Monday, December 31, 2012

Apocolypse When

Well here it is, the last post of the year. My only regret is that I don't personally know anyone who was anticipating Armageddon this last week, so I can't see how silly they must feel now. Oh well, there's always next year.

I wish I had more to tell you, but Lost Highway is developing pretty slowly right now. There's no area that looks good enough for a screenshot either. Besides, on the off chance that my sister reads this, I don't want her seeing anything. She's forbidden from seeing anything related to the map until it's done, then she'll be able to playtest it. But heck, who am I kidding. She doesn't read this.

In the meantime, here's some videos of me playing other people's custom maps (watch them all at the same time to pretend you're watching split screen multiplayer in GoldenEye or something):

This little scheme is actually getting pretty popular. Who knows, maybe I'll get internet famous with these. One thing I don't expect I'll do is commentaries as I play. Those videos irritate me more often then not and the person talking almost never have anything good to say. Besides, it distracts from the maps.

Lastly, here's a picture of a Tanji, you know, from the butterfly story.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Face Value

When you're going through you're daily routine do you ever stop and notice that some things are a Almost like your environment is...looking at you?

Don't worry, because chances are this is just a simple case of what's called Pareidolia. This is a psychological phenomena where sufficiently vague or random stimuli look suspiciously like a recognizable pattern, especially faces.

The Human brain is hardwired to see patterns in just about everything, even seemingly unrelated stimuli. It's our ability to find patterns and relationships that makes us such great scientists and detectives, because our brains can pick out abstract similarities between things we see and hear. But the pattern-finding process isn't infallible, sometimes people see relationships in stimuli even when there isn't actually any relationship at all. This is how superstitions get started; people perceive two unrelated events and start imagining all sorts of wild relationships between them. It's like how people think breaking mirrors is bad luck. Maybe at one point someone broke a mirror and then, by completely unrelated circumstances, things started going wrong for them. Maybe their sure-fire investment strategy went bad or something.

To an outside observer, the mirror breaking and the bad investment are unrelated, but to the person experiencing these events first hand they feel like maybe, just maybe, one caused the other. They don't rightly have proof that mirrors can influence their luck, but they have a hunch. Thus, a superstition is born!

Pareidolia is a related concept, because our ability to recognize patterns isn't just limited to our perception of cause and effect. It's also deeply ingrained in how we recognize faces. Because really, what is a face? It's a recognizable pattern: two eyes, a nose, a mouth, a mustache, etc.

Well, sometimes we see the recognizable pattern of a fellow Human's face even when what we're looking at isn't a face at all, it's an electrical outlet. Our brain is telling us it's a face, because the various details of the object look just enough like something familiar to set off those little signals in the brain. We know it's not a person, but that doesn't stop us from thinking "Hey, it looks like that socket is frowning!".

Fun-hating skeptics have been using Pareidolia to explain away plenty of conspiracy theories. Probably the best known example is the so-called Face on Mars. Back when it was first discovered, the face caused a huge stir and got people thinking Martians had carved it into the mountain. But eventually it became obvious that the face was just the result of shadows hitting the rock in such a way as to make it look eerily like a face, but wasn't actually one.

The same goes for people who say they've found Jesus in their toast. It's probably not actually Jesus, it just looks a lot like him.

In fact, next time you think the Virgin Mary is watching you just remember: it's probably your brain playing tricks on you.

I mean, how gullible do you have to be to believe this stuff? What, you really think random objects are watching you?

You'd have to be pretty superstitious to get that carried away. You know what this is? People letting their imaginations get the better of them.

I mean, that's classic animistic thinking...there's no way...that mountain is secretly Ted Danson.

...and that...


Oh my god...

Monday, December 17, 2012

This Is Terrible

I've finally gotten the hang of Dwarf Fortress and can play the game with a reasonable degree of competence. The military menu is still pretty dense and the finer points of burrows elude me, but as far as forts go I feel like mine are fine examples of Dwarven architecture.

