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The Crummy.com Review of Things 2015: Another year has gone, but what's the big deal? Let's remember the magical moments, like 12:12:12 on 12/12, or June 30th's leap second. Good timestamps, good timestamps. Here are the most worthwhile investments of my hard-earned 2015:

Books

I've been giving books short shrift by only mentioning a single Crummy.com Book of the Year, and in 2015 I started reading books on my commute (partly because I'm developing a tool that helps people read books on their commute), so I can afford to mention more than one. I have records of reading 25 books this year, and probably a couple more slipped through the cracks, but I've got a solid best-of slate.

The 2015 Crummy.com Book of the Year is Dragonfly: NASA And The Crisis Aboard Mir by Bryan Burrough. So much good stuff in that book. If you want to write fictional dingy spacecraft, you can't do better than looking at the dingy spacecraft we've actually built.

Runners-up:

  1. Nightwood by Djuna Barnes (who needs her own NYCB post)
  2. Jim Henson: The Biography by Brian Jay Jones
  3. You Can't Win by Jack Black (not that Jack Black)
  4. The Space Opera Renaissance, ed. David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer (book needs its own NYCB post)
  5. Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking, by Anya von Bremzen
  6. The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, by Becky Chambers

Honorable mention to Mallworld by Somtow Sucharitkul, a book that I didn't love, but I was blown away by its inventiveness. In 1982, Sucharitkul crammed Mallworld with all the jokes that would later be used in Futurama.

Film

Saw ninety-one features this year. As always, only films I saw for the first time are eligible for consideration, though that only eliminates three. Here are my must-see movies:

  1. The Americanization Of Emily (1964)
  2. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
  3. The Brink's Job (1978)
  4. Inside Out (2015)
  5. Sullivan's Travels (1941)
  6. Sunset Boulevard (1950)
  7. The Breaking Point (1950)
  8. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)
  9. Sweet Smell of Success (1957)
  10. Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)
  11. The Parallax View (1974)
  12. Nightmare Alley (1947)

And this year's bumper crop of "recommended" films:

  1. The Best of Everything (1959)
  2. Clueless (1995)
  3. Wagon Master (1950)
  4. The Crimson Kimono (1959)
  5. The Godfather, Part II (1974)
  6. Desperately Seeking Susan (1985)
  7. Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)
  8. Inside Man (2006)
  9. The Grapes of Wrath (1939)
  10. Kundo: Age of the Rampant (2014)
  11. Ed Wood (1994)
  12. How To Marry A Millionaire (1953)
  13. Brainstorm (1983)
  14. Invention For Destruction (1958)

Honorable mentions to the burglary in Rififi (1955) and the hotel tour in The Shining (1980). I don't want to sit through the whole movie again but those scenes were awesome.

Bots

Looking at the list of my follows I feel like I need to broaden my bot horizons because I love all of Allison's bots (except that damn Unicode Ebooks, which still has three more followers than Smooth Unicode) and I love bots that post images from image collections, and that doesn't seem like a very diverse set. Anyway, here are my faves of 2015:

Games

Didn't play a lot of new video games this year because of the persistent problem with my computer shutting off if I dare to start up a game. I did replace the computer near the end of the year, so there will probably be more games in 2016. In the meantime, the Crummy.com Game of the Year is the super-atmospheric This War of Mine; its only flaw, which it shares with nearly all games, is that it's not roguelike enough.

A couple runners-up and honorable mentions:

  1. 80 Days
  2. Mini Metro
  3. Alphabear

I played board games pretty regularly but the only new game I remember is the much-loved "Code Names", which I also think is great.

I'd wanted to do an escape room this year, but put the idea on hold when Sumana wasn't interested. Near the end of the year, though, Pat Rafferty (who now works at an escape room in Portland) invited me to join his room-escaping team, and I leapt stood up at the opportunity. As part of a crew of six, I helped to repair a drifting spacecraft. It was really immersive, finally allowing me to live the experience of crawling through a Jeffries tube.

My only complaint is the puzzles were free-to-play iOS game-level stuff. I understand why you have to do it that way, since none of us would be able to repair a spacecraft in real life, but it meant that a very immersive exploration experience was constantly interrupted by having to decode some Morse Code or solve cheesy riddles. Same reason I didn't like Myst. I did like the puzzles that made you combine objects.

