400 Years: a surprisingly short game

Boing Boing linked today a quick, fun flash game called 400 Years, Here's the link to play, in which you play a strange little stone totem who has only 400 years to stop some great catastrophe. It took me a little playing around before I realized that you didn't just get to wait forever -- that whenever you waited, you were wasting time before the catastrophe hit, and you could conceivably wait the whole four hundred years, and lose.  I did fine the first time through, then I decided to check out what happens if you don't make it.

At top waiting speed, you only pass about a year a second, so it took a while.

While you're waiting, you see the world change before your eyes.  Where I stopped to lose the game, I saw two trees grow from saplings to extraordinary heights, then fall down, and new saplings sprouted in their place.

The game involves waiting for huge periods of time, but it also occasionally involves doing stuff -- manipulating physical objects like seeds you need to plant.  These seeds dry out and go away if you hold them while you're waiting, so sometimes you need to figure out how to get around without using the tricks of the long time scale.

Loss-condition spoiler below the fold:

You don't actually get to see what the catastrophe was that you failed to stop, if you don't beat the game.  The waiting stops suddenly, the earth begins to shake, the screen goes white, and then you see an image of burning trees, and the message,



The win/lose conditions are pretty cool, but the story you see unfolding on the timescale of centuries is even more beautiful.  I highly recommend this game.  Here, again, is the link.

Boing Boing reveals the secret of time management

(via Boing Boing) Apparently the function of awe is time management?  This video has some pretty crazy implications.

Sorry about the annoying guitar riff going throughout the clip.

I can't help wondering if this is one of the major advantages of religion -- an institution primarily devoted to manufacturing a sense of awe, very devout religious people might be better at time management than less devout.  It also probably explains why people who are super into the philosophy of whatever their job is seem to be both better at it and better people in general.

I do, however, intend to actually read the research on this, and not take a three-minute video clip as the final word. I'll get back to you about how that goes.

In about an hour...

The Doctor Who Christmas Special starts in about an hour, and I'm still at my aunt's house.  Hopefully, my parents are getting ready to get going.  But I'm a little worried. I'm also super-excited.  For one thing, I can't wait to see more of that Victorian lizard person, she was an awesome character.  And I want to see more of the new companion.  Fingers crossed that we're meeting next season's full-time companion.

Also:  I'd love to be able to go on tumblr again.  Apparently the new episode has already aired in some places, and that means people are referencing it, and not everyone tags diligently.

It's funny how, around some events, the mechanics of society are suspended in the temporary chaos until enough time passes that everything sorts itself out.

Talk to you tomorrow.

WE DID IT -- Curiosity successfully lands on Mars

It was a weird, scary experience, watching the livestream of the NASA control room while Curiosity attempted to land.  They were reassuring.  Pretty much every new development, they said "Which is what we expected," or "Which is normal," which managed to mitigate the tension pretty successfully. Still, it's scary to watch like a hundred scientists -- some of the smartest people in the country -- sitting in a control room, relaying information that's almost ten minutes old, and knowing that, no matter what happens, there's nothing they could do.

I don't think there are very many times in human lives when you get moment-by-moment information about something happening, that's already happened.  It screws with my perception of causality.  Even moreso, this time, because it was the same seven minutes late for everyone. And it was on Twitter.

I imagine I'll be gathering my thoughts about this over the next several days, weeks, maybe years -- it could be a very long time before we have any clue how important this day really is.

DFTBA, Curiosity.  Best wishes.

My calendar problem

Today is the last day of the month.  I've been paying particular attention to this because it's the day I've been planning to announce my intention to leave Facebook to Facebook, and it starts the one-month clock during which I have to make sure I've removed all the relevant permissions and not left any documents I want to preserve on Facebook to disappear forever[1. By which I mean get saved and shared with marketing execs in a folder labeled "23 year old progressive male northeast US"]. The thing is, since it's the last day of the month, I keep thinking it's the last day of the week, too.  I've had to consistently remind myself that it's not actually Friday right now.

Obviously, the entire world timekeeping system should be rearranged to fix this error.

The Gregorian calendar is awful.  Both the starting date for counting years and the decision to divide weeks into 7 days are directly religious in nature, and even then, the Abrahamic religions can't work properly with it -- Easter, for one important date, is on a different day every year.

Better options have been proposed.  During the French revolution, a Decimal calendar was proposed, which would have divided the year into twelve months of three ten-day weeks, and five extra days, called Sanscullotides, or six, on leap years.

But the best option I've seen was one brought up on the xkcd forum:

I came across [...] the Sol calendar. [it] consists of 13 months (All of our normal months and Sol between June and July) of 28 days each and one day that's not technically in a month, which can be placed anywhere, but I like the idea of putting it as the first day of the year. The leap-year system is still employed, and Leap Day becomes December 29.

I thought the most interesting part of the system was that all of the days of the week remain the same through the entire year. I even came across one person who proposed naming the months Ace, Two, Three and so on up through Jack, Queen, and King, then naming the weeks in each month after the suits in bridge order, so as opposed to saying Tuesday, March 13, you could say Tuesday, Three of Hearts.

I'm having trouble deciding which system I like better -- the one that names the year after a deck of cards, or the one that has five days out-of-time, the way extra days should be handled, rather than tacking them onto one of the months.