Tagged: Waste Your Friday Afternoon

Your Friday Afternoon Brings A Smile To Robert Heinlein's Ghost

One hesitates to suggest that there could be a good higher than threatening to bomb one's political opponents, but human survival off this planet, indeed, human expansion into and conquest of the galaxy, may be one of those things.

As I type this, the SpaceX Dragon capsule has just docked with the International Space Station.  And you can watch it on the internet.

This is one small step for free enterprise, one giant leap for mankind.  The government won't ensure that humans escape this planet before the comet hits, giant tsunamis strike, the core reverses polarity, or the Daleks arrive.  The government couldn't find a clue if Colonel Mustard was appointed head of Homeland Security.

Private enterprise will save us, even if it has to destroy the earth to do so.

Your Friday Afternoon Swears More Than Your Grandfather's Friday Afternoon

It's time for Waste Your Friday Afternoon, the Popehat feature that seeks to give you an excuse (as if you needed one) to be unproductive.

This week it's all about words, and how they are used.

Google, in its ongoing quest to do vast, unfathomable, and vaguely frightening things, has announced a vast new word database, containing about 500 billion words from about 5.2 million digitized books from the last four centuries. The resulting Books Ngram Viewer lets you plot how frequently words, or names, have been used over the centuries, permitting a glimpse at both language and culture.

You can inquire, for instance: what happens when a previously innocuous word that meant an uncontroversial thing becomes re-purposed to mean a much-talked-about and controversial thing?

Search away.

Your Friday Always Appreciated Muscle Cars

It's been a little while since we did a Friday Timewaster, so for your entertainment I offer up Road of the Dead. It's a surprisingly deep little flash game where you commit vehicular zombie slaughter on a pretty epic scale. The graphics are impressive, and the game itself is good fun. I should warn our younger viewers (and recommend to the others) that this game has lots of blood and graphic scenes of bad driving.

I am not very good at the game, but it sure is fun. So, don't ask why you never run out of gas, just start running over zombies. Oh, and this tip, don't let a zombie get on your hood. Bad news there.

If Your Friday Afternoon is Wasted, Turn to Page 37

We have a reader submission this week, and it's a doozy! This could very well waste your entire long weekend.  Andrew turned me on to Seventh Sense – Lone Wolf. It's an online version of the Lone Wolf choose your own adventure books of my childhood.

If you don't remember Lone Wolf, the idea of the books was to take a standard choose your own adventure & add random combat. Some pages would cause you to fight monsters or gain items or cast spells. It required some mild record keeping, and cheating was rampant ("why yes, I do still have that fireball spell!") They (and the earlier (?) Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks were a revelation to me. Much better than the vanilla choose your own adventures.

This download has almost 20 books you can play. It may be the most dangerous Friday Time Waster ever. You have been warned. Thanks again Andrew! And feel to recommend Friday Time Wasters in the Hat's Forum.

A Year In The Life

buncha santas

At the beginning of the year, back when the world was full of hope and change, we wrote about our friend Rob's plan to document 2009, as he'd experienced it, with one photo each day.  That project is now a day from completion.

It's safe to say that 2009 didn't turn out so well for much of the world, but there were worse years this decade.  At the very least, Rob has produced a document that will allow him to remember 2009 in all its squalor.

Each image is explained by text, but after reading a while I just lost myself in the images.  Since this is a holiday weekend, please consider this your Friday time-waster, delivered in true Popehat fashion a day early.

Your Friday Afternoon Probably Involves Red & White

Usually our Friday time waster is a game or a large collection of photos or something that will use your entire day. Today, I offer more of an appetizer. Something to cleanse the old palate.

Despite my total lack of style or fashion sense, design fascinates me. Why things look like they do, and how different cultures take a specific spin on the same themes. Apparently, it's just as common in fashion as it is in Nationalism. I give you Flags By Colours.

Here, each nation's flag is pie charted to show the selection (and percentage) of colors in the flag. If you click on the pie chart, it reveals the flag. It's fun to try & guess what the flag is from the pie chart. At the very bottom is an inclusive pie chart that shows the color breakdown of all national flags. I was a little surprised how prevalent black is, given that it is hard to think of flags that have a lot of it (mainly Arab & African countries..)

It's not gonna take your whole day, but I thought it was fascinating. Enjoy!

For Your Friday Time Spending Pleasure

It can't be wasting time if it feels good to do it, right?

Obey the Game is the latest flash game effort from thoughtful author John (previous interesting efforts include: Achievement Unlocked and This is the Only Level).  The other games I mentioned offered some interesting if shallow looks at certain kinds of game mechanics.  Obey the Game is cleverer and more fun to boot.  The game places you in a series of challenges, each needing to be beaten before a short timer expires.  The goal is displayed in the center of the screen (e.g. "use the stairs" on a level with several spiked platforms and, yes, a stair case).  Follow the instructions and you advance to the next level.  Consecutive wins will net extra lives.  Some of the challenges are arcadish and they get harder as you go.  Simple right?  Well, the game (randomly?  I don't know) will sometimes tell you to "disobey", which means doing the opposite.  Don't take the stairs (dying is appropriate here!).  Don't collect the coins.  Stay alive (on the suicide level, natch). The only thing that costs a life is failing to obey (or, if the game so orders it, disobey) the goal.  The challenge escalates quickly often meaning a split second decision wins or loses the level.  The game is surprisingly fun.

