Updates from February, 2009 Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • Hober Short 2:31 pm on 28 February 2009 Permalink  

    Over at The Torch, FIRE’s official blog, a ridiculous account of the University of Delaware’s Residence Life (i.e. dorm) “mandatory diversity training”. Excerpting, from the account of an impromptu floor meeting led by the RA:

    Lori passed out a blank sheet of paper and told us to number it, leaving spaces for our answers. She announced that we were going to expose our prejudices and stereotypes about other races and in so doing learn more about diversity. … When it was finished, Lori said something to the effect of, “Look how bigoted and prejudiced even us college students can be,” and “isn’t it a shock that even us who are being educated can think of all these slurs and stereotypes?”

    The link here between knowing about racists implying that you are a racist is pretty interesting. Is the ideal solution here to have everyone ignorant of racism? Is the University really wishing their students were dumber?

     
  • Hober Short 2:14 pm on 27 February 2009 Permalink  

    The guys at Penny Arcade have reached a verdict, and ruled against Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse:

    Dollhouse is not an enjoyable television program.

    It’s true that I’ve used a hypertext reference to link the word “Dollhouse” directly to a place where you can watch the show, but you should not interpret this as a recommendation.

    Last week, on Security Now, Steve Gibson also panned it. I do have to wonder if there is some correlation here in that these two sources enjoy the “hard” Sci-Fi.

    Then again, so do I, and I’m enjoying Dollhouse. It’s even ensnared my L&O:SVU-loving, CSI-fanatic girlfriend. She liked Firefly, but my attempts to draw her in to Buffy have been as-yet stymied.

     
  • Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. 11:44 pm on 18 February 2009 Permalink  

    Ben, I will have to dig up the original BASIC program listing for Futility; if I can make sense of the ancient, uncommented spaghetti code, I can perhaps reconstruct the details of the game’s sound effects. But here’s what I remember:

    • The annoying whirling noise was just a descending chromatic sequence of four high-pitched notes, repeating rapidly and endlessly.
    • I don’t recall whether there was a sound when the player fired a shot, but I assume there probably was. Probably some kind of stereotypical laser-shot noise, but I can’t be sure without consulting the original code.
    • The alien didn’t make a noise when dodging. It was silent and effortless. (It may be that the sound of the player’s shot was still reverberating as the bullet went past the alien.
    • The shield didn’t make a noise itself, but when the bullet hit it made a percussive white-noise sound — “tssh!”
    • When the alien dropped the bomb, the sound effect was a descending whistle — the stereotypical falling-bomb noise. And the explosion was just your basic explosion.
    • And yes, the concluding “HA HA HA HA” was crucial. Monotone, artificial, the more robotic the better. Like Stephen Hawking, but far less natural-sounding.

    It’s a shame that — as far as I know — I don’t have any audio recordings of the original Futility. I do, however, probably have some recordings of the Sol making noises, including speech. I’ll look around.

     
  • Hober Short 2:55 pm on 17 February 2009 Permalink  

    In yesterday’s issue of The Technician, they had a little sidebar (not reproduced on their lackluster website, so no link) containing the following:

    President Barack Obama is the 44th president to be honored by Presidents’ Day. So what does the top guy in U.S. politics do on his day off? If Obama was still allowed to use his Twitter account, here’s what it might look like today.

    • About to head to bed. Thinking about vetoing stimulus bill tomorrow, just to see what happens.
    • Googled self. 339,000,000 hits, up from last week.
    • Have decided to choose Commerce Secretary by having potential long-list candidates play Bingo.
    • Just checked Fox News. LOL.
    • Cruisin’ around in the Obamamobile. I love that name.
    • Pick-up game with Secret Service. Am beginning to suspect that they’re just letting me win.
    • Prank-called Sarkozy just now, pretending to be Bush. Sarkozy caught on right away, claimed my correct pronunciation of his name tipped him off.

    First of all, that last tweet is 144 characters, too long to fit in the 140 limit. But let us not pick nits.

    Obama was never disallowed from using a twitter account, as far as I can find. He had trouble with his Blackberry because it was not as secure as the NSA might have liked, as far as I know.

    But all of this is beside the point. It’s pretty clear if you look at the twitter feed in question, Obama was never at the helm of it. It was a marketing tool to try and gain street cred with the internet hipsters (the kind who would stick pro-net neutrality stickers on the lids of their macbooks) for free. Virtually every tweet is a simple shill for some campaign rally he’s holding, posted by some publicity drone.

