Thursday, January 26, 2017

Gremlins and Chaos and Being

The gremlins in my head, on a quiet day, ask only that I wash my hands a bit more than an average person would.  On a raucous day, they demand that I create something and share it.  They don't ask nicely.  It doesn't matter what I come up with, whether it's any good, or with whom I share it.  This occasionally causes some embarrassment, but one learns to deal with that.  If the gremlins are ignored, they begin wreaking havoc and this fun, grumpy person becomes an un-fun grumpy person.

A side-effect of paying any attention to the world around me is that when the world goes mad, I go a bit mad with it.  Anxiety and dread leak right inside and stir the gremlins.  "Pain is good for art" and all that.  I'm a very fortunate and privileged person, and not what most would call talented, so my use of the words "pain" and "art" is a bit of a stretch.  But that's fine.  In any case, my brain gremlins and I have been on edge lately.

The gremlins are soothed by simple seeds growing into complex patterns.

I played around with randomized, low-fidelity pixel art.  8x8 noise of a single random color, mirrored for symmetry.  The human brain (well, mine anyway) will turn almost any such shape into something recognizable.  A penguin with antlers.  An armored soldier.  A dog walking upright.  A happy toad or a skull with pigtails.  Once I got a bunch of these drawing on screen, it seemed like asking the simple question "who are you?" might be interesting.

The gremlins like music; during worrisome times, songs get stuck in my head far more easily than usual.  Recently my noggin was cycling this Cat Stevens song, for reasons I won't try to understand.

The bit that kept rolling around in my brain was "if you want to be me, be me".  Might it be interesting to have some kind of interactive mechanic that boils down to "be me" when you meet someone?  Well, I already had plenty of random pixel people to meet.

You can see I've got some other stuff going on there too.  Random names, offspring from mathematically averaging the pixel characters.  I also threw something together to randomly build up a map.  And some random special rooms for whatever weird tools and functions I was playing with. And gave each character random traits that determine what and how they can see, where they can go, how they get noticed.

Why I stuck with an Atari aesthetic (including directions and one action button) I do not know.  Why I wrote the code almost entirely on my phone during insomnia hours rather than from the comfort of a proper computer, I do not know.  Why I named it "RPG1" and retrofitted a bunch of acronyms in its manual, I do not know.

What I do know is that from the chaos, some interesting effects cropped up.  As a moose I traded feet with a bunch of bananas, and suddenly I could go places I could not reach before.  I was a butterfly who talked with and became a spring-propelled robot, after which I could not see the butterfly anymore.  As a thief, I met a two-headed bird and had a screen full of three-headed turtle babies.

Play online:

It's a bit of a hot mess, but there.  Happy, gremlins?  No?  You already have some more stupid little projects lined up?  Hm.  Gonna be an interesting few years to be me.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Inaugur- (wretch)

Here it is.  The new age, where nothing makes sense and the more asinine it sounds, the more likely it is to be happening.  Good, evil, right, wrong, fact, fiction, none of it means anything.  Things just are.  Because loud, proud ignorance says so.

It's an interesting time to be alive.  I've never been bored in my life, but I would sure love to try it.  As it is, though, I'm going to be angry and frustrated and terrified and indignant for some time.  I'd say something like "four years", but let's not assume time or space or anything else are comprehensible phenomena anymore.  Or that dissidents like myself won't be jailed or hanged by then.  Or that all life on Earth won't have simply been obliterated by nuclear weapons.  Nothing's given, things just are.  Because small, spiteful vanity says so.

So far, the worst expectations I could muster have only ended up demonstrating the limits of my own imagination.  But my dense optimism means everybody here has one more ally -- I will stay and fight.  The temptation to abandon this poisoned ship and its lunatic captain will be overwhelming, but we have to stand strong.  Because courage and right and decency say so.  Those things don't exist in this age, true enough, so it falls to each of us to create them.

Dissent is patriotic.  We shall overcome.  [Inspirational quip #3 not found.]

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Monday, November 07, 2016

Let's Get This Over With

I know these things happen every four years and therefore cannot last any longer than that, but it feels like I can no longer remember a time when I wasn't worrying that a superbly-qualified world leader might lose the presidency to a prejudiced reality show pseudo-celebrity.

In the primaries I voted for Bernie, because I think we desperately need some socialist ideas and tools to pull us back from the brink of commercialist self- (and planetary-) destruction.  My wife voted for Hillary, and we were both glad to be supporting both candidates.  They each rank among the most honest politicians our country has to offer, and the most progressive.  (Yes really.  Do some actual research if those things sound strange to you.)  Voting felt really good in the primary.

Since then, we've witnessed the rise of a monster created and fueled by the worst runaway features of our young nation - money equaling speech, entertainment posing as news, echo chamber information bubbles, and more racism, sexism, zealotry, bigotry, and other forms of reckless fear-mongering hate than I would have ever imagined.

