06 August 2009

An argument for birth control

"Thanks to medical science, surgery and hygeine, we have reached an incredible peak of breeding success. We have practised death control and now we must balance it with birth control. It looks very much as though, during the next century or so, we are going to have to change our sexual ways at last. But if we do, it will not be because they failed, but because they succeeded too well...

We already know that if our populations go on increasing at their present terrifying rate, uncontrollable aggressiveness will become dramatically increased. This has been proved conclusively with laboratory experiments. Gross over-crowding will produce social stress and tensions that will shatter our community organizations long before it starves us to death... If a selective attempt is made to stem the breeding flood, with certain pairs permitted to breed freely and others prevented from doing so, then this will work against the essential cooperativeness of society--the pair-bonding pattern will suffer.

To sum up then, the best solution for ensuring world peace is the widespread promotion of contraception or abortion. Abortion is a drastic measure and can involve serious emotional disturbance... Contraception is obviously preferable, and and religious or other 'moralizing' factions that oppose it must face the fact that they are engaged in dangerous war-mongering."

-Desmond Morris, 1967 in The Naked Ape

20 July 2009

The Path

"Where are you going? What do you carry?"

[The Path] is a short horror game from my favorite indie developer ever, [Tale of Tales].

In short, it's a modern take on the Little Red Riding Hood story with gothic sensibilities. The color scheme is almost exclusively red, black, and gray. The playable characters are six sisters ranging in age from nine to nineteen, each with her own personality.

The six sisters live in the city. In turn, their mother sends them to the edge of the city to venture through the woods to their grandmother's house. The only directions given are "Go to grandmother's house. And stay on the path!"

The trailer gives a taste of the story and art, but there's no actual dialog in the game. I love the creepy music though!

Of course, the only way to complete the game is to ignore all the rules and wander the forest. Each girl has her own story and background which can be revealed as you collect and interact with objects and unlock secret rooms in grandmother's house. Most importantly, each girl has her own personal wolf. Once she meets the wolf, the girl is never the same.

The game itself takes about four hours and describes itself as a "slow game". This is apparent on several levels. Physically, the girls do not walk or run faster than a normal human. They don't move at the usual faster-than-real-life speeds that are typical of game characters. Also, the game itself doesn't have timers or puzzles or even really obstacles. The focus is on getting lost in the woods and exploring. There's also a lot of waiting to allow the girls to go through their own motions and move the action along.

As you explore, there are various creepy objects scattered around that different girls can interact with in different ways. There are also shiny flowers that the girls desire to pick (thus drawing them and you further into the forest) and six "attraction" areas. These areas are integral to the story and each girl has one that she can interact with in a special way.

There's also a neat (and scary!) mechanic where when you direct the girl to run the camera pans out, the screen blurs and darkens, and a pounding heartbeat comes to the auditory foreground. This really helps to facilitate the "lost" feeling because it's difficult to see where you're going and where you've been.

The Drama Princess AI also gives a lot of autonomy to the girls. If you get them close enough to an object they will interact with it on their own. Also, if you find yourself lost you can leave the girl alone and she will start acting nervous and afraid, attracting the Girl in White who will lead you back to the path. The idea that you have to give up control at points in the game (and wait) to progress contributes to the "slow game" feel.

What I liked most about the game was how open to interpretation the stories are. The game clearly says something about what it means to grow up, but while there is no violence or sex in the game there is possible implied sexual violence. I'm not really sure what it all says about the victimization of women and becoming a woman, but not all the wolves are men or are even human. The age of the girls definitely effect their experiences and choices. (Various interpretations of the events and wolves are discussed ad nauseum on the Tale of Tales [forums] of which I am a member.) I'd love to discuss the stories in detail but I don't want to give too much away. At any rate, I'm a big scaredy-cat so I was pretty well afraid during my first run.

The game takes about four hours to complete on the first run and has decent replay value. I found it compelling and even after owning it for about four months I still find myself ruminating over my gameplay experience.

