Aug 17, 2010

A Strong Case Against Intelligent Life In Space

No, I'm not making any scientific claims here. I'm referring to Moonbase Alpha, a online NASA simulator in which you work as part of a team of astronauts on the moon. And, like anything made with good intentions, when you set it loose upon the internet it necessarily devolves into stupidity. Awesome, hilarious stupidity.

While I haven't played the game myself, it looks fairly straight forward: work together to complete science-y type tasks in a simulated - and visually stunning - moon environment. You can pilot vehicles and interact with Communication between astronauts is done using a chat which is then spoken aloud in what I believe is Stephen Hawking's voice box. It may not seem like it, but it's a recipe for unintentional comedy gold.

I think the funniest part of the video is not what goes on in the game, but rather what I imagine what ground control must be thinking when they realize the crew they sent up there. Do they regret sending up a crew that is completely unresponsive to orders? Did they realize the crew had a collective IQ of 80 before sending them up? Is ground control worried that the crew, at any point, are just as likely to take off their helmet than they are to fix whatever needs fixing? Are they secretly hoping the astronauts take off their helmets?

I wanna know who's getting fired for letting this happen.

Video might be NSFW for Stephen Hawking sounding like he has Tourettes.

Drop it like it low grav.

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Aug 12, 2010

The Doctor Is In (Again)

So. Hi.

Life got in the way for quite some time. I could fill a book explaining all the big life-changing events that have transpired in the past however-many months I've stepped away (I'll share them soon enough). Life may still get in the way. But the point is I want to start blogging again. I missed this blog.

This blog was amazing for a few reasons. First, it got me writing. I never really did care what the final product would be, just that I was writing on a regular basis. The only rule I set for myself was that I was enjoying myself as I did it. This continuous practice of putting out complete, compelling (at least to me) thoughts made me a better communicator. And not just written communication, I became a more clear and coherent speaker during the time I was writing.

Additionally, writing sparked my creativity. When I first started this blog way back in 2008, eons ago in internet time, I was daunted by the fact that I had to write about something every day. I thought I'd run out of ideas in a week. But I didn't. I kept writing. Sure, I linked a number of videos and stories in some of my posts, but it got me writing. It got me putting pen to paper in an attempt to be interesting and attach my own views and outlooks to things.

Remember images with captions? I freaking love images with captions.

Amazingly enough, the more posts I did, the more ideas for posts I would get. I want to rekindle that kind of creative momentum.

I'm back. Now I have to make an honest man of me.

P.S. It took a friend's blog to make me realize how much I missed doing this. There was nothing inspirational or remarkable about the post per se, it just got my attention at the right time, and she seems to genuinely enjoy it. Thanks, Julie.

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Apr 21, 2010

Going the distance

The Boston Marathon came and went just yesterday. For those not familiar with how big an event this is, most of the city shuts down for it. Sure, they say it's for "Patriots' Day", a holiday I didn't think was real until moving to Massachusetts, but when you've got tens of thousands of runners making it impossible to go across town, you might as well close up shop and watch. BC gave us the day off, at any rate.

One leg of the race happened to be really close to where I live so I decided to see firsthand what a river of people actually looks like. On my way to the race, and it being a nice day, I decided to stop off for some ice cream to eat while watching. It was only when I got up to the barricade that separated the spectators from the runners did I realize that stuffing my face full of ice cream in front of people who had already put in about 22 miles of running was about the meanest thing I've ever done.

Not pictured: The Ice Cream of Shame

After then discretely eating the ice cream, I sat and watched people go by me. Lots of people. I don't know the exact number of people in the event, but I saw runners wearing numbers that were up in the mid-20,000's. This doesn't even take into consideration the non-registered runners - people who decided to hop into the race for however long and go for it.

About a half hour into this high-speed parade, it started becoming surreal. I know from friends and family that a marathon is not something you can just "decide to do". It takes an incredible amount of training and conditioning to be able to make it the full 26.2 miles. I may have only seen each runner go 50 or so yards, but each step I saw them take yesterday required hundreds or thousands in preparation. Multiply this effort by the total number of runners in the marathon, and enormity of it all was pretty humbling.

