Showing posts from 2011

Monarch Think Tank - Calculus Videos

Monarch Think Tank has been updated under Projects to include the video links, or you can jump straight to the Youtube page. I wrote the scripts for these videos and assisted in direction.


Nick and I started a new twitter dedicated to short reviews of games, that still encompass the entire idea and feeling of the work.
140 char reviews by Blaine and Nick on a system of 0-2. 0 points means don't play it. 1 point means play it. 2 points is for exceptional games. Follow @buttwhistle

Personal Dictionary

When I type a word my phone does not recognize I can select to add it to my personal dictionary so it will recognize it in the future. I'll leave the analysis up to you. Here is the unedited list of words contained therein:

What Widgets Do

Widgets are applications that run in the background all the time. If you have a widget on your computer it is probably a clock, a calculator, possibly even an animated fish tank. On your phone they may be a weather service or something that tells you where the lowest gas prices are.

These are useless. Widgets take simple things that need to be done maybe once or twice a day and run them constantly.

The weather service is the worst offender of this. No one needs up to the minute weather information. In fact, the weather app should have the current weather as the smallest bit of information. When people look for weather info they want to know what the weather will be like. This can be accomplished by looking at the weather once in the morning before heading to work.

Why do people think they need widgets always running and taking up battery life? They look cool and they represent the future, where information is always at our fingertips. Hint: that future is already here and it can be ac…

PlaySpent: An Educational Game

It's generally known that educational games do not work. They are often subsidized by governments, kids are forced to complete them, and they never accomplish their goals to instruct. This is because video games are an emotional medium. It's not that games cannot teach facts, it's that in order to do so an emotional connection must be made that affects the player.

Playspent is an interesting attempt to bridge the gap between emotional connection and fact. In it you play as an American citizen. The simulation saddles you with a fictitious family and presents you with decisions that must be made for them. The game gives you the opportunity to get a job.

If you choose the job of "temp" then the game asks you to type something accurately and quickly to prove you can do the job.
Once you find out whether you got the job a message appears that asks if you want to opt for health insurance.

After your choice an informative pop up appears:

As you can see the game has a wa…

Don't Buy the New iPhone

Apple revealed the new iPhone 4S yesterday. Slimmer, better camera, better antenna.

That's it? Listen, I understand why you want the new iPhone. I've been there. I thought it would make my life better. Now I only have to carry around one thing! It's my mp3 player, gps, and phone all in one. Plus I can search the web on the go! I can be always connected.

Always connected.
How often in a one on one conversation do you pull out your phone? If not you, then your companion? The draw of being always connected affects us all. We cling to knowing whether the people we talk to online are reading our stuff. Do they like it? Did they comment on it? Even when a real person is right in front of us.

The new iPhone is a slight upgrade to the hardware. And it's another step closer to the nebulous internet, and a step away from the people around you.

See also: mnmlist and

MasterQuesting III

Please read MasterQuesting I and MasterQuesting II before proceeding.

We progressed into the rest of the game wide eyed and excited. But we were let down. The rest of the game was just like Ocarina of Time. Not harder, just different. At some point we looked at the FAQ for Master Quest and found out that in that level where we experienced such hardships, if we hit the switch at the right time, it would lower the water level enough so that we could get under the spike unscathed. This was a huge disappointment.

Nevertheless, from now on "MasterQuesting" will be known as the act of using the game's mechanics in the strictest sense to progress through a level. This can include anything where something inherent to the game (without the addition of hacking software) can be exploited to proceed. It usually will result in the player working much harder than necessary because they cannot find any other way.
MasterQuesting (verb) The act of using the game's mechanics in the st…

MasterQuesting II

Please read MasterQuesting I before reading this.

The scene is set. A switch triggered torch on one side. An unlit torch on the other. Spiky pole and water in the center. Knowing that Master Quest was supposed to be more challenging, we assumed the hardest possible conclusion. We got the Tektite's attention and got him to come over to where we were. We waited for the platform to be moving towards us and we hit the switch. We lit the stick and jumped onto the platform. If we timed it right the Tektite would hit us and knock us through the spiky pole (in our short time of invincibility after taking damage) and we could jump to the other side and light the torch. This had to be the answer. There was no other way to accomplish it! We tried this several times and found it to be extremely hard to pull off. Eventually, we succeeded.
This was the best possible thing. It was challenging in a way that was specific to Zelda fans. You had to understand the exact mechanics of the game so well…


Have you ever have a friend that worked for CutCo? After they tried and failed (or succeeded) to sell you some knives, you probably found it hard to trust that person again. They used your friendship to sell you something. Everyone knows that salesmanship is sleazy business, so when our friends try to do it to us whether it's CutCo or Avon, we start to feel uneasy.

