GeekDad http://geekdad.com Raising Geek Generation 2.0 Mon, 26 Jan 2015 21:30:19 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1 Thundercats 30th Anniversary Giveaway http://geekdad.com/2015/01/thundercats-30th-giveaway/ http://geekdad.com/2015/01/thundercats-30th-giveaway/#comments Mon, 26 Jan 2015 17:00:56 +0000 http://geekdad.com/?p=71628 Thundercats made its TV debut on Jan. 23, 1985, and to celebrate it's 30th anniversary TV Store Online has given GeekDad a his & hers t-shirt pack to give away! Continue reading

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Thundercats made its TV debut on Jan. 23, 1985, and to celebrate its 30th anniversary TV Store Online has given GeekDad a his & hers t-shirt pack to give away!

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To enter, fill out the form below. One winner will be chosen at random on Friday, January 30th, 2015, at 9pm CST. The giveaway is open only to U.S. residents. If for any reason the form doesn’t appear or work for you, please enter here instead.


Giveaway rules:
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Winner will be chosen by random from all valid entries.
Winner will be notified via the email addresses supplied at time of entry.
Prizes are supplied by 3rd parties, and GeekDad.com cannot be held liable for items damaged or lost in shipping
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Director Gary Rydstrom Talks About Strange Magic http://geekdad.com/2015/01/gary-rydstrom-strange-magic/ http://geekdad.com/2015/01/gary-rydstrom-strange-magic/#comments Mon, 26 Jan 2015 16:30:45 +0000 http://geekdad.com/?p=71685 Director Gary Rydstrom has a lengthy career in Hollywood, most famously as a sound designer at Lucasfilm and Skywalker Sound, working on films ranging from Saving Private Ryan to Wreck-It Ralph. Strange Magic represents his debut as a feature film director. Continue reading

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Director Gary Rydstrom talks about Strange Magic. Photo courtesy of Merlot Mommy

Director Gary Rydstrom talks about Strange Magic. Photo courtesy of Merlot Mommy

Director Gary Rydstrom has a lengthy career in Hollywood, most famously as a sound designer at Lucasfilm and Skywalker Sound, working on films ranging from Saving Private Ryan to Wreck-It Ralph. Strange Magic represents his debut as a feature film director.

“The karma and the irony of this movie for me,” Rydstrom says, “is that I did have a long career, in this building mostly, a career as a sound designer, doing sound effects for movies. By the end, I found that I often felt at odds with the composer, so it was kind of a fight between the composer and I to have our stuff heard. So I thought of it as karmic revenge from the universe that I get to direct a feature film here and it’s a musical.”

Strange Magic is not only a musical, it’s also a love story, and as Rydstrom points out, “there aren’t that many positive love songs, because love is hard, it’s not always happy.”

Sound and its effect on the audience is still important to Rydstrom, even though he was not the sound designer on this film. “What I like in our story is we have a lizard that sounds like a dinosaur but by the end, it’s fallen in love. And so if you listen to the sound it makes when it’s in love, it’s this kind of purring.”

Photo © and TM, Lucasfilm. All rights reserved.

Photo © and TM, Lucasfilm. All rights reserved.

Rydstrom finds the plot and characters of Strange Magic to embody some universal themes, particularly the character played by Alan Cumming. “I actually like the Bog King, because of that thing about having your heart broken. And I think we all go through it, that’s a completely natural thing, it’s when you get your heart broken, you say ‘that’s it, I’m not going to let myself be vulnerable ever again.’ He goes to an extreme but it’s something that I can relate to, it’s so painful to go through something that makes you feel hurt and less than you should be, and you just don’t want to do it again. So your solution for it is to put up this shield and never let anyone in again. And I know we all do that, and I thought he was someone I could relate to. So once you get past that veneer and let your real self come out, it’s so much more satisfying both for him and for the one he falls in love with.”

He is quick to praise the cast for their performances, saying “casting is pretty key for a movie like this, and you have to find people who both act and sing; Alan Cumming, both actor and singer, is amazing, Evan Rachel Wood is as good a singer as she is an actress. And Sam Palladio, who plays Roland, is an amazing singer, as well as a very funny actor. And then Kristin Chenoweth who is funny, I was in the room with her, as I was with all the actors when they were singing their songs, and when she hit some of those high notes in ‘Love Is Strange,’ it was like my glasses broke and it was amazing.”

“For years, I was doing sound effects as a career and I hadn’t really worked with actors much. And then as I started to for animation, I really love it, animation is the same thing, animators are actors too, but I love being in the room with actors,” he says, commenting on the fact that voice actors often record their parts separately. “It’s really hard for them, because they’re acting alone, they’re not acting with other actors, it’d be great if they did but it just doesn’t work out so it’s them.”

Photo © and TM, Lucasfilm. All rights reserved.

Photo © and TM, Lucasfilm. All rights reserved.

The actors in Strange Magic put a lot of themselves and their own personalities into their roles, Rydstrom states. “Simple things, like Alan Cumming is Scottish and the Bog King has, we talked about it, about a twenty percent Scottish accent. And Evan Rachel Wood is very much like Marianne, she’s the sweetest, she’s got the most amazing happy laugh. And she’s the sweetest thing, but she can be tough as nails if she needs to be, and so they all brought something of themselves to the role.”

“I’m really proud in this movie, of that combination of the animators drawing on what the actors do with the voice and creating that side of the acting, and together creating a character that it’s still magic to me when that works.”

What works, according to Rydstrom, is the nature of love as shown in the film. “If you think about it, we are really surprised, I think, by how we fall in love and who, and it comes at us, I hear this over and over from people, it comes at us as a surprise. ‘Oh, I didn’t expect that.’ And what I think happens, if we analyzed falling in love, is that when you reveal your true self, then the other person falls in love with that true self. Often we try to hide that true self, because you think it’s odd or different or it’s not in the norm, or it’s not what other people our age or group should be like. And you hide it because you think, who would fall in love with that? But then we fall in love with what makes you unique.” He goes on to explain that Marianne, after her heart is broken, adopts this new persona of the “goth tough girl,” which is her version of what the Bog King becomes. “Bog King likes that, I mean, that’s part of her too, and that’s the real her. So being different is not only okay, it’s what’s required. And learning what’s different about each other is what’s required for falling in love. And if I sound like Dr. Phil….”

Strange Magic includes a line in the promotional materials saying it was inspired by Willian Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” but actually very little of the film has any basis in the classic play. Rydstrom spoke about this, saying “Midsummer Night’s Dream, what I love about that story is that people find love in one night, and our story takes place in one night, one day, people find love, and it’s a multiple love story. An unexpected love story, so I think that’s what’s inspired by Shakespeare and luckily Shakespeare’s lawyers, I think, are long dead so we’re safe. But I think that’s as far as it got,” he laughs. “The true magic is when it happens for real without any potion, and that’s more magical than a potion.”

Despite being a love story, Strange Magic includes some dark elements, primarily the creepy elements of the Dark Forest. “In the movie, we do a place as a metaphor, kind of a dark forest that you find beauty in. I think sometimes in art you see, and I love art, yet there are some paintings that have kind of a horrifying, a kind of a darkness to them. But then you can still see the beauty in the darkness, there. Same thing with music, there’s sometimes music, especially modern music, which is a little more dissonant. John Cage was always a favorite of mine but it took a while to kind of find the beauty in it, you kind of have to get past the surface of it, in a weird way, and then you find the beauty, I don’t even know how to describe it. One of my favorite jazz artists is Thelonious Monk, who does these, when you first hear it, when I first heard them, I thought, this is not making any sense, it’s not connecting for me. But then when it does connect, and you kind of see the beauty in it, that’s the one analogy I can think of now.” He extends the metaphor to people, “and of course, there’s always people that when you first meet them, you go, I can’t stand being around this person, and then six months later, you’re best friends. I think we do judge people at first and then once we get to know them, it’s amazing who we become best friends with, or certainly amazing who we marry.”

Regarding the visual aspects of the film, Rydstrom says “I think they drew inspiration from classic fairy tale art and some people did classic fairies, but made it their own. It has a realism to it, so it’s not quite as ethereal as some classic fairy art might be.” Part of the concept of the film is that these fairies and goblins might be living in our back yard, but we never noticed them. “A lot of the design of the fairies were drawn from butterflies, so that if we see the fairies from a distance, we just think they’re butterflies. So that works for the story as well as a design thing. And then characters like Bog King and some of the goblins were mashups, visual mashups of insects and different creatures. I have no idea what the Bog King is, he’s not a cockroach, I don’t know what he is. And the imp, I don’t know what the imp is either, the imp is just kind of a mashup of different small mammals. So I think nature was one of the key things to draw on.”

