New Game App! Friends or Foes

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Scirra, makers of the awesome Construct 2 game engine, recently sponsored a game jam with the theme of ‘deception.’ I wanted to try something other than the same old platformer type game so here is my entry, Friends or Foes.

The game is a little like Mastermind or Mine Sweeper: a mix of logic and elimination to discover the unknown. You start with zero points and your goal is to get the highest score possible.

To add to your score, click on a smiley face. Each smiley will reveal a number. The problem is, you don’t realize if that smiley is a genuine friend, or a for smiling at you while stabbing you in the back.

The trick is you have to always pay attention to your score. So you start with zero. Say on your first turn, you click three smileys and they reveal 1, 2 and 3 then when your score is revealed it’s now -6. You know not to click any of them again because they are foes. The reverse is true, if you click three and they reveal 1, 2 and 3 and your score is 6, you know they are friends and you can click them again.

Then for your next turn, you have to remember your score, since it is probably no longer zero, and you have to be aware of the changes.

The challenge arrives trying to click only true friends. Say your score is zero and you click three buttons again 1, 2 and 3. This time your score result is -2. Now some of the numbers you clicked were from foes. Logic says that with 1, 2 and 3 to be added and return -2, the 3 and the 1 must be negative, the 2 positive.

So using that logic, and by paying attention to your score and the effects on it, you can get the highest score possible. Try it! It’s fun.

Available on Google Play, the Amazon App store, and Knicket, a cool app search engine dedicated to indie apps and games like Friends or Foes. Game on!

Movie Review: Mad As Hell

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Like any good biography, Mad As Hell doesn’t always paint its subject in a positive light. Just like the show itself, this film keeps it real and on a personal level. The movie is inspiring, especially when you see that the growth of the Young Turks online show was anything but a straight line. The only constant was Cenk Uygur’s drive to succeed.

My one critique with this film is that I wanted to know more. I wanted to learn about all the hosts I’ve grown to enjoy hearing from, and the risks they took to make The Young Turks a success. I’m also curious too at a deeper explanation of just how revolutionary their approach is. It’s certainly a better model than old television news, where you sit obediently and listen to a white haired man read you stories without analysis.

The Young Turks show is part of my morning routine, like a morning newspaper of old. As I settle in at work, I listen to their YouTube videos from the day before. Unlike major network news, TYT doesn’t analyze news from a place of deference to authority, their ethos is instead using critical, compassionate thinking.

I’m so glad TYT exists, presenting an intelligent, strong and compassionate progressive perspective. I could never talk for that long and intelligently about so much important stuff.

The news should be challenging, interesting, educational, and at times be fun. Thanks to the Young Turks it is. See Mad As Hell is the inspirational back story, but that’s just the beginning. Watch their show.

 

Tricycle Triumph: The Final Voyage of the Starship Fantastic

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Now It Can Be Told: Why I Performed For Two Minutes On a Tricycle While Wearing My Beanie Copter In Front of Hundreds of Co-Workers and the CEO at My Old Job Many Years Ago

I stepped to the front of the packed, humid ballroom. I was carrying a tricycle. I was not dreaming. The whole experience was utterly ridiculous, yes, but also horrifyingly real.

I had purchased a cobalt-tipped drill bit and convinced a confused salesman at the local big box to drill through the trike’s center shaft. “To allow the tricycle to support my adult body,” I explained. To my surprise, he didn’t have any questions, and set to work helping me. Maybe he could sense larger forces at work, the approaching roar of destiny. More likely he wanted to give me what I wanted so I’d go away faster.

That was days before I strolled onto the stage. I set the tricycle down. The ballroom was filled to capacity, as in standing room only. Hundreds of my co-workers were there. My boss. My boss’s boss, and so on several more times on up the corporate ladder right up to and including the CEO. This was the corporate talent show and I had something special planned. Wait. Scratch that. I hoped something special would happen. I actually had no plan at all.

Performances were limited to two minutes. I just had to do something for two minutes. My hands were freezing, but also sweating. My heart was thundering and my skin warm.

Spots appeared on the edge of my vision. I took a deep breath. Please don’t pass out, I thought to myself. That would make this so much worse.

