Comings and goings

Yesterday I drove to Sumerville (on the outskirts of Boston) and met Snooj at Good Time Emporium, an arcade/bowling alley/bar. I met Snooj and Kyle there.

From there Snooj and I went to eat at the 99 (Kyle stayed at the arcade), we were running late so had to kinda scarf our food down.

Then we drove around Sumerville looking for parking, and then walked to the Sumerville Theatre for the They Might Be Giants show.

I was a bit worried because we got there like 25 minutes late (the Sumerville Theatre directions recommend taking public transportation, since parking is so hard to find), but luckily there was an opening act, we got there just as they finished and had 15 minutes or so to relax before TMBG came on.

It was a good show, we had seats just about as far back as possible, balcony, last row, but we could see ok. They played a good variety of songs, and came on for two encores. During the intro song everyone was invited to stand up, and everyone remained standing for the whole show, which was fine, but I think Snooj’s legs got tired, he had been playing In The Groove 2 (spiritual successor to Dance Dance Revolution) for a while beforehand at the arcade.

After the show we went back to the arcade, played a few games. I played some Police 911 (quite a workout, it’s a gun game where you physically dodge for cover by ducking and moving your body side to side), Fast and the Furious (with motion seat), Tetris (kicked Kyle’s ass), and Soul Caliber 2.

Then it was time to drive back home. Snooj and Kyle followed me, since they were coming by to crash on the couch and floor at my place. Got home around 2am, got to bed about 3am, then had to get up at 4:45am and drive Adam to the Logan Express bus in Framingham. Got back home around 6am, slept until 9:30am.

Made Hastings Cakes (hollandaise flavored) for everyone for breakfast, hung out with Snooj and Kyle until 11am when they had to head out.

Now I’m finishing up my packing and Dave was nice enough to agree to drive me to the Logan Express in Framingham at 4pm.

I’ll catch the 5pm bus, get to the airport around 6, giving me plenty of time till my plane leaves at 8:30.

Then I’ll get to Vegas at about midnight Vegas time, which is 3am EST.

Busy busy busy is what we Bokononists whisper whenever we think of how complicated and unpredictable the machinery of life really is.”
-Cat’s Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut

-Winnie-the-Pooh, A.A. Milne

Magic Medicine

Ok, so this is the coolest story I’ve heard in a while… I’ve read about this being done with mice before, but this is the first human case I’ve seen.

Basically, this guy accidentally lops an inch off the tip of his finger. His brother, who is a medical researcher, sends him some powder and tells him to apply it to the finger.

A month later, the finger has completely regrown. Flesh, blood, vessels and nail, regrown in 4 weeks.

And this happened over two years ago.

The powder? An extract of pig bladder, called an extracellular matrix, which triggers the body to regrow itself.

Needless to say, there are a lot of interested parties, and tests are underway to see if it will regrow bones, removed cancerous areas, burned skin, whole fingers, heart tissue, and a number of other things.

The military, who happens to find itself with a whole lot of recently wounded soldiers, is going to test regrowing fingers that have been blown off. In theory, a whole limb could be regrown.

It’s things like this that make me think that maybe medicine is finally making some serious progress.

No longer a student!

I just paid off the last $200 on my student loans!

It took me like 10 years to pay it all… I was only paying like $100 a month, since it was fairly low interest, so was in no rush to pay it off ahead of other debt.

Now now my debt’s just down to house, car, and a bit on a credit card.

Paying off the car would be nice, since the payments on that are evil (think the number of the beast) – basically the previous car loan got rolled into the current one, so it’s very expensive. However, to pay it off I’d have to cash in some of my stock options, which I’m loathe to do when the market is so crappy.

Might logic prevail?

Finally, some intelligent discussion of video games and their impact on children (even though the book has a rather sensationalist title).

“Video game popularity and real-world youth violence have been moving in opposite directions. Violent juvenile crime in the United States reached a peak in 1993 and has been declining ever since. School violence has also gone down. Between 1994 and 2001, arrests for murder, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assaults fell 44 percent, resulting in the lowest juvenile arrest rate for violent crimes since 1983.”

Part of a 3-part writeup on the upcoming book “Grand Theft Childhood: The Surprising Truth About Violent Video Games”

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

It’s in the cards

Playing Eye of Judgement rekindled my interest in card games… not to my college level of forgoing sleep to play cards games all night, but definitely got me thinking about them again.

