Monday, May 30, 2005

Descent to the Underworld

ScreenshotStudents at nine universities from four nations used Internet2 to collaborate on Descent to the Underworld, an educational videogame that teaches players about "myth and mythical narrative." Interesting stuff.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Hard to Believe

It's hard to believe that my son has passed the one year mark. Sometimes it seems like we brought him home only a few weeks ago, and sometimes it feels like he's been part of our family forever. But the Earth has gone around the Sun roughly once since he's been with us, and it's as good a reason as any to step back and take stock of the wonderful things he's brought to our lives already, and to celebrate the great little guy we're watching him become.

We had a birthday party for him the other day, and lots of people showed up. People had a lot of fun, eating cake, talking, and playing games. Everyone was happy to come help us celebrate.

Privately, I was celebrating something else - his escape from the shadow of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). Like most apprehensive first-time would-be parents, we attended birthing and parenting classes to prepare for the arrival of our baby. Of course, there was the cautionary stuff about not letting the baby sleep on his front, because this drastically increases the risk that the child will die suddenly of SIDS. But the thing that has really stuck in my mind was the fact that SIDS can strike a child anytime up to a year.

My son has been partial to sleeping on his front for the last several months, which has filled that what if part of my brain with a flicker of terror every time I'd go in and find that he'd flopped over onto his front. He was actually very cute in that pose - him lying there, head looking sideways, arms back, and his knees curled under him, making his butt stick up in the air. How he slept like that, I'll never know. But any enjoyment at seeing him like that would flutter away when I remembered the danger that the pose held. I'd dutifully go in, and turn him back over onto his side, and maybe risk waking him up with a kiss on the head. But I'd be back in there soon to make sure he hadn't switched back to face-down.

Kids his age face dangers every day. He likes to try to pitch out of my arms regularly, and quite often tries to shove too much food into his mouth. But we understand those threats. We don't understand SIDS. All we know is that there's this death trigger that trips arbitrarily and for no known reason. It seems to be correlated with sleeping face down, but it's still a mystery. You worry more about unknown fears than known fears.

Sure, there are a thousand more worries lurking in the wings, and they'll only accrue as he gets older. But as I smiled, watching that little boy smearing frosting on his face at his one year birthday party, I just took a moment to mentally cross SIDS off the list of hovering specters threatening my son. That alone was cause enough for celebration for me.

And now, when I go in and see him sleeping with his butt in the air, well, I can take the time to smile at it. It really is pretty funny.

Haunted Dimensions

Haunted Dimensions Bat VaneRay Keim is a talented 3D sculptor who has taken on the task of recreating Disney's Haunted Mansion in 3D. The model is very well done and apparently very accurate. He documented a lot of the development process, so it has items of interest for both 3D modellers and Mansion enthusiasts. As part of the design process, he also made a paper model of the Mansion, and has released it as a Haunted Mansion Paper Model Kit for free.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Illustration Friday: Envy

Here's a quick doodle I did for this week's Illustration Friday topic, Envy:

It's really hard to draw freehand using a trackpad on a laptop...

Friday, May 27, 2005

Killzone 2 Trailer

Check out this KillZone 2 Trailer. Is it prerendered cinematic or gameplay? And for those of us in the small-house game development circles, do we have a chance any more?

Game Balance

We playtested my card game A Death in the Family again last night. It's got some really great game mechanics that simulate the Machiavellian intrigues of a conniving, backstabbing family. Unfortunately, some of the game mechanics would allow a player to basically put another player out of the game early on, so we made some adjustments to the rules for last night's gameplay.

Turns out we adjusted the rules too far. We played for 45 minutes last night with hardly a budge to the game state. At that rate, it would take four hours to get anywhere in the game.

Luckily, I have a group of friends who are intelligent, patient, and creative all at once, and we came up with some great ideas for balancing the game out a little more. But this process of fine-tuning the balance of a game (or even doing a rough cut at game balance), is a long, slow, painful one. It's not often that we have an opportunity to play the game, so adjustments take months to test. I guess this is why the game publishers hire a team of playtesters.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Got any spare planets?

