Friday, September 28, 2012

Biphasic Sleep Cycle

Note: this blog has been migrated to Medium, with the articles here available to preserve permalinks Please see this post at

Last weekend I stayed up until about 3 in the morning two nights in a row (not entirely on purpose). Because we have Cross Country at 9 in the morning on weekends, I wasn't able to sleep in so I ended up collapsing for a couple of hours in the afternoon.

I recalled that my friend Snuffy had tried to get himself into a polyphasic sleep cycle last year, and I wondered if what I had ended up doing was close at all. I found this lovely Wikipedia article on the subject and one section popped out in particular:

According to that chart I was very close already to being on a biphasic sleep cycle with 6 hours of sleep a day. So I decided to keep it up; with my weekly schedule it makes the most sense to sleep from 2 or 2:30 to 7 in the morning, and 1.5 hours right before or after Cross Country practice, which goes from 4 to about 6 on weekdays.

So far it hasn't worked out too badly. I feel awake and alert for most of the day except for right before and right after my sleep times. My body is definitely still expecting to be getting more sleep at once because I always feel groggy right after I wake up. I have been pretty strict about maintaining the schedule because I know that I will lapse back into 8 hours a night if I let myself.

I think I will experiment a bit with different lengths of sleep (maybe a little more sleep during the major sleep block and less during the nap?) and see what feels the most natural. For example, I will get an extra hour of sleep tonight because we have a Cross Country meet tomorrow.

In a week I will let you know if I have successfully adjusted to biphasic sleeping; if it still doesn't feel natural by that time I will go back to my normal sleep cycle. I'm in college, I'm supposed to try out new things, right?

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

New Desktop: Sasha!

Note: this blog has been migrated to Medium, with the articles here available to preserve permalinks Please see this post at

For the last two years the only computer I had was my laptop, a Sony VAIO VPCF1. I call it Vera. She has served me well, but lately she has started to overheat very quickly while playing games like Max Payne 3 and Assassin's Creed Brotherhood. This is likely a combination of the hot summer air, her aging Geforce 425M, and the fact that she has never had the best cooling system as it was.

So this summer I started keeping my eyes peeled for deals on desktop parts. Last week the final parts came, and I spent a couple of hours with my friend Sean Stockholm building Sasha in my dorm's TV lounge. I also did a live-stream of the whole thing to test out Google+'s streaming system. You can watch the video here, but I understand if you don't want to.

Here is a complete list of the parts and peripherals that I got (in the order that I bought them in) with rounded prices.
This sounds expensive until you realize that a large portion of that cost was the monitor alone, and the tower itself was under $1300. So it would be very easy to build something similar for about $1500, but without the 3D monitor (more on 3D gaming in another post).

Being that I name all of my electronics after weapons, I have named her Sasha after the Heavy Weapons Guy's mini gun in Team Fortress. For now I have installed the release preview of Windows 8. I am liking it enough to actually get the final version when it comes out on October 26th, especially since it is only going to be $40. And for all you nay-sayers out there who think that Windows 8 is going to be crap, don't worry about it. It is very easy to use it just like Windows 7. The only major difference is that you have the start screen instead of the start menu, and I hardly ever go there because all of my programs are pinned to the taskbar. And Windows 8 brings quite a few features that are very useful, such as Storage Spaces (lets me put files like my music collection, game files, etc in a virtual space that is duplicated across as many drives as I wish) and the ability to open ISOs in Explorer. You may have noticed that I didn't buy any sort of optical drive because I don't believe in them. Seriously, when was the last time you had to install something from a CD? Even if I ever have to do that, it isn't hard to stick the disc into my laptop, make an ISO file in Google Drive, and then open it in Sasha.

There are a few quirks that I have noticed so far. When I am gaming and I have the fans turned all the way up, I hear this annoying little squeaking coming from somewhere in the tower. I still need to look into that. Also, during last weekend's podcast the computer stopped receiving sound from my headset's mic. It was set as the default device and everything, and I know there is nothing wrong with the headset because it was working with my laptop. Since then it has started working again, and I have no idea what was going on.

To wrap up, I am definitely happy with my new computing device, and I hope that I have future-proofed her enough to not have to spend too much on parts for the next 4-5 years.

Monday, September 10, 2012

My Podcast!

