Browsing the blog archives for October, 2006

Copyrighting Infinity

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Culture, Politics

Awhile ago I found the xkcd webcomic via Kaedrin. I absolutely love this comic, and see so much of myself in them (things like calculating optimal path efficiency, mispronouncing words, analyzing structures for possible raptor entry points)… I have recently been waiting to link this comic to one of my best friends who I haven’t seen for about a week. Now, strangely enough, I saw the image above and then immediately saw…

This story found via Reddit (via PopURLs).

WARNING: Do NOT calculate Pi in binary. It is conjectured that this number is normal, meaning that it contains ALL finite bit strings.

If you compute it, you will be guilty of:

* Copyright infringement (of all books, all short stories, all
newspapers, all magazines, all web sites, all music, all movies,
and all software, including the complete Windows source code)
* Trademark infringement
* Possession of child pornography
* Espionage (unauthorized possession of top secret information)
* Possession of DVD-cracking software
* Possession of threats to the President
* Possession of everyone’s SSN, everyone’s credit card numbers,
everyone’s PIN numbers, everyone’s unlisted phone numbers, and
everyone’s passwords
* Defaming Islam. Not technically illegal, but you’ll have to go
into hiding along with Salman Rushdie.
* Defaming Scientology. Which IS illegal–just ask Keith Henson.

Monkeys with typewriters for the 21st century. It makes me wonder if someone who actually used this method to generate material could then copyright it.

On a related note, here’s a link via the Volokh Conspiracy on copyright infringement.

“In Accordance With Fair Use … We Forbid Any Reproduction”:

The “This article is copyright protected and Fair Use is not applicable” line seemingly no longer appears in new articles on the North Country Gazette site, but the “In accordance with Fair Use of Copyright: WE FORBID ANY REPRODUCTION in part or in whole of The North Country Gazette” remains on the front page. Why should people trust the accuracy of the articles on the site, if the site’s claims about copyright law are inaccurate?

Putting aside the formalities of the legal force of their statement being null, here we reach the apex of copyright hilarity. WE FORBID ANY REPRODUCTION in part or in whole of our useless little rag. Please note that “ANY REPRODUCTION in part or in whole” includes reproducing this notification that you are forbidden to reproduce any part of it. All mentions of this copyright notice must be referred to by a euphemism that we shall not name (because if we named that euphemism here, you would not be able to reproduce it).

NaNoWriMo

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Miscellaneous, Personal

We’re about a day away from NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, and I’m a bit disappointed to note that it looks like I won’t be able to participate this year either. Last year I told myself that I would participate and ended up not being able to do so, and then made a resolution to participate this year… Unfortunately it seems like sitting down for one month and writing 50,000 words is going to be a really tough goal to accomplish if I don’t plan for it months in advance and have some really strong motivating factors. What I really need is someone who will participate in NaNo with me, but I don’t really know anyone who’s insane enough to want to do this thing.

I’m considering at least giving myself a small task of writing, say, 15,000 words this month. That averages to about 500 words per day, which seems like a manageable number. I easily write more than 500 words per day combined, and although a novel is not an email or a post or a comment of one sort or another, it seems quite possible to do even if I don’t have a really clear idea of what a NaNo novel would be about or where it would go. I think I’ll give the 15,000 word goal a shot, and if I can’t stick with it for a week then I will probably move it back and try December, as if that will be any better. As annoyed as it makes me not to be able to stick to vaguely-formulated resolutions, this is a pretty busy time of the year, with trying to juggle a lot of new activities and finish off something like three major projects while resisting the urge to jump on to new ones.

YouTube Roundup

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Miscellaneous

A quick sampling of some videos I’ve enjoyed recently:

Gears of War video trailer. Although I’m not hugely anticipating Gears of War, since I have little interest in console games, this trailer is pretty nice. What makes it, of course, is the music. And though the trailer is very reliant on the music for creating mood, in a way that shows it to be very weak otherwise, I do have to give some credit for broadening the emotional horizons of what could have otherwise been your typical, generic game trailer.

