The Red Bull Diary   Recent Posts
RSSRSS Friday Free Games
"Your 'reality', sir, is lies and balderdash and I'm delighted to say that I have no grasp of it whatsoever."
— Karl Friedrich Hieronymus, Freiherr von M√ľnchhausen

Now Those are Some Impressive Moustaches

Here is a fine sampling of content from the aptly-named blog, Mustaches of the Nineteenth Century. Modern mustaches like The Silver Cthulhu and El Bigote con Estilo are impressive, but The One True Moustache of Baron Munchausen remains the Holy Grail of the Philtrum.

Labels: , , ,

The Unix Philosophy

This is one of the most concise and practical articles on technical philosophy I have ever read. It's an excerpt from The Art of Unix Programming (that's a full-text link; Amazon link here) and it describes an overall methodology for solving complex programming problems: keep it simple. Effective software isn't cute, it isn't clever, and it isn't hard to understand. Effective software is written such that it does precisely what it is supposed to – no more and no less. Computers are tools that help us do human work; each piece in the workflow chain should work as expected or tell us why it cannot. The human sitting at the keyboard should understand what is happening so that computer can assist him.

Being a man who has sold his soul to Microsoft, you might think this a strange recommendation. After all, isn't the Redmond Behemoth known for at least stretching (if not throttling, bludgeoning and stomping on) these rules of minimalism? Perhaps. But I think what Microsoft has done well is demonstrate to the programming community that "least astonishment" from a user point of view is something quite different from what it means to an engineer. I recommend every programmer of every stripe read The Basics of the Unix Philosophy.

Labels: , , ,

Friday Free Game: Buggle

It's been a while since I featured a multiplayer gaming experience for the Friday Free Game. As a matter of fact, the last multiplayer game I recommended was KDice in December of 2006. So much has changed since then...! But one thing that hasn't changed is my love for games that are cleverly designed, and the need to share them with my faithful, if somewhat limited audience. And today I bring you Buggle, a very simple but surprisingly challenging game of area control and psychology.

At first glance, you might think that Buggle is like last week's game, Boomshine. When the game begins, you are presented with a field of sixty floating little Buggle-guys. After a few seconds, the motion stops and you have to click somewhere on the screen. Once all of the players have clicked, the motion resumes and those that float within a certain distance of the point you clicked will be stopped and linked to it. This can set up a chain reaction that links others nearby, and eventually, all of the little dudes are claimed for one of the players. Then, you must click again, and once again the Buggles are reclaimed. Players get points for each of the little critters they nabbed, and then play moves on to the next round. After ten rounds, the game is over, and if you're me, you curse your inability to ever win.

Buggles lacks some of the poetry that Boomshine has, but it has much more interesting gameplay because it's multiplayer. The way to rack up points is to click in a place that is far away from where everyone clicked. So then the game becomes about psychology... where will that anonymous person sitting elsewhere in front of his computer click? Should I try to click at that tempting cluster in the corner or try to hedge my bet by sticking closer to the middle? Honestly, I have yet to figure out the exact mechanics that determines who gets which buggle when two or more people are competing for them, but it's mostly as simple as picking the better strategic position on the field such that you limit the opportunities for your opponents while maximizing your own chances to create a large chain.

One thing to note is that in order to play the game, you first have to set up an account at the Casual Collective, the site that hosts the game. And you may have to wait around a bit to find players, but in my experience, one or two show up within a few minutes, so it's no big deal. Click here to play Buggle.

Labels: , ,

Friday Free Game: Boomshine

Boomshine is one of those rare games that has stripped away everything unnecessary, leaving just the undistilled essence of gameplay intact. The field of play is filled with floating, multicolored dots. Your job is to click – just once! – and start a chain reaction that will touch as many of the dots as possible. Each level gives you more dots and asks you to clear a higher proportion of them. Those last four or five levels will take you several tries each to beat.