Rydstrom found it difficult to let go of the sound design aspect; “The producer will tell you that I gave lots and lots of input, the mix might have gone on a little longer than it could have. It’s funny that in my directing career, directing shorts at Pixar and Studio Ghibli films and things like that, the hardest thing for me to do is the mix, it’s weird, you’d think it’d be the easiest thing but it is hard.”

“In this case I worked with Tom Johnson who is the lead mixer, the re-recording mixer on this movie. He and I went to USC Cinema School together, and he mixed my first movie when I made a sixteen millimeter film at USC, he was my mixer, and that was like ninety five years ago. So if you can lean on someone that you love and trust, then it’s not so bad.”

When asked for his favorite song in the film, Rydstrom says “I’ll give two answers; ‘Strange Magic’ is my favorite musical moment in the movie because it kind of sums up the movie, it’s a beautiful song, an ELO song, Evan Rachel Wood and Al Cumming sing it beautifully and Marius’ arrangement of it is beautiful. It’s a duet, and originally it’s not a duet, but it’s a beautiful duet. It says what the movie says, and it’s also one of my favorite looking sequences in the movie. So that works. But the moment that makes me cry, the song that makes me cry every time, is when Elijah sings ‘Three Little Birds’ to Dawn at the end. I don’t know why that gets me every time and it’s weird. And it’s really Elijah’s performance of that moment and when he sings it to her, it’s just the voice is breaking. But, you know, Meredith Bull who is the voice of Dawn, working in that scene, she and Elijah aren’t together. They’re doing this in two separate different times. They’re not together at all. And the magic of it coming together with the animators, I go, oh, that’s why I do movies. That’s great.”

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GeekDad Puzzle of the Week — Eggsact Decartoning http://geekdad.com/2015/01/puzzle-eggsact-decartoning/ http://geekdad.com/2015/01/puzzle-eggsact-decartoning/#comments Mon, 26 Jan 2015 16:30:42 +0000 http://geekdad.com/?p=71603 Can you determine the best order to decarton eggs, without unnecessarily unbalancing the carton? Continue reading

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This morning I continued our recent Sunday morning ritual: I made French Toast for myself and the kids. As I was getting the eggs out of the refrigerator, I quickly discovered that all of the eggs were at one end of the carton. Fortunately, all of the eggs were at the end I grabbed, so I just sort of whacked the bottom of shelf above instead of potentially dropping the whole carton of eggs.

eggstorySo I started thinking… is there a “right” or a “best” way to remove eggs sequentially from a carton, so as to minimize this drop-force, or at least maximize the surprise of an unbalanced carton over time?

For the purposes of this puzzle, let’s assume that the amount of balance-force or drop-force for an egg in a given “dimple” is proportional to the square of the distance from the center of the dimple to the center of the carton. Let’s also assume that the each dimple is a square, that there is no non-dimple space in the carton, and that any given egg has circular sections so that it puts all of its balance-force in the center of the square. Additionally, let’s assume that force in any direction (either left-to-right or top-to-bottom) is equally bad, and that the carton is replace with a random end leading into the fridge; that is, we can’t count on either end being the one I grab, so for the purposes of this puzzle, assume that I always grab the carton by its center. Finally, as we go through a lot of eggs early imbalances have the same “weight” as late imbalances throughout the carton-clearing sequence.

At no point can the eggs in the carton be reshuffled. For this puzzle, you are removing eggs only.

Just looking at a carton of eggs, you can easily identify several “balanced” solutions. Using the diagram above for labels, the carton “AGFL” would be balanced for 4 eggs, as would “CJ.” Of course, any such solution is just one step in the overall process of clearing a carton.

This week’s GeekDad Puzzle of the Week is to determine the “best” sequence for emptying a single carton of eggs, one egg at a time, so as to minimize the amount of balance-force throughout the process. Answers will most likely look like a string of letters (i.e., ABCGHIDEFJKL is one way to empty a carton, but most likely not the most balanced) with one instance each of each letter A through L.

Please send your answers in to GeekDad Central for entry in the weekly drawing. Once again, the fine folks over at ThinkGeek are providing a $50 Gift Certificate for our winner.

Good luck, and happy puzzling!

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Big Hero 6 Hits the UK http://geekdad.com/2015/01/big-hero-6/ http://geekdad.com/2015/01/big-hero-6/#comments Mon, 26 Jan 2015 16:15:55 +0000 http://geekdad.com/?p=71681 Although it's been out in other territories for a while, Big Hero 6 just hit the UK. Nigel from Toy Testers TV was on hand to see what the kids made of the film and the toys. Continue reading

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Although it’s been out in other territories for a while, Big Hero 6 just hit the UK. Nigel from Toy Testers TV was on hand to see what children made of the film and the toys:

And a look at the toys from earlier this year on Family Gamer TV:

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Danish “Archer” Demonstrates Gullibility of Audience http://geekdad.com/2015/01/danish-archer/ http://geekdad.com/2015/01/danish-archer/#comments Mon, 26 Jan 2015 15:11:27 +0000 http://geekdad.com/?p=71656 You know that video making the rounds, supposedly demonstrating amazing "lost" archery skills? Our archery expert shoots it full of holes. Continue reading

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There’s this video, which at least a dozen people have forwarded to me, is circulating the Internet at the moment purporting to “demolish every Hollywood myth” about archery and “prove that Hollywood archery is not historical.” Since apparently hundreds of sites have uncritically repeated its many preposterous and unsupportable claims, with the result that many people have asked me about it, I thought I should offer a detailed analysis.

The question really comes down to three separate categories; (1) the claims made in the narration; (2) the trick shots shown, and (3) Andersen’s actual archery ability.

We’ll start with the third. Andersen’s quick-shooting technique is obviously effective (if speed is the goal), in that he is able to fire a lot of arrows at a very rapid pace. It’s worth noting that the narrator goes to great pains to explain why shooting at close-up distances is so important and denigrates “warrior archers only shooting at long distances,” (just one of many totally false claims) in order to paper over the fact that the man obviously can’t hit anything that’s more than about 20 feet away. No doubt there are literally hundreds of failed attempts that were cut out of the carefully-edited video. His gimmick is speed, not accuracy, and it’s obvious to anyone who actually knows anything about archery that his complete lack of any kind of consistent form is going to require camera tricks and a lot of luck, which is exactly what’s on display here. He may in fact be the fastest archer in the world; he just shouldn’t pretend to be accurate.

The really egregious part is the staggeringly inaccurate, misleading, and hyperbolic narration, written by somebody with little-to-no actual knowledge of archery history and a willingness to distort facts to make a bogus case. Here are some of the patently ridiculous claims put forward:

Native American archer Ishi, a member of the Yahi people, demonstrates the supposedly "forgotten" technique promoted by Lars Andersen.

Native American archer Ishi, a member of the Yahi people, demonstrates the supposedly “forgotten” technique promoted by Lars Andersen.

“He uses forgotten historical methods…” No, they were not forgotten. They just weren’t European. Archery is one of the oldest human activities, found in virtually every culture on Earth, and dating back tens of thousands of years. There are wide variations in equipment and shooting techniques around the world, and Andersen’s “discoveries” are well-known to anyone who has ever studied Asian and Eastern European archery, such as Mongolian, Tibetan or Hungarian styles. The famous Native American archer Ishi was known for shooting in a style very similar to Andersen’s, putting the arrow on the outside of the bow in the style of the Yahi People of the Pacific Northwest. My friend Patricia Gonsalves (archery consultant for Arrow) is currently making a documentary about precisely these allegedly “forgotten” techniques as they are currently being practiced around the world.

“The back quiver is a Hollywood myth.” This howler is put forward in the middle of Andersen’s ridiculous infomercial-like demonstration of what’s supposedly wrong with the back quiver. All it needs is an exasperated voice-over saying “has this ever happened to you?” The back quiver is not a Hollywood myth, it’s a historically-documented method of carrying arrows, albeit one that is more favored by hunters and traditional archers than by target archers. Archers are very practical; they use what works, and when they find something that works better, they change to that, and the back quiver was in common use throughout Europe and North America centuries before Hollywood existed.

