Category Archives: review

Instructions Included

I am addicted to this site.  Bored at home?  Slow at work?  Waiting for your friends to get ready to go somewhere?  Pull this place up and LEARN something.  While writing this, your author has learned how to make a forge from a torch and a can of beans, a set of beads to count kilometers while walking, and a “Boba Fett” helmet from old carboard. 

Practical, outdoorsy, or frivolous, Instructables is a great site for accumulating info and ideas no matter how much of it you actually make or use.

Games that use the Internet as a Board

As a kid, I used to draw board games on the sidewalk. I’d write “go back two spaces”, “lose a turn” and the like on the sidewalk squares in chalk. The neighborhood kids would grab dice and race each other around the block.I had psychedelically transformed my neighborhood into a board, and people into pieces on it.

Years later, in college, I created a campuswide 24/7 game, called “Tales of the Dreaming”, where the players played the roles of creatures living in a dream world. The people on campus who weren’t playing — or rather, people who didn’t think they were playing — were figured to be people just going about their dreams, oblivious to the battles and stories and scavenger hunts going on right below their noses. At any time you wanted to go to the Dreaming, you could slip on an arm band and be your character in this parallel community.

I’m intrigued by blurring this boundary between games and reality. That’s why I was delighted to discover two games which use the internet as their “board”. Both are firefox plugins, and very easy to learn.

The Great Link Race
The Great Link Race

The first is WikiPaths, a “Wikipedia-based scavenger hunt game“. After you install the plugin, when you go to the wikipedia entry for Path, you’ll see a start button. Click it, and you’ll be taken to a random page. Another random page will be displayed in the bottom right corner of your screen. Your goal is to navigate from one page to the other in the shortest number of clicks possible.

Since the pages are random, there’s no way to really know if you did “well”. It takes a bit of strategy to figure out how you’ll navigate from, say, an obscure hair metal band, to a public school in india. The name is a bit misleading though because it’s not really a “race” – there’s no way to record your score or compete with other racers. Regardless, Wiki Paths’ reappropriates wikipedia as a game board.


The second game is called PMOG, the Passively Multiplayer Online Game.  This game takes your normal web browsing behavior and plugs it into a few game feedback loops. Every time you view a unique URL, you get a few points. You can then spend those points on tools, which allow you to interact with other players. You can set a mine on a page, and the next player to view it will trip it, causing their browser to shake and a few points to be lost. You can also leave crates, which give players goodies for finding them. As you go through the web, messages will pop up when you encounter something that another player has left. It’ll also notify you when another player trips your mine, and give you the opportunity to taunt them.

Since you accumulate points just for using forums, social networking sites, reading blogs, porning around, whatever, you’ll be racking up points all the time. It feels a bit like Progress Quest in that you’re effortlessly and passively accumulating resources all the time. This raises a few privacy issues of course, namely that when the plugin is turned on, is recording what sites you view. But they swear on a stack of bibles they won’t hose you (intentionally) for participating.

There’s also missions, guided tours of a section of the internet. The mission creator will string together 4 or more websites around a theme, and write about a paragraph about each site. If you’re not interested, you can just click through to the end of the mission, but if something along the track piques your interest, you can jump off and explore to your heart’s content before you continue. Missions often take you to some pretty interesting places which you may not have encountered in your regular web travels. It’s in this way that PMOG rewards you for exploring the web, and checking out stuff outside your normal circles.

Creative gamers are reappropriating the web, transforming it into a playground. New behaviors are emerging out of this digital morass. Wikipaths has forged a new usage for wikipedia, while PMOG blurs the line between game play and non play. That’s the Golden Secret, some say, transforming Life into the Art of Playing Games.

Blow by blow coverage of the Twilight film

With almost no editing, I present: my reactions to the Twilight film, as they happened.

1. Oh Jesus Christ, this film is nearly 2 hours long. 2 WHOLE HOURS.

2. Awkward father-daughter scene seems to be working well.


4. Dude, try not to be so obvious when looking at her crotch. For real.

5. Actually, just a guess, but is pretty much every scene with Bella in, where she has to interact with “real people” going to be awkward?

6. Wait, she hasn’t even been there a day and three guys are vying for her affections? Well, four if we include Obvious Werewolf boy. WTF? She’s cute, for sure (or would be if she smiled), but lets not kid ourselves here.

7. OMG your filler article ideas are GENIUS!

8. Informed character traits? The guy’s got weird eyebrows, and comes from a freaky family. And apparently doesn’t know how to do his hair properly. Where I come from, that’s asking for bullying, not causes for desirability.

9. Emo stare of doom at 10:15!

10. Is Edward constipated or something? He looks pained. And now like he’s gonna puke.

Continue reading Blow by blow coverage of the Twilight film

John Gray kicks up a storm at Comment is Free

While some of you may remember that I was not totally impressed with the conclusion to John Gray’s book, Black Mass, I nevertheless found it a good and enjoyable read, which tied up the links between utopianism, religion, the Enlightenment and secular extremist movements rather well. Gray’s got a lot of perspective in his worldview, which I like. He instinctively understands both the historical context of the movements and how that applies when considered in the current context of events.

Which is why I am enjoying his book review/Comment is Free article. Gray committed the hideous crime of knocking down a few New Atheist sacred cows, and so the usual suspects have come running, howling and moaning with their usual strawmen about atheist inspired terrorism, totally ignoring the context of the argument or addressing any of the issues.

I have yet to see a commenter actually address his point about repressed religion being much like repressed sexuality, or the origins of secular liberalism being tied into the history of Christianity, and Nietzsche’s critical attacks on this. I have yet to see someone either deny that belief in such secular follies as free markets, global revolution or the global spread of democracy and progress are any less ridiculous than belief in a god, or try to claim they are in some way different.

Sure, the comments page may be filled with 300+ screaming monkeys trying to make Gray look like an idiot, but if they think they succeeded in this task, they’re only fooling themselves.

Even a committed agnostic such as myself can take pleasure in such a spectacle.