Wonderful New World

Today I had a bit of a nostalgia-fest on twitter, as people were talking about Ultima games of old. A friend of mine added that she wanted to add an NPC playing “Stones” in the game, and quickly got a reply from none other than Iolo himself!

I love how the internet make these snap connections possible. Arnold schwarzenegger is someone else who prowls fitness-related subreddits, giving tips and encouragement to random anonymouys on the web. Also recently, I posted my impressions on the movie “Edge of Tomorrow”, and promptly got a head’s up from one of the actors in the movie.

We are living in interesting times!

Late night

Procastination will be the death of me.

I had a short to-do list tonight, a little spill from work. Answer a short e-mail here. Calculate some statistical tests there. Syncronize my netbook with my work computer — by all means this should have taken an hour, most.

but it is 1:00 AM now and I have finally finished everything I should have done. Because of this, I did not manage to clear the one non-work related item in my list: prepare my work environment for Ludum Dare 30… That is not done yet. My friend MME suggested that I try IntelliJ for my dev environment this time around, since last time I was having troubles with Eclipse.

Installation and an initial run went out without a hitch, but now I need to try and see if I can setup a libGDX project in it, and deploy it to android easily (besides setting up the GitHub connection).

Well… I guess I’ll have time for that tomorrow! Time to finish cleaning the dishes and go to sleep. 2:00 AM already! O.o

Comic Sans Criminal

The Facebook winds bring me this link: “My Parents Open Carry”, on Amazon. I am not sure about the message in the book, but when the entire thing is typeset in Comic Sans, you know something is wrong :3

Today was a rough day — I decided to spend the day in my office to work on a problem I was having on a simulator hosted there, and instead spent most of the day procastinating on the net :-( baah. At least I managed to clear out most of my “documents to write” list. Still plenty to do, though.

At night, RPG time. I am GM’ing a game of Numenera, a sci-fi-ish fantasy game. I got a very good idea for the current campaign arc, but procastination + moving means that I have spent very little time preparing. I am excited about the general ideas I want to implement in the story, but not motivated at all to work on the details :-(

This weekend is Ludum Dare. I’m looking forward to it, but I’m also dreading a bit, since I have not touched libGDX since the last LD…

gaah.

New House, New Host

I have moved two times this week: Firstly I moved from my apartment in Midorino, to another apartment in Nagareyama Central Park — another station in the Tsukuba Express line.

Nagareyama Central Park is a “kakueki-only” station, meaning that only the slowest trains in the TX line stop here. Accordingly, there is not much in terms of buildings or commerce – the station is as bare as they go. That said, we are whithin walking distance from both Nagareyama Ootaka no Mori and Minami Nagareyama, two largish stations with plenty of stuff to do.

In front of my building there is a hospital being built. I decided to take a picture of the building process every morning. When the Hospital is done, I will put those pictures together in a timelapse – something I always wanted to do in my previous building. Construction in Japan is impressive in how much they can get done in such a short amount of time.

Talking about construction, I have recently spent a lot of time playing Prison Architect, a building/administration game that is still in alpha stage, but has a lot of emergent interaction goodiness going on it. Another game on the same vein that has been keeping me up awake late at night is Rim World, this one set up in a space/firefly environment.

Finally, you may notice that the site is a bit different (hopefully this means that you used to visit this site in the past! XD). I have moved hosts, and decided to take the chance and shake up my ancient wordpress installation a little bit. Look forward seeing more changes (and a lot of broken links) in the short future.

And that is it for today!

Snow adventures

Yesterday there was the biggest snowstorm in the last twenty years in Kanto, and I was caught right in the middle of it. This is a short report of my 36 hour adventure.

My father and his son were visiting me for two weeks, and supposed to leave on the Saturday. It dawned a snowy morning, and maybe much of this would have been averted if I had checked the weather forecast beforehand, but that is spilled milk.

We had a nice lunch in Tsukuba, and got on the bus to the airport. It was snowing quite a bit. During the ride, my dad’s wife called, warning that the flight had been canceled. Since we were already midway to the airport, I decided not to worry about it until we got there.

At the airport, the company changed my dad’s flight to another leaving at the same time. I thought it was settled. We waited a bit, said our goodbyes at the security gate, and I headed to the return train.

That was when the troubles started piling up.

Continue reading

A Link To The Past 2

Felipe was playing a zelda game in his 3DS, and while watching him play, I had this nagging deja-vu like feeing:

- That map you’re playing, It reminds me a lot of LttP.

- Yes! It is because this is Link to the past 2!

I knew that nintendo had released a new Zelda, but I didnt realize it was the continuation of one of my childhood’s favorite games (and my first SNES title). I guess I know what is next in my to-play list.

Talking about to-play games, the latest Humble Bundle has a suberb collection. To The Moon was a fantastic game. The story is really interesting, and should make you stop and reflect about your own life. Some people complain that this game has too little “game” in it, but in my opinion, maybe it has too much. Or too put in a better way, the few game-like elements were a bit disconnected from the narrative, which felt distracting sometimes. But overall it was worth it.

I wonder if I would change my memories before death. I feel more like I would just like to let someone else experience them – a bit “speaker for the dead” style.

Also the bundle has Surgeon Simulator 2013 and Reus, two fun games. The others I havent played yet.

