1-30-05Web cam wind chime. The web cam wind chime (WCWC) is a really trivial audio-visual device. The web cam on your computer delivers per-pixel intensities which the WCWC watches for movement; this movement is used in a soft activation model for the wind chime simulation. The WCWC auto-normalizes the activation to reasonable ranges, subtracting off background agitation, etc. The wind chime sim creates pleasant tones no matter what the activation, so it's not like crazy input can make unpleasant sounds. The result is that you can point it out your window and sort of get a classic wind chime sound (passing cars also make great activators), or you can point it at yourself and it will tinkle as you walk around.
Rhythm typing watcher and dynamic music. I love coding or writing and feeling the beat of the music and sort of typing along with it; the problem is the music doesn't always make a good beat for typing. The solution of course is to make the music from your typing. It works like this - typing, or any other form of activator (like a web cam) drives a music sim. The music sim could be very simple - it starts with just a nice mellow background track that's always playing at the zero activation level. This background track is at some base BPM. As you start typing, the system sees the activation, and each keypress is a beat. The amount of typing also gives an intensity measure. The system guesses the BPM of your typing and tries to scale the background track to match your BPM or some integer multiple or divisor of your BPM; eg if the base track is 40 BPM and you're typing at 73 BPM, it would try to match 73/2 (36.5) by slowing down the base track. Based on your level of activity, higher tracks would ease in, first like maybe a simple hi-hat at your exact BPM (73), then some embellishment tracks; they would fade back out when your activity dropped off.
1-26-05Stranger's Wrath is on shelves - go get a copy! Play past the tutorial and the initial bit in town - trust me, it gets better. Oh, and you can invert all the camera controls if you like - you can have crazy Splinter Cell or Halo style 3rd person controls. Also, the 3rd person view is not like a 3rd person version of the 1st person view - the camera does not act like a 1st person cam the way it does in like Heretic-style 3rd person - our 3rd person is like a platformer; please compare it to Ratchet & Clank or something like that.
One thing that's bugging me is the reviewers that give the game like an 8.5 (out of 10) and list all these great things about it, and don't really mention anything bad. I know there are a lot of flaws with the game, I could list them, but how as a reviewer can you get off giving the game an 85% when you don't mention any flaws? Game industry journalism in general is absolute shit, but of course criticism in general isn't much better.
I hear a lot of complaints about the camera in reviews, but I'm not really sure what people are complaining about. Some people think the first person camera is too slow. I'd like to see actual usability testing on the speed of the fps cam look to see if that's really an issue. I suspect that the real issue there is that the first person camera is different than Halo, and everyone is used to Halo, so anything different feels bad. Some people complain about the 3rd person camera being too slow; again, I'd love to see real testing. It's about the same speed as the cams in Sly Cooper or Rather & Clank, but it is a lot slower than the first person cam; it's a navigation cam, not an action cam. Some people complain about the 3rd person cam getting caught on things. Yeah, that's unfortunate, but I've always found the alternatives to be worse - bring the cam closer is bad, making the cam really stiff and twitchy or making it cut, all are bad. It would've been nice to have some more nice smooth camera repellers on objects the camera can get stuck on. This is one of those areas where there's no replacement for lots of testing. The camera feels great to me because I've worked with it so much, it's what I'm used to. You need to be able to actually watch virgins get their hands on it - and their words really are pretty useless too, I need to see what is actually happening to the camera when they're feeling frustrated.
1-24-05Fava Beans - eat them out at a restaurant. Do not make them at home. Last night I made Favas that I found at our local farmer's market. You get a huge sack of big beautiful beans, you blanche them, shuck them, then you have to peel each individual bean - and after all that work you wind up with a tiny handful of beans. It's also stupid that "bean" can either refer to the pod or the pea inside the pod. Despite all that, Favas are delicious. The beans (peas) are meaty and earthy and mellow. They should be cooked just slightly past "al dente" so that they are firm and hold their shape, but are soft, not mushy and not falling apart. I did them with browned pancetta deglazed with beer, shallots, and beet greens. Most places would use white wine, not beer, but I was drinking beer, and I think beer pairs very well with pork and earthy flavors.
