Day 279 – Results May Startle You

87 – 100 Tips To be a Lady

First, let me acknowledge this is a very problematic list.
The tone set by the title is very uncomfortable to start with, and the content doesn’t manage to avoid overt sexism. More on that later.

First…

The Score

Have you tried matching yourself against the list?
I did.
The Results May Startle You!

If I disregard all the questions that have gendered language making me ineligible to say yes, I still score 64%. If I simply gender-flip the gendered questions, my total goes up to 81%! I feel more elegant already; I wonder if I should go buy a black dress?

Logic

A large swathe of the questions are surprisingly easy to answer “yes” to as a man. Many of them make assumption about what the reader wants to do; if I don’t, then the statement is true for me by default. Some examples.

4. Only wear heels if you know how to walk in them.
Because I don’t wear heels, this is automatically true.

7. Never show too much leg or too much cleavage at the same time.
I never show cleavage, so this is also automatically true.

24. Your make up does not have to look natural, but make sure it looks clean.
I never wear make-up, so this is automatically true as well.

Universal

About 37 of the statements are really things everybody should be aspiring to, regardless of any other factors. I have to admit, I cannot actually tick all of them myself, but I’m working on it.

12. Remember birthdays and send thank you notes.
I wish I were better at this, but my memory is shocking. Time runs away with me, and once I catch up it is far too late to do anything about it. But what does this have to do with being a lady exactly?

55. Do not interrupt people speaking to you.
This is much harder than it sounds in theory. It’s hard to listen and not speak to begin with. And every once in a while I find myself in a conversation where I really want to say something, but there are no gaps, so the only way to get in is to crowbar in an interjection.

Sexist

I was hoping to be surprised what I would find at the other end of the link, but sadly I found enough of what I expected.

6. Enjoy the fact that you are a woman and men will enjoy it, too.
I’m not sure what this is supposed to mean.
I know what it sounds like, and it makes my skin crawl.

56. Never ask if you look fat.
90. Exercise and stay fit ! A lady isn’t overweighted.
I don’t even know what to say.
I’ll comment on the atrocious grammar, because it’s easier than saying something coherent about the sentiment.

63. Don’t use fake tears to win something.
I think… I’m going out on a limb here… but I think… most adult women do not in fact do this.
But feel free to propose a few more tips for non-existent problems that make women sound like they’re only two steps away from being spoiled 12-yr-olds.

96. Never let a man define you. Be amazing on your own!
Except, in as much as you should be following these tips to be a lady of course.

Bizarre

And then there is one more that I just couldn’t even wrap my head around.

73. Don’t eat your roll like an apple. The courteous way to dine on bread is to tear off a bite-size piece and pop it in your mouth.
If anyone has ever seen someone eat a roll in the fashion described here, please let me know. Or even better, send a picture!

Day 278 – Life: A Game Review

88 – 100 Dumbest Ways To Die In Video Games

This game is not for the faint-of-heart. Although the scope and complexity of the game-world and storyline are truly awe-inspiring, the game is not without its flaws. What makes it needlessly harder is the missing save/restore feature. There is widespread evidence that the quality of the gaming experience is highly variable. And the sheer number of options presented along the way just leave an uneasy feeling of missing out on many interesting side-quests and possibilities.

The structure of this game is very unconventional. So far I have managed to play 3 chapters, and the rules and character of each is very distinct. The first chapter is a drawn-out introductory game that explores the controls and world-mechanics. The second chapter has a complex levelling / up-skilling system that I have only managed to scratch the surface on. And the third chapter seems to consist of a very free-form MMRPG.

It isn’t clear what other chapters there are, but so far the game is incredibly engrossing… and frustrating. On several occasions I have made really stupid choices leaving me reaching for the non-existent restore. Those moments sometimes linger and haunt as I keep playing.

Despite the frustrations though, it is a very compelling and enjoyable game*. Not quite as tough as Battletoads, but perhaps a little too close for comfort.

I would easily give it an 8/10 at this stage.

Chapter 1: Orientation

When I started the game, my character was almost completely auto-generated. At first this was most definitely a boon, because there are many thousands of attributes that affect the character. It didn’t take long before I started wishing I had some control over a few of the attributes, but on the whole I have a well-rounded character, so I cannot complain.

