Brooklyn Teenager on Track to Become First African-American Female Chess Master
just a Pinterest board of awesome punky hair pics
WtNV animated Tumblr dashboard theme
17 Fantastic Completed Webcomics to Binge-Read from Beginning to End
This Table of Exercises Shows You How to Get Fit Without Any Equipment
This floating black ball is the creepiest thing you'll see all day
--oh wow, I installed all the DVD content but now I am in UPDATE DOWNLOAD HELL.
I then internet-window-shopped for Kontakt instruments. There's an interesting-looking modeled trumpet, although it also looks like a high learning curve and I'm not convinced that I can't do what I need to with VSE. Plus I want to listen to more demos and contemplate the option, and I avoid doing too-screwy things with my browser while there's a big install going in case something hangs. :-] That being said, I have definitely bookmarked it as a possibility, and I have also wishlisted a pedal doodad on Amazon because I want one anyway; I used to have one with my digital piano but it was the default sucky one AND it's AWOL, and the thought of being able to use pedal for MIDI expression data is really nice.
While I am internet-window-shopping, I also have to think about a keyboard upgrade, which is going to suck. Right now I am suboptimally getting by with the digital piano, which I use with an Uno MIDI USB thing, but unfortunately it has no pitch bend or mod wheels and no other controller whatevers. The WSA1 has pitch bend and mod...but is 61? keys, which screws me over for keyswitching in the lower octaves. (I mean, I might want to keyswitch a piccolo!) Now, you can manually draw in keyswitches but this gets ridiculous. At some point I'm going to have to put the digital piano into storage *sob* (space issue) and swap it out for a USB MIDI controller, 88 keys, semi-weighted because I am too cheap to get fully weighted keys, etc. etc., and I'm probably also too cheap to go for anything but the minimum pitch bend and mod and pedal inputs. Even though a few programmable knobs &c. would be useful. :-/ Okay, off to research controllers.
(Uh, if anyone has reqs for 88-key semi-weighted MIDI controllers with pitch bend and mod and pedal input, other stuff probably optional, please tell me. Yes, I know it will cost.)
(God, why am I not in a nice cheap hobby like writing. Oh wait.)
Anyway, when I finally get to see what the heck is in the default Kontakt 8 (not Ultimate, I was too cheap) library, I will prioritize inventory of any orchestral sounds. I used to do this sort of thing in a text file HA HA HA HA HA but I think I'm going to join the somethingth century and switch to Excel. Basically, name of patch/whatever, brief description of timbre (which doesn't have to make sense to anyone but me), possible uses/genres, that kind of thing. Then update and back up the sucker RELIGIOUSLY.
I have high hopes of being productive with "Talon March" this week! If nothing else, I can take breaks with inventory to work up some flourishes to the intro, and print out a copy of the VSE basic percussion keymap or however that goes.
I'm also hoping I can re-find the stretched music box I was using for one of the pieces that got obliterated when my MBP died (taking my Logic 8 Pro install with it), although I expect I could use a high-sustain pad off some synth in place of it if it came to that.
First world problems, but OTOH the whole point of shelling out for music software was to be able to do this as well as I am able.
Of the three people who have thus far critiqued my poem, all three have failed to recognize that it's a villanelle.
I need a facepalm icon. Because that is the only thing I am capable of just now.
Basically, in order to sign up for RemixRedux, you must have written a minimum of fics (5 of over 500 words, or 7 of over 100 words) in at least one qualifying fandom. Qualifying, in this case, means large-ish and with enough other people who are willing to sign up for Remix who have written stories in that fandom and are willing to remix in it. You must also be willing to remix in at least one qualifying fandom. (I think one of your "I have enough stories" and "I'm willing to write this" fandoms must be the same, but I may be misremembering.) The point of that is to make sure every participant can be matched! You can, of course, offer and request other fandoms -- not to mention your remixer may decide to work with a completely random story in some other tiny fandom you happen to have written for, so long as you didn't declare that story off-limits -- but the qualifying fandoms are a big deal.
There is a poll and suggestions post open right now over on LJ. Go! Vote! Try to round up other people interested in your pet fandom!
Speaking of which... would anybody be interested in trying to get Homestuck listed as a qualifying fandom? It's certainly large enough, but I don't think the Homestuck demographic has a huge amount of overlap with the traditional RemixRedux demographic. On the other hand, Ouroboros Mix (a Homestuck-only remix fest) generated reasonable interest and participation last year, so... more remixes, more fun? Yes? I think yes!
