Oct. 6th, 2011

I was working on a play once, and the director needed to thread a rope through the hem of a huge scrim, maybe 30 meters across. He had tied a knot in the end of the rope, and was coaxing it along, a bit at a time, by squishing it through the fabric. A very slow and frustrating endeavor. Then he spied me watching, and said "hey, you don't look busy, you can thread this rope!"

So I pulled the rope back out, which rather boggled and distressed him, then grabbed a broomstick and tied the rope through the hole in it. Then I arranged the rope for easy unwinding without tangling, put the end of the broomstick into the hem, got all lined up, and then pitched the broomstick down the hem, javelin style. It made it most of the way to the other end in one go, and then I could scrunch and pull the broomstick almost a meter at a time, getting it out the other end in just a couple of operations.

The look on the director's face was priceless. On the one hand, he was thrilled the wretched job was done. On the other hand, I had utterly shown him up.

When I had my first computer capable of video games, an Atari 800, I wrote a very simple game, which I dubbed "Kill the Cities". It laid out a three by three arrangement of red and green rectangles, which were the cities. To destroy a city, you had to shoot it. The cities were in plain view, did not move, did not have shields, and did not shoot back. You had unlimited shots. The only tricky part was the aiming cursor code was rudimentary, and erased anything under it. So if you took your time and scrubbed over a city, you could eventually render it invisible. Given this immense degree of difficulty, if you somehow managed to destroy all nine cities, the game would produce a hissing sound, and the text:

You win! You hear that? They're cheering for you!

This was actually one of my more popular games.

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