Monster Trucks and Plunging Ranula

We’re taking Alex to the monster trucks on the weekend and he’s so excited, I just wonder if the reality of the noise and mess of a real monster truck rally (as opposed to videos and toys) may be a bit much for him, we’ll see I guess.

In other news and to compound a pretty awful year for us, Alex has been growing a lump on his lower jaw for about 6 weeks. The doctors originally thought it was a blocked salivery gland but an ultrasound ruled that out, at the time they still weren’t sure what it was so we had a couple of weeks of wondering what the hell (and not discussing the worst case scenerio).

After a follow up ultrasound it was diagnosed as a Plunging Ranula which is a rare condition where the Sublingual Gland (whatever that is) retains saliva, so it’s close to a blocked salivery gland, but not quite. When your peaditrician has to look up google to learn more about a condition that you, you know it’s pretty rare.

There’s good and bad news, it requires surgery to correct but from what I’ve read the success rate is high and trauma/risk to a three year old is relatively low because they can go in through the mouth to remove the gland, nevermind the trauma to the poor parents. There are other treatment methods but none of the alteratives are that ver effective.

Since 1910, 139 procedures in 89 patients with plunging ranula have been reported in the English literature. The recurrence rate was 70 per cent after incision and drainage of the cyst, 53 per cent after marsupialization, 85 per cent after excision of the cyst in the neck and 2 per cent after excision of the sublingual gland via the cervical or intra-oral route.

I found a good PDF describing the procedure involved in removing the Sublingual Gland which is encouraging about the outcome (i.e. there are no long term side effects from the removal of this gland).

The surgery hasn’t been scheduled yet because they want to do an MRI to make sure they have the location of the gland correct, that’s scheduled for his Birthday, which kinda sucks because it has to be done under general anaesthetic so he’ll be in hospital for his birthday and possibly a day afterwards too.

To finish off, here’s some good news, Kristie won her Hockey Grand Final on the weekend, 3:1, and she scored all three goals!

More on the Volt

I’m not a stinking unwashed long hair hippy but I do like the idea of paying less to run my car so I’ve been following the Chrysler Volt with a vague interest. Wired just posted a big article on the progress of the Volt’s development, you can read the whole thing here but for the lazy (like me), here are the interesting bits:

The Volt, which General Motors finally unveiled Tuesday, is a series hybrid, also called a range-extended electric vehicle. Like the Prius, it’s got an electric motor and a gasoline engine, but the engine merely charges the battery as it approaches depletion. Electricity alone turns the 17-inch wheels. The Volt is designed to travel 40 miles on a single charge of its lithium-ion battery, meaning most drivers will never burn a drop of gasoline.

and

General Motors wants the Volt to recharge in eight hours using a standard 120-volt wall outleta or three hours with a 240. Of course, that won’t do you any good if you’re miles from home when the batteries are winding down. At that point, the Volt’s 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine kicks on, powering a 53-kilowatt generator that will keep the battery going.

and finally

GM says the drivetrain will produce acceleration similar to that of a V-6 engine.

So we’re looking at an electric car which can do 4.7l/100, that’s almost half what my 1.8l Civic does and it sure as crap doesn’t accelerate like a V-6 (unless I’m in a bad mood).

Oh, the Volt also looks freakin awesome:

…not an ice beam, that’s all “Johnny Snow”

Kristie didn’t like it, and I wasn’t all that wrapped in it on the first viewing but I gave it another chance and now I appreciate if for the genuis it is, Dr Horrible’s Sing-along Blog is an inspired piece of television.

I’ve been listening to the soundtrack in the car with Alex and he particularly loves the Freeze Ray and Bad Horse songs, so I’m trying to learn the lyrics so we can actually sing-along, that’s the point, right?

Bad Horse, Bad Horse, Bad Horse, Bad Horse.

He rides across the nation, The Thoroughbred of Sin.
He got the application that you – just – sent – in.
It needs evaluation, so let the games begin.