LevelMinTotalPct
11520%
221020%
331520%
452025%
572528%
6103033%
7153543%
8214053%
9274560%
10335066%
11445580%
12556092%
It's a well-designed and addictive little game and you find yourself trying all sorts of different tactics. At first I clicked when I saw a cluster of dots, then I clicked towards the middle. Then I started trying to track the overall "flow" of them to see what was going to collide with what. The fact that I was performing these strange (futile?) mental acrobatics to track fifty random dots is a testament to this obviously well-tested game's achievement of near-perfect balance. Check it out.

Labels: , , , ,

2007 Darwin Awards

It's a new year and time to recognize the achievements of a few tragic souls who have benefited the gene pool by killing themselves in incredibly stupid ways. These are the top three (read them all here):

Coitus Interruptus (20 June 2007, South Carolina): A passing cabbie found a 21 year-old couple naked and injured in the road an hour before sunrise. The two people died at the nearest hospital without regaining consciousness. Authorities were at a loss to explain what had happened. There were no witnesses, no trace of clothing, and no wrecked cars or motorcycles.

Investigators eventually found a clue high on the roof of a nearby building: two sets of neatly folded clothes. Safe sex takes on a whole new meaning when you are perched on the edge of a pyramid-shaped metal roof. "It appears as if [they] accidentally fell off the roof," Sgt. Florence McCants said.

This is a true Darwin Award trifecta: TWO people die, WHILE in the act of procreation, due to an ASTONISHINGLY poor decision. Bottom line: If you put yourself in a precarious "position" at the edge of a pointy roof, you may well find yourself coming and going at the same time.

The Enema Within (21 May 2004, Texas): Michael was an alcoholic. And not an ordinary alcoholic, but an alcoholic who liked to take his liquor... well, rectally. His wife said he was "addicted to enemas" and often used alcohol in this manner. The result was the same: inebriation.

The machine shop owner couldn't imbibe alcohol by mouth due to a painful throat ailment, so he elected to receive his favourite beverage via enema. And tonight, Michael was in for one hell of a party. Two 1.5 litre bottles of sherry, more than 100 fluid ounces, right up the old address!

When the rest of us have had enough, we either stop drinking or pass out. When Michael had had enough (and subsequently passed out) the alcohol remaining in his rectal cavity continued to be absorbed. The next morning, Michael was dead.

The 58-year-old did a pretty good job of embalming himself. According to toxicology reports, his blood alcohol level was 0.47%.

In order to qualify for a Darwin Award, a person must remove himself from the gene pool via an "astounding misapplication of judgment." Three litres of sherry up the butt can only be described as astounding. Unsurprisingly, his neighbors said they were surprised to learn of the incident.

Weight Lift (27 July 2007, Guadalajara, Mexico): 24-year-old Jessica was working out in the Provincia Hotel's gym when she realised she needed something from the floor below. Instead of picking up the phone, using the intercom, or just walking downstairs, she decided that the open shaft of the industrial lift was the communications device for her.

So Jessica stuck her head into the empty shaft to shout to the people downstairs. And somehow, she missed noticing that the elevator was coming up towards her. If the elevator had been going down, one could say that she was in no position to observe the approaching lift. But, leaving aside the stupidity of sticking your head into an elevator shaft, if she was looking down, how could she miss the mass of metal inexorably headed her way?

Since an elevator cage and a skull are both solid objects, one had to give. Let's just say, the elevator won. Jessica will be missed by her family, but not by the gene pool.

My favorite one of all time is this one about the guy who got killed doing his laundry, but apparently it's an urban legend. Normally you would think such a monumentally improbable chain of events would have to be true, but I guess the mention of the dog shoulda tipped me off that it was bogus.

