[Nilay:] It is fashionable to run around saying the web is dead and that apps shape the world, but in my mind, the web’s pretty healthy for at least two things: news and shopping.
[Matt:] I think that’s your bubble, if I’m totally honest. That’s what’s cool about the web: We can live in a bubble and that can seem like the whole thing. One thing I would explicitly try to do in 2022 is make the web weirder.
Emilie Reed‘s Anything a Maze lives on itch.io, and (outside of selfhosting) that’s clearly the best place for it: you couldn’t tell that story the same way on Medium; even less-so on Facebook or Twitter.
You can install it as an offline-first progressive web application, which means that this could be the first ever digital currency to have an app that works without an Internet connection. That’s probably something no other digital currency can claim to have, right?
Here’s what it looks like if I send 0.1 EGX to my friend Chris using the app:
Naturally, I wouldn’t be backing Emma Goldcoin if it didn’t represent such a brilliant step up better-known digital currencies like Bitcoin, Ripple, and Etherium. Specific features unique to Emma Goldcoin include:
Using it doesn’t massively contribute to energy wastage and environmental damage.
It doesn’t increase the digital divide by helping early adopters at the expense of late adopters.
It’s entirely secure: it’s mathematically impossible to “steal”EGX.
Emma Goldcoin is so simple that you don’t even need a computer to use it: it “just works”.
Looking for something with an “escape room” vibe for our date night this week, Ruth and I tried Tick Tock: A Tale for Two, a multiplayer simultaneous cooperative play game for two people, produced by Other Tales Interactive. It was amazing and I’d highly recommend it.
The game’s available on a variety of platforms: Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, and Nintendo Switch. We opted for the Android version because, thanks to Google Play Family Library, this meant we only had to buy one copy (you need it installed on both devices you’re playing it on, although both devices don’t have to be of the same type: you could use an iPhone and a Nintendo Switch for example).
The really clever bit from a technical perspective is that the two devices don’t communicate with one another. You could put your devices in flight mode and this game would still work just fine! Instead, the gameplay functions by, at any given time, giving you either (a) a puzzle for which the other person’s device will provide the solution, or (b) a puzzle that you both share, but for which each device only gives you half of the clues you need. By working as a team and communicating effectively (think Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes but without the time pressure), you and your partner will solve the puzzles and progress the plot.
(We’re purists for this kind of puzzle game so we didn’t look at one another’s screens, but I can see how it’d be tempting to “cheat” in this way, especially given that even the guys in the trailer do so!)
The puzzles start easy enough, to the extent that we were worried that the entire experience might not be challenging for us. But the second of the three acts proved us wrong and we had to step up our communication and coordination, and the final act had one puzzle that had us scratching our heads for some time! Quite an enjoyable difficulty curve, but still balanced to make sure that we got to a solution, together, in the end. That’s a hard thing to achieve in a game, and deserves praise.
The plot is a little abstract at times and it’s hard to work out exactly what role we, the protagonists, play until right at the end. That’s a bit of a shame, but not in itself a reason to reject this wonderful gem of a game. We spent 72 minutes playing it, although that includes a break in the middle to eat a delivery curry.
If you’re looking for something a bit different for a quiet night in with somebody special, it’s well worth a look.
My favourite thing about geese… is the etymologies of all the phrases relating to geese. There’s so many, and they’re all amazing. I started reading about one, then – silly goose that I am – found another, and another, and another…
Barnacle geese are so-called because medieval Europeans believed that they grew out of a kind of barnacle called a goose barnacle, whose shell pattern… kinda, sorta looks like barnacle goose feathers? Barnacle geese breed on remote Arctic islands and so people never saw their chicks, which – coupled with the fact that migration wasn’t understood – lead to a crazy myth that lives on in the species name to this day. Incidentally, this strange belief led to these geese being classified as a fish for the purpose of fasting during Lent, and so permitted. (This from the time period that brought us the Vegetable Lamb of Tartary, of course. I’ve written about both previously.)
Gooseberries may have a similar etymology. Folks have tried to connect it to old Dutch or Germanic words, but inconclusively: given that they appear at the opposite end of the year to some of the migratory birds goose, the same kind of thinking that gave us “barnacle geese” could be seen as an explanation for gooseberries’ name, too. But really: nobody has a clue about this one. Fun fact: the French name for the fruit is groseille à maquereau, literally “mackerel currant”!