LivingSocial, Groupon, and other sites such as these are the same thing. There is a product being sold, it could be tickets to a thing, food, massages, whatever. Some product is being sold. The brilliance of these services is they use your friends to advertise these things to you. One of your friends sees that if 10 people buy tickets for this concert, then every ticket is $10 off. So they post on their Facebook:
"Hey guys! We can all see String Cheese in concert for only $40 if we get ten people together." The ticket service just won.

Instead of your friend shelling out $50 dollars for a single ticket, each p…

Social Icons

Take a look at the icons for your social media sites. Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr. Look at the shape and font choice. Look at the letters that compose these icons. Notice any similarities? First of all, they're all blue.

Take a look at the letters. All of them are lowercase: f, t, t, f. Now look at the f's and flip them. Now look at the t's and flip them. In this Helvetica font style all the letters look the same upside-down. All of our social media is dominated by one letter shape.

Is this the result of some market research? Did people decide that the most social color is blue? Or does blue just look good on the internet? Helvetica, the font, is a result of some research and even a documentary. It is known as a clear, normal looking font, which was created to be easily readable for sign use. On the internet font is becoming less and less important. Content rules, and fonts like Arial and Helvetica dominate web pages.

MasterQuesting I

My friend and I tried to play Legend of Zelda: Master Quest a little while ago. Master Quest is exactly like Ocarina of Time, except all the dungeons are different. They are "more challenging." We were unaware of what this meant, but we hoped it was good because the original Ocarina of Time (or any Zelda game for that matter) is not very difficult.

With the promise of challenge we completed the original fetch quest for sword and shield and headed over to the Great Deku Tree. Taking turns we ascended the initial level of the Deku tree and entered a room with a pool of water separating the two sides of the room. On our side, an unlit torch and a switch. On the other side a torch and the locked door to the next room. In the center, just above water level, a spiky pole and a platform that moved back and forth. There was also a blue Tektite in the water.

We hit the switch to test what it did. It turned on the flame near us. It was clear that we needed to get to the other side wi…

Is It All Over?

I don't know where you, the reader, live. I live near a huge military base. Normally, this makes me feel quite safe. Any sort of terrorist attack would be least effective in a town like this, so that gives me a sort of peace of mind. For this reason and others I choose to live here but it comes with a few inconveniences. One such issue is that drills must be run with the planes. So there is a lot of jet noise. Sometimes, the jets fly really close to where I am. The ground rumbles, and as the planes descend I can hear that familiar cartoon whistle; like Wile E. Coyote falling from a cliff. At times like this, I hear the deafening roar and the falling whistle; I am struck with a vision of horror. What if the plane crashes right here? What if it's all over? After experiencing it the first time, it has at least crossed my mind ever since. What if that which is supposed to protect us destroys us? What if my life is over due to an error? A miscalibration? A terrorist attack?


Visa and Mastercard rule the internet. Most people like to pay with card at physical businesses and online you have almost no choice. Even if you want to pay cash you still have to use a bank to buy things from a website. With the recent buzz in the news about Bank of America's plan to charge $5/month for debit fees, it occurs to me that the government needs to step in here.

I don't mean they need to tell Bank of America they can't do this. I mean the government needs to come up with its own form of electronic currency. The government gives out cash bills without a third party. Why should we have to submit to Bank of America in order to use electronic currency?

The US Government needs to get with the times. Plus there are plenty of articles describing how much it costs the US Government to print money, wouldn't it be easier to issue cards?

Real F.r.i.e.n.d.s

I resist the urge daily to quit Facebook for good. I read my news feed and think "I don't care about any of these people." Mind you, I'm not friending random strangers, these are people I used to know. They are friends from high school, previous employers, distant family, current and ex-girlfriends, and friends of friends.

I realized recently that Facebook has it all wrong. Like most people who grew up in the 80s and 90s, I want my life to resemble a tv show. When I think of how relationships work in those shows there aren't hundreds of old friends hanging around the cast of F.r.e.i.n.d.s; there are six people who know each other really well. Sometimes they meet an old friend, but just for an episode. This is what I want. I want a core group of friends that I hang out with and we have adventures meeting and communicating with "the outsiders." After our adventures alone or with a subset of the core group, we come back and tell the rest of the group.

I wa…

A Letter to Nintendo

Dear Nintendo:

What is the matter with you?

