Archive for February, 2011

Minecraft: Second Mine

Feb 12 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

I’d gotten a little overwhelmed by the size of the cave I found the last time I went mining, but after my recent house work, I decided it was time to head back down to the mines. (Among other things because I wanted access to more ores – I hadn’t found any gold, redstone, or diamond.) So I went down to the basement of my house, and started digging in a different direction.

Second stairs down from basement

After a bit, I hollowed out a workroom, and then kept going.

A workroom I built partway down the stairs


Eventually, I hit a natural cave, and put a workroom there as well:

Natural cave at bottom of stairs

Workroom in natural cave at bottom of stairs

In that second picture, you’ll see what looks like a hole in the back of the wall. I didn’t put that there: it was a natural window looking out onto another pre-existing cave. And when I wandered over to look through it, this is what I saw:

What's that waterfall cave doing here?

Purely by chance, even though I hadn’t paying any attention to where I was digging, I’d ended up at a cave that had a view of the earlier waterfall cave! I’ll have to admit, it was very odd to look through that window and see torches there: I’d thought I was digging through new terrain.

It was odd, and it was also a little frustrating: the whole point of this digging was to do mining in a way that ran into less overwhelming caves. So I did a U-turn and started digging from that room in the opposite direction, back under where I’d come from.

Turn around and dig some more

After going not too far, I hit a nice little lava flow:

A small cave with a lava flow

And then a large natural cave:

A large natural cave

If I’m remembering correctly (I wasn’t in the habit of taking pictures at this time), this is where I found my first gold! And it was a large cave, large enough that I didn’t end up exploring it all: instead, I went back to where I’d been digging stairs and continued doing so.

Down, down, down

Eventually (you can imagine another long stairs picture here), I hit redstone! Again, no picture of the stone, but here’s where I mined it out:

Here's where I found redstone

And, a little ways beyond that, I hit bedrock:

We're at bedrock

So: success! I still haven’t found diamond, but redstone and gold meant that I could build a compass and a watch, which were the two main items that I wanted. And that view of the earlier waterfall cave, was really something: I can’t imagine having created a view like that if I’d planned it myself, yet the world just gave it to me.

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London Calling

Feb 10 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

I’d been in a Rock Band drought during the job search, but that’s changed this week: I got in a bit of pro keys practice over the weekend, I had a very pleasant Monday evening playing Rock Band with some soon-to-be former coworkers, and this week’s VGHVI game was a playthrough of The Clash’s album London Calling.

And wow, what an album, and what a way to experience it. The VGHVI gaming sessions have been going on for over two years now, and Jonathan, Roger, and I have been there for almost every one. This is our eleventh time playing Rock Band together (we go by the band name Μῆνιν Ἄειδε), I really enjoy playing with the two of them, and it’s a very good way to experience albums in particular.

Somewhat reluctantly, I played the drums this time, but it turned out to be a great choice. I could go through the whole album on Hard, most of the time it was challenging but not stressful, and there were definitely moments when I was proud of myself. Really, I should embrace the notion of playing drums on VGHVI Rock Band nights: I wish I were better at drums, and it’s a low-pressure way to experiment (especially because other people are there to provide extra star power and to save me if necessary).

Which isn’t to say that I’m not looking forward to playing the album on other instruments! Liesl and I will probably go through it this weekend, which will give me a chance to try it on guitar, and I imagine I’ll find time to do it on bass eventually, too. Singing, who knows; and the few “keyboard” parts that I tried the other day turned out to be not very interesting horn parts.

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Minecraft: The Rooftop

Feb 07 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

After finishing the third floor, I wasn’t sure how the shape of the hill above me would work, so I decided to build up to the top of the hill before going back and putting in a fourth floor. (If, indeed, there was room for a fourth floor at all!)

Steps up from the third floor

You’ll see a glass enclosure at the top of the steps: if I went straight in that direction until I hit the outside, there really wasn’t room to put a door, but I also didn’t want to turn left and up too early. After some experimentations (the placement of the door took some work, in particular), I ended up with a glass enclosure that I’m rather happy with. Here’s a view looking down into it (the stairs from before are off to the right, just barely blocked from view)

Looking back at the glass enclosure

and here’s an explanation of why I care about enclosures and doors so much:

Sheep are everywhere

Here’s the door in question, leading out to the rooftop area:

Heading out to the roof

And the rooftop itself:

Rooftop, complete with tree

I’m really happy with that. I leveled it out a bit, but left it rough around the edges, and I planted the tree. In fact, I experimented with planting multiple trees, but eventually decided that a single tree was better. (Strong Centers.)

