Narrative in 2048?

It’s harder than it looks.

I won’t tell you how many hours I have spent playing 2048 (and Doge 2048). Suffice it to say, it’s an easy way to pass the time when waiting for someone, or a script is running, or…

For those unfamiliar with it, 2048 is a game in which you are given 2 and 4 tiles, and have to combine like numbers to increment up through the powers of 2 until you reach 2048.  It can be tricky as the numbers get higher and the board becomes more crowded (you move them around by swiping or using your keyboard arrows, this is also how you combine them).

Naturally, when a 2048 daily create was posted (using this tool), I was very excited. There are so many possibilities for having a narrative emerge as you combine the tiles. At first I experimented with text, but it wasn’t as exciting. I settled on using a Vonnegut quote and it was interesting to have the words slowly appear, but wasn’t as satiVonnegut2048sfying because you have to actually get to 2048 to read the full quote, the extra “Practicing”s and “an”s floating around were distracting, and it just didn’t quite work.

So then I thought about the narrative of 2048. With words and numbers, you “join” them to combine and have something new emerge. But what about pictures? What would emerge if you swipe together two objects? Or two people? And in thinking about this, it occurred to me that in using people it was actually a little violent. Like you were throwing them together. (Somehow this dark interpretation never occurred to me in all my hours of playing Doge 2048. I blame all of the “much gaming”s and “such scoring”s flashing across the screen.)

And what happens when you physically throw people together? Well, they get annoyed. And then as they become more hurt, they start to cry. And that’s when I realized I could create a 2048 that builds up to Dawson:

SmashingActors2048
Doesn’t Neil Patrick Harris look so innocent and happy?

In playing it, it really is interesting to see the actors’ facial expressions become more and more upset. Dark. But interesting. There is a particularly striking contrast in that if you are playing it to win, i.e. with actual strategy, there becomes a gradient of emotion:

SmashingActors2048pt2Also, it’s a lot of fun to play with young Frank Underwood glaring at you. Can’t you tell he’s tired of being knocked around?

A whirlwind of PHP

baby-programmerI took a course this fall on developing PHP web apps with Laravel. It was great, I learned a lot (and created a few apps; don’t mind the weird css issues with the final project… there was a deadline), I can start tackling a couple PHP projects at work that I’ve been itching to work on, and I finally understand how to use Git.

But ultimately I found myself still frustrated and not getting the experience I had hoped for in taking formal classes (as opposed to teaching myself). There weren’t office hours. We were encouraged to ask questions on an online forum, but if that worked for me I would have been doing fine with Stack Overflow. If we could make it to the live lectures and sections we could ask questions then, but I often would get stuck at work and have to watch the recording instead, and frankly I don’t know that I would have been able to get the questions I had answered satisfactorily during the middle of class. They tended to be the sort where I needed to sit down with someone one-on-one for twenty minutes and have a real dialogue about the material. Which was how I wound up spending the first three weeks of working on my final project struggling to figure out how the heck to set up my database and then having to cram a month’s worth of the remaining work into a week and a half. Hence the clunky interface and wonky css.

So I’m going to try a different tactic. My sister has been doing Bloc, an online part-time (or full-time if you want) programming bootcamp and enjoying the experience so I decided to check it out. It’s self-paced following a roadmap with regular meetings with a mentor who can explain concepts, review your code, pair program, etc. So basically exactly what I was looking for all this time. I start on Monday. Fingers crossed!

Git and GitHub for the Rest of Us

GitHub LogoMy first foray into the land of Git/GitHub/Github.com was when trying to add a bit of custom javascript I had written to the user contribution repository for an open source project. I was not a developer, I was just a user who did a Codecademy tutorial and figured out how to do one nifty thing that I wanted to share with other users who were not developers but might also want to do that nifty thing. I was told GitHub was easy to use. So I looked into it, and discovered there were two versions, software you install on your computer and a web interface just like Dropbox! (wrong) And it was so easy to create a repository and add my javascript directly in the browser! (wrong) And then I could just submit a pull request so they could add my code to the repository! (still not sure on that one)

Nine months later, the owner of the repository finally noticed my pull request (I’m not confident I submitted it correctly), and was glad to add my code, but needed me to actually do it properly. I fumbled and spent hours trying to figure out how to change the format and name of the file I had created in my repository and standardize my contribution and ended up having to start over from scratch. Another six to nine months after that the repository was closed and moved to a new one and my contribution isn’t in the new one so I’m not really sure what happened.

