Friday, April 28, 2006


Nuclear Accidents and 5 Yen Pieces

Mikal's post about the wikipedia articles on nuclear disasters was really interesting. My personal highlight was this article about how useful the Japanese 5 yen pieces are.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006


Well, What Do You Know

Wow. As part of the Challenge, I just discovered I have Crowded House on my iTunes. Who knew?


Never Been Played Update

While I've very please that Gordon has decided to accept the Never Been Played challenge, I resent his claim that I'm cheating. It's hardly cheating to remove podcasts from the list, especially when some of those podcasts are over and hour long, and Gordon has none. Besides, I adjusted my total figures.

Anyway. 261 songs, 19 hours left. Longest song remaining is Feela by Lamb coming in at 17:12, and the shortest song left is Mantra by Tool (1:12).

Tuesday, April 25, 2006


Never Been Played

Gordon and I are having a competition (well, he doesn't know it's a competition yet - it's part of my cunning plan to win!). The competition is to see who can get through their iTunes "Not Played" list first. Of course, many of the songs haven't been played for good reason - they're crap, or they've got "secret tracks" at the end, so they get skipped before they finish. But that's part of the challenge. And yes, it's easy to cheat, but what's the point (unless it's looking like I'm not going to win).

My Stats
Number of Songs: 273
Approximate Time: 19.8 Hours

(Gordon is starting with 371 songs which is 1 days worth of music)


Computers: Euphoria

This is an article about the new animation engine Lucas Arts are planning on using for their new Indiana Jones game. It sounds like some seriously sexy software. Take a look at the movies as well.

Monday, April 24, 2006


Just Watched: Ginger Snaps

As sometimes happens, the first version of this post was eaten. It was (as all lost post are), a master piece of writing, and this is just a pale recreation. But it says most of what I wanted to say.

I picked up the DVD of Ginger Snaps a while go for $5, and finally got around to watching it last night. I had been expecting fairly standard "bad" teen horror, but it turns out it was a reasonably serious attempt at a supernatural thriller.

The plot is fair standard. Take a group of misfits. Something supernaturally bad happens. The group then has to try and stop it before they (and everyone else) get killed. The quality of course is in the detail.

Using a supernatural change as a metaphor for adolescence (puberty, sex, growing up) isn't a new idea - you could argue that Buffy was entirely based on the idea - but Ginger Snaps is one of the best ways I've seen it done. Another big plus was that I found the characters real (well, in general. I'm still not sure if the mum was meant to be comic relief or just totally nuts). Although, thinking back, really only Ginger and her sister were very developed, so maybe it was just they stopped me noticing.

The other thing this movie did right was the ending. The makers obviously realised that I was there to see them deal with the monster, so I don't care about how they explain it all to the police, clean up the mess, pay for their counseling and move on. Save it for the sequel. Also, the wait-it's-not-really-dead/it-had-time-to-spawn/it-wasn't-the-real-monster "twist" is really tired.


Saturday, April 22, 2006


Work Phone Spam

So being the only on in the office on a Saturday isn't all bad. I'm free to talk to myself AS LOUD AS I WANT, and I'm not going to get any strange looks. I don't have to be worried that someone important's going to ask why I was printing a pretty picture on the marketing printer ("because it looks cool?"). And I got to answer the phone just a moment ago...

She sounded like she had either just woken up, was very drunk, or both. I managed to work out that she *thought* someone had rung her from here, and so was trying to return the call. Of course, she wasn't really listening to me:
"mmm? TOWER Software? Yeah, I've seen you advertised on TV. TOWER software. TOWER computers. Dell Computers. I don't need a Dell computer yet thanks. But I call you when I do. Okay?"

"Um, okay. Bye!"
It was like that blog spam ("This is a great blog! I was looking for something about [insert blog title] to help me with my website! Check it out!"), but over the phone! Awesome!


Beer Activated Girl

This morning I discovered Beer Activated Girl (for anyone who doesn't know, check out the original Coin Operated Boy here).

