"So there are Oliphaunts. But no one at home will ever believe me."
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The escape

So Valve releases Steam for the Mac. Steam is like an iTunes Store for video games. That is, video games that work on a traditional computer, not on your iPod/iPhone/iPad. Of which the iTunes Store has tens of thousands. Steam is a big deal for Windows computers, and now that they have come to the Mac, Valve giving you access to your games on OS X even if you originally bought them for Windows. Classy. Browsing their store, they don’t have a lot for the Mac right now, but there were a few on sale that tempted me, until I remembered that I had stockpiled a bunch of games to play to while away endless hours here. And I have barely touched them. So I guess I’m good on games for the next few years.

Except for Wii games. And DS games. And iPhone/iPad games.

Anyway, I have to go play these games now or else I wasted the money. It’s like work.

May 13, 2010   Comments Off

Scrabble for iPad

Scrabble on the iPad has become a part of the morning ritual along with the illy café from the moka pot. Sometimes games take days, other times we decide that we have wrecked the board with too many tightly played words and start over. Sometimes we forget whose turn it is and only realize after the next person goes.

The game has a terrible built in dictionary, accepting words like, NE, QI, QUOD, ENVIRO, ZINE and AE. But we aren’t playing seriously so it is tolerated. The official Scrabble dictionary is only about 660k, and this is a licensed version, so I don’t see why they couldn’t include that.

They need to add the ability to store multiple in-progress games, and a customizable dictionary. Worth the $9.99 price, though.

May 10, 2010   Comments Off

The Snipe Hunt

This morning, over espresso (how terrible war is), somebody wanted to play with my iPad (again, this war, right now: terrible) and started an impromptu game of Scrabble. We started a “pass the iPad” multiplayer game, and to my surprise the demo turned into a serious contest. Time passed, and finally somebody suggested that it would be great if we had a multiplayer computer version to play on our laptops, taking turns during little breaks throughout the day.

Surely, I offered, some enterprising programmer has created a free version of Scrabble that can be hosted on one computer and played locally with other computers on the same network. Probably, I hypothesized, this programmer had even made it possible to play through your web browser. The other two agreed that this was virtually certain to have happened.

“Well,” said one, “you should probably go back to your CHU to download whatever it is since the Internet is so slow so we can have this set up by tonight.”

“Right,” I agreed.

Six hours gone, and many vast and deep Internet searches later, I had to give up. I realized that the challenge to find this thing on the Internet had been like a perfectly aimed special munition into the very heart of my personal Death Star. A whole perfectly splendid idle Sunday used up in futile sifting through the bed of the web’s Mariana Trench.

“Well played, friend,” I admitted to my new enemy, many hours later.

Perhaps all was not lost. I have been casting about for something to work on to keep my coding skills sharp. A locally shareable game like Scrabble, with an HTML5 client, would have a pretty deep stack of the technologies I’m interested in. So I may pursue it.

Around dinner time I got a late invitation to go barbecue with our Lebanese friends. The food tonight was really, really good. I think that perhaps my culinary interest in Lebanese food has prompted our host to up his game, or it may be that improving economic conditions have made it possible for him to acquire better ingredients and equipment (for instance, tonight he had actual hard wood charcoal as opposed to briquettes). Whatever the cause, it’s great to be able to enjoy simple food, well prepared.

We were going to make peanut brittle afterwards, but everybody was stuffed, and I owed this to the blog.

Tomorrow I start teaching math class again. We learned in the last that having the class five or six times a week was likely too much, so we’re cutting back to every other day and placing more emphasis on homework.

April 25, 2010   Comments Off

Leave, Day 3

A busy Day 3 (events from 2 April 2010).

We got up early, and @agentwool made German Apple Pancakes for breakfast. Around 10:15, we headed into Tacoma. Our first stop was Sushi Revolution. The kids love sushi, and they especially love choosing their own food from the conveyor belt system, pointing out which plate for you grab from the parade of Japanese food (mostly sushi, but there are other bite-sized offerings). The plates cost $1.00 to $3.50 or so, in .50 cent increments, with the price being color coded—cheap, you would think, but the children will eat prodigious quantities and are attracted to the most ostentatious and expensive plates. A lot of the sushi is very non-traditional and geared toward American palates (anything with Krab™, cream cheese, avocado, or smoked salmon), which doesn’t interest me, but some of the innovations involving seared (but still raw) tuna or salmon prepared nigiri style and then drizzled with a wasabi sauce are definitely winners.

Most of us selected the plate of cream puffs for dessert.

From there, we headed to the Tacoma Museum of Glass. I was worried that the kids would hate it right from the start, so we headed to the “hot shop” immediately, where we watched a group of artists collaborate to make a giant glass “tire” by repeatedly heating, spinning and blowing. The furnace was hot enough that the visible light was painful to look at. The kids were actually very interested in this process and watched it for a long time. This is the only area of the museum where pictures are allowed, save for the obligatory gift shop.

The museum is pretty small, and there were only two galleries for display. The first we went to was the Kids Design exhibit, followed by a gallery dedicated to Tlingit artist Preston Singletary. The first exhibit showed glass recreations of fanciful creatures sketched by children. The recreations were very faithful, copying every defect and juvenile asymmetry. In that, they were technically impressive, but still fun. The kids liked it. They didn’t like the exhibit of Tlingit glasswork nearly as much, although they did find a few things to ooh and ah over. I could have spent more time here but it was testing the stamina of the kids. There is some beautiful work here, although I was forced to wonder about the artist’s attitudes about other aspects of the advanced industrial technology needed to manufacture these expressions of traditional Native American art. I noticed some of the same artwork on display at SeaTac when I left the country through there a few days later.

A worthwhile visit, but here is a little secret: the best part of the museum is actually free: the bridge over the highway between the museum and the courthouse which is decorated with some of their best pieces.

Pictures were taken, but not many thanks to the restrictions on photography.

April 20, 2010   Comments Off