Six months after that, I started taking DWA15 at Harvard Extension School and got a proper tutorial on how to use Git, and I finally realized I had done it all wrong.

In retrospect, the biggest stumbling block was that all of the documentation that I could find about using Git is written for programmers by programmers. They already understand version control, they already know how to use the command line, and when they read the jargony description of what Git, GitHub, and Github.com are they understand it and don’t make basic mistakes like I did.

So I thought I would create an explanation of Git and Github.com for the rest of us.

First of all, Git (and GitHub) is the software you install on your computer to sync your files to Github.com. Git is the command line version, GitHub is a GUI application. The web interface for Github.com is not for content creation. You can do some very basic stuff like edit your README file but ignore the option to create a file directly on Github.com. (Want to see what happens when you do this? Try downloading my Google Apps Scripts repository.)

Mostly the purpose of Github.com is to have an easy way to view past versions (that whole version control thing). Think of it as viewing the Revision History in Google Docs. You can’t edit the past versions, but you can restore from a previous point. You can also do this in the GitHub GUI. Github.com also provides an easy way to sync files between a computer and a server without needing to use Fetch/WinSCP/Cyberduck/etc.

And of course Git et al. is also useful for collaboration on a project. You can “fork” projects (save a copy to your own set of repositories), you can create “branches” that serve as development environments that can be merged with the “master” (production) later on, and you can submit “pull requests” to have your contributions added to the shared master version. The basic workflow is you create your own copy, edit that copy, and then ask that the changes you made be added to the original.

Now that you get the big picture, you want to dive in, right? Right? (I swear it’s easy once you understand the correct way to do it, rather than whatever it was that I did that first time.) Here are a few recommended tutorials, most of them courtesy of Susan Buck and DWA15:

  1. A command line primer and Learn Python the Hard Way’s command line tutorial
  2. Very clear instructions for beginners on version control and setting up Git and Github.com (Read notes 00-09, skip 03 if you aren’t using a local server as a test environment and just initialize git in a folder on your desktop)
  3. Instructions on using the GitHub GUI
  4. Instructions on working collaboratively on a project

Have fun!

Oh my goodness, look at the time! (And all of these daily creates!)

Over the last year, I have been frequently making daily creates but I never post about them here. So this post is a digest of Story Telling Fun.

To begin, the visual ones (not all of them, but not a best of either):

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Somehow I’ve only made one audio daily create in the past year. I should make that a priority.

TDC699:  Record or remix a sound track that could accompany someone else’s story for yesterday’s TDC

And there were some writing ones too…

TDC930: Twenty Six Word Poem

Take that, Anna Blume!
Heart of my heart
You said, and I quote,
“Xeres, King of Persia, and Zoroaster
evoke my ruminations.’

Jolt to my heart

Now what can I do
Beyond fear
Beyond understanding
Beyond voracity

My love, my heart
I gather you

TDC884: Write the Law That Will Settle the GIF Pronunciation Debate Once and For All

On the pronunciation of acronyms
We the undersigned participants in DS106 do declare that:
1. Any acronym shall be pronounced in accordance with the pronunciation of the words it stands for.
2. Specifically in the case of “GIF”, that term is an acronym of Graphics Interchange Format. It thus follows that:
a. The “G” should be a hard “G” just as in the word Graphics;
b. Anyone who pronounces “GIF” as “jiff” shall be exiled to the land of ridicule and smooth peanut butter;
c. Crunchy peanut butter is the best kind of peanut butter.
3. We acknowledge that declaration 2c seems irrelevant, but peanut butter is very serious business.

Sincerely,
madamezubidar
[I seem to be the only DS106 person who believes this. Sigh.]

