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Po’Daddy Chilli

This one is easy:

1 can beans – Black or whatever you have. Don’t bother draining them. Why would you? Bean can juice is delicious! And full of that umami meatiness. Also, draining takes more effort and means more washing up afterward. I stock up on canned beans when I see them on sale. Often less than $1/can. Dried beans are cheaper, and when I think of it I’ll soak about a cup of them a day in advance. Once they’re soaked, though, you should use them within a day or they’ll start to rot.

1 can tomatoes – Diced is best for this. So you get reasonably-sized chunks of tomato. But anything would work. Size of can doesn’t really matter.

1 Tablespoon chili powder – Obviously, more means spicier and less means less. From my experience, 1 Tbsp gives a decent amount of heat, maybe too much for little kids who still have taste buds. So you could start with 1 tsp and taste before adding more. Chili powder is one of the essential spice blends, what curry is to India, mélange or herbs de Provance is to France, 5-spice is to China, etc. It’s a blend of cumin, ground chiles, garlic powder, and salt. I once ran out of chili powder and made my own by combining equal parts of cumin, paprika, garlic powder, salt, and black pepper. It was pretty good.

Dump it all in a pot, bring to a simmer and cook over low heat for a few minutes. Or microwave in a covered bowl for a few minutes. This ends up being less than $2 for the whole dish, which means maybe 40¢ per serving.

Serve with rice on the side for a pretty balanced meal in terms of essential nutrition. Add some diced onion or shredded cheese on top if you’re feeling fancy.

This recipe happens to be vegetarian, and vegan in fact. Most cheap eats are.

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Inside the Glowing-Plant Startup That Just Gave up Its Quest

Source: Inside the Glowing-Plant Startup That Just Gave up Its Quest

Taxa Biotechnologies promised a light-emitting plant that could replace street lamps. Here’s why that project failed.

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May 2017: Split Decisions

Split Decisions

by George Bredehorn

The only clues in this crossword are the letter pairs provided in the grid. Each answer across and down consists of two words, which share the letters to be entered in the empty squares. In

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How We Judge a Good Game—Part 1

As part of our support for the Choice of Games Contest for Interactive Novels, we will be posting an irregular series of blog posts discussing important design and writing criteria for games. We hope that these can both provide guidance for people participating in the Contest and also help people understand how we think about questions of game design and some best practices. These don’t modify the evaluation criteria for the Contest, and (except as noted) participants are not required to conform to our recommendations–but it’s probably a good idea to listen when judges tell you what they’re looking for.

If these topics interest you, be sure to sign up for our contest mailing list below! We’ll post more of our thoughts on game design leading up to the contest deadline on January 31, 2018.

Since we announced the contest and posted our game design guidelines we’ve received a number of questions that show some folks interested in entering the contest are having some difficulty understanding the connect between our judging rubric (below) and the game design documents.

  • Original, Interesting Characters, 15% of score
  • Original, Interesting Setting and Plot, 15% of score
  • Conflicting Goals with Satisfying Endings, 15% of score
  • Balanced, Intentional, Interesting Choices/Options, 15% of score
  • Inclusivity, 10% of score
  • Prose Styling, 10% of score
  • Creative Stats, Consistently Applied, 10% of score
  • Length and Coding Efficiency, 5% of score
  • Overall, Judge’s Choice, 5% of score

In order to draw that line a little more closely, consider the following analogy: our guidelines are like a recipe. You need to stick to the recipe or the cake will fall, or won’t cook through. Now, that doesn’t mean every game is alike: some games will be almond cakes, some will be sachertortes, some red velvet, some will even be babka or Boston cream pie. But almost every cake is made with flour, sugar, butter, right?

So too, with our guidelines. In determining the winner of the contest, each game will be scored based on the judging rubric above, and while there is a lot of variation in the types of games that can be submitted, games which don’t hew to our guidelines in some very basic ways will likely receive a 0 in the category they fall short in. Such a score in any one category is enough to ensure your game will not win the contest, because the game will have failed in such a way that no amount of high scores in any other categories would allow it to win.