In this part of the game I was given two other players to show me how the game works. This is a feature of the game; there is no manual or FAQ, all the game mechanics and controls must be discovered in-game and handed down from gamer to gamer. It does leave me with the uncomfortable feeling that there are mechanics built into the game that nobody has uncovered yet.

One of the earliest quests I tried was the “build-with-blocks” quest. It sounds easy now, but it was by no means so at the time. Early on in the game, the controls felt a bit like Octodad; wildly out of control and not responding well to my instructions. Luckily it seemed that the more quests I completed, the more control I gained. Now I don’t even think about it any more.

In retrospect, it seems that there weren’t really any concrete goals in the first chapter. None of the quests were of any consequence to the further unfolding of the game.

Chapter 2: Choose Your Skills

I was sent to “School” early in the second chapter. I gather this is generally what happens, although it seems there is a bug in the game that causes some players to lose out on this extensive quest-line.

This chapter is an interesting, but extremely challenging part of the game.

For one thing, the rules do not seem fixed for this part of the game. The overall world-mechanics are fixed, but the structures and rules surrounding player-interaction seemed to change constantly. Additionally, character-development seems to come with quirks.

As part of the growth process the game throws random challenges your way and my rewards and future opportunities were heavily influenced by how I reacted to these. The “bad skin” quest was in particular challenging since I started the game with a high “fidget” attribute; although the high “fidget” score has been a boon at times, it also means this particular quest left me somewhat scarred.

Another mixed blessing at this stage are high “intelligence” and “insight” attributes. Although it makes most of the quests down the “science” branches of the skills tree very easy, it seems to have the side-effect of making the “social skills” quests harder to reach. I seem to have been lucky not to get incorporated into any “bullying” quests.

This is another interesting and annoying feature of the game. A lot of quests seem to incorporate other players in a variety of roles, meaning that players can actually end up at-odds with each other over quest completions. This is an ongoing feature of the game in the next chapter, and it doesn’t get any easier there.

The only other thing I want to touch on is the awe-inspiring depth of the skills tree. When I reached this chapter there were already many branches to explore, but it would seem that as time progresses the skills tree itself continues to evolve.

Although levelling and up-skilling is a much smaller part in the next chapter, it continues to play a minor role so I am still watching developments in the skill-tree and considering options to train my character a little further.

Chapter 3: Into The Wide-Open

Another major quest-line opens this chapter of the game. It’s called “entering the workforce”, although that’s a bit of a misnomer since it is a continuing line to this moment.

So far I have found the rules and mechanics of this chapter consistent throughout, even if my understanding of them is evolving. There seems to almost be a fractal nature to the game itself here. Every time you study a portion of it to decipher its rules, it is shown having an infinite layering of complex self-referential detail underneath. I have gotten somewhat obsessed with the nature of the game itself during this chapter, and although there are official quests galore, I have invented my own side-quest in which I try to understand not so much the structure of the game, but the very nature of the game and how it folds back on itself. I really have no better way of explaining.

Another interesting aspect of this chapter is that many of the quests on offer get presented as “social conventions”, which means that you are heavily pressured into accepting the quests regardless of whether you have an interest in playing them. Other quests that go counter to these “social conventions” are hidden in the game, but take much more effort to discover and unlock.

What I found increasingly frustrating in this chapter is that many of the choices I made seem to affect my ability to take on certain quests. The quest-lines are much stricter, and start unlocking on attributes you may not have. Although there are still options to further develop my character during this part of the game, it takes more effort because the game is not really structured to accommodate personal development well along the major quest-line.

I’ve heard of characters that have decided to forego the major quest-line with mixed results. For some this has opened up a wider range of possibilities (this seems to coincide to a high degree with high “imagination”, “initiative” and “drive” attributes). For most players this is actually a much harder path though because you become reliant on completing many smaller quests to meet the same goals you can reach much more quickly with the main quest-line.

Strategy Guide

I recently read the excellent Strategy Guide that is now available for this game. It has given me a few new insights into the game, but sadly also has confirmed some suspicions I had about the game.