The narration actually skirts close to accuracy when talking about target archery. With the invention of firearms, archery made the transition from weapon of war to sporting event, and with that came codification of rules, refinement of effective techniques, and modification of equipment, all in pursuit of what was regarded as the most difficult attribute to master. Something similar happened when the martial art of swordfighting became the sport of fencing. In the case of archery, accuracy at ever-increasing distances was chosen as the goal to focus on rather than speed or trick-shots. Having acknowledged that, the narration than launches back into bogus assertions and ignorance.

The narrator declares that shooting at a stationary target is “something that was unknown in the past,” which is patently absurd; archers who hope to hit a moving target such as an enemy combatant were obviously going to practice on a stationary target, and the modern archery target is a natural evolution of the ancient method; the difference is that what was once basic training is now the end goal.

Continuing on with a complete lack of understanding of the physics of archery, the narrator asserts “these archers started placing the arrow on the left side of the bow. This is probably due to the fact that aiming at a stationary two-dimensional target makes you aim with one eye.” In point of fact, no, it’s not. The reason for moving the arrow to the left side of the bow (for a right-handed archer) is something known as “the Archer’s Paradox,” a complicated collection of physics phenomena that results in the arrow hitting to the right even though when it’s on the bow it’s pointing slightly to the left. You can see it in the slow-motion footage during the tournament scene in Brave; as the arrow begins its flight, it’s oscillating back and forth, swimming through the air like a fish and moving to the left, until the aerodynamic effect of the air passing over feathers causes it to begin spinning, at which point the arrow turns and begins traveling to the right. (You can also see how simple and fast it is to place an arrow on the bow, despite Andersen’s absurd play-acting.) This scene was painstakingly recreated from high-speed footage shot by professional archers for Russell Crowe’s Robin Hood, using historically accurate English longbows. Placing the arrow on the left side of the bow compensates for this effect; without it, archers would have to aim to the left in order to hit their target. In point of fact, most archers, especially those shooting traditional styles, shoot with both eyes open.

“Lars realized that what we thought was historical archery only works well for modern target archery and Hollywood films.” What he claims as a revolutionary discovery is in fact common knowledge among archers. The fact that Andersen didn’t know this is evidence of just how little he actually knows about archery, or how little he thinks his audience knows.

The narration says that Andersen learned his techniques “from studying old historical pictures of archers.” What he obviously fails to understand is that artists in the past were as likely to be just as inaccurate and ignorant of archery techniques as artists today. They generally painted scenes that they either witnessed without understanding, or made up out of their heads, often based on what previous artists had done and compounding the errors. Unless an artist was illustrating a treatise on archery techniques and having their work reviewed by a competent archer, it is very doubtful that anything they illustrated is in any way a reliable record of archery form. What IS accurate is the archaeological evidence in the form of bows and physiological indicators in the archers’ bodies, such as separation in the shoulder cartilage, the thickness of bones in the bow arm and elongation of the bones of the draw arm, all of which is well-documented and known to competent historians.

“If he wanted to shoot like the master archers of old, he would have to unlearn what he had learned,” the narrator tells us. If Andersen had ever actually learned anything from real archers before going on his historical quest, he would have had a lot less to unlearn. What he had learned is the usual collection of bad habits that self-taught amateur archers always display, many of which continue unabated in his new, allegedly historic techniques. He is a terrible archer who can shoot fast. He shoots very fast. He shoots very badly very fast.

"...as simple and natural as throwing a ball..." which he's also not very good at.

“…as simple and natural as throwing a ball…” which he’s also not very good at.

His new technique is described as “simpler and more natural, exactly like throwing a ball.” This is accompanied by a shot of him throwing a ball very badly and awkwardly. He throws about as well as he shoots, but nobody would ever put up that segment and try to compare him to Major League pitchers, because most people know how to throw a ball at least enough to know that this is not a particularly impressive example of the skill. Another fun exercise would be comparing Andersen’s clumsy attempts at running and jumping to actual practitioners of parkour, martial arts, or gymnastics. Frankly, I’m surprised people aren’t mocking his awkward attempts at action shots, since to me he looks about as impressive and coordinated as the Star Wars kid.

The real howlers pile up when the narrator tries to expound on the history of how ancient archers carried their arrows, telling us “in the beginning, archers probably drew arrows from quivers or belts, but since then, they started holding arrows in the bow hand, and later in the draw hand.” This is patently absurd, since the historic artwork shown during the sequence clearly illustrates that carrying the arrows in the hand is the oldest method, not a later refinement. The quiver, whether for back, hip, calf or saddle, was invented to simplify the archer’s life by getting the arrows out of his hand. The sequence shown in the video is exactly the opposite of the historic record, but it’s a lie they feel is necessary in order to build up Andersen’s credibility. The reality is exactly what the narrator later says, that holding arrows in the draw hand “requires immense practice and skill, and only professional archers, hunters and so on, would have had the time for it,” though truthfully, there were historically very few professional archers or hunters. Archery was just one of many skills a soldier was expected to have, and a hunter was also known as “somebody who liked feeding his family.” Here the scriptwriter is guilty of the sin of “presentism,” in other words projecting the attitudes and behaviors of the present onto people of the past. Specialization is a modern habit.

In reality, the quiver was the more modern invention that replaced the earlier method of carrying arrows in the hand. The narrator tells us “when guns started replacing bows, this technique was forgotten.” In actuality, it was forgotten long before that, when quivers were invented, in any culture that figured out how to make them. Many cultures never did; there’s plenty of evidence of aboriginal archers around the world who never adopted quivers, such as New Guinea and elsewhere.

After claiming that Andersen’s shooting technique is powerful enough that “his arrows still penetrate chain mail armor” (in truth, a 10-year-old with a 15-pound bow can penetrate chain mail at the short distances Andersen favors), the narrator again demonstrates a complete lack of knowledge of actual archery, paired with Andersen demonstrating what he thinks modern archery looks like.

Most archers use both arms, unless they have a good reason not to.

Most archers use both arms, unless they have a good reason not to.

We’re told “modern archers use only one hand, but in the past, some archers allegedly used both hands to give the arrow more power.” This is utter nonsense, unless you’re talking about one-armed archers like Jeff Fabry. Any competent archery instructor will tell you that an archer’s power does not come from the arm, but from the back muscles, and both sides are used at the same time. A quick skimming of Archery Anatomy by Ray Uxford, Core Archery: Shooting With Proper Back Tension by Larry Wise, Why You Suck at Archery by Steve Ruis, Total Archery: Inside the Archer by US Olympic Archery coach Kisik Lee, or any of a hundred other books going all the way back to Maurice Thompson or Howard Hill will put the lie to this fairytale. Again, either Andersen and his team are that ignorant, or they hope the audience is.

Andersen then goes back to his emphasis on speed over accuracy, power or the avoiding of injury, asserting that “from old texts, we know that Saracen archers were expected to be able to fire three arrows in 1.5 seconds.” More interesting is the fact that apparently the Saracens had stopwatches. How Andersen arrives at this “fact” is anyone’s guess, but it’s a nice lead-in to his collection of circus tricks and stunts, most of which are also popular fare with magicians and martial artists, such as catching a very slow-moving arrow. Just as splitting an arrow can only be accomplished with the use of carefully-prepared equipment (using bamboo for the arrow to be split, for example), all of Andersen’s tricks require equipment modifications, careful camerawork and editing. Splitting an arrow by firing at a knife blade, for example, could only be accomplished by using an arrow without a point, which would require shooting from a distance of about 10 feet or less (an arrow without a point will decelerate quickly), and careful observation will reveal a camera cut between Andersen’s firing and the close-up of the arrow supposedly splitting (it looks to me like the arrow passes close beside the blade and doesn’t split at all, but we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt). The second arrow was obviously shot from only a few feet away and was prepped to split. As for the supposed shooting at an oncoming arrow, he may have eventually hit an arrow fired over his head (not at him), but again, it wouldn’t have split, and in fact it probably didn’t. It looks like the arrow was deflected, then he picked up broken pieces already on the floor. I’d love to see Mythbusters demolish this fraud, and I’m only disappointed that so many people are so gullible as to believe it.