Going Out

Sumana and I at Town Hall for PHCStereotypically this section would be called "Going Outside", but all the things I want to talk about happened indoors. In fact, two of them happened in the same building: the Town Hall Theater near Times Square. In fact, all of them, since I moved the escape room to the previous section,

Sumana and I both grew up listening to NPR, and we're both fans of the schticky comedy and down-home existentialism of A Prairie Home Companion (though less ardent fans than we were as teenagers). 2015 was the year I told Sumana (paraphrase) "You know, PHC does shows in New York, and as a project focused around a single individual who has been doing it since before we were born, it might not be around for much longer. We should see it live while we have the opportunity." Sumana was convinced by my airtight logic, and we caught the April 25th show. We had lousy seats but it was fun!

Town Hall selfie pre-PDQThen, near the end of the year, the PDQ Bach Golden Anniversary Concert Kickstarter was announced. As per previous paragraph, Sumana and I are also fans of Peter Schickele's ur-podcast Schickele Mix, so we went through a similar process, although I ended up going to the concert alone. This time I had a great seat! Beautiful music, lots of laughs, I'm really glad I went.

Food

As you can see from the associated pictures, I lost a lot of weight in 2015. I still have a little more planned, but I'm very close to the impossible-seeming target weight I set in July. I found the Atkins diet to be very effective. I don't think I have a lot of self-control, but I am very, very stubborn, and Atkins lets you substitute stubbornness for self-control.

Because of this I didn't exactly spend a lot of time in 2015 exploring New York's burgeoned restaurant scene, and the Food section will be correspondingly short. However, I want to give a special shout-out to the King of Falafel halal food truck in Astoria. See, most places, if you order a meal without the carby thing, they'll simply omit the carby thing, yielding about 60% of a meal. However, if you order a plate at King of Falafel and ask for no rice, they will fill up the empty space with more meat and salad, and you still get a full meal. Thanks, King of Falafel. Saved my sanity.

Also this sugar-free flourless chocolate cake recipe is good for managing your chocolate cravings. Honorable mention: xylitol.

My Accomplishments

People say that being on Atkins normalizes your energy level, getting rid of the highs and crashes, and I've found this to be true but very inconvenient, since the highs are where I do all my creative work, and the crashes happen at night, a.k.a. "getting sleepy", or they happen at 2 PM, when I drink some tea, problem solved. Right now I feel like it's 1:30 PM all day. Anyway, if you don't count the amazing work I did going from Before to After, 2015 wasn't my most productive year, since I spent half the year in power-saving mode.

But I did finish Situation Normal, and handed it off to an agent, so the book is officially Not My Problem. I've started work on a new novel, Mine, my take on the classic Big Dumb Object In Space story.

I wrote four short stories: "We, the Unwilling" (a bonus story for Situation Normal); "The Katie Event" (the third in the Awesome Dinosaurs trilogy, which you haven't seen because the second in the trilogy needs a revision); "Worm Hunt" (exploratory work for a novel I probably won't write); and "Only G51 Kids Will Remember These Five Moments", which I think I can sell if I ever get around to sending it out.

I gave three talks of note:

I crafted a fabulous NaNoGenMo entry with a one-line shell script: Alphabetical Order.

Four bots came from my fingers in 2015:

I also breathed new life into Smooth Unicode by implementing beautiful emoji mosaics.

Well-wishing

Finally I want to wish all of you readers the best in 2016, and to ask you to tell me what you liked in 2015. or what you're proud of accomplishing. I like other peoples' posts like this (Here's Allison's, here's Darius's), and I think taking a moment at the beginning of the new year to look back is satisfying in a way that can't be matched by the corporate "best of the year" lists that dominate the end of the old year.

Minecraft Archive Project: The 201512 Capture: On December 27th I started the third capture for the Minecraft Archive Project. Previous captures ran in February 2015 and March 2014. This time I collected about 420 gigabytes of material.

Screenshot of the Thermal Pointe map.