So I put my foot on the tricycle. I was, naturally, wearing my beanie copter. The rest of me was dressed in typical business-casual for a summer company quote-unquote fun event: sneakers, khaki shorts and a dark blue polo. Two minutes. I had to do something for two minutes.

Just do something. The problem was, I hadn’t given much thought to what that something was.

The D.J. announced my name as the previous act (a woman who sang some karaoke song) ran off. “Now performing to Panama by Van Halen, let’s welcome Larry!” boomed through the speakers. Panama was the song I had selected. All systems were go.

Two minutes. How hard could it be?

Let me tell you something I learned that day. I’m not really sure this has application in anyone else’s life, but you never know, so here goes:

When you are wearing a beanie copter and riding a tricycle accompanied by Van Halen’s Panama in a ballroom filled with hundreds of your co-workers and the CEO of your company, and you have absolutely no plan for what you are going to do, two minutes turns out to be an excruciatingly long time.

So what happened?

Well, I ran around like an idiot. I got the crowd clapping. Then I pushed off and rode the trike like a scooter. I leapt off the trike, did a little Irish tap dance-thing (like in the show Riverdance) around the cycle and jumped back on. And the rest?

Hell, I forget. More of the same, essentially.

Later, someone told me they were impressed with my song selection. Paraphrasing: “If you had selected a silly circus tune it would have just been goofy, but a rock song made it something special.” Another critic was less generous, “We all looked at each other and said, ‘What the hell is he doing?'” Word on the street was, two of my managers (whom I loved) jokingly argued over who I actually reported to.

Many moons later, someone asked me to name the performance, and I called it the “Final Voyage of the Starship Fantastic.” Because it was a one-time-only show. It then became a point of importance to me that I give the tricycle to charity (which I did.) I never rode it again, to ensure the fulfillment of the finality in the title. Things like that matter to me.

Why did the talent show committee let me perform? In previous years people had sung Karaoke songs with naughty words, so each act had to be approved first. I have no idea why they gave me the okay. At the audition I was very vague about what I was going to do, being as I didn’t know myself, but I did bring the trike. They trusted me. Which is funny to me, because I wouldn’t have.

But why? Why did I do it? How did things get to this point? Can I explain something please?

Why?

I get that a lot.

I often defer to a lyrical snippet from The Doors’ song The Crystal Ship: ‘Deliver me from reasons why.’ Sometimes humanity’s lust for reason gets in the way of enjoying life’s craziness, of letting the wonder and the mystery carry you on its cosmic current, of just letting things be. On one level, the only answer is the rhetorical “Why not?” or the faux-mysterious “Because.”

I’m not a fan of those answers, because I prefer a more precise approach. Also, neither non-answer comes close to the truth. There was a reason for the silliness and an important one. Let me explain.

First, an observation: have you ever noticed how people with an authoritarian bent are extremely annoyed by goofiness? By behavior they cannot understand or control? Especially if such behavior generates laughter?

The goal with my tricycle performance was to display a symbolic obscene gesture in the direction of those types. See, I worked in a place that was overrun by such beings. Not completely overrun, as at the same time I met many beautiful folks I am honored to call friend these many years later. The place wasn’t exclusively assholes, but it was infested with them, and they shared the trait previously mentioned: overly serious and full of superiority complex.

As I’ve noted, few things enrage wanna-be dictators more than someone who doesn’t conform to their morose natures.

What better way to mock them than to do so without them knowing? What better way to annoy them than by showing them that I was free and crazy and laughing and there was nothing they could do to change that?

Okay maybe there’s lots of better ways, but none so fun. They would hate my tricycle “performance” for its unabashed absurdity, but in no way would they see it as a direct attack and invoke their petty wraths. Yet it would irritate them immensely because others would never stop talking about it. It would be so strange an event it would come up often, resulting in an itch the authoritarians couldn’t scratch, a bold expression they could not suppress with contempt.

So, did it work?

How the hell would I know? They were miserable before and miserable after. As for me, I had a great time rising to the challenge and now I have an unusual story. If nothing else, it was a lesson for myself. In the dark days of a miserable work environment, I thought I would never emerge. But I did, and did so laughing. My sense of humor — mystical, childish and inexplicable as it is — saw me through.

