Origami: Snail


Snail by Mark Bolitho

Last month I attended the East Bay Origami Convention, which is a small event near me.  Origami conventions are generally organized into sessions with an instructor teaching models.  This snail was part of a session that folded a few simple models by Mark Bolitho. (The instructor was not Bolitho, it was someone else.)  Basically anyone can sign up to teach anything, so sessions can be a bit of a mixed bag, but this one was very nice.

Origami spaces are rather interesting.  They’re extremely age-diverse from preteens to retired folks, and you can’t judge a person’s skill level from their age.  There are a variety of interests, with figurative origami (i.e. origami that represents various forms like animals) generally being most popular, but there are also people like me who are more interested in abstract stuff like modulars and tessellations.  Sadly modulars and tessellations tend to be less suited to convention sessions, because you can’t really fold them in one hour.

There are also dual tendencies towards complexity and simplicity, with people wanting to impress with their skill, but also appreciating elegance and accessibility.  I’m situated somewhere in the middle of that.  I’m a very non-competitive person, so the show-offiness of origami spaces can be a bit off-putting sometimes.  But I’m also quite interested in technique and in mathematics, so there’s some complexity that comes with that.

Games that are just books

Back in 2021, I was persuaded to play a little game called The House in Fata Morgana. It’s a Japanese epic visual novel that follows a series of tragedies across the ages, each with multiple twists and turns, and a mysterious thread connecting them all. Throughout that entire time, the player only makes a handful of choices.  We might say that the game is basically a book–and a fairly long one at that, taking me 35 hours to finish.

I enjoyed it enough that I would play a few other long visual novels over the years. I read a couple furry visual novels—Echo and Adastra—and the Japanese visual novel STEINS;GATE. I’m currently reading Umineko When they Cry, which has about a million words, the length of a whole series of novels.

Something that occupies way too much of my brainspace, are those snide comments about visual novels on gaming websites: “It’s not much of a game if you’re not making any decisions.” On the one hand it denies the legitimacy of the visual novels–and on the other hand, it literally does nothing of the sort. After all, visual novels can be legitimate without being video games. Just as novels and movies don’t need to be games in order to be legitimate, neither do visual novels.

[Read more…]

Islands of Insight teaches logic puzzles

Islands of Insight is a recent puzzle game taking place in a shared online world. This, by itself, is an extremely ambitious concept, because normally “puzzle” and “MMO” do not go together.  I know only of two other games that tried to be puzzle MMOs: Uru, a 2003 game in the Myst franchise that dropped the MMO aspect before commercial release; and Puzzle Pirates, another game from 2003 which is a “puzzle game” in the sense of Tetris.

There are three challenges facing a puzzle MMO: Puzzle games generally have small cult followings at best, whereas an MMO requires some level of mass appeal to be commercially successful. Puzzles are often solitary activities, whereas MMOs are social. Puzzles generally require careful bespoke design, whereas MMOs want endless content.

Did Islands of Insight succeed in squaring the circle, to create the Puzzle MMO? No, not at all. Despite the shared world, it’s not a very social game, and would work equally well solo. And while players seem to like it, it wasn’t commercially successful enough to support its development team.

But the game successfully addressed at least one of the challenges of the puzzle MMO.  They created over 10,000 puzzles with high quality standards to populate a large 3D world. These include perspective puzzles, mazes, hidden objects, moving block puzzles, and many more. I’d like to focus on the most numerous type of puzzle, the logic grid.

[Read more…]

Attraction to nonbinary people

Difficult survey questions

I’ve spent a lot of time making surveys that ask people about their orientation, so I’m familiar with the messy relationship between orientation and nonbinary genders. Gay and straight are labels that assume that a binary gender for both the subject and object of attraction–men who love men, men who love women, etc. If you’re a nonbinary person who loves women, or a woman who loves nonbinary people, “gay” and “straight” don’t really succeed in conveying that information.

Some nonbinary people, I’m aware, will identify as gay or straight anyway. For example, if you’re commonly perceived as a man, and your dating pool primarily consists of men who love men, you might feel that “gay” fits–or is at least useful–even if you don’t identify as a man. On the other hand, some nonbinary people would be uncomfortable with a label that frames them within a binary gender identity.

In any case, if someone fills out our survey, and they say they’re nonbinary and gay, I’ll say sure, that’s what they are. The survey isn’t there to judge, only to measure. But… I have no idea what genders they’re attracted to. If I want to know that information, I have to ask directly. Are you attracted to men? Are you attracted to women?

But isn’t it strange? In order to understand the orientations of nonbinary people, we’re asking about attraction to men and women. Didn’t we leave some other genders out? What about attraction to nonbinary people?

[Read more…]

Link Roundup: March 2024

All the links today are videos.  So, if you don’t like videos, you’re welcome to skip.

AI Slop World | Jack Saint (video, 28 min) – Jack Saint discusses the sort of AI trash that we love to mock, such as the recent incident where someone made a terrible Wonka-themed event, and advertised it with AI art.  I appreciate Jack’s more nuanced take here, because I think “haha AI bad” really misses a lot.  I mean, it is funny.  But this is basically some guy desperate for money doing something incompetent and scammy to make money.  This is a phenomenon that predates generative AI, and arguably could have been done better with stock art and plagiarism.  We should be asking if this is truly representative of what we fear to come out of AI, or if it’s just the easy target.

I’d like to talk about this more in the future, but something I’ve noticed, is that a lot of anti-AI discussion specifically targets generative AI as it is used in a creative mode, such as generating articles or visual art.  It’s also said that the big problem with AI is that it’s going to take our jobs.  I think people are missing that there’s a mismatch between these two points.  If generative AI does indeed replace a bunch of jobs across industries, you gotta realize that many of those jobs are not creative.  So you can mock AI art for being soulless and bad at drawing hands, but none of that is going to mean anything when LLMs are used to perform non-creative tasks with objectively measurable outcomes–and still replace jobs in the process.  So the mockery of AI art feels like uselessly grabbing at the ankles of a machine that actually runs on treads.

Our Car Was Stolen!? A video essay | The Leftist Cooks (video, 1:31 hours) – A kafkaesque anecdote interspersed with a discussion of the psychology of poverty.  For instance, people in poverty have stronger time discounting functions, meaning they’re more likely to prefer a marshmallow now than two marshmallows later.  But this is arguably entirely rational.

[Read more…]

Existentialist thoughts on blogging

When FTB went down for several days, we all had a bit of an existentialist moment. What if FTB goes down for good? Well, it hasn’t happened yet, but even without any catastrophic incident, it’s fairly obvious that blogging is on the decline. If it’s not a sudden death, we’re just going to slowly fade away instead. It’s fine.

By “we”, I mean independent hobbyist bloggers. Independent means we’re not bound to any particular platform. Hobbyist means we don’t do it for money (although some may make money incidentally). Blogger means we chronically write, generally nonfiction in the medium length range between tweets and novellas.

I have to attach the adjectives, because I think that there’s still plenty of interest in blogging. It’s just the specific niche of independent hobbyist bloggers who are on the decline. We’re squeezed on two sides, first on the “independent” side and second on the “hobbyist” side.

[Read more…]

Origami: Woven Kusudama

Woven Kusudama

Woven Kusudama, designed by me

I have a few books by Meenakshi Mukerji, and one of them (Ornamental Origami) has these floral balls.  I found the Layered Petunia particularly inspiring, because I had this idea of changing the connections to make different shapes.  The unit wasn’t really strong enough to hold though, so I had to redesign the unit.

This is a recent model that I just finished last month.  I decided to submit this to the East Bay Origami Convention two weeks from now.

[Read more…]