In the other direction, here’s the top of the arch that had been blocking windows on the second and third floors. It’s a lot narrower here – it’s that green path snaking to the sand.

Looking out over the arch

Looking out over that water also got me curious about the hills I could see in the distance; eventually I went exploring in that direction, but that’s a later blog post.

Also from a later time, but I’ll mention it now: it turns out that the top of this hill is visible and even accessible from my spawn point, and indeed from fairly far in every direction. So I built a pillar with torches on top, to be able to find my way back here from a distance.

Lights on the top of the hill

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Minecraft: The Third Floor of the House

Feb 06 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

Now on to the third floor. As before, I put light on two sides of the entrance room:

Entrance room of to third floor

This time, however, the arch was blocking most of one side; I ended up solving that by having a long wide hall with windows at both ends and more torches than normal.

A long, wide hall; the arch would be on the left

I also created a workroom, which is currently my primary storage and smelting area. (I’m running out of chest space, though, I should put in some more.)

Third floor workroom

You may have noticed a balcony in that first picture: now I’m starting to craft my surrounding landscape a little more explicitly.

Looking down over the tree farm from the balcony

Viewing the sunset from the balcony window

That crafting hasn’t been entirely successful: in particular, the balcony blocked the view from the second floor window more than I would have liked. Inspired by Stanford’s outside stairs, I decided to add some going up on the outside from the balcony:

Stairs up from the balcony

If you go all the way up the stairs and look in the right direction, you can see where my spawn point was in the desert.

Hello, spawn point down there!

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Minecraft: The Second Floor of the House

Feb 06 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

When we last left this story, I’d found an amazing cave. It was so large as to be overwhelming, however, so I decided to spend some time working on a house instead. My initial entrance was at the bottom of a rather large hill, so I decided to hollow out some rooms above that.

The stairs up to the second floor

I hollowed out a fairly large room; following my Christopher Alexander fetish, I decided to put Light on Two Sides of Every Room, or at least of this one.

Light on Two Sides of Every Room

Actually, I think there’s a big Christopher Alexander Minecraft post waiting to be written here, but that should probably go on my other blog, so here I’ll just hint at what’s going on: fitting this house into the existing shape of the mountain has been illuminating.

The second floor also has a hallway and a smaller room.

Hallway and smaller room on second floor

Inside the smaller room

These pictures also point out my increased use of glass: at some point around here I started smelting, and realized that I’d want a renewable heat source, so I started a tree farm out there:

The top of my tree farm

One other aspect of conforming to the existing space: the hill that I’m building into leads to an arch. I’m still under the arch, but only just barely, making the windows on that side noticeably darker.

The view from under the arch

You can also see the exit from the ravine I’m mentioned earlier; and sheep continue to be a theme.

A candle in the distance

What's that sheep doing up here?

Behind the stairs, I hollowed out a little area; I’m tentatively thinking of it as a pantry, but there aren’t any chests or anything in there. It’s also where the stairs to the third floor are located.

Steps up to pantry

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Pro Keys Status, February 5, 2011

Feb 05 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

What with the job search and piano recital accompaniment, I haven’t found time to work on my Rock Band 3 pro keys skills for the last few weeks. And, as I feared, my rank has slipped: I’m now at rank 174:

I'm rank 174 as of February 5, 2011

I did put in an hour or two today, however, doing the first three apprentice songs. The Con was easy to get 100% on (I think I did it on my second try); Werewolves of London and Heart of Glass are both quite doable, but I haven’t yet managed either of them. I didn’t even get gold stars on Heart of Glass, but that’s because it’s graded way too hard: on my best run, I only missed one cluster of notes, got rank 129, and only reached five stars on the (admittedly quite long) final chord.

I’m not sure how much effort I’ll sink into the 100% goal. I’m enjoying putting in a good effort on songs, but playing Werewolves of London over and over again hoping to not get bored during the repetitive chord progression while staying focused enough to hit the flair at the end accurately got to be a bit much. So for now, I’m thinking that I might relax on that and just give each song a few solid runthroughs to work out the kinks and then move on.

Just doing well but not perfect on those three songs was good enough to get me another 100,000 points. Which is good, because the bar for rank 100 is now around 7,500,000 points, and I’m sure it will be higher by the time I get close.

Playing this and practicing for the recital has gotten me wondering more about the virtues of memorization. My daughter’s violin teacher uses the Suzuki method, which means that she’s had to memorize all of the pieces she’s been playing. And both experiences have made me wish that I were a bit better at translating directly from sounds to fingers: I have decent musical memory, I think, but I’m not using it enough.

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