A gaggle is the collective noun for geese, seemingly derived from the sound they make. It’s also been used to describe groups of humans, especially if they’re gossiping (and disproportionately directed towards women). “Gaggle” is only correct when the geese are on the ground, by the way: the collective noun for a group of airborne geese is skein or plump depending on whether they’re in a delta shape or not, respectively. What a fascinating and confusing language we have!
John Stephen Farmer helps us with a variety of goose-related sexual slang though, because, well, that was his jam. He observes that a goose’s neck was a penis and gooseberries were testicles, goose-grease is vaginal juices. Related: did you ever hear the euphemism for where babies come from “under a gooseberry bush“? It makes a lot more sense when you realise that gooseberry bush was slang for pubic hair.
An actor whose performance wasn’t up to scratch might describe the experience of being goosed; that is – hissed at by the crowd. Alternatively, goosing can refer to a a pinch on the buttocks possibly in reference to geese pecking humans at about that same height.
If you have a gander at something you take a good look at it. Some have claimed that this is rhyming slang – “have a look” coming from “gander and duck” – but I don’t buy it. Firstly, why wouldn’t it be “goose and duck” (or “gander and drake“, which doesn’t rhyme with “look” at all). And fake, retroactively-described rhyming roots are very common: so-called mockney rhyming slang! I suspect it’s inspired by the way a goose cranes its neck to peer at something that interests it! (“Crane” as a verb is of course also a bird-inspired word!)
Goosebumps might appear on your skin when you’re cold or scared, and the name alludes to the appearance of plucked poultry. Many languages use geese, but some use chickens (e.g. French chair de poule, “chicken flesh”). Fun fact: Slavic languages often use anthills as the metaphor for goosebumps, such as Russian мурашки по коже (“anthill skin”). Recently, people talk of tapping into goosebumps if they’re using their fear as a motivator.
The childrens game of duck duck goose is played by declaring somebody to be a “goose” and then running away before they catch you. Chasing – or at risk of being chased by! – geese is common in metaphors: if somebody wouldn’t say boo to a goosethey’re timid. A wild goose chase (yet another of the many phrases for which we can possibly thank Shakespeare, although he probably only popularised this one) begins without consideration of where it might end up.
If those children are like their parents, you might observe that a wild goose never laid a tame egg: that traits are inherited and predetermined.
Until 1889, the area between Blackfriars and Tower Bridge in London – basically everything around Borough tube station up to the river – was considered to be outside the jurisdiction of both London and Surrey, and fell under the authority of the Bishop of Winchester. For a few hundred years it was the go-to place to find a prostitute South of the Thames, because the Bishop would license them to be able to trade there. These prostitutes were known as Winchester geese. As a result, to be bitten by a Winchestergoose was to contract a venereal disease, and goosebumps became a slang term for the symptoms of some such diseases.
Perennial achillea ptarmica is known, among other names, as goose tongue, and I don’t know why. The shape of the plant isn’t particularly similar to that of a goose’s tongue, so I think it might instead relate to the effect of chewing the leaves, which release a spicy oil that might make your tongue feel “pecked”? Goose tongue can also refer to plantago maritima, whose dense rosettes do look a little like goose tongues, I guess. Honestly, I’ve no clue about this one.
If you’re sailing directly downwind, you might goose-wing your sails, putting the mainsail away from the wind and the jib towards it, for balance and to easily maintain your direction. Of course, a modern triangular-sailed boat usually goes faster broad reach (i.e. at an angle of about 45º to the wind) by enough that it’s faster to zig-zag downwind rather than go directly downwind, but I can see how one might sometimes want to try this anatidaetian maneuver.
Geese make their way all over our vocabulary. If it’s snowing, the old woman is plucking her goose. If it’s fair to give two people the same thing (and especially if one might consider not doing so on account of their sex), you might say that what’s good for the goose is good for the gander, which apparentlyused to use the word “sauce” instead of “good”. I’ve no idea where the idea of cooking someone’s goose comes from, nor why anybody thinks that a goose step march might look anything like the way a goose walks waddles.