Here's the breakdown by what I believe the new files to be:
TypeNumber of filesCollective size
Maps33112320 GB
Maps (MCPE)15522 GB
Resource packs213730 GB
Resource packs (MCPE) 176172 MB
Mods6082 10 GB
Mods (MCPE)18391 GB
Screenshots33565157 GB
Skins31064132 MB
Server records25923361 MB
Blog posts6562129 MB

This time I think I was able to archive about 60-65% of the maps I saw, compared to 73% in the last capture. Even so, we ended up with 33k new maps in this capture versus 22k in the last one--and I didn't even get the adf.ly maps this time! (Nor will I--it's a huge pain and I'm sick of it.) 2012 was the single biggest year for custom Minecraft maps, and there was a downward trend visible in 2013 and 2014, but it looks like 2015 was really huge.

Screenshot from zero.min.org, a server that's been up since 2010

Couple new features in this capture: I started keeping track of blog posts and server records from Planet Minecraft. Server records are especially important because they usually feature screenshots, and in twenty years those screenshots will be the only record of what those servers looked like.

I've completely given up on the idea of archiving public servers--it's still theoretically possible but it's a full-time job for two developers, so I'd need to get a grant or some volunteer interest from the modding comunity. In fact, a few months ago the multiuser server I played Minecraft on went down, and I don't know whether my stuff is still around. That's life! Gonna archive the screenshots.

Screenshot for the Fairy Lights mod

The full dataset is now about 2.4 terabytes. I bought a new drive to store the archive and set it up with XFS, and it does seem to improve the performance when iterating over the file set.

As always I'm putting a copy of the data on a server at NYPL Labs, and I recently gave Jason Scott a drive that contained the first two captures, so he can do whatever Jason thing he wants with the data. I don't have any plans to make this archive public, or even to re-run the Minecraft Geologic Survey on the new data. My maximum supportable commitment is spending some time once a year to shepherd these scripts through saving a representative sample of this artform.

I'm going to leave everything else to the future when the archive becomes valuable to other people. I am doing exploratory work for adding a third site to the archive, but that's all I'll say about that for now.

[Comments] (2) The Minecraft (And Other Games) Archive Project: As suggested in the previous Minecraft Archive Project post, I have now completed a capture of the CurseForge family of sites. They host a lot of Minecraft stuff I hadn't downloaded before, including the popular Feed the Beast series of modpacks, lots of other modpacks, mods, and a ton of Bukkit plugins (not really sure what those are or how they differ from mods TBH).

CurseForge also has sites for Terraria and Kerbal Space Program, as well as many other games I haven't heard of or don't care about. I paid $30 for a premium membership and grabbed it all, downloading about 500 gigabytes of images and binaries. This doubles the size of the 201512 capture (though it probably introduces a lot of duplicates).

Here are the spoils, ordered by game:

Game What Capture Size (GB)
Firefall Add-ons <1
Kerbal Space Program Mods 23
Kerbal Space Program Shareables 1.8
Minecraft Bukkit plugins 19
Minecraft Customization <1
Minecraft Modpacks (Feed the Beast) 15
Minecraft Modpacks (Other) 87
Minecraft Mods 33
Minecraft Resource Packs 80
Minecraft Worlds 45
Rift Add-ons 7.5
Runes of Magic Add-ons 1.8
Skyrim Mods 6.4
Starcraft 2 Assets 4.7
Starcraft 2 Maps 46
Terraria Maps 4.8
The Elder Scrolls Online Add-ons <1
The Secret World Mods <1
Wildstar Add-ons 1.7
World of Tanks Mods 40
World of Tanks Skins 12
World of Warcraft Addons 48

Here's the really cool part: CurseForge projects frequently link to Git repositories. I cloned every one I could find. I ended up with 5000 Minecraft/Bukkit repositories totalling 47 gigs, 103 Kerbal Space Program repositories totalling 6 gigs, and a couple hundred megabytes here and there for the other games. That's over 50 gigs of game-mod source code, which I predict will be a lot more useful to the future than a bunch of JAR files.

These numbers are gloriously huge and there are two reasons. 1. this is the first capture I've done of CurseForge, and possibly the only full capture I will ever do. So I got stuff dating back several years. 2. CurseForge keeps a full history of your uploaded files, not just the most recent version (which is typically what you'd find on Planet Minecraft or the Minecraft forum). Some of the World of Warcraft add-ons have hundreds of releases! I guess because they have to be re-released for every client update. And it doesn't take many releases for a 100MB Minecraft mod pack to start becoming huge.

Anyway, as always it's good to be done with a project like this, so I can work on other stuff, like all the short stories I owe people.


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