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Below are the 7 most recent friends journal entries:
A couple weekends ago, I wrangled a few friends (Rob, Tom, and William) into joining me for participation in OBJECT JAM, a neat little game jam proposed by someone on Twitter, wherein you invent games for physical objects (rather than for computers or consoles). I was thinking of it as kind of a retake of the kind of game a lot of us grew up playing, either with play-designed objects (toys) or by finding whatever was lying around on the floor or the ground. But most of the (visible) participants in Object Jam are people who've by now played (and made) a lot of video/computer games, as well as, y'know, grown up and developed different tastes and attention spans from what we had as five-year-olds (perhaps).
The result was one of the most fun 6-ish hours I've spent in the past few years. The best part about it to me in contrast to a workin'-on-computers game jam was that we were effectively all making games for each other and then playing them with each other. This jam felt fundamentally social. It's pretty easy to come up with some idea and post it on twitter, but actually assembling the pieces, testing it out, noticing some imbalances, and iterating on the design of something you wouldn't otherwise take so seriously... brought a lot of depth to it, made it into a bonding experience. There's probably nothing that makes me happier than making, sharing and discussing things with people that I like. The making doesn't even have to be collaborative; maybe even better if it's not.
Now some games! First, here are ones that I designed, implemented, and playtested:
FOLDING AT HOME
Game for piece of paper and n players (tested with n=2). Take turns folding the paper, not necessarily in half, until you can't fold it anymore (it does not lie flat).
PLAYTEST NOTES: We conjectured that this would be better as a collaborative game, "improvisational origami", where the goal is just to make something pretty. I tweeted that idea as the primary version of the game and described the above as an "adversarial variant."
Game for n players and n books. Players gather in a circle. Each player takes a book and opens to somewhere near the middle. Take turns reading the last full sentence on the left page, then turning the page. Stop when someone reads a sentence that's 3 words long or fewer (or when bored).
PLAYTEST NOTES: Science fiction books work well for this.
Game for chair and two players. Player One sets up the chair. Player Two must sit in it (butt touching chair, weight resting on chair) and maintain stability. Alternate until Player Two falls over and gets hurt.
PLAYTEST NOTES: this game is dangerous and surprisingly fun
LIVE ACTION FETCHQUEST
Game for post-it notes, William's house, and various objects within said house. Sorry, this one is not very cross-platform, but you could probably come up with something similar for the rooms and objects in your house. I put post-its on game-relevant things and announced the convention that pink = takeable, yellow = openable, and orange = information.
PLAYTEST NOTES: This actually worked pretty well for three separate playthroughs. Tom took a Vine of Rob playing.
Here are some games I came up with but didn't actually playtest:
DO NOT PASS GO
Game for any board game and 1 player. Set up the game. Read the rules aloud. Sit still & meditate upon the board. Tidy up after.
NOTES: Twitter liked this one, and one game designer I follow made some good suggestions for a multiplayer variant. I especially like the analogy between rules reading and guided meditation.
COINS IN A BOWL
A sort of minimalist betting game for n players with pocket change and 1 bowl. Players deposit all pocket change into a bowl. Everyone writes down a guess for the total amount of money in it. Reveal guesses. Closest answer gets the change, may trade for bills with other players. (anticapitalist variant)
SPICES IN A BOWL
Everyone secretly picks a spice from the spice cabinet and adds a couple of shakes of it to a communal bowl. Then, the bowl is brought to a gathering spot and passed around. Players may smell and taste the contents. Winner is who correctly identifies the most spices in the bowl.
- TETRAHEROES made by Tom7 and William is a large-scale object adventure game built on the grass rug in William's living room. Here is a video recording of Rob and me playing it, which is pretty much my favorite thing on the internet right now.
- a game by a dog!
- full list of games tagged with #objectjam on twitter
Related thing: pervasive games
Tags: friends, games, object jam
Sock it to me.|
Sitting at a bistro table in the sun, Edinburgh has stretched itself out in the light and warmth; though in truth it’s not as warm as we’re all pretending.
We’re cold pints and calamari, I’m telling Kate about the This American Life episode where they double blind taste tested squid rings versus deep fried pig rectum.
We stil eat the calamari.
Out of the bar, a waiter.
Black apron, neat tie, neater facial hair.
He drops something on top of a barrel beside us.