First, you should study the guidelines document closely before you begin writing your game, but to supplement that over the next few weeks we’ll be giving you the concrete ways in which the Guidelines connect with our Judging Rubric. For this week, we’ll begin with a couple of the most commonly asked points, Inclusivity, and Length and Coding Efficiency. We’ll also cover one of the earliest design decisions in a game, the Setting and Plot.

Inclusivity (10% of score):
To be inclusive games must, at a minimum, not be gender or orientation locked. That means that a player must be able to play as male or female, and gay or straight if either are at all mentioned. It is, however, an option to omit these things (i.e. never mention the player character’s gender and/or have no romances). If a game does offer romances, they should be equally satisfying no matter the player character’s gender and orientation. Games that offer trans, nonbinary, romantic asexual, aromantic, polyamorous, and other gender and orientation options can score higher in this category.

Additionally, non-player characters should have a mix of ethnicities, genders, orientations, and other other marginalized groups. They should also not play into stereotypes of race, gender, ethnicity, etc. For instance, leaders shouldn’t all be men and shouldn’t all be white; nurturers and victims shouldn’t all be women; criminals shouldn’t all be people of color; same-sex romances shouldn’t all end in tragedy; women shouldn’t appear only as motivation or reward.

The details of how this is expressed of depends on the game, of course. If your game is set in feudal Japan, for example, the absence of characters of African descent is not a problem. Likewise, if your game is in a setting that was historically single-gender (as in the case of Choice of Broadsides), then it’s possible to have the majority of NPCs be the same gender, so long as there’s an option for the PC to genderswap the environment. However, unless there is a specific, compelling reason not to do so, games should include substantial diversity.

Games which include plenty of robust, inclusive characters can score higher in Inclusivity, while games which do not make a substantial effort to include diversity are likely to score low in this category. Games which force the player to play as a preset gender or orientation, or which reinforce negative stereotypes, will receive a 0 in Inclusivity.

Length and Coding Efficiency (5% of score):
To understand what we mean by length, you need to first know what we measure the total length of a game by the number of words in ChoiceScript files, including code. (This is the “length” we use in most places.) We then also measure the average number of words that players read each time they play; we call this the “playthrough length.” We’ve found one of the biggest factors in how well a game is received, is just how long it is. Players simply tend to rate our bigger games more highly than our smaller ones.

At a minimum the total length of your game must be 100,000 words without repeating large swaths of text. Games that are longer without repeated text, and that efficiently use *goto, *gosub, *fake_choice, and *if/*else commands to ensure that text is not repeated unnecessarily can score higher in this category. Games which are longer without feeling drawn out, or that otherwise feel as though they are precisely as long as they need to be to tell their story, can also score higher in Length.

Of course, this is all about how much different text a player can possibly see, so while longer games will tend to score higher, a game which repeats large amounts of text or code, or has large amounts of code that adds little to the story, will tend to score lower, and may possibly receive a 0 in this category depending on its total length. Games which are under 100,000 total words will receive a 0 in Length no matter their playthrough length.

Setting and Plot (15% of score):
The setting and plot of your game should have a certain level of originality and creativity without becoming inaccessible to a larger audience. A good way to measure this is by seeing if you can give an “Elevator Pitch” of your game. Try to condense your game down a single sentence, and see if it’s both understandable, and still feels interesting. If it’s extremely easy to explain your entire game in a single sentence, or you can do it by just pointing to a genre or another story, it’s possible your game may be lacking originality. If you simply can’t, then your concept might need to be simplified a bit.

Consider the following examples: all of these games’ elevator pitches are creative, but grounded enough to be understood with a single sentence pitch.

Creatures Such As We: You play a tour guide on the moon who is obsessed with a video game.
The Orpheus Ruse: You play a psychic spy who can inhabit other people’s minds and bodies.
Versus: You play an alien who can travel through time and space, and absorb others’ powers in a game of intrigue.
For Rent: Haunted House: You play a real estate agent who must rent a haunted property or risk losing their job.