I’ve started working on a card game of my own design, kind of like the classic Mille Bornes with a medical twist.
When I have it more fleshed out I’ll need to playtest and refine it.

Who knows, if it turns out decently, maybe I’ll even have it printed commercially.

Eye of Judgement

I recently got Eye of Judgement for the Playstation 3. Actually, it’s the only game disc I own for the PS3 – I bought a few small downloadable games, but Eye of Judgement is the first “real” game I bought.

Eye of Judgement interested me for a few reasons:

  • It’s a card game along the lines of Magic, also by Wizards of the Coast
  • It uses augmented reality in a mass-market game
  • It comes with the Playstation Eye, the PS3 webcam

First off, the bundle:

On Amazon, it’s $45 for the game, which comes bundled with the Playstation Eye (PSeye). $45 for a game and a webcam is pretty cheap. I think if you buy the webcam by itself, it’s $30. It comes with the game, PSeye, game mat, stand for the PSeye, starter deck, and one booster pack.

Probably the reason the whole thing is so cheap is they expect to make it up in booster pack sales. As with Magic: the Gathering, it’s all about getting a bunch of good cards, and building a deck from them that works well. Booster packs are pretty pricey, $4 for 8 cards.

The setup:

You assemble the stand, attach the PSeye to the stand, plug the PSeye into the PS3, and lay the game mat under the PSeye. You want a well-lit area, since the primary premise here is that the PSeye can see which cards are being played, and have the game react accordingly.

This setup is easy enough in my bedroom, but if I ever want to set it up in my living room, I’ll have to hook up some kind of powered USB extension to reach across the room to the coffee table.

The basic operation:

The cards have two main features, as far as the PSeye is concerned: oversized black bars at the top and bottom of the card, and green triangles on the sides of the card. The black bars act as an oversized barcode to let the PS3 determine which card it is, and the green triangles allow the PS3 to know the orientation of the card.

There is a test mode, where you can hold a card and view it as a rendered pop-up. It shows the video feed from the PSeye, with a 3D model of the monster from that card overlayed on the video feed, scaled and rotated so it appears to be standing on the card. You can move and rotate the card and the 3D model updates reasonably quickly. You can tilt the card slightly from side to side, but since the marks on the card have to be clearly in camera, you can’t tilt it that far.

This test mode is the most traditional use of augmented reality, but in actual gameplay the entire video feed is covered, so isn’t such direct AR.

The game:

The game is played on the 3×3 grid of the game mat. The object is to have a creature card in 5 of the 9 squares at the end of your turn (thus controlling a majority of the board). Since there are only 9 potential places to play, the game play is much shorter and more strategic than a game of Magic, which could easily last over an hour. Typical Eye of Judgement games last about 20 minutes, though that’s just an estimate, I didn’t actually time them.

I won’t go into all the details of gameplay, but it’s very strategic. Each square has a type, and each card has a type, so where you play the card is very important. Creatures also have strong sides and weak sides, so the direction the card is facing when you play it is important as well.

So far, I pretty much suck. I’m playing against the computer on the easiest setting, and most of the time I lose. However, I only just started playing, so hopefully after some practice I’ll suck a lot less. =)


I just noticed the price on Amazon has gone from $45 to $65… not as great a deal, but still not too bad for a game and a webcam.

The dwindling light of a golden age

All my favorite authors are, one by one, shuffling off this mortal coil.

Shel Silverstein, Roald Dahl, Dr. Suess, Issac Asimov, Douglas Adams, Kurt Vonnegut… the list goes on and on…

and now, Arthur C. Clarke.

“I want to be remembered most as a writer.

If I have given you delight,
by aught that I have done,
let me lie quiet in that night,
which shall be yours anon:

And for the little, little, span
The dead are born in mind,
Seek not to question other than
The books I leave behind.”

-Arthur C. Clarke’s farewell message, recorded last year.

A great enlightened man, not just writing about the future, but helping to create it.

Ray Bradbury’s still alive, at 87… Ursula K Leguin is still knocking about at 78… but most of the other authors I grew up with seem to be dropping like flies of late.

On the plus side, the simple fact that they are authors means that a chunk of their wit and imagination will last forever, trapped in the amber of books.