This is the world I've generated and will probably be the one I use the most for a while since it's so big and spacious. The parameters for mineral content was set to extremely high, so gems and metal occur world-wide with great frequency. Besides that, I ramped up beast frequency to extremely high so the planet is absolutely infested with strange mystical creatures. Finally, I set the established history to extremely short. Basically, this means that every civilization is just starting out, with no huge fortresses or cities established yet. The world is untamed and largely unexplored so there's no telling what's out there in the steamy jungles.

Oh and it certainly is jungles. Like, jungles galore. All the green spaces you see are grasslands, the darker the shade of green the more thick the vegetation. The yellow regions are deserts, the grey stands for mountain ranges and blue is the arctic where there are few resources and building a fortress is exceedingly difficult.

Oh yeah, the purple? Those are evil regions. It's even more impossible to survive there then in the frozen wastelands. In evil regions the rain is acidic and will melt your Dwarves' skin off. Then they turn into zombies and attack your other dwarves assuming they aren't already killed by any of the multitude of horrible ungodly monsters that live there. I...haven't tried embarking in an evil region yet. But if I do I don't expect to stick around long.

In any case, we have a brand new world with thousands of years of history to look forward to, exquisite riches and adventure to be found. And thus the dwarves struck the earth and founded...


It's a great tradition among my Dwarves to name things after bees, since their national drink is mead and their largest food industry is almost always honey. Beebane was established next to one of the largest rivers in the world, on the south western continent. If you look on the map you can probably see it, it's the omega symbol out in the middle of the jungle.

For the first couple years the fortress prospered. We indulged in every industry we could (except glassmaking, that's lame), with an entire layer of the fort dedicated to our workshops. The grand dining hall was also on this level, it's walls covered in engravings of the deeds of our great civilization.

But suddenly disaster struck. We were attacked by a werecreature, not a run-of-the-mill werewolf, Oh no. A werekangaroo. It killed our best trader before our squad (The Beekeepers) could drive it away, leaving us more or less unprepared for our next caravan. But besides this bizarre little incident, things generally went well in the early days of Beebane. Migrants came in huge waves every year, faster than we could even build beds for them. We had quickly become a bastion of Dwarven civilization, with a staggering two-hundred occupants. It was without a doubt the most well-populated fort I had maintained yet.

Our miners were kept constantly busy, hunting for more gems for trade and stone to build statues as monuments to our greatness. In no time at all they found this, a huge, sprawling cavern deep under the earth. It was so large it extended past the screen in practically every direction, linking to further, yet unseen underground regions. We might have found the beginning of an entire underground ecosystem for all we knew.

But, uh, things started to go downhill...

...things went downhill very quickly.

Our first Human caravan had just rolled in, wanting to trade for our vast coffers of gems. All was fine and good at first, but just as they started unloading their goods a Goblin siege appeared. A big one. Hundreds of goblins appeared on the screen and charged down the hill, making a beeline for the trade depot. Panicking dwarves scattered in every direction. The humans defended their caravan as best they could but were slowly whittled down until they all laid dead in front of the fort. The goblins were killing everything in sight, including our prized reindeer. I could only watch helplessly as my military completely failed to kill any of the invaders. More and more dwarves were conscripted into the army in a desperate attempt to defend the fortress. Engravers, gem workers, mechanics, cooks, farmers. All of them poured out of the fort to beat the goblins to death with their bare hands.

Practically all of the goblins were dead by the time the slaughter had swung into high gear, but our population was completely devastated by the effort. By the time we had shaved the enemy forces down to a single goblin our population had shrank all the way down to less than thirty dwarves. Most of the survivors were children who escaped by hiding the the lowest levels of the fort. Despite this, most of them saw their own parents go up to the surface and die horribly. Naturally...they weren't happy about this.

In fact, it drove every last on of them insane. In a few short minutes my fort went from a thriving community to a slaughterhouse, with hundreds of dead humans, goblins and dwarves littering the entrance. A disturbing recreation of Lord of the Flies was occurring downstairs, with insane children beating each other to death. By this point they were the only ones still alive in the fort and I had nothing left to do but watch and wait for them all to die of dehydration. Eventually the last of the goblins wandered away, hopefully traumatized by the ridiculously over-the-top disaster it was a part of. I hope he goes to live in the woods, haunted by the screams of dying dwarves until he gets eaten by dingos.