Crab cakes are another classic dish you should get out and not at home. Way too much work for the value if you do it yourself.
1-11-05The other big thing google needs besides the NoT is for me to be able to mark up for my self the idea that when I search for X, I want to find Y, regardless of any other page rankings. I use google to find pages, rather than actual web addresses. Let's say I want to visit "pitchfork music" - I can't remember the exact page address, but put it in google and you'll find www.pitchforkmedia.com ; I need to be able to mark that any time I just search for "pitchfork" that should be the #1 hit for me. In general this could be easily done by just noticing the pages I visit and spend time at, those pages should be higher in the rankings for me.
1-11-05It's kind of sad that most people (including myself) are far more interesting and provocative as internet avatars than as real people. I wish my internet self could get together with other peoples' internet selves and talk about social constructs and beaurocracy and breaking norms, but instead my real self will just get together with other peoples' real selves and talk about the weather and nonsense like that.
1-11-05Fun games for the DDR pad off the top of my head - first of all, you can make any type of game, like a platformer or a shooter, space invaders or galaga, etc. but those games are better played with a standard dpad controller; the idea is to come up with games that are more fun because of the pad. 1) track & field; this is obvious and clearly great fun, even just sprints would be fun in multiplayer, you can easily do various track events. 2) fighting games; a kung-fu game where you actually move your feet like the fighter to do moves would be cool, again this would be best in multiplayer; a judo or sumo game could be really cool too, where your position on the pads is like your weight distribution. 3) balance/leaning games, like snowboarding; your position on the pad is where you weight goes; the only big problem is the pad is digital, not analog, so you don't have very fine control. There are also lots of variations on beat-matching, like dodging a sequence of attacks in the four direction, but this is just beat matching in disguise. The games I really like are the ones where you use your body as a controller in roughly the same way you would to do the real action - so like running in the track game is an alternating sequence of L and R presses.
1-10-05One thing that's always sort of boggled my mind is the way some people believe things that there's no good reason to believe. Specifically, it comes up with religion; I'm not talking about the existance of God, or some sort of higher power - that's a major thing, and if you believe it or not, I have no beef with that. The thing that's bizarre to me is the idea of believing that some specific doctrine is exactly right - why should it be right? why should you believe that? Today it's finally occured to me that this is part of a more general spectrum of human minds. In general there are a lot of things that may or may not be true, and each has some likelihood of being true. For example, "evolution happens" may or may not be true, since we cannot ever know anything exactly, but it has a 99.9999% chance of being true; now, you can choose to believe it to be true or not. If you choose against the odds, you are probably wrong, but you can certainly do that, just like you can go to Vegas and bet against the odds. There are plenty of things like this - "there is a God" , "Astrology governs behavior" , "the full moon makes people crazy" , "there are angels on Earth" , etc. For all of these kind of statements, I personally am inclined to not believe them without evidence. In general, if you don't have strong evidence for a statement, I choose not to believe it. The result is that I believe very few things. As I said recently on some message board, the only real beliefs that I hold to be true are :
1. The laws of the universe are finite and knowable (knowable means knowable in principle, not necessarily knowable in practice).
2. Everything in the universe is governed by those laws.
That's it. But that's sort of just my choice - I choose to not believe things that are unlikely or unsupported. Other people choose to believe things without evidence. They find life more enjoyable if they simply choose to believe certain things without really having evidence. In general there's a spectrum of human thought and evaluation, where different people need more or less evidence to jump onto some belief.
1-10-05Is there a single developer in the US making interesting games? By "interesting" I mean things that defy categorization, that provide new forms of interactive experience. Games, like modern art, can be mind expanding by putting you in a universe and interaction paradigm that you've never met. Typical US games are nothing like this - they're just crappy simulacrums of the real world, which does not interest me at all. Japan makes tons of interesting games; only the last few years we've gotten things like Rez, Mojib Ribbon, Katamari Damacy, Mr. Mosquito, Wario Ware, Feel the Magic, etc. etc.
The other type of game that I really love are the very simple games built on some fun mechanic, like Tetris Attack, Marble Madness, Boulder Dash, etc.. These are fantastic, but almost impossible to make. The inspiration for a simple mechanic that makes a game is not something you can just have on demand.
