Not-So-Killer Croc

Yesterday, my friend Son sent me a link to an interesting news story coming out of Thailand.

A class of kindergartners went on a field trip to a local crocodile farm, and took some interesting pictures.

Kiddie Croc 1 Kiddie Croc 2

I have to hand it to these kids, chilling on the backs of crocodiles is pretty ballsy!

Of course, there was a big uproar about safety and consent… (I guess the parents did not think this would happen on a trip to a crocodile farm?) I would have loved to do something like this, but I am an adult with no children, so take that as you will. Time to brush up on my wrestling moves and look up tickets to Chiang Mai!

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Great Balls of Fire

Over the weekend, I went with my friend Joe down to San Mateo to check out some potential new digs for him. Afterwards, we went to a local Japanese restaurant for dinner.

Another friend had told us about this place because of a special item on the menu – takoyaki roulette! You get an order of six takoyaki (fried dough balls with octopus filling), except one of them is filled with hot sauce instead. I am a bit of a masochist so I was down for the challenge, and because of my usually terrible luck, Joe was also down. While we were there, I think about four orders were served, but we were the only group of two to play.

Our waitress set the plate down in between us, and it was arranged in a ring of five balls and one at the center. I resigned myself to my fiery fate and just took the one closest to me. I tried sniffing it a bit to see if there was anything that would give away the hot sauce, but I only smelled the sweet takoyaki sauce, and felt pretty safe.

Takoyaki Joe Takoyaki Dinh

The takoyaki was pretty good. The chef did not go crazy with the sauce(s)/mayo/bonito like some other places do. The dough was nicely fried – crispy on the outside, still soft on the inside. The tako (octopus) was a bit spare, but had a nice fresh snap. Round 1 was a success! Joe also passed, so we moved on to Round 2. This time, i picked the center ball. And passed again. Joe also got a normal ball, and we moved on to Round 3. At this point, Joe and I were both pretty surprised that I had not gotten the hot one yet. I think he actually was getting nervous.

Round 3 – Sudden Death. With 50/50 odds of losing, I just picked the ball closer to myself. Joe asked anxiously if I had won, to which I exuberantly replied, “No, you won!” You should see the emotions run through him… shock, depression, then confusion… “Wait, does that mean… ?” No, he got the lava ball on the very last pick. I could smell the hot sauce off his breath as soon as he bit into it. And then he promptly downed his beer, a new beer, and a couple of glasses of ice water.

Hot Sauce Dinh

Feeling a bit bad for Joe, as well as curious about the hotness of the takoyaki, I asked our waitress if I could get a single hot takoyaki, but she told me they could not do that. She did offer a small plate of just the hot sauce, though, so I took that and tried it. I would say it was comparable to the ghost pepper sauce from the wing challenge I did with my family in Minnesota a couple of years ago – it was a slow build to a tear-jerking top note which lasted about 10 minutes. I would like to think that I handled myself better than at the wing challenge. No milk was ordered, and there was less tearing.

We were able to have normal food after, and we discovered a fantastic new beer.

Ozeno

All in all, a good time was had by all. After we got ice cream to settle our stomachs, anyway. If I make this a regular thing, I should become immune to pepper spray. That’s how things work, right?

Bat-Pepper-Spray

Dream to Worlds Beyond

At the Nerd Nite event, Bart (the host and MC), told us about a game that a previous speaker had just released. Called Extrasolar, it was a very odd concept. There is a private space exploration company that has sent rovers to a nearby extrasolar planet, and is crowd-sourcing the operation of these rovers to explore the planet as efficiently as possible. The game does not seem that exciting, since you basically send simple commands to your robot and wait for it to complete those commands and send you some data back. But then a hacker third-party unveils something possibly sinister behind the scenes.

Batman vs. Aliens

I am a sucker for a good story, so I signed up as soon as I got home. I’ve been playing pretty constantly, and there is definitely something great there. Although the game is entirely browser-based, there is a strong ARG sense. The game uses a lot of the same mechanics as Games of Nonchalance to really get its hooks into you. I do not want to give away too much, but I will just say that there is definitely great foreshadowing of a government conspiracy and intelligent alien life. The two may be connected, but I have not gotten that far yet.

I am going to head back into the game now, but I will leave you with this comic:

Calvin & Hobbes - Intelligent Life

Subversive Movement

Last night I went to another Nerd Nite event with my friend Chester.

Nerd Nite Feb 2014

This time, the topics were esports, staphylococcus aureus, and culture-jamming.

The first topic was pretty entertaining. It was about the rise of esports (professional video gaming) and the comparison to traditional (physical) sports. The speaker made the point that esports professionals want the same thing as traditional sports professionals, and work just as hard to “make it.” He started with this video clip:

Most people in the audience did not realize how impressive this was, so he broke it down for us. Because Daigo (Ken) starts the clip with such low health against Justin Wong (Chun Li), he plays somewhat cautiously and hits her just enough to fill up her Special bar. Then he baits her into using her special, which is a 17-move combo. The only way to take no damage from the attack is to perfect parry each hit of the combo, including that mid-air parry which leads into his combo that defeats her. Perfect parries require exact timing (only a few milliseconds of leeway). Much more impressive now, right?