Andersen should stick to demonstrations of speed shooting and leave questions of science, history and modern archery skills to people who actually know something about those things. Along the same lines, web editors should check with competent experts before uncritically repeating nonsense.

Special thanks to my friend, animator, artist, fire-dancer and traditional archer Anna Maltese, whose far more polite take-down of this video inspired my own, and my friend Patricia Gonsalves, who taught me almost everything I know about ancient and non-European archery methods.

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Stack Overflow: Recent Reads http://geekdad.com/2015/01/stack-overflow-recent-reads/ http://geekdad.com/2015/01/stack-overflow-recent-reads/#comments Mon, 26 Jan 2015 14:00:48 +0000 http://geekdad.com/?p=71553 I had all these grand plans to write a weekly column starting this year about the books I'm reading. Then January happened. Continue reading

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Stack Overflow

My shelf of “read but not yet reviewed” books. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

I had all these grand plans to write a weekly column starting this year about the books I’m reading. I figured, rather than wind up adding to the big backlog on my shelf of books I’ve read but haven’t reviewed yet. (Yeah, there are some pretty old books there… sorry, authors.) I was inspired a while back by Nick Hornby’s More Baths Less Talking, a collection of his columns in The Believer. He starts each column with a list of books he’s acquired, books he’s been reading, and then just talks about books, viewed through the lens of his life.

More Baths Less TalkingWell, I’m no Nick Hornby, of course, but I liked the idea of talking through my reading on a regular basis. For one, it would relieve me a little of the pressure of trying to group book reviews thematically, not to mention keeping me on top of the ever-growing pile of review copies I get sent daily. It would also ensure that I wrote about books while they were still fresh in my memory, as opposed to trying to remember what they were about months later.

Then January happened—I spent way too much time writing up my reflections on 2014 Kickstarter games, my wife had knee surgery and was out of commission for about a week, and on top of that my two older girls got the flu and were home from school at the same time. If not for the support of many, many friends bringing us meals, we might have been eating ramen for every meal. Oh, and GeekDad brought on a big batch of new writers (welcome, y’all!) and launched a Patreon campaign, so there’s been a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff going on as well.

Anyway, now it’s nearly the end of January, so maybe this will wind up being a monthly column instead of weekly? We’ll see.

I’ll skip the “books I acquired” because, frankly, that would be ridiculously long, but I may mention a few books I’m particularly excited for. If I have the energy, I’ll also throw in a few of the others that are sitting on that review shelf and try to work my way through the backlog.

I started using Goodreads again to log the books I’ve read and jot down a few short notes about them—I’d used it a while back but fell out of the habit, and now that they’ve integrated a barcode reader into the app, maybe it’ll make it easier to log and rate books… if I can remember. So far this month I’ve mostly read a bunch of comics, some picture books, and I finished one kids’ book that I’ve been reading aloud to my kids.

Gigantic Beard That Was EvilThe Gigantic Beard That Was Evil by Stephen Collins is a bizarre little book that I’d seen on some year-end lists and decided to pick up when it was on sale at Powell’s. It’s a comic book, beautifully illustrated in black and white, with narration that sometimes rhymes and sometimes doesn’t. It’s about Dave, a completely bald man (except for one hair above his lip) who lives on this perfectly neat, tidy island… until the day he suddenly sprouts a beard that can’t be controlled. What is the book ultimately about? Is it about untidiness? Being different? Our futile attempts to control the world around us? Maybe a little bit of each.

Okko by Hub

The Okko series by Hub is one that I’d been sent years ago from Archaia but for whatever reason never got around to reading. (Well, I have the first three volumes—there’s a fourth that I don’t have.) It’s set in a world that’s very much like medieval Japan (named Pajan, actually) but there are monsters and demons and other supernatural forces at work. The title character is a ronin who hunts monsters—though he has a demon on his own team. It’s pretty graphic: lots of violence and gore, some nudity, so definitely for adults only. I’m still a little undecided about this one. I did like the stories, though the second book felt like it dragged a lot in the middle. The illustrations are pretty amazing. I didn’t realize it, but it looks like it’s pretty hard to find these days—at least volume 1 is really expensive.

Molly Danger by Jamal Igle

I backed Molly Danger by Jamal Igle on Kickstarter, got my copy, and then forgot it was on the shelf. Molly Danger is a superhero—she looks like a 10-year-old girl, but she’s been around for a couple decades and hasn’t changed in appearance. She goes around fighting off various cybernetically-enhanced bad guys, but often causes a lot of damage in the meantime. The book itself is a very large format, but not too long—only 48 pages—so it left me wanting more. Igle puts you in the middle of the story, so you don’t get origin story. Instead, you get the sense of a character that has a rich history, and you’re just getting a small glimpse of it so far. But there are hints at some secrets yet to be revealed. Igle plans to launch another Kickstarter for book two, so I’m keeping an eye out for that one. (Book 1 is available from Amazon, in case you missed the Kickstarter.)

Nimona by Noelle StevensonI hadn’t ever heard of Nimona by Noelle Stevenson until this advance reader proof arrived, but the comic is available to read online. It started about 2 years ago, and just concluded a few months ago—and will be published in book form by HarperTeen in May of this year. Nimona is a shapeshifting girl who apprentices herself to Lord Ballister Blackheart, a supervillain who seems less villainous than the good guys, the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics. I really loved this one for the way it plays on hero/villain tropes, but the overarching story will keep you guessing: what’s going on at the Institution? Who is Nimona, really? The finished book promises to include an epilogue that tells the real ending, beyond where the online version ended, but my advance copy didn’t have that in it, so I’ll have to wait for it with the rest of you. Definitely one to watch for. Another note: if you haven’t read Lumberjanes (from BOOM! Studios), that’s also co-created by Noelle Stevenson, and it’s fantastic. It’s like Girl Scouts meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

SagaSaga—written by Brian K. Vaughan and illustrated by Fiona Staples—is one that I’d heard of, but had just never gotten started on beyond occasionally flipping through it at the store. It does have some pretty explicit imagery, so flipping through without actually sitting down and reading it doesn’t give the best impression. But now that there’s a deluxe hardcover edition of the first 18 issues, I decided to give it a shot. Powell’s had a nice year-end sale and I splurged for a copy. It’s a tough one to summarize, because there’s so much going on, but there’s sort of a Romeo-and-Juliet story going on at the center. Landfall and Wreath are two worlds that have been at war for as long as anyone can remember, and the story centers on a man and a woman from different worlds who have fallen in love and had a child together. But these aren’t just people—Vaughan and Staples have created a world full of bizarre beings: the people from Wreath have horns and the people from Landfall have wings—and then there are the robots (the nobility), cyclops, ghosts, and countless other humanoid and non-humanoid beings that populate the book.

The star-crossed lovers are being hunted, because neither side wants to publicize the fact that one of them could fall in love with the other. One of the things I really liked about the book is the way that it’s set in this crazy world with battles and action—but the couple still have to hash out how to be parents, which family traditions they’re going to keep, and so on. It’s wonderfully written by Vaughan, and Staples’ illustrations are amazing. (But, like I said: explicit, definitely not for kids.)

A digression: one thing I’ve noticed about many of the comics I’ve read recently is the idea that bad guys aren’t always all bad. (Or, sometimes, bad at all.) In fact, I think every book above has characters that are misunderstood or presumed to be bad, and we (as readers) discover the true reasons behind their actions. I know that’s not a new trend, but it’s something I think about because for my kids, I think that’s something they’re still adjusting to. My oldest daughter (11) has certainly already encountered more stories of this type than my 8-year-old, but I think both still have a tendency to want things to be black and white. They don’t always like it when the bad guy turns out to have a tender secret; they don’t like finding out that the good guy is doing something bad.

Of course, even as adults, I suppose we struggle with this. When there are people we disagree with, it’s so much easier to paint them as “the bad guys” than to dig into what’s motivating them and figure out how to empathize with them. And it’s so easy to jump from “you’re wrong about this” to “you’re a bad person.” No wonder we have so many stories to remind us that people are complex—things aren’t always as they seem.