Why has no one made other games for the DDR pad ? The DDR pad is the biggest selling alternative input device on any platform, there are lots of them out there, the market is easily big enough to sustain a cheap game, and you could do lots of fun games for it, especially party games for two pads would be great. Even simple workout games would sell, I think.
1-10-05My productivity has gone to shit. I used to wake up and start coding first thing in the morning. When I was most productive, I was working from home, so I could just work, grab a snack, code some more, exercise, code, eat dinner, code, go to sleep. I would estimate I was doing maybe 50 hours of normal man work per day on my better days (that sounds high, but it's really not, it's just slightly more than what a typical programmer would do in a week, which is not really very much). Now, as I become more happy and psychologically well-adjusted, my productivity has gone to shit. I think everyone who's hyper-productive, ala Carmack, is driven by a rather screwed up psyche. This is almost true by definition, because spending your life programming is not a decision that a sane happy person would make - it's an awful waste of a life. In order to make that decision, your mind must be damaged in some way. The most typical forms of brain damage that lead to hyper productivity are 1) fear of social interaction, which leads you to a life of isolation and electronics and virtual interaction, and 2) low self-esteem, which leads you to try to prove your worth through success or impressive work. When I was young, I always wanted to prove that I was one of the smartest people alive, so I tried to great work that would get noticed. While that is totally fucked up, it is highly motivating and led me to get lots of work done. Now, I'm happier and more relaxed than I've ever been, and I'm incredibly un-motivated to do any work.
1-10-05I need Arcade Fire tickets in SF ! The current scalp price is around $80/ticket (the retail was around $10/ticket). It's almost worth it to pay that crazy price, but it would be in my head and bug me and I wouldn't be able to enjoy the experience. It's not the price that bugs me, it's the idea of the scalper making such a big profit for being a jerk.
1-10-05There's an inflation of compliments. Compliments are like a currency, each year they steadily inflate. Some level of compliment is the standard for just being polite - even if something sucks, you still say it's good to some level. Thus, to actually say it's good, you have to go beyond that base level. Over time, everyone learns that the "good" compliment is BS, so in order to be polite, you have to use the higher level even when you don't mean it. Here in 2005, if you say something is "really great", that means almost nothing, that's the baseline. You have to follow it with "no really, I mean it, this is really really great" in order to convey any real appreciation. In the next 20 years we'll be saying "this is the greatest things I've ever had in my whole life" just as a baseline of being polite, and to actually show an honest compliment you'll have to say something like "this is so mind-boggling good, I nearly died from the exstatic pleasure of the experience".
1-9-05I hate the way businesses act like subcontracting removes their responsibility. Just because some vendor decides to sub-contract a service, doesn't mean they aren't responsible for the quality of that service. US business these days construct a web of wholly-owned subsidiaries and partners so that the holding corp has almost no legal responsibility. If you ever call them with problems, they say "oh, that's not our fault, you have to call this other company", and you get the perpetual run-around.
1-6-05I fucking love Songs Ohia right now. I'm just getting to the point where I know all the lyrics and can sing along; when the tunes go into the breaks it just twists my insides up so sweetly. Soon, I'll have all the songs all memorized, they'll become stale and uninteresting, and I'll still say they're my favorite, but I'll never take them off the shelf any more. (BTW "Ohia" is pronounced like the state "Ohio" with a mid-western accent, the "a" is like "uh" : O-hi-uh , though I like to imagine it's like a real Texas yodeller : Oh-high-yay)
1-5-05Good god, I have been working almost continuously on software for about 14 years - almost exactly half of my life. How many people look back over their life and feel happy? Maybe 1% of the population? Pretty much everyone I know who does much self-examination at all, they look back and think "my god, how have I wasted my life like this?"
