Archive for 2008

Super Mario Galaxy

As someone who has taken an interest in game design, there were a few things I found interesting in Super Mario Galaxy. Mind, the last game I played was 64, so some of these may not be novel to this release.

The Constrained Path – A Return to Form

Many levels, especially the early ones have a very linear layout. Very often you are getting launched from tiny-planet to tiny-planet. There is often freedom of movement on each planet, but movement between them is limited by launch stars. This retreats a bit from the freedom of 3d and harkens back to the linear scrolling levels of the first games.

Levels of Scale

Flying between planets has an effect almost like levels-within-levels. The level structure has a quality of Levels of Scale – one of Christopher Alexander’s 15 properties of life. There is the largest structure of six worlds, each with 2 or 3 major worlds and a few extras. Each of the major worlds has about 6 stars available, which may (or may not) reuse the same basic level geometry. Within each level, there are very often multiple sub-challenges, if not physically separate planetoids.

Variation of Challenge

There are several different types of levels. Major classes include timed, freeform exploration, boss fights, auto-scrolling, ball-rolling, ray-surfing. One of the great wonders of the game is how many games are contained within it – whole mechanics that would have been sufficient for a single game in ages past now supply 3, 2, even just 1 level (red star comes to mind)

Goomba Management.

One intriguing feature is the players ability to get two different types of resources from goobmas, and probably other kinds of enemies. Spin/kick them an they turn into star bits, which serve several purposes, including adding to extra lives. Stomp them and get a coin, which replenishes your health (they can also add up to lives, but are lost every time you die, making it much harder to collect enough.)

(Ideas 2008-02-22, mostly written 2008-07-06)

Personal finance question

What do you do with interest? I had put it into income, which was fine when I just had the bank-account interest. Now I’ve got a 401k and other funds, which sometimes experience large drops and wipe out ‘income’ for the month, even though my immediate situation is no near so dire.

North Carolina

So, I went down to North Carolina the week of 2008-07-07 to 2008-07-14. My parents were going down with some of their motorcycling friends.

Specifically, we went down to the Maggie Valley area, in the smoky mountains. Since it was a bunch of bikes (I had the token car) it was driving all the way. We took highways to Richmond (narrowly avoiding flooded roads near Indianapolis, but not some heavy rain shortly beforehand) to stay the first night. From there it was (by choice) twisty mountain back roads down to our main hotel.

Monday we went into the Cherokee reservation, which has a couple of tourist trap areas in it. There were a few hours of wandering through the expected souvenirs, crafts, and preserves. I saw some weird writing around, and ending up getting a small book on the Cherokee language. I was kind of wondering if their was a pattern to the choice of sigals, but so far the sigals seem to be as arbitrary as the english ones, if I stopped to think about them. Their drama presentation might have been interesting, but we came a little too early in the season. It may have been Monday that my family went up to the Severiville area for a short visit to my grandmother.

Tuesday we headed out to make a run down Deal’s Gap, aka The Tail of the Dragon – 318 curves in 11 miles. It was pretty much 30 mph or less the whole way; fortunately we only ran across one semi in the very beginning. Other than an impatient and loud bike that passed us (there are no passing zones on a road this twisty) things went fairly well. We made a big loop of it, and came back on the scenic Cherohala Skyway.

One of the main purposes of the trip was go gem mining, and we finally got around to it Wednesday that we got around to it. They stated up front that their main business is in heavily ‘salted’ buckets. Basically, you are buying a bunch of pretty rocks and a few uncut gemstones, packaged in a bucket of dirt so you feel special for rinsing them off yourself. The other option is to shovel some fresh dirt and see if you turn anything up – probably much less, but but better chance of something big (one person in our party did get a large sapphire) We tried one of each; we got a lot more stuff from the salted bucket, including more gemstones, while the fresh dirt gave us only small number of gemstones (and a bunch of regular rocks) but it cost a lot less, also. We were pretty much mined out by that point, and went in search of some waterfalls; Dry Falls was closed for parking lot construction, but we stopped at Bridal Veil Falls for a few pictures.

Thursday was kind of a leftover day. Nobody was much in the mind to break up, so we set off in search of a christmas store. We got lost on the way, but found it eventually. It was in a teeming downtown area, where we also stopped at an old fashioned country store, with very high prices. After that we went back to Cherokee searching for the As Seen on TV store. We also found that, and stopped back in one of the mall areas on the way back.