I found the explanation of how various stats interact very insightful, albeit a bit high-level. I would have loved to see the Strategy Guide explore the skills tree and attributes in more detail.

It also confirmed my suspicions that certain skills are dead ends, while others open up many varied possibilities. I hadn’t realised the value of “Psychology” until reading the guide.

I seem to have accidentally stumbled on a few good early choices without realising it. And from what it explains I have been blessed with character traits and skills that have massively simplified my game-play. On the other hand that makes me wonder if I should have taken a gamble on a few of the higher-risk-higher-reward quests earlier in the game.

And this is where the absence of a save/restore feature is most annoying. There are some alternate paths I’d love to try, but the access quests have now been locked off forever by my attributes unless I find a bug/feature/glitch in the game that allows me to get around the primary access quest. Also, there are a few decisions I’ve made that I would really like to change, even if I had to re-play some portions leading up to them.

Overall this is only a minor gripe though, because the infinite fractal nature of the game leads me to believe that there are probably variants on the quests I have missed out on that I can still reach later in the game if I wished.

And every once in a while, stories circulate that other players have found ways to reverse some of the attribute changes that have locked off quests… as well as a persistent rumour of a chapter they will release later that will allow players to move between chapters and infinitely access earlier quests turning it into a truly open-ended game.

I’m not bored with the game-play yet.

I recommend you give it a try.


* – As I alluded to, there are wide-spread indications that the quality of the game experience is highly variable. This seems tied to certain racial, gender and personality traits that are locked early in the game. More-over, it seems there is no way to freely choose these traits; the Strategy Guide seems to confirm this. As a result, there are large groups of players that are simply grinding through the game waiting for a chapter that is more balanced, or others that simply close the game and un-install. Again, I think some more play-testing and a more balanced rule-set could make this a more universally enjoyable game.

My Second First Kiss

I have to correct an earlier article on this blog. I cannot let a factual error of this magnitude stand. When I wrote my earlier Magnum Kisses post, I was under the mistaken impression that this was a line of 5 First Kisses. As it turns out, it is merely a line of 5 Kisses. My apologies for the grave error. I will take full responsibility for the mental anguish this may have caused.

Now…

On to the second kiss.

Loving Kiss
Loving Kiss

Streets have labelled this one a “Loving Kiss”, and it supposedly has “Meringue and Red Fruits”.

Lovingly Unboxed
Lovingly Unboxed

Externally, no different to the first kiss…

Lovingly Bitten
Lovingly Bitten

But internally… a bit of a disappointment. It has everything it says on the box, but not as I expected. The “Red Fruits” are a slightly-too-sweet jam, and the “Meringue” bits are there, but only if I really pay attention. I guess there is a limit to the size of the meringue that can go inside a Magnum, but still.

So far, the first kiss is best.

Day 277 – Defeat: A How-To Guide

89 – Top 100 Places to Eat in Sydney

My morning stint at the gym felt great during the doing, but left my legs more wobbly than I had anticipated. This would not normally be a great concern, but today I was going out and options calling for walking were on the table. I feared I might be reduced to crawling as my only means for survival.

“Luckily”* it turned out that neither Lexi nor Abbey were up for much walking either.
Lunch it is!

Rather than going to the usual suspects around here, we decided to travel a little further to the Australian Brewery Hotel. I briefly sneaked a peak at their website to make sure they were open, because my back-up plan was not as well prepared as I wanted to pretend it was.

Abbey had never been.

It does not look like much from the outside, but looks are deceiving. The décor on the inside isn’t fancy, but it is solid, warmer and more inviting than you’d suspect from a space the size.

I had talked up the food beforehand, and now I was hoping it was going to live up to my hyping.

Lexi decided on the “petite sirloin” to match the size of her appetite, and Abbey and I thought we were properly hungry; me with a plate of slow roasted lamb, and she with a pulled-pork roll. Everything was larger than we expected.

Unfortunately, the food was excellent, and the resulting left-overs were making us all sad and dejected. The dog scored some slow roasted lamb out of the deal, and we had to abandon all hope of finishing even just the crunchiest fries.