The second topic was a bit scary. The speaker attempted to use a “warning bunny” to warn of upcoming graphic slides, but the system did not work very well, because more than half her slides were fairly gruesome. Luckily, the visual aids did not bother me. Rather, the information did. I had no idea that staph was so prevalent in our everyday lives. 20-30% of the US population are persistent (asymptomatic) carriers of staph, and another 30-50% are intermittent carriers. Staph is very commonly found on our skin, and only gets truly scary when it gets inside. But that could happen with any minor cut or abrasion!

The final speaker was very intriguing. He defined culture-jamming as “being cool” or “sticking it to the man” and could be anything, even something as simple as drawing a moustache on a poster. The thing was, back in the 1950s, the consequences for these “subversive” actions could be much more serious. This was the height of McCarthyism, and the “cool” folks could lose their jobs, property, or freedom for these little acts of rebellion. Keeping those risks in mind, the speaker focus on Jean Shepherd (of A Christmas Story fame) and his old radio show. One of the cooler projects he did was getting listeners to go into bookstores and request a fake book, I, Libertine. Back in those days, best-seller lists were ranked by demand as well as sales, so this non-book actually made it onto the New York Times Bestsellers!

All in all, we had fun and learned a little something new. I think we’re going to make this a regular thing.

End of Time

Time Sphere

When Batman was “killed” by Darkseid, he was actually trapped in time. Using his infinite preparedness, he went to the end of time and, among other plans, built a time machine for his allies to reach him.

Over the weekend, some friends and I played with a time machine as well! We went to Japantown and tried Real Escape Game’s Real Escape Room v.2 – Escape from the Time Travel Lab.

Time Travel Lab flyer

This game was in the Real Escape Room format, similar to the Mysterious Room game we did a while back. A single team of 11 people is locked into a physical room, and we were given free reign to tear the room apart to find tools and clues to solve the puzzles and escape the room before we were all lost in space and time.

Without giving too much away, since the game is still in progress, I will just let you know that once again, we did not escape, but we got excruciatingly close.

Time Travel Lab

We had a wrong answer on the very last puzzle… the key to escape and victory was literally within our grasp and we were not able to hang on to it.

That said, I think that we made progress as a team. We were better at communicating and did find and solve the puzzles better in general. I would say our biggest problem with this particular game was a lack of time-management/foresight. The way the game is set up, the entire team has to move together between the primary and secondary rooms, and we took too many trips back and forth, which wasted time.

We are pretty pumped to tackle the next game, Escape from the Moon Base, which will be coming up in April and will follow the traditional Real Escape Game format.

Batcomputer – Enhance

I mentioned a while back that I was not planning on upgrading my computer for a while. That day has now come. When my parents came to visit for Christmas, my dad mentioned that he was interested in my MacBook, so I started looking around for a new computer.

BatComputer

My usage patterns have changed a lot over the last few years. I have not even turned my Dell workstation on in over a year, using my MacBook exclusively. However, all that usage was still in my bedroom, it was only because of performance differences.

I knew I wanted to go back to PCs. The Mac was nice for work and web-browsing, but I wanted to be able to play games again. The real question was whether I wanted a laptop or a desktop. In the end, I went with a desktop. It would be more customize-able now and more upgrade-able later. Plus, in sticking with my goal of a more active life, having it stay in my room is probably a good thing. I also thought about putting together the computer myself, like I have in the past when I wanted higher-end rigs, but I decided to go with a custom builder just because of convenience.

I went with Digital Storm and they did a great job. I got the computer yesterday and am in the process of deleting my porn moving my files over from the MacBook so I can give it to my dad. I have not had a chance to take advantage of the hardware yet, but am looking forward to a gaming marathon this weekend. First in the queue – Batman: Arkham Asylum!

Better late than never, right?

This Is Not How Batman Dies

LEGO Batman

I saw The LEGO Movie over the weekend with some friends, and it was awesome!

(Expect this song to stuck in your head for days after seeing the movie.)

I had been excited to see it since I saw the first trailer. I grew up playing with LEGOs all the time, and it certainly did not hurt that the Batman minifig was featured in the trailer.

The movie itself was great. Fairly standard hero journey plot, very similar to The Matrix actually, but with tons of pop culture references and humor mixed in, just like the LEGO video games. I was a concerned that Will Arnett was the voice actor for Batman instead of Kevin Conroy, but it worked perfectly, because the Batman of the LEGO Movie was along the lines of Frank Miller’s Absolute Batman – a bit absurd and dickish. Arnett nailed it!

My friends kept joking that this was the best Batman movie, but I have to say, they are partly right. The LEGO basis allows him to be much more light-hearted and campy, and the interactions with the other members of LEGO Justice League were on point. I would not be surprised at all if I enjoyed this more than the upcoming Man of Steel 2/Batman-Superman movie. LEGO needs more feature films!