Categories
asides

When Galaxies Collide

When Galaxies Collide: These are some astonishing pictures that makes me wish I could go back in time and choose to be an astronomer like I dreamt of when I was 13. Some of the numbers are mindboggling – galaxies 450 million light years away, a 100,000 light years across… and we get to see them from our infinitesimally small spec in the universe. How could we have the hubris that this was created solely for human? Simply amazing.

Categories
review tech

Wheeeee!

The Wii? Totally, totally worth it.

I will say this straight up: if it’s top-of-the-line graphics and abilities you want, the Wii doesn’t cut the mustard. Its sole non-game feature that makes pretentions at being something more than a simple console is the internet access, and even that’s flaky and needlessly slow – for one, where did Nintendo manage to find a 802.11b only chip in 2008? Everything else is focused on the game, and in some ways, that’s what you want from a console, despite everything the Playstations and Xboxen are being sold for.

Negative points out of the way, the good: the Wii is possibly the most fun you’ve had with a console since you  blew the dust out of a Super Mario Bros. cart and carefully loaded it into the NES. There’s any number of factors contributing, but chief among them is most certainly the Wiimote and the software developers’ execution of it. It’s one thing to push buttons at the right time to get things to happen on screen – it’s quite another to throw your whole body into that forehand smash, or tire yourself out completely from three bouts of virtual boxing.

The Wiimote and Nintendo’s first-party games have paved the way for a different type of game on the Wii, one which must be easy to pick up and explainable in a few short pictures or instructions. Party games previously would require a (mental) remapping of buttons essentally every time you switch a minigame, but with the Wiimote’s ability to imitate or at least provide a good proxy for physical actions, it becomes something far more intuitive and easy to pick up.

Wii Sports and Wii Play, bundled with the console and extra controller respectively, are almost tech-demos from Nintendo to show what the system is capable of, but end up being immense fun and the easiest to pick up and play any time. Rayman Raving Rabbids is minigames packaged up in a semi-structured format, and while creative and enjoyable, is so out there that it’s a little worrying. Mario Party 8 is sort of Monopoly with minigames, and while it can be fun with a bunch of friends, it amounts to little when you have less than 4 to play, and its play mechanics are unbalanced, IMO. Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz on the other hand has a massive collection of minigames that are pretty easy to pick up and fun to play even on your own, along with the main single player Monkey Ball format.

Finally Mario Kart Wii. One thing you know is that Nintendo haven’t mucked with the formula here – this is the same game you played on the N64, or the SNES, with some bumps to the graphics and a few more weapons and tracks. One formula I wish they’d mucked with though is the “balance” given to the pickups makes it a very… socialist game, shall we say. Weighted randomness might make it occasionally punishing to be behind, but there’s definitely some fun in that – as opposed to knowing what to expect and having to work to maintain the lead while getting constantly bombarded in seemingly arbitrary ways (blue shells being the bane of the leader’s existance). The Battle Mode is also sorely lacking, the forced AI players determining the game far more than any human factor. Racing however stays fun and simple, though I recommend using the Wiimote-nunchuck combination rather than the wheel, for precision alone if nothing else.

Back-asswards though this review may have been, the Wii is immense fun. I have yet to pick up more lengthy and challenging games, admittedly, but the fun of the console seems to really lie in the creativity of minigames and the intuitive control mechanism that makes it instantly likeable by many. If you haven’t played it yet, you’re really missing out on what gaming should be – pure and simple fun.

Categories
quickie travel

Laptops aren’t safe at USA Customs

Turns out, US Customs can search and seize laptops at will:

Laptops and other electronic devices can be seized [by Customs officials] without reason, their contents copied, and the hardware returned hours or even weeks later.

Holee fuck me. Between this and the TSA, I’m never going to the US again.

Categories
the daily column

On Blogging, or the lack thereof

Every day, I have about an hour on the train and the walk home to contemplate what to write on the blog when I get home. And every day, without fail, whatever nascent ideas I have disappear shortly after arriving home and having dinner.

There are some distinct advantages to living at home, such as hot dinner ready as you arrive.

In any case, none of the ideas have been terribly great. There’s been no travel or significant events or major love-of-my-life or anything that rates as newsworthy, and so I find myself without terribly much to say. Which is where it gets meta and I start to say that I don’t have terribly much to say.