Ecological Footprint Web Site snapshotWhere do you live? What do you eat? What do you drive? If we measure all that in terms of biologically productive acres needed to support you, then you have a measure of your ecological footprint.

Unfortunately, that statistic doesn't mean much to most people - what does it mean to have an ecological footprint of ten, sixteen, or twenty-two, for example? Well, there is one clever way to drive home what it means. If you divide it by the number of biologically productive acres per person worldwide, you can find out how many planets we would need if everyone lived like you.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Disney's Virtual Magic Kingdom made in Director

DocksWell, Disney's multiplayer virtual theme park, Disney's Virtual Magic Kingdom, is now in public beta, and it was made in Macromedia Director (not Flash!). It was made by the fine folks over at Sulake, makers of the popular Habbo Hotel virtual community.

The game itself appears to be a glorified chat room at first, but there are lots of things that extend it beyond that. Customizable avatars, a game world currency, personalizable rooms, and pickups throughout the theme park are just the start - there's also a framework for delivering multiplayer games, like the excellent pirate ship combat game (particularly interesting since we're working on a similar themed game ourselves).

Monday, May 23, 2005

The Grudge

So I finally got around to seeing The Grudge, the white-person remake of the Japanese film Ju-On. Apparently, us Americans won't see foreign films, so they have to go and remake them with English-speaking caucasians in order to get this market to see them. Sigh.

Anyway, I'm glad they did, because The Grudge is a solidly-delivered horror movie that gets under your skin. Granted, I'm a sucker for a good haunted house flick, but with fantastically creepy makeup effects for the ghosts, nonlinear time that keeps you off balance, and well-tensioned attack scenes, director Takashi Simizu has established himself as a talented architect of fear. He'll have a chance to solidify that reputation, as there are more Grudges on the way.

And perhaps remaking this movie for American audiences wasn't such a stupid thing after all. In this case. There's something to be said for localizing a horror flick such as this one, because different things scare the Japanese than do Westerners - different views how the universe works drive different reactions to supernatural-based horror. (For example, The Exorcist is unlikely to scare an Atheist as much as it would a fundamentalist Christian.) And Shimizu puts the localization to good effect by playing up the fish-out-of-water feeling you can get when being immersed in a different culture. So, while it's a shame that they had to go to such lengths to bring the story to American audiences, it may have made for a movie that reverberates more deeply with its audience.

Only a fool sells that which he does not want others to have

When I lived in Virginia, I had an account at Wachovia bank. Today, CNN Money is reporting that Bank of America and Wachovia accidentally sold the account information for 676,000 people. I guess I'm probably one of them if I'm still in their database. I'm just one little bit of the valuable personal-information commodity in which banks trade nowadays.

The sad thing is that on CNN's web page for the story, they have a happy photo with a caption that reads: "CNN's Gerri Willis has 5 tips if you're worried about becoming the next victim of ID theft." Hey, thanks Gerri. But considering the story, what tip could have helped people avoid this?
Don't put your money in banks. Instead, keep all your money under your mattress at home. You won't accrue interest, but at least you can trust your cat not to go sell your current net worth to a Soprano.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Monkey Island 2 Outtakes

Monkey Island 2 OuttakesI just stumbled onto Monkey Island 2 Outtakes, a funny Flash-based fan-film about the LucasArts adventure game masterpiece. It's got some great jokes in it, especially if you've played some of the other LucasArts adventure games like Day of the Tentacle or Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis.

The fan film has secrets in it that you can unlock by clicking on elements in the different scenes - well worth the effort, because "Monkey Island Karaoke" is pretty good (who knew the Monkey Island theme had lyrics?).

Here's how to get the secrets:
  • In The Full Monkey, click the "open" sign.
  • In Purple Haze, click the window by GuyBrush's head.
  • In Zoiks, Walt!, click on the slime on the floor.
  • In No Questions Asked, click on the television.