Mouse Guard: The Black Axe

I had a copy of Mouse Guard: The Black Axe by David Petersen sitting on my review shelf (okay, one of my many review shelves) and forgot it was there. (See a pattern?) I think I got it before it was released, and decided to hold off until closer to the release date… which I then forgot. Yeah, that was a year and a half ago. Anyway, The Black Axe is the third volume of Mouse Guard (not counting the Legends of the Guard series, which has its own numbering). This time Petersen takes us back in time, focusing on the story of the Black Axe. The Black Axe is a legendary figure in the world of the mice, with stories throughout their history of this axe-wielding mouse. In the first two, an older mouse named Celanawe shows up as the Black Axe, but we learn that it is actually a title that has been passed down for generations. The Black Axe tells the story of how Celanawe came to wield the axe, as well as some of its history. Petersen’s artwork is, as always, beautiful and full of wonderful details. It’s a delight to read. I’m itching for more, but it looks like that may be it for the time being.

Roller Girl

Every member of my family has read Roller Girl—even the toddler. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

If you didn’t know already, my family is a roller derby family. My two older daughters are in the junior league of the Rose City Rollers (as Square Not and Cthu-Liu) and my wife is on the Wreckers, the recreational team, though she’s currently on hiatus because of the aforementioned knee surgery. My youngest daughter isn’t old enough yet, but she’s already a huge fan and cheers the rest of them on.

So it’s no surprise that we’ve been eagerly anticipating Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson, a kid-friendly comic book about a young girl who discovers roller derby. It’s not out until March, but we got an advance copy and it’s already been well-read by everyone in the family. It’s a great story, a mix of roller derby culture and middle-school drama, but we especially like that it takes place right here in Portland. Jamieson also skates for the Rose City Rollers as Winnie the Pow, and has an illustrated journal about it on her website. Many of the skaters and locations seen in the book are ones that we’re familiar with, and some of the names that the kids in the book use are borrowed from skaters we know too. You’ll probably see another post later about Roller Girl, with a bit more about roller derby and what it’s like being a derby dad.

The War of the World RecordsThe non-comic book I finished this month was The War of the World Records by Matthew Ward. It’s the sequel to The Fantastic Family Whipple, and it was the bedtime story selection for my kids for the past month or so. The Whipples are a record-breaking family, except for Arthur, who seems to fail at every attempt he makes. The Goldwins are their main competition—they’ve come out of nowhere, conveniently at the same time that the Goldwins have had a string of disasters: fires and mysterious accidents. In this second volume, Arthur Whipple (and his friend Ruby Goldwin, also the odd one out in her family) do some more detective work, trying to figure out who’s behind the attacks on the Whipples, all while trying to prepare for the upcoming World Record World Championships.

The Whipple books are filled with lots of silly records: Arthur’s event is knife block speed-stocking, for instance. The plot of this second book was a little more convoluted, particularly the reveal at the end, which felt a little bit like a huge infodump. But my kids enjoyed it, and there were plenty of things to laugh about—primarily Arthur’s perpetual cluelessness about what other people are thinking. Yet somehow he still makes a decent detective. From the way this one ended, I’m sure there’s another book in the works.

Lauren IpsumI’ll skip the picture books for now—I do have a huge stack of those from prior to January, too—and just mention one other one that I read last month: Lauren Ipsum by Carlos Bueno. The subtitle is “A Story About Computer Science and Other Improbably Things,” and it’s sort of an Alice in Wonderland for the modern age, though those are pretty big shoes to fill. Lauren is a little girl who gets lost in Userland, and in her attempts to get home she meets a wandering salesman, learns about axioms and recursion, and takes a trip through the Garden of Forking Paths. The story is peppered with little bits of computer science concepts and a lot of humor. In the back, there’s an appendix that goes into a little more detail about some of the concepts (and explaining puns like “Hugh Rustic”).

Overall, I’d say it doesn’t quite measure up to Alice in Wonderland, but that’s not to say it isn’t worth reading. It does touch on a whole bunch of interesting concepts, some just briefly and some in more detail, and I could see it being a jumping-off point to deeper study on all sorts of things.

Well, I’ll leave you with two mentions for later: I recently read Sculptor, an epic graphic novel by Scott McCloud coming from First Second Books next month, and I’m currently reading The Alex Crow by Andrew Smith, whose Grasshopper Jungle was my favorite YA book from 2014. Tune in next time!

Disclosure: I received review copies of all the books except where noted otherwise.

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Computer Club: Let’s Play Interactive Fiction Together http://geekdad.com/2015/01/lets-play-interactive-fiction/ http://geekdad.com/2015/01/lets-play-interactive-fiction/#comments Mon, 26 Jan 2015 13:30:06 +0000 http://geekdad.com/?p=71657 So I want to start a monthly computer club where we all play the same game at the same time. Bookmark the post at the beginning of the month and then start talking in the comment thread. What do you like about the game? What do you dislike? Where are you stuck? Has anyone figured out how to get the dart out of the bar? What about kill the troll? Get the shield? Continue reading

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Kreg Steppe via Flickr

A few years ago, I downloaded all the old Infocom games on the iPad, and they’re so much fun to play with the kids because of the history. I played those games when I was their age, and now they’re playing the games. (And yes, kids, I’m saving the files for you because, damnit, my grandkids are going to play these games one day.)

But the interactive fiction world has marched on. There is a thriving interactive fiction community writing in a multitude of programming languages. Time’s Game of the Year was the interactive fiction, 80 Days. Twine was featured in the New York Times. Slate just crowed this week about Andrew Plotkin’s Hadean Lands.

In fact, it was Hadean Lands that kicked off this idea. It has been fun having a critical mass of people all playing the same game at the same time, just as it was back in the old days when Infocom would release a new game and everyone would rush to play it. It means that there are people around thinking about the same puzzle that you are, sharing things they’ve noticed or possible solutions. It’s sort of like doing a giant jigsaw puzzle with hundreds of people online.

So I want to start a monthly computer club where we all play the same game at the same time. Bookmark the post at the beginning of the month and then start talking in the comment thread. What do you like about the game? What do you dislike? Where are you stuck? Has anyone figured out how to get the dart out of the bar? What about kill the troll? Get the shield?

We’ll spend a full month playing the same game together and hopefully we’ll all have solved it by the end of the month.

I’m aiming to pick games that kids can play, too, in case you want to do this with your child. I won’t be choosing games specifically written for kids, but I’ll aim for games that are kid-friendly in terms of language, violence, or sex. Of course, I’m playing along with you, so I apologize in advance if you stumble across a passage that isn’t exactly kid-friendly. Give everyone a heads up in the thread if that happens.

Our first game, kicking off next week is Adam Cadre’s Endless Nameless, a perfect introduction to today’s interactive fiction world. A tongue-in-cheek game that channels Zork, it’s an easy one for map creation. (Yes, you’ll have to make your own map, or one of us can scan the map we make and upload it online.) I’ve just started playing, so I’m going to stop and wait for everyone else to catch up.

If you want to join along, you’re going to need to download a z-machine interpreter so you can read the game files. My favorite one for the Mac is Zoom. Another popular one is Gargoyle. My favorite z-machine interpreter for the PC is Frotz. I also use iFrotz on the iPad.

You can download the game (for free) from the Interactive Fiction Database (IFDB). Once you’ve downloaded your z-machine interpreter, create an account at the IFDB and link it to your interpreter. You’ll be able to download Endless Nameless as well as hundreds of other games.

Let me know in the comment section below if you’ll be joining along next week when we start playing this together, as well as any questions you have about getting yourself setup and ready to play.

Grab your lamp and your nasty knife and let’s play!

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Radio Free Hipster Is a GO! Next Step: The GeekDad Podcast Network (GPN) http://geekdad.com/2015/01/geekdad-podcast-network/ http://geekdad.com/2015/01/geekdad-podcast-network/#comments Mon, 26 Jan 2015 12:30:41 +0000 http://geekdad.com/?p=71652 The great geeky music podcast will be re-born! But wait, we have some more ideas... if you can help us make them real. Continue reading

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This weekend we met, and passed, our Patreon goal of $300/month to see that the Radio Free Hipster podcast will be re-born. This is wonderful! If you’ve listened to the man called “Z” on our old HipTrax podcast, or The GeekDads, you know the man is a geeky music encyclopedia. We are so happy he’ll be returning to his roots.

Now, we look forward to the dawn, and our next major goal. If you, our awesome readers, will support GeekDad at the $500-a-month level, we will launch The GeekDad Podcast Network (GPN for short). That’s right, we are looking at even more great content in the audio mode. Our contributors are excited about trying some new ideas out (more geeky interviews, a Disney-themed show?), but we need to be able to cover the management and hosting costs. So please, if you love The GeekDads, and Radio Free Hipster, support our Patreon campaign, and see (or hear) what else we can do!