For years people have made fun of the Wii because it lacks many things the other consoles have. For one the controller doesn't have two analog sticks. That's because you can't fit a second stick onto the motion controllers you created. You were so focused on getting that "Family" market that you ignored your hardcore audience. The people who have been with you from the beginning. You tried to get housewives to buy your system and then the third parties provided the world with dancing games. And then the market was flooded. You see your success as your number of sales without realizing that the housewife market is not sustainable. They don't understand that they need to buy games every once in a while to support the industry. They bought a wii and a dance game and haven't played it since the first day. You traded your hardcore audience for a gimmick that will dry up, and you're going to pay the price for tha…


I can't say enough good things about the music streaming service Audiogalaxy. While Amazon, Google, and Apple get their act together to create a music streaming service, Audiogalaxy offers everything you need, without a subscription.

"It feels so good." -Blaine Brown Audiogalaxy works by making music on your computer available on the internet. This does require you to keep a computer on at home running the app. This works well for me since I recently built my family a home media server.

Android and iPhone apps are available and given a reasonable data connection, it works flawlessly. I got my sister to get the app, and soon I will get my parents to do so as well. This way, we can all have our music on one computer (with the huge hard drives) and listen to what we each prefer.

Audiogalaxy also has a "genie" mode, which is similar to Pandora. You seed the playlist with one or a few songs that you like and it keeps the playlist running with related music. The dif…

Remap Fn Key Functionality

Short answer: you probably can't.

I recently purchased a new keyboard and mouse combo from Logitech: the K520. The one I chose was the one that looked the most standard (I would've rather gotten a mac keyboard, but those wireless ones don't have numpads). I failed to notice the Fn key that takes the place of both the Context Menu key and the Right Windows key. I spent most of last night scouring the internet looking for a way to remap this key to a Windows key (who uses the context menu key anyway?).

I already knew that the function key, by itself, does not send a signal to the computer. I had hoped, however, that Logitech provided some sort of key combo feature that I could at least tell it to pretend Fn + Left Arrow was Win + Left Arrow. But the Fn functionality seems to be hardware based, and the only configuration I could tell it was to ignore the signal of the preprogrammed functions or not.

Anyway, give up all hope. I really need to find a standard wireless keyboard…


What's your pseudiac sign?


Problem: I don't want to carry around keys! They either poke me if they're in my pocket or they jangle when clipped to my hip. This is my genius idea to get rid of them forever!
Required materials:Prepaid cell phone with ability to assign specific ringtones to contacts.Motor to turn deadboltSome wire Procedure: So the idea is, you'd set your personal cell phone number to a personalized ringtone that would be "vibrate," and be sure to set everyone else to "not vibrate." Disconnect the vibration motor and hook it to turn the deadbolt motor on. So when you called the "home number" from your phone, it would turn the deadbolt and let you in! If anyone else called it would not.
Uses:You don't have to carry keys around anymore, you can just call to gain entrance.Need someone to watch your cat while you're on vacation? You don't need to give them the key, just give add them to the address book.If you want to leave a key in your car or som…

Possession List

I spend a lot of my time thinking about minimalism. First it was just as a design principle, but soon it became a way to approach living. For years I've read mnmlist and tried to adapt Leo Babauta's ideas into my own life. I just did an exercise I made up in which I list major possessions and get rid of anything I don't want.

Possessions of note:

PS2 and accessories and gamesWii and accessories and gamesPSP and accessories and gamesNintendo DS and accessories and gamesHP PC with Windows 7Bamboo Pen + Touch TabletMicrosoft HD Life WebcamCheap-o Microphone (looking to upgrade for podcast setup)32 inch Olevia LCD TVHP Printer Scanner CopierLogitech Wireless Keyboard and Mouse Combo (one dongle!)Canon Rebel XS DSLRT-Mobile MyTouch 4G (with unlimited data)One backup phone (for when I drop this one)One Full Size BedFour Armchairs (uncomfortable)Two OttomansOne RefrigeratorOne Space HeaterSome ClothesSome ToolsOne Yoga Mat
As you can see, I have no shortage of tech, but most of th…

Reflections on Earth Hour

didn't participate in Earth Hour yesterday (because it's stupid), but it did get me thinking (which is probably the point). I am already somewhat energy conscious. For example I have things I use infrequently on separate power strips so that I can turn them off when they're not in use. This includes my PS2, Wii, and chargers for my DS and PSP. I feel like this is just common power management.

Anyway, I wasn't home for Earth Hour and I thought about all that was running at home with no one there: 4 computers. I believe this is a remnant of the early Windows XP era, in which you always disabled the "Sleep" option on every computer you used. Anything could happen when a computer returned from sleep! The wireless card could have stopped working, all your programs probably crashed, and it was slow from some incorrectly stored memory from running programs. You might as well have turned the thing off, but starting a Windows machine still takes too long for me since…

A Well Spent Evening

Justin and I skyped all night and I drew while he managed. It's pretty amazing.