Archive for December, 2011

VGHVI Minecraft: December 29, 2011

Dec 31 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

This month’s VGHVI Minecraft session was a quiet but pleasant one, with only Miranda, Roger, and myself present. (Largely talking about genealogy, as it turned out.) I thought I might build something out of my swamp house from last time, but I ended up just wandering around the swamp in fascination.

Swamp house in the rain

Sunset over the swamp

The main thing that caught my eye was that the swamp house was nestled in a corner of walls that were formed by a chunk transition caused my a Minecraft version update: swamp on one side, older style terrain on the other side, looking for all the world like a fortress. So I followed those walls for as far as I could see the chunk transitions. First, one direction:

One corner of the wall

Further along the wall

A watery transition

The transition continues

Another corner

The transition peters out at that corner in that direction. Next, the other direction, starting from a swamp tree hanging over the wall:

Hanging swamp gardens

Going in the other direction along the wall

Water emerging from a transition cliff

Really, the swamps in Minecraft are just beautiful. I love the different water colors; and, in the darkness, the trees look to me like strange shaggy beasts congregating in the countryside.

Swamp waters


More swamp waters, this time with some blue and some trees

Sunset over the swamp

Moonrise over the swamp

Shaggy tree beasts in the mist

And, finally, some non-swamp pictures; that squid seemed to have flashing lights or something.

A vicious attack squid

Patterns in the ice

The city looks as wonderful as ever

While I was wandering around, Miranda was putting a few more touches on the ice castle from last time:

Ice castle lattice (front)

Ice castle lattice (back)

And then one of us (not me, probably Miranda but maybe Roger) had the idea that next time we should play hide-and-seek. So Miranda started to build a suitable playground for that, with a library theme:

Beginning work on the hide and seek area

Miranda's first few buildings

Roof with arrow

This moving water strongly offended Miranda's sense of aesthetics


I’d never seen an enchantment table before. I built a couple of buildings as well; the first was a tall, narrow tower:

Looking down the book tower

Book vertigo

The outside of the tower

Library duck approves

And then I built a floating library. (Well, mostly floating, there’s a ladder on one corner.)

Starting work on the floating library

Inside the floating library

Let's add some enchantment tables

The top of the floating library

The floating library at sunrise

Floating library and tower

During this time, Miranda was working on a labyrinth, which I was sadly remiss in taking pictures of:

Entrance to library labyrinth

We’ll give it a try next time. (Which will be January 26th, Minecraft nights are the last Thursday of the month.) Come join us!

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Rock Band Status: December 18, 2011

Dec 20 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

This week’s pro guitar practice was interesting enough that I wrote about it on my main blog, so go read about it there! Outside of that:

On Saturday, the three of us went to a musical version of The Secret Garden. Which was pretty awful, but for some reason it led to us introducing Miranda to Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat on the ride home. Which Liesl and I sung along to, and we enjoyed that enough that we pulled out Rock Band and sung through the rest of the afternoon.

And fortunately my throat has recovered from the constant draining that it was doing a month or so ago: cleaning the air ducts really made a difference, I guess! So we kept that up for an hour and a half (stopping only because of dinner); and I was pleased to discover that I seem to be gaining a bit of range on the bottom, and that my voice sounds better overall as well. So I’m glad that the practice seems to be paying off! Still not good at hitting close harmonies, but hopefully that will also improve as we continue to sing together.

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Rock Band Status: December 11, 2011

Dec 12 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

This week, I didn’t have a huge amount of time to play Rock Band, so I decided to focus on Pro Bass and on my guitar technique. For the former, I went through 10 songs, finishing off the Apprentice tier on Expert; quite pleasant, started off very easy but the last few gave me some opportunities to make mistakes, albeit not enough opportunities that I decided to replay any of them. There were also several bits that were fast enough that I used them as alternating strumming practice.

As for guitar, I went back through the Hard Pro Guitar barre chord lessons, and a smattering of other ones. The good news is that I’m better at barre chords than I used to be, and in particular the one lesson that took me a couple of weeks to master I succeeded on the first try this time. But the bad news is that it took me a few tries on some of the other lessons and that my hand ached after doing them, so clearly I should work on barre chords more. Really, I should work that into my outside-of-game practice, instead of restricting the latter to alternating strumming.

I also practiced the 6-Part Ricercar from the Musical Offering three times (I believe) this week; I’m making progress, though there’s a long way to go before I even have the notes down. I only practiced the 3-Part Ricercar once; that piece is scaring me a bit, I should confront that.