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Decoding the Puzzle of the Week: Simple Anagram Solver http://geekdad.com/2015/01/programming-anagram-solver/ http://geekdad.com/2015/01/programming-anagram-solver/#comments Mon, 26 Jan 2015 11:30:39 +0000 http://geekdad.com/?p=71279 Did you miss out on last week's Puzzle of the Week because anagrams make your brain all wibbly-wobbly? Complete the puzzle in seconds with your own anagram solver. Continue reading

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Every week, resident Puzzlemaster Judd Schorr presents the GeekDad Puzzle of the Week, an interesting brain teaser, usually involving one or both of his kids. The winner receives a $50 ThinkGeek gift certificate, and while it’s not impossible to win using just your brain, paper, and pencil, unless you have an encyclopedic knowledge of pop culture and can convert Base-4 to Base-7 in your head, you are most likely going to run into problems. Today, I’m going to show you how you can write a program to solve one of the recurring themes of many of Judd’s puzzles: anagrams.

There are two approaches you can take when using programming to solve a puzzle. There’s the elegant approach, where you use a complicated mathematical function that includes obscure characters like “Σ” and “ℵ” and “3,” and then there’s the brute force method, which we will be using to solve last week’s puzzle. If, as a child, you filled your Red Ryder by opening the end, cupping your hand under the barrel, and dumping 450 BBs onto the garage floor, you’re already familiar with this approach to problem solving.

Photo by tvol / CC BY

Baby’s First Brute Force
Photo by Andy / CC BY

Step One: Set Up Your Environment

For this tutorial, I will be using C#. I recommend installing Microsoft’s free Visual Studio Express. However, if you don’t want the overhead on your PC, or you’re using a Mac, you can use an online interpreter such as CodingGround. In Visual Studio, create a new “Console Application” project.

New Visual Studio Project

Delete everything in Program.cs and replace it with the following. This will add the required assemblies for our project.

Author’s Note: In the examples below, new lines will be bold.


using System;
using System.Collections.Generic;
using System.Linq;
namespace GeekDad_DaycareWasMad
{
   class Program
   {
      static void Main()
      {
      }
   }
}

Step Two: Su-Su-Pseudocode

Before we write the first line of code, we have to figure out how we’re going to solve the puzzle. Modern programming languages have come a long way from:


10 PRINT "Hello"
20 GOTO 10

Even so, we’re not yet to the point of creating transparent aluminum by talking into a mouse and are therefore forced to use language that is less than intuitive. Some programming languages, such as Python, have been written precisely with this consideration in mind, but for beginning programmers even this can be daunting. Therefore, we will be writing our code in two stages. First, in plain English, describing the steps our program will take. Then, only after we fully understand what our program needs to do, will we write the code.

In C#, we use “//” at the beginning of a line to denote a comment. Comments are lines in our program that will be ignored when run. They are there just for us.


//get a list of nominees
//get a list of clues
//loop through every nominee and clue
//check each nominee against each clue until there is a match
//write the results of the match
//if there are no matches, let me know

Step Three: I’d Like to Solve the Puzzle, Pat

The first step is to get all of the data into the program. This puzzle is fairly simple because we will be testing our clues against a small set of only 24 words, so we don’t have to worry about any optimization. In contrast, one of the word lists I regularly use for these types of problems has 349,900 words.


//get a list of nominees
List< string> nominees = new List< string> { "Whiplash" , "American Sniper", "Birdman", "The Grand Budapest Hotel" , "The Imitation Game" , "Selma" , "The Theory of Everything" , "Boyhood" , "Felicity Jones" , "Marion Cotillard" , "Reese Witherspoon" , "Julianne Moore" , "Rosamund Pike" , "Michael Keaton" , "Eddie Redmayne", "Benedict Cumberbatch", "Bradley Cooper" , "Steve Carell" , "Emma Stone" , "Patricia Arquette" , "Meryl Streep" , "Laura Dern" , "Keira Knightley" , "Mark Ruffalo", "Edward Norton","J.K. Simmons" , "Robert Duvall" , "Ethan Hawke" , "The Tale of Princess Kaguya", "How to Train Your Dragon 2", "The Boxtrolls" , "Big Hero 6", "Song of the Sea" };
//get a list of clues
List< string> clues = new List< string> { "A DEPENDABLE GHOST TRUTH" , "A DROWN RODENT", "A TEENS MOM", "ARMADILLO CITRON" , "AW SHH LIP" , "BOXIER SIGH" , "DRY ROE PLACEBO" , "EMIT GOAT THIAMINE" , "EXTOLL BROTHS" , "HA THANK EWE" , "HEY RATLIKE KING", "HOGS OF SENATE", "MALES" , "OOH BODY" , "READ ULNAR" , "RICH CUB TABBED CEMENT", "SHEENIER TOWROPES", "SPOKEN RADIUM" , "SVELTER LACE" , "VALOR BLURTED" };
//loop through every nominee and clue
//check each nominee against each clue until there is a match
//write the results of the match
//if there are no matches, let me know

We now have two generic lists called nominees and clues. The next step is to loop through each item in the list, looking for a match against each item in the other list.

Author’s Note Part Deux: Before I am crucified by the entire programming community… yes, this is an incredibly inefficient method. It is also the simplest and should take less than a second to run on any decent computer. Rule #18 in the book The Programmer’s Guide I Just Made Up says, “Don’t spend more time trying to increase efficiency than the increase will save.” Also, this method is very easy for non-programmers to understand.


//loop through every nominee and clue
foreach (var clue in clues)
{
   foreach (var nominee in nominees)
   {

   }
}

This is called a “nested loop.” The program will loop through the entire set of nominees and, for each nominee, will loop through the entire set of clues looking for a match. Next, we write our comparer. Determining if one phrase is an anagram of another requires four steps.

  1. Remove all spaces
  2. Convert all letters to lower case (to the computer, “A” does not equal “a”)
  3. Put all the letters in alphabetical order
  4. Compare the two newly created sets of letters

//loop through every nominee and clue
foreach (var clue in clues)
{
   foreach (var nominee in nominees)
   {
      //check each nominee against each clue until there is a match
      var nomineeLetters = new string(nominee.Replace( " " , "" ).ToLower().ToCharArray().OrderBy(x => x).ToArray());
      var clueLetters = new string(clue.Replace( " " , "" ).ToLower().ToCharArray().OrderBy(x => x).ToArray());
      if (nomineeLetters == clueLetters)
      {
	     //write the results of the match
      }
      //if there are no matches, let me know
   }
}

Next, we display the results when the two strings are equal.


if (nomineeLetters == clueLetters)
{
  //write the results of the match
  Console.WriteLine( "{0} is an anagram of {1}" , clue, nominee);
  break;
}

We add “break” here because there is no point in continuing to check for matches with that nominee. This will break out of the second loop and jump to the next clue.

One more thing we should add is a notification that something went wrong and there were no matches to our clue. Also, we’ll add an input prompt to the end of our program so, when we run it in debug, it will stop at the end, and we can see the results.

