Friday, October 28, 2005

Words Rarely Used Outside Scrabble

I often play Scrabble against my Palm while commuting. Some words that have been played against me:

ETUI - case for holding small articles
PRILL - to convert into pellets
NAM - past tense of nim (to steal)
KIF - kef (marijuana)
TWA - two
GLOZE - to explain away
KAE - bird resembling a crow
HAE - to have
TROOZ - trews, tartan trousers
TEW - to work hard
BORTY - low quality diamond
ETH, EDH - old english letter
UTA - any of a genus of large lizards
KEX - a dry, hollow stalk
WUD - insane
NARD - a fragrant ointment
PASE - matador's pass
ZARF - coffee cup holder
REI - an erroneous english form for a former portuguese coin
ANI - tropical american bird
SEI - a rorqual
AMRITA - beverage that bestows immortality in hindu mythology
AGEE - to one side
ZEK - inmate in a soviet labor camp
TRUG - gardener's basket
SWIPLE - threshing machine part
TEIID - south african lizard
MUN - fellow
HIN - hebrew unit of liquid measure

How many of those could you have recognized? Defined?

Thursday, October 27, 2005

How Many Cookies Do You Want?

I'm not good at moderation.

Janeane Garofalo once noted that "How many cookies do you want?" is a pointless question, as the correct answer is "All." However many there are, that's how many I want.

(A slightly more useful question is "How many cookies will you have?" as it balances the firm desire to eat all available cookies with the competing desire not to look like a glutton or end up weighing 300 pounds. In private, the social disapproval factor is greatly diminished, so the best strategy for one who doesn't want to have eaten cookies is to not buy cookies.)

But it's not just food; I'm also a glutton for books, DVDs, and videogames. I stay up too late reading or watching. Or stay in playing a game or watching a video when I should go out and exercise or spend more time with people.

The videogame workout is an attempt to harness the power of gluttony in the service of physical health. An exercise game should be addictive and entertaining in the way videogames are, but have the side effect of making one more fit. It still tastes like a cookie, but it's highly nutritious!

One way to accomplish this is to bolt disparate parts together, adding an exercise component to a game that doesn't inherently need one. Like adding wheat germ to a chocolate-chip cookie recipe. Make the game require some physical activity as a cost of progress. The problem is that the exercise reduces the fun. It means you're playing a sub-optimal videogame, one that could easily be improved by removing the exercise component.

The best exercise games combine the addictive nature of videogames with the addictive nature of exercise. The movement is part of the fun, not a cost one has to pay to get the fun. The exercise component is there because it adds to the realism, adds to the challenge, and adds to the sense of accomplishment when you meet a goal along the way.

(cross-posted with videogame workout blog.)

Sunday, October 16, 2005

The New DeYoung: eh.

I dropped by to see the DeYoung exterior yesterday. The opening-day line to get in looked to be over an hour so I decided to come back in a week (when the place should be deserted again) to see the interior.

Based purely on exterior aesthetics, I like the observation tower; the view of the park from there must be fabulous! As for the main building, it was an ugly blocky thing before the renovations and's still an ugly blocky thing. The exterior cladding is already oxidized. Based on the pictures I've seen, it was a lot prettier when it was still copper-colored. Maybe it'll be nice again when it achieves the expected green patina in another decade, but it's ugly right now.

The scratches and dents and holes all over the panels kind of reminds me of another current fashion I dislike - pre-stressed jeans that are ripped and faded the moment you buy them. The good news is that the exterior (of the museum or the jeans) can't get much worse as it ages, because it's already been beaten and bruised by a professional before you buy. The better news is that no tax dollars were used to fund the renovations and that it doesn't look significantly worse than it did before, merely different.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Maya is Kinda Creepy

[ cross-posted with the Videogame Workout Blog ]

So far, I've done six sessions with Maya of Yourself!Fitness. I love the workouts and it really does help get the moves right to watch Maya do them and mirror what she does...but I have to tell you, she's starting to creep me out.

