January 5th, 2015 | | Categories: Computers, Gaming | Tags:

I’ve been playing a lot of Ingress recently. Short form: it’s Google’s augmented reality alien invasion PvP game; you physically go to in-game portals, which correspond with the locations of landmarks, public art, and so on, and perform various actions which lead to creating fields of influence over various areas. The two factions are competing to control the most minds; it’s literally scored in terms of mind units. Kind of sinister when you get right down to it.

The game interests me on a number of levels, so I’ll probably write a spate of posts about it before trailing off into inactivity again. The game design is perhaps accidentally interesting, the ad hoc social networks are totally fascinating, and it hits a sweet OCD spot for me in a way which has me exercising. I averaged around 5 miles a day of walking in December. Go me.

Oh, and the lore is written by Flint Dille. Old school tabletop gamers can be suitably amused at this juncture.

Here’s an excellent story about getting involved in the game. It’s what got me and Susan playing, and everything in it is entirely true. Except the bit about the scooter. I can’t attest to anything involving scooter play first hand. I have, however, had experiences analogous to everything else she talks about.

This is a pretty good primer on the game; it’s a little dated, since like any decent MMO Ingress has occasional updates, but on the whole it’s solid.

If you decide to play because you are reading this, you should play Enlightened. The most meaningful currency in Ingress is time. Skill matters some, but the balance is skewed way over towards time, particularly before you get to the tippy-top of the elder game. The only way to generate time out of thin air is to convince people to play on your side. So: play Enlightened.

Yes, the Resistance is the attractive spunky underdog group. Next post sometime this week I will provide you with a conceptual framework that explains why the Enlightened are the real underdogs, which hopefully will allow you to play Enlightened without feeling like you’re supporting the Illuminati.

September 11th, 2014 | | Categories: General | Tags:

As always and forever, thank you.

May 10th, 2014 | | Categories: General | Tags: ,

For nearly 20 years I didn’t have to do much business travel. These days life is different. When my trip frequency rose above once per month I evolved a bag strategy which is both imperfect and functional. It is also very heavy on the Tom Bihn gear, because I like his bags and I tend to stick with things that work well enough. Other companies also make great stuff; my former boss swears by WaterField bags, for example. Choice is awesome.

My general theme is simplicity. Painless packing is the single most important aspect of this whole thing so keeping it simple is important. Particularly when it comes to cables, I’ve often just bought an extra cable so I don’t worry about remembering to pick one up and carry it with me. This is useful to me because I’m really forgetful. I am, obviously, fortunate to be able to make that tradeoff.
Read more…

May 1st, 2014 | | Categories: Gaming | Tags:

Via Kottke: have a huge collection of nuclear reactor cutaway diagrams. I’m sure these would be useful in someone’s RPG campaign.

April 20th, 2014 | | Categories: Culture | Tags:

The Hugo Awards have very few nominators and no barrier to entry to becoming a nominator other than money, which creates room for an engaged fan base to get just about anything on the ballot. This is not news. We’ve seen Doctor Who dominate the short-form dramatic presentation ballot for half a decade. We’ve also seen an acceptance speech get nominated for short-form dramatic presentation. That went relatively well because people liked the guy who gave the speech. This year, unlikeable people got nominated.

This doesn’t mean there’s a significant chunk of right-wingers rising up to retake SF fandom, despite what Vox Day would like to think. Let’s look at the numbers. References: the LoneStarCon 3 stats for the 2013 Hugos (PDF) and this year’s nominations. Also, the 2013 Hugos had 1,343 nominations.

This year, there were 1,595 nominations for Best Novel. Last year, there were 1,113 nominations. That’s 43% more nominations. This year, there were 728 nominations for Best Novelette. Last year, there were 616 nominations. 18% more nominations.

The Winter 2013 LoneStarCon 3 Progress Report lists 1,773 members as of November 22, 2012. The December 2013 Loncon 3 Progress report says they had 4,282 members as of November 18th, 2013. That’s 141% more memberships. The Hugo nomination campaigning probably isn’t the reason why more people submitted nominations; the increase in memberships purchased more than explains it. I’m not going to assume that the 100+ increase in Best Novelette nominations was all Day/Correia voters.