Here is the completed code, with the comments that were updated as I went along:


using System;
using System.Collections.Generic;
using System.Linq;

namespace GeekDad_DaycareWasMad
{
   class Program
   {
      static void Main()
      {
         //get a list of nominees
         List nominees = new List { "Whiplash", "American Sniper", "Birdman", "The Grand Budapest Hotel", "The Imitation Game", "Selma", "The Theory of Everything", "Boyhood", "Felicity Jones", "Marion Cotillard", "Reese Witherspoon", "Julianne Moore", "Rosamund Pike", "Michael Keaton", "Eddie Redmayne", "Benedict Cumberbatch", "Bradley Cooper", "Steve Carell", "Emma Stone", "Patricia Arquette", "Meryl Streep", "Laura Dern", "Keira Knightley", "Mark Ruffalo", "Edward Norton", "J.K. Simmons", "Robert Duvall", "Ethan Hawke", "The Tale of Princess Kaguya", "How to Train Your Dragon 2", "The Boxtrolls", "Big Hero 6", "Song of the Sea" };

         //get a list of clues
         List clues = new List { "A DEPENDABLE GHOST TRUTH", "A DROWN RODENT", "A TEENS MOM", "ARMADILLO CITRON", "AW SHH LIP", "BOXIER SIGH", "DRY ROE PLACEBO", "EMIT GOAT THIAMINE", "EXTOLL BROTHS", "HA THANK EWE", "HEY RATLIKE KING", "HOGS OF SENATE", "MALES", "OOH BODY", "READ ULNAR", "RICH CUB TABBED CEMENT", "SHEENIER TOWROPES", "SPOKEN RADIUM", "SVELTER LACE", "VALOR BLURTED" };

         //loop through every clue
         foreach (var clue in clues)
         {
            //no matches found yet
            bool matchFound = false;

            //check each nominee against each clue until there is a match
            foreach (var nominee in nominees)
            {
               var nomineeLetters = new string(nominee.Replace(" ", "").ToLower().ToCharArray().OrderBy(x => x).ToArray());
               var clueLetters = new string(clue.Replace(" ", "").ToLower().ToCharArray().OrderBy(x => x).ToArray());
               if (nomineeLetters == clueLetters)
               {
                  //write the results of the match
                  Console.WriteLine("{0} is an anagram of {1}", clue, nominee);

                  //we have a match
                  matchFound = true;
               }
            }

            //were there no matches found?
            if (!matchFound)
            {
               Console.WriteLine();
               Console.WriteLine("***Could not find a match in the nominee list for the clue {0}***", clue);
               Console.WriteLine();
            }
         }

         //wait until the user hits Enter
         Console.Write("That's all folks.");
         Console.ReadLine();
      }
   }
}

And that’s it. Hit F5 in Visual Studio, or “Compile” then “Execute” in CodingGround.


A DEPENDABLE GHOST TRUTH is an anagram of The Grand Budapest Hotel
A DROWN RODENT is an anagram of Edward Norton
A TEENS MOM is an anagram of Emma Stone
ARMADILLO CITRON is an anagram of Marion Cotillard
AW SHH LIP is an anagram of Whiplash

***Could not find a match in the nominee list for the clue BOXIER SIGH***

DRY ROE PLACEBO is an anagram of Bradley Cooper
EMIT GOAT THIAMINE is an anagram of The Imitation Game
EXTOLL BROTHS is an anagram of The Boxtrolls
HA THANK EWE is an anagram of Ethan Hawke
HEY RATLIKE KING is an anagram of Keira Knightley
HOGS OF SENATE is an anagram of Song of the Sea
MALES is an anagram of Selma
OOH BODY is an anagram of Boyhood
READ ULNAR is an anagram of Laura Dern
RICH CUB TABBED CEMENT is an anagram of Benedict Cumberbatch
SHEENIER TOWROPES is an anagram of Reese Witherspoon
SPOKEN RADIUM is an anagram of Rosamund Pike
SVELTER LACE is an anagram of Steve Carell
VALOR BLURTED is an anagram of Robert Duvall
That's all folks.

Wait, what’s this? Judd slipped one by us by renaming the movie “Big Hero 6″ to “Big Hero Six.”

Tricksy Puzzlemaster.

Have a question? Find an error in my code? Leave me a comment below.

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GeekDad Puzzle of the Week Solution — Daycare Was Mad http://geekdad.com/2015/01/puzzle-solution-daycare/ http://geekdad.com/2015/01/puzzle-solution-daycare/#comments Mon, 26 Jan 2015 11:00:10 +0000 http://geekdad.com/?p=71018 And the Daycare Was Mad goes to... Continue reading

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This past week’s puzzle:

As Nora and I were reading through the recent 2015 Oscar Award / Academy Award nominees, we noticed that a few of the names and movie titles could be arranged into funny phrases. Even the “Academy Awards” themselves had a fun anagram — “DAYCARE WAS MAD.”

academy_awards Below, please find 20 funny phrases that also happen to be anagrams for one of this year’s Academy Award nominees in the following categories:

  • BUTTER SPICE – Best Picture (5)
  • TOTES CRAB – Best Actor (3)
  • SECRET STABS – Best Actress (3)
  • OBSTRUCTING A STOPPER – Best Supporting Actor (3)
  • CURBING A PESTS PROTESTS – Best Supporting Actress (3)
  • MINUTER DATABASE FEET – Best Animated Feature (3)

The rearranged phrases are as follows:

  1. A DEPENDABLE GHOST TRUTH
  2. A DROWN RODENT
  3. A TEENS MOM
  4. ARMADILLO CITRON
  5. AW SHH LIP
  6. BOXIER SIGH
  7. DRY ROE PLACEBO
  8. EMIT GOAT THIAMINE
  9. EXTOLL BROTHS
  10. HA THANK EWE
  11. HEY RATLIKE KING
  12. HOGS OF SENATE
  13. MALES
  14. OOH BODY
  15. READ ULNAR
  16. RICH CUB TABBED CEMENT
  17. SHEENIER TOWROPES
  18. SPOKEN RADIUM
  19. SVELTER LACE
  20. VALOR BLURTED

The nominees in their appropriate categories are:
BUTTER SPICE – Best Picture
A DEPENDABLE GHOST TRUTH – The Grand Budapest Hotel
AW SHH LIP – Whiplash
EMIT GOAT THIAMINE – The Imitation Game
MALES – Selma
OOH BODY – Boyhood

TOTES CRAB – Best Actor
DRY ROE PLACEBO – Bradley Cooper
RICH CUB TABBED CEMENT – Benedict Cumberbatch
SVELTER LACE – Steve Carell

SECRET STABS – Best Actress
ARMADILLO CITRON – Marion Cotillard
SHEENIER TOWROPES – Reese Witherspoon
SPOKEN RADIUM – Rosamund Pike

OBSTRUCTING A STOPPER – Best Supporting Actor
A DROWN RODENT – Edward Norton
HA THANK EWE – Ethan Hawke
VALOR BLURTED – Robert Duvall

CURBING A PESTS PROTESTS – Best Supporting Actress
A TEENS MOM – Emma Stone
HEY RATLIKE KING – Keira Knightley
READ ULNAR – Laura Dern

MINUTER DATABASE FEET – Best Animated Feature
BOXIER SIGH – Big Hero 6 (Six)
EXTOLL BROTHS – The Boxtrolls
HOGS OF SENATE – Song of the Sea

Congratulations to Danny Bakker for not only correctly unscrambling the nominees, but for also being chosen at random from among the correct (or at least reasonably well-reasoned) responses submitted. A $50 Gift Certificate will be on its way shortly!

Thanks to ThinkGeek for sponsoring our puzzles in 2015 as well as to everyone that entered.

Happy puzzling!

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Giocomics: A Webcomic for Gamers http://geekdad.com/2015/01/giocomics-webcomic-gamers/ http://geekdad.com/2015/01/giocomics-webcomic-gamers/#comments Sun, 25 Jan 2015 12:00:24 +0000 http://geekdad.com/?p=71517 If you love tabletop games, here's a webcomic worth checking out: Giocomics. Created by Alan D'Amico and Stefano Castelli, Giocomics runs on the Italian website Gionomicon, but is now available in an English translation as well. Continue reading

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Giocomics

If you love tabletop games, here’s a webcomic worth checking out: Giocomics. Created by Alan D’Amico and Stefano Castelli, Giocomics runs on the Italian website Gionomicon, but is now available in an English translation as well.

The comic centers on three characters: Marco, the Italian, who especially loves roleplaying and wargaming but will try anything; Klaus, the German, who loves wooden cubes and abstract games; and Bob, the American, who loves—as you may expect—Ameritrash games. Sure, they’re somewhat stereotypical (not to mention all guys) but putting them together does make for some funny situations.

I’ve read through the series of strips from the beginning (there are 47 so far), and they’re definitely written for people who know and love games and gamers. The English translation can feel a little clunky in spots but it’s pretty good. There’s only one comic that wasn’t translated: it just had a note saying that only Italians would get it.

Head to Giocomics for more—the landing page gives you the introduction to the three characters—or head here to start from the first strip.

Any other webcomics you enjoy that feature gaming? Let us know in the comments!

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Dadvertising Fail: Similac Ad Has a Bad Aftertaste http://geekdad.com/2015/01/dadvertising-similac/ http://geekdad.com/2015/01/dadvertising-similac/#comments Sun, 25 Jan 2015 11:00:45 +0000 http://geekdad.com/?p=71540 Well, here's another example of bad dadvertising, this time from Similac, makers of baby formula. It seems great at first, but the aftertaste is terrible. Continue reading

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Similac Sisterhood of Motherhood

Well, here’s another example of bad dadvertising, this time from Similac, makers of baby formula. I heard about this from Chris Routly of Daddy Doctrines (who was also largely responsible for getting Huggies to change their dad-based advertising).