Labels:

A New Sith

"A New Sith, or Revenge of the Hope: Reconsidering Star Wars IV in the light of I-III" is a fascinating reinterpretation of Star Wars that draws new conclusions based on the story presented in the first three Episodes, and every fan should read it. It's short but packed with gems like these:

Obi-Wan has spent the last 20 years in the Tattoine desert, keeping watch over Luke Skywalker and trying to decide on one of the three available options:

(A) If Luke shows no significant access to the Force, then leave him alone in obscurity

(B) If Luke shows real Force ability, then consider recruiting him as a Jedi. The rebellion needs Jedi. Now. But, if Luke shows any signs of turning out like his father, then

(C) sneak into his house one fine night and chop his head off. With great regret but it'll save a lot of trouble later on.

Knowing this to be the case, Bail Organa (perhaps at the insistence of his wife) has found excuses not to send Leia to Ben for assessment of Jedi potential, largely for fear of option C.

...

Much of Obi-Wan's behaviour in this film, and Yoda's in the next, can best be understood if they are frankly scared to death of what Luke might become. (Ben is also scared that he himself will make all the same mistakes he made with Anakin.)

...

On first seeing R2, Obi-Wan has a twinkle in his eye and calls him "my little friend". Well, he is. However, when Luke wakes up and says that R2 claimed to be owned by an Obi-Wan Kenobi, he blandly says "I don't seem to remember ever owning a droid." Ben has in fact owned several but the remark is aimed at R2 and translates as "You keep quiet. I'm not about to tell him everything just yet." Obi-Wan thinks fast and tells Luke a version of his past that does not involve a father who became a dark lord of the Sith. He wants to examine Luke a lot more closely before he risks telling him the real truth.

R2D2 and Chewbacca are master spies for the rebellion. It makes so much more sense that way. If only he could have explained away the midichlorines...

Labels: , ,

There's a Doggie In My Monitor

Friday Free Game: Dark Cut 2

With a recommendation from jayisgames, I am pleased to share with you Dark Cut 2 a game that casts you as a civil war surgeon who works on the front lines. Clean the wound with alcohol, remove bullets with a pair of forceps, sew up your patient, using whiskey as your only anesthesia. The atmosphere is as dark and chaotic as you could want, and the visuals are certainly grisly — I'd recommend the game for mature audiences only. But it's one of the most interesting and original flash games I've ever played. I won't spoil it by telling you too much, but remember, you're better off operating on a patient that is drunk... very drunk.

Labels: , ,

Operation: Change for the Better

Thanks, Lee, for sending this piece of inspirational infomercial dissent: New Bush Coins. It's a darkly humorous advertisement for Franklin Mint-style coins commemorating the Bush-Cheney cabal. Each one commemorates something special: the President reading My Pet Goat on 9/11, the "comatosed" media, Barbara Bush saying Katrina's victims are better off after the storm. This man has hit it right on the head.

Operation: Change for the Better wants you to have Bush Dubloons, so turn in all of your coins at a Halliburton drop-off center today.

Labels: , , ,

Here's Looking At You

Here's Looking at You: a film about first impressions.

Labels: , ,

Architectural Photos

These are some great pictures even if the colors look a bit overprocessed for my taste.

Labels: , , ,

McGovern Urges Impeachment

I watched as much of the Republican presidential debate this weekend as I could stomach. It was incredible to see how the other candidates treated Ron Paul. He was the only one telling the truth up there, and I thought he was the only candidate that had a realistic and nuanced view of the issues. He wasn't hammering home talking points. He wasn't offering empty slogans. He wasn't fear-mongering. He wasn't commending George W. Bush for "keeping us safe" (that's when I turned the damned TV off). He was talking about how there has been a disturbing shift in American politics by accepting the idea of a preemptive war. He said that the Muslims did not hate us because we are free but because we have been invading their countries, aiding their enemies, and meddling in their politics for decades. Giuliani and Thomposon jumped at him, grinning at their opportunity to show how tough they are and mocking Ron Paul for not clearly understanding the situation.