Friday was highway driving back to Vincenes, IN, where we thankfully avoided the flooded areas. We did get some more rain along the way, however. Getting home Saturday was pretty uneventful.

(Mostly written 2008-06-17)

Too Much

I let myself get distracted a bit, given immediate deadlines.

Saturday I submitted Disk Clock to,
MacUpdate, which posted it immediately, Version Tracker, which posted it after a few confirmation steps, and Dashboard Widgets, where it hasn’t shown up yet. I have heard from one person who says it isn’t working under OS X 10.5; he was able to pull a line number from th logs; best I can guess Apple did something peculiar with the scope resolution in their latest Javascript engine, but I haven’t had a chance to find out if the internet knows anything about it yet. Probably explains why I haven’t heard anything from Apple yet (would have been nice if they told me.)

After submitting those, I started working on generating a set of cards to walk though the martial arts form I pieced together. I got something fairly functional (in part due to a few sleepless hours in the middle of the night) Of course, as the saying goes, “the first 90% takes the first 90% of the time, and the last 10% takes the other 90% of the time.” There is still a need for a icon key and some tweaking.

I was trying to get that ready for a training day. After I got home I had to switch over to getting ready for the condo association meeting. We still didn’t have an appropriately cut down list of concrete work, so I went out checking over the proposed work and rating things. In the end, we decided to look at it again as a group, so it was kind of a waste.

Speed Bump in Vegas

No major updates this week, and I’m even late in talking about it. Last week I had to go to Vegas for a business trip (RFID show) I knew that was coming, although I was partly guessing – It turns out I never got the flight confirmation. Now I was quite certain that I had been asked about leaving Tuesday night. But when I started inquiring about the details Monday I found out that we were in fact leaving that evening – fortunately this was early enough for me to go home and pack. The flight also had very few people, so the late checkin didn’t cause any trouble.

I really wanted that extra day though. Beyond party prep (and various long overdue projects) I had to quickly beg my neighbors to pull in my fruit box and milk off the porch. That spared the worst of it – but I still had to deal with box of fruit that had been sitting in it’s own concentrated ethylene for several days (lots of banana bread; the rest was doing okay) I also turned some milk into yogurt (probably a little too much) And of course I had to supply regular meals after carefully emptying the house out for the trip (and a short detoxifying fast over the weekend before.)

I got the bulk of the cleaning done Tuesday, and was able to finish diagramming out the martial arts form late that night. Things would be clearing up, except for an earlier mistake coming back to bite me hard.

A few months ago, I had to estimate a software project using a radically new platform for us. My mistake was omitting the usual x2 multiplier on the casual comment that a multiplier would be added to the final quote anyway. Now a schedule for the best of all possible worlds is being held up as a divine right, while the technology involved is being extraordinarily uncooperative.

Launch party

It’s been a while since I had a party, and the release of Disk Clock is a pretty good excuse to celebrate. I’m going to keep it fairly low key, so I apologize if there isn’t much warning – I’m going to give Saturday April 26th a shot. Say, about 2-6pm, but I’ll still be glad to see you if you care to come by some other time. Any hints about whether and when you will be dropping be would be quite helpful in planning.

Edit: that’s when DC looks like this:

As most of you know, I don’t throw wild parties. Expect talking, a little food, and perhaps some board games, or physical video games – DDR or Wii, if they company cares for it.

If you haven’t gotten an e-mail invite, I probably don’t have your address in my list – drop me a note if you’d like to come.

March 29, 2008

The CGD pages have moved to (It actually went live last week.) Addresses at will return their old content for a while, but eventually, I will look into URL redirection.

New For Spring

A meandering discussion of events mostly recent, some slightly old, and a small number rather far past. Including the revelation that my software label, Computer Generated Dreams, now has an independent web site, an expanded logo, business cards, and official registration with the county. Relating also the various and sundry difficulties encountered in the obtaining thereof.

New Address went live some time Sunday night.
Continue reading ‘New For Spring’ »

March 16, 2008

Naked Javascript 0.2 – no clock this week; nothing was bugging me for once, and NJS was due for some love (plus I was looking for inspiration for my javascript essay.) It now operates in moveable, closeable dialogs, with source code formatting and editing of simple values. I’m also catching more errors, but there are still several places where there will appear to be no response because an exception occurred.