(I also qualify in Chronicles of Narnia, Naruto, Harry Potter, Inception, and Star Trek: AOS, so getting Homestuck onto the list will not make or break my participation, but I am always in favor of more options. *grin*)
So I position myself as caretaker and as advisor; I listen well and carefully and I offer opinions and I try very hard indeed not to "impose", even in the slightest, by requesting (or expecting!) reciprocation.
This is, as it turns out, a really bad basis for an equal and mutually-supportive relationship.
Stranger was a show that billed itself as a life-sized board game, played at the Stockton International Riverside Festival
The show describes itself, accurately, as "a playfull platform that tries to reveal the tension between our social norms and our intuition". I am
( A fuller discussion, with minimal spoilers, but definitely a few. )
You'll not often get the chance to see Stranger performed; it's a brave festival that will take a chance on booking something like it. In order to find out if you'll ever get the chance, follow the creator's agenda. It looks like the show is coming to the UK as part of the Salisbury Arts Festival on 31st May and 1st June. You lucky Salisburians; you have a treat coming! Sadly Wiltshire is, near enough, the other end of the country from here. Nevertheless, strongly recommended, and I'm only sorry that this review is being published closer to the 2014 Stockton Festival than the 2013 one at which the event happened.
More excitingly, it looks like Emke Idema has produced a follow-up, RULE, which had previews last year and is getting its official debut performances from Tuesday to Saturday next week in Amsterdam. Hurrah! The description, in translation, suggests "a game about hospitality and border ethics, a game about the boundary between personal values and existing rules", to which I say "papers, please!". Fingers crossed that either show, or Emke's future work, continues to flourish and that we can see it again in this neck of the woods.
I'm autistic and I'm an abuse survivor; I have learned, over and over, that people are a system, and if I can model them well enough I might be okay.
So I learned to model them; I learned to game them; and because I am me, I can do this really well, and really very consciously.
( Read more... )
NOTE: This post is a little less thought-out than my usual programming posts. This was written pretty much on the fly as I was experimenting with stuff and not after I’d reflected on it. I’m not even sure it will make sense. Give it a try.
Today we’re going to be talking about Threes!, an iOS game. I haven’t played that version, but I’ve played this web-based clone. For the purposes of this discussion, you should probably go play the game, get addicted for a few days (everyone does) and then come back here once the mania passes. It will be easier to follow the discussion that way.
After doing that, you might want to read this article from Touch Arcade that talks about how someone who wrote an AI to play the game, which revealed some interesting things about the mechanics.
If you don’t have that kind of time, then here’s a basic run-down of the gameplay:
You play using the arrow keys. Tiles will attempt to move in the given direction. If a blue slides into a red (or vice-versa) they merge to form a 3. From there it follows a simple pattern of matching like with like. 3+3=6. 6+6=12. 12+12=24. 24+24=48. And so on. The trick is that every time you move, a new tile is added to the board. If I shift the pieces up, then a new tile slides in on the bottom row. The game ends when the board fills up such that no more moves are possible.
So your apparent objective is to keep merging tiles to make ever-larger numbers. But the actual challenge is to simply merge tiles faster than they appear to keep the board from filling in. If you play a couple of times, you’ll probably get a score of a few hundred.
You normally expect your scores to go up as you play a game. Over time, your skill improves and you’re able to do better. Except, that’s not quite how things went for me. Sure, I repeatedly broke my high score, eventually playing a game all the way to about 7,500. But mixed in there were still a lot of 150-point games. When that kind of thing happened I always assumed that I had stopped paying attention. But this kept happening, no matter how hard I “tried”. Some games dead-ended early and some went a long way, and my results didn’t seem to line up with how much effort I was putting in.
This makes me think that the game has a huge element of luck. I wanted to play around with this idea, so I decided to make my own version of the game so I could explore the mechanics.
(All of this is written in C++ using old-school OpenGL. It’s overkill for an afternoon project like this, but I’ve already got the boilerplate code handy and using that is faster than learning Python or whatever you kids use for your prototyping work these days.)
First off, this business with the red and blue tiles is kind of suspect. The player needs even numbers of red and blue tiles in order to combine them. So if I get four red tiles in succession they will eat up a quarter of my play area and I’ll have no way to get rid of them. That can doom a game through no fault of the user. Having four more of one color than the other is rare at any particular moment. But in the course of a game that lasts 100 or so moves it starts to become likely. Actually, it’s worse than that. It’s “likely” in the sense that it will happen in some games and not others. I suspect that my long-running games are ones where this sort of thing – against the odds – didn’t happen, thus letting me squeak through those tough points in the game where you’ve got a lot of high-value pieces on the board that aren’t quite ready to combine.