Next best thing to being there

Allearsnet is reporting that a revamp of the Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters at Disneyland Anaheim will have an online component to the ride that allows all the poor saps who wished they were at Disneyland to participate in the ride:
Guests on the attraction will be virtually paired up with internet partners who will join the adventure at Disneyland in real time through web cam technology. At-home participants will help increase the scores of guests on the attraction by raising the value of targets along the way.
I wonder if we're seeing a new marketing drive for building brand awareness of the parks themselves. (See also the Virtual Magic Kingdom.) If so, it's smart - letting people actually experience the parks virtually is a good way to do that, since a lot of what differentiates the Disney parks is the environmental experience - it's not just roller coasters and scramblers plopped down on big concrete slabs like at most theme parks.

Friday, May 20, 2005


spyboticsOver on the Lego site, there's a tactical combat game called Spybotics: The Nightfall Incident that is surprisingly deep from both a gameplay and a story perspective, and also very polished.

The gameplay hinges on using programs to hack into network nodes, using each program's strengths to gain different advantages on the battlefield. The storyline, even early on, brings in a mystery of sorts, where you don't know who to trust, despite the simple yes/no dialogue interface. For a promotional online game aimed at kids, the game creators really pulled out all the stops. Pretty impressive.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

New Midnight Syndicate Tracks

The 13th Hour Cover ArtMidnight Syndicate are a fantastic group of artists that make some of the best atmospheric horror-themed music, appropriate for that creepy Halloween party or home haunt. Their new album, The 13th Hour, is making its debut in June, but two tracks are available for preview now.

I first picked up their music at Busch Gardens Williamsburg, where their music was being used in the haunted house attractions for the park's seasonal "Howl-o-Scream" event. Since then, I've used their music, with their gracious permission, in my own home haunt to fantastic effect. These artists are down-to-earth and generous with the use of their music, a refreshing change from the hostile DRM-laden attitude that seems to be pervading the music industry lately. Support these guys by picking up one of their albums, and listen to it - it just might inspire you to start up your own home haunt this Halloween.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Ah, but can they cross their T's when writing their name in the snow?

The only down side to these fine feminine products is the fact that, as a male, I won't be there to witness all the double-takes in the ladies' rooms.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Life-size Candy Land

Candy Land OverviewApparently, volunteer students at Hastings College have started a new community event called Candy Land. Basically, they create a life-size version of the childhood favorite Hasbro game Candy Land, complete with candy-themed characters and a game board that spans a gymnasium, and in which the children themselves are the pawns.

According to the web site, the idea came from an outrageous example in a philosophy paper about Thomas Hardy's The Mayor of Casterbridge, and has now turned into a bona-fide community event.

This is one of the largest volunteer-based immersive environment projects I've seen, and from the looks of the photos, it was probably a blast for the kids to experience and for the adults to create. I've been involved in smaller-scale environments for kids, and it's always well worth the effort. If there's one thing I've learned, it's that it doesn't matter if the environment you create doesn't look Disney perfect; when you make the effort to create something on an immersive scale, most people (especially children) can see the fantasy of what you were trying to build, rather than the reality.

Perhaps you should start up a similar immersive environment event in your community.

Another version of the GBA

Game Boy MicroNintendo has announced yet another repackaging of the Game Boy Advance handheld console, this one called the Game Boy Micro. It's got a stylish silver case, and it's tiny - 4 inches by 2 inches, weighing about the same as "80 paper clips."

New Legend of Zelda Screenies

Screenshot detailGameSpot has posted some screenshots from the upcoming The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess game. Check out the art direction on this one - moody environmental effects, interesting character design, and strongly designed creatures and environments. I've never played a Legend of Zelda title, but I might have to check this one out once we get our games lab finished.

Monday, May 16, 2005

For New Mexico Gamers with Money To Burn

Turquoise DicePerhaps the geekiest thing I've ever seen are D&D dice made out of precious stones. Strictly for people who can get $60+ use out of prestige dice. For those of you in New Mexico, the obvious choice is the Turquoise dice set, because if you ever tire of the game, you can always string 'em on some Hishi and sell them to tourists for double what you paid for 'em.