Secondly, we have Elona Shooter .  A castle defense game based on the fascinating rogue like of the same name.  It features different classes, leveling and skill gain, lots of structures to build up in town which do different things, loot collecting.  It's difficult but pretty fun.  Hunter and Rogue are the suggested starting classes (both get an immediate helper you'll want to replace ASAP.  The hunter gets a bow gun, they rule.  The rogue is a money making machine).  You can earn achievements to help you on the current and subsequent play-throughs (if you're a masochist; I am).

Your Friday Afternoon Is Not A Number! It Is Free Time!

The web tells me that I am not the only person out there disappointed by AMC's remake of the classic 1960s British spy / sci-fi / conspiracy theory television show The Prisoner.  I'm a fan of AMC nonetheless.  In addition to Mad Men, which with the possible exceptions of HBO's Bored To Death and NBC's Thirty Rock is the best thing currently on the tube, AMC has generously made each and every episode of the original Prisoner available for viewing on the web.

At one time I'd planned to blog my way through all of the original Prisoner programs, but of course life and work got in the way of that overambitious project.  My thoughts about the original show, and why you should watch it, were blogged and can be found here.

Shorter version:  The Prisoner may not be the best television show ever made, but it is the best anyone's done on the universal human emotions of fear, self-doubt, and paranoia.  You need only read the news to understand the extent to which these emotions dominate our world today.

Many don't understand it or turn away from it in disgust despite its garish colors, friendly surf music soundtrack, charming setting, and humor, because television giant Patrick McGoohan's masterpiece is as close as anyone's ever gotten to putting Franz Kafka on the tube:  Franz Kafka mixed with Ian Fleming.  That's the show's premise: what if James Bond went off the reservation?  What would They do to get him back?  How would he resist?  And in fact, aren't They doing the same thing to us all.  Like Kafka, the show is best viewed as an allegory for the world.

You can watch the entire original series by clicking here. It won't just take your Friday afternoon.  It will imprison many afternoons and evenings to come.

Your Friday Afternoon Is Living In The Past

Often, our Friday time wasters are games or some other amusement. This time we have something that is beautiful, educational and captivating. It will also literally take your entire afternoon if you let it.

Here are over 1500 photos (a bounty of the New Deal, I might add) gorgeously shot in full color that reflect random instances of life from the Great Depression to World War 2. The pictures were a project of the Farm Security Administration followed by the Office of War Information. So, you get a lot of shots of rural life in the US and mobilization towards War. These photos come from a new exhibit at the Library of Congress.

The photos range from stirring shots of industrial works, to pure Americana, to cool action shots, to rural farm shots. There really are far too many amazing shots to mention. So, sit back and just keep clicking. I mean where else are you going to see a shot of a barrage balloon followed directly by a shot of a house being built in Houston?

This really is a great way to spend several days. Enjoy!

Your Friday Afternoon Seeks the Amulet of Yendor

I've written perviously about my love of Nethack, and how excited I was to be able to play it on my phone. Well, now I have a few other random Nethack updates for you to waste your Friday afternoon.

First off, in the everything old is new again department, you can now play Nethack over the internet. This is great for me, since I don't have to install it on a work machine. It plays nicely right through a java app via the website alt.org.

Next up is something for those of us who can't bring ourselves to attack a g or a p. You want some graphics with your hack? Well, I give you Falcon's Eye. It converts my beloved Nethack into a nice isometric 3D graphics game. Definitely worth checking out. (note for you purists, Falcon's Eye uses SLASH, a Nethack variant with lots of extra stuff added)

I still have never won a game of Nethack, so if you find the amulet and return it, please don't rub it in. Maybe I should stop playing as tourists…

Your Friday Afternoon Would Probably Make A Better Treasury Secretary Than Tim Geithner, But It Doesn't Have Connections To Goldman Sachs

Welcome to the return of the son of our friday afternoon time-waster series.  Once we attempted, every friday, to present those of you who were sitting, waiting, watching the clock, with things to do each friday, until you could start scooting to the door at 4:55.  We made the mistake of thinking we had a duty to give you this information, so it became like work, which is the antithesis of a friday afternoon time-waster.  While we're bringing the feature back, it will now be an irregular feature, with no obligation or loss of Slack on our part.

The Chart Game is a stock prediction simulation, which provides you historical data about one large, publicly traded company, but you're not told which company, or which phase in history.  Your job is to predict future performance based on the past performance you're provided.  Buy or sell.  You "win" the chart game by outperforming the S & P 500 over the course of a year, based on your decisions with this stock, and your trust, or lack thereof, of patterns in stock performance.

Having played the chart game many times, I can tell you that it quickly diminishes faith in the ability of analysts to beat the market as a whole over the long term, whether the analysts use Sun-Spot patterns, Astrology, Hedging, or any "system" other than Insider Trading.  Play for yourself and see that economics is truly the "dark science."

For a different time waster by the same author, see the fascinating Eyeballing Game, which we featured previously and described as "a test of skill, precision, and spatial geometry."  It too is diverting, and much more a test of skill than it is of luck.

Your Friday Afternoon Is Responsible For A Thousand Untalented Hacks

Our Waste Your Friday Afternoon feature isn't dead.  It's been resting.  Ken lost interest in it.  I went away and started my own blog.  Ezra does whatever he wants to do, and other authors here just work behind the scenes.

Today it returns.  Debate still rages over whether painter Jackson Pollock was a genius, an irresponsible jerk, or both.  There can be no doubt, however, as to Pollock's legacy of inspiring much bad art.  Nor can there be any doubt that he inspired this very clever flash animation game by Miltos Manetas.

The exercise is self-explanatory with a few seconds of playing around.  All I need to explain is that in order to change colors, one should right-click on the screen with one's mouse.