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Ni No Kuni: December 11, 2011

Dec 11 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

I was busy this weekend, and I felt like spending my free time reading and playing music, so: no Ni No Kuni. Fortunately, I’d played a bit mid-week, so I have a little bit to report, but not much.

Specifically, at the end of last week, I’d just talked to a girl in the first world. I went and talked to her father next, who had gotten possessed somehow; I first fought the monster that was possessing him (the only battle I’ve done in the first world) and then, with the help of his wife, gave him a “kindness” heart piece.

After that, I went back to the girl, and gave her a “courage” heart piece. She’d been staying in the house, but I guess there was nothing physical wrong with her, just something mental wrong with both her and her father? At any rate, with that healed, I went back to the second world, and gave the girl there a courage heart piece as well. She got better, and decided to join my party (together with her Imagine). Her name is Maru, and she’s a healer.

Her father taught us some spells, and told us to go to a volcano. I wandered around town a bit, helping people, but then headed out of town to the volcano, saving right outside it.

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Rock Band Status: December 4, 2011

Dec 06 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

Lots of Rock Band this weekend. On Saturday, I decided to give Pro Bass a try; I jumped in on Expert, on the theory that, on the non-pro versions, Expert Bass is probably a little easier than Hard Guitar, and that proved to be the case for Pro as well. So I ended up going through all 11 of the Warmup songs, and the first 3 (I think) of the Apprentice songs.

So they were obviously easy enough that I didn’t feel compelled to play most of them multiple times (and I got a full combo on one and a 625-note streak on another), but they were fun! My ears weren’t always doing a great job of picking out the bass lines from the music; so while I was more aware than I normally am of harmonic changes, how they expressed themselves was occasionally a bit surprising. And this being Expert there were some bits requiring more dexterity than I could comfortably do: Werewolves of London had these cute little flips, and there was another song (I’ve forgotten which) that was tremolo-heavy. In general, I enjoyed playing single notes (instead of chords) without the ostentation of guitar solos, and I’m planning to continue with this for a while.

I also took a swing at a few of the Expert Pro Guitar lessons: I certainly need to improve my technique.

Saturday evening, Liesl and I went through several recent DLC songs, with her on non-Pro Bass and me first on non-Pro Guitar, later coming back on Pro Keys. And it was all great music: the Stevie Wonder DLC is absolutely one of my favorite DLC packs (I was going to say my single favorite, but on reflection London Calling clearly has that title, and there may be others that rank with Stevie Wonder), but I also enjoyed the other songs quite a bit. Specifically: “Galactic Love”, by New Nobility; “Frankenstein Teaser Trailer”, by Richard Campbell; “Welcome to the Black Parade”, by My Chemical Romance; “El Monstro”, by Dance for the Dying; “Break Me” and “Pretty Boy”, by The Irresponsibles. If you’re looking for DLC, I recommend all of those: not a dud in the bunch, some very good indeed, and I really wish “Welcome to the Black Parade” hadn’t been released before Pro Keys was available.

And today, I played my first songs on Expert Pro Guitar, which was awesome! Living In America’s main difficulty was that I found it hard to jump from an open E power chord to a seventh fret power chord: my fingers still can’t quickly hit chords quite as firmly as I’d like. Also, while I’ve been working on my alternate strumming, it’s less regular than I’d like. And the other interesting thing about that song was the different sounds that it makes: the game represented some of that difference by telling you to mute some of the chords, but my guess is that the game uses muting to represent a range of techniques. I could be wrong there, and certainly I need to spend more time experimenting with producing different sounds out of the amp. (I played through the song maybe six times, half muted and half amped.)

And I had as much fun playing The Hardest Button to Button as any other time I can remember with the game. (Which is saying something!) Nothing fancy, which combined with enough repetition to mean that I could learn the bits; but there was also enough variation to keep me on my toes. Some amount of arpeggiation; some amount of power chords; and a couple of variations on power chords, with it having you extend your finger over an extra string on one barred E power chord and having you occasionally dip over to an open E between barred A power chords.

That song, in particular, was quite a lot of fun to play while plugged in. Normally, I’m sight reading for significant chunks of most songs; but with that one, once I’d gone through it a few times and was used to the harmonic shifts in the song, I knew what to do everywhere, including bits where they switched things up. And hearing what those varied power chords sounded like was quite instructive: e.g. the sharp note that you get by extending to a fourth string gave me quite a bit of motivation to strum precisely enough so that I’d hit the bottom four strings without accidentally strumming the fifth string. Muting strings to cut off notes was also important; it’s something that I’d been doing instinctively, but I played around with it a little more consciously, including seeing how it felt different with both the right hand and the left hand.