A heinous crime, a show of force,
A murder would be nice of course!

Bad Horse, Bad Horse, Bad Horse, He’s Bad!

The Evil League of Evil is watching so beware.
The grade that you receive will be your last we swear!

So make the Bad Horse gleeful, or he’ll make you his mare.

You’re saddled up. There’s no recourse. It’s Hi-Ho Silver!

Signed Bad Horse.

Spore, expectations vs reality (my last post on Spore, I promise)

Will Wright has a long history of great games (pretty much all the Sims games, I still own the original Sim City on 5.25″ floppies) but there comes a point where he needs to stop believing his own publicity and stop building up games well beyond what he can actually deliver, Fable was Moleneux’s breaking point, famous for not delivering on pretty much all the cool stuff he claimed would be in the game, Spore is Will Wright’s.

Thanks to Omnicarus from the SA forums for this concise summary of how the hype associated with Spore and the building of expectations over the years has once again not delivered. On with the show (with some paraphrasing from me).

What Will Wright led us to believe Spore would be:

Spore, expectations

What we got:

For the record, despite the minor dispointment of discovering we have been given a game which resembles a shitty sand castle if you ignore all the nerd rage associated with this sort of game launch, I still think it’s a good game and Alex loves watching me make “monsters” and having them fight and eat each other. He’s going to explode when I get to the Space stage. Pew Pew.

First impressions of Spore

I loaded up Spore last night for the first time and played for about two hours, here are my first impressions and some screenshots.

Spore is touted as an open ended game where you can form your species in to pretty much anything you want, from tree hugging hippies who dance and sing and generally make everyone nausious to murderious bloodthirsty predators who eat the hippies for breakfast.

I decided early on that my species would be a warmongering genocidal carnivorous race of predators hell bent on ridding the world (universe) of all other life forms in the most violent way possible, I think maybe I just need a hug.

Anyway, I was well on my way to this goal as my first single celled organism formed and began hunting for prey. The first stage of the game revolves around finding food (chunks of meat floating the primordial ooze) and other single celled organisms in order to take their traits, you can also find body parts or DNA by eating parts of the meteor which crashed in to the planet you inhabit and began the cycle of life.

My first creature, pictured here was built for destruction. The huge spikes are a self defence mechanism (I wasn’t the biggest fish in the pond, and the bigger ones all wanted to eat me!) and a double mouth, all the better to eat you with my dear.

Spore_2008-09-03_22-00-53

During this phase you are constantly reminded that you are not the biggest fish in the pond, you can see the blurring giant organism in the background in the image above but luckily there are layers of life in this phase so something that big doesn’t care about eating me, yet.

After chowing down on cow like prey for about 10 minutes and discovering the ability to spit poison and shoot lightning out my butt, I evolved to a land based being, dragging myself from the ooze on to dry land. Thus the Creature phase began.

The Creature phase isn’t that different from the single celled phase, you hunt, you kill, you eat, you evolve. There is another dimension in this phase where you can attempt to use social skills (Song, Dance, Charm) to befriend other species and have them join your tribe. I attempted this several times but my “built to kill” creature, pictured below (in various states of evolution), was not build for dancing so I just ate their faces instead, same end result, sort of.

CRE_Meatbag-06e90ec8_ful CRE_Meatbag-06e90ecb_ful Spore_2008-09-03_22-21-29 Spore_2008-09-03_22-46-01

The aim of this phase if to befriend or destroy other species as you make your way around the landmass, each new conquest give you DNA and body parts with which to build on your own creature to make them a better fighter, tree hugger or somewhere in between, whatever floats your boat.

The sense of achievement is done in a way that it keeps you going without getting bored of doing the same thing over and over, each new genocide you inflict yields some new DNA for you to build on your creature, be it a new mouth, legs, feet, opposable thumbs, bigger brain, lightning shooting butt attachment or whatever. I think in the two hours I played I spent about equal time in the creature designer and chewing on other creatures livers.