If this were done the other way with a series of direct combinations, then this randomness would be mitigated. If 1+1=2 and (humor me here) 2+2=3, then there wouldn’t be any combination of four low-value tiles it could throw at the player that would be mutually inert. Something would be able to combine.
It’s entirely possible the original designer had a good reason for setting things up this way, but I don’t know what it was. Maybe the concern was that it would be too easy to “solve” the game without this randomness. Maybe everyone would end up with about the same score without it. (If this is true, then it means this is a game of luck where you use skill to reach as much of your determined-by-luck potential as possible. That’s not bad or anything. Lots of games work that way.)
I don’t know. But I’m going to build an alternate rule set for my version. In my rules, I’m going to use direct progression using powers of two. I know my powers of two (and more importantly, my square roots) a lot better than I know all these multiples of three, which will make it easier to wrap my head around the game. So 1+1=2, 2+2=4, 4+4=8, 8+8=16, and so on. I can tell you right away that 256 is 28, but how many times do you double 3 to get 384? I’ll need a calculator for that one.
|I'll explain the information on the left a little later on. Let's just get the basics down first.|
Basing things on powers of two avoids the obviously ridiculous business of having 2+2=3. It also lets us use a cool shorthand for high-value tiles. 1,024 can be 1k and 1,048,576 can be 1M. (kilobyte and megabyte, respectively. It’s educational!)
So now I’m going to build an AI to play the game for me. It’s not very bright. It only looks at the next move and doesn’t attempt to plan several moves in advance. It just attempts to keep the board as clear as possible. Barring that, it will try to move combine-able tiles into place next to each other. For scoring, we don’t don’t actually care about “points”. We’re just interested in how long a game lasts.
So, I’ll have my AI play a round of 32 games. First it will play according to the original rules where the first two tiles must combine to make the third. Then I’ll do another run where the first tile combines with itself to make the second, and the second combines with itself to make the third, etc.
The results? Kind of a surprise:
This is a run of 32 games, as played by the same AI, using the same pseudo-random sequence, under the two rule sets. The red line represents the game according to my rules. The blue one is the original rules. The higher the line, the longer the games. So in the very first game the AI – playing under the original rules – lost the game just before turn 100. Then playing the exact same game under my rules, the AI ended somewhere past 300 turns.
You can see my rules are quite a bit easier. (The games are longer overall.) But what I didn’t expect is that both rule sets are still incredibly random. My rules allow the AI to score anywhere from 150 to 525. The original rules have games that run from 50 to about 225 or so. Which one is “more random”? Original rules have a lower delta between the top and bottom of the range, although the delta is a larger portion of the average. Roughly:
- The best Original-rule games scored five times higher than the worst ones, while the top Shamus-rule games only scored about three times higher than the worst.
- The best Original-rule games were about 175 higher than the worst, and the best Shamus-rule games were ~375 higher.
I think I’d need the help of statistics nerds to explore this further. There are a lot of ways to look at this data. The point is, I don’t know which one of these counts as “less random” in the totally subjective sense of feeling more fair to the player.
Now let’s see what happens when we make the play area larger. We’ll do the same run, comparing Original and Shamus games on a 5×5 grid instead of a 4×4.
|A game I played myself. (No AI.) Here we're pretty close to the end.|
In case you’re curious about the text: (Some of which is debugging info.)
- Score: The scoring system used by the original game is a little mysterious. For my program, I’m just adding up all the tiles currently in play.
- Moves: The real measure of success, in terms of appraising your strategy.
- Ruleset: Original or Shamus.
- Highest: This is used when figuring out what the next tile will be. In my game, it halves the exponent of the highest piece on the board. So if your highest tile is 256, that’s 28. Halving the exponent gives us 24, which is 16. So the “Next Tile” will give us 1, 2, 4, 8, or 16. Without this, games can take bloody ages before you start running out of room.
- AI Rating: This is how much the AI “likes” this particular board layout. More empty space=better. More combine-able pieces next to each other=better. This is just for my own debugging purposes.
- AI Movement: This number just tells me which direction[s] the AI can move. Again, debugging.
- Filled: What percent of the board is filled. The game begins with mostly empty space, but quickly rises to about 60% full. It then plateaus in the 60-70 range for the course of the game. Once you hit 85%+, you hit a tipping point where the lack of movement options leads to having even less options, and the game usually ends.