My Waterloo
My Waterloo

Once defeated by a dish, there really isn’t much that can hide the evidence. In a last-ditch effort I spread the remaining lamb chunks around a bit, nibbled on some more leaves and sliced another piece of bread.

Also: nobody will call you on your declared defeat when they were all defeated themselves. I’m not sure there’s much practical advice in that one though.


* – I’d have much rather pushed through myself though… if only that could fix exhaustion in others.

Day 276 – A Dive into Poetry

90 – Top 100 Poems

Upon close count, not quite 100. But I’ll go by the claim, over reality.

Poetry is hard. Often I don’t have the patience for poetry, because it is too short. Where a 500 word article would walk leisurely through its idea, a poem might distil that same idea down to a mere 50. Reading poetry is decompression, writing it is compression. Both take effort.

This makes poetry both harder to read and harder to write. But much more satisfying and meaningful. Often for overcoming the challenge. But often also by having discovered how to hold the entirety of a complex thought in mind at once.

The Link Above

The Road Not Taken – by Robert Frost

We all face significant decisions with insufficient information. We cannot tell what’s wrong or right, better or worse, shallow or righteous up-front. Best to choose the best we can, because we’ll claim we made the right choice in retrospect anyway.

America – by Allen Ginsberg

I cannot claim to understand much of Allen’s poetry. Never had the patience to study it. But I loved the scene in the movie Howl where the equally named poem is performed. There is something hypnotic about the performance; the angry spitting out of words of condemnation and the almost-caressing of others.

I think the power of his poems lies more in the performance of them than the actual poem itself. These are definitely superior when watched rather than read.

A Poison Tree – by William Blake

Not a fan. Although the first stanza promises, the rest doesn’t really deliver to my mind. It appears to take as self-evident that the conclusion is to be avoided; but festering fights with foes would easily lead to a desire to see karma realised.

Well written, and well described, but lacking in enlightenment (to my eye).

The Past Below

I don’t really have a memory for poetry.
I enjoy the reading, and then it slips out of my head again. Same with jokes.

But…

There is one exception. I cannot recall all the specifics, but I think it was on the news, while I was still in the Netherlands, about 20 years ago. There was a youth poetry competition for all ages (I assume it was up to 18).

The winning poem was by a young boy though; maybe 6-8 or so.
I doubt he realised all the ways in which what he wrote was aesthetically pleasing. At least to me, and presumably the jury.

In Dutch (from memory):

Als juf thee drinkt
drink ik water
Ik word meester later!

Rough translation:

When teacher[female] drinks tea
I drink water
I’m going to be a teacher[male] when I grow up!

Just 11 words long in the original, but there’s so much there in symmetry and contrast, sympathy and aspiration, present and future; all three lines mutually interlocked in a precious little gem. Even if everything that is there probably hasn’t been put there intentionally, I really couldn’t care less.

Day 275 – Bad Shots

91 – The 100 Worst Family Photos of All Time

Everybody has “bad” family photos. A shot taken at just the wrong moment capturing a weird face. A shot with something very personal taken out of context… Or a shot that really… just… shouldn’t have been taken.

Somewhere there are photos of me with a mullet in front of a computer back in the Netherlands. I cannot possibly think what I was thinking at the time, but I’m sure it made sense at the time. Unfortunately (*cough*) I cannot right now find this picture, so I’ll have to leave you without the evidence.

But I did find one with some very unkind timing.

I'm sure it was great ice cream, but... ouch!
I’m sure it was great ice cream, but… ouch!

Today’s link has a great many pictures that are just merely unfortunate. People enjoying their hobby a little too much. Trying too hard to make something remarkable. Or just being obliviously candid.

But for a handful:

  1. They should never have been taken
  2. Once taken and developed, they should have been destroyed
  3. If not destroyed, they should have *never* been shared with anyone…
  4. …especially the internet

Who are these people?
And how much therapy did the kid need?

This is the kind of photographic urge we must suppress at all costs. This is really not a picture you could ever share with anyone and not look like an incredible weirdo. The only person that might laugh (nervously) at this is the kid in the picture at age 15.

A bird… okay
A gun… well… sure… I guess, if you must
A bayonet… who?! wh… no… just no.

