Monday, August 31, 2009

T. Pratchett, I. Stewart & J. Cohen - The Globe

The Science of Discworld II: The Globe is another book that shows us evolution of the human race on planet Earth. The book is divided in two parts - the Discworld Pratchett's one and hard science one written by Stewart and Cohen. We can take Pratchett's wizards meddling as introduction to what is coming and also we can use it as analogy.

I've read this book twice and I have to admit that when I read it in 2002 I wasn't really much concerned by it. When I read it now it was much more appealing to me. Especially the part about "lies". In Physics we have models that simplify things. The models can be used under some circumstances. They can be used to better understand much more complex things etc. But this does not only work in Physics. Actually this is something that we use in everyday life. Everything that we start to learn are simplified untruths. I was often wondering how come that there are certain phonemes that we can here and produce and some that we just can't grasp. How come though that an adult person can still learn them? Where is the line that learning or teaching our brain something new becomes rather impossible?
Am I still capable of learning rhythm? To be able to reproduce and hear a certain rhythm? I should be able to get this ability if I'm capable of recognizing and reproducing phonemes that don't exist in our language or not?

And yes, how come we started to "imagine" things? Because all we could see around us was...well reality. How a human being/ape came to the idea that there can be something like a faerie? Or that human could cast spells etc? Was it the need to explain something that we couldn't understand? So we created something/someone that could make this happen? But how human actually started to visualize something like that?

Whatever I will probably think of this for some time. There are interesting facts and theories in this and the previous book. Now I'll probably try to find the Darwin's Watch and read it too (it seems that all the Pratchett's books displace on their own)

Personal Rating: 3/5

Conclusion: If you are not from scientific background or not used to be reading scientific texts it might be difficult to read the "scientific chapters". Even though the theories are explained in comprehensible way it still requires concentration. I also can't really imagine people who have never heard of this or that person read such a book (but other literature is your friend, just go and look it up). The wizard meddling story is nice and funny as usual^^ but it's not really about it... at least for me.
Also the style of the authors stays in the same lines which is good. (I remember books written by several authors were you can clearly distinguish who wrote which part - not that it would matter in this book though)

Orson Scott Card - Speaker for the Dead

I would like to write a short entry for this book too. It is a sequel to Ender's Game (which kind of feels like introduction for this book).

This book is one of the books that shocked me the most. This book made me thrill. It provoked such a strong fear that I had nightmares in my dreams. It made me laugh. It made me enjoy the smallest and simplest things you can experience. It made think of what humankind will be in the future. It made me think of what is the link between technology/progress and human race. I felt chill running down my spine...

3000 thousand years in the future everyone forgot what really happened when Ender won the war against the Formics. They consider him a mass murderer and think that he does not deserve a life.
On a planet called Lusitania which was colonized by Catholics a new sentient race is discovered. Humans don't want to make another mistake as they did with the Buggers. Thus they decide to study the race (without really interfering with them - Prime Directive anyone?). This brings Ender Wiggin (incognito as people don't realize that he could be possible alive after 3000 years) to the planet trying to figure out the mysterious of this pig-like race.
The book is rather an anthropological study than a science fiction novel. The book lacks any description of the technology and progress the human race made in those 3000 years. But the religious and piggies' rituals are described to its fullest. This makes quite a big line between these two aspects and is quite striking when reading the book.
The characters are much more developed in this book and we learn more about them from their own past and experiences (not situations that happen in the present).

Personal Rating: 4/5

Conclusion: This book is not so balanced as Ender's Game in terms of logic and story-telling but provokes really strong emotions that touch the very humanity of humankind. It is certainly a good experience to read this book and think about it.

Orson Scott Card - Ender's Game

In 1977 Card published a short story called Ender's Game. Later a book with the same name was written and published.

I always enjoyed Card's books. The simplicity of a language is something that makes the story fast pacing and also gives room to your own imagination. Card deals with many problems (mainly political and religious) in his books and that makes us realize a lot of things. In Ender's Game we don't really see that though. The first book of the series is rather action packed novel with introduction to the political situation in the 22nd century (where the book takes place). With this I don't want to say the book is just dull action. We see Ender's inner fights that torture him. Ender is highly intelligent and self-aware. Ender can see that he is capable of violence (when he's cornered) and is afraid his life would be turned to the dark side. His brother is the one who showed him cruelty (just a side note... skinning squirrels alive??? eeek) and he does not want to become like him. He is also utterly devoted to his sister and tries to cope with all those mixed feelings he has for her. Also being a leader is a heavy burden. Especially when you later find out that you actually committed a genocide.