Stupid thing of the day to try on your favourite Slack channel:
1. Make an image of yourself bordered by the edge of a speech bubble. Make the image an exact multiple of 32 pixels in each dimension (this one is 128 × 96):
2. Use ImageMagick to cut the image into 32 × 32 pixel tiles, e.g. like this: magick convert dan-qs-stupid-head.png -crop 32x32 "dan-q-says-%02d.png". Pick a sensible output filename to use as a Slack emoji shortcode.
3. Log into Slack and customise your emoji by adding each of the tiles you’ve created to it. This is where you’ll be glad you named the file sensibly because it saves you typing the shortcode out each time.
4. Type a message using your custom emoji! Because it sits in-line with text, you can type alongside or around it (unlike normally embedded images or /giphy integration) along with styling, mentioning, and hyperlink options. You can also copy-paste and edit on-the-fly, so you can keep a copy of the message in your self-channel and adjust whenever you need.
Why not make a whole set of different faces showing your different emotions – perhaps from photos – so you can react appropriately to your colleagues! Slack don’t seem to impose any limit on the number of custom emoji you can add, so the only limit is your imagination (and the tolerance of your Slack administrator for such high jinks).
Or why not cut up an animated GIF? Slack preloads emoji into the client so they play in-sync, allowing you to run animations that span multiple emoji?
Normally this kind of thing would go into the ballooning dump of “things I’ve enjoyed on the Internet” that is my reposts archive. But sometimes something is so perfect that you have to try to help it see the widest audience it can, right? And today, that thing is: Mackerelmedia Fish.
What is Mackerelmedia Fish? I’ve had a thorough and pretty complete experience of it, now, and I’m still not sure. It’s one or more (or none) of these, for sure, maybe:
A point-and-click, text-based, or hypertext adventure?
What I can tell you with confident is what playing feels like. And what it feels like is the moment when you’ve gotten bored waiting for page 20 of Argon Zark to finish appear so you decide to reread your already-downloaded copy of the 1997 a.r.k bestof book, and for a moment you think to yourself: “Whoah; this must be what living in the future feels like!”
Because back then you didn’t yet have any concept that “living in the future” will involve scavenging for toilet paper while complaining that you can’t stream your favourite shows in 4K on your pocket-sized supercomputer until the weekend.
Mackerelmedia Fish is a mess of half-baked puns, retro graphics, outdated browsing paradigms and broken links. And that’s just part of what makes it great.
If I wasn’t already in love with the game already I would have been when I got to the bit where you navigate through the directory indexes of a series of deepening folders, choose-your-own-adventure style. Nathalie writes, of it:
One thing that I think is also unique about it is using an open directory as a choose your own adventure. The directories are branching. You explore them, and there’s text at the bottom (an htaccess header) that describes the folder you’re in, treating each directory as a landscape. You interact with the files that are in each of these folders, and uncover the story that way.
Back in the naughties I experimented with making choose-your-own-adventure games in exactly this way. I was experimenting with different media by which this kind of branching-choice game could be presented. I envisaged a project in which I’d showcase the same (or a set of related) stories through different approaches. One was “print” (or at least “printable”): came up with a Twee1-to-PDF converter to make “printable” gamebooks. A second was Web hypertext. A third – and this is the one which was most-similar to what Nathalie has now so expertly made real – was FTP! My thinking was that this would be an adventure game that could be played in a browser or even from the command line on any (then-contemporary: FTP clients aren’t so commonplace nowadays) computer. And then, like so many of my projects, the half-made version got put aside “for later” and forgotten about. My solution involved abusing the FTP protocol terribly, but it worked.
(I also looked into ways to make Gopher-powered hypertext fiction and toyed with the idea of using YouTube annotations to make an interactive story web [subsequently done amazingly by Wheezy Waiter, though the death of YouTube annotations in 2017 killed it]. And I’ve still got a prototype I’d like to get back to, someday, of a text-based adventure played entirely through your web browser’s debug console…! But time is not my friend… Maybe I ought to collaborate with somebody else to keep me on-course.)
