Flash games that are actually fun and addictive instead of broken and annoying. Who would have thought? My cousin linked me to a lovely bit of Japanese madness called Nanaka Crash which deserves a place of honor next to Peasant's Quest and Duck Guardian. The goal of Nanaka Crash is to smack into a boy with your bicycle and send him flying for the longest distance possible. It occurs to me that this game is a little like Pachinko, in that you have very little control over Taiichi once he's launched, and yet it's oddly compelling anyway. My best record is 8939.51 meters. I have posted an off-the-cuff translation of the instructions in case anyone cares.
I remember back in the early 90s, technology pundits told us that in The Future instead of buying games, we would download them from some online subscription game channel. Well, the future is finally here, but they were wrong about three things: The online games were not brought to us by Sega, Nintendo, or Sony; the games are less sophisticated than what we played in the early 90s; and the biggie: they're free. Free because people make them for fun and because nobody's willing to pay for them.
Excuse me, I believe I need to go learn Flash now.
My 24-hour comic, Rapa Nui, is now online.
24-hour comics, finish!
I called it quits at 10:30PM April 23, 2005. At that point I had only finished 12 pages, but I brought the story to a conclusion that makes some kind of sense, so I'm fairly happy all things considered. I will post my comic here, but first: sleep!
24-hour comics, begin!
Let the clock begin ticking now: 10:14 PM, April 22, Central Daylight Time.
Isaac likes having ice cubes shoved up his nose. File for future reference.
Blogging in the kitchen just because I can
I am typing this from Isaac's laptop balanced on top of a stack of bamboo steamers. Tonight I stopped by the new Comics-drawing club that Sushu started. Drawing comics is at the top of my list of things I want to do once I graduate and I have free time again. If Jono has no free time, you may be wondering, why is he updating his page so much lately? The answer is because I modified my perl scripts to make updating pretty much effortless. This reminded me how much more fun it is to hack Perl than to hack Java. Well, I think by the time I go for my next job I will have good enough credentials that I will be able to be picky and refuse Java jobs.
Jeremy and I went out apartment hunting this morning. A guy from K and G showed us four available apartments. We told him about our neighbors who hurl cinder blocks out the window. He rolled his eyes and said "S. Kimbark 5441 number 3. Yeah, we're not renewing their lease. It's much easier to not renew the lease than to evict them." We told him about the eviction notice we found on our apartment door when we moved in. He said "Oh yeah, that's a great story! One guy there didn't pay his rent for like four months, and finally we evicted him, and when the sherriff went in there to bring all the guy's stuff out onto the street, he found SEVEN POUNDS of weed. He was expelled too, cuz that's Possession with Intent to Sell, man."
All your database are...
I thought I was going to have to take Databases and Algorithms this quarter to graduate, since both are required subjects. Lack of financial aid means it would be very difficult to pay for both, so I petitioned Leo, director of my program, to let me waive the Databases requirement. I thought this might be a slightly touchy issue since he also happens to be the teacher of Databases. The program I have been writing for Argonne has already taught me most of the practical knowledge of databases; there are parts of the database theory that I don't know, but I know exactly what it is that I don't know (often this is the hardest part) and where I can learn it, so I'm in a good position to teach myself the rest. I started explaining this to Leo but he waved it away and asked me to list all the classes I've taken so far. I wasn't even finished when he started counting down the list, gave me a really weird look, and asked me "What are you still doing here?" That is Leo's inimitable way of saying that yes, I can graduate without Databases. Huzzah!
Many things to be happy about
The trees are budding, Isaac came to visit, my taxes are done, I don't have to take databases, and Borders had a 3-for-2 sale on all graphic novels! Huzzah!
I took the sale as a chance to buy almost all of the rest of the Sandman series. Wonderful stuff. Since I read mostly manga and webcomics, the idea of the writer and artist of a comic NOT being the same person is very strange to me, but normal in American comics. So many different artitsts worked on Sandman over the years that reading them in collected form, it's like, turn the page and WHOA, the drawing style is completely different! It's actually quite appropriate to the kaleidoscopic nature of the story. The art in the "Ramadan" story in vol. 6 is quite astounding -- and oh man, the ending of that one is even more appropriate today then when it was written. Ouch. Anyway, Neil Gaiman is coming to visit on Tuesday. I have a class until 8:30, but I might just sneak out early. I would like to meet Neil, and tell him that I quoted his Death character at my cousin's funeral; he'd probably approve.
Here is a cute picture of me and my dear snuggly Isaac on the bus last week: Sadly, it seems he is actually straight after all. (Say la vee. Isaac would know how to spell those crazy French words but I don't.) We were on our way to Chinatown with Sushu and Alexis by mass transit. We sang anime songs together on the train and Crazy Train People, who did not understand our words but did not care, clapped and danced along. We ate at the All-Time Favorite Malaysian Crispy and then went to impromptu karaoke. The karaoke box had a limited selection of non-Chinese songs, but we got to hear Sushu singing cheerful communist propoganda songs and a song from "Saiyuki" which had an awesome low-budget video with the Monkey King and his Buddhist monk buddies trekking through the desert and flying on a magic cloud and fighting evil with cheesy kung-fu. If you've never done karaoke before, know that the videos that appear on screen with the lyrics are usually random, bizzare, and hiliariously inappropriate. Selecting "Bohemian Rhapsody" at this particular karaoke box gave us a video of a sullen boy frying action figures in the toaster ("Mama, just killed a man..."), only to be haunted later by a chorus of headless Barbies ("We will not let you go!"). Not random. Perfectly synced up. Quite an original interpretation of the song.
Training Across Borders
Have I mentioned how cool Don-sensei is?
