Thursday, December 31, 2009


My friend John lent me a fantastic game for the Nintendo DS - scribblenauts. And I am now listening to a podcast on the making of scribblenauts via Kotaku.

What is scribblenauts and why does it deserve its own blog post?
Scribblenauts is a puzzle game. At each level there is a star buried in a landscape - and the players goal is to type in words like, apple, jackhammer, time machine, in order to get to the star. So for example the star is beyond a plane inhabited by brown bears - what do you do. Type in 'steak' and throw it to the bears - then pass through the field while the bears eat the steak.

There are multiple solutions to any puzzle - for example - I could type helicopter and fly over the bears. You get additional points for creating less items and for using ingenious solutions.

There is a database of about 20000 words from apple to centerfuge. The work that went into this game and the fact that it is successful is absolutely mind boggling - and the fact that it is an engaging, addictive game is nuts.

What I imagine is going on is that each landscape feature has a certain set of attributes and each word has an effect on a certain set of attributes. So for example, a bear, has hunger of 5, movement of 3, and vision or 5. If you throw an apple with hunger of 2 then you have to use something else, perhaps a skateboard of movement 2. An apple will not satisfy all the bear's hunger, so you need to use another tool - a piece of meat however with hunger of 5 will completely satisfy the bear allowing you to progress with ease. Does this make any sense?

Anyway, loved the podcast! I discovered that scribblenauts is often used as an educational game. On the podcast, there was an insane story about a little 5 year old boy who learned how to write by playing scribblenauts. He would carry around a book with all of the possible scribblenaut objects and use different combinations to complete levels.
I now want to check out drawn to life.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Thoughts on Pictures

I have dusted off my point and shoot in an attempt to populate my blog with more photos. To inspire myself I visited fffound this morning and, mirabile dictu, I was actually inspired. Really I was inspired by this photo of angels painting people before they are born - or that is at least what I saw. The artist, Jeremy Enecio - check out his blog - he is super talented= seemed to have other intentions. The name of the jpg is "albinopaint." When I was in college I knew a guy who wrote his senior thesis on the names of art works. Today we don't have names we have file names - and those file names actually have performative value - a file name is an actual index to the work (or a representation of the work) - not some sort of arbitrary linguistic reference.

Anyway albino paint! I love this picture because I immediately started constructing a myth around it. You see - this painting depicts not albinos but the the period before you are born. Here the angels are coloring the people before birth, and fashioning their exterior qualities. I may write a short story about this. It brings to mind the chinese folk tale about the origin of the little indentation above your lip. The painting arouses all sorts of metaphysical/religious questions - where do we come from and why we look the way we do. This, I suppose is what a great painting or image is supposed to do - open up your mind. Most of the time we are bombarded by beautiful images that tell us what to think instead of asking us to create our own interpretations.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Opening of the Day

I am in the midst of going through old emails and returning to the git rapidsms hornet's nest - and decided to take a break and play some computer chess.

But Chess was depressing. Here I was thinking entering my middle game. Oooh I'm so clever pinning a bishop with my knights. Then out of left field - or B5 (to use funky chess notation) - the enemy queen swoops into my 2 rank (that is the rank with all the pawns).

I know I am a goner.

If the queen is in your pawn rank and you cannot take her out with a bishop or something then she will take all your pawns, and then your rook and then your soul (or just your king). I cant take the slaughter - and restart the game.

Ok this time I am black. I am going to mind-f@#$k the computer - even though the computer does not have a mind. I am going to mimic every move the computer makes until the endgame. The computer moves all the pawns to the 4th rank. The computer is a f#@$king idiot - I think. Perhaps my ELO (chess rating) has gone so low from forfeiting all my losing games - that the computer is on idiot level.

Now that I believe the computer believes that I suck at chess(which I do), I change my strategy. Ahh, I breath a sigh of relief. I dont have to go through all the permutations of every movie and can just play. Sadly again the queen swoops into my pawn row and takes what little pawns I have left - with my rook and has a very funky mating procedure with the knights.

I need to do something about sucking at chess. Perhaps I should play some people - maybe I can beat them. Sadly my online chess membership has lapsed. Instead I visit and look at the opening move of the day and the opening game of the day.

The opening of the day is something called the Caro Kann Defense Steinitz Variation. The salient feature seems to be - the knight in front of the king and opening black pawn at c6. Chessgames asks if I would like to play a game using this opening. Dont mind if I do - and I am swiftly knocked in the 2 rank by the queen - Sheesh. What the hell is the point of this opening - and after googling - I find some answers for the Caro Kann defense but not the steinitz variation. There is a little paper that promises to help me in my goal of maximum procrastination and increased knowledge of caro kann - " In Xanadu did caro kann...." It seems Caro-Kann helps black develop a good pawn structure without contesting the middle. It is an explanation that makes no sense outside the context of chess theory - which is a tangent to a footnote to a conversation between heraclitus and Parmenidies annoated by Whitehead. (and reminds me of all the Foucault and discourse I have been reading for a possible doc on the history of madness and the leather clad philosophers who write about it).

But really, why do I suck at chess? I am generally good at boardgames? I dont suck at chess, so much as I cannot crack it. I cannot game the chess game. In other games such as Settlers of Catan, hearts, or even backgammon - I feel that there are weaknesses that I can exploit.

What is this weakness? Chance. I can only play games with dice rolls, or handicaps- even if I am handicapped. I can only play games that involve luck or chance. And I think this is because I am able to work very well with incomplete information, and because chance invigorates rather than depresses me - even if chance deals me a bad hand. In chess, everything is manifest -there is no chance - and if you are playing the game because you hope your opponent messes up (chance) - you are playing incorrectly. I am constantly telling myself in games and in life "act dont react". In games of chance you are constantly reactingand perhaps I am a better reactor than an actor. (depresssing ?) I also think that once I make a strategy unless I am obviously disturbed by say the capture of a piece - I tend not to notice the other player's strategy and barrel through until the enemy's queen is bayonetting my little pawns.

The one thing I can do is beat computer chess on time - that is the computer uses up all its time trying to come up with moves. My strategy is to make good but convaluted moves that forces the computer to use many cpu cycles and search many nodes in its internal combinatorial chess graph to find the optimum next move. With this strategy - I believe I could become a grandmaster but only against a computer. This feels dishonest and cheating - it does not give you that chess pleasure of figuring out the right move - it does not make a you a clearer thinker. I can use this strategy against a computer, but not against a human. And lo the day when I am to be pitted against a human - his motherboard will not fry when confronted with a bizarro move - instead he will move his queen to my 2 rank and wonk my pawns on the head.

Maybe I should code some more - a strategy game where there is no opponent.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

List O things to do

1) merge adam's and evans git rapidsms repos into my 3 pronged repo
2) work on holistic dissection project
3) down load a copy of taxi driver, cut it and then export the xml file of the cuts to generate an editing template of the movie
4) Respond to Follow up emails
5) Continue work on O singularity
6) drink smoothie