Beebane was a complete disaster. It's once proud walls, engraved with scenes of the greatest moments of our history were stained with the blood of the children who were born in it's very depths. The only survivor was a single tamed leopard. Someone's pet once, now just another wild animal, scavenging off the corpses of dwarf children. No doubt ministerial will sing of the tragedy of Beebane, the fortress destroyed by it's own hubris (and goblins) and of the leopard that managed to escape the madness.

Goodbye Beebane, your legacy will live on.

For what it's worth I've started a game in adventure mode in another, much smaller, world. Say hi to Shad Grimgrave, his hobbies include crab hunting and troglodyte slaying. He's a human Outsider, meaning he doesn't belong to any civilization in particular and starts the game with nothing but a copper spear and dagger. I do mean nothing by the way, not even pants. I'll be sure to keep you informed on his adventures, assuming he isn't killed by giant sparrows or dingos.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

I've Lost Control of My Life

Hey everybody, I just really wanted to make a post today seeing as how it's 12/12/12 and all. I've been working this week and today in particular has been particularly hectic so I haven't had the opportunity to gather my thoughts for a proper post about Space Balls or Daleks or whatever. Instead, enjoy a few pictures I found in one of my old folders:

See you dweebs tomorrow.

Sunday, December 9, 2012


Bunday lives on! In today's installment, the indomitable might of the Angora Rabbit:

The world will be engulfed by their luxurious coats. Nothing can escape.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Great Sea Urchin Ceviche

Well everyone, it's December and you know what that means: Festivus is upon us! Time to get out the official aluminum Festivus poles, it's time to get in gear for the holiday season where we can all brood on how we've wronged each other this year.

In the meantime, enjoy this mutant offspring of microfiction I like to call...

Unspoken Agreements

Friday. Robin was itching to leave, as usual. No doubt he'd invite Jacobs to go clubbing. In the meantime both were stuck in a board meeting, along with everyone else in mergers and acquisitions. Jacobs couldn't concentrate: but he wasn't daydreaming about the weekend, or even his reservation at Celine's. He was squirming in his seat, breaking out in a cold sweat no one noticed. The tie around his neck felt like a noose. What if he couldn't pay them off? He's had close calls before, but nothing like this. This O'Brian person had been hounding him for months now, this threats were getting more persistent.

"Hey Jacobs," Robin said. "Still up for Celine's tonight?"


"Your friend O'Brian hooked me up. Y'know, the good stuff."

"About him-"

Jacobs couldn't afford this lifestyle anymore. If O'Brian had his way, who knew what would happen. Jacobs had never even seen him, yet, he felt like O'Brian controlled his life. Suddenly, the office seemed darker. Time slowed down, Jacobs felt life he was having a panic attack. Everyone in the room stopped. Above the conference table was a point, not of darkness, but a void. As if space and time ceased to exist, there was an intangible spot of nothingness; an absence of sight, sound, order or chaos. From this blind spot emerged a shape, an otherworldly presence barely comprehensible to Jacobs. It reached out and snaked around the room. It was lined with suction cups, each with infinitely many rasping needle-like teeth. Other tentacles joined it, swaying rhythmically, hypnotically, like waves in some alien ocean.

"You know why I'm here." It said.

"Are you O'Brian?"


"Look...I'll get the money. I promise!"

"I don't want money, I don't want anything you can offer me."

"I don't understand."

"You will. The prince isn't yours to pay, not yet."

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Machine Men

It is time now for another Versus post. The rules are simple: we take two fictional races and test them in our Patented Combat Simulation™ to determine who are the superior characters. In today's episode: The Borg versus the Strogg.

Superficially, these two have a lot in common. Both are malicious cyborg races that either assimilate or destroy every culture they encounter. They use advanced technology to enslave other species and add their biological and technological distinctiveness to their own, the result is inevitably a huge empire composed of dozens of unique races hideously transformed to suit the needs of the collective. Yet, there's still plenty of cultural differences left in these soulless automata that would make them such good enemies.

