Downworthy

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For those who are familiar with the clickbait headlines that seem to pervade all news sites (even somewhat reputable ones) – you know, they’re the enticing headlines usually accompanied by an equally interesting photo you just can’t help but click sometimes, even though you know you’ll probably end up with an Ask.com toolbar – well, there’s a fun plugin for your browser that subverts those headlines:

Downworthy replaces hyperbolic headlines from bombastic viral websites with a slightly more realistic version. For example:

  • “Literally” becomes “Figuratively”
  • “Will Blow Your Mind” becomes “Might Perhaps Mildly Entertain You For a Moment”
  • “One Weird Trick” becomes “One Piece of Completely Anecdotal Horseshit”

I can’t say the plugin worked all that well in my quick test, but the concept is hilarious, and I hope they continue developing it to be more effective. The name is a play on Upworthy, probably the single site that either invented or at least popularized clickbait headlines.

Oneplus One

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Not really sure why you’d buy a Nexus 6 with this thing on the market. The reviews look pretty good – better battery life than Nexus, 64GB for $349… camera kinda sucks, but still… $349 – compared to $649 for the Nexus 6. That’s a no-brainer. I also personally really like Cyanogenmod - I use the latest version on my rooted Kindle Fire HD 7. Once they got the auto-update thing working, it’s just as good as stock Android IMO. If anyone has OnePlus One invites to share, let me know! It looks like I just missed the open sale.

UPDATE: Android Central is doing a giveaway – enter to win.

Music Licensing in Video Games

The following is a special guest post by David Small

Music Licensing in Video Games

A look at new ways to find suitable video game music

Regardless of the genre or gaming platform, there’s no denying that the video game industry is committed to providing increasingly immersive experiences to its sizable fan base. Besides the graphics and gameplay, the in-game music is a vital component to creating a deeply engrossing atmosphere that will engage the player’s attention. Fortunately, a growing number of indie musicians and even small record labels are willing to have their music licensed for video games at fairly competitive fees. Searching on popular online music outfits like iTunes, SoundCloud, or Spotify (and even a video sharing website like YouTube) will easily allow you to preview and choose from a diverse selection of music from hundreds of indie musicians.

Given the enhanced capabilities of the mobile Internet these days, brainstorming for specific songs and artists for a new video game has never been more convenient. The modern-day video game developer enjoys the tremendous privilege of looking for appropriate music at his/her own convenience. Of course, state-of-the-art mobile devices such as iPhones and Android phones have emerged as viable gaming platforms in their own right. 888 Holdings, parent company of the social entertainment hub Total Gold, asserts that the recent developments in the online gaming industry — AKA the integration of social networking to games — have led to the success of gaming operators. Such success is enjoyed not only by the people who make games, but also by the artists who compose music for them. The video game music industry has been labeled as “one of the most competitive industries in the world”, according to Garry Schyman, who is most well-known for his musical contributions to Irrational Games’ Bioshock series. Most recently, Schyman worked on the music for Monolith Games’ Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor.

Another way to meet up with video game music composers is to sign up for conventions like Game Music Connect in the UK or GameSoundCon in the US. The 2014 edition of Game Music Connect will happen on September 24 at the Purcell Room of London’s Southbank Center. Meanwhile, the 2014 GameSoundCon will be held at the Millenium Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles on October 7 to 8. Both events are renowned for providing incredibly valuable insights to both amateur and veteran video game music composers. 

Author Bio:

David Small has been infatuated with video games ever since he can remember, and has been a regular on many video game forums over the last 15 years. After leaving a career in coding 10 years ago, David now works for a gaming developer and living the dream.

Ostrich Pillow Mini

So happy to see the Studio Banana guys releasing an awesome new product. You might remember the Ostrich Pillow; they have come up with a personal-sized power-nap pillow called the Ostrich Pillow Mini. Go and support them at their kickstarter here! (Full disclosure: I helped them facilitate the kickstarter and totally love these guys.)

Napping everywhere
Ostrich Pillow Mini

Neil deGrasse Tyson is awesome

At the tableau conference – he walked on stage and started talking but there was no sound then he said “just kidding! I was just messing with the sound guy” – such a great speaker and presentation. A part of the slideshow included this amazing video:

Which brought to my mind the movie Pitch Black, in which everywhere light is shined, there are things waiting to destroy you. I’m pretty sure our crippled space program will result in all of our deaths. Well, all of us except Vin Diesel.

Scientific evidence

I have a small quibble with Neil deGrasse* Tyson’s statement in Cosmos:

In science, the only thing that counts is the evidence and the logic of the argument itself

Depending on the scientific pursuit in question, logic may have very much to very little if nothing at all to do with what the evidence shows. Biological research can sometimes fly in the face of logic. In my mind, the relative weight of logic to evidence follows a downward trajectory from physics to chemistry to biology to social and behavioral sciences.

The reason I point this out is that for many individuals not exposed to research or science on a deeper level than grade school and television, science can have the veneer of a logical endeavor. When faced with evidence that seems illogical to some, such as the enduring confusion around evolution, the tendency is to reject it on a basis of logic. So I would rephrase the above statement to say “In science, the only thing that counts is the evidence and that the evidence has been repeatedly and independently verified.”

*deGrasse is a recognized word in my browser’s dictionary

Texas taxes

I’m hopeful that my strategy for arguing my property taxes down works. I noticed that this year the county tax appraisal district almost doubled my land value; my house (improvement) value also went up. Considering home prices in Austin, I didn’t even try to convince them that my improvement value should go down. Instead, I found two empty lots for sale nearby that, when averaging the sales prices as well as averaging the county appraised values, brought my overall property appraised value down below what it was last year. Using they county’s appraised values actually gave me the lower of the two valuations. Here’s hoping they buy my well-reasoned argument.