Month: October 2012

Never seen a book so thoroughly shit the bed before.

This is actually a representation of a hypercube.

I recently read the book Art & Physics by Leonard Shlain.  This was a book I’d picked up years ago on a whim, and because it was cheap, at a used bookstore in New Jersey.  It was an interesting book, for the most part.  The subject was about the correlation between movements in art and scientific understanding of the world and universe.  It played out as a very informative, if disjointed, holistic history of civilization by always relating back to the art of the time (although the author also addresses literature and music briefly.)  However, the correlation is sometimes muddled as the artistic movements used to illustrate certain scientific discoveries sometimes predated the discoveries, or if they occurred more-or-less concurrently there is no real mechanism given to explain how the artist was aware of or understood the related science.  For the majority of the book I just took it as the author presenting these coincidences as just that; science and art inexplicably developing along similar paths, but illustrating such a development in such a way so as to use the art to explain the science in layman’s terms.

Actually, I think this could be a very interesting way to present history and science to students in this world of

Up until the last couple of chapters.  Those were where the author attempted to give a causation to the correlation.  How?  Oh, simply by invoking an all encompassing collective human consciousness that spread knowledge among the population–even to the past (because time isn’t linear at the speed of light)–and since artists are so unique they’re able to tune into this collective consciousness, subconsciously, and be influenced by it even if they don’t fully understand the knowledge it imparts on them.

It was a good book up until that point.  I wish the collective consciousness had warned me not to read through to the end, though.

Additional Material


Fantasy Presidential Debate

Tonight is the final presidential debate for the 2012 election (in the United States.)  Debates are boring, but mostly because the audience doesn’t have the benefit of historical context.  If you could pick presidents from history to debate, which would you take and what would they debate?  Just to get the ball rolling:

  1. James Garfield vs. William McKinley – We Were Assassinated, Too!
  2. Franklin Roosevelt vs. William Henry Harrison – It’s Not the Size of the Wave but the Motion of the Ocean
  3. John F. Kennedy vs. Bill Clinton – Sexiest Presidential Infidelity
  4. Abraham Lincoln vs. George W. Bush – Wait, We’re the Same Party?
  5. John Tyler vs. Barack Obama – Could You Show me to the President?

Alright, I Beat XCOM

X-Com Fan Art from Androidarts

It’s rare for me to get a game and then immediately play through it (hence the embarrassing backlog I often refer to).  It pulled some pathetically long marathon sessions over the last week.  I didn’t play through the game in the most hardcore fashion; I was perfectly willing to load up a save file and retry a situation to keep a soldier from dying.  According to the gaming elites, this is a pathetic, scrubby way to play.  That may be true, but I also think it’s a behavior somewhat encouraged by the developers (unless you’re playing in “Iron Man” mode, which doesn’t allow you to save and reload.)  The way it’s done, each action is not “rolled” upon being performed.  If you have a 60% chance of hitting an enemy with a shot, the computer won’t virtually roll a ten-sided die to determine whether you succeed upon your choice to fire.  Instead, it’s basically generated a random number table at the start of the mission and as actions occur the game just proceeds along the table. So if you miss a shot, you will always miss that shot at that point in the mission.  When you reload the game you will need to do something different to move along the random number table.  It’s no longer a matter of playing percentages but of finding the optimal order of actions and positions for characters in a given situation to ensure the best outcome.  Playing the game in this scrub fashion isn’t necessarily cheating, it’s just choosing to play a different game altogether.  It’s become a puzzle game versus a strategy game.

You might not be hearing from me for a while.

I got the new release of XCOM Enemy Unknown for the PC (through Steam.)  I’ve been trying to avoid buying new games lately because I’ve been focusing my copious amount of free time on finally working through my embarrassingly huge backlog.  In hindsight this was a silly thing to do.  If I “needed” to buy it on release day it would have been better to get it from Amazon for the PS3, which gave a $15 coupon.   Once I was done with it I could have traded it back in to Amazon for maybe $25 (if beaten soon enough) or sold it on eBay for up to $40.

As it is, I now have the game for $50 (but hey, it came with a free copy of Civlization 5 which was recently on sale for $7.50 on Steam, so that brings the total price down to $42.50!)

I looked around on some forums and comments to reviews of the game (which have been very positive) and noticed a lot of people touting how much smarter they are than everyone else because they’re going to refuse to buy the game at full price and wait for the inevitable price drop.  I hate these cheap bastards because they fail to recognize their place in the gaming world: as bottom feeders.  The only reason there are games for them to buy is because of the “idiots” who support the developers and publishers at full price.  Cheapskates like these are the ones who buy the HP Touchpad on clearance–because it saw no support during its initial retail run–and then complained about a lack of continued support in terms of updates and apps.  So hey, great, you’re saving a few bucks by ensuring nobody would want to make games going forward (although it’s still marginally better than those who just pirate software); that doesn’t give you reason to look down on the people who support products they like.