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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This week’s S.EXE is about the ‘team’ narrative strand of Indiana Jones And The Fate Of Atlantis. It’s got clinches worthy of Hollywood. I’ve not seen a kiss in a game that’s ever topped Sophia and Indy’s frequent tonsil-scraping embraces.
People lament the lack of ‘romcom’ in video games, and every time they do I think about Fate Of Atlantis.
I honestly don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone lament about the lack of romantic comedies in video games, but she’s right that it’s excellent in Fate of Atlantis. The whole game is pretty excellent.
Graeme Wood reporting for The Atlantic at a California prison:
At first, we seem to be watching a sullen but semi-random parade of terrifying men—heavily tattooed murderers, thieves, and drug dealers walking past one of five casual but alert guards. Some inmates, chosen for a strip search, drop their prison blues into little piles and then spin around, bare-assed, to be scrutinized. Once inspected, they dress and walk out into the yard to fill their lungs with oxygen after a long night in the stagnant air of the cellblock. The first Hispanic inmate to put his clothes on walks about 50 yards to a concrete picnic table, sits down, and waits. The first black inmate goes to a small workout area and stares out at the yard intently. A white guy walks directly to a third spot, closer to the basketball court. Another Hispanic claims another picnic table. Slowly it becomes obvious that they have been moving tactically: each has staked out a rallying point for his group and its affiliates.
Once each gang has achieved a critical mass—about five men—it sends off a pair of scouts. Two of the Hispanics at the original concrete picnic table begin a long, winding stroll. “They’ll walk around, get within earshot of the other groups, and try to figure out what’s going down on the yard,” Acosta says. “Then they can come back to their base and say who’s going to attack who, who’s selling what.”
Eventually, about 50 inmates are in the yard, and the guards have stepped back and congregated at their own rallying point, backs to the fence, with Acosta. The men’s movements around the yard are so smooth and organized, they seem coordinated by invisible traffic lights.
I don’t remember how I ended up on this, but here’s a 2012 article by Lucy Craft for NPR:
In Japan, a linguist has toiled quietly for decades to compile the world’s first Yiddish-Japanese dictionary — the first time the Jewish language has been translated into a non-European language other than Hebrew.
[Kazuo] Ueda made several trips to Israel, but most of his research was a lonely, solo affair. Isolated from actual speakers of the language, he taught himself, with the help of Yiddish newspapers and literature.
Ueda would later publish a series of books on the Jewish language and people, but he considers that a prelude to his magnum opus — the 1,300-page, 28,000-entry Idishugo Jiten, or Yiddish-Japanese dictionary, published several years ago. His publisher wouldn’t release details but conceded sales are most likely tiny for the dictionary, which costs more than $700.
A nudist resort in Los Gatos struggling to stay afloat during California’s drought has been accused of stealing more than 280,000 gallons of water from a local creek, which authorities say sustains area wildlife.
But Lupin Lodge owners say they have a historic right to the water, which they said they have used since a drought in the 1970s and maintain to support fire suppression efforts.
Truly a crisis of the modern age.
Water rights are a serious deal during a drought, though.
Ishaan Tharoor on The Washington Post's WorldViews blog:
If you’re following the ongoing crisis in Iraq, you’ve probably encountered the conflicting acronyms used for the jihadist group storming through the country. The Washington Post has been referring to the organization as ISIS, shorthand for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. This is how most news organizations that operate in English began identifying the outfit when it emerged as a dangerous fighting force two years ago, launching terror strikes and carving out territory amid the Syrian civil war.
But the acronym that’s now deployed by many agencies as well as the United Nations and the U.S. State Department — and President Obama — is ISIL, for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
Etymology is always welcome here on Nullary Sources.
Morgan Ramsay has a 7.1 GB database of news articles from video game media outlets, because that’s a totally normal thing to collect, and he decided to investigate whether video game journalism has been overwhelmed by feminism, as apparently sad people on the internet fear:
Of the 84,796 articles downloaded in 2013, only 0.4493% of those articles, published by 28 of the 33 tracked outlets, mentioned feminism, sexism, or misogyny and their -ist counterparts. Less than half of a percent!
Of the 65,950 articles downloaded during the first six months of 2014, only 0.4428% of those articles, published by 27 of the 33 tracked outlets, made similar references. Also less than half of a percent! But during a six-month period.
ESPN.com on the second NBA owner this year to lose his team due to doing some racist stuff:
Atlanta Hawks owner Bruce Levenson is selling his controlling interest in the team, NBA commissioner Adam Silver announced Sunday.
In July, Levenson self-reported an email he wrote to the team’s co-owners and general manager Danny Ferry in August 2012 that he called “inappropriate and offensive.” The league commenced an independent investigation after being made aware of the comments.
Levenson writes in a statement that the racially offensive comments came as he pondered ways to bridge Atlanta’s racial sports divide and increase fan attendance at Hawks’ games.