Downing Street Memo

Well, I finally got around to reading the Downing Street Memo, which is basically the notes taken by the British when Bush (through intermediaries) made the case to them to go to war in July of 2002. They were leaked to the press, and eventually published in full by Downing Street. Here are some quotes, interspersed with my own thoughts:
Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.
This belies the claims the Bush administration made when they could produce no WMD's that they were just going on the best available intelligence.
There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action.
From this, it's clear that someone made the point to him that he should at least consider an exit strategy. But now we're in a quagmire that we can't extricate ourselves from, with insurgents taking pot shots at our boys in uniform.
No decisions had been taken, but he thought the most likely timing in US minds for military action to begin was January, with the timeline beginning 30 days before the US Congressional elections.
This one shocked me. I'm pretty skeptical of Bush's motivations, but I didn't really think that he timed the war specifically for political gain for conservatives. But this is clear evidence that the timing of the war was largely a ploy to shore up conservative power.
It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided. But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran.
If, as Bush had claimed, it was imperative to act to stop the threat of WMD, then why did we attack Iraq? Is it because the American populace was predisposed, and it would play well for election time? I didn't think that before reading this memo, but now it's clear that this war had a strong domestic political motivation.

Of course, my question is, why isn't this being reported here in the US? It's apparently widely reported in Britain. You can find some scant mention of it on CNN and like places, but not much. Salon did an article on it, and the Washington Post has analysis too. But the television news sites seem silent on the issue - not even the usual spin doctoring.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Ann Coulter Sanity Slippage

Ann Coulter, the right-wing attack dog whose conservative apologetics border on hate speech, let her "pundit face" slip and totally wigged out on Fox News recently, so bad that even Hannity wouldn't come to her defense.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Running Out of Troops?

The Army is starting to look a little desperate for recruitees. I guess when you hear daily about our troops getting killed for no good reason, it just doesn't sound like an alluring career opportunity any more.

Recently, the army decided to offer 15-month tours of duty in order to try to recruit more young men and women to join up. That sounded pretty desperate, but now, a Denver TV station has reported that army recruiters are encouraging potential recruitees to lie by creating false diplomas and transcripts of their high school degrees, and to take pills that (supposedly) help avoid a positive on a drug test in order to qualify for enlistment.

The kid that exposed this shameful state of affairs sounds intelligent and sober, so there was no harm done in this case, but it's unlikely he was the first to be told to lie in order to enlist. One wonders how many dropout stoners we sent over to Iraq before the story broke.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Do Your Damn Job

So there's proposed legislation that would allow pharmacists to refuse to fill a prescription that they are morally opposed to. Obviously, this is a thinly-veiled attack against "morning after" pills and the like. Since the right don't have the courage to just stand up and legislate against the drug itself, they're taking the coward's way and doing back-door legislation that they hope will have the same effect but doesn't put the heat on them.

If you can't respect the attourney-client privilege, don't become a lawyer. If you can't stay true to the Hippocratic oath, don't become a doctor. If you can't keep people's dark secrets to yourself, don't take confession. And if you can't put the little blue and white pills into the little brown plastic cup, then don't become a pharmacist.

It is not the pharmacist's place to inject his or her personal beliefs into something as personal and protected as the medical deliberations that occur between doctor and patient. It's none of your damn business what drugs I'm taking. Do your damn job, or change jobs.

Nickel and Dimed to Death

It looks like the next console generations from Sony and Microsoft are including as a key feature the ability to kill you two ways: by having the monster bash you until you run out of hit points, or to kill you - the player - by nickel and dime-ing you to death. That's right - microtransactions built right into your game console! Hey, for just ninety-nine cents, you can upgrade your sword. Oh, for another ninety-nine, you can beef up your armor. Oh, that boss monster still to tough for you? Perhaps you'd be interested in a couple of healing potions - only fifty cents a pop.

An article over at Grimwell Online points out the perils of this plan:
When the game becomes nothing more than a tool to drive more money to the shareholders, it's quickly able to shed all vestiges of a game.
He correctly points out that there is great temptation now for the executive producers to demand games that are little more than vehicles to prompt people to buy in-game content - and indeed, to hold back the best content for the highest-paying customers.

And what does this mean for educational games? Well, first, it means that the commercial gulf between the emerging "Hollywood" game development culture and educational games is widening further. Not only can educational game titles not compete on the graphics and depth of media against the AAA titles, but now, they'll have to compete against games that make money not only on the initial purchase (which already tends to be steeper than educational games), but continue making money after the sale.

