Thursday, July 31, 2014

Screenshot of the Day: Rome: Total War

Great formations, bad graphics.

Rome: Total War is a strategy game with both a world map where players build up cities and move armies, and a real-time strategy portion (shown above) in which battles are carried out. It's lauded as one of the best games in the Total War series, and the Roman setting is one I particularly enjoy.

Playing as Rome is great because you can conquer the known world while still following a generally historical course of operations. Players start out controlling just a few Italian cities, and can expand the Roman Empire as they please. The battles a surprisingly tactical, and small forces can triumph against the odds if they have better formations and organization.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Origins of Cereal

Once you see it, it can be surprising that you haven't noticed before. 'Cereal' comes from the name of the Roman goddess Ceres (Greek Demeter). Agriculture, especially the growing of grain, was Ceres' domain. The Latin word 'cerealis' roughly means 'something related to Ceres'.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Version 1.3

I have a brief update: we're back to a calming blue, and now there's a search bar. Try searching 'loophole' or 'cereal'. Don't search 'basket' or 'lamp'. The next items on my list are to make a new background image and write about baskets and lamps.

Friday, July 25, 2014

He Who Shoppeth At Walmart

Behold! who treads the Walmart aisle?
And 'twixt the tow'ring products strolls?
Who straight compareth with great guile
Off-brand and brand-name dinner rolls?

He lurketh 'neath the mayonnaise
And casts his eye obliquely 'round
He does the can of Spam appraise
And reckons well the price per pound

He standeth straight in longing line
To checketh out his Poptart s'mores
'Tis asked of him, "How is your day?"
Respondeth he: "Fine. How is yours?"

He exiteth with bags in hand
And starteth home with stable stride
His mission done save for one thing:
To put his fridge his cheese inside

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Science Facts: Slowest-Flowering Plant

The slowest-flowering plant in the world is the bromeliad Puya raimondii (pineapples are also bromeliads). P. raimondii grows in the mountains of Bolivia and can take up to 150 years to produce flowers. This late bloomer is about 3 meters tall, but the flower cluster it eventually produces can up to 10 meters tall. Is it worth the wait?

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

7_Dan_7 Part 3

7_Dan_7 sighed and began to pick his way back home, covered in mud. His parents had been killed in a huge update when he was only six, and he had lived alone in the temple attic ever since. Father Aerick, the priest, had tried to take care of him, but more often than not, 7_Dan_7 was left to fend for himself. Alt1tude’s gang was making fun of him more often than not, but to be honest, they often had a point. 7_Dan_7 wasn’t a wimp, he just… wasn’t good at very many things. There had been that time when he tried out fishing and had somehow gotten stuck in his own net, and then there was his adventure into firemaking that resulted in the fiery demise of three trees and a sheep. 7_Dan_7 just seemed to fall short in whatever he did.
With a sigh, 7_Dan_7 slipped through the temple doors and began heading upstairs to his room. Father Aerick was sleeping in one of the pews as a random stranger in full armor played a tune on the organ. People often did that, walking in and playing the organ for no discernable reason. 7_Dan_7 had once asked Father Aerick why, to which the priest only replied, “They do it for the lulz, Dan.”

7_Dan_7 sighed again as he climbed into bed. He hadn’t had a single lol in the past week, especially with Alt1tude strutting around everywhere. More than anything, 7_Dan_7 wanted to belong, but every day he just felt like the background scenery in someone else’s story. 7_Dan_7 sighed once more and eventually fell asleep.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Tricorn Hats

Three-cornered 'tricorn' hats were apparently invented in Flanders by Spanish soldiers tired of rainy Flemish weather. Made by binding the rim of a wide-brimmed hat to the crown in three places, tricorn hats provide channels for rainwater which apparently sent most rainwater streaming back over the shoulders instead of into the face.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Screenshot of the Day: Minecraft

Welcome to my mountain-castle.

Minecraft is a block-based game about creation, exploration, and survival. It also happens to be the best-selling computer game of all time, clocking in at 16,000,000 sales (World of Warcraft is next highest with 14,000,000). I would guess that Minecraft's massive popularity is probably because of three things: the huge range of things to do, the feeling of ownership and creation, and the easiness of introducing other people to it.