To sum up:
[The Path]
Worth buying
$10 on [Steam] or [direct from Tale of Tales]
There's a free [demo]ish
Also available for Mac

15 July 2009

Blueberry Garden

I'll be honest. I love weird indie games. Right now, my favorite weird indie game is Erik Svedang's platformer [Blueberry Garden].

I don't want to ruin the magic of it for you, but basically you're a flying bird man in beautifully illustrated world of berries, men wearing party hats, chickens, and oversized objects.

It's an acid trip of whimsy and relaxing game play with a killer (but simple) piano soundtrack.

Here's the trailer:

Here are some screenies from my gameplay:

I had been waiting for this game to come out since it was announced in early 2008. I was finally set to launch on Valve's [Steam] service in June but then faced more delays. It finally launched in the middle of June. I bought it within hours of release and I'm so glad! I'm totally down with the art style and the mood. And the story is simple, vaguely nonsensical, and compelling once you discover it.

This is a great little game--but let yourself play until the end of the level--you'll know when you get there.

To sum up:
[Blueberry Garden]
Worth buying
[$5 on Steam]
There's a free [demo].

By the way, there's a link to my Steam profile on the sidebar. I'll repost it here since it's relevant.

14 July 2009


I have never lived with a romantic partner--until now. I've lived with men and women--and almost six years with my hetero-lifemate, D--in single and mixed gender apartments. In general, boys are messier but it might be an age thing. We were all young then.

Anyway, [Phil] and I have been in the process of moving in together. It's exciting! I hate moving and he hates cleaning, so it's a perfect storm of procrastination. I have all my essentials moved in and set up--pets, plants, electronics, clothes, my bathroom--as well as some odds and ends. I can't wait to start decorating and making it feel like "our" place and not "Phil's man cave/bachelor pad".

We've been neighbors and it's been super convenient to pop back and forth whenever I felt like it, but the stress of maintaining two residences kind of wears down on you. While I did spend a lot of time at my own place, I can count the number of times I've slept in my own bed in the last three years.

I guess I'm just really excited about it. I can't wait to paint! The walls are really dirty and the kitchen is papered with BLUE PLAID. No lie, it's awful.

While Phil was out of the country I spent a lot of time overhauling the house so at least everything would be clean* (and it is). For example, I don't think Phil has ever cleaned his microwave.

Meanwhile I've been taking this opportunity to seriously cut down on all the junk I have. I mean, I don't really have a lot of junk but it's nice to super-simplify. If I haven't moved it to the new place by now, I probably don't need it (except all my books, those are just waiting on shelves and some art).

I think Phil is excited too because I like to clean and do laundry and I fixed all the toilets. And it's always cool to split bills with someone else!

It's a little scary too!

And D, you've been the best hetero-lifemate ever. I'll miss you even though you basically already moved out. Funny story: even though I've lived with D so long and even shared a dorm for a couple years I had never seen her breasts. It wasn't until a couple months ago when I was helping her try on wedding dresses that I finally saw them. We were apparently very modest around each other.

*Clean in the sense that everything is clean except the third bedroom where I stored all of Phil's junk that I didn't know what to do with it or that he hasn't touched in a couple years and I don't know why he still has it as well as a dozen loads of laundry including brand new shirts.

19 April 2009

Spring is here!

I have my [April Flora photoset] from the JC Raulston Arboretum up! It's over sixty photos that I took with [Philihp's] Nikon d40. Icarus, [Michael] and Sterlic came along as well.
Do you have any of these plants blooming in your general vicinity? Some highlights:

Spanish bluebellsMandarin Lights hybrid azalea

Flying Dragon hardy orangeCoral Lake magnolia

There was also a [new post on mistletoe] up on the flower blog. Mistletoe berries look like semen according to the Celts.

Oh, and here's a picture of Icarus in a dogwood tree:

28 March 2009

NC Renn Faire!