The Borg, ruthless, implacable (at least until Voyager). They adapt quickly and assimilate faster. They have consumed whole planets and subsumed entire species. They have created or stolen technology vastly superior to anything their enemies posses. Yet individual drones are slow moving and zombie-like. Besides, I have a sneaking suspicion those tubes get easily tangled in those dark crampt hallways they spend so much time in. Are the Borg really ready to wage a full scale war? After all, they're actually here to help, improve the quality of life of everyone they encounter. They want to be our friends, they just have a funny way of showing it

On the other hand we have the Strogg who are definitely not in the business of making friends. They are a culture dominated by war, with no such thing as civilians. Every last Strogg is either a soldier or worker devoted expressly for building new weapons or transferring subjects to become more Strogg. Their home planet is an industrial wasteland of rusting, grimy factories and bunkers. They show no individuality, since they're controlled by "neurocytes" in their brain that overrides all higher functions. Basically, they're your typical video game bad guys.

Quake to be specific, but only the second and fourth games. I never bothered to play Quake IV because it was so similar to Doom 3, same physics engine, same dark hallways, they even reused some of the sounds from Doom. Total faux pas.

The Strogg's approach to cybernetics isn't very sophisticated either. Where as the Borg take time to make proper augmentations, their rivals are just interested in getting a soldier bolted together as quickly as possible. I mean that literally by the way, because the process of "Stroggification" involves a lot of pneumatic nail guns and saws. You can watch it for yourself if you can stomach the over-the-top bloodshed.

But they do have a few things going for them. For one thing, the Strogg can actually run. Clearly this is superior to the Borg's corpse-like shuffling. Plus, they've obviously put more thought into their weapons, giving their soldiers proper guns unlike the Borg who inject nanites into people and hope for the best. In fact, the Strogg's guns aren't always energy based. Sometimes they shoot bullets, something the Borg's shields can't adapt to.

With such firepower they wouldn't have any problem with the slow, ponderous Borg right? No.

At the very start of Quake IV we see Human spaceships attacking the planet Stroggos with almost complete impunity. The only resistance comes from missiles fired from the planet's surface, no Strogg spaceships in sight. Now, by this point they've been fighting a long war with Humanity and have been backed into a corner. Maybe their forces were depleted by that point and didn't have any ships available to protect their homeworld. Fair enough but that raises some serious issues, namely the fact that the Humans even have a fighting chance against them.

The first time we see a Borg cube on Star Trek it casually destroys a whole thirty-nine Federation ships like it was swatting at flies. Basically, it's immediately obvious that the Humans in Quake aren't as advanced as Star Trek Humans, not by a long shot, so the whole question of space superiority becomes quite simple:

If a less advanced Humanity can destroy the Strogg's fleet, what chance do they have against the Borg who can steamroll the same species, even when they have replicators and warp drives and all that jazz?

Using Humanity as the standard of measurement, it's obvious the Strogg's battleships (which we've never actually seen) are horribly outclassed by the cubes, heck, even a single cube.

My verdict is thus: In a ground war the Strogg have the clear advantage and would quickly overpower any drones so bold and foolish to beam down to the surface of their planet. But once enough cubes are in orbit they'll be able to bombard the enemy with virtual impunity, safely whittling away at them until the Nexus is destroyed. After that, it'll be as simple as cleaning up after themselves and assimilating those fancy dark energy guns they use.

But I know what you're asking yourself, "Can the Borg defeat the Cybermen!?"

I honestly don't have a clue, they're so similar any fight between them might as well be a stalemate. Really, I think it would be much more likely for them to join forces and rule the galaxy as one. Now that would make interesting fan fiction!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Sticky Business

It's been a refreshing break these past couple months, but map making has once again swung into high gear. In order to get back into the swing of things I've been taking a little retrospective at my old optical illusion coffee table books, especially Adventures with Impossible Objects by Bruno Ernst. While getting myself back into the proper mindset for this project I realized that I've overlooked something pretty interesting.

Ladies and gentlemen: Oscar Reutersvärd.

Born in 1915, Reutersvärd has often been called the "father of the impossible figure". Over the course of his career he created over 2500 paintings of impossible objects, each of them as isometric projections giving the illusion of depth. While he's often overshadowed by his more well known contemporary, one Mr. Maurits Cornelis Escher, he had a long, rich career. His most notable contribution is probably the impossible tribar, which he created in 1934. It caused a stir in the mathematical community when it first appeared, but slowly faded into obscurity. Later, in 1950 Roger Penrose accidentally reinvented the tribar and published a paper on it, only to realize later that Reutersvärd already created that particular impossible object sixteen years ago. Nevertheless, we still call it the Penrose Triangle.