It went on like this for miles. Literally.

In the end, I'm not sure what I personally took away from the experience. On the one hand, my mind was racing with speculation as to what would motivate each of these tens of thousands of runners. Do they do it for personal pride, to show that they can? Do they run for someone else? Do they run for charity? Do they run because they want to compete, either against others or against themselves? Each runner's demeanor, labored facial expressions, and sometimes even clothing offered minor glimpses into what compelled these people to run. It was never a complete picture, but it was also hard not to be inspired.

Other the other hand, the race was a sober reminder that no matter how hard you think you are working towards something, there's always someone else working just as hard, if not harder. This isn't to say everyone raced for the same reasons, but no one seemed willing to stop short of the finish line. I saw great parallels between this reality and the one I live at business school, itself just a controlled microcosm of the business world.

Either way, it was a heck of an afternoon. Only in Boston.

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Jan 8, 2010

Lots and Lots of Bots

If the string "TF2" means nothing to you, you'd do well to pretend this post is a giant blank space. Just sayin', is all.

Yesterday, Valve released updated tweaks to their experimental bots. That's experimental in the "we're really playing around with this AI stuff, please bear with us", not experimental in the "6 Million Dollar Man" sense. These bots are by no means the finished product -they only work on certain king of the hill maps, and Valve still has not programmed 2 of the classes (Scout and Spy). So I gave them a spin on my favorite map, KOTH_Nucleus.

And no, not these bots either.

What I found was that these bots play a surprisingly adequate game of TF2. Was their AI perfect? Nope, not at all. But what I did see was bots acting sort-of-human. By no means are they as good as humans yet, but I never knew what I would find around a particular corner, and they do a decent job of prioritizing in the middle of a firefight.

If their health drops low, and they aren't in immediate danger (say, a rocket pushed them far enough away from battle) I've seen them retreat and try to get health, either from a medic, med kit or dispenser. If their team had the point, they actually went hunting for other players. Medics do an ok job of healing the people around them and don't reach for their syringe guns if an ally is near.

Heavies probably walk around spinning their guns much longer than humans would, but it's nicely balanced by their recognition and harassment of snipers that are looking to hit the slow Russians. For example, unless he's in the middle of a firefight, I more or less have to catch a heavy off-guard with my rifle, or he just turns and keeps laying cover spray at me to mess up my aim. I like this.

But they do have a few niggles:

  • I'm not sure if the bots walking patterns are fully baked yet. In KOTH_Nuclues, it seemed like the bots kept running into our lower-level supply door because they couldn't find the nearby stairs. Also, if a sentry was just outside our spawn room, the bots would halt as they walked by our spawn door because, rightfully, they didn't want sentry in their face. This behaviors might be purposeful "spawn camping" (a nice touch, if it is), but they might be the result of glitches in the walking AI.

  • Demos bots don't use their stickies. Ever. Why not? I can understand it being a pain to program how and, more importantly, where to trap effectively with stickies. But using them as mid range combat weapons? That's a no brainer.

  • For that matter, I would like to see these bots switch to their secondary weapons more often in general. Soldiers and pyros switch to their shotgun when the situation permits itself. Engineers use their pistols to chip away at range. The only class I saw do a good job of this was the sniper. Whenever you got near him he spams his machine gun.

  • Interestingly, I didn't really notice a problem with snipers showing up in all the same locations, because these locations are exactly where human snipers keep pwning my ass usually frequent.

    It was the engineers I had a problem with. There might be only 3 or 4 locations I might expect an engineer to build, and by golly they only built there. It was always in a place that covered the capture point, and the Engineer would invariably be turtling.

  • This wouldn't have been a problem, if the bots actually behaved like humans. When a human sees a sentry that's kind of guarding an objective, entire team-involved strategies are devised to take that bastard out.

