March 2, 2020
We love animals here at Mirth Turtle, but we also love Go, so we're often torn: spend time with an animal, or play the greatest game there is? (which is Go, as you are well aware)
Turns out you don't even need to choose, because Go is full of animal-themed moves that you too can bring to a game. Here are some of my favourites:
This is a fairly common sequence but never fails to bring a smile to my otherwise emotionless face. I like to think the “egg” in the situation is the stone that gets cleverly sacrificed.
Black is trying to escape from your nest, but in fact it's impossible. Prove it below by playing an egg at A!
Another bird-themed position is also a favourite of mine, and it’s a rare treat when I can make it work. I used to call it an “Awkward Split” but its actual name is far superior, and more evocative of birds.
Play at A below to see why White is powerless in the situation.
The animal that goes by this name may be adorable, but a play on the second line is far more insidious. It's a flexible way to invade an opponent’s territory, as it allows a follow-up either into the corner or off to the side. It does, however, give your opponent the choice of which to defend — so if the corner is what you want, just play at A right away instead.
Probably my favourite shimari and the main reason I like to open at 4-4. This holds the corner but it’s also powerful enough to have some influence on battles in the center. Plus, look at those birds.
Can’t leave this one out. Playing this large knight's move is a great way to reduce your opponent's undefended side territory near the endgame. Try it below!
Know any more animal-themed moves? Keep them to yourself! There’s no comments section.
August 19, 2018
No matter how sparkling your personality, or how conventionally attractive your face, a good nickname can do wonders for your reputation.
I’m not talking about a simple truncation of your name. That’s not special. Everyone can do it, including short-named people, although their options are sometimes limited to just a single letter. No; that kind of nickname only exposes the laziness of friends and family.
I’m talking about nicknames that tell a story, a mythos that can precede you. It’s your personal brand from other peoples’ mouths. They might as well be wearing T-shirts about you. If you can pull off a cool nickname, what more do you need?
Some people can’t, though, and I’m almost certainly one of them. But here are some nicknames that I could have, if I changed some fundamental things about myself:
My limbs are long and spindly for sure, and if you ever saw me on the wall at the climbing gym, you might be like, “Yo, buddy, where’s your egg sac?” or even just feel a bit disgusted inside.
But I doubt I’d ever be able to make this one stick. Maybe a neck tattoo would help, or if I were publicly cruel to more strangers. I’ll re-evaluate if I ever get a motorcycle.
For someone as tall and thin as me, with the ability to get under peoples’ skin, “The Needle” would be an apt nickname, and it might cause people to think twice before fuckin’ with me (as sometimes they do). “There’s the Needle,” they’d say. “Better stay out of his way.”
Unfortunately, it brings to mind intravenous drugs, and I have neither the heroin addiction nor the recovery story to give this one the proper credibility. Plus, there’s definitely the danger of people using the, “Is that because you’re such a prick?” line against me. I still can’t think of any comebacks to that one.
If I honed my insults a little better, so that they cut deep and cold, I could start getting people to call me “The Knife.” A prominent facial scar would definitely help drive the point home. But that’d take a certain commitment to insultcraft, and I’m not sure I’m prepared for the social consequences of that. I might have to start carrying a knife.
You know, because I’m so smooth? Unfortunately I’m slightly too clumsy to properly do this one justice, and I’d probably have to explain the name to people more often than not, which is decidedly un-smooth. Also, Microsoft mostly ruined this word, and I might not legally be able to use it for myself.
To bring it back to lacerations for a second, a good scar teases a story just as well or better than a nickname. Now, I know what you’re going to say: “If you want to cut your face so bad, just do it!” Ease up there. For this one it doesn’t even have to be the face. It could be the hand, or even a good one across the chest. If it’s not visible immediately, even better: people hear it and think, “where’s the scar?” and they can make up their own gruesome story.
The trouble with this one is competition. If someone else wants that nickname for themselves, all they have to do is get a wilder scar. And there are professionals that will do this for even just a few hundred dollars. I could end up with a kind of arms race on my hands. And what, then, if people instead start calling me “Gauze”?
So I guess I’ll just stick to my given name for now, at least until my personality changes, or I get a significant injury. We all need to have goals.
July 1, 2018
It began with a series of barely legible comics.
Who can say why? But in the fall of 2011 I had an idea for an interactive story based on this idea. I became obsessed and so sat down and wrote a little Java program that would construct one in a CSV file. I’d only build the engine to actually read/play the file four months later, after I’d written over 80,000 words of diamond adventures, because I’m committed like that.