When you start a game of Minecraft, you're dropped into a world with no items and no great indication as to what to do. Do you want to climb to the top of that mountain? Go ahead. Do you want to pick those flowers and throw them at NPC villagers, or do you want to dive into that lake and punch that squid? Sure. Do you want to build a massive skull castle into that cliff face and surround it with a moat of lava? Now you're talking. Now, the reason that Minecraft isn't a completely directionless sandbox is that you do need to survive, battling hunger and zombies alike (at least in survival mode). I built the castle pictured above as a refuge from monsters in the night, and it's kept me mostly safe so far.

Next is the sense of ownership that comes from living and building in a unique world. Minecraft worlds are procedurally generated, so you know that all the jungles, plains, and villages you come across are unique to you. You're the only person who's ever built in your world, and as a result, the creations you make feel more special.

Lastly, Minecraft is a great game to talk to other people about. Most players have lots of stories about adventures they've been on and lots of screenshots of architectural wonders they've created. The creative side of Minecraft makes it one of the most, a-ha, constructive games out there, and spending twenty hours in Minecraft feels a lot more justifiable (to me, at least) than spending twenty hours playing through a bog-standard RPG or other such game. To top it all off, a popular and easy-to-use multiplayer mode means that friends have the chance to play and build together.

It's a pretty great game.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Hue, Saturation, and Brightness

Now we're cooking with charcoal.

I've been learning about color recently. As I understand, color has three dimensions: hue, saturation, and brightness. To make the arrangement seen above, I started with the pure blue at the top middle: a specific hue, completely saturated and bright.

To the left, the saturation decreases. The leftmost column is the least saturated or the most 'washed out'. To the right hue (measured in frequency) increases, resulting in purple at the far right. From top to bottom, brightness decreases. Different brightnesses produce different 'shades' of color.

In short, hue determines the color of the color, saturation determines the intensity of the color, and brightness determines the shade of the color.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Brief Explanation

Bad internet is usually bad for a blog. I'm writing this outside in one spot where I can access the internet, and fireflies are trying to make love to my LCD screen. I hope to regain full internet soon, and resume regular posting. Look for me at first light on the fifth day. At dawn, look to the east.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Science Facts: Largest Single-Celled Organism

The world's largest single-celled organism is the Syringammina fragilissima, a spongy aquatic organism that can measure up to 20 cm across. There's been some confusion as to what kingdom this sort of organism belongs to.

Friday, July 11, 2014

7_Dan_7 Part 2

7_Dan_7 ran, stumbling in the mud and occasionally glancing back at the angry cow lumbering after him. He was only fourteen, but in more trouble than anyone his level ought to be. Sprinting towards the nearest fence, he leapt and almost made it all the way over, catching his foot and tumbling to the ground on the other side.
The enraged cow paced back and forth on the other side of the fence, then gave up and resumed grazing. 7_Dan_7 wiggled on the ground a little, then gingerly picked himself up. He was standing face to face with Alt1tude, the biggest kid in the neighborhood.
Alt1tude and his pals were collectively a few shards short of a godsword, but their slightly dense word was enforced as law in the cowfields north of Lumbridge. Alt1tude looked 7_Dan_7 up and down. “You’re the biggest n00b I’ve ever seen, 7_Dan_7.”
His cronies joined in. “Yeah, go back to Tutorial Island.”
“Can’t even fight a cow!”
“Your DPS is lower than everyone’s health regen rate!”

Alt1tude clapped a hand on 7_Dan_7’s shoulder and pulled him close. “Go fight a chicken, bro.” The Alt1tude gang exploded into laughter and high-fived all round as they ambled away, around the barn. A second later, Alt1tude poked his head around the corner. “Seriously, bro, you can get a lot of money from the feather drops. N00b.”

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Fun With Editing

"You are all alone, and then suddenly you aren't; you are face to face with the biggest Wahoo you've ever seen. "

I've been editing a lot of articles over  the past week, and while I'm sure that editing is very boring when the original author has a firm grasp on the English language, I've been fortunate enough to come across dozens of mistakes on every page. Sometimes sentences are completely unintelligible, and that's when it's most fun.

When you have no idea what a sentence is trying to say, you have to start thinking from the author's point of view, imagining all the thoughts that could have been crossing their mind as they wrote their automobile accident of a sentence. What does it mean to come face to face with a Wahoo? Does this person mean that you're alone and then you're excited? Are they talking about a surprise birthday party?