  • Sexy new jQuery.UI dialogs
  • Function formatting
  • Edit-in-place for simple values
  • HTML escape

More Time Shifting – A Quest for Longer Essays

2008-02-10 to 2008-03-11, esp 2008-02-24

When I introduced Naked Javascript, I talked a bit about my difficulties with Javascript in general – some nice things going on, but the implementation that got standardized is a little half baked. Then I thought of several things which I forgot to mention, and made a second post. later I thought of yet more things, but I didn’t make another post. I’ll tell you why in a minute.

While I might claim that my recent attempt to discuss the merits and faults of Javascript could be chalked up to sickness, meandering writings have been an unfortunate trend of late. One after another, a storm of ideas gets put off, and off, and off again. By the time I get down to writing about it, I’ve forgotten half of it and end with a little tiny post that peters out with an unexciting whimper.

We’ve got (at least) two problems here: 1. short, boring posts, which are 2. probably due in no small part to procrastination. I actually hadn’t thought about that second part before, but let’s push that on the stack for a moment. and talk about the content problem.

A while back, I saw someone writing that long blogs are better. It’s based on a very simple idea: small blogs don’t stick. They fit in short term memory. You have to ramble on long enough to blow your reader’s stack and force them to start swapping your ideas out to longer term memory.

I’m not going to be belabor that point. There’s a very long post about it if you’re interested. If you want to go read it, a few of my ideas are on the stack, so it might work just as well ;^)

Consequently, I’m going to be aiming for meatier articles. Something with, perhaps, a little more content than your average powerpoint slide. (Perhaps that’s aiming too low ;^) Would comparing some of my previous posts to a list of tenuously connected bullet points be a little too harsh?) Anyway, before I get into how I plan to accomplish this, we’ll have to return the memory problem for a bit.

As a simplification, let us say that any piece of writing has to begin with an idea. The idea is then subject to the forces such as expansion, connection, and forgetfulness. If the idea makes it into writing, that writing has to be done at some time. Lets break it down into a fairly conventional three periods.

If the writing is done ‘at first blush’, it can benefit from the initial energy and enthusiasm. The writer is still within the first avalanche of connection and expansion, so the ideas flow fast and easy, probably helped along by the writing process. Unfortunately, the ideas also aren’t mature, and many of the elaborations won’t occur right way.

If the writing is done a little later, the ideas can benefit from a little development. Unfruitful branches will have been trimmed away, but few possibilities may have also been forgotten, and others may not yet be fully explored. All and all it’s not a bad time, but some later elaboration by still be necessary to get the complete picture.

If the writing is done much later, there probably won’t be a whole lot needs to be added later – except perhaps the things that were forgotten (if you were lucky enough to remember them again) There has been greater opportunity for connection, discussion, and perhaps even some application and results, with the benefits of reflection.

What I’m going to try to do is get the best of all these worlds. Write something down as soon as possible. Don’t be afraid to change it. Continuously update as time and thought permit. Keep working at it until the ideas settle down reach a coherent form, and all the threads pan out (or die off).

Of course, I can’t get stopped up on one idea if I’m going to get everything started right way – I’m going to be keeping a couple of pots boiling at once. I’ve got almost a dozen of them so far – if you haven’t seen anything except Disk Clock updates lately (not all that unusual, really…) it’s because the lead time underwent a discontinuous change, not because there is nothing to say.

Now I’ve just got that procrastination issue to address (remember that?) Conceptually I’ve already addressed it by saying that getting something written down in the earliest stages is essential to help combat ‘oops, I forgot one thing…’ Now there is just that small matter of the difference between saying and doing. My writing cache so far is mostly filled with a few short paragraphs and bullet points; I was actually worried worried about this article itself getting off to a weak start, but it seems to be growing up somewhat nicely, so there is hope.

So, I guess it’s been more than a minute. My lesson for the day is don’t put off writing stuff down. As for that Javascript thread, it will be back, probably recovering most of the same ground for the sake of making a coherent coverage of the topic. I don’t recall the specific things I forgot to mention, but hopefully I’ll get to them in the course of a few writing passes.