Hopefully you’re feeling the silliness too and can share a laugh with me. Or at least you’re delightful mix of amused and confused. I’ll settle for that. I get that a lot.

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Book Review: Meat is For Pussies

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On the spectrum of human diets, I’ve now spent more than half my life closer to the herbivore end than the carnivore end. When I first began my awakening, most vegans I knew were intellectual types. They were smart and compassionate, but they were not athletic.

Many of them were scholarly to the point of being boring. Their tactic for spreading the importance of a plant-based diet was to shove a 500-page scholarly text at others. While that technique worked on them, asking someone to read a lot will never be a good way to reach the common man.

With himself as but one example, John Joseph sets all this to right. Because of my previous experience with plant-power, I learned very little new facts from this book, and yet I still loved it. Finally, the benefits of a vegan diet have moved beyond the intellectual crowd. Now there’s room for a guy with a sense of humor, a guy who curses once in a while, a guy who likes loud music and athletics.

It is way past time for a book like this. The world needs someone to get in people’s faces and tell them the truth: that meat is not essential to exceptional health (Joseph is a tri-athlete) that mass animal-slaughter is devastating to our environment and barbarically cruel. For the message to really stick, the messenger has to be athletic, to cut off the most common avenue of denial: that a plant-based diet is unhealthy and produces only sickly nerdy types. In short, John Joseph for president!

Is this the most scientific book on being vegan? No. Is this the most articulate case for being compassionate to animals? No. Is this the most fact-filled assessment of factory farming’s environmental destruction? No. All that said, it was the most fun book on a plant-based diet I’ve ever read. It actually makes you want to be vegan by listing all the benefits (for yourself and the environment) as well as the athletic accomplishments of Joseph and his fellow travelers, who include active-duty Navy SEALs and MMA fighters.

Just like punk rock, Meat is for Pussies lacks finesse, but it has so much heart that it ends up being more powerful than more refined works.

I used to be shy about announcing my vegetarian leanings. No longer. Joseph has inspired me to be proud of this choice. So let me say, yes, I am a guy, I like heavy metal and sports. I am also compassionate toward the earth and all her creatures as best I can be.

If you don’t like any of that then you can go fuck yourself.

 

Please Stop Assuming the Worst About Others

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Lots of people are complaining about public debate, saying that Americans don’t get along more than ever. This may or may not be true. It certainly seems that way, if you try to gauge debates by reading internet comments, and when it’s so obvious that politicians put the success of their party over the success of the nation.

Regardless, there’s a simple solution I think everyone (including myself of course, as I am a part of everyone) can do to improve things. Here’s the idea:

Stop assuming the worst about people you disagree with.

Stop assuming the worst about people you disagree with.

It sounds almost too simple, almost childish. Maybe it is, but when the discussion is childish, it’s time to go back to basics. For example, here’s an excerpt from a discussion about guns that can be seen almost anywhere guns are debated:

“I think guns are important for securing our freedom and personal safety.”
“You obviously have a small penis and/or have seen too many action films.”

Inverted:

“I think guns are an over-reaction to real fears and impractical for civil change.”
“You obviously hate freedom and prefer living in a police state.”

Some people are horrible and full of hate, yes. Some high profile people are paid to support certain viewpoints. Some people are jerks. Some people ignore facts or are ignorant of them. All true.

All I suggest is that we don’t start there. Don’t begin with those negative assumptions or immediately diagnose some disturbing underlying psychology as their motivation. You might get there eventually, but if you begin there, there’s no hope for connection. Start with a more probable assumption: that someone has a reason for feeling as they do, that they have given the matter at least some thought, melded it with their experience, blended it with what they believe are the facts and arrived at a conclusion of varying solidity, as you have.

Maybe the pro-gun person was a child when an intruder came into their home and it terrified them (as it would to anyone.) Maybe the anti-gun person lost someone to a suicide. On and on.

You lose your humanity when you fail to see humanity in others. We can all do better than that. Thanks.

Included below is a social-media-ready meme for you. Share as you see fit.

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