In this book we learn a story of a group of gifted children trained in waging wars.
A humankind is at war with Formics, an insectoid race (with a hive and queen thus). The Formics are real threat to humanity. They almost managed to raze all the humans. International Fleet was founded and IF successfully managed to defend humankind . Later they decided it would be better if Formics would cease to exist.
They founded Battle and Command School for gifted children that would be fighting the aliens. Ender Wiggin is one of the best elite soldiers at Battle School and is permitted to enter Command School earlier.
The book follows the experiences of Ender at the school. He becomes a leader of a group of students. All of them are training in a war game simulator that adapts to the groups' tactics and strategy after each battle. Each battle is thus more and more challenging. The strain is big on the leader and he almost gets insane (he's got a back up though - to learn about his story check out Ender's Shadow) but he wins the final battle too (even though by sacrificing most of the (human)fleet). He later is told that all the battles they thought in the "simulators" were actually real.

The story of Ender Wiggin continues in other books (Speaker for the Dead - Creepy!!, Xenocide, Children of the Mind etc). There is also a shadow series to Ender's Game which tells the story of Beans (Ender's "back up") and Peter Wiggin the Hegemon.

Personal Rating 4.5/5

Conclusion: An easy to read catching science fiction story that offers much more than just the story itself. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes to read even if science-fiction is not something the person is interested in.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Naoki Maeda

I've met Naoki! And I have to say that he's really nice and was sincerely surprised that someone in Europe knows him. He was even more surprised when he found out that we play IIDX here in Europe. Thank you Naoki it was really nice to meet you and I wish I could spend more time with you.


After WC I spent some time on ZIV forums and chat. It seems that the time of not posting again starts once again as I hate when people give me minus points and I don't know why. In the chatroom I spoke to some players mostly American ones.
After quite a depressive time after World cup I found people enjoying BEMANI games and playing for fun. Among them I met Daiz who seems to be the first person who actually has the very same point of view on DDR and sees the very same difference as I do between ITG and DDR. This person told me that when playing certain songs it helps to listen to your steps rather than listening to the music and that's what I decided to try. I tried playing some doubles and realized that my PA is better. I tried some songs on standard (do you remember me and nori nori nori) and AAAed them. I haven't AAAed anything on standard before. After that I decided to give a try to something on heavy. I choose songs I already black flagged - Sexy Planet and Kind Lady. And you know what? First try (no bar) and AAA!

Today I played few more songs and got two new AAAs. Jane Jana and Groove2001.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Magic The Gathering

The very same morning that we arrived from Cologne my sister called me that we would go to grandma's that evening. I said I would join her. At 9:20 thus I had to get up. I got up fed the cats once again, done all the tasks that were necessary and started tidying the place justa bit up. I also needed to take a shower, pack and I wanted to write a report from Gamescon or process some of the photos I took.
In the end I managed everything what I wanted (to some extent at least). At 3:20 I was off to Prague. The very instant that I entered the bus a storm started. I was lucky^^. I almost fainted in the bus because of the atmospheric pressure change. I got off the bus hopefully and managed to get to Outpost. I ordered a coffee and I met a friend of mine with his friend there.
I watched a match between rats and elves and then I had to try it myself. Actually I won the game with Troll Ascetic
+ Rancor (understand that it wasn't really an elf deck..but most of the creatures were elves). After that we picked different decks. I played against monoblack deck type 1.5 (or 1) that was far superior than those poor domain Slivers. After that I played against a different deck (Izzet one) and after 5 mulligans or some I managed to draw something that was playable^^ (the deck itself was not playable but it could be playable if the player changed some cards and added few lands).
Later I took my extended deck and played against equip cat/human soldiers. I won even though it was close (I did not sideboard Ancient Grudges yet).
It was fun to play and I also saw some pretty expensive cards used in decks that weren't really worth it but still we had fun. Hopefully we will meet once again. (I want Sliver Overlord from him)

After this we headed to Cerny Rytir so Had could get his cards. Later I had to go to meet my sister so we would get on train to Suchdol together. I showed my painted cards to my sister and the person sitting next to me got interested in those. The person sitting next to him asked him if he knows the game so he replied truthfully that he knows it. I showed my cards to the rest of the people there and then we played Magic with Martin (the person sitting next to me). It was fun and I have to admit that he was a good player. That's something I did not expect. I mean ok there are good players all around the Czech Republic but mostly I meet people who either don't know the rules or can't play the game. I don't usually play against really good players as those are not usually interested in casual gaming. This is actually what Czech Republic lacks. There's tons of beginning players or those who don't know how to play well and then we have many good professional players. But there's almost no one playing for fun (and being good at the same time - well those who are good usually play EDH so I guess I should make a deck myself...). That's why I enjoyed these games against Martin. He is a good player and played for fun.