Today my hetero-lifemate and I went to the [NC Renn Faire] at its new location in some Wake Forest peoples' backyards.

It was so fun! I love the Faire anyway and it was great to get to wear my princess dress. Pictures? Yes.

I made a new friend! He tried to teach me to juggle but I wasn't quite picking it up. I ate Friar's Fish and Chips, an apple turnover, and a glass of some kind of ale. At the Tir na Nog stage I heard two different renditions of "Old Dunn Cow," which was great. I love Faire performers!

There was also a woman selling anoles at the "Baby Dragon Orphanage" and a guy who made a chainmaille harness for his ferret. There were also tumblers, belly dancers, and magicians plus all the usual vendors.

We did get trapped at the Faire for a while because of the rain and it was pretty muddy. But no matter! You can't stop me from wanting to look at all the shinies over and over.

The Faire continues on weekends until next Sunday.

I leave you with a video of me, my friend, and my sweet hat:

27 March 2009


[Ikariam] is a free persistent, browser-based MMO game. It's fun! I'm on the Zeta server.

It's set in an ancient Greek-ish world where you build little cities and can colonize, pillage, and trade with neighboring islands. It's kind of in the same vein as the Civilization franchise.

09 March 2009

March Flora Watch

From [madisonsflowers.com]:

I took a walk this past Saturday around N.C. State's campus, J.C. Raulston Arboretum, and my own Gorman Street to see what's what right now in the landscape. I'm not sure if we're safely out of danger from frost yet between the alternating snow and eighty-degree weather, but it's definitely spring. I saw lots of yellow and white blossoms plus the beginnings of new leaves of a lot of the shrubs and some of the trees. By the way, the stinky-but-pretty (and overplanted, frankly) bradford pears ([Prunus calleryana 'Bradford']) are also in bloom so that's probably the source of any random smells of decay.

Highlights are up at [madisonsflowers.com] but here's a preview:

22 February 2009

A Crisis of Credit

A simplified and well animated explanation of the credit crisis.

The Crisis of Credit Visualized from Jonathan Jarvis on Vimeo.

16 February 2009

Harry Chapin on his grandfather

"My grandfather was a painter. He died at age eighty-eight, he illustrated Robert Frost's first two books of poetry and he was looking at me and he said, 'Harry, there are two kinds of tired: there's good-tired, and there's bad-tired.' He said, 'Ironically enough, bad-tired can be a day that you won. But you won other people's battles, you lived other people's days, other peoples agendas, other people's dreams and when it was all over there was very little "you" in there, and when you hit the hay at night, somehow you toss and turn--you don't settle easy.' He said, 'Good-tired, ironically enough, can be a day that you lost. But you don't have to tell yourself, 'cause you knew you fought your battles, you chased your dreams, you lived your days, and when you hit the hay at night, you settle easy--you sleep the sleep of the just, and you can say "take me away."' He said, 'Harry, all my life I've painted. God, I would've loved to be more successful, but I painted and I painted, and I am good-tired and they can take me away.'

Now, if there is a process in your and my lives in the insecurity that we have about a prior life or an afterlife and God--I hope there is a God. If He is-- if He does exist He's got a rather weird sense of humor, however. But let's just-- But if there's a process that will allow us to live our days and will allow us that degree of equanimity towards the end, looking at that black, implaccable wall of death, to allow us that degree of peace, that degree of non-fear, I want in."

-Harry Chapin

12 February 2009

Flora Watch

From [Madison's Flowers]:

This is an aside, but I noticed a few of my favorite early spring bloomers are coming into flower over the last couple days.

This is a yellow crocus blooming in front of my boyfriend's house. I planted a set of these in fall 2007 and adore them. Even when the brief flowers wither, the slender leaves persist like a delicate grass. Crocus species are in the iris family are not true bulbs--they overwinter as a specialized stem called a [corm]. The stigma (female reproductive structure) of Crocus sativus is dried to become the coveted spice saffron.

