Archive for the ‘Thoughts’ Category

More Palindromes

9 February, 2008

“Wolf flow” (sounds scary, though I don’t know what it is)

“Draw a ward” (maybe a magical instruction?)

Both of these sound like they need some more words in them to be really good.   So maybe they’re just seeds of some longer palindromes.

Further thought: palindromes are pretty cool units of language.  Repeating a palindromic phrase any number of times creates another palindrome — so “wolf flow wolf flow” is a palindrome, as is “wolf flow wolf flow wolf flow” and so on.  (I wonder if there’s any palindrome that still makes some sense after an arbitrary number of repetitions….)  Also, if one considers two palindromes ‘A’ and ‘B’, combining them yields a new palindrome as long as A and B are in palindromic order — ABA will be a palindrome, as will will BAAB or ABAAABA.  Somewhat mathematical bits of English, palindromes are (which maybe explains why nerdy folks like them so much).


2 December, 2007

Given there’s a limited number of short combinations of letters, and a much greater number of complex ideas that people want to express succinctly, there’s bound to be overlap in acronyms.

Confusion about acronyms is less common than I would expect.  Partly this is because certain acronyms practially become words unto themselves — such as LASER, SCUBA, and even USSR or USA.  of context.  Context also helps avoid confusion: the surrounding information helps to distinguish between PC as ‘personal computer’ or as ‘politically correct.’

I also realized there’s a temporal element to avoiding confusion.  As recently as a few years ago, if someone referenced a video game as AC, one could assume they meant Asheron’s Call.  Now, they’ll almost certainly be talking about Assassin’s Creed.

I assume some linguist, somewhere, has studied the lifetime of a meaning for an acronym.

Interactivity and Choice

1 December, 2007

Some of the recent bifurcation of opinions about Assassin’s Creed got me thinking.  Some reviewers are marking the game down because there isn’t much variety of gameplay.  Other internet denizens are (essentially) saying that the process of trying to streamline the game to finish it faster decreases the fun of the game.  The game reviewers, they say, are playing it with the wrong mindset.

This disagreement points out one of the subtle misconceptions about games.  Players (or at least I, as a player) want interactivity in a game, but don’t want an overabundance of options.  The player’s actions should have an effect, but what actions can be performed, what things can be affected, should be constrained.  From what I’ve seen, Assassin’s Creed is a game with a lot of interactivity, as the main character can touch and take advantage of the environment in many ways, with a plethora of context-sensitive actions.  It’s also a game with a lot of choice in regards to how to approach the missions in the game.

One reason the two camps of opinion can’t see eye to eye is because they’re not separating the game’s interactivity and the choices it provides.  The reviewers apparently chose options that effectively limited their interactivity with the game, and it became repetitive.  Others just tried to interact with the game as much as possible, and the un-fun choices became invisible and, in fact, disappear entirely.

Maybe there is a game design flaw in Assassin’s Creed, but I doubt it’s what the reviewers are claiming.  The flaw may not be that the game is repetitive per se, but that it allows the player to choose to make the game repetitive.  Certainly it seems to be that if you play the game as intended, Assassin’s Creed is great.  The question is if you’ll play it as intended or not.

Living in the Internet

25 November, 2007

This mass of computers and electrons that we think of as the internet is an odd thing.  I often think of it as something to be consumed (in the sense of TV and books — not like cake and sandwiches).  Because I fundamentally interact with so little of the internet, and that interaction mostly as consumer, I forget how much someone, anyone, can affect the course of online events.  I’m impressed and gladdened by how Desert Bus for Hope has galvanized so many people to do good, and how every individual contribution really matters.

I also forget, sometimes, that there are people behind all the webpages — and even that I know some of them.  I’ve been busy enough over the last month that I haven’t been regularly checking the websites that I normally read every day.  So, I’ll take the opportunity now to say thanks to Chad for this.  It means a lot to see written down the feelings of friend like Chad (not that they need to be written down — but that sentiment is).  So, I’ll try even harder to keep up with the Middle Name blogging, and try to use the comment feature more regularly.  I do both want to affect (that is, encourage) and effect (that is, make a difference to) Chad’s webpage and life as much as he has for mine.

It’s sad that we’re not on the same coast, Chad.  But at least we are on the same internet.

Hollywood Hills and New England Fog

25 November, 2007

To those not from Los Angeles, Hollywood movies can seem to take place in an otherworld, unknown geography.  The most striking example of this isn’t the presence of palm trees, but the hilltop vista overlooking a city of twinkling lights.  Such a view does not exist for many people in the country (especially those in the less densely populated and flatter Midwest).  Hollywood movies end up having an air of unreality about them – as if they can’t ever fully relate to the everyday world of the viewer.

