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