In any case: Mackerelmedia Fish is fun, weird, nostalgic, inspiring, and surreal, and you should give it a go. You’ll need to be on a Windows or OS X computer to get everything you can out of it, but there’s nothing to stop you starting out on your mobile, I imagine.
Sso long as you’re capable of at least 800 × 600 at 256 colours and have 4MB of RAM, if you know what I mean.
You know how sometimes you get an idea, and you already wrote and extended the code that makes it possible so surely you only need to do a little audio editing and CSS animation tweaking and graphic design and HOLY SHIT HOW DID IT GET SO LATE?
It’s like stepping back in time through videogaming history. And also sideways, into a parallel universe of knights and dragons.
It’s like Google Maps, but in the style of retro top-down, turn-based RPGs. It’s really quite impressive: it’s presumably being generated at least semi-dynamically (as it covers the whole world), but it’s more than a little impressive. It sometimes makes mistakes with rivers – perhaps where their visibility from the air is low – but nonetheless an interesting feat from a technical perspective.
The other Earthlings, Statto, and I this week came up with a fun and topical variant of hit social board game Apples To Apples (which you might well have played with us at some point or another: if not, come over and we’ll show you). We call it AAV, or Apples To Alternative Vote, and it goes a little like this:
Each player draws a hand of seven red cards, as usual. A deck of green cards is built to represent the voting populace. We used 9 green cards for 5 players, and I reckon that was too few: try doubling or tripling the number of players to get a green deck size. Round up to ensure you have an odd number.
In turn, each player (or “candidate”) draws a green card from the constructed deck and explains: “Opinion polls show that voters in this constituency desire things which are…”, and then read out the card as normal. Play about with the language! “I represent the interests of voters who demand…”, etc.
As usual, the other candidates play face-down red cards (policies) that will attract those voters, and the judge flips them over and chooses the one which best-reflects the interests of their constituents. The winning candidate wins their vote, and takes the green card as a prize.
Play until one candidate holds the majority of the green cards. If you run out of green cards before this happens, eliminate the player(s) with the fewest votes (green cards): then they act as judge for these green cards among the remaining candidates. Continue eliminating and redistributing in this fashion until one candidate has a majority. This player is the winner.
If this is all somehow too challenging for you, then declare that AV actually is too complicated, like the No-to-AV people say it is, and give up. Also: you should probably buy yourself some simpler board games, thicko.
We have in mind a possible variant in which different voting issue (green cards) represent different numbers of voters (perhaps using the “values” deck from For Sale), and the aim is to have a majority of voters, not issues, won over by your policies. “12,000 voters desire things which are… scary!” Give it a go, and let us know how you get on. And don’t forget to vote on Thursday!
This afternoon, like last year, we took the opportunity to spend Easter Sunday hiding one another’s Easter eggs in the woods and then running around looking for them.
For some reason, this year Rory didn’t want me to be responsible for hiding his egg (something to do with his eventually being found up a tree, last year), so I ended up hiding Adam‘s, instead. I didn’t even put much effort into it: just propped it on a branch. This turned out to be a bad hiding place because Adam walked right back past it on his way back from hiding JTA‘s egg.
Paul, meanwhile, hid my egg. He did a pretty good job of it, too, and eventually had to give me a couple of clues. “It’s near Barking Up The Wrong Tree,” he said, knowing perfectly well that this was a geocache that I hadn’t yet hunted for. I pulled out my GPSr and found the cache, and then started looking for my egg in the vicinity.
In a particularly special bit of hiding, Rory managed to hide Matt P‘s egg so well that he himself couldn’t find it again. Eventually we all had to help hunt for Matt’s lost egg. Rory had helpfully taken a photo of the egg in it’s hiding place, but this photo was ultimately useless because it depicted nothing more distinctive than “a wood”, which we were unable to see for all of the trees. I suppose that if we were trying to get to a particular spot and then ascertain that we were in the right place, it would be useful, except for that fact that being in the exact right place would probably have been pretty obvious by the time we were standing on top of an Easter egg.
Finally, Adam basically “tripped over” the hidden egg, and all was well.
All in all, it was a fabulous afternoon out, and a great way to work off all the calories of Ruth‘s most-excellent Easter lunch (and just in time to be able to scoff down cakes and chocolate later in the afternoon).
