Daily Finds - November 2020


This website has very interesting reverse-engineering on the Petz games.

Yabiko Petzy Things

This made me want to have a look at the EXE too. I wasn't even aware that Petz have (according to class names, at least) genomes, phenotypes, traits, alleles, AI goals, 'social awareness' (whatever that may be), toy preferences, personalities, and in general complex behaviour. I had always assumed I'd been 'tricked' by the cute graphics as a child, and that there was really no depth to anything going on on-screen. I wish source code was required to become public domain after a certain number of years so that we didn't have to reverse-engineer things.

Here are some weird function names for you from the EXE:

So... yeah... Petz were pretty horny, it turns out?


I've been playing with coding a lo-fi creature creator in Godot, obviously heavily inspired by Petz. Here is a rudimentary gryphon I made with it.

Like Petz, everything is either a circle or a line. It's only 2D right now. I'll share it on this site soon once I've fixed up some bits and pieces. I can think of lots of things I want to add - pose mode, simple animations, eyes as a special type of circle - but first I need to deal with the basics like adding zoom/pan controls.

While doing this, I realised the 'fuzz' on Petz ballz is basically just horizontal lines protruding from the ball to a slightly randomised distance. What a neat simple way of achieving that visual.

I've never really worked with shaders so it took me a stupidly long time to figure out how to implement that, especially given that you can't draw outside of the bounding box of a 2D element in Godot. So in my implementation, fuzz actually shrinks the core ball size in order to allow room for the fuzz, and the balls currently use a simpler random fuzz rather than horizontal lines.


There's a company called Shakti Mat that pays for a lot of Facebook adverts. They sell a spiky mat which is meant to be relaxing or invigorating or something. I ended up looking at their reviews. They're obviously applying a word filter to the user input. Call me childish, but I spent quite a while laughing at how unintentionally rude the filter makes the reviews. Bonus points if you can work out what the word filter is censoring (answer below...)

Highlight for the answer if you can't get it: they're censoring all parts of the phrases "pain relief" and "pain killers", presumably because they're selling an alternative medicine device.

Not directly related, but see also the Scunthorpe problem.


Yesterday I got a new iPad Air. My previous device is an iPad Air 2 from 2014. It still works great except that the battery health is very poor and it needs to be plugged in almost constantly. Since battery replacement is expensive and difficult for these devices, and the device is about six years old now, I upgraded.

However, I would definitely say that if your older device still works fine, there's absolutely no reason to upgrade. Going from a chunky original iPad to an Air was a big deal. It was much thinner and better-performing. Going from a 2014 Air to a 2020 Air, there's almost no difference. The screen is a little larger but it's heavier and thicker than the Air 2 (they try to say the thickness is the same, but the Air 2 was heavily bevelled whereas the new Air is a chunky rectangular device). The stereo speakers are nice but won't blow anyone's mind. The performance is really the same, maybe unless you're doing very computationally/graphically-heavy work, which I don't see why you would on a tablet.

Other than that, I've still been doing drawabox exercises. I understand the purpose of them now. I was (arrogantly) going along thinking "of course I can draw a line, of course I know how to plot perspective" - up until I got to freehand perspective. No construction lines, no ruler, just draw boxes in good 3-point perspective.

I immediately realised that not only did I not understand perspective, I really couldn't draw a straight line. I had to go right back to the first exercise.

I've also been watching a Netflix show called Next in Fashion. I have no interest in fashion but I do like competition shows. This show is in the British style - the contestants and judges are positive and upbeat, there's not much drama, and it's obviously a bit low-budget. I like seeing the total mess created in the process of making the clothes. Cloth all over the floor and what looks like rags pinned to the dummy. To cut fabric they use what is basically a pizza cutter. Looks fun.

I'm procrastinating on setting up my Gemini capsule, so here's a cute gemini link: A game for one person and a tree.


Something slightly different today, because why not. Here are three videos of ancient instruments. These are links to the deturl clean youtube player to avoid login nags from YouTube.

Cornu de Pompeii

Two (replica) iron age trumpets

Carnyx celta


I did two pages of drawabox ellipses.