Friday, April 21, 2006


Movie Poster Mashups

I just found this. Some of it's a bit dumb, but some of them are laugh-out-loud funny.

My personal picks:

Thursday, April 20, 2006


Game Design Thoughts

On Saturday night I had some friends over for some board games. Together we managed to track Dracula across Europe and (after a couple of close calls), finally managed to corner and destroy him. After that, we managed to successfully defend Camelot from the forces of darkness and destruction. All in all, an excellent evening.

On Tuesday, one of the podcasts I normally listen to (Have Games, Will Travel) talked a bit about the idea of board games being designed like software, and it's something I've been thinking about a bit ever since.

It's an approach that really seems to make sense. A board game is really just a simple program - it's got some set rules (you can only move forward, you move a number of squares equal to a dice roll, etc), a limited number of pieces and definite conditions for winning. In fact, converting a board game to a computer program is a fairly simple task. In fact, there are many parts of board games (reshuffleing decks, rolling dice, etc) that if automated, would make the game run much smoother.

So why are most computer games different from board games? Well, the mechanics in a board game need to be reasonably simple and quick for a person to do, otherwise you'd spend more time looking up on accounting tables and in tax-packs than you would passing go. But a computer can quite happily calculate how often everyone's landed on a certain square, factor in the amount of cash in the game, reasonably guess where each player will be in a couple of turns, adjust for compound interest and still be finished before animated dice stop rolling. Take Tetris - it's basically just a board game that couldn't exist in the real world because it's mechanics would be too hard for people to deal with. So why stop there? Instead of moving your piece around the board one square at a time, you can have different speeds, power ups, terrain, even real physics. And suddenly it's looking a lot more like Mario Cart than Monopoly.

But board games are still fun - even when played on a computer (leaving aside when they're played against a computer, which generally tends to suck). Why? I think that's because people don't actually care about the level of abstraction - it's just as much fun to throw down a couple of cards and roll a die to see if my knight beat the siege engine as it would be to see through his eyes as he maneuvers around the war machine, attacking vulnerable parts while defending himself - provided it fits with the rest of the game.

People often complain that there's nothing new in computer games - they're all just variations on each other. Sure, this one might look pretty, and this one might have this smart feature. But really, every first person shooter is pretty much the same. What occurred to me after all of the above is that while maybe you need to approach board game design like software design, maybe they also need to start approaching computer game design like board game design.

Edit: Oh, and I'd love to get feedback about this. If you've got some thoughts, post a comment!

Tuesday, April 18, 2006


Um, That's Not Quite What We Meant...

A little while ago (back when I thought I was getting a City of Heroes free trial), a friend and I were tossing around ideas about what sort of hero I should play. Since he brought it up again today, I thought I'd post the transcript here for everyone to enjoy (I'm green).
Oh, I know! Mr Rainbow! He's a queer-friendly human rights lawyer! He battle villains with the mightiest weapon of them all - a solid understanding of the anti-discrimination law!
That's not a completely terrible super hero actually. It's better than "Wolver Man" with his "4 retractable claws" and his "slightly disfunctional attitude" (don't sue us marvel!).
I was just thinking it would be pretty funny to spend a while "totally missing the point", and coming up with characters who are real-life kick-arse "hero" types - Amnesty International's human rights lawyers, independent war journalists, the ATO accountants how take down massive, dodgie companies, etc.
"Um, no, that's not quite what we meant when we said 'super hero'..."
"Oh, okay then. How about Prof. Stephen Hawking?"
You could call your super hero "the red cross", and fight hunger and abuse all over the world :)
"Who are you?" asked the terrified thug
"I'm UNICEF Man"
You could make a tank, and call him the OXfam.
"I believe that Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. The enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being without distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition. The health of all peoples is fundamental to the attainment of peace and security and is dependent upon the fullest co-operation of individuals and States. The achievement of any State in the promotion and protection of health is of value to all. Unequal development in different countries in the promotion of health and control of disease, especially communicable disease, is a common danger. Healthy development of the child is of basic importance; the ability to live harmoniously in a changing total environment is essential to such development. The extension to all peoples of the benefits of medical, psychological and related knowledge is essential to the fullest attainment of health. Informed opinion and active co-operation on the part of the public are of the utmost importance in the improvement of the health of the people. Governments have a responsibility for the health of their peoples which can be fulfilled only by the provision of adequate health and social measures. "I am Dr WHO"

