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Going West: The World of Live Action, Competitive Oregon Trail

Emily Grosvenor writing for The Atlantic on The Oregon Trail (as in the video game) LARPing:

Teams of 2-4 people, many in pioneer garb, build a wagon out of paper and dowel rods before tackling ten challenges inspired by the computer game—things like floating the wagon across a kiddie pool, shooting at game with nerf guns, competing in a three-legged dysentery race to an outhouse. Instead of finding shelter, we built a tarp tent while volunteers sprayed us with water. We survived being pummeled with pool noodles by roller derby girls at the Platte River station.

I don’t have anything to add to this beyond that I found it really, really satisfying to type the phrase “Oregon Trail LARPing.”

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Japan volcano: at least 30 victims found near Mount Ontake peak

Justin McCurry, The Guardian:

At least 30 people are believed to have died near the peak of a volcano in central Japan that erupted without warning on Saturday, trapping scores of amateur climbers and covering a wide area with thick ash.

Police said rescuers had discovered more than 30 people suffering from heart and lung failure; official confirmation that the victims are dead won’t come until doctors have examined the bodies.

Absolutely terrible. The volcano, dormant for 35 years, has apparently been a popular hiking spot.

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The Cancelled Mario Game that was Taken Away by a Bank in Canada

monokoma on Unseen 64:

Mario Takes America is a cancelled action platformer game that was in development from 1992 to 1994 at the Toronto-based Cigam Entertainment for the ill-fated Philips CD-I console. This was intended to be the third Mario game planned for the CDI, following Hotel Mario and the unreleased Mario Wacky Worlds. It would have formed a trilogy of Nintendo-licensed Mario games published by Philips, just like the infamous Zelda CDI trilogy: Zelda’s Adventure (by Viridis), Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon and Link: The Faces of Evil (by Animation Magic).

Mysteriously, while even the unfinished Wacky Worlds gained some exposure from savvy prototype hunters online, Mario Takes America was since forgotten by the wider world, fading into obscurity, and until recently, next to zero information has been available on it. However, thanks to an anonymous contributor, research by Interactive Dreams, LiamR and a former Cigam employee on the AssemblerGames Forum, we are able to preserve some more memories about this unreleased Mario project.

Sometimes I wish I had a CD-i. The feeling usually passes immediately though.

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Rhinorex condrupus: New Herbivorous Dinosaur Discovered in Utah

Paleontologists Dr Rodney Scheetz of Brigham Young University’s Museum of Paleontology and Dr Terry Gates of North Carolina State University and North Carolina Museum of Natural Science have described a new species of hadrosaur from the Upper Cretaceous Neslen Formation of central Utah.

The new hadrosaur, scientifically named Rhinorex condrupus, lived during the Cretaceous period, about 75 million years ago.

Hadrosaurs are usually identified by bony crests that extended from the skull, but Rhinorex condrupus lacked a crest on the top of its head; instead, it had a huge nose.

Rhinorex = NOSE KING

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Neil Gaiman: "Terry Pratchett isn't jolly. He’s angry"

The Guardian has printed an excerpt of Neil Gaiman’s introduction to Terry Pratchett’s new nonfiction collection A Slip of the Keyboard:

Terry’s authorial voice is always Terry’s: genial, informed, sensible, drily amused. I suppose that, if you look quickly and are not paying attention, you might, perhaps, mistake it for jolly. But beneath any jollity there is a foundation of fury. Terry Pratchett is not one to go gentle into any night, good or otherwise.

He will rage, as he leaves, against so many things: stupidity, injustice, human foolishness and shortsightedness, not just the dying of the light. And, hand in hand with the anger, like an angel and a demon walking into the sunset, there is love: for human beings, in all our fallibility; for treasured objects; for stories; and ultimately and in all things, love for human dignity.


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So I was surfing the YouTubes for random live Japanese performances of music, as I am wont to do, when I found this bizarre eighteen minute arrangement of Ravel’s “Boléro” on jazz piano (Yosuke Yamashita) and taiko (Eitetsu Hayashi). I don’t really know exactly what universe this comes from, but according to the description it happened in 1999 in Tokyo.

As you might expect, it’s kinda mathematically impossible to play more than a few rounds of “Boléro” with only two instruments, so they jump the track really quickly, and after that nothing makes sense any more. Hayashi’s faces are gold (check out 6:13 and 8:40), and Hayashi’s top layer of clothing just mysteriously falls off in stages, and Yamashita is literally just playing with his elbows at 13:24, and then look how excitedly Yamashita removes his hands from the piano at 13:46 in anticipation of DRUM SOLO.

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Stewarding Early Space Data: An Interview with Emily Frieda Shaw

We’re back again with another post from The Signal: Digital Preservation. This time, Trevor Owens is interviewing Emily Frieda Shaw, Head of Preservation and Reformatting at Ohio State University (I love that this is a job title), about her work restoring data tapes from Explorer 1:

When my colleagues were first made aware of the Explorer mission tapes in 2009, they had been sitting in the basement of a building on the University of Iowa’s campus for decades. There was significant mold growth on the boxes and the tapes themselves, and my colleagues secured an emergency grant from the state to clean, move and temporarily rehouse the tapes. Three tapes were then sent to The MediaPreserve to see if they could figure out how to digitize the audio signals. Bob Strauss and Heath Condiotte hunted down a huge, of-the-era machine that could play back all of the discrete tracks on these tapes. As I understand it, Heath had to basically disassemble the entire thing and replace all of the transistors before he got it to work properly. Fortunately, we were able to play some of the digitized audio tracks from these test reels for Dr. George Ludwig, one of the key researchers on Dr. Van Allen’s team, before he passed away in 2012. Dr. Ludwig confirmed that they sounded — at least to his naked ear — as they should, so we felt confident proceeding with the digitization.

Everything about this story is fantastic.