I don't know how useful it was, but it was fun in a zen sort of way, and I like the outcome just for how it looks. I also did some contour drawings which were more or less successful. Maybe I'll set up a sketchbook page.

I've been looking at Scott Robertson's How to Draw. This isn't particularly a type of drawing I'm interested in - architectural/drafting type stuff, lots of vehicles - but the mathematical tricks of perspective are worth browsing through. The drawings remind me of vintage sci-fi illustrations. It's usually only there you see cars, spaceships and planes rendered with such loving detail.


I found out conceptart.org is gone. I know this is old news, but I only realised recently. It now redirects to some weird water bottle advert. It's a real shame; I never posted there, but I spent a lot of time looking on enviously and following various sketchbooks. The sketchbooks were my favourite part of the site because you could see people's not-so-good, rough works as well as great pieces, and you could see people progress from total beginner to expert. Actual pros posted there and everyone was very forthcoming with praise and advice even for beginners, as long as they took practice seriously.

The closest alternative seems to be Crimson Daggers. Otherwise, like everything else, artwork is increasingly posted on 'social media' and not on forums. Apparently the entire idea of concept art (for film/games) has also fallen out of favour and has been largely superceded by 'photobashing', which I gather is a mix of using 3D modelling, photos and digital painting to make pieces more quickly.

I have been continuing with the drawing course. I also did some drawabox exercises today. I don't find the explanations very good and the exercises are of dubious value, but I did get more confident making lines with ink.


When making dinner this week we found several small red worms in the supermarket celery. They'd been sitting in the fridge for several days and weren't too lively.

There are also a bunch of little caterpillars on the mandarin tree.

They are some kind of leaf roller. They roll leaves up or stick them together with the help of a white silky web. They seem to lurk inside these little cocoons a lot, one caterpillar to a web. I have been plucking the affected leaves and putting them outside.

I had the same problem in the summer, but less so because predators could eat the 'pillars while the trees were outside. You might think it would be birds that eat them, but I found something different when I came to this leaf. (Open in a new tab for bigger image)

The dark shape is, I think, the back-end of an earwig (note the two pincer forms). I didn't want to open the leaf to get a better look - whatever it was had a lot of legs and certainly was not a caterpillar! It had infiltrated the cocoon and evidently eaten the inhabitant.

I checked the 'dying' branch of the tree by scraping a little bark off. It's definitely still green and alive just under the surface. Hopefully it will regrow its leaves in spring.


The other day I bought this "learn to draw" course. It's hosted by Ronnie Williford, who worked on Disney animation and has a website here.

I very much like the instructor so far. When I was younger I always used to hate doing drawing 'drills' like shading basic spheres or practicing perspective, but the reason I bought this course is because I saw the preview on Youtube and was struck by his enthusiasm for these drills. He plays with variations on them and shows you how they can be fun and interesting, and what use they are in real art.

In fact, the way he teaches them, the drills really are mentally taxing and I certainly feel like you could play with them and practice with them alone for a few days before moving on.

Here's my sketchbook page showing the first exercises he gets you to do: value scales and spheres. It's more difficult than it looks, that's all I can say!


A couple of interesting things happening with my plants. One is that some seedlings have appeared in the planter. In summer I buried a few whole, overripe tomatoes in there to see whether they would sprout in spring. In theory seeds don't sprout well from a whole tomato because the tomato goo inhibits their sprouting. However, these look like tomato seedlings, and they've come up in autumn! I guess they'll just die off over winter.

The other is that one branch of my mandarin tree (which is inside for the winter) seems to be dying. The lower leaves dropped off a while back, and now the branch has leaked some sap and the leaves are limp. I'm not sure of the cause - possibly I let it get too dry and that branch was sacrificed. However, that branch also has flowers on it so I haven't cut it off just yet. I'll keep an eye on it. The other branches still appear healthy.


A lot of site owners here on Neocities have sections about their identity. Some of them even start with it right on the homepage. It seems like younger users especially like to share their gender, pronouns and age straight away.

This is the main thing that stands out for me on neocities vs my memories of 90/00s websites. When I grew up on the internet, a/s/l was a question only creepers asked. You weren't supposed to tell anyone that information. If you did, you usually lied - we were all sixteen on Neopets! I never knew whether websites were owned by other kids or by professionals. (It helped that everybody's web design skills were equally awful back then.)

