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Archive for January, 2009

The Lost Week

Friday, January 23rd, 2009

After putting together my computer this week I was left with the decision whether to update my old drive or do a clean install and set it up from scratch. I chose the latter and what a pain it has been. You just want to sit down with your shiny new hardware and do something but instead it’s an endless series of installs and reboots. On top of that, the connector on my old keyboard got loose I had to replace it. This is the first time I have tried to type very much on my new one and it’s going to take getting used to.

Last week someone left a comment asking if I had tried the Nick Bounty games at Pinhead Games. Saturday we spent a lot of time doing things like dealing with frozen water pipes. Luckily they weren’t damaged. So it was nice to kick back on Sunday and play some games. The Nick Bounty series are classic adventure games with full voice acting and the look, talk, get, etc. verb set. One thing I was reminded of when playing them was although choosing a verb as opposed to just clicking on an object is more work, in the old adventure games as well as these, adding the extra step provides a way to inject more (often silly) humor into them. The plot lines were pretty silly too but that is the point to playing them I suppose. I did laugh at some of the jokes and there is a pretty funny scene in the second game where everything is dark and the voice actor describes an outrageous scene to you.

I’ve been writing this blog long enough I have gotten to the point where it is hard to remember whether I have already mentioned something or not. I guess if it’s a good thing it’s worth mentioning again. That’s the way I felt about this video of people doing maintenance on high voltage cables. I suppose you probably get used to it but there’s no way I would get out there.

I know I’ve mentioned this alloy before, I’m pretty sure I linked to this video. It’s also known as muscle wire because it is not only a shape-memory alloy but it also shrinks when heated so you can make things move by running current through it.


More Science experiments at 5min.com

Check out these awesome ice storm photos.

Speaking of winter, that’s a lot of snow!

Last night we watched Resident Evil- Degeneration. I wasn’t particularly impressed by the other Resident Evil films but I wanted to see it because it is computer generated. It’s funny how not-quite-real computer generated people look creepy. This article at New Scientist talks about that and how machines are coming closer to people in other ways like talking and playing music.

According to this article the next group of people to be put out of jobs by technology will be call center workers.

I thought this was kind of interesting; this guy was an expert at putting things in bottles.

If you’re not a programmer you probably have never heard the phrase “That’s not a bug, it’s a feature“.

It’s kind of fuzzy but this is what meteors look like from space.

This is what a hermit crab in a glass shell looks like.

Here are some long time exposure photos. The one of the fireworks is particularly cool.

If you are prone to seizures you probably don’t want to follow this link. Here are more examples of what I call wiggle vision 3D photos. The author calls them lenticulations. It kind of makes my head hurt to look at them. I thought the one of the dog (14) was the best one.

I suppose you could call lenticular clouds lenticulations. This one looks a lot less like a UFO than others I’ve seen.

How would you like to live in a house made of paper that costs 5000 dollars? By the way, 36 square meters is 387.5 square feet.

Here are some large computer generated fantasy landscapes.

This is a pretty cool picture of a drop of seawater and what is inside.

I thought this was kind of funny. A bank made a mistake and deposited a bunch of money in a couple’s account. They claimed they didn’t notice. This actually happened to a friend of mine, but he was smart enough not to try to keep it.

This is just a nice sunset picture.

My fingers hurt from this new keyboard. Here is your funny animal picture of happy seals.

New Hardware

Thursday, January 15th, 2009

I haven’t been posting this week because I needed to buy the parts for a new computer. This is probably the longest I have ever gone without replacing one. Except for 3D rendering, the machines I have are fast enough for everything I do. I found I was out of touch with what has been going on in hardware and had to do some studying including a search on a number of terms to find out what they mean. The parts are on their way and next week I should be able to put it together. It should be blindingly fast compared to my old hardware. We’ll see.

Last I checked it had climbed up to a warm -4 degrees F out there today. I’m not sure I even want to step out for the mail. It’s probably just junk mail anyway. This site starts out with snowflake pictures but for a real treat, scroll down to the frost and ice images.

Here is another photo of a ship encased in ice.

I didn’t realize large circular disks of spinning ice would form in rivers.

Here is yet another cool ice photo.

Brrrr, after that I had to throw in a picture of someplace warm.

And now really hot; check out this image of a truck out running a volcanic blast.

I mentioned Megan Fox once a long time ago in one post, yet she shows up as the top search string in my stats for my blog month after month. This is for the Megan Fox fans out there.

It’s a little heavy on the science but this article entitled “Our world may be a giant hologram” is a pretty interesting read. I guess it wouldn’t surprise me if space-time was quantized, everything else is.

If it hurt your head to read that last link, take a moment to gaze at this cute shot of a mouse riding on the back of a frog.

This past Christmas I was trying to teach my nephew to juggle and realized I hadn’t done it for long enough I needed practice. When my friend Matt sends me a link and tells me to turn up my speakers I’m naturally a little cautious after some of the links he has sent me around Halloween. The following video is pretty good example of someone juggling to music. Definitely turn up your speakers.

While I’m writing I’m listening to NASA TV. There was an announcement today they found methane on Mars which may be being generated by some sort of life.

When I realized a virus was basically a chemical that could take over a cell, the line between what is alive and not seemed to blur for me. This article show that the difference between what is alive and what is chemistry can be very subtle.

Speaking of odd life forms, here are some very strange creatures, and more strange creatures.

This cat has an interesting way of using the stairs.

Check out this slo-mo video of a water drop hitting fine sand.

I got a laugh out of this.
fail owned pwned pictures

These images of ‘light pillars‘ are both strange and beautiful.

That is one big cat!

This is one elaborate cake!

This is a crazy staircase!

This video of a UFO would be fairly easy to fake but if it’s real, it’s pretty amazing.