Funnily enough, it turns out that the example sentence I've quoted above is actually correct (except for the first comma and the capital 'W'). The paragraph was about the joys of diving, and a wahoo is a type of large tropical fish. It's the best feeling of all when the puzzle pieces finally fit together.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

7_Dan_7 Part 1

Smoke rose over Lumbridge town and the cries of a baby pierced the morning air. The proud parents of the newborn smiled down at their child. “Have you thought of a name for him?” asked the midwife Victoria.
The new mother glanced at her husband. “We thought… Daniel.”
Victoria nodded and started leafing through a well-worn book. “Daniel… sorry, that username’s already taken.”
The father sighed. “How about Daniel01?”
“Let me see… taken.”
“Dan_the_Man?” suggested the mother, a worried look on her face.
“Also taken.”
The father put his arm around his wife. “I’m sure all the sensible names have been used already.”
The mother nodded, then perked up. “I know—how about 7_Dan_7?”
Victoria flipped through the username book. “That one’s free.”
“Why sevens, dear?” asked the father.

“It’s lucky,” she said, cradling 7_Dan_7 in her arms. “Our boy is going to be lucky.”

Monday, July 7, 2014

5 Things To Do With Spaghetti Sauce

It's that time of week again-- you know, when the bread is just running out but you still have lots of peanut butter and spaghetti sauce and a little bit of cheese. What to do?

1. Make little pizzas with the sauce and some cheese on top of anything starchy.

2. Eat the spaghetti sauce plain.

3. Make an omelette with spaghetti sauce both inside and served as a topping.

4. Mix spaghetti sauce with flour to make a sort of tomato dough.

5. Do anything that doesn't involve mixing the spaghetti sauce with the peanut butter. Not a good idea.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Screenshot of the Day: Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning

The guard changes at midnight in Genericville.

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is an action RPG set in a standard fantasy world. It's a shame when 'standard' and 'fantasy' belong side by side, but that's the feeling I eventually got from this game. It does everything from being sent on a mission by a dying old man to having a humble village guarded by men in full armor. I usually still enjoy these 'standard' RPGs, but two things ultimately ended my run through Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning. First of all, the art style didn't really click with me and, in my uninformed opinion, made the game feel a lot less exciting than it should have been. The chunky characters and cartoony villages made me feel like I was in a world where nothing was edgy or unique. Secondly, all enemies respawn. If I go out questing and kill a giant spider, that spider will be back in its place in a day or two. Kingdoms of Amalur isn't necessarily a bad game, but nothing about it convinced me that it was really worth my time.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Origins of Cheese

The origin of the word 'cheese' seems to be less linear than many. The Old English term was 'cese' (still pronounced something like 'cheese'), which came from the Latin 'caseus', but 'cheese' was also influenced by the Dutch 'kaas' and German 'kase'. It's a whole mess of an etymology.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Hiring Difficulties

Good day, young sir, take off your coat, and please pull up a chair
We're building a new website as I'm sure that you're aware
What you will do is write for us eight hundred words a day
We're starting up, so just for now there won't be any pay

Ah, where's he gone? But as I say, there's more fish in the sea
There just are not that many who'll do a job for free

Good day, young miss, please sit right down; meeting you's delighting
I take it I am right to say you're here about the writing?
An easy job! Please right away your thousand words commence!
If what you write is good we'll pay a dollar fifty cents

Another gone, but as I say, you cannot catch them all
But soft! I think another person's just about to call

Good day, good chap, you're writing's good, as I've seen from your samples
But to assure it's really good, please send us more examples
A couple posts should do it, and if I like what I see
I'll pay a nifty dollar for good blog post number three

Ah well, three options down, but soft! I've got a feeling funny
That someone'll take me up because they really need the money

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

All About Compound Bows

For surprisingly interesting reasons, I've been learning a lot about compound bows over the past few days and it's a fascinating field to study. To the outside observer, most compound bows are pretty much the same, being united in the goal of making an arrow go really fast. When one begins to look under the carpet, though, one sees vast plains of difference between round wheel cams and hard cams, and an archer using a bow with a 7" brace height would call you stark raving mad for suggesting an 8".

Compound bows use pulleys, or cams, to create a force curve that means faster arrows and an easier time holding the string when the bow is fully drawn. In other words, compound bows improve on the abilities of longbows with the only real drawback (haha) being the perception that compound bows are for wusses. On the other hand, while bow hunters may be laughed at by knife hunters, they can all laugh together at rifle hunters, so it's not a bad situation to be in.

I had written about 1500 words on the technicalities of compound bows when I zoomed back out and came to the zen realization that they all make the arrows go fast, and maybe there isn't that big a difference between an 80% let-off and a 65% let-off. All these small things matter, of course, but I'm happy to report that they don't really matter to me anymore. I can move on to composite bows now; I hear it's a whole different target range over there.