“Anyone lost a…sock?”
“Just found it lying in the doorway…weird.”
We joke about checking our feet, but we’re confident we haven’t lost any socks, thanks.
He returns to clearing tables around us.
In the interests of confidentiality, I shift into sign.
EEEEESH. AWKWARD. LOOKS LITTLE BIT LIKE MY SOCKS!
EXACTLY SAME YOUR SOCKS. EXACTLY. Kate answers.
She’s right, it does, black and grey. I have dozens of the things, because I figure nobody ever faced death wishing they’d spent more time pairing socks.
She continues, YOUR TROUSERS NEW TODAY?
YES CLEAN, NEW
MAYBE DROP WALKING? THAT YOUR SOCK DEFINITELY…WANT IT?
We return to beer and snacks, finish and settle up.
“Last chance…” she teases me.
“I’ll buy another pair…”
Because what it if wasn’t?
Surely there is little worse than dropping your underwear in a public place?
Except maybe rescuing and adopting someone elses?
|I realized this evening that today being Monday meant that I hadn't written anything in here for at least a week. I guess it's sort of unfortunate, then, that I had two things kicking around in my head that were meant to be the topics of two separate posts. Now I just have to squish them into one.|
The day of the week was involved in these thoughts because we had a GSA softball game tonight, and it was exactly at the same time a week ago that I had a softball-related injury. I was playing catcher during the first inning. On a deep hit to the outfield, our power-arm center fielder decided to go directly to the plate instead of throwing to second base like people were yelling for him to do. I can only stand in awe of such a rocket launcher where a human appendage should be: this guy's throw from deep center came to home plate on the fly, where I misjudged it and allowed it to deliver the entirety of its force to my left shin, just above the ankle. There followed a somewhat fuzzy interval, mostly filled by me writhing in pain on the plastic-grass field, figuring that of course an ankle injury had to happen now right when I was already upset with my recent running performance and really planning to kick the training up a notch.
Well, in a minute I could stand, and in half an inning walk, and in another half an inning jog slowly, and in another half an inning re-enter the game... so I guess it wasn't too horrible. Trying to play ITG the next day was a bit dodgy, and even by Thursday I wasn't back to anything like a good 6K running pace. (Unless I really am that bad now and added six minutes to such a short run.) There's still a dark and squishy spot on my ankle where the ball hit — disconcertingly like a bruise on an apple or something — but thankfully ice treatment after I got home last week helped a lot to keep the swelling down.
Also thankfully an above-the-ankle bruise doesn't have much impact on biking ability. The "missing link" on the South Side trail — between that sort-of scrap yard, past Sandcastle, and to the Waterfront — was finally officially opened for Friday, and my No. 1 thought for Saturday was to try it out. Of course it was the No. 1 thought of a shocking number of other people too, but that may have been because I left here at noon before it got too hot. The new section of the trail is a little narrower than it should be for passing: there is definitely only space for two "lanes" without the usual buffer of squeezing in a third when necessary. (And people in groups are so bad at keeping right!) Getting around or through the Waterfront continues to be a pain no matter what mode of transport you use: car, bus, walking, or now bike. After that, though, the mogul-like gravel trail gets switched onto a road-side bike lane, which is beautiful and smooth in its immensity and ego-inflating in its ability to let you keep zooming by at 15 m.p.h. while an enormous line of cars backs up next to you trying to get out of the shopping center. After that I figured I'd just keep going as long as the road was paved.
Is there any greater joy than to be possessed of a bike, a place to ride it, and a summer's day? You certainly wouldn't have caught me saying anything to the contrary on Saturday. It is unbelievable how far you can go now that the missing mile to the Waterfront is done. On the far side, the Great Allegheny Passage trail gets away from most built-up things and meanders a bit though the greenery next to railroad tracks and the river. It's actually right where we had an urban hike once between Homestead and the Rankin Bridge. After a while, I thought I might fetch up in Clairton if I wasn't careful, but I was having such a blast zipping along that I didn't ever want to turn back. After what seemed like an amazing distance — but was in actuality about four miles — I hit a street crossing and saw that I was in Duquesne. I'd told Alan I'd be back home in two hours, and I didn't really know how far I'd gone or how long it'd take to get back, so I reluctantly made an about-face. My far-reaching odyssey, when I got back home after almost exactly two hours, turned out to be a mere 28-mile round trip. The smooth paving continues at least that far, though, so I think I'll have to go back when I have more time and more than 50¢ and a CMU ID in my pocket.