Oscar and Penrose stayed in contact after their chance meeting, bouncing ideas off each other since. Then, in 1982, his home country of Sweden recognized his work with a series of stamps. Sadly they were only in print for about two years, with most copies being destroyed after a change in stamp value. Now long out of print, they're considered extremely collectable. Observe:

It's true, it really is hip to be square.

What at first glance appears to be an ordinary tribar morphs into an unprecedented eightbar. Extravagant!

Be honest, that would make one heck of a bookshelf.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Taking The Scenic Route

Ladies and Gentlemen, it begins:

Even though the Paranoia Trilogy is over, the abstraction might never end. So I cordially invite you to my next map, Lost Highway. It begins where Hypnophobia left off, after the player jumps into the swirling chaos of the Tunneling Entanglement Device and lands in an unknown region of time and space.

This is going to be a very different kind of map from the first three. Since the player is no longer trapped in the metaphysical prison of Paranoia, they're free to explore completely new, even stranger locations. To reinforce the importance of the player's escape and the change of scenery, Lost Highway will have a much different aesthetic from the maps preceding it. There will be no checkerboard tiles, nor spooky hallways. The emphasis is changing from dark, interior environments to substantially larger outdoor areas (relatively speaking, since the difference between inside and outside means little in such a place).

I've been wanting to do a driving map for a long time now, something crazy and huge like the ending of The Blues Brothers, but with more helicopters and the player being chased through space. In the meantime, I only have a few pictures for the scrap book. But if I can tear myself away from Dwarf Fortress long enough, there might be a new video later this week. No promises.


Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Abridged Version

Another day, another batch of microfictions. The rules are simple, as always; the story must be one hundred words or less. Besides that there are no rules, since it can be any genre conceivable. Heck, you could even write your own in the comments section if you felt so inclined.


The anti-rejection drug had been a complete success. So many parts from so many species had been grafted on that nothing recognizably Human was left. The test subject was starting to forget life as a normal man. He looked down at his claws and hooves and felt the heavy antlers on his head. A pool of blood was inching across the floor, but whose? His bloodlust had ruined what semblance of a life he had left and now he realized that Barbra was dead. Murdered. A mob was breaking down the door, the doctor led them. What had he become?

The Late Night Show With Ted Clarkson

"So you have a new movie out, tell us about that."

The actor could only nod dimly, he was staring dumbfounded at the studio audience as they scattered in every direction. Small bipedal hyenas, dressed in animal pelts were smashing the set, destroying the cameras with jagged bronze axes: Gnolls, the awful creatures were making a mockery of Clarkson's career.

"So how was it to work with Meryl Streep?"

The Gnoll chieftain leapt onto the stage, covered in war paint, brandishing an axe in each hand. Laughing, he smashed Ted's coffee mug. The whole tribe started laughing.

"This interview's over."


It was a freak accident, a one-in-a-million chance. The drunk driver managed to hit both her dogs: crushing one's pelvis and breaking the other's forelegs. They were crippled, but no veterinarian would help. She would have to make her own solution. Working at night, she started sewing them together, creating something altogether more than dog: a two-headed modern day Cerberus, kept alive with forbidden science. Thick stitches ran across it's twisted body. Both heads snarled and panted with hydraulic jaws, metal teeth glistening. It jumped off the table and out the window. Her creation was set free.

Neptune's Ultimatum

"This is the best birthday ever!"

Clyff looked up at his mom with wide excited eyes, holding her hand tightly and pointing wildly at the breaching humpbacks. He didn't want a party, he said, only to go on a whale watching cruise with her.

So much like his father...

They both laughed as ocean spray hit their faces. Suddenly, the boat rocked violently. A whale appeared on the bow, it's gaze met her son's. It's mouth opened wide over the little vessel and clamped down, swallowing Clyff whole. The sea had claimed another victim, just like his father before him.