The internet used to be an escape from your real world identity, not an amplifier of it. Personally I would rather not know who is behind a website. It's interesting that over time your real identity has stopped being a 'protected' bit of information and is instead something that is normal to share immediately.


Ask the person nearest to you to read The Raven.

If they're like most people, they will read it something like this:

ONCE upon a MIDnight DREARy, while i PONdered WEAK and WEARY
over MANY a QUAINT AND CUrious VOLume of forGOTten lore

I mean basically they'll read it out like it's regular English, because they can't find any rhythm. Some people find a rhythm in the first line, but then stumble over "forgotten lore" in the second, because it doesn't fit. Geez, what a hack this Poe guy is! Or he's "playing with the meter", as I saw someone else online suggest.

Wikipedia says it's trochaic octameter - but I defy anyone to read it as Wikipedia gives it, counting "many" and the "ious" of curious as one syllable each. Apparently this is how it's meant to be read:

Over MANY a QUAINT and CURious VOLume OF forGOTten LORE

Yeah, okay. Try it yourself.

Another solution is to read it completely unnaturally, with two stresses in each line, putting emphasis on rather strange words and parts of words:

once uPON a midnight dreary, while i PONdered weak and weary
over MANy a quaint and curious volume OF forgotten lore
while I NODded nearly napping, suddenLY there came a tapping
as of SOMEone gently rapping, rapping AT my chamber door
ah, disTINCTly I remember it was IN the bleak December;

It then becomes completely regular. You can read the whole poem that way without tripping over much of anything.

I can't find anyone reading it out like this, probably because it sounds pretty goofy and nothing like the slow horror-style readings people like to give it. It sounds like The Raven via Edward Lear. You wouldn't want to actually recite it in this sing-song way. But it is much more regular than the suggested version on Wikipedia.


Here's a little pixel art I did of one of my rats.

She's sitting on a towel like in this photo.


My tomato seeds are finished drying.

I saved them from my tomatoes this year. This was the first time I grew tomatoes. It was easy and rewarding - all my seeds germinated and the tomatoes were great. They're an heirloom variety (Hundreds and Thousands) so should be regrowable from these seeds.

To save tomato seeds you have to leave the seeds/pulp in some water for several days until a mold grows over them. The mold breaks down the goo around the seeds so that they can germinate. Didn't take a photo of the mold, but it's quite interesting how fast it grows.


I played Among Us. To me it seems inspired by Space Station 13.

SS13 is a very complicated game. It's impossible to describe everything in it. It's the Dwarf Fortress of online games. My SS13 story is that a botanist taught me how to create a potion that made me vomit up a giant bee. Later I tried to recreate the potion myself but I got the ratios wrong and the bee burst out of my body, killing me instantly.

Among Us is much simpler and I think it's a bit lacking because of how short the rounds are and how little there is to do. SS13's best moments were when people were just trying to do their job, but their job was so absurdly complex or the player had such a bee in their bonnet about accomplishing some pointless goal that everything went horribly wrong. In Among Us, the tasks are really simple and you don't have time to think much about traps, because the players win if they do all their tasks (which can take just a few minutes). Still fun if you're playing with friends, but quite limited. I think you should be able to fail the tasks if you're not paying attention, and have that have some visible/mechanical impact on the other players (e.g. if you fail to flush the garbage it gets strewn throughout the ship, making it harder to see). We enjoyed it when a couple of players almost failed to stop a reactor problem because they were just incompetent (and had to be bailed out by other players), and accusations flew about whether one of them was doing it deliberately as an impostor. There should be more opportunities like that!


Yesterday I bought a bromeliad:

I love him.

Bromeliads in the wild often cling onto trees. They use their roots for clinging, not for water absorption. You have to water the central 'mouth' of the plant rather than watering the soil. It's more like having an alien pet than having a regular plant. Here's my bromeliad's centre.

Pineapples are bromeliads. You can see that the top of the pineapple resembles the full plant. Here's a pineapple actually growing on a plant, which I'd never thought about before (see photo for credit):

The pineapple plant can create up to 200 flowers. Each 'scale' of the 'mini-pineapple' here is a flower.