miscellany

You know how you'll be straightening up your abode and at first it's pretty easy? I know where this goes! I know where this goes too! And then you get down to the stuff that you can't find a good place for, so you just shove it in the closet? Welcome to the closet. If you're looking for any rhyme or reason to what follows, I'm so sorry.

The Lyttle Lytton Contest

Quite possibly the most popular thing on this site, the Lyttle Lytton Contest has run annually since 2001. The basic idea is this: the annual Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest challenges entrants to pen the world's most atrocious first line to a novel. The problem is that most entries are so long that they're not amusingly bad — they're just flat-out unreadable. So the Lyttle Lytton Contest forces entrants to keep their masterpieces down to 200 characters or less. It runs year-round, so check it out!

Stochastic Planet

A few years ago I coded up a little PHP toy that would pull up a random spot on Earth. Now imagine running that script every day and archiving the nearest photo on a Tumblr blog. Except you don't have to imagine it, because Stochastic Planet is already doing it! If you tumbl at all, go check it out — once you've seen a few dozen of these you might have a different sense of what the land mass of the Earth is actually like.

I am in some books
Gaming Hacks edited by Simon Carless

I wrote half of an interactive fiction tutorial for this O'Reilly & Associates book. Andrew Plotkin wrote the other half. If you've ever wondered what a game by Zarf and me would look like...

Twisty Little Passages by Nick Montfort

This book has a short chapter on my '90s interactive fiction.

The Inform Designer's Manual, 4th ed. by Graham Nelson

This guide to the interactive fiction language Inform discusses several of my programs. It also says I have "a rare gift for the amoral."

Millennials Rising by Neil Howe and William Strauss

Howe and Strauss, on whom I did my undergraduate honors thesis, quote me a couple of times, even though I have since disavowed their generational model.

Paintings of rectangles
Joust

I ripped off this idea fairly blatantly — I once commissioned video game art from clearfour.com, but thought I ought to do this one myself since it was for Jennifer's birthday.

CGA 1 (fake Jo Baer polyptych)

Jo Baer is an artist who painted a number of "black band" paintings that I like a lot. Here's an homage using the palettes offered by IBM's Color Graphics Adapter of 1981, on which I deeply imprinted as a child.

Links

I used to have a whole page of links, which basically amounted to "here are some sites that I thought were cool on a Wednesday three years ago." This section is basically the Fun Size version of that.

webcast.berkeley

Hundreds of courses from my beloved alma mater, available online! I got an MP3 player specifically so that I could download these lectures and listen to them in the car. (Often while driving to Berkeley to audit another class in person.)

Munsell Palette

The standard RGB color wheel has large areas with little apparent variation and then rather small areas with great variation; as art professor Albert Munsell observed circa 1900, this is because the perception of color is a psychological response to light, not an inherent property of the light itself. He therefore conducted rigorous tests of human visual responses to color stimuli and created an irregular solid with perceptually uniform steps along each axis. I used this tool to rationalize the color scheme on my Calendar pages.

And then, for the stuff that doesn't even belong on any of the closet shelves, there's that box on the floor way in the back. In real life, mine has, among other stuff, a raccoon hand puppet, a bunch of old license plates, an empty box that once held some crêpes dentelles, and my psychological evaluation from when I was five. Online, it has this stuff.

I try to audit at least one class every semester, and the one I picked for 2013/Fall was a combined astronomy and integrative biology course called "Origins: from the Big Bang to the Emergence of Humans." In one lecture, the professor showed off an analogy for genetic drift. Take a few dots with different colors, and simply flip coins, two per dot. For each head, give the dot an offspring. Watch how a very small number of colors will quickly dominate the population, not because they offer any type of selective advantage, but simply randomly. I thought this was neat so I coded it up as a PHP toy. Check it out.

I made a Youtube movie about date formats. (When I told Elizabeth about this, her reply was a resigned sigh of "You and your date formats.")

Geographical representations of election results are especially misleading in Canada, with its vast swaths of uninhabited tundra and tiny pockets where people actually live. Cartograms to the rescue! Feast your eyes on the 41st Canadian Parliament.

Speaking of maps, the end of Daylight Saving Time on 2009.1101 got me thinking... you know how most of the world cheats a little where time zones are concerned, so that even during standard time the sun rises and sets later than it technically should? What would a map of time zone deviance look like? Answer: like this. (Or this, if you're colorblind.)

For ages the only picture of me in any kind of circulation was the photo on my book jacket from 1999.11. But eight years later I was interviewed for a documentary about interactive fiction, and apparently this clip from that movie is now the first image that comes up if you do a web search on me. As you can see, I look massively different. (Actually, I've lost a fair amount of weight since that last picture was taken.)

Gull is a guide to Glulx Inform, which is used to create interactive fiction. It is also mentioned on the IF page, but I figure it can't hurt to mention it here as well.


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