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GroupSort -or- Please Wait Students, the Algorithm is Almost Done

A few years back, a teacher friend of mine asked me if I could write a program to solve a problem for him. His school travels, so they’re spending every night in hotels, and need to group the students into rooms. Ideally, the students will be with new people as often as possible, and not just sharing rooms with the same people every hotel. Adding to the complexity, the rooms can be of varying size, and the number of nights in each hotel will differ slightly. The problem, then, is this: By the end of the trip, we want each…

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Is Hunting in a Zelda Game Okay?

The newly announced game in the Zelda series, Breath of the Wild, among other open-world features, for the first time allows the player to hunt wild animals in order to acquire food, which is this game’s way of accumulating life energy (represented by “hearts” in the series). Contrast this against how previous Zelda games have handled non-combatant animals, and we can see a stark 180° turn in the series’ messaging. Every previous game punished the player, playfully, for attacking animals who were no threat to Link, the game’s ever-silent protagonist (with a few limited exceptions). Attack the cuccos (chickens), and they’d…

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Should We Eat Meat? Book Review

Vaclav Smil’s Should We Eat Meat? should have had a different title. This is a question that is scarcely seriously addressed, and certainly never clearly answered by its author. Smil’s strength is meticulously collecting and communicating statistics and figures. The first, and longer, part of the book (at least it felt longer; the tactile feel of where in a book you are is lost when reading on an eReader) presents in a dry and straightforward manner the raw numbers of animal agriculture’s impact on the environment. Numbers include land usage, greenhouse gas emissions, relative nutritional output per unit feed input, and numbers you…

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Twitter Bots for Community Building

2015 was not a hugely productive year for me. I’ll get to that in another post. But one thing that stands out as something I’d been Meaning To Do™, and then actually did, was to create my first functional Twitter bot. It turned into a project I’m actually pretty proud of, and it continues to be one that I monitor and maintain. This won’t be an overly technical post, but I’d love to talk through the thought process and fine-tuning that went into creating @VegAssist, the Vegan Assistant. Automating a Hobby Sometime last year it occurred to me that a…

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On Breakfast #VeganMoFo

Breakfast is a highly skippable meal for me. In the ideal world, I’d eat it every day. It’s a wonderful meal. But it requires a certain amount of good habit-keeping in the morning, and here is where a javelin pierces my heel. Every day is a new promise to myself that the next morning will be different – I’ll just get up with the alarm, which is carefully set to give me ample time in the morning to do what needs to be done, and have plenty of time extra to make a decent breakfast, and get some early work…

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Pseudo 3D Road Derivation Part 1: Boundary Conditions

DISCLAIMER: This, for me, is an exercise in curiosity. I am not a mathematician, a professional game developer, or anyone with anything more than a rudimentary knowledge of art theory (pertaining to the theory of perspective). I probably do a lot of things in inefficient ways. For me, the fun is in using what I know to derive things, and arrive at fun conclusions. With that…. The Journey Begins My pseudo3D journey started about a year ago while working on a game for a local annual game jam, TOJam. At the time my fifth TOJam, I was responsible for graphics…

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This ‘Simpsons’ Fan Theory Is So Crazy It Just Might Be True

Everybody knows the Simpsons as America’s original dysfunctional family unit. But one redditor thinks the story might actually run deeper than it lets on. Stay with me now. He suggests that maybe the Simpsons takes place entirely in the minds of some small group of people. At first this seems to contradict established Simpsons canon. (Don’t worry Simpson nerds, we’re putting this theory up to the flames!) But he goes on to make a pretty good case: This is why the characters never seem to acknowledge the fact that there’s cameras in their private home, and why sometimes we even see…

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Animal Representations in the Pokémon Game Series

This is a continuation of a blog series I started and never finished on my old blog (Link to previous iteration). I’ll probably move the content from there over to this blog in the future. Catching Up Since the game’s very first iteration over 15 years ago, I’ve been a huge lover of the Pokémon series of games. But across those years my once-naive teenage mind has been ravaged by time to become this fully developed, analytical and cynical adult mind. Equipped with this new mind, I had no choice but to passively contrast the cheery, power-of-friendship messaging of the Pokémon…

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