Maya falls smack into the uncanny valley.

First, there's the neck/head thing. Her neck doesn't move quite right and the head doesn't always face the right direction relative to the rest of the body. Especially when doing something where the body hunches forward such as a sideways step-touch, the head is all wrong. She reminds me of the zombies in a's like the neck is broken and wobbling around a little but the body doesn't realize it yet and keeps on going.

Then there's the face. She talks, and her lips move, but the rest of the face doesn't move with the lips. And the lip movements aren't right - it's like a badly-dubbed movie. And her head sometimes seems too small for her body. Though she looks fine in posed shots and at key points starting and stopping an exercise, some of the transition frames are just plain...odd.

Her chatter is often inappropriate to the situation in ways a good programmer could have fixed but didn't think to. She'll announce "Moving on to kicks!" when it's the first exercise so there's nothing to move on from. Or when we just did kicks. When we do X on the right leg followed by X on the left leg, she'll say "Let's do X!" both times rather than saying "Now let's try the other side" at the transition. Sometimes the last segment in a workout is a rest; she'll say "let's take a moment" and sit there for ten seconds before announcing the workout is actually complete. When the music changes, sometimes it goes silent for a half minute. Which I wouldn't mind if it were worth the wait, but the new track is usually just as cheesy as what it replaced. I just want Maya to go find the hidden Deejay and smack him upside the head for sleeping on the job while she's trying to give a good workout, but she never seems to notice the silence. Maybe she's asleep too!

So it's still a fantastic program - and you should buy it right now - but there's room for improvement.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Losing things...

Last night I misplaced a restaurant, a woman, and a car.

Lisa and I are running late to Kay's birthday dinner. Lisa tells me the restaurant is at 1515 Hyde Street. I punch that address into my GPS navigator and follow the directions. As we approach the 1500 block, I say "Oh, I know this place! It's really good!" Sure enough, as the numbers approach 1515, there's a cluster of restaurants on the right side of the street including the Hyde Street Bistro, a fabulous french restaurant. That must be it! I don't see any likely parking, so I drop Lisa off at the corner - she's got heels on - and start circling various blocks. It takes 15 minutes or so but eventually I find a quasi-legal spot in front of a tree on Leavenworth where my Beetle only slightly extends into the nearby driveways - a sufficiently motivated driver could probably still get around me. I walk around the block to the restaurant.

The restaurant is open, but there's no Kay, no Lisa, no dinner party. Huh?

I step out to the street and check the address. Ah, the Bistro isn't 1515 after all; it's 1519. Clearly 1515 must be the next restaurant along! Er, no. That's 1513. 1515 is an apartment building wedged between the two. With a dark window and a locked front door.

There's no restaurant here.

I want to say "Lisa, there's no restaurant here! We've got the wrong address; we need to call Kay and get it right." Only one problem with that plan: there's no Lisa here either.

Where could she be?

I don't have my cellphone with me to call Lisa's. I know! I'll find a payphone. There's a payphone at the end of the street. No answer. I leave a somewhat panicked where-did-you-go message closing with "I'll just take one last look along the block and see if I can find you." In the process of so doing...I find it! It turns out I misheard; the restaurant was at 1550, not 1515. In fact, "1550 Hyde" is the name of the restaurant as well as its address, which explains why no name was given earlier. The girls are there. An interesting dinner is had. After dinner we go look for the car, find the spot where I parked it, and...

There's no car here.

Fortunately, it wasn't stolen; it was towed for blocking the driveway. $184 is the ransom.

Lisa is sympathetic. Me: "I've parked so many times in quasi-legal spaces that I was about due. Besides, if you divide the cost of this ticket by all the times I've parked illegally, the average cost probably isn't too bad." Lisa: "No wonder you're always in a good mood, thinking like that. I'd be pissed."