Maxim mentioned code.org to me a couple of times last week, but I didn’t have the time to check it out. Today, however, he said that “Learn an hour of code” was his homework for the computer class. That got me quite interested. After all, I was exploring looking for an easy way to get him (and some other kids) into computer programming. We’ve tried bits and pieces of online tutorials here and there, YouTube videos, and I’ve even took a swing at it myself – all for nothing. It was all too boring and broad and it always required plenty of effort to get into.
And I’m happy to report – that’s where Code.org succeded. These guys have found a way to explain things in a very simplistic manner, with immediate practical exercises, which utilize drag-n-drop instead of typing (even a seasoned programmer is rarely a touch typist in my experience), familiar surroundings of Angry Birds and Plants vs. Zombies games, and short, yet motivational explanations of core concepts by computer industry celebrities, like Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates. There also a familiar gaming incentive to the experience, with badges and achievements, but those aren’t the core motivator.
We’ve spent about an hour with Maxim, going through tutorials and doing exercises. So far, it was a perfect balance of fun and education. But for me, it there was also another important aspect to this. I could finally show to my son what I do at work (well, not exactly what I do, but close enough). Explaining programming with words and showing bits of code and chunks of website never looked too appealing. Now however he has a better idea.
And for the first time he is actually excited about programming. So much in fact that I could barely get him to go to bed. We had to make plans for tomorrow to continue to calm him down a bit.
Thanks code.org! You guys have done an amazing job. Keep it up!
2048 has to be one of the most addictive games ever! It’s like a mix of tetris, 15 and sudoku – all in one. There is also the adult edition (NSFW).
When I got back home from work yesterday, another one of my recently ordered packages arrived. This time, the one with the “Call of Duty: Ghosts” game for the Playstation 3. It’s been a while since my last Call of Duty campaign, so I was excited – jumped straight into action. The next six and a half hours flew by like 15 minutes. That’s how long it took me to finish the campaign with the Regular difficulty. During that time I fought in space, in the air, on the ground, at sea, and water. I’ve been to the ice cold north and mosquito infested jungle of the south. I flew helicopters, drove tanks, operated remote snipers, targeted space-based warfare, blew up hundreds of vehicles and killed thousands of people. It was a bloody battle which required training, precision, bravery, heart of a stone and balls of steel. But I came out on top and got all the trophies and the medals in the process.
A few minutes after the campaign finished and my red, watery eyes rested, I’ve also tried the online multiplayer. That’s the part of the game where I’ll be spending much more hours in order to learn the maps, weapons and gear, but for now I just needed a taste of it. While the new interface is a tad bit confusing at first, I see that all the old elements are there – different types of games, different types of weapon and equipment configuration, etc. The controls in action are all the same as before, so I was pretty comfortable decreasing the numbers of my alive enemies. The physics are slightly different from the previous games, but this, again, is just a matter of getting used to.
Overall, I’m quite happy with the purchase. It’s the good old Call of Duty that I dearly love – with a good, twisted campaign and a multitude of options for men-to-men battles.
The Great Language Game
I got 600 so far … What about you?
Wikipedia describes the Assassin’s Creed game premise like so:
The Assassin’s Creed games primarily revolves around the rivalry between two ancient secret societies: the Assassins and the Knights Templar, and their indirect relation to an ancient species pre-dating humanity, whose society, along with much of Earth’s biosphere, was destroyed by a massive solar storm. The games’ real-world chronological setting is the year 2012, and feature Desmond Miles, a bartender who is a descendant of several lines of prominent Assassins; though raised as an Assassin, he fled his nomadic family to seek out a more common lifestyle. He is initially kidnapped by the megacorporation Abstergo Industries, the modern-day face of the Knights Templar, who are aware of Desmond’s lineage. Desmond is forced to use the “Animus”, a device that allows him to experience his ancestral memories.
Initially, when I started playing Assassin’s Creed, I thought that this whole ancestral memory exploration idea was very cool. It gave the game an easy opportunity to travel back in time, as well as it explained how the main character could die and resurrect many times during the course of the game.
Well, apparently, this is not all fiction – there is a scientific basis for the idea. Mysterious Universe covers a few bits of research, including this:
Prof Marcus Pembrey, from University College London, said the findings were “highly relevant to phobias, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorders” and provided “compelling evidence” that a form of memory could be passed between generations.
He commented: “It is high time public health researchers took human transgenerational responses seriously.”
Not exactly an exploration of ancestral memories yet, but a step in that direction.
How to Get Good at Chess, Fast
The tl;dr of this training plan is: play a lot, analyze your games, and primarily study tactics. Your knowledge of openings, endgame, middlegame, etc. will come from analyzing your games and going over grandmaster games. Only study one of those specific topics if it is clear you are specifically losing because of that topic.
For a while now I am thinking that you don’t really know something until you can easily explain it or talk about it, in simple words and with people who might not even know one thing about the subject. John Carmack is well known and respected in the field of computer graphics and gaming, and watch him talk about light and rendering! I now nothing of it, and I watch this whole talk, glued to the screen, catching every word.
Apart from the physics of light, this provokes thought on other subjects too. The complexity of simple things comes to mind. Something that we all observe every day and seldom think about – turns out to be so complex. The importance of computer games is another subject. I’m a big fan of Quake in particular, and I’ve heard a billion times people asking questions on why is this important at all and how this makes the world better. Well, I guess, that question is easy to answer now. Some game makers push the technology, push the science, and they do make the world better. But they need us – gamers, once in a while, to pay for that and to provide feedback on what works and what doesn’t.
Once again, it’s been a very long time since I played Quake 3. Today, had a duel with a colleague. Plain old Quake 3 with no mods, no configs, no tweaking, no warm-up. My eyes were tearing, hands shaking, heart racing, but I won none-the-less – 20:2! Even managed to squeeze a humiliation in there. Old school FTW!