    What do the bots do? They ignore it until it they are in its range. And when the sentries are at level 3, that's a fatal mistake. So it's up to me, man of reason, to be an elite one man strike team to take out the sentry, or more frustrating sentries, so my team can recapture the point.

  • Speaking of, the bots do at best an erratic job of handling me as a Spy. I don't know what I'm going to get when I see them. There are times the enemy seems willing to invite me to their child's christening. There are other times it seems like they hear my decloaking from across the other side of the map and hunt me down Jumanji style.

    There are times when you can tell if they "suspect" you of being a spy. They'll keep looking at you (or, rather, keep their back from you), but more or less continue about their business. The minute you do something that would indicate you're not one of them, like stand still for too long or turn just slightly the wrong way, they'll attack you. Viciously. Valve, if the bots even have a whiff of doubt, why not have them attack the person anyway? It's what I'm used to against humans. And a hell of a lot less frustrating.

It's like they're messing with my head. Literally.

  • And the enemy engineers do a bad job of handling spies. If I sap their stuff, they try to wrench off the sapper instead of coming after me. Even their teammates nearby leave me alone. Of course, this means I'm free to keep sapping their stuff until it is destroyed. And even then, after his sentry is down, nobody attacks me. That needs some serious work.

  • While I'm still on the spy rants, they enemy bots have no concept of the Dead Ringer. They see me die and immediately forget about me. As a spy, that's not even fair.
Bottom line, if you're deficient in a class other than spy (I suck at flanking with a Scout, for example), these bots provide an adequate training ground to get you to some level of competence. Once you start beating these bots regularly as said class, then try your hand online. You'll likely still get your ass handed to you, but at least you'll have a starting point from which to build on.

Click here to continue reading "Lots and Lots of Bots"

Dec 31, 2009

The War On Drugs is Over!

Thanks to Lil' Wayne, and to a less tongue-in-cheek extent The Onion, our war on drugs has come to a complete halt. The solution? Turn him loose on all the world's drugs and have him ingest them all. It was only a matter of time before authorities decided to use celebrities in the war on drugs beyond public service announcements.

The only real question is, why wasn't Keith Richards tapped for this? The man's done so many drugs that his skin has hallucinogenic properties.

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Nov 24, 2009

The Kindness of (Former) Strangers

I wrote this for my blogging duties at the BC admissions blog, but I figure I'd share here as well. I am so lucky to be at such an awesome program.

It’s not everyday that you get to see just how great of a community you’ve become a part of. My story begins just yesterday.

Before we begin, here’s a little background you may need to know: I walk to school from Brighton center, a 30 minute walk. I also carry a large backpack and a laptop bag, which conservatively has me trekking along 50 or so pounds of extra stuff. And while the dress code here at BC is business casual, I always make the trip in sneakers (just more comfortable that way).

Yesterday started as any other for me. I woke up reluctantly fighting my alarm clock, took a shower, grabbed some pop-tarts and it was off to school. I was fairly preoccupied thinking about the Economics midterm I had later that day that the time just seemed to fly by. Before I knew it, I was near the BC T-stop, getting ready to cross the street when all of a sudden, I noticed my shoe was coming untied. Fairly annoyed by it, I decided to tie it once and for all when I got across the street. But just I started to bend down to tie my shoe…

“AHHHH!” I shouted loud enough for people within a half-mile radius to hear me. I sprained my back. How could I have not thought to take off my stuff? Ok, time to think. I’m almost at class, let me just see if I can hobble- OW, nope that’s not going to work.

Thankfully, being so close to school, I ran into a few of my classmates. They were gracious enough to take my bags and limp with me for about as far as I could go. This turned out to be a distance of about 50 feet - I was in that much pain. Shortly thereafter came even more aid - another classmate saw us as he was driving and gave us a lift. We were able to drive up to the top floor of a nearby parking garage, thereby greatly shortening our walk to Fulton. With their help, I was able to limp into my seat and got through my IT class where I literally didn’t move in my seat for the next 2 hours.