Carolina yellow jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens) is a climbing vine that is also the state flower of South Carolina. Its yellow, trumpet-shaped flowers are fragrant and abundant, contrasting with the slightly glossy, dark green leaves. Once you know what it is, you'll see it everywhere (and I hope you will). This clump was planted near the corner of North and Glenwood Streets in downtown Raleigh. There's also a really stunning planting of jessamine on the arbor in front of Withers Hall on the N.C. State campus.

The flowering cherries/almonds/apricots (Prunus species) are coming out! The flowering apricots (Prunus mume) just finished their flowering cycle so I hope to have some pictures of their fruit set later in the season. Either way, I saw some beautiful okame cherry trees (Prunus campanulata 'Okame') when I was in Cameron Village Tuesday. The pears, peaches, and crabapples should start showing signs of flower soon as well. I can't wait for the kwanzan cherry (Prunus serrulata) my boyfriend and I planted together to come into its own in a few months.

05 February 2009

Enabling Facebook RSS feeds in SweetCron

The "For Dummies" version of enabling facebook RSS feeds in [SweetCron] lifestreams:

Finding the RSS feeds for your personal status updates and posted items approaches unintuitive. Log into facebook and go [this filter]. In the lower righthand sidebar there's a box saying "Subscribe to these updates" or something close to it. Click it. You'll also want to get your posted items feed URL and that's much easier to find. Go to your posted items page and it's a similar format to the status updates.

Copy this URL and enter it in the "Add New Feed" section of your SweetCron dashboard. Before you hit enter, change all three instances of & in the URL to %26 so the SweetCron GUI won't be angry at you.

Here's the catch: you need to go back into your database and edit the %26 back to &. You could enter the feeds directly into the database, but if you aren't used to doing that sort of thing (like me), you can do it this way. I use 1and1 hosting, so I logged into my customer control panel admin and clicked to MySQL administration. The "phpMyAdmin" button next to your SweetCron database takes you right where you need to go. From there's it's pretty easy to click on the "feeds" option in the left sidebar and edit what you need.

After that, you can treat it like any other feed in SweetCron!

I think there's an RSS for your facebook notes as well, but I haven't added it yet.

SweetCron: Customizing the Boxy Theme

There are great resources for customizing [SweetCron] themes on the [google SweetCron wiki] but they assume you know what you're doing under the hood as far as the programming goes.

Because SweetCron is still pretty new, there aren't a lot of free (or paid, for that matter) customized themes and plugins available for download. Plus, there are a lot of feeds out there!

You'll want these two pages from the wiki on [themes] and [API] references.

There are two main files you need to edit in your theme for directory (system/application/views/themes/yourtheme). I copied the boxy theme as a base and renamed the directory to something else. That way if I messed up I could get the fresh copy again.

Anyway, the files are _activity_feed.php and main.css.

Add support for a new feed
Add the desired RSS feed in SweetCron using the GUI. I'm using my google reader shared items as an example. Now, when I look at my lifestream, items from that feed have their own box but say something like, "I don't know what to do with this but I see it."

After that, I opened up the _activity_feed.php to tell SweetCron to make it show up in my lifestream correctly.

Near the top of the text is a note for "domain specific boxes" and this does what it sounds like it would.

So if we want to create a box for google shared items, we add

<?php elseif ($item->get_feed_domain() == 'google.com'): ?>
<div class="inner_container">
<p><a href="<?php echo $item->get_permalink()?>/<?php echo $item->get_name()?>"><?php echo $item->get_title()?></a></p>

I guess the first couple lines tell it what it's looking for and where to put it, but don't quote me on that.