The main teacher of the U of C Aikido club is also the ex-dean of the whole school. He's a household name in Ethiopia for his very famous writings on Ethiopian history and civilization. He was friends with Carl Sagan when the latter was a student here. But the coolest thing is what he's doing right now. He's in Nicosia, Cyprus, helping to run a seminar called Training Across Borders, organized by Aiki Extensions, with Aikido students invited from all across the Middle-east. In many cases these people will be training alongside their traditional enemies: Greeks and Turks, Israelis and Palestinians, Iraqis and Americans, and so on. The goal is no less than promoting world peace through Aikido, which is exactly what O-Sensei wanted. That is, although O-sensei first created Aikido as a fighting style, it evolved over the years into something more like a practical philosophy of nonviolent conflict resolution -- i.e. how to protect yourself without harming others. And I think it's wonderful to see that idea put to the test in a part of the world that needs it so badly. It's a great experiment, and I'm looking forward to hearing about how it turns out.
I like this place.
The Computation Institute is a much nicer place to work than Argonne, even though I'm doing basically the same kind of stuff. The physical workspace is nicer: There's a microwave, fridge, coffee machine, and comfy couch nearby. There are totally sweet mac G5s I can work on. I have a window now, and I'm in an alcove in a much more open floor plan, so it's less claustrophobic and I don't constantly feel like Gregor is going to sneak up behind me. There's no barbed wire or security checkpoints, and the atmosphere is just more relaxed. Best of all, it's a 15-minute walk from home intstead of an hour-long bus ride out into the burbs. Finally, since my financial aid disappeared, they gave me a raise to help cover the cost of tuition! Isn't that sweet?
Let us journey to the cave of monsters!
Bubble Bobble is good, except for level 57 which is the most evil video game level ever created in any game. To spare future generations, let us record here that the password for level 58 is FGJJJ.
Think! It ain't illegal yet!
I'm officially not working for Gregor anymore. Gregor ran out of funding to hire me, but he was very cool about it. He said "Hey, Mike Papka, you still have funding, you hire Jonathan" and Mike said "Uhhhh, OK." So I have a new boss. Of course this doesn't mean that Gregor is going to stop assigning me tasks.
But all of this Placebo Effectation is gonna get Bop-Gunned right outta my Maggot Brain next month when the P-Funk Mothership descends on the Chicago House of Blues. Ohhhh yeah. Grandaddy George Clinton, the Brides of Funkenstein, Star-Child, and all the rest of the P-Funk All-Stars is gonna tear the roof off the sucka with 500,000 kilowats of pure uncut funk power. It will be, as they say, groovalicious.
More big ball of stuff
Last Wednesday there was a tornado watch in effect at Argonne. The tornado never materialized, but there was an awful lot of wind and rain and hail. I picked up some dime-sized ice balls off the ground. Went out for Chinese food three blocks away from my house and got drenched to the skin, head to toe, even with an umbrella.
It looks like my financial aid has evaporated for this quarter. Apparently somebody was breaking some rules to give me funding at all for the past two quarters. I need only one or two more classes to graduate, anyway -- depending on whether or not Leo approves my request to waive the databases requirement, on account of my job has already taught me more about databases than I would learn in the class. And I can afford to pay for one, almost two courses from my bank account. So I might still be able to pull this off. Stay tuned.
A Big Ball of Stuff
I came home Friday night and felt the urge to play some video games to cheer myself up. I mucked around with an emulated Mega Man 3 for a while but soon got bored. I looked through Jeremy's collection of Dreamcast and PS2 games but didn't see any that looked interesting. "Video games have gotten stale", I lamented, and started watching Space Battleship Yamato instead. Just then who should come in the door but Jeremy back from the store with a little game called
Katamari Damacy. (Yes, that's the official website. Scroll to the bottom to where it says ENG for the english version).
I don't think we even turned the game off until we had finished it late Saturday night. This is the best game to come along in years. The concept is simple enough to grasp instantly: Roll up the biggest ball of stuff that you can. You are the Prince of Space, and you have to replace the stars that your father accidentally destroyed, so you go to earth with this ball (called a katamari). It starts out 5 cm in diameter, and you roll around the floor of a house picking up thumbtacks and candy and coins, dodging cats and dogs... but as the ball gets bigger and bigger, you can pick up more and more stuff. Teakettles, flowerpots, pigeons... it's an amazing feeling of revenge when you get big enough to roll up the cats and dogs who used to cause you grief. Each level has a time limit and a target size, and if you make it, your katamari becomes a star. There's a wonderful creativity and sense of humor reflected in the world you explore, the jazzy scat-singing soundtrack, the insane personality of the King of the Cosmos, the square-headed family in the cutscenes, and the sheer variety of stuff that you can pick up. I am so addicted to this game now that everything I see, I'm thinking "How big do I have to be to roll that up?". The genius of the game design is in the seamless way that your interaction with the environment changes as you grow: stuff that used to be obstacles eventually becomes more raw material for the katamari. The last level, where you have 25 minutes to make the Moon, is a lesson in exponential growth, as you eventually get big enough to pick up skyscrapers, ocean liners, and small islands.
I sure love Final Fantasy 8. It's my favorite game ever. Such a logically consistent imaginary world, such intuitive game systems, such balanced and challenging battles, such a well-paced storyline! But the best reason to love FF8 is the compelling and sympathetic main character, Squall.
Such a touching love story.
And so well-translated!
You know what else I love? Gundam Wing. Now there's a quality piece of animated science fiction. Unlike some anime, everything that happens in the story makes perfect sense, and all the characters act like real people.
The only thing that I love even more than FF8 and Gundam Wing is... J-rock!