After I’d played through it plugged in several times, I went back to playing through it muted to see if I could get a good score; I did (5 stars, 309th place on the leaderboards), but it felt very odd indeed playing without hearing my strings. Incidentally, I’m barely in the top 1% on Pro Guitar now, and finishing eighteen Pro Bass goals put me comfortably over 500 million fans.

I’m not planning to play through every song on Expert Pro Guitar; and I hope that there will be songs that I like enough to want to focus on them for quite a while. (I bought a bunch of Pro Guitar DLC upgrades yesterday, too.) But certainly today was an auspicious start to that experiment.

(Not much to report on the Musical Offering front: I played a couple of times, but in general evenings this week I wanted to spend hanging out with Zippy instead of practicing piano. I’ll get back to that, though!)

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Ni No Kuni: December 4, 2011

Dec 05 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

Very little to report this week. On Tuesday, I went through a dungeon on the way to the next city; I had to do more spells, including a few where I ended up trying several of the ones in the book before I happened across the correct one. (I think that wouldn’t have been necessary if I’d been more fluent in Japanese and/or had been paying more attention.) I got another Imagine in that dungeon; this one hatched from an egg.

And this weekend I was in a more Rock Band-y mood than a Ni No Kuni mood; I entered the city, and found the person I was supposed to talk to; he claimed not to know magic, but his assistant reminded me of somebody in the first world. So I went back there, and talked to her briefly, but I needed to cook dinner so I didn’t finish that task.

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VGHVI Minecraft: December 1, 2011

Dec 04 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

Pictures from this month’s Minecraft session (which really is the November one, we just pushed it back a week).

As has been the case in recent sessions, I mostly spent the time flying around, seeing what the new terrain is like. But first, some miscellaneous pictures:

Cow on the beach at night

Digging through to the nether roof

Lava arrow

I think that lava arrow is natural rather than constructed, but it actually does a pretty good job of pointing back at the portal.

Roger found a nice cliffside with jack o’lanterns:

Faces on the pumpkins

Better view of the waterfall

And Mattie was amused by the chicken that had wandered into a cave that Jonathan had explosively excavated several months back:

Chicken in cave

Looking up from the bottom of the cave

Now a bunch of pictures from my wandering. There were some quite sudden chunk transitions as old rendering algorithms and new rendering algorithms clashed, here’s one of my favorites:

Cliff glitch

Side view of cliff glitch

This was the first time I’d seen swamps, I think, and they’re rather lovely.

A swamp

Swamp at nightfall

Moon rising over swamp

Some more random pictures from the wandering:

Lava in a cave trench

I just took this one because of the message on screen

Sunrise way up high in the sky

A village I ran into

Now, back to glitches: here’s one that led to a cave being connected directly to the ocean.

Inside the cave

Closeup view of the water

View into the cave from the outside

And more glitches, include a rather charming old-fashioned floating island, followed by some non-glitch environmental pictures:

Square island corner

Cows next to glitch cliff

Floating ark

Island in mist

Strange moon

I’m still mostly blocked on construction projects, but when I found that swamp area again, I thought I’d make a little house in it. Miranda made fun of the small size of the house, but I think it’s kind of cute; I’ll have to come back again during the day to see how well it fits into the surroundings.

Green patch in the swamp

Swamp house

Looking out from the house

The house is lit up

As is usual, however, Patrick and Miranda were not at all blocked on construction! They decided to build a rather amazing Ice Palace on top of the ocean ice near the spawn point, right above the underwater train tunnel.

My first view of the ice palace

A decoration on top

There's a chicken coop in the back; here's the top view

And here's the side view

When I came back in the day, I found that the palace had turned into a meditation on the nature of captivity:

Distant view during the day

Closer view during the day

Imprisoned snowman

Please, let me out!

The chickens are happy with their prison, however

The middle of the palace, including a squid swimming between the palace and the tracks

When I came back the next night, Miranda had decided to expand the imprisonment theme with some pigs (with the flames from the spawners adding to the gruesomeness!); first, though, some pictures of other additions:

View of the front at night

A tree grows in the middle of the palace

Building a pigpen

Roast pork!

Side view of pigs

Eggs to go with the bacon

(I’m not sure that Miranda has the same interpretation of the imprisonment theme as I do; she’ll doubtless chime in below. I think it works rather well, though.) And some last pictures as dawn breaks:

Sunrise over the palace

Sun and the palace tree

Shapes in the distance

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