I don't know the specifics, but see how the third line starts out with a paragraph tag and a hyperlink tag? That's basically what it is. The <?php echo $item->get_permalink()?>/<?php echo $item->get_name()?> sort of gets the url of the item, so it's really like <a href="urlgeneratedbythatstuff.com">. All the <?php echo $item->get_title()?> is doing here is telling it what title to put in between the hyperlink tags.

There are other things you can do using the list of things in the [API] reference page.

What if you want more than just the title? Blog posts and google shared items might have some text you'd like to have previewed in your boxes. To add preview text, do this:

<?php elseif ($item->get_feed_domain() == 'google.com'): ?>
<div class="inner_container">
<p><a href="<?php echo $item->get_permalink()?>/<?php echo $item->get_name()?>"><?php echo $item->get_title()?></a></p>
<p><?php echo word_limiter(strip_tags($item->get_content()), 30)?></p>

That new line tells it to go find the content of the item and display it. The numeral 30 is how many words you want to preview and you can change that.

There are lots of other things you can do like find and display images, video, and tags but they all follow a similar-ish procedure.

Some basic visual customization
If you work with CSS a lot, great. You probably don't need to read this. If not, here's what I did to change the link colors and background of my boxes and add that attractive dotted line between post titles and content. Other than that it's all really normal editing to control how the page looks.

New link colors and sizes within the boxes
This needs to go in the section of main.css called "Typography," near the top of the text. If you get to positioning, you've gone to far. Go back up.

p.original_link a:hover, p.activity_image_text a:hover, li.item.google_com div.item_inner a:hover {
text-decoration: underline; color: #236B8E; font-size: 16px;

p.original_link a, p.activity_image_text a, li.item.google_com div.item_inner a {
text-decoration: none; color: #236B8E; font-size: 16px;

a is the link color and a:hover is the hover color. text-decoration here tells it to only display the underline during hover.

New box backgrounds
Upload your new background image to system/application/views/themes/yourtheme/images.

Find the section in main.css called "Per-Domain Styling." Add this:

ul#activity_list li.item.google_com div.item_inner {

background: url(images/googback.jpg) bottom center no-repeat;

where the image it pulls is the one you want.

Adding a dotted line to boxes that also pull content
Somewhere in "Per-Domain Styling" you can add this:

li.item.google_com div.item_inner a {
border: 1px solid #7698b7;
border-style: none none dotted none;
display: block;
padding-bottom: 5px;
margin-bottom: 5px;

You can adjust the type of line (I like the dotted one), the color, the size, and some other stuff about the container.

SweetCron: Installing without really knowing what you're doing

I decided to set up a lifestream on [metricula.com] so I'd have something to put there. I mainly use it to host images and such, but there you go. For the uninitiated, a lifestream aggregates actions I take on lots of sites across the Web.

I decided to use [SweetCron]. It's like [FriendFeed] except all the data is hosted on your own server. I also liked the layout.

1. Download
Go to [SweetCron] and sign up for their email thing for a link to download it from google. You can also get it straight from google, but I wound up having to register my email later anyway so you may as well do it now. For reference, though, it's [here].

You'll get an email with a link. Download the file and unzip. Yay! The [official installation guide] has the requirements. It boils down to needing PHP5 and MySQL4.1.

2. Set up a database
Okay, once you've got that downloaded you need to set up a database for it. I use 1and1 hosting, so after I logged into my admin dashboard I went to MySQL administration. Click the "New Database" button at the top of the table with the list of databases. You probably want to go ahead and select the option for PHP 5.0.
Hit okay and leave this page open because you'll need the data from it.

3. Get it on your server
Copy the contents of the folder (but not the folder itself) sweetcron-108e/sweetcron to your chosen directory with your FTP of choice. If you're putting it in the root directory, great. If you want it somewhere like yoursite.com/lifestream, make a directory for it and copy it all there.

4. .htaccess file
You should have copied something called .htaccess. If it was invisible to you and it didn't copy, there are [instructions for making a new one]. If you're going to install SweetCron in a subfolder, make sure you account for that in the .htaccess file; you need to add the subfolder after the slash in the .htacces file so it looks like this:

Rewrite Base /yoursubfolder

Once it's on your server you just need to configure two files located in system/application/config.