"In trying to address those issues, I wrote an e-mail two years ago that was inappropriate and offensive," he said. "I trivialized our fans by making clichéd assumptions about their interests (i.e. hip hop vs. country, white vs. black cheerleaders, etc.) and by stereotyping their perceptions of one another (i.e. that white fans might be afraid of our black fans). By focusing on race, I also sent the unintentional and hurtful message that our white fans are more valuable than our black fans."
Derek Thompson writing for The Atlantic on the effects of the adoption of strike zone cameras in Major League Baseball:
The strike zone morphed in the age of camera technology, as well. Before cameras, it turned out, umpires had been ignoring strikes around the knees. Pitches between 18 and 30 inches above the plate, which are technically in the strike zone, had been called balls for years. But the presence of cameras encouraged umpires to lower the strike zone.
As you’re about to see, this swung the balance of power from the batters box to the pitching mound, shutting down baseball’s thrilling home-run parade and inaugurating the Era of the Pitcher.
He summarizes some research and data by Brian Mills, and there are some neat graphs.
However, it’s probably best to ignore the title and final several paragraphs of the article and just focus on the data, because the numbers aren’t clickbaity and don’t evangelize.
On September 18, Scotland’s citizens will go to the polls to answer a really big question: “Should Scotland be an independent country?”
This question, of course, raises lots of other questions about what a yes vote might mean for the future of Scotland, England and the United Kingdom. Here are some basic answers to some basic questions about the upcoming vote.
As an ignorant Yank who vaguely knows the history but is otherwise blissfully ignorant of just about every aspect of Scottish independence, I found this pretty nice. She even has a list of news sources to follow for future updates.
62-year-old world-renowned composer Ryuichi Sakamoto is completely suspending his musical performances, so he can devote himself to the treatment of mesopharyngeal carcinoma in New York. His record company Avex made the announcement on Thursday.
The New York resident began feeling something unusual in his throat and underwent an examination in early June. He was diagnosed with mesopharyngeal carcinoma in early July.
I only just heard about this now. It doesn’t look like there have been any updates on his status since this was published.
Ecuador is planning to create what it calls the world’s first digital currency issued by a central bank, which some analysts believe could be a first step toward abandoning the country’s existing currency, the U.S. dollar.
The electronic money, which Central Bank officials say they expect will start circulating in December, does not have a name and officials would not disclose technical details, though they said it would not be a crypto-currency like Bitcoin. The amount of the new currency created would depend on demand.
Deputy director Gustavo Solorzano said it is to exist in tandem with the greenback and, by law, be backed by “liquid assets.”
[insert bitcoin joke here]
This is an interesting national experiment though, hopefully it won’t end in disaster.
The editor-in-chief of Square Enix’s Monthly Big Gangan posted a message to its readers announcing that the magazine will temporarily halt serialization of Rensuke Oshikiri’s Hi Score Girl in light of alleged copyright violations. SNK Playmore had filed a complaint, asserting that the manga features over 100 instances of characters from The King of Fighters, Samurai Spirits (Samurai Shodown), and other fighting games owned by SNK. Police searched the publisher’s headquarters last Tuesday.
An SNK Playmore representative told ITmedia News that there were “absolutely no” requests or discussions by Square Enix to obtain consent to use SNK characters. The manga also uses characters from CAPCOM’s Street Fighter II, Sega’s Virtua Fighter, Namco’s Genpei Tōma Den, and other games. ITmedia News contacted CAPCOM, Sega, and Bandai Namco Games, and each one said that it gave formal consent for the manga to use its games’ characters.
That they properly licensed the other characters but not SNK’s is probably the most bizarre part of this story.
[Donny] Moore is the “ratings czar” for “Madden NFL,” the man responsible for making sure the popular video game’s virtual avatars accurately reflect their real-life counterparts.
Moore uses all sorts of metrics and measurements to come up with ratings. Then, he tweaks the numbers weekly after watching all the games and pondering feedback from fans and even the players themselves.
Among the guys he underestimated were Washington running back Alfred Morris and Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz, both of whom started a season with mid-60s ratings and finished in the high 80s. It works the other way, too. Ray Rice started last season at 95 and finished at 82.
I love how apparently there’s just this one guy who makes up every single number in that game.
The story (of the legal dispute, not the television show) begins in 2008, when Stacey Mattocks started a fan page for The Game. Soon thereafter, the show went off the air, but the Facebook page lived on. When BET decided to revive The Game in 2010, the network reached out to Mattocks, offering to give her part-time work maintaining her page as the show’s official fan page. BET wasn’t eager to start from scratch: Mattocks had already gathered about 2 million “likes,” according to court documents.
Mattocks and BET signed a deal giving the company administrative access to the page; each agreed not to lock the other out. BET employees and Mattocks worked together, quickly amassing 4 million additional “likes.” But Mattocks wanted a full-time job, and she decided to play hardball to get it. She revoked BET’s administrative access, saying she’d give it back when they agreed to pay her an acceptable salary. The company responded by starting its own page. It also asked Facebook to shut down Mattocks’s page—it contained copyrighted material—and have all the “likes” transferred to its own page. Facebook obliged and Mattocks sued, arguing that she should have the right to capitalize on the business opportunity she had created by getting a lot of people to approve of her page.