A minimal reader did the job, and with a little character art it was playable:
I sent it around to a few people to do editing and testing, but knew at this point I knew it could be more. I added a second CSV with more encounters and B-stories, including branching consequence trees for finding some of the unique diamonds, and a questionable storyline where the Feds send their best profiler to hunt you down after you assassinate a city councillor for a diamond.
Designing the game for a phone presented the challenge of text size — how to fit the content into a screen so small? I was also thinking ahead to smartwatches, which I still believe are the future. It was at this point that I decided it would work best as a speed-reading game, and thus implemented it as a flashy, lightning-fast comedy brain trainer. I even tracked down Volker Tripp, who’d done music for some of my favourite games in the 90’s, to license some of his MOD music for the soundtrack. However, he stopped responding to my emails after a little while, which was disappointing, but also saved me 1300 euros. This version was the first to feature HD diamond graphics.
I definitely wanted to capture a hip demographic, and market research pointed straight to vinyl. While it took a bit of editing, I managed to fit the game onto two sides of an LP and pressed a limited edition copy:
However, it failed to attract a minimum bid at auction and thus remains unsold. This collector’s item can be yours though, for the right price! Serious inquiries only.
After dismissing the idea to port the game to the more popular iOS, I decided to make a website where people could play Diamond Find for free! At first the plan was to implement it in Ruby on Rails, and thus I ported the game to Ruby, creating a terminal-based skeleton:
Functional, but I was still more comfortable with Java at the time, and shelved Terminus after only a week.
Far more ambitious than what I reasonably had time and money to build, the FractalFic platform was designed not only to run Diamond Find, but also to allow users to write and publish their own Diamond Find-style adventures. For mass appeal, I even watered down the city councillor murder plot by making the gun chocolate.
It drove me into debt and depression, but the Java and web skills I learned during its nine-month build were enough to secure me an entry-level dev job. Success!
FractalFic, however, was a failure. Despite receiving some press coverage (from ClamBlog), only a few people ever wrote stories, and the cost of running the server was not offset by the “freemium” pricing model I’d set up. It ran for a year and a half before I pulled the plug.
But I couldn’t let it just die. Years later, now proficient in Ruby on Rails, I knew I could implement a new version in a very short time. And did I ever!
It’s free, open-source, and if you sign up, you can save all the diamonds you find to your profile & even download HD versions as wallpapers. It may be the best version of Diamond Find ever!
So will you just fucking play it? I... I can’t keep doing this.
May 15, 2015
Here in the Commonwealth, we aren’t shy about our favourite queens of yore. Every spring, we gather to remember Victoria, reciting the poems she wrote for us, and reminding each other in sober tones the adages she imparted on our ancestors.
However, if you’ve been feeling the effects of cyberwarfare recently, you don’t want to lose any more clock cycles to the enemy. Here are some tips to optimize your security this long weekend:
You may have updated your WordPress to patch the latest vulnerability, but what good does that do if your passwords can’t hold up against brute-force? Use a complex passphrase you can easily remember and a cipher substitution system that feels natural. It’s what Victoria would have done.
Just as the beloved Queen expanded the British Empire under her rule, so you can expand your rule of the Internet-of-Computers. Get a few more servers and spread out — because if someone brings down your web game with a DDoS, or if it simply goes mega-viral, you don’t want your databases tanking with it (even if they’re Mongo).
How soon we forget that brave Queen Victoria goaded John Francis into carrying out his assassination attempt in 1842, only to have him pwned by her entourage. Following in her esteemed footsteps, you too can lay a trap for your predictable adversaries. Construct a good honeypot so you can analyze those who would analyze you, without relinquishing any meaningful data. Just don’t give the whole thing away by disabling outgoing connections.
Victoria’s husband Albert died of Typhoid Fever, a consequence of the castle’s poor sanitation. Don’t let your data fall prey to the same fate, or at least a metaphorically similar one — sanitize all your inputs, and don’t forget to authenticate server-side. It’s royally necessary.
That should get you through the long weekend. But if you still find time to party, make sure your house doesn’t become the the House of Hangover by chugging a few glasses of water before bed. Just keep them away from the computer.
March 11, 2015
People are sometimes baffled by my love of Go. This often inspires from me a gushing, almost manic explanation of everything great about it, condensed into as little time as possible. I’m pretty sure I don’t do it justice.