5. Configure config.php
Rename config-sample.php to config.php. Open it up and replace http://www.your-site.com/ with your full site url. That trailing backslash is important so don't leave it off.

If you installed SweetCron to a subfolder, make sure you include it in the url.

6. Configure database.php
The next thing is the database configuration. Rename database-sample.php to database.php. Open her up and scroll down.

Go back to the page you opened earlier with your new database information and enter it here. The titles correspond from the browser display to the database.php file.

You need to change the localhost, database name, user, and password. If it's not recognizing your local host, you can add :/tmp/mysql5.sock to make the whole string look like this:
$db['default']['hostname'] = "pastedhostname:/tmp/mysql5.sock";

I don't know what that does but I think it made mine work.

7. Run the Web-based install script
So great! You should now be able to go to http://yoursite.com/admin> or http://yoursite.com/subfolder/admin to run the install script.

If you get an error telling you to upgrade to PHP5.0, no worries. You probably just need to insert the following into your .htaccess file:

AddType x-mapp-php5 .php
AddHandler x-mapp-php5 .php

Again, I don't know what it does but it makes it work.

Once you're into the GUI it's pretty straight forward. Just add feeds and go! SweetCron doesn't support every feed under the sun by default, but you can tell it how to support and display a feed using the files _activity_feed.php and main.css in the directory system/application/views/themes/nameoftheme.

It helps to be familiar with PHP and using CSS, but I was only slightly familiar with CSS and knew ZERO PHP and I was able to figure it out and get it customized closer to my liking in about a day. It's still a work in progress visually, but the most important and time consuming thing was learning how to tell the _activity_feed.php file how to get the non-default supported feeds.

30 January 2009

Icarus takes a shower

My 'tiel, Icarus, takes showers with me.

22 January 2009

Cookies for Preventing Sadness

Cookies for Preventing Sadness

22 g ground nutmeg
22 g groun cinnamon
5 g cloves
500 g spelt flower
150 g cane sugar
250 g butter
2 eggs
a pinch of salt
100 g almond pieces

Bake cookies at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for five to ten minutes. Beware! They have a strong effect.

Based on a recipe by [Hildegard von Bigen] as seen in the book [Pagan Christmas].

11 January 2009

Dancing 2008

Contrary to internet rumor, this is not a hoax. He really went to all these places and all those people are [not robots].

07 January 2009

Mental_Floss Tuition Giveaway

No, really. Just write 750 words or less on why you think you deserve one of the five $10,000 scholarships. Mental_Floss encourages quirky, memorable entries.

You just have to be over 18 and a full-time undergraduate student in fall 2009 (at an accredited 2- or 4-year institution).

The deadline is 31 Jan 2009 so you still have time to craft a winning essay.

See the [entry form] and rules.

Apply yourself or spread the word!

05 January 2009

Flora watch

Black helleboreBe on the lookout for winter-blooming hellebore species. This typically low-growing, herbaceous perrenial sports showy, petal-like bracts that can persist well into the spring--much longer than its small flowers. Their color spectrum includes greens, creams, and even flushes of red and purple.  The foliage is extremely frost-hardy and variable in its generally slender shape and verdance. 

White helleboreHellebore (Helleborus spp.) also has a lengthy history in folklore. Known alternately as "witch weed" and "Christ rose",  toxic hellebore (active alkaloid: helleborin) has been used in folk healing as well as poison-making. Its frost-resistance and winter blooms were thought to be evidence of magical constitution. Hellebore tinctures were also used as a treatment for "winter melancholy" for this very reason--an original treatment for what we've developed as seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

Ingesting helleborin causes diarrhea, vomiting, and nausea--it was never used as a purgurative for the weak, even in antiquity.