Jack Black speaks out about Piracy, in Jack Black fashion.

Chris Isaak and Laetitia Casta via 2Blowhards. Not my usual fare, to be sure, but this one was just too steamy to ignore.

Hope everyone enjoys their Halloween weekend.

A Challenge to Uwe Boll

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Culture, Visual

When Shamus made a post yesterday about Seanbaby scaring Dr. Uwe Boll into submission using only the power of his mind, I was reminded of something I had seen on YTMND a few months ago: Challenge to Uwe Boll:

You would think a man who constantly defends his “love” for videogames and his wishes to recreate our favorite videogames as films would choose a better medium to settle the score [than fisticuffs]. Like Street Fighter or Fight Night.

Uwe just wasn’t having this. He had to settle the score with his fists, and against people whom he selected for their inability to fight.

That’s pretty hardcore, Uwe.

So here’s my proposal to Uwe Boll, to finally settle the score between him and his many critics.

Uwe Boll, I challenge you to a duel. I challenge you to fight me in Tekken 5 on the Playstation 2. I challenge you to a 5-race match in Mario Kart DS. I challenge you to pick a game of your choosing and try to beat me in it.

I can be reached at ichallengeuweboll@gmail.com.

I think this is a pretty good idea. It’s certainly a more sensible thing to do than Herr Doktor’s childish attempt to pummel his critics into submission. But while the intent is good, I do think it falls kind of flat. What does beating Uwe Boll in videogames prove? To me, it proves about as much as Uwe slugging it out with kids from the internets: Nothing. The only point of this exercise is to humiliate Uwe. I propose a different challenge, one which doesn’t take the low road of clobbering or humiliation. Instead, it seeks to utterly destroy Uwe Bolls sense of self, to permanently and irreversibly crush his cockroach-like psyche under the 800lb leather-bound edition or Reality and leave him nothing more than a gibbering moron staring into the abyss of his own uselessness. Well, even more of a gibbering moron.

The challenge? Simple. Upon receiving the acceptance of Uwe Boll, we will schedule a six month period during which both Uwe Boll and I will be required to produce a short or feature length film, whichever is agreed upon. Both contestants will have access to their own full range of resources, including studio funding if applicable. Uwe Boll will be fully able to recruit his usual cadre of goons and cretins, as well as C or D-list actors, to participate in his film. I, on the other hand, have no experience in producing film, no equipment, no third-party funding, no industry contacts, nor any of the other things that Herr Doktor has access to.

The winner of this competition will receive only the consolation of knowing that he was able to make a better film than Uwe Boll. The loser will have to live with the realization that some random film and game lover from the internet with no experience in filmmaking easily outclassed him even when placed at an unthinkable disadvantage.

Uwe, I await your acceptance of this challenge.

The Scene

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Culture, Music, Technology

Awhile ago I made an off-hand reference to The Scene, a made-for-internet video series about people in the clandestine world of file sharing.

I started watching The Scene’s first season some time ago, but I have only just recently finished it. The storyline for this show is extremely compelling, and I’m amazed at how well I was drawn into this fictional but all-too-real world. It was easy to predict the anti-piracy angle of the show, as that surely must be an omnipresent theme in the scene itself, but the directions the show explored from that initial trajectory were not what I was expecting at all. It was very well done and quite clever.

The real kicker here is that virtually every important plot development happens via text. The only concession to the video medium, so-to-speak, is the small quarter-screen sized video feed of a main character sitting at a computer screen, reading, typing. Even that is, ultimately, unnecessary. The actors are merely punctuation to the drama conveyed through text. Despite the seeming tedium and emotional paucity of reading text typed onto a computer screen, the result is actually quite rich, if subtle. Speed, tempo, accuracy, verbal style… All of these are elements in conveying the emotional state of someone who is depicted, more often than not, doing nothing more than staring flatly into the blue light of a monitor. The emotion of this story lies beneath the surface, but no less visible and no less real.