Here is another funny sign.

If you read my blog, you know I end with some cute animal pictures. Since I haven’t posted in a while, I have a few for you. Here are squirrels, bears, and sleepy animals.

Germs

Wednesday, January 7th, 2009

I’ve been fighting a cold this week. As colds go it’s not a particularly bad one. It is enough to make it difficult to think and write though so forgive me if this post is particularly rambling. I do have some good stuff to share with you. If you have read my blog before you know I’m no fan of antibacterial soap because it’s bad for the environment and doesn’t work better than regular soap. I didn’t realize regular soap doesn’t kill germs it just helps rinse them off you hands. This list of 10 germ myths also has some other interesting facts. I tend to keep two sponges for washing dishes. I alternate them letting one dry out but maybe I should microwave them.

I’m not sure I have ever seen ice form in ribbons. The link at the bottom goes to some interesting photos too.

Today would probably be a good day to blow bubbles and watch them freeze. On the other hand, it’s really windy out there.

Check out these cool cloud pictures.

For some reason these spectacular pictures of winter’s beauty don’t change the fact I wish it were summer.

Here is one more cool winter shot of a train blasting through snow.

As the new year came in there were lots of top ‘whatever’ lists on the internet. I liked this one. The best 50 astronomy pictures of 2008.

If that didn’t make you feel small, the following video shows the size of the largest star compared with our sun.

This is an example of what a talented carver can do with a watermelon.

Dolphins in Australia use sponges to protect their noses while poking around on the sea floor. It’s interesting only the females do it. Maybe the males don’t want to look wimpy.

This is a video of an aluminum block falling over very slowly in very strong magnetic field.

Here is an explanation for why that happens.

These are some nice pictures of birds (and a clever cat) fishing.

And finally, if giraffes weren’t vegetarian this picture would have a very different meaning.

Adventure Games

Monday, January 5th, 2009

After all the rushing around for the holidays, it was nice to spend a weekend just kicking back. This past weekend that meant searching the internet for adventure games or what some call point and click games. There’s nothing wrong with shooting aliens or zombies but the fun thing about adventure type games is you can solve them together. Finding a decent one on the internet can be difficult. It’s not that there aren’t many out there, it’s that you have to wade through so much garbage to find a gem.

I found it interesting my friend Matt coincidentally sent me this article on user interfaces this morning. When you think about it, games are pure user interfaces. I mean, you aren’t actually trying to get any work done. One thing about a lot of games out there is when you are playing you don’t see a menu on the screen. I have a paint program I wrote years ago I still use because I like the interface better than most. Photoshop was originally developed on a Macintosh. In my paint program, when you are painting, you don’t see menus on the screen, when you want a menu, you use the right mouse button. Since the Macintosh had only one mouse button I suppose that wasn’t an option. After Microsoft dominated the market, always having something on the screen unrelated to what you are doing became the norm anyway. I suppose the one place that seems to be coming back is the full screen mode of a lot of TV viewing applications.

That’s one thing about Adobe Flash games that is semi-annoying to me. If you click the right mouse button you get a Flash menu which is usually useless in terms of the game you are playing. Consequently they have eliminated half the functionality of the mouse in terms of the game play.

We did find several games worth playing.  Something Amiss is a classic style adventure complete with an inventory where you have to find and gather up objects you use to solve logic puzzles. We have only made it through the first two chapters but this is the kind of game I don’t really like to play unless I find a walkthrough. The reason is, I don’t really like the fact you have to go back nine screens or so because you didn’t pick up something you failed to see. One of the highly important decisions you have to make in these types of games is whether the user will see the main character on the screen or whether it is all first person point of view. In this case they chose to make the character visible in a comic book artistic style but often, when she is interacting with objects, you don’t see them or the movement is off. Also I thought the concept of holding down the mouse to get a tiny menu where you can talk to, ingest or manipulate an object was an interesting one. It just seemed like that would have been a good functionality for a right mouse button.

In Tipping Point the author decided to forgo seeing the main character thus freeing up his time to work on the detail of the scenery which can be quite beautiful at times. We did occasionally have to use the included walkthrough on this one as well. Some of the puzzles are pretty obscure. I can’t say I care much for mazes although they are often present in these types of games.  There was a cave maze in this one we couldn’t solve even once we had figured out what to do.  One of the things I like about this style is when you decide to move to the next screen you don’t have to wait for your on-screen character to walk somewhere. Also the author divided the game up so there are only a small number of screens in each part so you won’t have to backtrack far if you missed something.

Levers isn’t a big game. I wouldn’t necessarily classify it as an adventure game but more of a physics simulator logic puzzle. It’s still kind of fun. I could never get past the giant head. I thought the birds were an interesting touch.

By far the most enjoyable games we played this weekend were Haluz 1 and 2. The games are very similar to Samorost 1 and Samorost 2. The reason is the pure simplicity of the concept. Yeah, the plots are thin but they have really stripped the adventure game concept down to its basics. There is no inventory of items which need to be gathered and you don’t ever have to navigate your character. I know these seem like the characteristics which define the genre of adventure gaming, but you know leaving those elements out actually makes the game more fun. All four of these games feature quirky characters with odd machinery. There is something appealing about the fact that everything you need to do to solve the puzzle is on the screen and you don’t need to go looking elsewhere for the solution. We did get stuck and had to use a walkthrough for Haluz 1 but I don’t know if the puzzles were easier or we just got ‘trained’ by the game author but we made it through Haluz 2 which is a much longer game without having to resort to looking up any solutions. Also I really liked the organic quality of the artwork in the game. When I first saw it I thought it might have been written by the same people who wrote Samorost.

All of the games I have mentioned here are worth checking out and the best part is they are all free.