Total Annihilation

The guest were drunkenly throwing bananas at each other. Glitter covered every available surface. Worse yet, everything smelled of passion fruit. Patricia was desperate to clean up the champagne glasses, only to find them full of decorative feathers. The police sent to break up the part had long since joined it, engulfed in the chaos. Music drowned out the sound of cars plunging into the backyard pool. To think, it all started so innocently enough. Now Patricia was the eye of the storm, both the cause and the last line of defense against this madness. But it was too late.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Creepy Crawlies

You know what the world needs more of? Music videos of mutant insects. Thankfully I found one:

I mean look at that, I can't even tell what half of those things are. It's all photo-manipulation of course, but I would love to see creatures like that in real life. Honestly I don't know what I like more: the crazy cubist looking arthropods or that I have no idea how this was made. I mean, if I had to guess I'd say they layered multiple videos over one another, so what we're seeing are actually multiple shots of the same bug at once, turning them into the monstrosities in the video. But that's really just a guess. I especially like the praying mantis with the headdress, or how the millipede is the only normal one in the bunch.

Now that I think about it, it reminds me of this video by Simian Mobile Disco:

I like this one almost as much, chiefly because it's so colorful. But it could definitely use some help in the kaleidoscope insect monster department.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Byrne'ing Down The House

Ladies and gentlemen, I'm afraid I have a pretty serious announcement to make:

...I found some more album covers.

You Slut! by Critical Meat

This first cover was submitted from our long-time associate Mackdombles. From the looks of things, I'd say the Killbot prototypes aren't quite ready for mass production.
Manifesto by Rhymester

When Renaissance Fairs go horribly horribly wrong!

Everything That Happens Will Happen Today by David Byrne and Brian Eno

Everything will happen, but only as long as you have a copy of The Sims installed.

Fabio After Dark by Fabio 

Because, apparently, Fabio only comes out at night. Make sure to leave a bottle of Herbal Essence on your door step to appease him, otherwise he'll come into your house and seduce your wives and daughters.

Uh-Oh by David Byrne

Uh-Oh is right! Bonkers died for your sins and now he's back with a vengeance.

Jesus Use Me by The Faith Tones

Sorry ladies, but I think you scared him off with your enormous planetoids of hair. What were you hoping to do? Catch birds with those things?

Love This Giant by David Byrne & St. Vincent

Okay, this is pretty sensible; nice font, good color coordination, bulbous faces that look like a spider's trying use their discarded skin as a disguise...

...Wait, what!?

Oh My God

It goes without saying; Fabio's operation didn't go very well.

The Many Facets Of Roger by Roger

And somehow, every last of of them is glittery enough to double as a disco ball.


Heino has returned! His death-ray satellite ensures that you will comply with his demands, lest you loose your precious polar ice caps!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Mystery Shad, Oregon

Just a quick post for today, mainly because no one needs to hear my political opinions, I did enough whining last month.

Instead, know that my sister and I have been watching Gravity Falls this week after I get home from work (I'm still working with my contractor friend you see). It's a cartoon of course. After all, we need something to watch while you-know-what-show is on hiatus.

It's about two kids spending the Summer with their great uncle, solving bizarre mysteries around town. We've only seen the first three episodes but I've already been hooked on it. Imagine The X-Files crossed with Twin Peaks. Sure, it's not high entertainment, but if I wanted intellectual stimulation I'd read a book. If I want gnomes, talking wax figures and sea monsters, this will do it.

I think the real reason why we like this show so much is because we're both a just a little bit unnerved by how much the main characters remind us of each other. For example, Mabel is constantly wearing garish tacky sweaters and going on bizarre tangents that don't relate at all to what's happening around her. Meanwhile Dipper is introverted and thinks there's conspiracies absolutely everywhere. Consequently he spends most of the show obsessively flipping through an old book full of esoteric codes. Plus, he doesn't ever smile for pictures. Just change some names, add a mustache and a pair of glasses and bam, it's us.

Mother, if you're reading this you know what I'm talking about. It's downright eerie.