Otakus

This past two weekends I took some university students for programming contests in Japan and Taiwan. After two heavy weekends, the first thing they were doing once they were back in the train back home was to check the upcoming local contests.

I have always prided myself on having a wide variety of hobbies and interests. But that comes at a price that I am not particularly good at any of them. I will easily climb the first few steps of the learning curve, but I rarely commit the time or resources necessary when the difficulty becomes steep. Instead I move on to the next interesting thing.

Of course, this means that I am never completely lost towards new situations, and I fell I have the ability to pick up a new skill relatively quickly. On the other hand, when I am among people who dedicate themselves to some kind of task, I also fel that I often fall behind quickly.

A runner of difficulty curves, not a climber. I was wondering this weekend if this “jack of all trades” attitude was really the way to go.

High school level research

Yesterday I gave an invited lecture to a local high school on Artificial Intelligence. After the lecture, three students came to ask me if it was possible to make a robot that would love a human.

That was not the only question, of course. I was asked about robot emotions, robot animals, flying robots, etc. One student asked my favorite SF books, which made me quite happy. The most “technical” question came from a student who asked me to detail how AI is used to detect spam mail.

These students reminded me why I started to study CS, artificial intelligence, and genetic algorithms in the first place. Robotics was for my generation what the Space Race was for the previous one. My first PhD proposal was on trying to teach robots to learn from the example of other robots, using ants and children as inspiration.

Since entering academia (even though I’m still strictly on the kid’s side of that pool), I’ve been bombarded from all sides with “grown up” talk. Scientific rigour, chinese rooms, mathematical correctness, publish or perish, statistical models, tenure committees, patents, liabilities, reviews, peer reviews, proper academic writing style, critical thinking, no free lunch, practical applications, etc etc.

Most of these concepts are important, some critically so. Still none of it was what put me where I am today. And none of it will bring those kids into the fold.

Recently I’ve been feeling disheartened with research in general. That might be because it has been a long time since I let myself consider my SF daydreams as legitimate research ideas. The other day I was thinking about a Shadowrun-lile PAN controlled by intelligent agents. I immediatelly filled it in as a “personal project”. Why not as a research subject? Because it didnt fit the mold I had made for “worthy of proper scientific investigation”.

That is bullshit. And up until now, it had influenced the way that I thought about my research work. As the high school kids asked me about flying robots and loving robots, I asked myself – why did I just spend 15 minutes in my talk explaining the difference between Weak and Strong AI? Why didn’t I just talk about this instead? When I told them about my favorite GA anedocte, he literally braced himself against a table in excitement.

Next time I give a High School talk, the title won’t be “Introduction to AI research”, it will be “Why I fuckin love AI”.

Maybe my next academic research plan should have the same title.

Up until now.

I had a memorable incident when I was doing my first master degree, back in Brazil. I had just returned from my first one year trip to Japan. I had lost the thread of my masters work, and was way behind schedule.

Because I had nothing to show for my one year exchange, I was avoiding meeting my advisor. I spent three months at home, afraid to meet him empty handed, but also somehow unable to get on to work.

Eventually, he sent me an e-mail asking me if I was still in Japan – he knew I wasn’t. We scheduled a meeting. I told him at the meeting that I was ashamed of meeting him empty handed. He told me that he understood that, but that not meeting him would not make the shame go away, and now that we were back together we could plan things up and get things done. And so we did.

Here I would like to say that I never forgot what he told me that time. But while I have certainly improved regarding facing people when my tasks are behind schedule, I nonetheless still hide from myself when I feel I am not living up to my own expectations… Up until now.

For the past few months I have been talking to a life coach – I have been particularly bothered with productivity issues in the past year, and was looking for help. Today she was telling me of the effects of a negative mindset – how we can get on a depressive feedback loop when we punish our failures while not rewarding our successes. It was a more “source level” version of the same talk I had with my advisor, all those years ago.

We discussed some strategies to deal with this problem. One of them was identifying my negative self assessments, and postfixing these thoughts with “up until now”. The idea here, l think, is to reshape your thought state from a judgemental, passive state, to a action-planning, active mode.

How that will work for me is anyone’s guess, but it is definitely worth a shot. I think one of the first steps is to make explicit the goal state that I want to reach – my current ideal self image. I have a good idea of what that is, but I have been rambly enough, so that will go on my next post.

I have left this blog/journal in a sad, semi-abandoned state… Up until now ;-)

One Game a Month: START!

OneGameAMonth is a social/gamification website to encourage people to make games. It was made by @McFunkyPants, and I feel it is kind of a spin-off to the Ludum Dare game Jam, as a support hub to help game makers take that next step into the hobby.

I was “pressured” by @MyMilkedEek, my good game making partner, into joining this initiative. OneGameAMonth might help me get my game programming projects out of my “TODO” stack. I have a bunch of little gaming projects, and forcing them into 1-month deadlines might be just the thing that I needed. Out of the top of my head:

  • Make a Post-compo (cleaned up) version of “The Fair King”
  • Make an android version of “Nampac”
  • Create my “Space Debris” crafting shooter idea
  • Make more games!

To warm myself up, today I cleaned up a bunch of simple bugs in The Fair King. Next I need to tackle the problems with the input. I hope that I will have time to do a bit of it this Sunday, but I also have a lot of work-related things to address… The more stuff you have to do, the more you get done, I guess! :-D