Thursday, April 13, 2006


Just Ate At: Busi Cafe

We went for a birthday dinner at Busi Cafe (sorry about the link, it was the best I could find) in Manuka last night. And wow, was it bad. The worst place I've ever been to in Canberra would probably be a reasonable description.

I'm usually pretty forgiving of food places. And there's usually some redeeming factor - the service might be bad, but the food is good. Or the food is bad, but the atmosphere is great. Unfortunately, the best thing about Busi Cafe was that we got to leave eventually.

The place was tiny, with lino floors and very bright, multi-coloured walls. It basically looked like something you'd see in a food court. In fact, when I first wondered past, I thought it was the sort of place that does lunch take-away, but had a few tables around. When we sat down at their cafeteria-style table and chairs, we discovered that there were only 3 glasses for a table of 10. After a lot of begging and pleading, we were finally able to get some more wine glasses.

The ordering process was a bit of a debacle, and almost two hours later our entrees began to arrive. We got a plate of spring rolls - enough for one each! Of course, we didn't have any plates to eat them off, so everyone had to just hold them. After another long wait, the first of our main dishes started appearing, along with 2 pork buns (we'd ordered enough for everyone). After much pain, we eventually managed to explain that we should have some more pork buns. Which turned out to be a mistake - I didn't think it was possible to stuff up those packet pork buns, but apparently I was wrong.

Meanwhile, we were finally able to convince them that we actually needed individual plates as well as the food dishes. The only cutlery we had were spoons and forks (that's right, no chopsticks) - which meant we had to beg for a knife when one of the dishes turned out to be big pork shanks. Every dish we thought "oh, this one will be alright!", and every dish wasn't. It was by far the worst Chinese I've eaten. Several of the dishes were chucked on the table without anything to serve them with - resulting in more requests for cutlery and more confused looks from the wait staff.

At one point (probably about half way through the meal) we asked if we could get some rice. "Oh, you want some more rice?" asked the waiter/floor manager. "No, we'd like *some* rice - we haven't got any yet". So he brought out a small bowl. And then said "hmmm, do you want a second bowl?" "Ah, yes..."

Let me describe a couple of the dishes. There was the afore-mentioned pork - "salty and spicy pork", which was infact almost tasteless and fatty. There was a prawn dish that looked nice in the picture (the menu had pictures for each dish, none of which looked like the real dish) but turned out to be some prawns with scrambled egg on top. There was the fried rice, which was just rice, some egg and some soy sauce mixed together. There was the honey chicken, which, despite the description saying it was the normal, deep-fried crunchy honey chicken and the picture looking like the normal, crunchy honey chicken, was actually just normal chicken strips with a thin sauce that may have contained honey.

I spent a bit of time trying to work out what market they were trying to appeal to. It certainly wasn't classy enough to appeal to the Manuka yuppies. It was far too slow to appeal to the take away market. The quality of the food was so bad that they can't have been trying for the gourmets. I thought maybe they were trying to appeal to families, but the place was definitely not kid-friendly. My best guess was that they were trying for the "I feel like something dodgie and horrible, but I don't want MacDonalds". Although I don't know how well they were even pulling that off.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006


Random: I'm An Ideas Man

I think I need an ideas blog. I've been having a lot of them lately, and it would be nice to put them somewhere.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006


Just Tried: The Poacher's Pantry

On Sunday we went out to the Poachers Pantry cafe/restaurant for lunch. For anyone who doesn't know, the Poachers Pantry is a line of gourmet meats. Their main customer used to be Ansett. When they went bankrupt, the owners of Poachers Pantry decided they needed to do some serious work to keep themselves in business. So they set up a cafe and started selling their products in local supermarkets and delis.