As soon as class ended, I planned to go see health services. Note I used the word “planned” here because I never even made it out of the classroom. I tried, but after walking a few feet I realized my back had tightened during class and made moving on it even worse. I had to sit back down. Our IT professor, Professor Fichman, then called health services for me and wheeled me in the chair I was sitting to the back of Fulton hall. There, I waited with another one of my classmates for an ambulance that would take me to a hospital (health services knew they couldn’t do anything for me). They stood there with me for 20 minutes in the cold, just to make sure I was ok.

Later, at the hospital, I realized I wasn’t going to make it back in time for my Economics mid-term. Several classmates were willing to tell the professor my situation and see what I could do about making it up. I was even able to speak to the professor afterwards, and he was completely understanding. After my stay at the hospital, yet another classmate came from their mid-term and picked me up to take me home because, by this time, I was on some heavy pain medication and couldn’t get there myself.

I’m the kind of person who hates to feel helpless. My back may still sprained, but I would be far worse off if it weren’t for the concern, the support, and the help of countless classmates and professors. My belief in the strength of the Boston College community has increased tenfold, all from the small acts of kindness from these former strangers.

This is not the pain meds talking when I say that these are some of the absolute best people you could ever hope to surround yourself with.

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Nov 18, 2009

Left 4 Rage 2

I'm about to preface this rant with saying, unequivocally, that Left 4 Dead 2 is an excellent game. It is well worth your time and money to go out and buy it, even this soon after L4D was launched, and I've only seen a small fraction of what it has to offer.

The vast amount of new weapons, power ups and boosts make for unique and changing styles of play, not just your shottie/sniper/rifle config of the previous title. New boss infected really change things up, especially when they start working in evil, evil, tandem. And the new, non-stationary trigger events are really the bees knees - no longer do you just turtle-up, you have to go somewhere to end the event.

Again, I haven't seen all this game has yet to offer, but I'm incredibly happy with my purchase and think this is one of the better gaming experiences I could have with friends. The operative phrase there being with friends.

Seeing as all of my friends were either 1) offline, or b) haven't yet purchased the game, I decided to give it a go in the single player campaign. On normal mode. Turns out even on this setting the AI, can still be mind numbingly stupid.

This was me, Coach, the lone beacon of competency and probably the only one of my group that deserved to be saved.

The inherent problem is that the AI takes no initiative. None. 0. You couldn't get them to pick up a $1 million pile of cash sitting on the other side of the room unless you started doing it yourself. To Valve's credit, I didn't even really notice this shortcoming most of the time. I did my thing, my group backed me up. Awesome sauce.

But then, we got to a mall. And in this mall, was a door with a security alarm - a trigger event! In it, once I open the door, it's a mad dash up to the third floor to deactivate the alarm. Until you deactivate it, all of the zombies in the entire state of Louisiana, all of whom just so happen to be in the mall too, keep bum rushing you.

Something in this equation caused my team to go full retard. Valve, you never go full retard. If I could have written out the script for how this went down, it would have gone something like this.
Coach: Ok, guys, when I open this door, we need to get up to the 3rd floor and shut off the alarm. If we don't, we're going to die plain and simple. You guys got it?

Got it!

::opens the door::

Ok, let's get to the escalator!

God damn it, I can't hear you, this buzzing is too loud. What about a calculator?

Not calculator, stupid, escalat- OH SHIT, are they having a sale at Victoria's Secret? Hang on, guys, I'll be right back.

Actually, hold up, I might have a calculator somewhere in the gear!

What? No! Guys! Follow me, we have to get going.

What would you even need a calculator for in a time like this?

I DON'T! What I need is some fucking support as we get our asses upstairs.

Hang on, lemme ask this guy over here if he has a calculator.

THAT'S A ZOMBIE ::shoots zombie before Ellis can get to him::

Well, now how am I going to ask him about a calculator?

[from a distance] ...Ellis! You got that calculator? I need to know how much I'm spending over here. Budgets and all that.

GAH! Ok, Nick, you'll help me right? Follow me.

You got it!

::Nick and Coach walk to the base of the escalator. Coach goes up, but Nick stays at the bottom::

What the? Nick, get your ass up here!

