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Ever wonder how big something is? You look at an MP3 player or some other device and you see the dimensions and you think to yoursef “self, how big would that be? Would it fit in my pocket?” You need help visualizing it. Help has arrived!

Check out and put in the dimensions and it will show you how big the item is compared to other common objects.

Text-based MUD – Now With Sound!

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I’m not sure where to go with this post, especially with a title like this one. MUD has been one of my favorite games for a long time. In my college years I played countless hours of MUD using my modem and, when lucky, on a 56kbps dedicated school line. I remember several times when Shaffer, Susan and myself would go to the old South High School (now Salt Lake Commuinty College South Campus) and pretend to be students and play MUD.

As you may or may not know, my friend Shawn is running his own MUD named Caves of Chaos (I don’t know where he got the name). I’ve enjoyed creating areas, items, creatures, etc. on it. It’s been great fun. One really nice thing is playing during boring meetings. Since the whole thing is telnet based and you can turn off color (NOANSI) no one would ever think you were enjoying yourself with a game.

But last night I stumbled onto something in the help documentation for the MUD–sound support. Also called MSP (Mud Sound Protocol) it allows sounds to be incorporated into the game.

MSP is a subset of MXP (Mud eXtension Protocol) which simply adds enhanced communication between MUD servers and clients. I was astounded. Someone has not only wanted to improve the MUD protocol (telnet) but they have written standards and people have implemented them!

Discovering that Caves of Chaos supports both MSP and MXP I fired up MudMagic, my OSS MUD client. After spending hours looking through documentation, forums and experimenting, I found that version 1.9 of MudMagic is not MXP or MSP compliant even though it claims it is.

I was forced to download CMud (from Zuggsoft–the premier comercial MUD client and developer of the MXP and MSP protocols). After some easy configuration I heard the MUD speak for the first time!

I laughed my butt off! I think cheezy would be a kind description for the grunts, squeeks, gulps and kisses I heard. Every sound is a WAV file so I could theoretically collect better samples but all in all, it was hilarious. My wife looked up from her book to laugh as well.

MXP was, however, interesting. Objects become links that you can click on for fast actions like “loot corpse” and “consider [oponent]” and the like. You can also click on directions to move around a little faster. But this turns the game more into a mouse-click game but not enough to get rid of the keyboard. So you are constantly switching from clicking to typing. Even though I’m personally not that excited about it I do admit it is an intriguing idea.

If any of you get the chance you should try out MXP and MSP, just for fun. I think I’ll stick with the basic telnet stuff.

My Top 5 Games

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Today I was priveleged to engage in a discussion about games and what people thought were the best 5 games of all time. I’m not sure about “all time” and certainly any list would centered around an individual’s personal preferences. But it was an interesting discussion nonetheless. one of the more interesting aspects was the discussion around whether to include board or card games as the discussion centered around video or computer games. We all agreed to limit our lists to electronic games of some kind that used a computer or console (exluding hand-helds and coin-op games). That being said, here is my top 5 games in no particular order:

1. Leather Goddesses of Phobos (Infocom)
2. Ali-Baba and the 40 Thieves
3. Doom
4. Diablo II (formerly Star Raiders)
5. Tomb Raider

I have to say MUD would be in the top 5 if the top 5 could really have 6 in it.

What are your top 5 games?

The Midnighters by Scott Westerfeld

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About a week ago I finished reading a trilogy of books called The Midnighters by Scott Westerfeld. My mother (of all people) refered the book to me and I really enjoyed it. Erin is now reading the second book in the trilogy.

The story is a unique one, which made it more enjoyable and the ending was not predictable although very satisfactory and left open so he can write more books in the future (I hope so).

But one of the things I liked about the book was that one of the characters, Dess, is a polymath–someone who is very gifted with math and numbers. It’s not every day that you read a story that has the standard fare of powers and includes someone good at math. In fact, numbers and numerology play a basic part of the plot and setting for the book. My wife would argue against it but she doesn’t love math the way I do.