We spent the rest of the trip chatting about card games and board games. We also had to endure listening to silly comments from the person sitting next to Martin. It was fun sometimes but that person could be pretty rude as well.

So well I just wanted to say thanks to the two former Magic: The Gathering players by this log entry. I highly appreciated this.

Gamescom 2009

This year we planned on going to GamesConvention on Leipzig but it was canceled. Instead of that there is GamesCom in Cologne. Cologne is much further than Leipzig for us but we still decided to go.

NX306, me and Sir Loony headed to Germany at around 4am. We counted to get to Cologne at most at noon. Loony managed to sleep for the most part of the road trip so it was up to me to say something from time to time so NX wouldn't fall asleep.

So now a bit about Gamescom. In general the event was rather a failure because most of the games were targeted at casual gamers. Those you can never expect at such an event. There were mostly games for Nintendo Wii and music related games. There were few surprises like playable Final Fantasy XIV but otherwise it was rather poor. Even male players who came there to see pretty girls were disappointed. Probably the best looking girls were at KONAMI stands and the number was low. At Winter Olympics stand there were demo gilrs wearing Angel costumes but otherwise there wasn't much originality (most girls were dressed just in a t-shirt and shorts)

After a first stop at Vierpfeile (German dance game community) stand we headed to KONAMI stand. There we could try new Castlevania, Yu Gi Oh, Pop'n Rhythm, Rock Revolution, Karaoke Revolution, Hottest Party 2, PES and that's probably it. We wanted to try the new music games so we waited in line for Pop'n Rhythm. PNR is something like forced 5-button Pop'n Music for Nintendo Wii that is played with nunchuk and wiimote. Instead of hitting the buttons on a controller you move your hands holding the controllers in according directions (left, right, down or you kind of imaginary clap your hands). The game does not use keysounds but each button is linked with sounds of a certain instrument. So in all the songs you hear the very same instruments all over again (not that fun). The game lost its whole magic. All the little animations and stuff are just gone and Wii graphics replaced it.

Another game we played was Rock Revolution. It's also ridiculously easy as PNM for Wii was. There you can either play imaginary guitar or imaginary drums. The game is just awful and is also for Nintendo Wii. The last game in that corner was Karaoke Revolution for next-gen consoles. Nothing has really changed in the game but it was ported for next-gen consoles so that's probably a plus?

I also went to try the new DDR Hottest Party. It looks quite good but it is still aimed at casual players. You can set some mods this time but still the mods are set before you enter songwheel and cannot be changed without exiting that. The songlist was poor or at least there was nothing that would catch my eye/ear. The good thing though was that it wasn't so OFF as the earlier games we played at GamesCon. We also had the chance to see a trailer for DDR for next gen consoles. There's still a lot of work to do on it. It will have an octomove mode which is actually Technomotion mode. It will have downloadable content including themes and it should contain the best songs from DDR1st mix up to DDRX.

After this we were witnesses to Pop'n Rhythm demo and Meiji answering some questions about the game. I rather not talk about this as the guy made me pretty angry. The game is just awful! Not even if I think that it is better than Beat'n'Groovy.

After that I checked Yu Gi Oh which is still the same game even though it was on hand helds. Not sure how you can communicate with other players there but well^_^. It played the same. I actually miss the not-card game simulation games. Those were cool and the music was awesome.

Castlevania seems really good and even after Castlevania arcade it's quite a surprise.

Also I've seen Naoki pass by so I ran behind him and asked him if I could have a photo with him. The person translating from Japanese to English took a photo of me and Naoki. Naoki is a really nice person and he likes BEMANI games fans.

The next game I tried was Rock Band. I tried it to see if it still plays the same way (really bad way for me) or not. The new Rock Band title is dedicated to The Beatles and I actually like this. It's a completely different target group and probably that was the objective. We played a song I played the drums putting it accidentally on Hard but no one commented on that. It played quite nice. I did not notice anything new from the previous game though. What I can say is that Rock Band games had the setlist written on the stand itself and also had them printed out unlike at Activision stands where you were forced to play a song chosen by the staff. Playing on Rock Band drum controller felt much worse than playing on the default GH one though...

