The Minecraft Diaries 6: Let’s Go: resource-gathering

January 27th, 2013 by soundofrain
Off we go!

Off we go!

Life was pleasant in my new home, but a bit boring. The occasional slime appeared but very little else. I started to get OCD about my wheat farm. My mountain was nice, but there was still no ore there. Time to do some traveling and gather some resources.

Though I spent several days preparing for my trip, I made several big mistakes, which gradually became apparent.

There were bad omens as I started out. I ran into a creeper as I was leaving, and he blew a hole in the hillside, though fortunately not near the house. Then I spotted some brown and black sheep, which I wanted, at a time that could not be less appropriate for taming them. I hoped they’d still be around when I got back.

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The Minecraft Diaries 5: A new home

January 26th, 2013 by soundofrain


I finally made it to the interesting hills, and chose one for my new home. It was close to the water and looked like it might have a nice sunset view. It was right next to the spruce forest, but no longer a snow biome, so I could start a farm easily. There were lots of pigs and sheep around, and a small swamp biome nearby as well, so maybe a good base in general. I flattened the hilltop and blocked out a foundation. Yay!

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The Minecraft Diaries 4: Mining at last

January 26th, 2013 by soundofrain
A real home at last.

A proper home at last.

Minecraft is definitely more interesting in Survival mode. I was terrified of being outside at night when anything might attack me. Resources were scarce near me, except for trees. I spent the nights mining down below my hole in the ground, but I found almost nothing. No coal, and not enough iron to do anything with. At least I had lots of cobblestone and could replace my wooden tools with stone tools.

I killed some pigs and a few sheep, the pigs for food I could at least cook in my spruce-charcoal-fired furnace, the sheep supplying, unfortunately, several shades of wool , white, gray, and black (you need three of one shade to make a bed, at least you did at the time). I wasn’t finding anything, I wasn’t building anything, but it was a lot more fun and interesting than anything I had done in Creative mode.

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The Minecraft Diaries 3: The real thing

January 24th, 2013 by soundofrain
Go get 'em, taiga! (Sorry.)

Just smell that air!

I started another new world for my new Survival mode game, not wanting to cheat by having all that stuff already built, and not wanting to return to the pathetic world where I’d died three times in the first two days. I did choose Easy, though, figuring I’d work my way up to Normal in time.

I liked this world immediately. I spawned in a snowy spruce forest with highly vertical and interesting-looking hills nearby.  Having rehearsed beforehand, I immediately marked my spawn spot by digging out dirt blocks in an X pattern around it, then ran to a tree and started punching.

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The Minecraft Diaries 2: The shame (and boredom) of Creative Mode

January 23rd, 2013 by soundofrain
I'm bored.

I’m bored.

In Creative mode, you cannot die, and you have automatic access to any block you want. Mobs still show up, and you can kill them, but they can’t hurt you.

I decided to use Creative mode, somewhat shamefully, as a way of getting used to how you move in Minecraft, and how you place blocks and build things. That’s how hopeless I was: I couldn’t even handle Peaceful.

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The Minecraft Diaries 1: You must learn to walk before you can mine.

January 22nd, 2013 by soundofrain
Here I am!... Now what?

Here I am!… Now what?

I have a new game obsession these days: Minecraft!

Minecraft is an award-winning indie sandbox game, in which you try to stay alive in an often-hostile world (“three times the size of Earth!”) while collecting resources and building things. Its genius is that it’s so many games in one, and you can play differently depending on your personality or your mood: you can be an explorer, a builder/designer, a mad scientist/inventor, an adventurer, and if you play SMP (Survival multi-player), the game gets even bigger as you can team up or compete with other people.

I was so excited to get started! I’ve watched so many Minecraft videos, I felt like I knew how to play and just what I wanted to do.

I should’ve known better. My only comfort is that most (all?) new players flail around just as badly as I did!

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Games, part 2: The arcade

January 21st, 2013 by soundofrain

SpaceInvaders-GameplayPart 1 is here.

I’m proud to say that Space Invaders was the first arcade game I ever played, and I was great at it, though I was only ten when it came out. Again, its simplicity was its strength. You’re running back and forth at the bottom of the screen and the aliens are marching down toward you, slowly at first, then faster and faster as you kill more and more of them. You must shoot them before they reach you, and you must not let them shoot you first. It had very effective game sounds with a Jaws-like simple “tune” as the aliens marched relentlessly closer and closer, faster and faster. Not bad at all for 1978. There was one in the game room of the resort we went to one summer, and I would get a stack of quarters from my dad for Space Invaders and bottles of Pepsi Light from the machine, and play for hours. Good times.

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If hell is other people, what is heaven?

January 16th, 2013 by soundofrain

smiley-face buttonMy cousin sent me a special gift for Christmas. I just got it yesterday.

It’s a smiley-face mug, because she says my mother loved the whole smiley-face thing, and a three page letter. Two paragraphs are about how much she loved my mother, and a couple of memories of her, including one in which she swears my mother, in a hospital miles away, whispered “good-bye” to her at the moment she died.

The rest is about how my cousin got “saved.” All you have to do is admit that you’re unworthy, that nothing you can do can ever make you worthy, and that Jesus is the only truth; and you get to go to heaven where “every desire will be fulfilled.” She doesn’t want to get there, see (and she knows, of course, that she’s going to heaven), and have my mother say, “Where’s my daughter? Didn’t you tell her?”

Because otherwise I’d be completely unaware of the whole Jesus thing, I suppose.

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Games, part 1: Childhood

January 8th, 2013 by soundofrain


I was a child in the 1970s, so the games I played are sort of the classic Gen X American middle class board games. From Candy Land to Monopoly, if my family didn’t have it, someone on the block usually did.

Roll the dice, move your piece, obey the rules or break them. What is a game, and what separates a “game” from just “play”? I would say that a game is inventive play, with rules of varying complexity and rigidity. Often there is an object or a definitive endpoint. You reach “home,” you win all your opponent’s pieces or money, you kill the aliens. Or you don’t, and you lose, or you “die.” Lots of people have written lots of words about games, so let me go ask the internets for an official definition. BRB.

“A game is structured playing, usually undertaken for enjoyment and sometimes used as an educational tool.”

That’s from Wikipedia. I like the broad definition. I also like how the article distinguishes games from work and art, and then says the lines between them are sometimes blurred.

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Experiments in urban gardening

April 23rd, 2012 by soundofrain

The early days: arugula sprouts in the pot; the tray is half arugula, half flowers. In the windowbox, the peas have just sprouted.

I live in Brooklyn now, and once again have a one bedroom apartment all to myself (halleluiah!). Money’s tight, but I’ve been building up an assortment of plants again. In San Francisco I had lots of plants, and even got a couple of them to flower. It helps my mood to have plants around.

This time, I’ve added a few food-source plants, as an experiment. I’m interested in urban farming and the idea that cities and towns, and even households, can become more self-sufficient. I thought it would be interesting to see if I could grow something edible in spite of that. Read the rest of this entry »