- Playtime: This is how long the current game would take if played by a human that made a move every 1.5 seconds or so. This is important later.
So if we make the game area 5×5, the outcomes look like this:
Okay, so let’s try it again on a 7×7 board:
For the record, a game of 11,000 moves or so would take you right around 5 hours, assuming you averaged a second and a half per move. (It takes my AI about 4 seconds to play through the same game.)
Well, it looks like I was wrong. My rule set is somehow more random, not less. I don’t know how. Maybe I’ve got a bug or design flaw in my AI that’s keeping it from performing properly. In the end, this was less illuminating than I’d hoped.
|An AI game in progress. Note that the "playtime" is how long a human would take. The AI had only been playing for about two minutes at this point.|
Still, we did learn a few interesting things:
- As you might expect, making the board larger adds dramatically to the length of the game. A 4×4 takes a few minutes. A 6×6 takes about half an hour. An 8×8 takes about 5 hours. 10×10 is a couple of days. 12×12 is about ten days. (Again: This is assuming non-stop rapid-fire movements.)
- For anything larger than 5×5, I think the game needs a little something else. Some special pieces or a powerup or something.
- On larger boards, a lot of the interesting activity happens in the very last stages of the game. It’s kind of like starting a game of Tetris at level zero. You’ve got half an hour of really boring play. Then three minutes of of challenge, then a minute of sheer chaos where it all falls apart. But unlike Tetris, we can’t just “start” the player near the endgame, because how they fare in the endgame is a measure of how careful and disciplined they have been at managing the board during the “boring” parts. This probably means the ideal board size is 6×6 or less. Anything larger, and it just takes too dang long before you can see the results of your efforts.
- There are a lot of interesting things you can do with the “next tile” logic. You could have it only give you 1′s and 2′s, which would make the game stupidly long and boring. But maybe my approach is too conservative. Maybe instead of 2n/2, it would be more interesting to use 2n-2, or just 2n. The latter would mean that once you get a 256, then it will start randomly giving you 256′s. That would make the difficulty ramp up quickly. It might also make the game more random.
Then again, this post proves I’m probably bad at intuiting how “random” a system is.
I offer this post as an example of why the constant “cloning” of mobile games isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Threes! is a dead-simple game, but here I’ve stumbled on several interesting variants of number-combining that are thus far left totally unexplored. I’m sure there are other variations you could play with. You could have a half dozen of these games on iOS and each one of them would be unique and worthwhile. Or someone could put out a mindless re-skin with identical mechanics. A lot of it depends on who is making the game and why they’re doing it.
It goes back to the “We make games to make money” vs. “We make money to make games” problem. If all you want is money and you don’t care about games, then you’ll look at what’s selling and do a straight-up clone. If you love thinking about and exploring mechanics than you would find direct cloning to be tedious and boring. You’ll be driven to make something different – something you want to play that doesn’t already exist – and you’ll put it up for sale as a way of getting paid for your efforts.
In any case, this is a gem of a game. Lots of neat stuff to think about. Do give it a try if you haven’t already.
No, I'm not sure what to do about it, either.
Preemptively: I am ethically/theoretically more aligned with DW and Ao3 than with most large-corp sites. Not perfectly, as you know from my periodic critiques. I remain committed to the idea that if you're not the customer you're the product, and blah blah free citizen of a small-r republic blah blah you can't take my data from me etc. etc. insert the usual old-school geek rant here.
That said: I spend most of my social media time nowadays at places that don't come anywhere near conforming with my ideals.
It's been five years and we have no meaningful image hosting capacity at either DW or Ao3. I don't know that we ever will, to be honest, simply because of the scale of the projects. And when you have people trying to communicate about visual media or via visual media, platforms with no visual media integration are going to fall consistently short.
As you know, Bob, I am massively into Homestuck; a not-small fraction of fan commentary about Homestuck happens primarily in visual formats. This is why we don't have much of a Homestuck fan presence here on DW, which makes me sad.
For that matter, when you have me trying in my worklife to communicate about, say, architecture, I'm going to go do that on something like Twitter or FB because I can upload pictures from my phone and caption them and have a conversation with colleagues about what I'm looking at in less time than it would take me to upload pictures and compose a post about them, either here or on something like WordPress (which, yes, I continue to use regularly in worklife; your average self-hosted WP install now has quite good image integration, which is a big change from how things were five or six years ago.)