And there you have it. We'll probably still be watching this next week since my sister said she won't be watching you-know-what-show anymore even if the third season starts in four days. Apparently, it's too girly for her and the fan base has gotten too creepy, she doesn't want any guilt by association. Oh and before I forget; I found out as I was writing this that apparently Puerto Rico voted to become a state. So we probably have fifty-one now! That's a new record! See, here you are thinking you can't get good journalism from my blog.

Oh yeah, one last thing, I'll just leave this here:

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Quarter Life Crisis

Twenty years ago today, I crawled into this world, looked up at the cold, unfeeling stars and have been silently fuming at my lot in life ever since.

The worst part is that I don't even feel like a proper twenty year old. In my mind I'm still this confused, sad little boy hopelessly out of touch with what's going on around him. I know that's not the case, but I feel like it anyway. I always feel like this when the 28th rolls around; glum, despondent. It's best for everyone if I just stay in my room and try to hide my angst.

I guess the reason why I'm so moody is that, honestly, I don't think I have much to look forward to in the coming years as a proper adult. I mean, look at what Generation Z has already been through since 2000: 9/11, Hurricane Katrina and now the global economic crisis. There's a reason why Time Magazine called the 2000's the Decade From Hell. More happened in those ten years to shatter the American dream then anything since World War II. Our parents got the Berlin Wall tearing down, we get record lows in unemployment. I should know: for a whole year I have been trying, time and again, to find someone, anyone in this God-forsaken city that's hiring and not one has called back. No one's hiring, and if they are they're certainly not going to pick the WASP-ish nerd with no work experience fresh out of high school. It's gotten to the point where I'm fighting tooth and nail with 30 to 40 year olds for the privilege of mopping the floor in a fast food joint and loosing. Hard.

Thankfully there is a little ray of sunshine and my fate as a shut-in manchild isn't completely sealed yet. Tomorrow I'm working with my contractor friend again to help build a water run off system at a local nursery (for plants, not babies). In the mean time I've found a little hobby for the downtime between planning new maps: microfiction!

Yes, microfiction, also known as flash fiction, micro-stories and very very short stories is a literary style of extreme brevity. In general, these stories are limited to around a thousand words or less, leaving out all but the barest essentials of detail. It's a fun little exercise, reminding one of the old Reader's Digests. As far as I know, Franz Kafka and even H.P. Lovecraft dabbled in it. I'll be looking for those soon. In the meantime, here's some microstories of my own, all one hundred words or less each!


It was Autumn and cold by our standards, probably not the best day for a barbecue. It was Jeff's idea. I could tell he was regretting it. His sweater was pulled up to his chin. He was eating a chicken kabob. I was standing by the gazebo, hoping no one would ask me about my operation. Suddenly Debbie appeared.

"Hey is it true you have monkey glands now?"

I tore a chunk of steak with my teeth. It was such a good sensation, I started fantasizing about hunting gazelle in the open plains right there. I wasn't invited to Jeff's next barbecue.

Dirty Money

Her shoulder pads stuck out like devil horns. Her nails tapping on the desk were like daggers. Her hair was wound into a tight beehive, looming over wickedly arched eyebrows.

"Bill, you're fired." She said. "I want you out of my office."


"You completely mismanaged the Henderson account."


"Get out."

Bill walked out of the office, dejected. His coworkers avoided his gaze. Taking one last look at his cubicle, he gathered his belongings and started to leave. Down the hall was the goat, staring at him. He knew no one would believe him, but it sabotaged his career.

Toddlers & Tiaras: A Fan Fiction

This was the moment she was waiting for her whole life. Her daughter looked perfect, she would crush the competition.

"Don't forget to smile." She murmured from behind the curtain.

The girl did a spin and struck a pose as the music stopped. Her hair was perfect. The judges applauded. She had this in the bag, that harpy Veronica and her brat would have to settle for second place. Suddenly, a giant squid appeared and strangled her daughter as divine retribution. her head popped off like a wine cork.

The pageant was ruined. She felt like she needed another xanax.

The Lament of Doctor Pritcher

The experiment was a failure. He started falling into a quantum vortex and would be forced to relive this moment over and over, forever. He slowly went insane as time passed. With nothing but the incomprehensible void and his own memories, his life started to flash before his eyes; from playing catch with his dad, 4th of July parties, graduating high school, his first kiss, marrying Judith, his son being born, earning his PhD, writing his thesis on the vacuum energy, the day before the experiment...and now this, a life time of research ruined by a careless mathematical error.