I've been all but paralyzed by anxiety for what feels like ages.  I'm normally not a terribly worrisome person.  I've always trusted that most of the time, most of the people will do the best they can.  I still feel that way.  But there is so much influence and so much concentrated power which is willing to swallow any pill no matter how horrifying, as long as it means perpetuating itself.  There are so many lies told so often and so loudly.

My wife observed that every four years the Republican party puts up somebody worse than the last time.  We had Dole, who seems a perfectly respectable statesman at this point, then W, McCain, Romney, and now Drumpf.  (I wouldn't necessarily have ranked McCain as worse than Bush if it hadn't been for Palin, who herself almost sounded cogent compared to today's toupee'd cheesepuff.)  In trying to figure out who is next, assuming we get to keep having elections, the only figures who come to mind for me are Scott Walker (yes, more dangerous than Trump, because he's actually accomplished terrible things instead of just blustering on about them) and whomever is the head of the KKK.  (Please excuse my gross ignorance of the grossly ignorant.)

We've always liked the ritual of voting on election Tuesday.  Ours are not particularly ritual-filled lives, but we've got a few we really feel are worth hanging on to.  Next time around though, we think we'll vote early, as so many have done this time.  I doubt I would have quite the same level of apprehension if this thing were already 100% out of my hands.

Anyway, I look forward to being productive again.  I look forward to being able to relax, find some peace, maybe even fall asleep.  I hope I can do it here in the nation of which I was born.  The one where different kinds of people can work together.  I hope that nation is still here.  I think it is.  Hillary Clinton is seeking what seems to me an impossible job, but if anybody on the planet is up to it, if anyone can be prepared enough, strong enough, compassionate enough, she's the one.

Please vote tomorrow if you haven't already.  Let's get this over with.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Happy Halloween!

This election and this year in general can't be over soon enough.  But there is always room for warmth and fun in life, and Halloween is one of my favorite times to find such things.

A big round one with fuzzy facial hair, a cute classy one, and a splotchy little one with fangs.

Pre-carving inspection by this family's splotchy little fanged member.

...And for everybody's sake get out and vote next Tuesday.  (For the sane, qualified one, please.)

Thursday, June 02, 2016


Some day, I will stop thinking of ways to ruin Tetris. But it is not this day.

A little while ago my brain finally realized that two very familiar sets of numbers match up.  Ten main keys on a computer keyboard's homerow, four main rows of ten keys each.  Ten columns in a Tetris playing field, four orientations for Tetris pieces.  And that was that.  From that moment, I had no choice.
A version of Tetris requiring most of the keyboard had to exist.  If it already did, I couldn't find it.  So now the world has one more Tetris clone.
KBtris has a steep learning curve, which is something I would normally shy away from in a game.  But the idea is too compelling.  Traditionally, when a Tetris piece appears, even if you are a master player you still have to get your fingers or thumbs to input something like:
Now, you can do the same thing with:
One keystroke will both rotate your piece to the desired orientation and move it to the desired column.  This of course means you need to _have_ a desired orientation and column, and then hit the correct key out of forty.  It's efficient, but you need all your fingers and your wits about you to get started.  From there, it's not completely unlike learning the piano.

I've played a lot of Tetris in my life; I consider it one of the purest gaming experiences imaginable.  My first goal now that KBtris exists is to get as good and as fast as I can at it.  I'm curious whether I'll be able to keep up with friends who are faster typists.

Beyond that, I want to see someone get really good.  Way beyond my abilities.  I want to see a KBtris Olympian and be shamed.

Maybe _then_ I'll stop thinking up ways to ruin Tetris.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

How to Fix: Firefox + Wine + "Open With" List

I forget why I even have wine in the first place, but I do.
(Wine, in this context, is a piece of software that lets me run Windows programs on my Linux system.)

Every once in a while, Firefox and Thunderbird would come across a file or attachment and prompt me for what to do with it.  Infuriatingly, the default choice was sometimes wine or some terrible wine version of explorer, or something.  I scoured Firefox's about:config and anything else I could think of, but there was no mention of wine associated with file types.  Web searches were useless too.

Finally, I found this:

Relevant snippet:
rm -f ~/.local/share/mime/packages/x-wine*
rm -f ~/.local/share/applications/wine-extension*
rm -f ~/.local/share/icons/hicolor/*/*/application-x-wine-extension*
rm -f ~/.local/share/mime/application/x-wine-extension*

That is what I needed.  ~/.local/share had some crap in it which many desktop applications, Mozilla's included, found and used to figure out handlers for different file types.  I can't imagine that setting anything to do with wine for such things could ever be useful for any reason ever, but if you use windows programs on purpose, you may wish to pick through those files a little bit more carefully than I did.

After nuking those, extensionless text files no longer try to open in some bastardized version of notepad.exe, oddly-formatted image files no longer try to launch some weird windows tool, and I no longer get angry at my computer for trying to run terrible programs for no reason.

My hope is that if I post this, I'll save at least one poor sap some time in their search for the same answer.