Probably not much educational titles can do to encourage micropayment competition against entertainment titles, although I could see a devious model which allows the hapless student to pay fifty cents to skip over the boring educational parts of games to get to the fun parts. Heh.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Disney Collectible Merchandise

Haunted Mansion Wall Sconce - me want!So, typically, Disney memorabilia, while higher quality than most theme park souveneirs, is still largely of the knick-knack crapola variety. Things that I would actually want with a Disney label on them are few and far between. (Mostly soundtracks, like the excellent Haunted Mansion - the ride, not the movie - soundtrack, and the Animal Kingdom world music soundtrack.)

However, it looks like a new line of Disney merchandising is breaking out of that mold. Faithful reproductions of the spectacular wall sconces from the Haunted Mansion are what I'm drooling over, but there appear to also be the paintings from the stretching gallery, the talking skull from Pirates of the Caribbean, and detailed replicas of the birds from the Enchanted Tiki Room.

Tellingly, all these replicas appear to be based on the older rides, hearkening back to the days when the Imagineers were really breaking ground with courageous, visionary design, rather than optimizing things to tweak the most dollars out of an attraction and cross-market their movies and television shows. If these are the rides that people will shell out the big bucks for in order to revisit cherished memories, what does that say about the new crop of rides?

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Interface Stack Model in Game Development

Today, I started programming a prototype for our upcoming Poopy Pirates educational adventure game. I haven't had much opportunity to work on games lately, what with all the PHP/mySQL stuff I've been doing, so it was fun getting into game development again.

Of course, since this is the rapid prototyping process, the goal is to get a playable approximation of the final game out as quickly as possible. Ideally, this is throw-away code, and when we go to build the final project, I'll be able to rewrite the game engine from the ground up from a complete design document. But realistically, chances are good that this will be pretty close to the final code, mod game asset swapping. So I find myself balancing between speed of development and flexibility for future use.

Thankfully, the Interface Stack Model that I used in Sacraments (detailed in a Director Online article I wrote) is a flexible and lean architecture that you can use for pretty much any game. It excels at allowing "exceptions" to intrude into the main game engine by popping up dialog boxes or cutscenes that pause the main action while you interact with the user. It's quick to set up and work with, works with any context - sprite-based 2D, Imaging Lingo 2D, 3D, or any combination of the three - and nicely compartmentalizes each game interface.

This is the first time I've used it beyond Sacraments, and it's already working very well, allowing me to easily and seamlessly drop in cutscenes from some exuberant rat commentators about what the player is doing without having to have any of the other code be aware of them taking over the interface while they talk. I'm pretty happy with this scheme.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

$300 LCD Projector

For Halloween last year, we put an LCD projector to good use, creating a haunted portrait that showed the tragic history of the Carnival of Souls. But we had many more ideas for how an LCD projector could be used. Unfortunately, LCD projectors are prohibitively expensive. Until now. Over on Tom's Hardware Guide, there are free instructions on building a high-lumin XGA projector for under $300. Let the haunting begin!

Monday, May 09, 2005

Mike Doyle Interview

In the latest issue of the Games Journal, there is an interview with Mike Doyle, an artist who does box art and component design for board games. While much of the article is specifically targeted at board games, there are some things that I think have relevance to the world of educational gaming as well. In particular, he talks about shedding the "stigma" that board games suffer under. Since educational games suffer under a similar stigma, it's worth a read.
"The world of games desperately needs to become relevant and desirable within our culture... With all the exciting facets these new games have to offer, publishers should be holding the keys to a lifestyle that people want to be part of."

More Corpse Bride News

Photo from the articleMoriarty over at AICN has posted an interesting article describing his visit to the set of the upcoming Tim Burton movie Corpse Bride. It includes some new information about the movie's plot and characters, so beware of spoilers. This movie keeps sounding better and better. (Photo detail from the article.)

Hilary Rosen's iPod

A post over at BoingBoing turned me on to the mother of all ironies : Hilary Rosen of the RIAA complaining about DRM. Seems she can't get her iPod to play nice with other music services. Ah, when she wants to do something with her music and someone else is doing the constraining, suddenly it's boo-hoo wah-wah me-me.

