Pale Blue Dot

Two excellent renditions of immortal words by Carl Sagan:

Published on July 21st, 2009 | No Comments »

Movic, Musies

A couple of must-see movies which also sport a must-have soundtrack:

  • Juno
  • Once
  • Almost Famous
  • Harold and Maude
  • Magnolia

Those are just a few that come to mind. After recently watching Juno and Once, I was reminded of how potent a mixture film and music can be. More than just being a backdrop to what happens on screen, these soundtracks form the soul of the stories. (Interesting thought: While the soundtracks can each be enjoyed on their own, I suspect a movie from the above list stripped of its music would have a rather bleak and dead feeling about it…)

Published on March 29th, 2008 | 3 Comments »

Oh my. I need some cake.

Gordon Freeman calls in to a radio show.

Published on January 22nd, 2008 | No Comments »

A History of id

Last week, Valve announced the immediate availability of id games on Steam.

This is great news. Growing up on the Mac side of the first-person shooter saga, I’ve immensely enjoyed Bungie’s Marathon Trilogy, but missed out on everything id. Yes, Wolfenstein 3D, Doom and the rest were available on the Mac (probably with the usual delay, but I could be wrong, since this is id), but Mac gamers scoffed at Doom’s lack of any serious plot. “But Doom is fun!” Yes, yes. We wanted our first-person carnage to be high-brow. It was all about getting to the next terminal to delve further into the story. The shooting on the way there was necessary, but we didn’t enjoy it too much. No, really.

Anyway, the time has finally come to check out what I have missed. Look at this package, for the insane price of $62.95 ($69.95 after August 10):

  • Commander Keen, Episodes 1 through 5
  • Wolfenstein 3D
  • Spear of Destiny
  • Return to Castle Wolfenstein
  • Ultimate DOOM
  • Final DOOM
  • DOOM3
  • DOOM3: Resurrection of Evil
  • QUAKE Mission Pack 1: Scourge of Armagon
  • QUAKE Mission Pack 2: Dissolution of Eternity
  • QUAKE II Mission Pack: The Reckoning
  • QUAKE II Mission Pack: Ground Zero
  • QUAKE III Arena
  • QUAKE III: Team Arena
  • Heretic
  • Heretic: Shadow of the Serpent Riders
  • HeXen
  • HeXen: Deathkings of the Dark Citadel
  • HeXen II

Another nifty aspect of this style of distribution is that you can play oldies like Commander Keen without worrying about compatibility with modern operating systems like Windows XP. The game comes packaged with DOSBox, but you won’t even notice the setup work behind the scenes if you don’t pay close attention when the game is starting. You just install it and play. This is something about online delivery that’s very promising: Making old games easily and cheaply available for modern systems. (The recent release of Marathon 2: Durandal on Xbox Live Arcade comes to mind.)

My plan is to play through these games, one at a time, in chronological order. That means I am starting with this:

Commander Keen

And will, in a couple of years (and after I’ve upgraded my hardware), finish with this:

Doom 3

Gory times ahead! But first for some pogo stick jumping…

Published on August 6th, 2007 | 2 Comments »

Did A Drunken Polish Space Cowboy Translate QuickTime?

Drunken German QuickTime

Rough translation: the file no movie file is (Yes, this grammar is screwed up in German, too.)

Maybe I shouldn’t have watched the deliciously deliberately low budget styled “Ijon Tichy: Raumpilot” miniseries (watch online), a German adaptation of the late Stanislaw Lem’s Star Diaries. The mangled language seems to have gotten to my computer. Maybe there’s a pretty (if stubborn) hallucinally on her way, hmm…

Published on May 18th, 2007 | 4 Comments »

Children and Religion

This echoes much of what I believe to be the best way to educating one’s children about Life, the Universe and Everything. From the section What I do intend to indoctrinate my children with as early as possible:


  • Doubt the stories people tell about how the world is, (especially about God, creation, birth, death, etc.) for as long as possible. But learn all the ways in which we fool ourselves, and search diligently for your own answers.


  • The two most important things to do while you are alive, are to be kind and to be happy. That is, to be kind to all creatures including yourself.
Published on April 7th, 2007 | 1 Comment »

Physics for Future Presidents

This is worth your time.

Published on March 29th, 2007 | No Comments »

Happy Wednesday

It’s that time of the year again:

Be my Anti-Valentine

Published on February 14th, 2007 | No Comments »

Jeff Tupper’s Self-Referential Formula

I’ve always been fascinated with self-referentialism in all its forms, so when I stumbled upon a mathematical formula that can plot itself, I was pretty intrigued.

You take this formula:

\displaystyle\frac12 < \left\lfloor \mathrm{mod} \left( \left\lfloor \frac{y}{17}\right\rfloor 2^{-17\lfloor x\rfloor -\mathrm{mod}(\lfloor y\rfloor , 17)},2\right)\right\rfloor

Which you then run over certain values of x and y, plot the result, and you get:

Plotting result

Pretty fascinating, isn’t it? At least until you figure out how it does what it does, and that it’s really not black magic at all, and that it doesn’t take some freak chance to discover such a beast. But I leave that as an exercise for my readers 😉

Published on January 27th, 2007 | 2 Comments »

Don’t pray for me, for god’s sake!

I just stumbled across the very interesting STEP study:

Intercessory prayer is widely believed to influence recovery from illness, but claims of benefits are not supported by well-controlled clinical trials. Prior studies have not addressed whether prayer itself or knowledge/certainty that prayer is being provided may influence outcome. We evaluated whether (1) receiving intercessory prayer or (2) being certain of receiving intercessory prayer was associated with uncomplicated recovery after coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery.

The results reveal what should be obvious anyway: Intercessory prayer doesn’t work. One amusing aspect of the study results is that the test group that had been told it was going to be prayed for showed significantly more complications in the 30-day period following the operation (58.6%) compared to the other groups (52.2 and 50.9). That is probably just a chance statistical burst, but maybe also due to some psychological effect. This is totally unfounded speculation on my part, though.

On a related note, Daniel C. Dennett, author of Darwin’s Dangerous Idea and Breaking The Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon, recently had to undergo surgery due to a dissection of his aorta, but seems to be recovering well. Thank Goodness, and please don’t pray for him!

Published on November 5th, 2006 | 10 Comments »