But the escalator's not working.

I know it ain't working, just walk up here!

Is it safe?

WHAT DO YOU MEAN IS IT SAFE? If I could get my fat black ass up here, you sure as hell can.

I dunno... I mean, it isn't running or anything.

This is the zombie apocalypse, Nick, not Black Friday. Make fucking due. It's just stairs, for chrissakes!

All the same, I think I'm going to wait for a technician. I would hate to die in something so stupid as an escalator accident.

[in the background] My, you guys are the friendliest people I've ever met! Hugs for everyone!

I can't fucking believe this.

[walking up behind Nick] Hey, Coach, you have any cash on you? I left my wallet at home and I found the nicest little-


::Coach gets halfway to the next escalator when a Charger incapacitates him. Coach has only one regret just before dying: that he wasn't able to kill the rest of his team himself::


This might be funny if it didn't play out like this 3 times in a row. First time I ever ragequitted from a single player game before.

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Oct 28, 2009

Dear Dr. Ruth...

Rare is the joke or gag or schtick or whatever that makes me laugh no matter how many times I see it. I tend to think that this "letter" written to love columnist Dr. Ruth, a rough on the eyes sex therapist, is nothing but a joke. But a joke I'm not going to ever stop laughing at.

What makes this so brilliant is imagining the poor unfortunate woman as she's writing this letter. I honestly am not even sure that last sentence is supposed to be sarcastic or not. You decide.

via Reddit

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Oct 1, 2009

Pure epic

History is rife with examples of how two awesome things are put together to form an even more awesomer thing: peanut butter and chocolate; rock and roll; Stephen Hawking and speak-and-spells. This 2-combo bar has been the gold standard for thousands of years of human history.

Until today.

Some grand alchemist decided he would go for the impossible. He would combine not two awesome things together, but 3. Mad, is he? Sure, I'm sure he got that a lot in his quest for human combo advancement. I'm sure his kids cried little kid tears when father wouldn't come home again because he's set afire with purpose and flashes of insight.

So I humbly present to you, something unimaginably epic - a video game that combines Pheonix Wright, Elite Beat Agents, and Queen.

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Sep 16, 2009

The most ridiculous mashup of video games and pop culture EVER

Dear god, my head is going implode. Kinda like a reverse pinata, only instead of candy my head is full of lulz. And these lulz collapse into singularity. Which would make them more like the letter "K" if you squint really hard. That's what singularity means, right? Oh god, my brain is so bork right now.

The good news is if the Heavy Weapons Guy's career as a Billy Mays replacement doesn't pan out, you know MTV'll probably have some work for him.

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Sep 3, 2009

What playing football has taught me about my MBA program (and I haven't even started class yet!)

I'm currently applying for a student blogger position at Boston College's MBA website. Since I like reusing my work whenever possible, I thought I'd share the sample I sent in here. Enjoy!

I am a first year student. And at the time of this writing, I haven't spent minute one in the classroom. What I know of my upcoming academic experience has been gathered in the form of testimonials, hearsay, and grim warnings. It's a vision of first years toiling away in break out rooms and all but sleeping at Fulton Hall 5+ days a week. It demands all that you can give and then some. You will be constantly challenged throughout the year.

Having played in high school and college, I believe football is a pretty good parallel. While the games are all typical fans are exposed to, they represent only a fraction of the sweat, hard work and dedication put in by the players. There are practices, team meetings, films, off season work out routines, and grueling summer camps - a year round regime that demands all the player can give and then some. Players are constantly challenged throughout the year (though these challenges usually manifest as 260+ lb linemen).

Ray Lewis, one of the nfl all time great linebackers, represents Accounting. You don't even want to know what the metaphor for Statistics is.

I strongly suspect the solution to tackling the first year of school here at the Carrol School of Management is the same one I discovered for playing football: give it your all and have fun.

My fellow first years and I may get (figuratively) dinged up, bruised, and battered. We may all very well exhausted every night. But if we're doing it right, if we're really getting the most out of our experience here, there's no reason we can't be smiling the whole time. I know I will be.

