Posts

Thimbleweed Park and Deponia

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Point-and-click adventure games were a refined art form in the 90s. Sierra, Lucasfilm, and Delphine would crank out games with elaborate stories, great puzzles, and gorgeous backdrops.

Sierra was known for its biting humor and frequent unpredictable deaths (in Space Quest III, if you just happened to pick up a piece of metal on the very first screen, you'd bleed to death). Lucasfilm took the opposite way and tried to avoid any kind of dead end, frequently mocking Sierra in the process. Delphine had nice tech, great music by Jean Baudlot, although its pixel hunting sucked (some objects had miniscule hotspots that were frustratingly hard to find, and missing them would steer you into a dead end many hours of gameplay later).

The genre slowly died out towards the next millennium to the point of near extinction, and I was excited to see that two point-and-clickers popped up in the past few years! Better still, one of them was helmed by Ron Gilbert, the mastermind behind many of the ic…

For whom the bell toils

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The site reliability engineers, the great folks at Google who keep the servers running day and night, have a term for it: Toil.

This term refers to the tedious tasks that are part of daily routines, and the SRE have one mission: Eliminate it.

I remember back in 1999 when we worked on Mission: Impossible for the first Sony PlayStation. We had a bunch of audio files, but they didn't sound powerful enough, so one of us (poor Ivo ended up drawing the short straw) needed to fix each file.

The audio tool had batching support, but as always, we were in a hurry, nobody was familiar with how to set it up, we were worried that some of the files might get ruined by the batching without us noticing, so we chose doing it manually instead. So Ivo ended up opening hundreds of files, one by one, choosing the compressor option, and saving the file.

Today, this would be unthinkable for me. People are unreliable and suck. The more can be automated, the better. I started moving as many of my menial t…

Spartan Ultra Beast

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You probably remember my post about mud runs. Over the past few years, I've developed a comfort zone of obstacle races - I found a level of intensity I feel confident with. I'm doing a Beast or two a year, a couple of Tough Mudders, that's it. Each one is about 12 miles, takes 3-4 hours to complete. I might get a bit tired afterwards, but it's become routine at this point.

And that is not a good thing.

You don't want to remain in your comfort zone at all times. You need to push yourself. This has been my philosophy for a while, and I came to the realization that this is exactly the time when I need to put it to a test. So I signed up for the Spartan Ultra Beast in Hawai'i.

The Ultra Beast is the same as the regular Beast... just twice, back to back. I had done that particular Beast in 2016, and I felt good about it. It didn't have the steep, rolling hills of Temecula, and its primary obstacle - navigating through creeks and muddy trails - is something I'…

Best of 2016

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Every year, I'm exchanging "best of the year" emails with my brothers where we discuss our favorite discoveries. I decided to make mine public from now on, maybe it will help somebody will discover something they like that they didn't even hear about before.

For those who just tuned in - this isn't always stuff that was released in 2016. I'm not cool anymore, so it can take a while for a product to get to me.


It didn't occur to me until I started this list, but this year, all my top picks in each category somehow pertain to boys growing up or to the reality of adulthood, very likely subconsciously chosen on account of me sliding straight into my midlife crisis after hitting 40.

Music

Wild Beasts - Nature Boy

Let's start with the artist name and title. That alone sets the stage for a raw, untamed experience, which is further fed by the simple arrangement and use of bongo drums. But the haunting lyrics about the false dreams of manhood and suppressed ult…

Rule #1 about mud runs: You do not shut up about mud runs

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If you're following me online at all, you may have noticed that I'm into these obstacle races like the Spartan Race and Tough Mudder (and I'd like to say that "I did them before they were cool").

I have to admit that the mud runs are brilliant. They cater to two large groups of the population: The first one being people who feel tough and want to validate themselves - military, Crossfitters, etc. The others are desk jockeys who try to let out the primal side in them that they think they have - very much like Chuck Palahniuk's Fight Club, except with the thick hint of irony that they spend a lot of money in order to escape consumerism. In the end, these mud runs are essentially money printing machines.

I'm making fun of them, but I'm not denying that I love them. I fall smack into the second category - despite spending most of my time sitting at a desk, I get a big kick out of climbing over a big wooden structure using a rope and saying to myself "…

Detective Smartass hard at work

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Remember my previous post about doing research? Here's a prime example to show you to what lengths I go for... well... for... no real purpose at all.

Consider this picture here:


I'm sure you've seen it in your favorite social media feed. You saw it, ha-ha, funny, and moved on.

For some reason however, I had to find out where this scene took place in. After all, this could have afforded me a chance to make fun of the South again.

When you find these viral images, they usually have been stripped of any usable information whatsoever by the time they reach you, or worse still, they may have some useless commentary tacked on with incorrect information to promote some agenda. Also, most social media sites strip off EXIF data, so even if it was taken with a cell phone that had GPS tagging enabled, you won't find it when analyzing the image.

So you need to do it the old-fashioned way - by looking for clues in the picture. For that, a higher resolution is helpful, so your first…

Everything sucks because of your impatient ass

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I'm currently waiting in line to get a Tesla Model X. Like many others, I made a reservation back in 2014 and am now sitting through delay after delay and one blown deadline after another.

I feverishly frequent the forums to scavenge all those itty bitty updates and rumors, and boy is that a painful experience. People are foaming at their mouths because they still don't have the car that they're clearly entitled to! Somebody called Elon Musk a monkey. Calls for boycott, wah wah wah.

I can sympathize with Tesla since I used to be on the other side of this. The games I used to work on were notorious for being delayed, and every time a press release went out to announce a new release date, it sucked for everybody. The team knew their long hours would go on for longer. The company knew the budget would skyrocket even more (more salaries to pay, more overtime pay for non-exempt people, morale would go even lower, more dinners to pay, more advertisement to keep the hype going, p…