The fact that we are even having an election irks me. It's a distraction from the problem that has smacked me in the face: a realization that I cannot trust my government. A government that condones torture has lost my consent. Everyone seems so eager to just let the Wolfowitz/Rumsfeld/Rove crew slink away into the darkness. People want to "move on", to elect a new figurehead, and forget all about Bush-Cheney like it was some sort of disturbing dream. Fools! All of you, fools! Ron Paul said it: the idea of a preemptive war represents an historic shift in American politics. You don't "forget" an historical shift in the political trajectory of a nation. If we let Bush and Cheney escape justice, then we have effectively told the politicians that you can abuse our trust and We, The People, will do nothing.

Now George McGovern, the man who lost the presidential election in 1972 to Richard Nixon, is urging that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney be impeached for their lies to the American people, their "nonsensical" war in Iraq, and their unconstitutional wiretapping program. He understands what everyone seems to be forgetting: that we cannot let crimes of this magnitude go unpunished. Impeaching this rogue administration is the first step towards reclaiming our dignity as a nation.

Labels: , , , , ,

Thought Experiment 1: Combining Motivations

Random thoughts on changing motivations, I tried a thought-experiment: come up with a set of motivations that, when paired in combinations, produce workable plots. I came up with Revenge, Love, and Grief.

  • Revenge turns to Love (Man falls in love with a woman that killed his father)
  • Revenge turns to Grief (Man kills his own father by accident)
  • Love turns to Revenge (Man kills a woman that betrayed him)
  • Love turns to Grief (Man falls in love with a woman who dies)
  • Grief turns to Revenge (Man kills the woman that killed his father)
  • Grief turns to Love (Man falls in love with a woman that helps him cope with his father's death)
The last one is a little forced. It sorta works.

Labels: , , , ,

!pr0n

Ever play that game: notpr0n? It's game where the idea is to figure out each little puzzle to get the URL to the next level. And while I don't know if it's "the hardest riddle on the Internet," it's certainly very cleverly designed, and has a distinct lack of adult material of any kind.

Well I saw these images and thought the moniker was perfectly applicable. There is absolutely nothing dirty depicted at all; but I closed the web page pretty fast after I viewed it at work. So the question is: is this pornography?

Sure. After all, silhouettes are still art, and the canvas is just as much a part of the painting as the paint is. But the philosophical implications of these images are what really got my gears turning. The definition of what is obscene (or what is art, or what is beautiful) cannot be derived at all from the actual content of a given piece of art. These terms only become meaningful in the context of the individual's perception of a piece. But if this is so: how can we hope to define standards at all? Perhaps Justice Potter Stewart was right on the money. We can't define obscenity, but we know it when we see it.

Labels: , , ,

It Found its Mark Eventually

From a list of incredible coincidences, this one is mind-blowing:

In 1883, Henry Ziegland broke off a relationship with his girlfriend who, out of distress, committed suicide. The girl's enraged brother hunted down Ziegland and shot him. Believing he had killed Ziegland, the brother then took his own life. In fact, however, Ziegland had not been killed. The bullet had only grazed his face, lodging into a tree. It was a narrow escape. Years later, Ziegland decided to cut down the same tree, which still had the bullet in it. The huge tree seemed so formidable that he decided to blow it up with dynamite. The explosion propelled the bullet into Ziegland's head, killing him.
The story is retold here, in a list of other unusual deaths.

Labels:

Happy New Year

I just wanted to say happy new year to everyone. 2007 was an incredible year; I can only hope that 2008 will be half as good.

Peace, happiness and prosperity to you all.

Labels:


Pandora: My Favorite New Songs
LibraryThing: What I'm Currently Reading
Archive Links
Friends of the Red Bull


Sinfest by Tatsuya Ishida

Order of the Stick by Rich Burlew
The Red Bull Diary Is
The Red Bull Diary is the personal pulpit and intellectual dumping-ground for its author, an amateur game designer, professional programmer, political centrist and incurable skeptic. The Red Bull Diary is gaming, game design, politics, development, geek culture, and other such nonsense.