It took 38 nominations to get on the Best Novelette ballot last year. Apply the 18% adjustment: it probably took between 44 and 45 nominations to get on the Best Novelette ballot this year. That’s not block voting, that’s a mild wave in a fairly shallow wave pool.

(For any kind of rigor I would go back and perform a similar analysis for the last ten years or so, to see if membership purchase rates and nomination rates ever track well together.)

Edit: Liz notes that it took 69 nominations to get on the Best Novelette ballot this year. So much for rigor. Thanks!

April 15th, 2014 | | Categories: Culture | Tags:

In Filmspotting’s most recent episode, the hosts went through their top five directors whose movies you’d want on a desert island. In other words, if you were stuck on a desert island with a TV and a DVD player, which five directors’ complete works would you want? This is a fun game and an interesting twist so I played along.

On the whole I was closer to David Gordon Green’s choices than to those of the hosts. He’s not listed at the link above, but he chose John Landis, Alan Parker, Robert Altman, John Ford, and Stanley Kubrick. I think Alan Parker in particular is a brilliant choice.

I’d start with Steven Soderbergh. He has huge range: this gives me everything from classic indie movies to weird experimental stuff to blockbusters, and all of it is beautiful. I could rewatch any of these movies again and again. He’s also directed 40 or so movies, so there’s a lot of watching there.

Next: Kathryn Bigelow. She’s only got nine movies under her belt, so I lose all the ground I gained with Soderbergh. Doesn’t matter. I’d probably have her on the list if she’d only directed Near Dark, Strange Days, and The Hurt Locker. Her movies are consuming, and I want that if I’m stuck on this island.

Third is the Coen Brothers. Like Soderbergh, but even more so, their movies will reward repeat viewing. They’re also where I’m getting most of my comedies — dark, cynical, sometimes sad comedies, but nonetheless you have to laugh somehow.

From there we’ll go international and pick up Kar Wai Wong. This feels like cheating since I’m also getting a ton of Christopher Doyle cinematography. If it’s cheating, I have no regrets. I couldn’t live without someone from Asian cinema and preferably Hong Kong, and while John Woo might be more accessible, Kar Wai Wong will be better. Plus I still get a couple of good martial arts flicks.

Finally, and stolen from Adam Kempenaar’s list, Howard Hawks. Since I am a poor excuse for a film student, I didn’t think of him at once, but he’s an obvious choice. He worked in every genre, he made a huge number of great films, and he provides a superb window into earlier film. This also means I get some lighthearted movies. A win all around.

Savage Steve Holland does not make my list.

April 11th, 2014 | | Categories: Culture | Tags:

This probably isn’t the result of his recent exposure on HBO, but he’s directing another teen comedy! I am irrationally excited and will remain so regardless of further news.

April 7th, 2014 | | Categories: Computers | Tags:

So saith Massively. I am not at all surprised given what I know about the engineering teams working on that title. I am, nonetheless, tickled pink by this paragraph:

From my 50-hours-of-playtime perspective, though, the launch has in fact been completely lag-free. It’s also been one of the more polished overall launches I’ve experienced in a number of years, though I wouldn’t say it’s number one (Lord of the Rings Online had fewer quest bugs out of the gate, which was all the more impressive since smooth MMO launches were unheard of in 2007).

Aw yeah. Champion and still #1, LOTRO launch!

March 30th, 2014 | | Categories: Culture | Tags: , ,

Well, nah, but this does give me a pleasing frisson down the spine. For those of us who are not obsessive fans of Sorkin’s early (or even his later) work, Josh Charles played Dan Rydell on Sports Night as inspired by Keith Olbermann. Thus, putting them together on Olbermann’s current show is funny. Or it was funny before I explained it. Maybe I should have skipped that bit.

“You think?”

March 21st, 2014 | | Categories: Culture | Tags: ,

Not that I’m saying Billy Joel is one of the best artists of all time, but he’s a guy who can write songs and sing them and he cares about his work. Also important: Jimmy Fallon is completely sincere about the things he loves, which turns out to be what I wanted out of late night talk shows on the rare occasion that I watch them.