    But now that the campaign is over, and the stimulus bill written (and unreadable), his need for transparency seems to be over.

    That’s why his twitter is silent.

     
  • Hober Short 1:44 am on 17 February 2009 Permalink  

    Bob, I just got word from a Karl E. Peters who found out I’m working on a new version of Futility, who says he wants his kids to play it when it’s done.

    Well, as you may remember, the game is relatively feature-complete, but I wouldn’t want to (airquotes) “release” it without proper game sounds.

    I’ve never heard whatever the game sounded like originally, nor do I have the audio engineering cred to craft a simulacrum thereof. But, I reckon, you do.

    I don’t know what the original sounds entailed, but off the top of my head, I’m thinking:

    • An annoying whirling noise for the alien.
    • A noise for the player shooting
    • A nosie for the alien dodging
    • A noise for the alien putting up his shield (and another for the bullet hitting it?)
    • A noise for the alien shooting. Maybe an initial shot and then a sort of weeeeeeeeooooooh of the “bomb falling”
    • An explosion for when the player inevitably gets hit
    • And, of course, lets us not forget the cruel, mechanical “HA HA HA HA” when the alien wins (and he always does…)
    • Thoughts?

     
  • Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. 12:55 am on 8 February 2009 Permalink  

    Ben: cool. (Actually, what I said to myself was “holy crap.”) I also spent a few minutes playing around with Scratch, but my program just made a cat move back and forth and change color when you pressed the space bar. (OK, so that was just the tutorial.)

    Having said that, I was becoming convinced that Scratch was indeed a good introduction to programming. Thanks for validating my conclusion quite impressively. The next challenge will be getting Laura interested, but that will have to wait until she gets her computer privileges back…

     
  • Pat 9:45 pm on 6 February 2009 Permalink  

    The recession is affecting everyone, it seems. The Blue Man Group announced layoffs today, and some of the Blue Men did lose their jobs. I know what that’s like, and I wish them luck as they start looking for work on Monday morning. (Even robots are having trouble finding work.) On the other hand, it must be kind of cool to put Blue Man at the top of your resume as your most recent job title.

     
  • Hober Short 5:23 pm on 6 February 2009 Permalink  

    Bob, I ended up checking out Scratch and, well, it rocks.

    I decided to see how much I could do in an hour, and this is what I ended up coming up with (including downloading and a bit of browsing the docs for about 5 minutes before jumping in):

    Scratch Project

    Scratch has basically the same restrictions as that Game Programming for Teens BASIC had but is much, much easier to program with. I wish this was how I was introduced to programming.

     
  • Hober Short 10:47 am on 6 February 2009 Permalink  

    The Register has an article about some new electronic earplugs for some British soldiers:

    British troops getting ready to deploy to Afghanistan are being issued with electronic sound-cancelling earplugs designed to let them hear what they need to – orders, conversations, enemy footfalls – but prevent hearing damage caused by explosions, gunfire and so on.

    They operate on a different principle to the sound-cancelling buds/headsets now popular in the consumer market. Each plug has an external mike and a normal internal speaker, and connects to the existing Personal Role Radio – the short-range radio worn by individual soldiers to talk to their teammates.

    I’d not heard of this technology in the form of earplugs, but I have seen the idea in practice before at the range:

    A set of Peltor ear protection

    The little black circle on each ear is a microphone and each earpiece has a speaker in it. It passes through normal noise (even a bit amplified if you turn up the volume knob) but as soon as the loud report from a gun hits the microphones, they just stop transmitting to the speakers.

    It’s a pretty cool innovation in technology, although even I find the sets with a radio connected to the speakers a little goofy.

     
  • Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. 10:54 am on 5 February 2009 Permalink  

    Yesterday afternoon I tried to sync my phone with my Lotus Notes calendar, but the sync operation failed with an error message about an invalid calendar entry.

    I went to my calendar and took a closer look at the offending entry, for an area meeting I’d accepted without really looking at it. The problem was evident:

    I felt justified in deleting the entry from my calendar, because clearly I can’t go. Even if I knew how to attend a meeting of -109 years in duration, I’m afraid I have a conflict: specifically, it conflicts with everything I’ve ever done in my entire life.

     
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