In other news:
If you haven’t yet played the Flash game “Gravity Hook“, you should. Be warned, it’s kind-of addictive. Can anybody beat my top score? (1642 metres)
For those of you following our fun little local geocaching craze, here’s the geocaching.com usernames of some Abnibberswho you might not yet know about:
After JTA and I’s monster plan for a great April Fools’ joke got rained-off this year (maybe another year), I just had to go ahead with two smaller April Fools’ gags this year.
The Photocopier Prank
A nice simple joke at the expense of the people in the office building I work in (and far less complex than last year’s prank against the same): I found a document online, printed it out, and stuck it to the photocopiers.
It instructs users that the photocopier has been upgraded with voice controls, so you can just “tell it” to copy, collate, staple etc. and it’ll follow your instructions. The document goes on to explain that it’s in “learning mode” right now and it might not get everything right while it learns your voice, so be patient and take the time to repeat yourself slowly and carefully.
I haven’t got eyes on the copier, so I’ve no idea how many – if any – people it caught.
The Abnib Announce/Joke Of The Week Prank
For the last few years, I’ve run two a text-message based mailing lists (I’ve got unlimited texts as part of my mobile contract, so it’s as-good-as free for me to do this). The first, Abnib Announce, lets people in Aber know about Troma Night, Geek Night, and similar events. The second, Joke of the Week, goes to a far wider audience and shares, every Friday, the best (by a loose and arguable definition of the word) of the jokes I’ve heard over the previous seven days.
This morning I sent out the following message to both lists:
Abnib Announce/Joke of the Week Update:
Bad news, everyone. My network has been in touch to say that running these regular bulk SMS lists is a violation of their Fair Use agreement, so I can’t run them from my “free texts” package any more. The good news is they’ve offered an alternative. These lists will now become subscription-based SMS services. This will cost you no more than 15p per message received, and a maximum of £1 per week (so £2 per week if you’re on both lists). I’m supposed to ask for your permission before subscribing your number, but I know you’ll all agree anyway. If for some reason you DON’T want to continue receiving Joke of the Week or Abnib Announce at 15p per message, please text me back BEFORE the first message, this afternoon. Ta!
I’ve had a handful of great responses, so far, including:
Them: The rotters, what a bargain, keep the jokes coming please sir Me: Seriously? When I made up those prices this April Fools’ Day I should have put them higher! Them: Hahaha, got me, first one too. Love to the crew
Halfway through a serious response to this i remembered what day it is…
Totally not falling for that, sorry! Happy April Fools
Them: Hey dan. Sorry i cant do that on my phone as my mum Pays my contract Me: Happy April Fools’! Them: Hee.very good
Them: I dont want to pay thanks. I have enough problems with arguing with orange over my phone bill at the minute, thanks. Hope you are good. Me: April Fools’! Them: Is it april already?! Damn i fell for it again! Nice one :-)
Them: Take me off the lists please! Ill get info from [other subscriber] and jokes from sickipedia Me: Tell you what: because it’s you I’ll negotiate with your network: you’re on Orange, right? I’ve kidnapped the dog of the CEO of Orange; I’m pretty sure I can get him to waive the charges in your case. Them: Is vodaphone, and their ceo only has a parrot and 5 fish. Me: =op
Them: Im confused, if its 15p per message why is it £2 a week? Me: NO MORE THAN £2 a week (well, £1 per week per list). So 4 Joke Of The Week messages would be 60p, 8 would be £1, 20 would be £1. Remember that it’s usually a multipart message spanning 4/5 messages each week. Full terms and conditions apply. Them: Lol, sounds confusing, being a poor student i’ll have to pass i think, though i’ll miss moaning at your messages ;-) Me: Really? You’re actually going? And, even more unbelievably, you’re actually falling for this obvious April Fools’ gag? Me: Gotcha ;-) Them: Yup and yup lol :-P
Happy April Fools day!
Them: oh arse, i can’t as i don’t pay the phone bill. is it possible for you to put them online? Me: April Fools’, dummy!
Lol, good one. Did you manage to snare anyone?
Them: Textin back.no joke Me: Gotcha! April Fools’.
