Larry Hosken: New

Rock Breaks Scissors

Human brains give us amazing intuition. That is to say, they've evolved some pretty great shortcuts. But those same shortcuts make our brains stumble in some situation. This book points out some of these.

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2014-10-30T02:05:41

I played the computer game Hack 'n' Slash and it was pretty fun. It's that game where you get to change the game's program as you play through it. (I guess it's also a platform by which you can create a whole new version of the game if you change it "enough".) You start out with a sword that lets you change some of the game's variables. If a bad turtle attacks you, you can touch it with the sword and change "bad" to "good" and suddenly that turtle is nice. But if you accidentally bump into that turtle, it still hurts… but if you touch the turtle with the sword and change its damage from 1 to -1, the next time you bump into that turtle you'll be healed instead.

Later on in the game, you pick up an item that lets you edit event-handler methods. You can't change everything about them, but you can change some aspects. To get past some traps, you must disable the code that makes them work. This makes for some fun puzzles. You can't just delete the contents of the traps' event handlers. But sometimes you can change the functions they call: turn a game-ending crash into a harmless print; change an if greater than to if less than to confuse things. For any given puzzle, there's probably more than one way past it; as you monkey with the code and see how the game reacts, the solution you find depends on which part of the code you monkeyed with first.

The game is on Steam. In its community section on Steam there's also a nice walkthrough, so you won't get stuck, even if you *blush* have trouble spotting portals at the top of the screen. Fun game. Check it out.

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2014-10-30T02:02:16

Tonight's Adventure Design Group presentation was about The Go Game. They got their start around here. Thus, it wasn't 100% surprising when founder Finn mentioned early on talking with Alexandra Dixon at the CNYTH. Yes, my team captain Alexandra Dixon. She warned him: it's a tough business to make money in.

Perhaps causatively, perhaps coincidentally, the next part of the talk was about how The Go Game steered away from "Mensa-type challenges" towards activities that 90% or more of teams could complete. (So let's see, 150+ teams have solved the first puzzle of Octothorpean in 2014, but only 19 have solved the big metapuzzle and hmmm.) It sounds like lately the founders have had to concentrate more on the business-y aspects, and entrusted the gamerunner-employees with the Game-y aspects. It's a new set of challenges—turning the business into an employee-friendly place.

Not much turnout this evening, maybe 25 folks; I think a lot of folks watched the potentially-but-as-it-turns-out-not last game of the World Series instead.

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2014-10-30T02:03:32

Book Report: Hatching Twitter

(Have I mentioned lately that I don't speak for my employer? This would be a good time to mention that. I read this book about Twitter's history. It tells a fairly sad story. Sad enough such that I find myself prefixing this book report with disclaimers and disclosures. You might think I have special knowledge of the facts, but I don't. The book's story is from before my time.)

Twitter grew out of a company called Odeo. In the early years of these companies, there was a lot of CEO turnover. Before you read this book, you might be curious how so many CEOs came to be ousted. By the time you're done reading, you might wonder how these guys stood each other as long as they did; their personalities seem sure to clash. After reading the story, I kept looking backwards, trying to figure out where things went wrong. Maybe Ev shouldn't have invested in his friend/neighbor's startup. Which, allegedly, Ev knew he shouldn't do. Or maybe that's me trying to tack some kind of tragic-hero narrative flow on top of the ensuing mess.

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2014-10-28T04:05:03

Assumption school exists.
The jokes practically write themselves.

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2014-10-26T23:08:01

Book Report: Sailing a Serious Ocean

If you want to sail around the world and/or across big oceans, this book probably is a good introduction to how to think about planning, dealing with heavy weather, emergency boat repairs, etc. If you don't want to sail around the ocean, this book will remind you why. Things can go from calm to bad to worse pretty quickly. There are some scary storm stories which I was glad to read on dry land.

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2014-10-25T23:14:07

"It turns out they were images of the tape records written by a Cedar Mesa program called the Archivist. Luckily, when the 9-track tapes were transferred to 8mm tapes, a file called rosetta.tar containing the Archivist source code plus some documentation was included on each tape. Once I obtained a copy of rosetta.tar I was able to write a program that “dearchived” the tape records, recreating a set of file directories."

–Paul McJones, "Dusty Decks: Xerox Alto file server archive"

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2014-10-25T02:21:46

Book Report: Maps To The Other Side (The Adventures of a Bipolar Cartographer)

Maps to the Other Side is a memoir. If you're looking for straight up cartography, you won't find it. But if you're looking for a community organizer, organic farmer, mental health activist… you're in luck.

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2014-10-23T13:41:36

Sometimes, New Comic Day means buying new comics.

And sometimes it means Erik Larsen is hanging out at Isotope showing some so-new-it's-not-yet-for-sale big Savage Dragon art.

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2014-10-23T02:48:52

Book Report: The Maze of Games

The Maze of Games is a puzzle extravaganza: about 52 puzzles leading up to four meta-puzzles leading up to another meta, along with some bonus puzzles. The variety was fun; and on those few occasions when "variety" meant that there was a puzzle of a type I don't enjoy, the meta-puzzles forgave me and let me go on with partial data. (Well, the four meta-puzzles along the way. The biiiig meta-puzzle at the end, uhm, I haven't made any progress on that. Maybe that one requires complete data; I looked at it a while and put it down.)

(I signed up for this book as a Kickstarter. At about the same time, I also signed up for another Kickstarter, the Year of Puzzles. That project periodically sends out puzzles. It's also leading up to a meta-puzzle. But I probably won't even try that meta-puzzle. I printed out and solved those puzzles as they came in, over the course of months… and now those printouts are scattered. It was pretty nice that the Maze of Games arrived as a big book; it forced me to keep everything together. Hmm, maybe I should wait for the Year of Puzzles to finish, and then do it all at once so I don't lose track of my notes again. Anyhow: book form factor, handy.)

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2014-10-21T12:44:55

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