He started falling into a quantum vortex.


So there you go. I've been cranky and mad at the world and the only cure is tiny tiny stores that could fit on a post-it note. Next year, I'm going to celebrate with the fruitiest, frilliest umbrella drink I can find and have someone drive me home because that's the responsible thing to do.

Also, before I forget:

It's Bunday.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Cancels Action, Interrupted By Elephant

I'm probably a little late to jump on this bandwagon, but whatever. I found a new freeware game that I'm sure will keep me busy for a while, some of you may have heard of it.

It's called Slaves to Armok: God of Blood Chapter II Dwarf Fortress. And...well, it's a doozy. Let me try to explain:

The goal is to build a fortress for your dwarves to live in. These are typical fantasy dwarves, with huge beards, axes and love of alcohol, think Lord of the Rings and you get the idea. The player start with seven of them. Each can be trained to become better miners, farmers and other jobs vital to the success of the growing dwarven community. Occasionally trade caravans will come by and the player can buy food and equipment from them. This all seems simple enough yes? It's just another real time strategy game? I'm afraid not.

The level of detail in Dwarf Fortress is downright shocking. The game keeps track of countless little details the player may never even notice. The best example is probably the combat system: most games track a character's health as a simple value from 1 to 100. Not Dwarf Fortress; here, everything is accounted for down to individual tissue layers. If one checks the combat log, they will find that it obsessively describe damage done to bones, skin, nerves, layers of fat and vital organs. Dwarves vomit if hit in the stomach, they pass out from head injuries, I've even seen a few suffocate after one of their ribs punctured one of their own lungs.

There's hundreds of unique creatures the player is likely to find in addition to dozens of randomly generated cultures they can trade or go to war with. A fortress can indulge in virtually any economy imaginable from metalworking to fishing (or in the case of the fort I've made, beekeeping). But as can be expected, the sheer variety available to the player means the learning curve is probably the steepest in any video game, ever. No joke, it's impossible to pick up Dwarf Fortress and just start playing. At the very least a new player is going to have to take a long hard look at the wiki before they can even make sense of the sprawling options menu, let alone actually start building a fort.

It is so complicated that an entire two hundred and forty page manual has been written just to explain all the features in the game, most of which is already outdated!

Oh right, I forgot to mention: the entire game is done in ASCII style graphics, in case it wasn't difficult enough already.

What you're seeing is a view of the fortress I've been working on for the past two days Although, I guess you could say it's taken longer then that, since it took me about a month to figure out the controls and how to start playing.

The little smiley faces are the dwarves. This picture was taken after a huge influx of migrants so that's why it lists so many of them as idle. In the upper right-hand section of the screen are their bedrooms, below is the dining hall and kitchen, below that is the brewery and slaughterhouse and even further down is the carpenter's workshop and craftsdwarf's workshop. As you can see, every single one of those is represented by incomprehensible letters and symbols.

When playing Dwarf Fortress, it's good to remember that there is no winning condition. At all. Either your fortress prospers and goes on potentially forever or you lose. When you lose, your fortress and all it's dwarves roast to death in an unstoppable inferno, descending down an inescapable pit of terror and despair. More often than not a fortress is doomed from the very start, destined to die a horrible, ridiculous death because of poor planning or surprise raids from goblins. The flagrant destruction is so common that the game's official motto is "Losing is Fun". It even appears on the embark screen when creating a new world!

"Fun" is so ingrained in the community that's it's become a euphemism for the myriad of awful deadly things dwarves are likely to encounter. Now that I think about it, I get the distinct feeling that my own fortress is in for some Fun soon, since it's Winter and I still haven't figured out how to get a stable supply of food and alcohol, both vitally important to the happiness of one's dwarves. Combine this with the constant stream of hungry migrants and it starts to look like Fun times are in store for us all.

And there you have it, the most complicated video game ever made. Obtuse, unfathomably complex, too impenetrable to start playing and infinite in it's variety. It's like we were made for each other!