Where was the futurist who predicted mundane shit like this? Flying cars my butt.
For five years now, America’s teen birth rate has plummeted at an unprecedented rate, falling faster and faster. Between 2007 and 2013, the number of babies born to teens annually fell by 38.4 percent, according to research firm Demographic Intelligence. This drop occurred in tandem with steep declines in the abortion rate. That suggests that the drop isn’t the product of more teenagers terminating pregnancies. More simply, fewer girls are getting pregnant.
But there’s something uniquely frustrating about the recent, steep decline in teen birth rates: nobody knows why it’s happened.
She then runs through a number of theories, ranging from somewhat unsatisfying to deeply unsatisfying.
Josh Levin of Slate searches YouTube and Instagram for a whole bunch of videos of people dumping ice water on themselves or other people:
"Where does a phenomenon begin?"
That’s the question ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi seeks to answer in a long SportsCenter feature on the ice bucket challenge, which has reportedly raised more than $50 million for ALS charities in less than a month. Rinaldi says that it began “with one name”: Pete Frates. A former Boston College baseball player, Frates was diagnosed with ALS in 2011. On July 31 of this year, he challenged some friends and celebrities (including NFL quarterbacks Tom Brady and Matt Ryan) to take the ice bucket challenge to “strike out ALS.” As my Slate colleague Will Oremus pointed out, various outlets have since claimed that Frates invented or inspired the challenge, with the Boston Globe, BuzzFeed, and MLB.com joining ESPN in labeling Frates as the stimulus for the chilly, charitable fad.
This origin myth, while heartwarming, just isn’t true. The real story of how the ice bucket challenge came to dominate your Facebook feed takes nothing away from Frates’ inspirational message, or the fact that his personal struggle helped draw celebrities to the cause and drive charitable contributions. But focusing on “one name” obscures another fascinating tale, one that illustrates how movements mutate and evolve as they travel across the Web.
Alissa Walker has written a warm reminiscence of the only typeface with its own tag here on Nullary Sources, Chicago:
Maybe it was because I was so used to it greeting me, guiding me through every decision — chirping up in a dialogue box confirming that I did, indeed, want to shut down. But when I began writing on the computer, ate age eight, Chicago was the typeface I used. I was mostly writing poems about trees during this period, and I’d bring the text into MacPaint where I could illustrate them using Kare’s paintbrush icon, sweeping the page with basket-weave patterns and single-pixel polka dots. Sometimes I’d click over and scroll through the available typefaces — New York, Geneva, Monaco — and reject each one not only on looks, but on principle.
San Francisco’s protest of its loss to Chicago on Tuesday was upheld on Wednesday by Joe Torre, MLB’s executive vice president for baseball operations. Torre agreed with the Giants’ stance that the flawed deployment of Wrigley Field’s tarp meant that the game should have been suspended instead of awarded to the Cubs, who led, 2-0, when rain halted activity after the regulation 4 1/2 innings had been played.
"Were we surprised? Sure," pitching coach Dave Righetti said. "How many of these have been upheld? Nine? 10?"
The precise number is unknown, but winning such an appeal is definitely rare. It last occurred in 1986, when a protest by Pittsburgh — that a game against St. Louis had been called too soon — was upheld.
Yes it’s the first successful protest lodged in twenty-eight years, and it’s over fuckin’ rain.
Andrew Keh writing for The New York Times about Michele Roberts, who was recently elected executive director of the NBA players’ union, the National Basketball Players Association:
She said she was all too aware that if she was selected, she would represent several hundred male athletes in the N.B.A.; she would deal with league officials and agents who were nearly all men; she would negotiate with team owners who were almost all men; and she would stand before reporters who were predominantly men.
She did not flinch. “My past,” she told the room, “is littered with the bones of men who were foolish enough to think I was someone they could sleep on.”
Reports of sharks biting the undersea cables that zip our data around the world date to at least 1987. That’s when the New York Times reported that “sharks have shown an inexplicable taste for the new fiber-optic cables that are being strung along the ocean floor linking the United States, Europe, and Japan.”
Now it seems Google is biting back. According to Network World’s Brandon Butler, a Google product manager explained at a recent event that the company has taken to wrapping its trans-Pacific underwater cables in Kevlar to guard against shark bites.
A new law in France will now allow first-trimester abortions without requiring women to prove a justification for needing the procedure.
The new law, proposed by the French Minister for Women’s Rights Najat Vallaud-Belkacem was promulgated last Tuesday. It amends the country’s current law, which allows abortion only if a pregnant women can prove “distress.” The new law also bans any attempt to restrict women from getting information about abortion services.
The French National Assembly voted to approve the new law in January amid heated controversy. At that time, Vallaud-Belkacem defended the change to the current law, saying “Abortion is a right in itself and not something that is simply tolerated depending on the conditions.”