Saturday, April 27, 2013

Setting Sail, Coming Home

I've been listening to the Bastion soundtrack recently and it's reminded me how rare it is to find video game soundtracks with distinct vocals (as in, no generic prerecorded "oohs" and "ahhs").  Obviously it makes some sense to avoid vocals in most soundtracks in general, so generally they're only used in end themes.  Anyway, here are my favorite seven instances of songs in video games with distinct lyrics, not counting games with licensed tracks (like racing games and Alan Wake).

All of these are great and you should stop what you are doing and listen to all of them.

Bastion - Setting Sail, Coming Home
Journey - I Was Born for This
Portal - Still Alive (spoilers)
Portal 2 - The National - Exile, Vilify*
Skyrim - Dragonborn
The 7th Guest - The Fat Man - Skeletons in my Closet
The Curse of Monkey Island - A Pirate I Was Meant to Be

* I didn't actually find this song in-game; apparently it's like an Easter Egg?

A Pirate I Was Meant to Be gets tons of bonus points for being a song that is actually part of the storyline, as one of the most awe-inspiringly awesome unexpected moments of a video game ever.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Still a long way

For the past couple months I've been running an experiment of sorts where I had Firefox set up to block Flash by default, and then I'd selectively enable it for sites that needed it, like YouTube and Vimeo and Facebook and so on.  I've come to the conclusion, yet again, that the sites that I visit are still a long way from being Flash-free and HTML5-friendly.  Not only was it obviously obnoxious for Flash content that I wanted to see like videos, but there were a lot of unexpected place where it sucked, too: some sites have transparent Flash ads that cover a significant portion of the page, and with Flash disabled, parts of the page were simply inaccessible.  And some sites that I visit a lot like Soundcloud have script on the page that interacts with the Flash content that didn't know what to do without it.  And there are cases like where YouTube has a Flash-free beta player but it's pretty broken and isn't as functional as the regular Flash one.

My first experience in recent years with a Flash-free world was with the iPad; that was a couple years ago, and I found a lot of things frustrating about the iPad but the lack of Flash support was a big one.  I don't actually even completely remember what motivated me to try living without Flash again other than pure curiosity.  Microsoft decided that for the Surface, Flash was still a necessity, and right now I feel like this "experiment" vindicates the people who made that politically awkward decision pretty well.

I'd love a world where Flash was not a requirement to browse the web, but as far as I'm concerned, that's still going to be a while.  People like to talk about how everything's HTML5 now and Flash isn't necessary, but either those people visit a wildly different set of websites than I do and never click on random links from their friends, or they're just deluding themselves.

Friday, April 12, 2013

An entire morning spent just waking up

Months ago I resolved to stop getting on Facebook in the mornings, and start the day productively and earlier.  This has not happened yet.  I think the problem is that when I wake up I'm very groggy and disoriented.  I don't feel like I have the mental capacity to prepare for the day yet, so I sit and absently browse Facebook while I stretch and clear my eyes and wake my brain up.  At some point while clicking the various links that people shared I'm awake enough that I could start getting ready for my day, but at that point I'm already completely distracted, because I am very easily distracted in general and my friends post interesting things.  Once I finally pull myself out of endless browsing, I go through my work email to see if anything important has already happened, and inevitably there are things that need my attention there.  By the time that's done my brain is mostly "lit up," and now I'm remembering the things I need to do today, coming up with new ideas, and the like.  Those things need to be written down or I'll forget them later, so I start writing them down, and that generates new ideas.  By the time it's all done it can be 90 minutes of my day already taken up by the process of getting up.  It's not all 90 minutes of wasted time, since a lot of it is stuff I needed to do at some point anyway, or remembering things I needed to remember to do, but it still makes me feel like an entire morning spent just waking up.

Monday, April 8, 2013


I find myself perpetually sick of Alanis Morissette, even though I like her music. It's my car's fault, really. Whenever I choose a new playlist, her name sorts to the top alphabetically. So she's always the first artist I see or hear when picking new music, and I'm constantly hearing 20 seconds of Alanis before picking something else. Sorry Alanis.

Saturday, April 6, 2013


I found a neat tool that a grad student wrote called KeyFinder that determines the key of a song through audio analysis.  It got me wondering if my favorite songs share common keys.  I have too many "favorite songs" to analyze all of them, but I decided to pick 20 really excellent songs that are among my favorites, put them through the analyzer, and see if I could notice any patterns.

Wolfgang Gartner—Still My Baby A♭ minor
Hans Zimmer—Time G
Bear McCreary—All Along the Watchtower D♭ minor
Apparat—Goodbye E
OneRepublic—Counting Stars D♭ minor
OneRepublic—Can't Stop C
The Weeknd—The Birds (part I) G minor
Yann Tiersen—La Valse d'Amélie (Orchestral) A minor
Quarashi—Pro F minor
Icona Pop—I Love It A♭
Les Friction—Torture E
Kid Cudi—Pursuit of Happiness A minor
Hooverphonic—You Love Me to Death A
Goldfrapp—A&E A♭
Coldplay—Viva la Vida A♭
Russell Brower et al—Going Hozen F
Matt Uelmen—Ancients A minor
Keane—Atlantic E♭
Alex Clare—Too Close B minor
Gary Jules—Mad World B♭

I suppose the most interesting thing about all that is that there are actually more songs in a major key there than a minor key; I had always assumed that I preferred music in a minor key.  And A♭ shows up more than other keys.  And it's possible that the tool sucks and it's not actually accurate information, though the author has evidence to suggest it can play on the same field as other products with the same goal.  But anyway, I don't think I can draw too many conclusions from the exercise.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Hot tubs

Anyone have inside jokes with themselves?  I definitely do.  The hot tubs at my gym have signs in front of them that say

Soap shower required before entering whirlpool

but I decided that was basically just a nice way of saying something else, so every time I see those signs I'm slightly amused now because I translate them in my head to

Hey! Scrub yo butthole

So if you ever see me smirking near the hot tubs, that's why.