It’s been a long while, but I’ve got some more interactive fiction to recommend: Violet, by Jeremy Freese. It’s got all of the usual things I like in a modern piece of interactive fiction: a believable, detailed world that you can really feel like you’re a part of, and which “carries on” around you; a beginning that doesn’t need to explain itself (you can pick it up as you go along); an enthusiastic thoroughness as far as anticipating what a player might try (many of the “unusual” things you can try to do have been anticipated and have specific flavour text); and a story that’s emotive and clever. So far, so good.
But the way in which it really furthers the genre is in it’s presentation format. The narrator of the story – Violet – is the girlfriend of the protagonist, who – through a series of encouragements and discouragements, as well as ocassional asides and additional commentary – helps lead you through your adventure: it is, if you like, a second-person perspective text-based adventure. But it doesn’t take long to realise that she isn’t actually there at all: all of her dialogue is in your head – it’s what your character thinks she would say in response to everything you’re doing.
I thoroughly explored the game in about an hour, and I highly recommend that you do, too: it’s a fabulous piece of interactive fiction, wrapped around a reasonably good bit of fiction.
Update, 19th October 2008, 14:20: Fixed the link to Windows Frotz (previously pointed at WinFrotz, which – while a fabulous Z-Code interpeter, can’t cope with ZBlorb files like the one this game is packaged in). Sorry, Binky.
It’s been hard to find time to post a blog entry here, with everything that’s been going on. Here’s the quick rundown so far:
Thursday. Arrived. Checked in. Accommodation is a lot like Penbryn, for those who know what I mean, although with bigger (but more sterile-feeling) bedrooms. Caught up with loads of folks from last year. Drinks at the bar. Board game (Apples To Apples) with friends. Fab.
Friday. Quick trip to Sainsbury’s (we were looking for Asda but got lost) for food supplies. Bacon sandwiches for breakfast. Opening plenary. Bigging Up The B In LGBT (which turned out to be about how trade unions can better represent their bisexual members). Being Bisexual In The Workplace. Then clothes off for the Naked Lunch. Chilled out for a bit. Solving Conflict In Poly Families (met some people with fascinating poly-backrounds). Dinner of pasta. Self-Harm: How We Cope With Stress (some fascinating perspectives expressed there). Missed out on Naked Twister. Drinks on the grass. Ran a Purity Test Party. Fell into bed at about 2am, but some folks were partying all night (none of this “bed at dawn” nonsense: ACTUALLY partying all night).
Saturday morning. Flapjack for breakfast. Juggling workshop (fun ball-tossing fun and perving at hot poi-people). Non-Traditional Families (lots of interesting child-raising ideas). And now I’m making a packed lunch to take to today’s Naked Lunch, then time for a few more workshops before driving up North to Penny and Gareth’s party, picking up passengers on the way.
All in all, having a fab time. Wish you all were here.
So, like a handful of others, I’ll be participating in Andy‘s Ninja Burger game tonight. He’s asked us each to throw together a character – or at least to look at character generation – so here’s mine:
Name: Ava Kurosawa Job Title: Driver Qualities:
Average [+0] Ninja
Average [+0] Driver (just because he does it doesn’t mean he’s particularly good at it)
Good [+2] at Bojitsu (staff/club fighting)
Good [+2] at Problem Solving (years of training in the Zen arts; also one-handed Rubix cube solving)
Good [+2] at Reading Minds (a natural instinct for understanding what people want)
Poor [-2] at Acting Impulsively (his clan history forbids rash thinking, and this has rubbed off on him, making him indecisive)
Background: Ava is descended from a long history of Ninja drivers. Despite only being an average driver, he seeks to gain the respect and honour of his family through his work with Ninja Burger, and by practicing the calm, collected, enlightened path of his clan. He prefers blunt weapons and particularly the bo staff.
Element: Air Clan: Mysterious Clan Of The Gazebo Slayers Matter of Honour: “I will never attack without provocation.” Honour Score: TBC
If you haven’t put together a character yet because you haven’t seen the rules, there’s a copy here. Just make sure you use the 2nd edition ones!
I gather we’ll be meeting in #ninjaburger on Freenode at 7:30ish. If you’re confused as to how to do that, just use Abnib Chat and ask for help.