After this I also had to try Guitar Hero 5. I was actually surprised that there's a new GH game. I did not know that. Not that I would care. GH Metallica was also playable there and that one actually seems nice. What was more interesting at Activision stand though was DJ Hero. The game is NOT a Beatmania IIDX rip off. That's the first thing I realized. The second is that it plays really weird. You have three buttons on the turntable and you also need to be switching to further left or right track with some little thingy. You either do this or you press a button or you press a button and scratch. If you confirm the right note there's a track activated for a certain time till you miss and it plays the according sound track. The mixing is done via the weird thingy and scratching actually produces scratching sounds but it does not correspond the way you actually scratch. After this I realized that if there would be more tracks and buttons and more things that would allow you to change a track it might be a pretty good simulation game. It is something between Amplitude and Guitar Hero but rather dull at this point.

The next music related game I tried was Lips. It's a singing game that can be played localy or online. It was unplayable due to a really big lag. I did not know if it is audio or visual lag so I just continued on.

What interested me at Gamescom was SquareEnix stand. I did not really expect much as usually they have nothing at their stands. This time I was surprised. A playable Final Fantasy XIV online game was there for us to try. I don't play online games but it was nice to see my character roam the "battleground" though. Graphics is nice and I prefer this kind of graphics over WoW/Diablo etc. I also played Kingdom Hearts (some numbers) on Nintendo DS. It wasn't good at all. It was rather dull and if it had some RPG story like aspects I did not really managed to get to them. The fighting system even though being the same than on PS2 just did not work well. Too bad...the game is bad.

I also checked other games at the stand. There were few board games (like Carcasson) ported to Nintendo DS. I remembered playing Kolonisten Von Katan online when I saw those games on DS.

Tony Hawk
There was a pretty nice "museum for Tony Hawk games so you could learn about the skating history and most famous skaters. I don't really know much about anything like that but some photos and texts made me realize few things^^. It seems skaters really had a hard time with trying to conving the public that their activity is ok. For Xbox (I think) there's a new Tony Hawk game that uses a new peripheral. The skateboard peripheral looks pretty good and I think that it uses your balance much better than the WiiFit games (yeah, there is a new WiiFit game WiiFit+ or Family Trainer).

Some random games...+ Tekken 6
Somewhere at Gamescon there was also a simulation of surfing on the waves. This was much more realistic simulation (you actually playde on a real board) and people had real problems even standing on it. Poor demo girls who were catching the falling players. I really liked this one.

I went to Blizzard stand too later in the day. I wasn't really interested in waiting in a line for eternity to play StarCraft 2 or Diablo 3. But I watched the trailers and went to play World of Warcraft and playing the Wizard reminded me the Sorceress from Diablo 2. This was the most interesting place though for the players attending Gamescom.

At one of the Namco stands you could go stand in a line to play Tekken 6. At first I expected nothing new from the game and was surprised. The game evolved in the way that it has certain things that have serious impact on the game (like that some characters can kill in two blows under certain conditions). Playing single player mode actually reminded me of Guilty Gears. The characters when with little life are much stronger later in the game and some stages are actually pretty hard. The game is also much more colorful and the new female character is a pretty flying b*tch (that Boskonovitch armor is like WTH? It looks really weird ... how can she wear it?). The new male character is much more overpowered though. When I went there to play I was alone and someone joined me. I started winning quite soon and my opponent started swearing "kurwa". Later when I metLoony again he told me a similar story about a swearing Polish guy being beaten by him. Maybe it was the same guy?

There was also a Retro games corner where you could play the all good Sonics and Mario. A small game console/computer museum was there which was pretty nice (and yes, there was a Hello Kitty tamagochi).

Next to it were Nintendo Wii stands were you could play a new Mario multiplayer game. It was fun and actually it played better than Mario Party games for GameCube (um actually there's already one for Wii right?) and it was more accurate than the young Mario for Nintendo DS.

Also there was a big advertisement for Sonic vs Mario Winter Olympics. The game itself wasn't really about winter Olympics though. The game has a Winter theme with many mini games and not necessarily Winter Olympics disciplines.

There's not so many things that caught my eye but several funny things occured. When I went to get something to eat I met two groups of Czech people. Both of these groups were filming the new games and making interviews. They were pretty vulgar though so I did not really want to start a chat. After that I went over to Vierpfeile stand where the real fun began. There was Beatmania IIDX, OpenGroove and Guitar Hero 4. I asked if I can play IIDX and I was given permission. I played few songs than someone else and later it was my time once again. Someone came there and wanted to play but was told that I would go first and he was like "Yeah, but I'm not like getting flashing greats on [he looked at the screen] songs on Another". It was quite funny to hear that. I finished my song and let him play. He was actually not bad at all. At least (almost) no one in our country would be able to play 7s on normal.