TDC887: Write a Creepy Two Sentence Story

Slobber
I dreamed a dog was licking my face, its tongue rough against my cheek, the slobber dripping down to my ear, its weight on my chest making it hard to breath. I tried to shift the dog off of me as I slowly woke up, but then I realized it wasn’t a dog; it was my roommate.

There’s also one somewhere of me reading A Anna Blume. I shall have to track it down. And maybe dedicate a real post to it…

Remix: An Art Critic Reviews My Pokemon Card

Image

Artist Comments: Strongbad is the essence of my rage. When I am angered by the Internet, by ignorant people working in tech or the gaming industry or other things I love that are known for being sexist, racist, transphobic, and all the other Bad Things, when something is unfair, when I speak up for myself and no one listens. That is when Strongbad is unleashed. Strongbad has sarcasm and writing and will make you repent your injustices.

Pokemon template courtesy of http://www.mypokecard.com/en/

Critic Comments: On initial glance, Strongbad Pokemon Card appears to be a piece of juvenilia. The cartoon nature of the self-portrait, the minimalist icons, the simple, repetitive color scheme, the imbalanced layout. It all suggests an underdeveloped design skill, an unrefined taste. But ultimately rage is simple, unrefined. It is a base instinct. So to have a visual representation of rage, it must be emblematic of that nature. We see a lone figure on a barren white field. He is pugnacious, bright red, a caricature of anger. But also the truth of anger. Anger exaggerates just as a caricature does.

We can also see this in the chosen “energies” – the simple icons that adorn the card, the background color. Strongbad isn’t primarily fueled by fire as one might expect in an underdeveloped concept of anger. Strongbad is fueled by grass – by nature. Strongbad is a righter of wrongs, a defender against injustice, he stands up for those who are treated unfairly because of who they are. Their own natures. Strongbad is much more sophisticated than pure fire, though fire does fuel his more advanced anger, the fire of writing.

 

This piece was created for the DS106 remix assignment Pokemon Card: Stuffy Art Critic.

I made a zine!

I first encountered zines back in middle school when the YA section of my library acquired a book on them called Zine Scene, and then again when reading the day book Hey, Day! (Which is awesome and I highly recommend – some of the content is clearly for young teen girls, but there are some pretty fantastic craft ideas and a great section on making your first zine.) I attempted to make a couple zines, but they were always over-ambitious and lacking in focus so I never finished them, and no one I knew made them so I didn’t have good models to go off of.

A few years ago one of the reference librarians at Wellesley, Alana Kumbier, partnered with the Women’s and Gender Studies department to make zines a THING at Wellesley. They created a zine collection in the library and started hosting zine events and workshops. So I went to one of those events and discovered Anne Elizabeth Moore’s How to Make This Very Zine. And I fell in love. The booklets are so tiny! And you can make something personal and informative and creative and amazing from a single piece of paper and a single scissor cut!

Since then I’ve made a number of zines, but I usually do them as journaling exercises so they are not fit for public eyes. I have finally come up with an idea for a zine that I am willing to share with others, so here it goes… It’s about bucket lists!

Image

You can view instructions on how to fold and cut it from the Zine Making Wikibook. If you’re feeling really lazy you can view an animated gif of it here (consider yourself warned, I did not bother scaling it appropriately for a gif; if you get to be lazy, so do I).

 

#100happydays (Wow time is flying)

I got caught up in the whirl wind of the semester and haven’t been updating on my progress for this project. But my coursework is done and so I can finally get back to this!

Well then, I believe I left off at #9…

  1. Sunsets and the amazing patterns they can cast across the sky
  2. Bunnies – they are all over the Wellesley campus and bring a smile to my face every time I see them
  3. National Parks
  4. The Leave No Trace ethos
  5. The Appalachian Trail – it is on my bucket list to hike the entirety of this some day (ideally as a through hike, but I’ll settle for one leg at a time)
  6. My GPS – life (and driving) became so much easier when I got this. (Also: Jubal Early! I had no idea he was a real person. Joss Whedon, you sneaky devil.)
  7. Waterfalls
  8. Caverns – they are full of magic and mystery. My imagination starts tingling every time I see one.