Went to Yosemite to Fight Cougars

Erc, Erem, Kejia, Jo and I are going to Yosemite this weekend to film my student film documentary “When Ninjas Fight Cougars”. Also, Erc and I are going to test my hypothesis that mountain lions don’t like to be hit with sticks. Anyways you’ll be able to download my film here when I get back. I might also have cool gory emergency room photos. Watch this space.

Light this Candle

Instead of studying for my EE108B midterm today, I wandering into the book store and started reading Light This Candle: The Life and Times of Alan Shepard. I’ve always been interested in space travel. I read a lot of popular science books on astrophysics as a kid. That’s probably a little unusual. On the other hand, I think space travel in general is kind of like dinosaurs or trains in that it’s just one of those things children love. The harsh reality that there is a cosmic speed limit and that even approaching it becomes exponentially more impossible is just one of those dream-crushing facts of life that you have to face while growing up. When was the last time your day was ruined by a cosmological constant?

I think my interest in the history of the American space program started freshman year. I was taking a silly PWR class on the rhetoric of war or some BS like that and I ended up writing a 15 page final paper on the space race. The main appeal of the American space saga for me is really not the science, but rather the character of the astronauts themselves. These were truly brave men and I think one would be hard-pressed to find heroes of similar stature in contemporary American culture. So, in short, I would recommend this book, though it is not as good as some of the biographies I have read on John Glenn (though I can’t name a particular one that stood out as being excellent).

As a small aside, despite my admiration for the original American astronauts I believe that the show is now over and that manned spaceflight is a ridiculous waste of resources. There was a time and a place for technological saber-rattling during the Cold War; and there is no disputing that the space program is what gave impetuous to the American aerospace dynasty. The Apollo program cost 2-4 percent of the federal budget for more than ten years. In present day terms this is trillions and trillions of dollars. Instead of blasting this cash into outer space, I think it should be spent on solving humanity’s more immediate problems, namely: disease, hunger, and energy.

HTML formatting consumes souls

Spent more time than I’ll willing to admit fiddling with my weblog format template to make it fit within a 800×600 browser window. I think the new look is slightly more professional. I’ll probably add a couple more features soon. I have to get the archive function working before the first of May…

What do you think about that?

I’ve been wanting to add the ability to support comments on my blog for about a week now. While I wasn’t sure what options there were for this one thing I knew for sure was that I didn’t want to mess with a bunch of UNIX config hell to do something that should be simple. So instead of figuring out what the x in “chmod /usr/~jjshed/WWW/blog —r-r-e-%3-s-fsdf- /r /e /s -grep “rc .bk” | edit.csrch x” should be I found a really simple solution (Haloscan). Hope it works ok. It’s not as customizable as I might like but nor does it require me to recall the key combination to save a text file in emacs. I think it’s CRTL-ALT-Q-F4-“Euro Currency Symbol” but I don’t remember for sure.

Focus Focus!

I borrowed Doug’s SNES today and Wampler, Tammy, Claudia and I played TetrisAttack for four hours. For those who aren’t in the know, TetrisAttack is the singular best game ever made period. We used to play it all the time back in Mirlo. Ah the memories. Still I’m rusty. The largest chain I made today was a nine. Jason would eat me alive.

FACT: Ninjas are Totally Sweet!

Progress on the ninja game continues, though I have been inhibited by taking 21 units of classes this quarter, so I don’t have as much spare time for my own projects as I might like. Erc and I are currently struggling to get a working 3DS Max => .scene file => .scene loader pipeline working so that we can import some level geometry and start making something that looks like a game. Today I was stress testing Ogre and my video hardware to see what level of scene complexity I should be shooting for in my game. I could talk more, but the screen shots are really more interesting than I am.

These ninjas use a skeletal animation technique

My hardware (1.9 GHz Pentium 4M, 512 MB 266 DDR RAM, Geforce440Go) is brought to it’s knees by a scene containing an army of 400 ninjas.

My game doesn’t really involve armies of ninjas (yet), but it’s nice to know that there’s quite a bit of headroom even using a poor graphics chip. With LOD techniques it would probably be possible to have a game with 400 skeletally animated characters in a level, so long as they were never all bunched up and viewable in a single frame, like in the 2nd shot above.

I took screen shots of my huge ninja army at a higher resolution. If you like ninjas at all, even a little bit, you owe it to yourself to look at these:
Ninja Army 1
Ninja Army 2

The astute reader will bring up the point that ninjas don’t march in armies. To that reader I say: my ninjas are badass. They do what they want.

This Way to the Museyroom…

I was playing chess online today on the ICC (Internet Chess Club) and I had an interesting blitz game against Serena-Maria(WIM). Playing as white I was up a full piece at one point, but then blundered a bishop. However, I still had a formidable passed pawn and black resigned. She missed a forced draw. Can you find it?

Black to play and draw

In other chess-related news, I read Marilyn Yalom’s Birth of the Chess Queen: A History the other day in the bookstore. Yalom is apparently a Stanford prof, by the way. The book tells the story of the rise of the chess queen from being the originally the weakest piece (she originally moved like the king) to the most powerful piece on the board. Some parts of the book were interesting but it was much more a book on fem studies than on chess, so I was ultimately left disappointed. Yalom’s thesis is that the elevation of the chess queen parallels the rise of women’s status from the tenth to eighteenth centuries. I think this thesis is shot to hell by the fact that the game is just more engaging with piece movements that allow for sharper tactical positions, a facet of the issue she ignores almost completely. Facts can be so inconvenient sometimes.