When I was playing IIDX people were stopping by and couldn't believe what they saw. They wanted to try the game so I let them and explained a bit how the game is played. A lot of those people asked me to show them a song so I picked The Least 100 Sec on hyper most of the time. At one of the times I was playing like that I heard someone behind say pretty loudly "Ty krávo" followed by "Let's try this" in Czech. It was quite fun to hear another Czech people there. There was also one guy who came there and seemed to be interested in the game. I explained him that this is (quite) old Japanese game etc and he then he said "So I shouldn't say that's something like DJ Hero right?". I told him that it would be a really bad idea to say this aloud at this stand and we continued talking. Actually most of the people stopping by were really interested in IIDX and ignoring GH and DJ Hero. That made me feel a bit better. Too bad I had to explain many times that this is imported game and they need modded playstation or swp magic in order to play it.

Some people were surprised that I don't speak German but switched to English quite soon and without problems.

Also played some ITG and that's probably everything I can say about Gamescom.

After 6pm we left the expo and wanted to find a place where we could eat. Soon we found Subway and headed there. The air outside was impossible to breathe and the temperature (37 dgrs Celsius) was still pretty high. We hoped that inside it would be better but it was maybe even worse. We ordered our meal and started to chat. I have to say that Sir Loony was full of surprises. His quotes were sometimes even funnier than Srandista's. The way back to Czech Republic was quite fun thanks to of Sir Loony even though he fell asleep later on. We arrived at 4 am and were glad that we can go to sleep. Unfortunately NX nor me managed to sleep well.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Time Spiral - Murphy's day

Yesterday my cats decided to wake me up as usual. I couldn't fall asleep after that so I went downstairs and was wondering what to do. Finally I decided to alter Time Spiral. I found out that there's a bit of red color on the card and that's where all started. I messed up the right part and spent a lot of time figuring out how to fix the problem. In the end the card looks like this:

After a very long time I managed to finish the card and it actually looked pretty good. I went upstairs to apply the sealant and I just ran out of it! That resulted in sprayed water drops on the card. Of course you can see it on the card and the card is not even sealed.

That's not everything. I went downstairs and accidentally dropped the card (maybe a half meter away from the table). (I was ready to go for Prague to participate in Extended tournament). But the card flew for about 30 cm and ended up in the brown/red paint I used for the nebula -_-. The only place in the whole room that made a difference. So I sat down and started trying to get rid of the paint. I have few taints on the back of the card now but it took me ages to get rid of the paint.

After that I wanted to head for the bus but realized that it's summer holidays. The first bus I could go to Prague was like 3pm (the tournament starts at 1:30pm). I took the bus and managed to get there right when the tournament ended. I could have won that one.

I played mtg then and my decks were probably making fun of me or what. Because the cards I usually get on my opening hand just did not seem to SHOW up at all. My opponent just draws 4 terminates and three incinerates ... just when he needs them.

Here I have to note that I got awesome potatoes from the store owner. They were delicious (as potatoes can be).

After this which was already late I went to the Czech DDR photoshoot. On the way there I realized I forgot my book in the store. (not the first time this happened!)

I arrived to Vysocanska late once again for the photoshoot and during the night I got pretty sick because of ITG shining through that darkness. Ergh...

that's the end of my today's rant...

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Something's missing here....^_~

It seems that I should get first place one day too to collect all three kinds of the trophies^_~

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

What made my day (yesterday)

I went downstairs to play a bit of Beatmania IIDX 15 and when the game was loading I looked sadly at the insides of my DDR Extreme machine. (ITG Boxor was there inside before it so all the DDR stuff was laying around on the platform). I knelt down and checked what's inside. Everything seemed ok, I put it back in the machine and booted. I got the CDR error as I was thinking about giving it up but then I realized that I have different copies of install/play discs. I tried the second one from sows. I switched the dip switch and booted from the CDROM and you know what??? I managed to get it into install mode!! There should have been a serial number but instead there were some weird characters. After the game installed I tried to boot again and was restarting itself when it got to the cdrom check. No error, no note. I wanted to give up but then I grabbed the original disc and put it in the cd drive.

I booted from the CD and it got into installation mode once again. It was installing for ages till it showed a note telling me to turn off the machine exchange the security module and boot. I turned it off and on and it got me error 114. After this I turned it off again, switched the security thing and booted. And you know what? IT LOADED DDR EXTREME!!!! Nothing's unlocked but I will deal with that later. It WORKS!