As I practiced and became more familiar with the creature creator my species (which I named Meatbag) got more and more intricate and changed designs in quite radical ways as I found new body parts and discovered different ways the designer allowed me to fiddle with the anatomy (oh, that sounds wrong) of the new life form.

Here is the final result so far, the yellow weirdo on the left (as oppose to the pink weirdo on the right) was my first attempt at a sentient pac-man, failed..I’ll try again when I have some morebody parts.

Spore_2008-09-03_23-52-05 Spore_2008-09-04_00-00-46

You can see more screens in the gallery, click below:

3882
 
EDIT: The Spore official site is actually pretty cool and includes a personal page which documents your own creatures evolution, the animation below isn’t clickable, which is odd, but you can subscribe to the RSS feed for my creatures. Here we go, a link to all my creatures and my profile.
 
EDIT 2: It seems that my stupid ball thing with spikes has been Eclipsed by some absolutely amazing creations, check these out, they’re all made in the creature creator: 
 
EDIT 3: There’s a lot of internet hate at the moment for the game, and I do agree with some of it, here’s a great post from the SA forums which sum it up pretty well.
This game is horrible. I cannot believe that this simple shit is the result of five years and who knows how many millions of development dollars. Here’s the whole thing:

Cell stage:
Swim around, eat meat or plants.
Eat enough meat/plant, get a little bigger.
Kill cells that have something you don’t, get their DNA.
Repeat until you are about ready to barf.
I liked it better when it was called O’DELL LAKE.

Creature stage:
Run around collecting little DNA bits out of skeletons.
Meet a new creature either a) eat them and they go extinct or b) try to impress them and usually fail because it’s really tough to get the right skills for each one.
Stick on more parts that you have found.

Tribal stage:
Plunk down city buildings.
Gather food.
Go to to other tribes and either dance/sing to impress them or kill them.

Civilization stage:
EASILY the least sense-making portion of the game.
Convert other cities using religion or economics or just military force, it’s all very wtf, generally.

Space stage:
Fly on uninspired missions to do boring things.

It’s fucking tragic, and not really fun for any length of time. You will never have enough DNA to really make a complicated awesome creature the way you want, it will always be this complete pain in the ass to try to balance what you WANT with WHAT IS NEEDED TO SURVIVE. Creating the minor works of complicated art like in the CC is really not possible.

and
Fable was at least sort of fun on its own merits.

Unless you’re autistic with the creature creator this… not so much.

I agree with most of that (so far, I’m only up to creature stage, but luckily I am autistic with the creature creator, how long that will last remains to be seen.
 
…and the final word to all the nerd ragers claiming they have once again been deceived by famous game designers (from NEOGAF):
 
Exactly! It’s clear to me that many people here approach the game completely wrong and have totally different expectations from it than was ever promised to begin with. No wonder you hear many negative comments. This game is first and foremost about creation. Creating your own world and sharing it with others. It was also very clear beforehand that this game would consist of completely different gameplay styles. No wonder it doesn’t feel contiguous. It isn’t exactly supposed to be.

This is no hardcore evolution sim, strategy game, or tycoon. It’s all about creation, exploration, socalizing and simple fun. No more, no less.

 

To put it more succinctly:

This game is not COD4.

Mythbusters “illustrate” how a GPU works, in typical style.

Here’s a story from the final moments of Nvision involving the Mythbusters explaining the difference between a CPU and a GPU, seet hevideo below but read the info on the linked page, below, for the full impact.

Nvidia ended the first Nvision visual computing festival with a bang, in a quite literal sense, after inviting Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman of Mythbusters fame on stage to bring an end to official proceedings.

The two were tasked with using their scientific and engineering skill to demonstrate the difference between a CPU and a GPU… in a visual sense.

http://www.bit-tech.net/news/2008/09/01/mythbusters-finish-nvision-in-style/1