What follows is an extract taken from the author’s website which is written by Dess and brings up the next interesting thing I liked from the book:

Here’s the thing: the darklings, our little predator friends in the secret hour, have a weird kind of epilepsy. They don’t like certain numbers, patterns, and words. The main thing they can’t stand is thirteens: flights of 13 stairs, 13-letter words, and tridecagrams (13-pointed stars) all freak them out.

As a polymath, I have a certain gift for seeing numbers in things. I can spot a thirteen-degree angle, calculate 13×13x13 in under a second (2197), and pick tridecalogisms out of the air. (Or a dictionary, usually.) I can also make weapons that use thirteen-ness to defeat darklings. Without me, my midnighter friends would be scared to go outside in the blue time.

So I began to wonder how many tridecalogisms are there in the english language? In the book the characters take three tridecalogisms and use them in a phrase for more warding power to the darklings–multiples of 13 are more powerful. Taking this line of reasoning further I thought:

If you assign each letter of the alphabet a numerical value based on it’s placement in the alpahbet (a=1, z=26) are there any tridecalogisms where the sum of all the letters is a multiple of 13? Would this become a word of ultimate power?

This sounds like a perl or PHP script that is beyond my capability, but I would be interested in knowing if there are any. Odly enough I once did this very computation on my good old Atari 800.

It was back in 1987 and I was living in Geramny and my little sister, Celestia, had a very hard 4th grade teacher. The homework for her class was so hard that my dad and I would typically do it for her as it frequently required logic and advanced mathematics. One of the questions was similar to mine of earlier. How many words can you find where the value of the letters sum up to exactly 100? My dad found 4 all by himself in just 2 hours. I figured I could use the computer to help and set to work finding a dictionary (thank you Atari Writer, or was it PaperClip?) and then writting a program. After an hour of programming I had spit out a list of about 90 words. Celestia hand copied them onto her homework. Interestingly I never knew what her teacher thought of all our hard work.

Utah State Fair Extravaganza!

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Yesterday we went to the Utah Sate Fair. I’ve written about the fair before and I continue to like it. I like it a lot more when I don’t take our youngest child, who is only 2. This gives each parent a 1-on-1 management approach to the other two children.

But yesterday was a special day. Raven, from renowned Disney Channel sang in concert last night at the fair park. I knew about this appearance many days in advance and Erin and I decided we would try and get tickets. But getting tickets proved to be more challenging that I thought. I did discover some interesting things along the journey.

First, you can buy discounted tickets to all the fair fare at SmithTix for less. For example, I only paid $5 for entrance instead of $7. I paid $14 for an all-day ride pass on the amusment park rides instead of $18 at the event. Unfortunately, tickets to the Raven concert were free so we couldn’t buy them ahead of time.

The Raven concert tickets were free with a limit of 6 for each person 5 and over. The fairpark opened at 3AM to let people stand in line until Noon when the ticket office opened. Erin got in line just a little before 3AM and stayed there until about 12:30 pm when she walked away with 12 tickets. At about 8:30 AM I had to take Ella and Thomas to the fairpark to let them wait in line with Erin while I went to work.

At 6 PM that evening I dropped off Ella with my mom and we all went to the fair. Annika brought a friend for the concert and Thomas and I went on the rides. Erin gave away several extra tickets to family which left us with 3 tickes left over on row 4.

I’ve never scalped tickets before but it was a lot like street contacting on my mission. I would just walk up to people mulling around outside the entrance gate then casually say “do you need some tickets?” In 5 minutes I had sold the three extra tickets for $20 each. I heard that closer to concert time the tickets were going for $30 each. I was happy to walk away with $60 cash which MORE than paid for all the entrance fees, food, games, rides and souvineers. I think I’ll do it again next year!

One more thing. My brother, Josh, and his company have a booth at the fair selling oil paintings. My poor brother is the only one manning the booth and can’t even step away to pee because they are so busy. He is working 12-13 hour days for 10 days straight like this. So if you get a chance to visit the fair stop by booth 19 (which is at the East end of the park) and buy something–and maybe bring the poor guy something to eat.

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