After lobbying the government to strip consumers of all rights to the media they purchase, and to criminalize even fair use of that media, it boggles the mind that she would be whining about this. The DMCA, which she helped usher in, made it illegal to create a device which could be used to freely pipe music around, which is exactly what she's complaining about not being able to do with her iPod. Locking out competitors is just a corollary - the business case for draconian music control is one of her own construction. If she hadn't helped kill the culture of mobile music, this wouldn't be an issue in this generation of portable music players.

The question is: is she actually this hypocritical? Or is she just too dim to understand that she is personally responsible, perhaps moreso than any other human on the face of the planet, for the frustrations she's having with this new era of complete music lockdown?

It's Official - Tolerance is "Too Controversial"

Apparently, CBS, UPN, and NBC are refusing to air a Church of Christ advertisement that basically says that "All Are Welcome," regardless of race or sexual orientation. The reasons given boil down to the idea that it is "too controversial." I wonder: did these networks decline to air the dubious-veracity "Swift Boat Veterans" attack ads too (for certainly those were controversial), or is this a policy of convenience to mirror prejudices of network executives?

Bumped Up to Tiger

I just bumped up to OSX 10.4, a.k.a. "Tiger," today. Nice. I particularly like KonfabulatorDashboard - I might have to make a widget or two for that. Spotlight looks like it will become very useful, and I already like the RSS reading features of the new Safari. Not sure if Automator is going to be as useful as I had hoped, but I didn't get much of a chance to poke at it yet, so there may be some real power lurking in there.

One little glitch: I had Entropy's installation of PHP5 running on my machine, and the installation broke it. Luckily, pasting the init lines back into the httpd.conf file and setting AllowOverrides back to their original values fixed it.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Carnival of Souls Radio?

We bought a new car this weekend up in Albuquerque, so my wife and I drove separate cars back to Las Cruces today. On the way back, she was listening to her iPod, and I was listening to mine.

The car stereo adapters for iPod that we have work like this: you select the frequency they broadcast on, and then you tune your car stereo to that frequency to listen to your music. I had assumed that the broadcast range wasn't very far, so that you wouldn't interfere with other cars and their iPod broadcasters.

But as luck would have it, my cheap-o battery powered adapter's batteries started dying about fifteen minutes south of Socorro. Hellbilly Deluxe started sounding like crap, with a lot of static and noise over it. So I just turned it off.

But a tap on the 'seek' button on the car stereo turned up my wife's iPod broadcasting her Angels and Demons audio book, clear as a bell. I found that I could lag back ten to fifteen seconds behind her and still have a good source.

So it appears that you could broadcast a radio program to your local neighborhood with just a cheap personal radio transmitter. Normally, this would be useless, but I'm thinking it might be a good way to scare up some anticipation for our Halloween festivities this year. If we were to put out a sign that says "Tune to 88.1" and stick an iPod on repeat with some pre-prepared radio dramas that describe the history of the "Carnival of Souls," perhaps intermixed with some awesomely spooky Midnight Syndicate tracks, then we might just kick-start the Halloween season early...

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Shake-up at Work

Our Dean called a meeting today with us to fill us in on some developments coming down the pipe for our unit. Basically, the university is moving towards a unified communications structure, which means that reporting lines are going to be changing.

Naturally, this sort of thing causes a lot of tension and apprehension. Is my job secure? Who will I be reporting to? What does this mean for what I do in my job? Thankfully, our Dean and Department Head were willing to sit down and tell us what they can tell us about what is happening, despite the hand-wringing that will ensue. I'd much prefer to hear frank and honest talk about what's going on, even if they can't tell us everything, than having to rely on rumor and speculation.

One of the things I like about working in Extension here at NMSU is that there is a culture of cooperation and service. A corollary to this, I believe, is open and honest communication. Maybe I'm being naive, but I don't feel that my job is in jeopardy. I'm good at what I do, there's more work to be done, not less, and I'm an active participant in many cross-college and cross-unit projects. So my personal apprehensions currently lie beyond my own job security.

