I Have a Confession to Make

I hate Christmas music.

There is a radio station local to me (WALK, 97.5 FM out of Long Island) that starts playing Christmas music right around the week before Thanksgiving, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week until the day after Christmas.  They started playing it about a week ago.

Assuming that WALK started playing Christmas music on 11/19.  Yes, you read that right: 11/19.  Most of us have barely gotten over the hangover from our respective Halloween parties by 11/19, and this station is already playing Christmas music.

The worst thing is that there is a grand total of about twenty, maybe thirty songs that they play over and over.  Midnight 11/19 to midnight 12/26 is 864 hours of Christmas music.  Figuring an average of 4 minutes per song, that means that each song has been played 648 times by the time it’s all said and done.  I swear to Christ, if I hear “Holly, Jolly Christmas” one more time, Imma choke a bitch.

So, I find the most obnoxious System of a Down album I can tolerate (usually Toxicity), and play it on repeat until 12/18.  I allow Christmas music then, because I mean, after all, it is Christmas.


Coming Up With A Story For Minecraft

I’ve been on vacation for the past week, dealing with family issues.  But I did get a lot of Minecraft time in between.

I’ve been playing 1.9 pre-release 5.  It doesn’t add anything massive or major to PR 4, but it does sort of suggest a possible story-line to Minecraft.

First, when you start (and this has been since Beta was released way back when), you’re alone, with only the clothes on your back.  You have to find a way to survive the first day.  You have no memory of what occurred, but there are clues:

  • There are abandoned villages and mines peppered throughout the world;
  • Zombies are the only other humanoid (other than pigmen, but as they’re only found in the nether realms, they don’t count) beings you encounter, and they’re not exactly… friendly;
  • One of the mobs you encounter are the Endermen (introduced in 1.8), and they’re a huge hint of what’s going on.


These hints make it clear that some sort of disaster has occurred, linked to the Endermen somehow.  I happen to know that part of the endgame will be going to the world the Endermen originate from (cleverly called “The End”), and fight a dragon.  The End is reached by a specific portal that itself can only be reached in a specific place and must be activated.

Now, this suggests to me that part of this disaster is linked to The End.  Imagine this scenario:

  1. A medieval society develops ability to travel between worlds (the Nether and The End).
  2. Opening up a portal to The End allows the Endermen to come through.
  3. The End and the world do not get along with each other very well.
  4. Something Bad ™ happened, and all of the humans except the player were killed.
    1. This Something Bad is obviously linked to the dungeons and mob generators sprinkled throughout the world.  Endermen can move blocks: maybe they’re responsible for the dungeons?  Maybe the dungeons are responsible for the missing people?
  5. The humans leak into the World nightly as mindless Zombies.
  6. The player wakes up on the beach with no memory.

Hmmm…. thought-provoking.

November 11th is Veteran’s Day

Some facts about Veterans that you may find alarming:

  • A US Veteran attempts suicide every 80 minutes (source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk)
  • “Estimates of the rate of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among veterans returning from Iraq range from 12% to 20%. With deployment topping 1.5 million this summer [2007], and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) having treated more than 52,000 persons, the greatest effect of those mental health issues has yet to be experienced.” –source: http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/565407
  • “As of June 2010, a total of 171,423 deployed Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans were diagnosed with PTSD, out of total of 593,634 patients treated by VA.” —http://www.veteranstoday.com
  • A person with PTSD is 14.9 times more likely to attempt suicide than those without it (source: http://www.mirecc.va.gov)

Here is a complete Frontline episode on this very issue, following the members of one particular company deployed to Afghanistan.

[Here’s] a startling statistic: Since the Iraq war began, a total of 18 soldiers from Fort Carson have been charged with or convicted of murder, manslaughter or attempted murder committed at home in the United States, and 36 have committed suicide.

Read more: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/

Just some food for thought on this Veteran’s Day.

Minecraft Cavescapes

Image of a cavescape

I’m a bit of a pain of the ass when it comes to space: I’m obsessed with it.  I’m not talking space as in outer space, but the spaces that we surround ourselves with everyday.  I’m a bit of an agoraphobe, so I have a tendency to prefer closed in spaces, including caves.

I’m also the kind of person who will play a game for maybe twenty minutes, become bored of it, and quickly put it aside, never to be played again.  It has happened to more games than I can count, and one reason I’m reluctant to pick up a new game unless it is heavily discounted.  This phenomena is especially pronounced if I get frustrated with a game, and especially if I feel that the whole purpose of the game is to piss me the fuck off.

Minecraft is a game in which the player explores a randomly generated world, collecting resources, building shelters, making tools, and so on.  What is so remarkable about this game is that if I recall correctly, the game cost me around $20, yet continues to give me pleasure in ways no other game has ever done.  It is also a game that I’m still playing (though not with the fervor I once might have) ten months after I bought it.

If one were to ask me why, I would point to the one thing that frustrates me about many video games: their lack of freedom.

You know what I’m talking about: that stupid plumber in Mario Bros. is simply incapable of walking to the left.  And if you try, he runs into an invisible wall (or, at least in every version of the game I’ve ever played).  In Quake II, at least in the single player story mode, you are forced to go along a certain path to get to the final boss at the end.  Even Portal has this limitation, no matter how cleverly disguised.

Minecraft has none of this: you go where you want to go, when you want to go there.  Since the world is randomly generated, its size is only limited by the hardware it is running on.  The beauty of Minecraft is that it is different things to different people:  For some, it is a game of survival; for others, it is a game of construction and creativity; for yet others, it is a game of exploration.

I’m in the exploration camp:  I love finding new, cool, and/or beautiful places when I explore these randomly-generated worlds.  Every once in a while, I will come across a piece of scenery that takes my breath away.  Some of my favorites actually come from caves, and I call these scenery “cavescapes.”

Here’s one such example of a cavescape (keep in mind that these are all at least quasi-randomly generated):

Image of a cavescape

This is a naturally occurring cave in seed #1381145796.  Look at all those nooks and crannies just begging to be explored.

Here is another from the same seed:

And yet another, still from the same seed:

A Massive cave in minecraft

Note that torches were added to this cave to provide light.

I would further note two things:

  1. All of these caves are interconnected by winding underground passages, forming one massive cave system that goes on for miles.
  2. If you use the seed #1381145796, be careful where you step: This world is pockmarked with tiny little holes in the ground that open up into massive chambers like the one in the third picture above.  Not visible in that picture due to the poor angle, is that there is an opening to the surface at the top of this chamber that is only one meter by two meters.  If you’re not paying attention to where you’re stepping, you will fall through that hole (and the dozens like it) to your death.