Having thought about this on the train this morning, rather than work as I usually do, I can pin down one thing for sure. Back in 2003, 2004, half the people I knew were blogging. Even if it was just the same events that we all went to together, or happenings we knew about collectively, blogs let me see a different perspective on things. This prompted thoughts and conversations, and it felt like there was an active community I was a part of.

However, ever since moving to Sydney, I’ve lacked that. None of my friends here keep a regular blog, and those I knew that blogged previously have slowly fallen by the wayside. With a few exceptions¹, I rarely find personal blogs of people I don’t know offline, or outside of just the blog, compelling reading, and at times I even find it awkward – as though I’m peeking into a diary I’ve no right to be in.

The obvious fact to rubbish that idea is that blogs that I can read are public, meaning any reservations about looking into a stranger’s life are entirely of my own making. The hook there is though that it still feels wrong to me to read, uninvited. This rules out, for me, reading strangers’ personal blogs.

The sense of community has gone, but not the desire to continue saying something. The drive to redesign has gone, too, though not through being entirely happy with the current one – I simply no longer derive as much pleasure from pushing around pixels and CSS. I’d love to play with some Javascript and the effects that are myriad over the net these days, but the last thing I want to do when I get home is look at some more code.

I could write opinion – I could easily discuss world events, how Rudd’s attempt to get people talking about the future really is change, how Obama is increasingly looking like the rest of the pack, how the worry about the economy in Australia is overblown, how the world food shortage is one thing that could really be a worry – but there are far more expert commentators. Whenever I re-read one of my peices later, I realise what I’ve missed discussing, and where I’ve fluffed on about entirely random things.

Like I think I am now. Ahem.

And that leaves me back at square one. With apologies.


¹ The exceptions are dooce, this fish, kahiti and defective yeti, all of whom have repeatedly written excellent posts that really grabbed my attention before I subscribed.

Categories
asides

Jolie at 16

Angelina Jolie, Swimsuit Model, 16 years old. Something about her being 16 in those photos feels a bit sleazy, though that’s not to say it’s not interesting to see the change over the years. (thx, Kelson)

Categories
asides

Light-Emitting Wallpaper

Jonas Samson is showing off light-emitting wallpaper. “Cool” and “Want” doesn’t even begin to describe.

Categories
the daily column

On Things

On Staring into Eternity

Standing outside last night, I was looking up at the stars, the lights dark around me. I fancied that, upon staring particularly intently, I could feel our position in the universe. The stars actually looked to be positioned in a 3D space, as opposed to the usual flat feel of pin-points of light peeking though the blanket of the night. The moon, waxing two-thirds full, low on the horizon, particularly served to emphasize the depth of field.

The feeling, incredibly humbling, of a vastness unexplored, unexplorable, and of being able to witness such magnificence… It’s little wonder why early man looked to the heavens when he thought of gods. Science gives a different perspective, but the immenseness of the universe overhead and of insignificance, the tiny scale on which we live, is no less awe-inspiring.

On How Small a World It Is

You travel far and wide, and you meet someone though a new, random connection. A connection accidental and yet in itself surprising, but this new person promises to be something different. Only it turns out they knew everyone you knew, but by chance our paths never crossed.

Or had you met some time years before, but just forgotten? or, had a slightly different decision been made, would you have met then and now? Did you sit next to them on the train every week and just not realise you would meet years down the track? It’s another humbling reminder of how connected we all are with each other.

On Writing Stories

Max Barry’s Syrup just got republished in Australia, and I picked it up the minute I saw it in the shop. And damn me if Syrup isn’t exactly the kind of novel, story, characters and dialogue I’ve always wanted to write. With characters named 6 and @, you know he’s got a quirky idea or two in his head.

While Syrup may have been written years before Jennifer Government, it is almost the better read. Jennifer Government and Company are more acomplished stories, but this is just that much funkier, that much more creatively written and imagined – chapters have many sub-“chapters” which deliver a quirkly by-line on the running plot. Fast paced and creative, Syrup is all kinds of cool, all the while being funny-as.

Categories
asides

Curly chair

WANT.

Categories
quickie

Getting a Wii

Any owners or frequent players of the Nintendo Wii: What do I need to know about it that I might not know already? What games do I need to get? (Note: bias towards party games) Can I hack it to do stuff that it wasn’t designed for?

Categories
asides

Preparing the Space Shuttle for Launch

Geekout! Photos of the preperation of the Space Shuttle for launch: scale here is ginormous. Sweet photos. (via)