Turns out it was a great move.

Lunch was fantastic. We had a meat platter and a cheese platter. Both were exceptionally tasty. It would be a great place to take out of town visitors - which is exactly what we're planning to do.


Random: All I Want For Christmas

I'm not usually one for buying random "stuff", but if I thought I could have done it without my wife killing me, I would have seriously considered bidding on this.

It's a 19th century Romanian vampire killing kit. From the seller's description:
The box weights 20.1 lbs., length 16.8 inches, width 17 inches, height 7.9 inches;made of linden tree with maroon velvet inside, six compartments. The items enclosed in the box are as followed: one wooden hammer (6.5 inches long), four stakes 6 inches-each) --- the wooden hammer has applied a small holy cross, same as the stakes; the lower side containing: prayer book, crucifix, knife and eight bottles with Pamant (holy soil), Agheazma (holy water), Mir (anointing oil), Tamaie (holy incense), Usturoi (garlic), red serum, blue serum and secret potion. We believe a romanian monk from Transylvania has created this box during the period of 1870-1890 .

The old Prayer Book is old romanian language (chirilica), 19th century-hard covers. There is a mith saying whoever is able to read from this Book, he will be able to win the fight with the dark forces, demons, vampires and other demonic creatures .

The knife is 13.1 inches long with a metal handle. It's made of heavy metal and can be easily thrown - it will always hit the target with the sharp tip. Has a gothic theme and detailing of fangs.

The metal box contains one syringe and it can be used to inject liquid garlic or secret serums into vampires. It has a small cross on it made of silver . The syringe can sustain temperatures up to 200 Celsius degrees. The cross is very old, with one beautiful black stone and is on a very old metal chain .

The metal teeth plier ( 7.5 inches ) was used in the past to remove the vampire's teeth. There is also a special tool called Dentol ( 5.5 inches ) used in the past to remove the vampire's teeth.

"Is est Sanctus Res ego sum decessio secundum ut meus pius futurus adsuesco assuesco obviam Malum , Nox noctis Ingredior Nosferatu , Lamia quod Intentus."

and translates into:

"This is the Holy Thing , I am leaving behind to my own kind to be used against the Evil, the Night Walker , Nosferatu , the Vampire and Strigoi ."

" In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti. Amen " ( In the name of the Father , the Son and the the Holy Spirit )
Extremely cool. I really want one.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006


Blade Runner

Mikal just posted about a chunk of movies he's seen recently (inspired by me, which is awesome!). One of the movies he watched was Blade Runner, which is a fantastic movie. For my money, it's one of the best examples of the cyberpunk genre in film. Plus, I've been to some of the places in Tokyo they used for the setting.

I'm very interested to hear what Mikal thinks of the book (which is called Do Androids Dream of Electronic Sheep for anyone who's looking for it). While the plot is similar to the movie, they are both different stories. I guess the movie is more "inspired by" than "based on". Anyway. There's some really cool ideas in it, and I can't wait to hear what Mikal thinks.

Monday, April 03, 2006


Just Watched: Angel 01:14

We're currently a little over half way through season 4/season 1 of Buffy and Angel. While I've seen most of the episodes before, it's been a while. Last night we watched an episode of Angel that, while I'm sure I saw when it was first on, I'd totally forgotten about - I've Got You Under My Skin.

Wow. That was one seriously creepy episode. (well, up until the standard twist at the end. Not that the twist was bad, it just wasn't up to the standard of the rest of the story). It had a different feeling to normal - it was darker than the series had been to this point, but it also had a very personal feel to it. No end-of-the-world, ancient prophecy stuff. It also had a serious sense of desperation to it - no one was in good position to save the day (until, of course, Angel remembered he's an undead hero).

I would love to see a series that captured the feel of the first half of that episode. I think I know just how it would go (or start off anyway). Maybe I'll write it up sometime...

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