There is something about the juxtaposition of two favourites; a bird and a bayonet. I imagine he wanted his bird in the shot, and she would only relent if her gun could be in too. Or vice-versa. But really… whomever started it should have just given in.

It would have been merely an unfortunate picture if not for the “expertly” added inset feline face.

I don’t know what the inset cat is for. Is the cat they are hugging dead? Stuffed? Did they think it’d look cool to have their cat looking over them? Instead it just looks a little creepy.

Day 274 – Gym Songs

92 – 100 Best Workout Songs of All Time

This list cannot possibly be right. It’s absolutely clear that the no.1 best anything-song of all time is “Everything is Awesome”. Ever. (Also: do yourself a favour and go see the LEGO movie!)

Having said that, there are some good work-out songs on that list.
Ones that I’ve specifically enjoyed hearing around the gym, below.

98. Seven Nation Army – White Stripes
Perhaps a little up-tempo, but it kinda works with a weights routine. As long as the weights are modest, because otherwise it might kill.

66. Joker and the Thief – Wolfmother
Better tempo for weights on the off beats, or alternatively punches on all the beats. Maybe a bicep routine? Or just running on a treadmill.

47. Live and Let Die – Guns N’ Roses
Maybe lunges for the slow parts and some heavy cardio for the fast parts? Or just pretend you’re James Bond and you’re running for your life. That’d do the trick.

24. Unbelievable – EMF
Rowing. Definitely rowing for this one.

16. One More Time – Daft Punk
That moment… just when you think you perhaps should leave the gym. One more time through?

9. Another One Bites The Dust – Queen
Push-ups till you actually bite the dust.

I may actually have to see about turning these into a playlist for the gym, or for walking at night. Haven’t done that for too long either. And now, sleep.

One more day and then 10 days not.

Day 273 – Bad Design …

93 – 100 Best Designed Websites of 2012

… it could happen to anyone.
It could happen to you!

I feared the worst when I saw the words “Best Designed”.

About 60 of the linked sites are “okay” design.
About 20 of the linked sites are “good” design.
About 10 of the linked sites are “great” design.

And 10-or-so just plain stink for a variety of reasons.

7. http://www.mcmaster.com/
Just like the physical Bunnings experience. Yes, everything is technically speaking there. Yes, theoretically all the aisles are marked and organised. And yet… when you are looking for something it is almost impossible to find anything. Too many damn options. Too little design.

41. http://feefighters.com/
Possibly a victim to the fallout of HeartBleed, but… expired SSL certificate. All modern browsers display warnings for this these days, so either don’t build something that needs HTTPS, or just make sure you stay on top of the damned certificate!

78. http://jenkinstownmotors.com/
Aaaand we’re seemingly warped into the 70s? Such drab colours. Much bland. Wow! This design style makes me think of passable default templates, slightly mangled by an amateur trying to make it “their own”. With a fresher simpler colour scheme, it’d still be bland, but at least passable.

91. http://www.legalzoom.com/
And it’s not just little sites that have bland down pat. Some kind of vampire seems to have sucked all the life right out of this page. It was probably a lawyer.

80. http://get.wunderkit.com/
And eventually… all links die.

The Lesson

Not everyone can be a design-guru.
I most definitely am not; the design on this site is definitely not inspired.

But the trick is to know when you are not, be it for lack of time, or for lack of skill.

(sufficiently advanced ineptitude is indistinguishable from a rush-job)

Once you admit you have a problem, the answer is simple.
Literally.
Simple.

As in: keep-it.

When you are not a designer, stick with simple. Start from a solid design and make only minor tweaks (as I did here). Or build your own from the simplest of elements.

Keep variety to a minimum. One font, two at most. Only a few colours, and for the love of all that is beautiful, just use Kuler already to pick a set of well-matched colours.

Minimise distractions. Don’t put boxes and lines and dividers anywhere. Absence of things is the best natural divider. Space is your friend.

Focus. If the idea of adding space as dividers scares you. If it makes you worry about what’ll scroll of the bottom of the screen… Then you probably have too much on your page to begin with. Simplify, and try again.

There are many great books on design, which might be worth reading as well.
But even then, simple is always your best friend.