Last week of freedom before heading back to ClientCo, so I'm busy doing all the stuff I said I was going to do when I finished there back in November
- Explorers find disease-cursed City of the Monkey God and nearly lose their faces to flesh-eating parasite - And the headline writer wept, for there were no more worlds to conquer
- How Designers Engineer Luck Into Video Games - "Computing Aesthetic’s video is just one of nearly 20,000 such YouTube clips labelled with the words “Peggle” and “Lucky,” uploaded by players so amazed at their good fortune in the game that they were moved to share the achievement with the world. But these players may not be as lucky as they’ve been led to believe… Tweaking the direction of any given bounce by just a few compass degrees—but not so much that the ball swerves unrealistically in mid-air—is enough to encourage beginners and not make the game too unbelievable, Kapalka said.” When I was a game developer in the 1980s we didn’t have much computing power to work with, and it was surprising how simple tweaks could create the illusion of control and the impression that a computer opponent was much cleverer than it really was. (And in Traz, which I coded for PCompatibles as we called MS-DOS machines back then, there was a power-up that intentionally caused the ball to swerve unrealistically in mid-air )
- Three thousand fake tanks - "How a network of conspiracy sites spread a fake story about US reinforcements in Europe.” A detailed examination of how the story of a mundane US troop rotation involving around 180 tanks, half of which are merely being put in a storage facility, was deliberately misreported as a threatened invasion of Russia by 3,600 tanks, then spread through fake news sites to mainstream(ish) media, and ultimately to an imbecile you’re “friends” with on Facebook
- Confessions Of An Anonymous Victoria's Secret Photoshopper - Tricks of the trade: ”They put a push-up bra under the bathing suit. And we retouch out the bra… When you're wearing a strapless bikini, in no way, shape, or form [can] you have cleavage. It’s physically impossible with the way gravity works.”
- Bill Perry Is Terrified. Why Aren’t You? - "At this naked moment in the American experiment, when many people perceive civilization on the verge of blowing up in some metaphorical sense, there is an elderly man in California hoping to seize your attention about another possibility. It is that civilization is on the verge of blowing up in a non-metaphorical sense." Profile of former U.S. secretary of Defense William J. Perry, who has advised presidents since Eisenhower on the dangers of nuclear war.
- The modern history of swearing: Where all the dirtiest words come from - A look at the etymological history of such terms as ****, tulip, and cocksucker: ”Note the typical association of bad language with low social status and lack of education — the London roughs say “bloody” a lot because their vocabulary isn’t rich enough to furnish them other options… Perhaps the OED would have had similar things to say about ****, but the Victorian editors decided not to include it, along with ****.”
- The Killer Who Haunts Me - "In 1895, the nation was riveted by the trial of Harry Hayward, accused of murdering a Minneapolis dressmaker. Now, more than a century later, writer Jack El-Hai asks: Was Kitty Ging’s killer a repeat offender—and America’s first serial killer?"
- The Failed Attempt to Destroy GPS - "On May 10, 1992, the activists Keith Kjoller and Peter Lumsdaine snuck into a Rockwell International facility in Seal Beach, California. They used wood-splitting axes to break into two clean rooms containing nine satellites being built for the U.S. government. Lumsdaine took his axe to one of the satellites, hitting it over 60 times." Good job they didn’t achieve their ends, or your satnav wouldn’t work
- The myth of Medieval Small Beer - "There is a story repeated so often that it has become a truth — that medieval folk drank weak beer to avoid the perils of drinking water — but it’s a myth. A myth that I also for many years repeated unthinkingly, until I got thinking, about how accurate it is." I too have repeated this one, but Ian Mansfield has done the research
- Lideco - The Abandoned Ghost Town on the Edge of Hanoi - "Lideco Bắc 32, in West Hanoi, is one of the most fascinating places I’ve ever stumbled across. I was surfing through Google News a few days ago when an article from a Vietnamese site popped up (due to my current location) about a village on the outskirts of Hanoi, built for the super-rich, which has been left almost entirely abandoned." Being in Hanoi, Daniel Johnson took an Uber (they have Uber in Vietnam, it seems) and had a look.