But even ignoring the fact that it’s thrilling and mentally stimulating, there’s a lot about Go that makes it fun and accessible that has nothing to do with the relentless gameplay:
Feel like playing? Sit down at the board, take the lids off the bowls, and lay your first move. None of that card-shuffling, or queen-goes-on-her-own-colour nonsense.
At the end of the game you’ll have to separate the black and white stones and put them back into their respective bowls, but it’s kind of soothing, especially after a furious match.
Which reminds me:
You have an entire bowl of smooth stones at your disposal. Some serious players consider unnecessary touching and/or rattling of the stones in the bowl to be rude, but it feels really great on the fingers. Go ahead; I won’t judge.
In Go, it’s perfectly acceptable to slap down your stones with some force. In fact, it’s encouraged! Feels great in an aggressive game, and it can be intimidating for your opponent. Or, you can quietly slide your moves into place, lulling your opponent into a false sense of security before playing the sneaky move you’ve been plotting for half the game.
Can’t get three people together for Catan? That’s fine, because you only need one friend for Go. Even if you’ve got extra people, they should be perfectly happy to sit and watch, because:
It’s the House of Cards of board games — two players test each other, fighting small battles that tie into their overarching plans. Then, after some thrilling twists, someone plays a shocking move that completely throws the other person under a subway (spoilers). A lot can happen in 300 moves.
Are you truly, utterly alone? Not even that matters, because you can always log onto a Go server and find an opponent with a similar rank. On KGS it usually doesn’t take me more than a minute to get a game started, and it’s a great place to get exposed to a huge range of playing styles. Plus, you can step in and watch most of the games being played, so it’s an endless, free source of entertainment. Unlike House of Cards.
The game has been played for thousands of years. Strategies have come in and out of vogue with the changing of dynasties, and yet the game itself has hardly changed. And while it’s fun to read about champions of days gone by, you can also study the hundreds of Go proverbs that have passed the test of time. They’ll help your game and give you some insight into dry Go humour.
So what more could you want from a board game? Play through an interactive tutorial and see what I mean.
August 15, 2013
When I was young I remember some “smart shopper” tips that were drilled into me, making me feel smart. How was I to know that some of them were false?
“Never shop hungry” always reminded me to eat something before I went to the store. The premise is that if you’re hungry, you’ll buy all sorts of “impulse foods” like pizza pockets and English muffins instead of “good” foods like turnips. While I may be more cutthroat and focused when my stomach is growling, it does not rob me of all logic, so today I did an experiment, and shopped hungry. Although I almost passed out on the walk home, my bags were laden with quality food that I really wanted to eat, and as soon as I unpacked my groceries, I made a delicious salad, with cranberries and sunflower seeds from the bulk section.
“Always get milk from the back of the fridge” is actually still a good tip, although the design of the milk shelves in my local store discourages this practice by making it hard to reach back there. Luckily I have long arms.
These are the only “smart shopper” tips I can really remember, so I guess one for two isn’t bad. But I have tips of my own that I will now share.
“Avoid the salt fridge at all costs” - you know the one, with the frozen pizzas and mozza sticks and wieners dipped in batter. Just don’t look at that fridge! What, do you want to eat 200% of your daily sodium needs in a single sitting? Or are you just going to eat 4 mozza sticks? No, because you heated the toaster oven to 450° and you don’t want to waste the heat. Just roast up some red peppers and onions. They’re delicious.
“Tune out the sale colour” - stores use tags of a brighter, sometimes even neon colour to denote a price drop, or “sale,” on their products. You might think, “Sale! I can save money by making a choice right now!” However, most of the sales are terrible. Six dollars is still too much to pay for ice cream, hoofprints or not. And don’t let it affect your bread decisions, because all you’ll get with economy bread is mold, days earlier. There’s plenty of old bread in the dumpster out behind the store, if you return under the cover of darkness.
“Do you need cheese?” - sometimes the answer is a resounding “yes,” such as when you’ve promised to make someone cheese-bread or have committed to a fondue party with co-workers. But usually cheese is optional. First of all, it’s the most expensive thing in the store, other than those artisanal oils with the sprigs of parsley in the bottles. You couldn’t spare a dollar for the homeless man you passed on the street, but you’ll drop nine on a wedge of Jarlsberg? It is smoky, I’ll admit, but you’re only cheating yourself. And the homeless man. I bet if you gave him the cheese, he wouldn’t even accept it, and you’d still feel like an awful person.
That’s all for grocery tips this week. Next time, I’ll be talking about different varieties of egg and how the brown, speckled ones, which look the most delicious, are in fact no different from the white kind.