This is not a minor issue of convenience; this is something that's really changed my web usage habits over the last two-three years. The best camera is the one you have with you, and nowadays almost everyone has little cameras with them. My latest phone has better image-editing software installed on the phone at purchase than my MacBook laptop, which was top-of-the-line in 2007 and is still not too shabby today, had built into it. The phone cost me $49 with a monthly data plan, and the laptop was right around $2K with a monthly cable internet bill.
That's huge. Absolutely huge. It's a sea-change in how we talk to each other. In the last year, the percentage of mobile OSes accessing the work sites I manage is up from about 10% to about 25%, and while it may not keep going up at that rate, it's going to keep going up. I expect that over the next five years we'll get to a point where most of our business is mobile business. Projects which will not or cannot adapt to this new reality...well, I mean, Usenet is still a thing that exists, but it's not a thing most of us engage with daily, now is it?
So: other projects, and why they're not all that satisfying either:
I've spent enough time lurking at Tumblr to think it's all the things I like least about public-performative social media, and my interest in basing my online social life there is nil. I'm not going to rehash the old pro-and-con arguments about it, not least because I suspect it's what we're likely to be stuck with as a communication tool for a while here and sooner or later I'll have to go sign up. Blecch.
(It's like everything I hated about it when we had that comm that aggregated fandom meta stuff over on LJ. I can't even remember it was called but there would suddenly be forty asshole strangers in one's comment section trying to pick fights. Tumblr is, as far as I can tell, like that day in and day out. YUCK. Also the degradation of URLs is terrible over there. Links that are more than a few months old seem to be rotten a lot of the time.)
I have a Twitter account, where due to the character limit I spend nearly as much time avoiding saying things that I think will be misconstrued and get me into arguments as I do having useful conversations (though it's been very good for professional networking). Linkblogging is much easier there.
FB is a great way to learn how damn ignorant various relatives and people I've known since childhood are. The answer is, extremely damn ignorant, and also passive-aggressive; I make good use of that thing where you can unsubscribe to people without de-friending them. It is the most creepy passive-aggressive data-stealing discomfort-inducing profiteering vile social media network in the history of ever, and yet it's apparently where I have to go to see my cousins' baby pictures, which, ugh. At least one can lock down one's stuff there, which makes it more useful for talking about one's children, but again that performative aspect kicks in: writing on FB is like writing a Christmas letter 365 days a year.
Pinterest is fun and very visual but not at all conversational. I use it for work and it's great for that, but it's essentially a curatorial tool, not a social tool.
A Bandcamp page sent me to MySpace last week, and...it side-scrolls, folks. It side-scrolls. I don't even. Maybe there's something great there that I'm missing, but...it side-scrolls.
Once upon a time I dreamed that the solution would involve RSS and distributed networks of people talking to each other using open source tools like WordPress and Drupal, and that someone would write a thing that would handshake between our distributed systems and let us give one another access to private (or less-public) material in a simple and reasonably transparent way.
Sadly, this doesn't seem to be a thing that's going to happen. RSS increasingly sucks balls, and nobody wants us to have fine-grained control over our own data because we're too useful as a content product. Moo. RSS readers are bad and feeds are worse. I get that people want to drive traffic to their own sites rather than permit their content to be aggregated in its entirety, but frankly when all people give their feeds is a single line or a tiny image, I quit subscribing because all that clicking around is annoying. This means I end up at their sites less often than I would otherwise. Lately I am using Twitter instead of RSS aggregation, and that means missing out on a lot of stuff.
What is the solution? I honestly have no idea, and I tend to think that it doesn't make sense to desire or imagine one desirable outcome here.
The Chesley Awards were established in 1985 by the Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists to recognize individual artistic works and achievements during a given year. The Chesleys were initially called the ASFA Awards, but were later renamed to honor famed astronomical artist Chesley Bonestell following his death in 1986.[...] The awards are presented annually, typically at the World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon).[...]
Want to take part?
Chesley Awards Suggestions
This is the official submission form for the Chesley Awards, run by the Association of Science Fiction & Fantasy Artists (ASFA). Anyone may suggest eligible works at this stage; you may suggest as many people/works for each award as you please.
Simone: "Can I change my name?"
Me: "What do you want to change it to?"
Simone: (thinks for a moment) "September."
Me: "April and September S--, huh? Hm."
G.: "Can we call you Sep?"
Me: " 'Sup, Sep?' "
Me: "How about Ember? Ooh, I like that as a name."
G.: "How about Tem?"
Me: "Tem could work."
G.: "What about Septum?"
Simone: "Uh, I think I'll just stick with Simone."
G.: "We just took her through a year's worth of elementary-school teasing in two minutes."