1-5-05If I don't shave for a week, it feels a bit uncomfortable each day, but then the shave at the end of the week feels so good. If I shave every day, I feel comfortable every day, but it never really just feels great. I think the net happiness is higher the first way - let it get uncomfortable, then get the reward when you fix it. And yet, I choose to do the latter (shave every day). Decisions related to life and happiness are so complicated. By not shaving, I become scruffy which perhaps partially damages potential chances for greater happiness (eg. meeting girls), or even just distracts me from other experiences (because I'm scratching my beard) which decreases the amount of happiness that other activities provide. Also, if I really didn't shave often as a lifestyle, I'd get used to that weekly reward, and its value would diminish, so it may be a good choice once in a while, but not as a habitual pattern.
1-4-05I think Merck and Pfizer are good buys right now, though they've already rallied a bit. Amazon and Sears have been great buys recently but have already rallied so much that I don't like them very much any more (Amazon is probably still a good buy, but the risk/reward is not great compared to just going with the S&P). My stock picking scheme these days is based on the idea that investors are over-reactive morons. When news about a company comes out, they generally over-react, so you can get a good bargain then. I never short, so I just care about irrational stock dips. The idea is to buy the stock just based on the hard numbers - P/E ratios and such - and ignore the hoopla in the press, so if a stock takes a big dive based on some news, but the hard numbers look good - you buy.
1-4-05For those who haven't noticed - Oddworld : Stranger's Wrath has gone gold (in the US). It should be on shelves around the end of January. It's been a hard journey, like making video games usually is, but I think the result is pretty good. On the other hand, there have been so many really great video games for this holiday season, I'm not sure we really stand out much in comparison.
1-3-05Restaurants and music concerts and such need to become demand-based. The way I imagine it working is something like this - for some events, there needs to be enough demand for it to be worth doing. Everybody signs up for events that they would go to if they happened. If the event then happens you have some period to accept or decline, after that you're locked into a ticket. That way the band can see, hey 20 people in San Luis are locked in, so we'll schedule a show there.
1-3-05Searches and forums on the internet are becoming nearly useless. They're full of foolish people and shills and publicity releases - recommendations for restaurants or hotels have almost no information content, because you can't tell if they're real, or if the person doing the recommending is an idiot or not, or has the same taste as you. I desperately need a better internet. I dream of a day when I can pull out my PDA and ask it for restaurants near me, it will use the GPS to find me on a map, find restuarants (proximity by travel time, not physical distance), and rate them based on my own taste (using my network of friends/trust). This day seems very far away at the moment. I want the content on my own computer to be indexed this way - and all types of things. I want to be able to say "recommend me a computer game" - and get a result based on the opinions of people who I trust to be smart and are known to have similar taste in video games. All of this is pretty easy, it just needs to be done.
1-3-05In France over the holidays, we ducked into Internet Cafes a few times for various things. They're full of guys playing Counter-Strike! It's eerie, here I am in this foreign country, old buildings and winding cobbled streets, and in a little hole in the wall, it's exactly like America - geeky guys in glasses hunched over monitors. The whole Internet Cafe experience for multiplayer gaming is pretty great - it's better than what we have in America; places like France and Korea have a much better Net Cafe system, because they are poorer and don't have lots of good computers at home. On Christmas Day we were wandering around towns and there was hardly anything open, but the Net Cafes were still going. On New Years Eve, we stopped at one and they were open 24 hours that day, just like every day, even though all of Paris was shutting down and streets were full of the tumultuous masses.
It's funny sometimes how poverty and crappy systems can actually lead you to better things (better IMHO anyway). Everyone with money uses it to isolate themselves and provide comfort - a nice house in the suburbs, your own car (a metal coccoon from the scary world), your own home theater so you don't have to go out for that, your own espresso machine. In France people don't have those fancy things at home - you go out for your coffee, your movie, you take public transit, you go to a Net Cafe to play games. Similarly, because they don't have great roads and cars, they've built great railways; we took the TGV from Paris to Marseille - so smooth, so fast, comfortable, great views, the best way to travel - and it leaves and arrives exactly on time, you can show up at the last minute and get on, not like horrible horrible air planes. The cell network in Europe is far better than America - partly because they had such crappy land lines, expensive fees for land line calls, no high speed networks, very little cable TV lines; on the other hand, we had great land lines (subsidized by the government and developed by aggressive venture cap), which puts far less demand on the cell network, especially for things like internet and high-speed access.
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