(Though impressive, the centrality of text is also probably the single biggest obstacle to watching the show. I can’t read text on my computer monitor from across the room, and it’s not very comfortable sitting at a computer watching a show. Additionally, it takes more mental concentration to focus on reading the show than it does to watch most traditional television shows.)

The videos are accompanied by amazing downtempo music from various artists that tend to accent and heighten the viewing experience. After I finished watching the series I went back and downloaded any music I could find by the artists featured in the show. Sadly, it seems that most of these artists are too unknown to be easily found online, but I did manage to get a few sample tracks by Beauty’s Confusion (3 tracks available to download via the “Sounds” section) and Planet Bliss (4 tracks available to download).

Addictiveness and MMORPGs

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Games, RPGs

This post from a “Guild Leader in a Top-Ranking World of Warcraft Guild” does a pretty good job of summing up why I will never play a MMORPG. It’s rather strange because a lot of the things about MMORPGs appeal to me: the creation of long term, sustained virtual environments as places for socialization, content creation, and roleplaying. And in the basest sense, I know I’m attracted to the core gameplay of gaining experience, levelling up, improving a character, and getting better gear. But in a more intellectual sense I know that all of the MMORPGs require intense amounts of devotion and require inordinate amounts of time to make significant progress. Couple this with the monthly fees of a traditional MMORPG and you have a recipe for disaster. Although something like Guild Wars isn’t my ideal game (what is, after all?), I do enjoy being able to jump into the game for an hour, accomplish a task, and then not play it again at all for a month without any twinge of guilt over subscription fees or compulsive grinding activity.

As some have pointed out, if you are “addicted” to an MMORPG the fault lies solely with your own lack of self control. I know those are alien words to people who have grown up spending eight hours a day watching television, but the solution is not to blame game companies for your own character flaws. Yes, one can probably make uip a huge amount of verbiage about how these games use frequent rewards and challenges to stimulate production of serotonin, dopamine, and other brain chemicals and so on and so forth. The only reason why this chemical dependency exists is due to a lack of perspective. Is advancing in the game worth sacrificing real experiences for? The valuation that makes getting the epic gear so important and so anticipated is a conscious one. No one who sits down at the game with a casual attitude is going to get a self-induced high off of that gear in the same sense that a person who has valued the game over their immediate life will do.

In somewhat related news, via BoingBoing, Congress is looking for ways to tax trade that occurs in MMORPGs. The Escapist blog also takes a brief look at traders in MMORPGs. I have a more modest proposal: Euthanize people who are willing to spend real life cash to progress in games. Not only will it nip this whole “illicit trade” thing in the bud, it’ll also significantly reduce the numbers of people whining about how addictive the games they choose to play are.

Rich Burlew’s Fantasy Tropes

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RPGs

I was reading over the Campaign Setting forums on the Wizards.com site and came across this pretty interesting and succinct encapsulation of D&D’s standard fantasy tropes.

Purpose and Style
1) Humans dominate the world.
2) Gods are real and active.
3) Magic is real and can be used by anyone who learns it.
4) Opposite alignments fight each other.
5) Arcane and divine magic are inherently separate.
6) The wilderness is separate enough from the cities to justify 3) wilderness-oriented classes.
7) There are hundreds of intelligent species of creatures, but 99% of them are considered “monsters”.
8) Arcane magic is impersonal and requires no “deal” with a supernatural being.
9) Beings from other planes of existence try to influence the mortal world, usually on behalf of gods/alignments.
10) Magic items are assumed to be available, and game balance proceeds from that assumption.
11) Magic is consequence-free.

Although I’m not convinced significant deviation from any of these points will allow one to create a distinctive campaign setting (since, I think, the most important factor in determining the feel of a campaign is how it actually plays), it certainly would lead your storylines into what I consider a more interesting narrative space.

