Summer 2013


The Reus logo

Reus is a fun god game.  You control four giants (ocean, mountain, forest, and swamp) that are trying to foster humanity by controlling the environment.  The game is fairly simple -- you can put animals, plants, and minerals down near towns, and you can upgrade each of those natural sources, and humans sometimes war with each other if they get too greedy.

Real Live Sympathy Lamps!

Google has an annual science fair.  This year, a 15 year old made a flashlight that runs off of the heat of your hand like a sympathy lamp in Name of the Wind.  The article is pasted below.  You can also see a YouTube video of her explaining how it works and showing it in action.


Andrzej Sapkowski - The Witcher Books

"Sword of Destiny" cover

The chronology of Witcher books:

  • The Last Wish
  • Sword of Destiny
  • Blood of Elves
  • Times of Contempt
  • Baptism of Fire
  • The Swallow's Tower
  • Lady of the Lake

"The Last Wish" was a series of standalone short stories. "Sword of Destiny" is a series of short stories, but they are tied together more closely, and they lead directly in to the novels, so "Blood of Elves" and future books might be confusing without it.

Andrzej Sapkowski - The Last Wish

Book cover from Wikimedia

There was a video game called "The Witcher" (see my writeup) that was fun and thought provoking.  I didn't play through "The Witcher 2," but I saw the trailer for "The Witcher 3" and my interest was rekindled.  I decided to read the books that the video games were based on.  They were great!  They are about Geralt of Rivia, a witcher (mutant monster fighter) in a European folklore fantasy setting.

Kurt Vonnegut - God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater

Vonnegut claims that "God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater" is a novel about people whose leading character is money. The protagonist, Eliot Rosewater, has inherited millions of dollars (earned from robber baron ancestors) in a charitable foundation used as a tax shelter. He, however, uses it as an actual charitable foundation. His father thinks he's crazy for giving away money; a lawyer and a cousin want to prove he's crazy to get his money; his wife doesn't think he's crazy, but can't stand it in any case.

Shards of Honor - Lois McMaster Bujold

Shards of Honor cover (wikimedia)

"Shards of Honor" is interesting, but rough.

The book is about Commander Cordelia Naismith in a time of war in a galaxy far, far away.  It's science fiction, but the plot doesn't center around technology at all -- it would be a relatively minor rewrite to make it happen in a world more like our own.  The focus is on emotion and politics.

Why Public Service Needs Engineers and Scientists

One of my friends, Ernestine Fu, wrote a piece on engineering and public service, and I was featured.  You can see it below.


"Why would an engineer write a book on public service?" This was the one question I was asked most frequently when I started to write Civic Work, Civic Lessons. My answer? Engineers are problem solvers. We should be thinking about how we can change the world.

Glowing Rabbits!

How to Think Like a Computer Scientist

Peter Norvig noticed that a lot of books purported to teach someone how to program in hours or days.  He responded with a post titled "Teach Yourself Programming in Ten Years."  Since Norvig's logic has me at half a programmer, I'll refrain from telling you how a computer scientist thinks and instead give you some challenges to try out over the next decade.


Image of Anodyne from

I tried out the game Anodyne recently.  In the brief bit that I played, its Gamespot review seemed to be on point.  It is similar to the old 2D Zelda games.  However, it doesn't have a clear narrative.  Instead, it has an ambiance-dominated story about a kid who uses gaming as a coping mechanism ("anodyne" is a pain killer).  


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