Dude's Day

Today is Dude's first birthday. Happy #1 Mr. D!

What Dreams May Come

I told you that I had a picture of me holding the Oscar What Dreams May Come won for visual effects in 1998. I didn't work on the film, but I did work at Digital Domain while they were working on the film. Oscar is surprisingly heavy. The odd thing is that whatever it is made from dosen't take fingerprints. It remains shiny while hundreds of people put their grubby, sweaty hands all over it. On another note look how skinny I was in 1998. Posted by Hello

Giving Thanks

Last night I had the first Thanksgiving dinner of the season. My girlfriend is going away tomorrow, so we decided to invite some friends over for dinner. Actually, the impetus for the dinner was the free turkey we got at Ralph's grocery store for spending over $70.

Everything turned out really tasty. The sweet potatoes and the baked apples were great. I made the turkey in my new range. The meat was so moist. One of the most moist I have ever eaten.

A while back I made a roast and the recipe called for an oven bag. I had never used one before. The oven bag is just a plastic bag made out of high temperature plastic, so it doesn't melt. The roast came out delicious, so I thought maybe if you used it on a turkey... of course an internet search led to uncountable numbers of oven bag turkey recipes.

I highly recommend using the oven bag for your turkey. So moist and so clean too. All the mess is contained within the bag.

Most Anticipated PS2 Game of 2005? God of War!

Holy crappers. That is amazing. IGN declares God of War the most anticipated PS2 game for 2005. So much anticipation for the game that I'm developing? It's a new experience for me. The last game that I worked on was widely distributed and fun, but it was a LEGO game. So it went by kind of unnoticed. Before that I worked as a developer on army simulator contracts. While the helicopter and tank trainers we worked on were very cool and advanced only a select few ever got to use the simulators.

AI without so much A -- Rat Brain Followup

I have just found a paper (PDF) that I think it may answer some of the questions that I asked in my post Rat Brain Robots Attack. I haven't read it yet. Have to wait till after work. It has not yet been published anywhere. Ah fresh papers.

Scary Dreams

Last night I had the worst dreams. I must have died like 30 times. Let's see, I was crushed by a tidal wave, drowned in a flood, died of starvation, melted, shot, run over, exploded, and depressurized. All because of meteor smashing into the earth in different ways. Sometimes it would hit the ocean and cause floods. Or fly by really close and set the atmosphere on fire. Or smash into the other side of the globe and block out the sun causing all vegetation to die. Or it would hit the moon causing all sorts of problems. Then the other times I just died because of people panicking, shooting each other etc..

One day a big meteor is going to hit the earth. It probably won't be in my life time, which is nice for me, but it will come someday. They have come before and will come again. I find that scarier than as of yet unproven phenomena like ghosts.

That's why today my hero is astronomer David Levy. He's out there every night searching for these deadly meteors. I'm not sure what we'd be able to do if he found one on a collision course with earth. Yet, it is nice to know that there is someone out there searching and thinking that my fears are valid enough to do so.

He partly discovered comet shoemaker levy 9. That comet showed us the force of heavenly body impacts when it broke apart and smashed into Jupiter in 1994.

I once dated a girl who said that she would see a meteor crashing into earth and killing a large portion of the population as, "an honor that something so monumental happened during her lifetime." I thought that was a very cool way of looking at it.

Reading can be fun

I don't believe it. I realized that I read all the books I got for my birthday. Amazing because it's unheard of in my life. Let's see, I read:

Star - Pamela Anderson - As expected dumb, yet kind of fun.
On Writing - Stephen King - Very interesting, more so the part not about writing.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - J. K. Rowling - Harry Potter is always fun.
and the best of the bunch
The Five People You Meet in Heaven - Mitch Albom - Great book. Sort of like What Dreams May Come. I have a picture of me holding the Oscar for visual effects for that movie.

God of War Trailer is Here

We have released the trailer for the game I'm working on, God of War. I think the best place to see it is on GameSpot.com. I talked about it a bit before, but now it is actually here. It gives me goosebumps when I watch it. I can't tell if that's because I think it looks cool or because I am connected to it.

