We’ve only got a couple of days left before we move to our new house. In order that she and her little brother might better remember our old house, I encouraged our 6 year-old to record a video tour.
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It had been a long while since our last murder mystery party: we’ve only done one or two “kit” ones since we moved in to our current house in 2013, and we’re long-overdue a homegrown one (who can forget the joy of Murder at the Magic College?), but in the meantime – and until I have the time and energy to write another one of my own – we thought we’d host another.
But how? Courtesy of the COVID-19 crisis and its lockdown, none of our friends could come to visit. Technology to the rescue!
I took a copy of Michael Akers‘ murder mystery party plan, Sour Grapes of Wrath, and used it as the basis for Sour Grapes, a digitally-enhanced (and generally-tweaked) version of the same story, and recruited Ruth, JTA, Jen, Matt R, Alec and Suz to perform the parts. Given that I’d had to adapt the materials to make them suitable for our use I had to assign myself a non-suspect part and so I created police officer (investigating the murder) whose narration provided a framing device for the scenes.
The party itself took place over Discord video chat, with which I’d recently had a good experience in an experimental/offshoot Abnib group (separate from our normal WhatsApp space) and my semi-associated Dungeons & Dragons group. There were a few technical hiccups, but only what you’d expect.
The party itself rapidly descended into the usual level of chaos. Lots of blame thrown, lots of getting completely off-topic and getting distracted solving the wrong puzzles, lots of discussion about the legitimacy of one of several red herrings, and so on. Michael Akers makes several choices in his writing that don’t appear in mine – such as not revealing the identity of the murderer even to the murderer until the final statements – which I’m not a fan of but retained for the sake of honouring the original text, but if I were to run a similar party again I’d adapt this, as I had a few other aspects of the setting and characters. I think it leads to a more fun game if, in the final act, the murderer knows that they committed the crime, that all of the lies they’ve already told are part of their alibi-building, and they’re given carte blanche to lie as much as they like in an effort to “get away with it” from then on.
Of course, Ruth felt the need to cater for the event – as she’s always done with spectacular effect at every previous murder mystery she’s hosted or we’ve collectively hosted – despite the distributed partygoers. And so she’d arranged for a “care package” of wine and cheese to be sent to each household. The former was, as always, an excellent source of social lubrication among people expected to start roleplaying a random character on short notice; the latter a delightful source of snacking as we all enjoyed the closest thing we’ll get to a “night out” in many months.
This was highly experimental, and there are lessons-for-myself I’d take away from it:
Meanwhile: if you want to see some moments from Sour Grapes, there’s a mini YouTube playlist I might get around to adding to at some point. Here’s a starter if you’re interested in what we got up to (with apologies for the audio echo, which was caused by a problem with the recording software):
Jay Foreman’s back with a long-awaited tenth episode of Unfinished London. This one follows up on Why does London have 32 boroughs? and looks deeper into the complexities of the partially-devolved local government of London.
Since I watched this it’s already shot up to #9 on trending on YouTube, so you’ve probably already seen it. But if not, you should watch it.
Excellent 45-second illustration of the compounding effect of your individual actions on viral spread. Stay at home, people.
The season’s final episode of Two of These People are Lying ends with a brilliant and unintentional twist.
To celebrate being alive for a billion seconds, Daniel Bruin built a machine with 100 gears with a 10-to-1 gear ratio…meaning that the overall gear ratio is a googol-to-one. (A googol is 1 with 100 zeros.)
To turn the last gear in this train one full revolution, you’d need to turn the first gear 10,
By my estimation, that’s enough gearing to allow you to winch the entire solar system, by hand, with ease. Assuming you can find a tow hitch on it somewhere.
Love this video: the Dutch PM reminds everybody not to shake hands with one another… then turns and shakes somebody’s hand. Then realises his mistake and initiates even more bodily contact by way of apology.
With help from a neural network, Denis takes original cinematography of New York City in 1911 and uploads it as an cleaned, upscaled, high-framerate, colourised YouTube video. It’s pretty remarkable: compare it to the source video to see how much of a difference it makes: side-by-side, the smoothness of the frame rate alone is remarkable. It’s a shame that nothing can be done about the underexposed bits of the film where contrast detail is lacking: I wonder if additional analysis of the original print itself might be able to extract some extra information from these areas and them improve them using the same kinds of techniques.
In any event, a really interesting window-to-history!
Don’t understand why Web accessibility is important? Need a quick and easily-digestible guide to the top things you should be looking into in order to make your web applications screenreader ready? Try this fun, video-game-themed 5 minute video from Microsoft.
There’s a lot more to accessibility than is covered here, and it’s perhaps a little over-focussed on screenreaders, but it’s still a pretty awesome introduction.
A fun and lightweight 10-minute (very basic, but highly-accessible) primer into the mechanisms by which new viruses appear to emerge via spillover infection and viral evolution. I was pleased by the accuracy of the animations including efforts to show relative scale of microorganisms and the (correct) illustration of RNA as the genetic material of a coronavirus (many illustrators draw all viruses as carrying a double-stranded DNA payload).
This beautifully-shot short film won Best Live Action Short Film at the Oscars last month, and if you haven’t seen it you owe it to yourself to do so. Over the course of 20 artfully-crafted minutes it tells two distinct stories, and before long you realise that what you’re really watching is the third story that emerges, Rubin vase-style, from the mind of the watcher and in the gaps between the two. Official website. Probably NSFW.