Saturday, October 28, 2006

Aural Torture

Another blast from the past! A nice person sent me an MP3 of an old song I programmed for Commodore Amiga in 1991 (and I thought it was lost forever). Note that this music is "oldskool" even by 1991 standards (it uses synthesis, not samples) and might be unbearable for most people.

My even older songs (for ZX Spectrum) can be downloaded here, their recent remixes are here (except for "hubbard_bytefest.mp3" which is, of course, originally by Rob Hubbard, not by me).

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Protect your Hive

Today, let's talk about boardgame called "Hive" which has been available for several years as a "deluxe wooden edition" and just recently released (even in the Czech Republic) as the cheaper bakelite edition with nice carrying pouch (pictured).


(The above is a valid in-game configuration of playing pieces, but probably not very strategically sound. I just wanted to squeeze them all to that small space.)

I'm not going to explain Hive rules to you. They are available at the official site (where you can also play against computer opponent [who sucks]). The object of the game is to protect your queen bee from being surrounded while at the same time trying to surround opponent's queen bee. Various insects have various rules of movement (yes, I know spider is not an insect, smartass) and the playing pieces themselves form the playing board (the "hive"), which must never be broken up (although it constantly changes shape.

Interesting feature (rare nowadays) of this game is that "Hive" has absolutely no randomness. Both players have the same pieces, there is no dice or random drawing of playing pieces, it depends solely on your strategic skills. It's just like Chess (probably slightly less complex rules than Chess).

One game lasts about 20 minutes and the only drawback is that "Hive" can only be played by exactly two players.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Sweet Dreams!

First, a short explanation:

I don't believe in "supernatural". I don't believe in God, reincarnation, chakras, psychic energy, all that bullshit. However, I believe in vast powers of human brain, which are, amazingly, mostly untamed (huh, huh). I definitely believe in placebo effect and I have no problems accepting the fact that sincere belief in God can actually improve someone's physical health, for example (and this in no way proves existence of God). In the same way, it's perfectly plausible for someone to sincerely believe that he saw God or Four Horsemen or Flying Spaghetti Monster. But that does not mean they exist.

I have personal experience with hypnosis, self-hypnosis, Neuro-Linguistic Programming or Lucid Dreaming (by the way, this stuff also works and you don't really have to pay for it if you know something about the stuff mentioned before, which you can read about for free). I know this stuff works. By the way (I know you want to know it), this stuff is also real (and all the people on the stage are really enjoying it) but you must remember that subjects in stage hypnosis are chosen from the whole audience and you cannot expect an average person to be as suggestive as these people.

However, all of these things have nothing to do whatsoever with anything supernatural. It's all just a question of how your brain works, how it can be manipulated and how the subjects themselves want to be manipulated (yes, many people WANT to be manipulated, subconsciously or consciously, and it makes them feel good). Of course everyone's brain is different and the process of consciously altering your (or anybody else's) mental state is too subjective to even be described in words (just remember when you tried to describe your dream to someone and the words just weren't enough). That's why there are no simple "scripts" or "textbooks" to guide you when using this stuff (however, I must stress, it cannot possibly be dangerous when you experiment with it, unless the subject [you] is already seriously messed up [i.e. has epilepsy, was raped by his parent etc.]).

The point of all this is that I found this nice introduction to Lucid Dreaming which lists some cool methods that beginners can use. Yes, I know it just "sounds stupid" to write down / record your dreams. But you've got nothing to lose and much to gain. The feeling of being in your own "virtual reality", where you can experience anything you wish without any side effects or hangover, is really great and makes me wonder why people use illegal drugs when they could have this for free. Just try it until you have your first Lucid Dreaming experience. And remember, with practice, it gets better and easier!

Monday, October 09, 2006

I am not angry

For my birthday, I went to sushi restaurant with Karolina (who - as you no doubt remember - is my ex-girlfriend for the past 2 months) and I got a very special present from her. Larger-than-life game of Ludo (or Parcheesi or Pachisi or whatever):

It's strange, but she failed to see the significance of giving your fresh ex the game whose Czech name "Clovece nezlob se" means "Man, don't be angry". What's even stranger, she supposedly bought it for me in May - long before we split up! Talk about subconsciousness doing your dirty work for you. If I saw this in a comedy, I'd say it's too far-fetched to even be funny!

By the way, the sushi was great and it seems we like each other more and more every day we don't see each other. :)

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Ein Reich, Ein Folk, Ein Laibach

I "sort of enjoyed" Laibach in my younger days, mainly because their "funny" remakes of classic songs and "funny" hehehe-almost-nazi-but-you-can't-sue-us band image:

I even went to one of their Prague concerts during which the singer forgot the lyrics to "The Final Countdown" and saved the day by randomly reciting "Together... Forever... Together...".

It always seemed to me that their albums contained two or three "catchy tunes" plus large amount of hastily produced filler. For example, the last track of "Kapital" consists mainly of random samples from Alan Silvestri's "Back to the Future 2" soundtrack (uncredited, of course)!

However, I am very much intrigued by their latest album, Volk. This time, the underlying theme is "remakes of national anthems". However the original anthems are almost unrecognizable (and their lyrics are mostly in English). What struck me is originality, mixing vastly different musical styles, excellent attention to detail and production values. The instrumentation is very inventive, often reminiscent of Depeche Mode but mostly very original and not comparable to anything I know. Except, of course, that hellish voice, comparable to everything else from Laibach. :)

I actually wish the tracks were longer. Many of them start as solemn lyrical pieces, the beat starts later and it's over sooner than I wish.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Legends of the Fall

Autumn is here, everything is dying and Albert and Chucky have diarrhea. I took this opportunity to go for a walk along the Rokytka stream on the eastern edge of Prague and I used the saddest experimental Gimp filters imaginable to express my feelings. Click below to see all photos, significantly post-processed photos are tagged as "processed".