Rat Brain Robots Attack

Dr. Thomas DeMarse has taught a rat brain culture how to fly. He's taken brain cells from a rat embryo, grown them in a Petri dish across electrodes, and trained them to fly a flight simulator. His experiments are boggling my mind! So interesting and exciting. I've been thinking about them for days.

Think about what has to happen. They have figured out how to take rat brain cells and disconnect them from rats body, yet keep them alive. For extended periods of time too. DeMarse's paper A New Approach to Neural Cell Culture for Long-Term Studies (PDF) says that they have kept brains cells alive in jars for over a year. How do you feed it? The paper doesn't say, mostly it details how to keep it clean.

The second step is figuring out how to interpret the signals coming from the brain and how to provide it with proprioceptive feedback. This part is explained in the paper The Neurally Controlled Animat: Biological Brains Acting With Simulated (PDF.)

The most interesting part is also the part I can find the least information about. Once you have this rat brain working and you are interpreting its signals then you have to figure out how to train it to do what you want. The brain isn't going to know that up is up and down is down and flying up is better than flying down. It's just a brain, no sensors like eyes or ears or equilibrium. It has no prori knowledge like crashing is bad or flying is better right side up. These things have to be represented in the signals you send back to the brain. How do you spank a brain cell to tell it that it did a bad job. How do you give it a treat to say, "Nice work?" I sent DeMarse an email asking these questions, but as of yet, no response. Maybe his rat brain will be able to drop me a line next year.

Being an AI games programmer this is so totally amazing to me. My job, what I try to do everyday, is inherently coded into a blob of goo at the center of DeMarse's experiment. We're starting to be able to interact with that goo, figure out what it does, how it works, and then design machines to do the same thing. We don't want to go shipping blobs of biological goo with our video game systems. Rat memory cards don't fit into my Playstation.

Soon, once again, what seems like magic will be explained.

Only if it's TV

There is a rumor floating around our studio that God of War's lead designer, David Jaffe, didn't want to go on a press tour. He didn't want to go because it didn't involve television. That's the rumor anyway. No idea how true it is but, it did get me thinking. When will the first game related interview be on Letterman or Leno? With Halo 2 hitting 1.5 million presales and selling over $100 million on the first day you know that time for late night talk show promotion is here. Who will represent the games on these shows? Most likely it will be a voice actor. For movies it is usually the star who promotes the film not the director or producer. Do game designers have the power to become the stars of the video game industry? Does the general public care who designed the game? It will be interesting to find out.

A Little Excited

The Foresight Institute is putting together an animation depicting how a molecular nanofactory might work. The nanofactory in the animation is a fully functional, distant future assembler. It takes the raw material atoms and puts together a complete product. It is very exciting and you can see a first draft of the animation now (Nanofactory Animation.) I don't doubt that this is possible, but it will not be the first step. The first steps will be making computer chips or some other material (nanotubes, buckyballs) for use in other products.

Once we have even the most basic nanofactory the technology will progress at an exponential rate. Each nanofactory created will be able to more easily create another, faster, more easily controlled and reliable nanofactory. When we have a nanofactory as depicted in the animation many things loose value or just no longer work. Our society will face some major growing pains. A most basic and fundamental example would be paper or coined money. If you can duplicate a dollar at the molecular level counterfeiting would be very difficult to detect. You'd have to do some serial number tracking. It's going to be great.

The Foresight Institute is looking for donations to finish the animation. If you'd like to help out, please go to their donation page.

Teaser Trailer

I just saw a near final draft of the God Of War teaser trailer. Wow! Nice. The game looks great. They even got that "In a world.." movie trailer guy to do the voice over. I wish I could post it here but I can't, yet.

Diebold Voter

I think I found the Diebold code for the Ohio voting machines. Check it out:


enum Vote


void ProcessVote( Vote v )
static int i=0;
"I am committed to helping
Ohio deliver its electoral
votes to the president next year."
-- Walden O'Dell, CEO Diebold 2003 **/

if( v == kVoteKerry && i++%2 )
v = kVoteBush;

RecordVote( v );

Hmm... Just a little bit fishy. http://www.blackboxvoting.org/