I knew him.
I must have done,
My feet steered me round
A palisade of piss
And chip bags.
Down the kerb and up again
While his stubby staffy
led him, hobbling, past.
A sagging pit prop,
Shattered his knee
In shale and clay
Or a bolted horse
Dragged him, trampled him.
While he swung frantically
On the reins.
More likely, round here,
A stolen motorbike,
And misjudged corner.
Or he had a blade
And the other lad
Strangelove to Vader,
Richard III and Silver.
Hold evil souls.
I have no case,
Behind the handles
Of a chair.
Lifts before stairs.
And fuck you
|Friday: My semi-triumphant return to climbing after skipping three weeks for Carnival, Tartan article, and WMT. I found I was down about a month's worth of progress, mostly in grip strength and some stamina. That would be in keeping with what I think is my usual trend over short- or medium-term lack of athletic practice, which is that my skills fall off about linearly. The next part will be to see if they come back any faster. I didn't wake up Saturday with any of the nice morning-after-climbing feeling, but that's probably because I spent at least the last 45 minutes at the wall talking linguistics with another guy we sort of know there ("Chris") who's a translator or something for an LSP. The usual Ritter's afterwards with Max, Michael, and Alan; I got home around 12:45.|
Saturday: Short-ish run in the afternoon followed by the Tartan gala in the evening. The run was a winding 6.9 km from here to the Safaba office so that I could retrieve the bike that I had left there during Friday's rain. It was not a fantastic run, but definitely better than the 6-km snail crawl that I turned in Thursday. I'm not sure where my speed went, but it's been missing for a solid month or two now. Home afterwards, anyway, to take a shower and get ready for the newspaper gala, which was at Buca di Beppo's this year. It was a much better time than last year. Emily, Anna, Alan, and I sort of self-selected each other for a curmudgeon carpool and a curmudgeon table at the restaurant, where we were ably joined by Madelyn and Nicole. (It came out in discussion that apparently none of us liked our seating arrangements at last year's gala, so we were trying more or less covertly trying to end up better off this time around. Definite success.) After three hours at the restaurant, seven of us landed back at the Tartan office for another two hours of Nertz. That was also excellent; it had been so long since we had any protracted and uninterrupted Nertz-playing. Home around 1:30 a.m. and to bed at 2.
Today: Brunch at Joe Mama's with Yubin, Max, Michael, and Alan, arranged as a follow-up to our climbing outing Friday. Getting down there by 11 a.m. was a bit of a stretch for our late schedule, but Alan and I managed to leave the house on time at 10:20. Afterwards, the two of us repaired to the Cyert cluster to prepare photos and other things for color printing, which was speedily accomplished via the color laser printer on the fourth floor of Hunt. ("Speedily" in part because the printer ran out of 11x17 paper before I was finished!) Then we attempted ITG and failed due to lack of the right people being there. For the rest of the day, I just kind of sat around the apartment and watched more old baseball games. Kind of a wimpy end to a weekend when I really needed to be more active.
The baseball games, for those keeping score at home, have been the final games of the 1971, 1969, and 1965 World Series, followed so far by the next-to-last game of 1952. (The final game comes next, and that's the oldest offering on this particular YouTube channel.) I think I may have taken these too fast — one after the other and all since Thursday — to be duly enjoyed and appreciated. I'm not finding them as enthralling, in almost any respect, as I did the first one I wrote about before. Plus, after concentrated exposure to more than a dozen hours of play-by-play, I'm in that state where I semi-consciously expect and interpret everything I say to sound like an announcer. It's the same thing if I watch hours of Eddie Izzard comedy: I spend the next few days feeling like I'm in a British-accented sketch, and my verbal output is lightly biased to match.
art vs. engineering|
I've been thinking a lot lately about the contrast between art and engineering. I don't, of course, necessarily think the two are opposed, and i don't mean to cast any value judgments about one over the other, but it's been an interesting dichotomy to consider applying analogically to my current life status and future goals.
It seems like what i did in grad school, and what most researchers do, is much more like art. I never really thought about it this way while i was doing it, but in retrospect, it definitely has a lot of the hallmarks. Researchers are kind of playing around at the edges of knowledge, working creatively on things that please them without necessarily having goals in mind, doodling and messing around with ideas just to see what happens or where they go -- the journey is more important than the destination, the process more than the product.