I wonder if there’s a similar effect for denizens of desert climates and video games.  The nigh ubiquitous fog that limits players’ view of the world makes sense to me, as a New Englander.  Fog that clouds the edges of the world is frequent, and heavier fog is not unheard of.  But, for someone who hasn’t experienced such severe haze, I wonder if video games have an extra sense of unearthliness that I don’t sense.

Computer Input

26 October, 2007


Sometime over the past twenty years or so, there was a shift in thinking of computer users.  The two primary inputs for computers – keyboard and mouse – have switched places in people’s minds as to which is the more intuitive input.  In previous years, computer users could grasp typing just fine (even if the letter appearing on a screen was just short of magic), but explaining a mouse was difficult.  There was this issue of mentally mapping: you push forward to move the cursor on the screen upward.


Nowadays the mouse is the assumed easy input.  Casual online games will often be designed to use only mouse input.  Including any keyboard input (even if only the unmistakable arrow keys) means that fewer people will be able to ‘get’ the game easily.


I’m not entirely sure why this shift happened.  I suspect that mouse input is actually more intuitive and easier to understand.  Keyboards were only more immediately graspable because people were already familiar with typewriters.  Now that people are using computers first (rather than re-learning word processing from typewriters), we’re seeing mouses as the preferred simple input.

On Wisdom Teeth

23 September, 2007

Having one’s wisdom teeth removed is a sort of rite of passage.  It’s something that most people in our society will go through at some point.  One feature a lot of these rite (be they weddings or college graduations) is that they aren’t particularly interesting to people who haven’t gone through the process, but to those who are about to perform the rite or have performed the rite, any and all stories of the rite are engrossing.

I think there should be a website that just collects stories about people’s wisdom tooth extraction.  (There do appear to be individual stories on different blogs, but no compendium appears to exist.)

I had three of my four wisdom teeth removed a little over a year ago.  I just discovered some notes I wrote to my wife in the few hours after the operation, before I could talk with any comfort.  Alas, this text can’t quite convey the charm of the handwritten words — clearly written with both careful concentration and sloppy through the recovering fog of drugs — and penned the back of a doctor’s prescription note.

“I totally can’t feel my tongue.”

“I have teeth”

“Can you ask about the sneezing thing?”

“There’s something about how I’m supposed to sneeze.”

“I think it’s on their website.”

“So … they only took out the left ones?”

“We’ve got new prescriptions?”

“Can you ask when I should come in or the other side?”  (Yes, depite the progression toward clearer thought, I forgot the f in for.)

“When it hurts?”

“Some other time?”

This reminds me: I should make an appointment to have my last wisdom tooth removed.

Rage modifiers

15 April, 2007

There’s regular rage (or hate, or passion, or a variety of other emotions and states).  And you can have pure, unbridled rage.  Can you have impure, unbridled rage?  What about pure, bridled rage? I’m pretty sure you could have pure rage and unbridled rage alone.  Maybe?

I wrote a haiku while eating some fruit

8 April, 2007

Plums are like cherries
Only a little bigger
And they taste diff’rent

Cartoon Attractiveness

6 April, 2007

Cartoon characters are generally attractive — in many cases unrealistically so.  However, I would claim that this is not just wish fulfillment or objectification.  The nature of cartoons themselves may actually contribute to their attractiveness.  Namely:

1) Symmetry is easier to draw.  As I recall from the news or from a science museum, body and facial symmetry are attractive.  I would also claim that drawing an asymmetric character and having that character not look goofy (or just plain wrong) is a lot harder than drawing a symmetric character.  So attractiveness is easier to draw.
2) Artists accentuate differences.  A reader or viewer needs to be able to tell characters apart, and so the artist needs to be able to make differences obvious.  One way to do this is by accentuating the differences between males and females — clearly delineating two groups of characters.  So, males will gain larger muscles and squarer jaws, while women will gain larger breasts and hips.  (Increasing ‘male-ness’ and ‘female-ness’ also serves to highlight the sexual or romantic tension that exists in lots of comics, and thus a character or story reason beyond just ‘big gazongas sell comics.’)
3) Clear skin.  Clear skin, free of blemishes, is a sign of health and attractiveness.  Cartoons convey a person with few lines and colors compared to reality.  Similar to a soft focus in film, or airbrushed pictures, the uniformity in color in a cartoon creates the impression of good skin.  An artist will draw a face or a leg without wrinkles or pores, making it inherently better looking.

It’ll be interesting to see if more sophisticated computer generated characters will affect these traits.