Sometimes games may embrace the tropes of their genre, but even then they should still find distinctive stories within those frameworks. For instance:

A Midsummer Night’s Choice: You play a Shakespearean-style child of a nobleman who escapes to the forest to find true love.
Psy High: You play a high schooler with supernatural abilities who foils an evil plot.
The Hero of Kendrickstone: You play a novice adventurer—warrior, wizard, rogue, or bard—just setting out in the world.

Games with a gripping premise make readers curious (without confusing them!) and which execute that idea well, with good cohesive plot development and a clear, well developed setting, are likely to score higher in Setting and Plot. Games which are very difficult for the player to follow, or which are devoid of engagement and creativity, are likely to score low in this category. Games that lack any real setting (such as collections of short stories, or mechanics based dungeon crawlers) may receive a 0 in this category.

Next time we’ll continue explaining our Rubric by seeing how a baseball cap will help us to explain Creative Stats, Balanced Choices, and Conflicting Goals with Satisfying Endings.

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Ben Carson Just Got a Whole Lot Wrong About the Brain

Oh, if only your brain remembered everything you ever encountered. The post Ben Carson Just Got a Whole Lot Wrong About the Brain appeared first on WIRED.
Ben Carson Just Got a Whole Lot Wrong About the Brain

Source: Wired – Science

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New malaria vaccine is fully effective in very small clinical trial

(credit: Credit: JJ Harrison, via Wikimedia) Malaria, a potentially deadly mosquito-borne infection, remains a problem in many parts of the world. Reducing infections has been challenging because no vaccine is currently available. Prevention efforts have mostly concentrated on eliminating the transmission vector, mosquitoes. A recent study published in Nature shows that a new vaccine for malaria is well tolerated by humans and can provide significant immunity to malaria. Malaria is caused by infection of the protozoan parasite Plasmodium falciparum. These are complex cells that have a number of means to evade the immune system, which has made the creation of vaccines challenging. To make this new vaccine, the parasites were first rendered harmless via radiation and then rapidly frozen for preservation. Healthy adult volunteers were given three doses of this vaccine at 28-day intervals before being challenged with exposure to the malaria parasite. Under these conditions, nine out of the nine immunized participants avoided a malaria infection. Additionally, subjects who received non-optimized concentrations of the vaccine dose still exhibited some protection against infection, with one-third or two-thirds of vaccinated people demonstrating immunity,…
New malaria vaccine is fully effective in very small clinical trial

Source: Ars Technica Science UK

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Dramatic Satellite Photo Shows an 'Atmospheric River' Drenching California

The Pineapple Express has been wreaking havoc across much of California over the past few months, delivering unusually high amounts of rain and threatening the state with floods and landslides. A dramatic new satellite image shows this “atmospheric river” as it extends from Hawaii to the US West Coast. Read more…
Dramatic Satellite Photo Shows an ‘Atmospheric River’ Drenching California

Source: Gizmodo Science

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Studies show testosterone offers little benefits to ageing men

(credit: AbbVie) In decades of research, scientists have found only one medical condition that’s clearly and effectively treated with testosterone supplements: pathological hypogonadism—that’s low testosterone levels due to disease of the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, or testes. But that hasn’t stopped drug makers and the supplement industry from convincing men that jacking their testosterone will stave off the effects of aging. Getting old naturally lowers testosterone in the body. In efforts to combat “Low T,” testosterone sales sprung 10-fold in the US between 2000 and 2011. In light of that trend, researchers are trying to get a handle on the health benefits of that beefed-up hormone consumption. So far, it looks wimpy. Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments
Studies show testosterone offers little benefits to ageing men

Source: Ars Technica Science UK

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SpaceX Launches Rocket to International Space Station

A Falcon 9 rocket from Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corporation, or SpaceX, was launched at the John F. Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Sunday, carrying supplies, experiments and cargo to the International Space Station.
SpaceX Launches Rocket to International Space Station

Source: New York Times – Space

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Australia Is Hot as Balls Right Now 

Parts of eastern and central Australia are in the midst of a horrific heatwave, with temperatures reaching as high as 116 degrees F (46 degrees C). Alarmingly, the record-setting conditions are expected to worsen over the coming weekend. While it’s always hard to tie individual meteorological events to climate change,…Read more…
Australia Is Hot as Balls Right Now 

Source: Gizmodo Science