By contrast, what i do now, industry work, is really about engineering: you've got to produce a product, and it's got to work. The whole point is to build something big and amazing that benefits lots of people -- it doesn't necessarily have to be pretty (though that's generally nice to have on the side), and it's better to be motivated by the end goal than the process, as the process involves a lot of difficult, effortful, gettin'-hands-dirty sort of work, not all of which will be fun. A lot of it is just plumbing and fitting things together -- you know, engineering.
Sometimes i really miss doing math/CS art. To make an imperfect but strangely appropriate analogy, i sometimes feel like i've spent like 10 years of my life studying painting, creating small, simple, beautiful pieces of art, doodling around and drawing lots of different kinds of things, and now i've taken a job painting houses. To be sure, occasionally i have to draw on my aesthetic sense -- what color should the accent wall be, to go with the rest of the room's decor?, e.g. -- or my artistic skills -- how to keep the paint on this wall from getting on that wall?, or how to mix the paint to the right viscosity? -- but mostly, it's just big and lofty and well-paying. Not that it's not valuable work -- i mean, getting someone's house painted right really makes a difference, and lots of people really get to see my work. But like i said, i do miss the doodling.
I wonder how far one can push this analogy. What are public murals, e.g.? Large works viewed by many eyeballs, difficult to complete, but definitely artistic. In the other direction, what's making a startup? Lots of hard work, but all of your own choosing, small chance of large success. What about teaching? Actually, maybe that's the public murals -- difficult and intense, but artistic in-the-small, on the scale of individual lectures, and definitely for the public good.
I'm interested to hear anyone's thoughts, comments, and reactions. I have an inkling that these statements will not be uncontroversial..
|The Internet is such a strange place sometimes. Last night I watched the Cincinnati Reds beat the New York Yankees in the fourth game of the 1976 World Series. I mean basically all of it — all nine innings with the original announcers, camera work, on-screen graphics, etc., as televised by NBC more than 35 years ago. (YouTube link here, and you can follow the related videos on the side for more.) Perhaps I'm just old enough to not be entirely jaded by modern technology, but isn't this rather impressive? Here is a two-hour experience capsule from several years before I was born, preserved all in a piece for anyone who wants it. I think one of my favorite parts is the great New York accents from some of the announcers, a bit more colorful and New York-ish than I feel would be typical today.|
For baseball fans, I think you'll notice a lot of subtle differences between now and then. Yankee Stadium in 1976 has none of the flashiness of today's ballparks: none of those giant video boards and unending LED displays ringing the upper-deck facing. The TV broadcast is notable for an almost complete lack of on-screen graphics: every few minutes there might be some plain yellow text saying "Ball 2 Strike 1 Out 1," but nothing like that constant box in the upper-right-hand corner with the current score, count, outs, location of runners on base, and speed and location of every pitch. Many times the announcers confine themselves to just telling you what you're looking at, which seems to be such crucial information that they'll break off some other thought to include it. On the other hand, I thought the camera angles were more inventive that what I was used to more recently. The default view seemed to roam around more from the usual behind-the-pitcher shot.
Not to mention differences in the game itself, or the players. It's so weird to find familiar names at a very early (or unknown, to me) stage of their careers. Here's Pete Rose more than a decade before he got banned from baseball for betting on it. Johnny Bench and Ken Griffey (Senior, not Junior) are also in the lineup. Lou Piniella is a pinch hitter. Sparky Anderson's name, as manager of the 1976 Reds, was familiar to me, but I figured it must have been because my best friend's dad when I was a kid was a big Reds fan. Then I saw on Wikipedia that he actually managed the Tigers later on for about a zillion years, including when I was around to know about it. I also found out about Thurman Munson, a standout catcher for the Yankees who grew up in Akron and Canton, wanted to play for the Indians, and died in a plane crash at the Akron-Canton airport just a few years after the '76 Series.
I see the same YouTube channel also contains the infamous Game 7 of the 1997 World Series (Indians vs. Marlins), but I don't think I can stomach that one — at least not without Herb Score and Tom Hamilton on the radio to call it. Instead I think I may continue my journey further backwards with the 1971 Pirates.