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Sep 1, 2009

Holy crap you guys, I'm going to school

Shortly after the posting of this... uh, post, I'll be moving to Boston to pursue my MBA. This is a dream 3+ years in the making, having been rejected from all applied schools years earlier. I'm super excited to get into the swing of things, even though I'm woefully unprepared. I hear this experience is akin to drinking from a fire hose - so I say let 'er rip!

However, this post is also bittersweet. If you've ever drank from a fire hose, first off what the hell is wrong with you? But more importantly, you know that in the battle between your balance and the deluge of water, the water's gonna win. I honestly don't know what amount of free time I'll have, which means I don't know what ability I have to write here on The Unwind.

This blog has been a tremendous help to me as a writer, allowing me to hone my writing craft, and as a creative outlet. I do hope to continue here, but as of right now I have to put it on tentative hiatus.

In case I can't come back to it, thank you for stopping by. I hope you've had as much fun reading this blog as I did writing it.

Click here to continue reading "Holy crap you guys, I'm going to school"

Aug 31, 2009

Do you know the number to heaven?

I saw this on the great G4 television show Web Soup, and I needed to share it here.

So imagine you got a movie contest premise. It has to be 30 seconds long, feature a monster, someone under 18 years old and the word "fantastic". What would you come up with? Go ahead, think about it. I'll be right here.

Still need a minute? No problem.

Got it now? Good. Now throw your idea away because there is no way you're on enough drugs to top this movie (you're still able to read, after all). This could quite possibly be the most WTF thing I've ever seen in my many years on the internet. Also, I love it.

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Aug 28, 2009

Smile, you're on camera!

Ever go to Walmart, only to see some really creepy individual shopping? Would you like to see more of him/her? How about many different versions of him/her? Now you can, delivered right to the very computer that you're using right now!

I'm talking, of course, about the website People of Walmart.

It's got your average, run-of-the-mill creepy. It's got your take-3-showers-to-feel-clean-again creepy. It's got your absurd, ridiculous and just plain "wtf". There's something here for every voyeur too lazy to go to his local Walmart.

I'm wonder just when this site will feature a naked man in a trench coat. It's this idea's logical conclusion and, quite honestly, just a matter of time.

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Aug 27, 2009


I know I've been talking a lot about Team Fortress 2 here. I swear I'm not a TF2 blog, it's just... well, I'm heading to grad school soon and I don't know if I'll have the time to play it. So I've been playing it more often than usual pre-emptively in case I don't have the time to be a gamer anymore.

When I saw this video, I was instantly intrigued by a new game mode someone's created called Prop Hunt. Essentially it's hide and seek, done TF2 style. Set in arena maps, the RED team has about 30 or seconds to hide from the BLU team, then the BLU team has the remaining time to go forth and slaughter. Sounds simple, right?

Nope. The BLU team, default pyro (though you can switch to heavy, another good choice), takes damage everytime they fire their weapons. So it pays to conserve instead of W+M1. Yes, you can pull the trigger so much you die. To augment this, periodically the capture point is "refreshed" and you can touch it for full health. The brilliance of this is that it takes you away from the hunt.

Oh, yeah, and it's called prop hunt. The RED team, forcibly scouts, are all turned into random map props as soon as the round begins. We're talking palm trees, buckets, doors, wood piles, hay - whatever is native to the map. Actually, the worst things to be forced to hide as are capture points (BLU always checks the point and you always look out of place anywhere else) and BLU pyros - you hold no gun and don't have the same running animations the other BLU pyros do.

The outcome of all this is interesting. RED's advantage, aside from being a prop, is its speed and mobility. I can't tell you the number of times I've spotted and lit a hider, only to have him run away from me before I could kill him. But what BLU lacks in speed, it makes up for in numbers - once a prop is out and running, you can see everyone scramble to cut off angles and kill it.

It's amazing to see what can be done with a little creativity and the patience to create a new game mode. Wholly recommended.

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