Electronic Arts Slips the Slope

4 Comments
Games

BF2142SpywareAgreement

Click for full size.

Great. Now we all have to worry about big corporations including spyware in our commercial, paid-for games.

“It doesn’t collect personally identifiable information,” you say? Well, go take a look at AOL’s search records that also lacked “personally identifiable information.”

Tyrian Travels: Ascalon Adventures, part 6

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Games, Guild Wars

Guild Wars mapping again. Unfortunately I’m starting to see my desire to finish mapping all of Tyria wane, so I might wrap up this series when I get done with Ascalon. On the other hand, the imminent release of Nightfall later this month might rekindle my interest in the game somewhat. I’m not terribly excited for Nightfall, but taking a glance over at the screenshots page definitely has me craving some of the fantastic vistas and singleplayer adventure that Nightfall looks like it will have.

Areas covered in this installment: I started out with a desire to make sure I’d gotten the edges in Regent Valley, but I’d end up branching out into more than just this one zone as I ran this area of Ascalon.

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I entered Regent Valley from the northwest, so the first problem area I encountered was the fogged western edge of the map, bordering on the river there. I figured there must be some way to uncover at least a portion of the map there.

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Here’s my first spot of fog uncovered. You can see from the map that I’m not even very close to the edge, so chances are I’m missing out on a bit. The real trouble is finding how to get closer to the edge, which involves running around in the narrow valleys to the south before you can circle around to get heading north again. This movement to the south led me to the southwestern problem spot first, but I wasn’t able to uncover anything there.

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Here I am on the shore of the river. This is about as far as I could get, but netting the fog along the side there gave me .1% completion.

Next, I warped to Fort Ranik to check the northern fogged areas. (It was quicker to warp to Ranik and then backtrack on foot than it would’ve been to run from where I was on the map to where I was going.)

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Below is a picture of me looking directly at a corner of the map that netted me a spot of fog. Head directly forward from where my character is standing in the image and you’ll get it.

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Unfortunately even though I ran around this northern area for a bit more I wasn’t able to find any other fog spots to uncover or any paths that might allow me to get at any more.

Later I moved on to check up on some cloudy areas in Pockmark Flats.

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Here I am standing at the southern edge of this zone immediately after entering it from Regent Valley. I uncovered a spot of fog at the location of this screenshot.

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Moving along the southern border of the map I also came across this nice little find above. Uncovering the fog around this area netted me .1%. Be sure to check both the lower and the upper walkable areas in this vicinity.

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After finding that small bit of ruins I headed north, hugging the walls until I managed to uncover yet another small patch of fog. This one was in a rather unimpressive location, the edge of some random cliff wall. I took a screenshot of the area and highlighted it specifically since I was getting mobbed in order to get a screenshot with some visual reference to it.

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The above screenshot isn’t a patch of fog or anything, I just thought it was a nice vista, in a desolate sort of way.

Here’s the overall map of my progress through Pockmark Flats:

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As you can see in the image there is one more area I wanted to investigate, and that was far to the west. So I hoofed it over there.

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Sorry this image above is not very good. It’s the final piece of fog I uncovered in the Pockmark Flats area, over on the western side of that zone. Unfortunately there were no good reference points nearby, it’s just on the far edge.

At this point I was feeling a little bit irritated because I hadn’t managed to uncover the fog in the northern part of Regent Valley. In a last ditch attempt to get some of that fog I jumped in to the Fort Ranik mission quickly and looked around at the beginning of the mission area (which borders Regent Valley to the south).

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I did manage to find one small patch of fog over on the side of the mission path, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to find a way to get any further west.

Anyway, total gain for this run was about .3%, which was more than I was expecting, but then I did end up branching out into three different areas.

Last, I took a brief foray into the Fort Ranik mission to attempt to find one last patch of fog.