One of the things I wonder about this change is whether this culture of service and straightforwardness will be preserved. On one hand, we have a different reporting structure, and presumably, different duties and clientele to go with it. Who knows what that will do to our workplace environment? But on the other hand, we're unifying our communications effort. Maybe we'll be able to extend our service culture beyond the borders of the College and start providing outreach services from the other colleges. Personally, I'd love to work on some outreach materials for the Math and English departments, maybe even children's shows on KRWG.

I don't know where the future is going to lead, and there are definitely going to be some down sides as I bid farewell to some of the people I've become accustomed to working with, but hopefully, there will be good things that come of this change, too. Maybe this is just a huge opportunity.

Director Online Wiki

For Director developers, there's a new resource for sharing and gleaning knowledge: the Director Online Wiki. Still in its infancy, there are lots of topics not fleshed out yet (notably, Shockwave3D). But considering the position of excellence that DOUG enjoys, it should get a healthy dose of content soon.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Copyright Merit Badges

In a shameless ploy to indoctrinate the young, the Motion Picture Association is handing out merit badges to Boy Scouts in exchange for regurgitating their draconian IP philosophy. First, sexism. Next, religious intolerance. Then, homophobia. Now, hostility to fair use. I wonder what the Boy Scout motto is going to look like in a few years: "A Scout is trustworthy to DRM, loyal to the MPAA, helpful to RIAA lawyers, friendly to copyright holders, obedient to the DMCA..."


BrowserCam is an online service that lets you point to a web page and get screenshots of its rendering on multiple platforms and browsers. At $20 a day (!!!!!) for the service, it's a bit on the steep side, but perhaps someone will come up with a more reasonably-priced alternative.

Rounded Corners Without Images

Wow. Someone figured out how to do CSS-clean rounded corners without using images. There's a lot of extra wrapping elements, but those can be added dynamically using Javascript so that the page content is semantically clean.

Great Quote

"The conquest of space is worth the risk of life."
- Astronaut Virgil I. Grissom, who died alongside astronauts White and Chaffee on January 27, 1967 from a flash fire on the Apollo spacecraft.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Bigoted Episcopal Priests Making Trouble for Conscientious Bishop

Few things irk me more than pseudo-clergy using God to justify hatred. Six Episcopal priests are grandstanding their defiance of a bishop who (*gasp*) allowed a gay man to become a priest two years ago.

They're, of course, framing it in a "It's wrong because God says so" context, but they fail to point out that this is the Old Testament God we're talking about here, the same genius who recommended that we stone to death women who are raped anywhere but out in the wilderness. (The idea being that if they're raped deep in the woods, they might have called for help, but no one might have heard to come to their aid.)

This on the heels of states like Florida and Texas banning gay people from adopting children. Because, you know, children are better off alone than with two loving mothers or fathers, and it's better to encourage abortions by having a tightly constrained adoption landscape than to have a surplus of homes for needy children.

And of course, let's not even get into all the whining and handwringing over gay marriage. For the life of me, I don't get why anyone would support a law that says we'd rather have your daughter marry Mike Tyson than Ellen Degeneres.

But what are you going to do? People need scapegoats, and they like to feel righteous. Homosexuals make good whipping boys nowadays because there's an obscure passage in the Bible which, if you interpret it in just the right way, puts God on your side (as long as you ignore that little bit about "Above all things, love.")

The Ancient Origins of Modern Board Games

NPR has a story on the Ancient Origins of Modern Board Games, or rather an exhibit on the topic currently on display at the Smithsonian, entitled Asian Games: The Art of Contest. Apparently, abstract games like Parcheesi and juvenile games like Chutes and Ladders came from much earlier Asian versions of games that held more than simple entertainment value. (Indeed, they even performed the role of guides to spiritual and bureaucratic success.)

Sunday, May 01, 2005


SiSSYFiGHT 2000 is a very simple, and yet oh-so-very-complex, multiplayer game which has incredibly simple rules, but which pulls those rules into a social context for much richer, much deeper, and much more interesting gameplay. This Shockwave-based gem has been around for years, but it apparently still has a strong following.