First, here’s the ad:

Hey, you know what? It’s a funny ad, poking fun at the way parents judge each other all the time: cloth diapers vs. disposable, breastfeeding vs. bottles, cuddling vs. pushing, at-home moms vs. wage-earning moms. There are even dads present who say, hey, we can be parents too.

And the penultimate line of the ad: “No matter what our beliefs, we are parents first.” That’s great. (I mean, particularly if you’re selling infant formula in a “breast is best” world.) But then after that? “Welcome to the sisterhood of motherhood.” Wait, what? I guess by “parents,” Similac really means “moms.”

Sigh.

Since Routly has already gone to the trouble of writing up a really good response to the ad, go read his article here.

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GeekDad Patreon Update: $10 Away From Radio Free Hipster http://geekdad.com/2015/01/support-geekdad-update/ http://geekdad.com/2015/01/support-geekdad-update/#comments Sat, 24 Jan 2015 19:51:09 +0000 http://geekdad.com/?p=71552 We are that close, people! If we get just $10/month more in patronage, the amazing Radio Free Hipster podcast will be re-born. And we're still working on more rewards for our patrons, so be assured that getting in now will bring you more geeky rewards in the future! Continue reading

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HP_logo_new
We are that close, people! If we get just $10/month more in patronage, the amazing Radio Free Hipster podcast will be re-born. And we’re still working on more rewards for our patrons, so be assured that getting in now will bring you more geeky rewards in the future!

kaGh5_patreon_name_and_message

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Amazon Puts Prime on Sale for One Day Only http://geekdad.com/2015/01/amazon-prime/ http://geekdad.com/2015/01/amazon-prime/#comments Sat, 24 Jan 2015 13:00:42 +0000 http://geekdad.com/?p=71480 On Saturday, January 24th (all day), and in honor of their success at the 72nd annual Golden Globe awards, Amazon is lowering the price of Amazon Prime to $72 a year for new subscribers. Continue reading

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Credit: Amazon.com

Credit: Amazon.com

Amazon Prime is one of those great services that is still sometimes hard to justify. For just $99 a year, you get:

  • Prime Music, an unlimited music streaming platform.
  • Access to the Kindle Lending Library (one book per month).
  • The recent Prime Photos, which lets you store all your photos in your Amazon Cloud account, with no maximum capacity.
  • Streaming of select movies and TV shows, including geek favorites like Doctor Who.
  • Two day shipping on all Amazon purchases (but not from all Amazon sellers! Important distinction).

All this for roughly $8 a month. These services work great with Kindle tablets, the Fire phone, and/or the FireTV. They also work great with Amazon’s related Android and iOS apps. Regardless, that’s still a daunting up front price. Unless you sign up tomorrow.

On Saturday, January 24th (all day), and in honor of their success at the 72nd annual Golden Globe awards, Amazon is lowering the price to $72 a year for new subscribers. As an added bonus, the Golden Globe-winning Transparent is going to be free to stream on Saturday, even to non-members of Prime. Transparent took home the Best Actor in a Musical and Comedy Series award for star Jeffrey Tambor as well as Golden Globe for Best Musical or Comedy Series. One can certainly understand why Amazon wants to celebrate that.

The lower price takes Amazon Prime’s costs down to around $6 a month. If you normally order even one package a month you might be coming out ahead. Personally, I think it’s a great deal for cord-cutters. There’s tons of geek content on Instant Video, and it’s a perfect way to share your favorites with your family. So, this may be the best time ever to sign up:

Amazon Prime (One Year Membership)

I plan on using Amazon Prime to order Optimus Prime. Source: Hasbro, via Amazon.

I plan on using Amazon Prime to order Optimus Prime.
Source: Hasbro, via Amazon.

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The Game Crafter’s Crowd Sales: A New Take on Crowdfunding http://geekdad.com/2015/01/tgc-crowd-sales/ http://geekdad.com/2015/01/tgc-crowd-sales/#comments Sat, 24 Jan 2015 12:00:29 +0000 http://geekdad.com/?p=71396 If you are (or would like to be) a board game designer, there's a really great website with a green logo that you should be aware of. And, no, I'm not talking about Kickstarter. Continue reading

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The Game Crafter logo

If you are (or would like to be) a board game designer, there’s a really great website with a green logo that you should be aware of. And, no, I’m not talking about Kickstarter.

The Game Crafter is a one-stop shop for game components and a print-on-demand game publishing service. When you’re putting together a prototype of your game, you can order wooden bits and dice and plastic pawns, or even custom-printed cards and boards. And once you’re happy with your game design, you could even put it up for sale in TGC’s online shop—decide how much profit you want to earn from each sale, and The Game Crafter does the rest.

One of the advantages of using The Game Crafter is that you bypass both the traditional publishing route (tough to get attention for your game, give up some of your intellectual property rights, see your game rethemed into something else entirely) and the Kickstarter-published route (30 days of anxiety followed by a year of wrangling printers and shipping cost overruns). Instead, you put your game up for sale, get feedback from people who have played it, and you don’t have to deal with the shipping or customer service.

There are some limitations, of course—you may have to make some trade-offs between component quality and price, since print-on-demand is more costly than printing several hundred or thousand copies of a game in China. (Of course, the benefit of print-on-demand is that you can make a little money even if you only sell a single copy.) It’s up to you to decide what you prefer. Some people have used The Game Crafter as a testing ground for their games and then launched Kickstarter campaigns later, once they had gotten the game out in the wild, so to speak.

The Game Crafter has even launched a couple of their own Kickstarter campaigns. I reviewed The Captain Is Dead, a cooperative sci-fi game, and mentioned their Village in a Box campaign (for several pocket-sized games) in a tabletop round up post. But now they’re trying their own take on crowdfunding: Crowd Sales.

Here’s the gist: They run a campaign for a particular game, usually lasting about a week. These are games from their store that have a high rating and positive third-party reviews. During the campaign, you pledge for however many copies of the game you want. The more copies of the game are ordered, the lower the per-unit price goes. So instead of leveraging the crowd to add stretch goals, they use the leverage to lower the price. You get at least a $5 discount (that’s the minimum discount even if only one copy of the game is sold) but you could get a game for much cheaper if the campaign does well. At the end of the campaign, the games are printed and shipped.

So, it’s not exactly crowdfunding the same way Kickstarter is: these are games that will be printed on-demand, so there’s not a minimum funding goal to make the project happen. And, of course, a lot of Kickstarter backers do like crazy stretch goals and exclusive add-ons. The Game Crafter, however, is of the opinion that quite often stretch goals are of dubious quality, cause delays, and bankrupt game designers, and I can’t say that I entirely disagree. I’ve seen some well-done stretch goals in campaigns, but in general stretch goals add to the delivery time, and often push things beyond the estimated delivery date.

Click here to find out more about the Crowd Sales, or check out the list of current Crowd Sales. Right now (through this weekend) there’s a sale on Song Froggy, and starting on Monday there’s a campaign for Wild Guns.

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Unova Distribution for Pokémon Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire http://geekdad.com/2015/01/unova-distribution-omega-alpha/ http://geekdad.com/2015/01/unova-distribution-omega-alpha/#comments Sat, 24 Jan 2015 11:00:51 +0000 http://geekdad.com/?p=71541 Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire already feature a ton of throwback Pokémon, and this week it was announced that those games will soon be home to three more. Continue reading

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unova starters

Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire already feature a ton of throwback Pokémon, and this week it was announced that those games will soon be home to three more. The Pokémon Company International revealed a special distribution for the final forms of all three Generation V starters: Serperior, Emboar and Samurott.

Serperior is available now through 11/30/2015 using a special password found at Pokemon.com. Emboar will arrive 1/29/2015 (and will be available until 11/30/2015) also via special password, and the password for Samurott will be distributed to subscribers of the Pokémon Trainer Club newsletter starting 2/5/2015 through — you guessed it — 11/30/2015.

All three Pokémon will come with a Hidden Ability, and you’ll need to update your copy of Alpha/Omega to version 1.2 in order to receive them.

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