I am really excited to announce that Ian Decker and I have officially started our show about gaming news, reviews, and whatever else we feel like talking about. It is called Eight Bit, and you can find it over at

We had a ton of fun recording it, and we are looking forward to next week. Oh, and we are always looking for guests, so if you would like to be on the show, just let me know.

Friday, September 7, 2012

The Walking Dead, Episodes 1-3

Note: this blog has been migrated to Medium, with the articles here available to preserve permalinks. Please see this post at

I picked up The Walking Dead last week when it was on sale for $15. I had been hearing a lot of good things about the game from both Game Informer and PC Gamer, so I figured I couldn't go wrong. I'll try to write this review without giving too many spoilers.

The Walking Dead takes place in the same universe as the comics and TV show, but it is an entirely new cast. I think this is probably for the best, because a lot of games that try to recreate a movie exactly fail miserably. It is also being released episodically, which means that you pay once for the game, and when each new episode is ready you get to play it. I think their plan was to release them monthly, but the third was a little late.

You are placed in the role of Lee Everett, who at the beginning of the game is in the back of a police car on his way to prison. Very soon after the zombies start popping up, you meet Clementine, an eight year old whose parents were away in Savannah when the outbreak happened. Obviously her motivation is to find her parents, and Lee's motivation is to protect her at all costs.

A theme that pops up on a fairly regular basis is the effect that all of this apocalypsness can have on the people who are living through it. This is conveyed several times by showing Clementine seeing something awful happen.

The gameplay is driven by quicktime events, puzzles, and choices.
The quicktime events only occur when you have gotten grabbed by zombies or are otherwise in immediate danger. They aren't ridiculous, mostly just mashing Q and then hitting E to finish it off.
Obviously the puzzles take place in between high-action parts of the game, and usually involve figuring out how to open this door to get this item which you need to complete this task. Oftentimes the areas with puzzles also provide a nice opportunity to chat with other members of your group and get to know them better.
Speaking of the characters, they are the ones that drive the story, and almost all of the choices you have to make have some direct effect on the members of your group. Some are blatant "save person A or person B," but others are more subtle ones that depend on dialogue options or how you decide to divvy up the dwindling supplies. The screenshot above is of me deciding to chop off a guy's leg to free him from a bear trap; I didn't fully realize it at the time, but I could have chosen not to do it. I was just doing what I thought was necessary. I tried everything else first, I swear.
The fact that the consequences of your actions are not immediately apparent is what really sells the sense of realism for me. For example, after I lost a certain character, I spent a long time (outside of the game during my real life, mind you) analyzing all of the choices that I had made leading up to their death. I was trying to think of a way to save them, but I'm still not sure if I could have done anything. The fact that I don't know if the event was scripted or happened because of my choices really shows you how well it is doing its job. I am probably not going to go back to try to change that moment, because I feel that that would cheapen the experience.

Here are a few more screenshots for your viewing pleasure.

The game is notorious for little bugs like this one. There should be a kid in her arms.

To see all of the screenshots I have taken, go to my Steam page.

EDIT: See my review of Episode 4 here.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

In the Beginning...

So here we are at the beginning of a new blog. I suppose I should start at the beginning.

I am Ian Buck, currently a student at the University of Minnesota Morris going for a Computer Science Major. I am a PC gamer and my most precious possession is my computer. In many ways I am pretty stereotypical nerd, but I try to break that image once in awhile.

A little bit about my childhood. I am the oldest of five, so I used to beat on my brothers a bit. We grew up playing with Star Wars LEGOs and Pokemon cards; nowadays we play video games and Magic The Gathering, so really not much has changed. I went through Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, and I am currently a Venturer. I earned the rank of Eagle just in time to turn 18. I graduated from St. Paul Central High School in 2011, and I loved every minute of it there, including the IB program that everyone seems to hate so much.

I am starting this blog at the urging of my good friend Ryan Rampersad because he thinks I need to have more of an online presence in order to be an effective podcaster or some such fiddle faddle. Next thing you know he'll make me get my own domain.

I'll be using this blog in conjunction with Google+; Google+ is where I will share interesting links that I find, as well as photos and short thoughts and updates.
This blog will be for longer entries such as any projects that I get myself into, reviews for games that I play, and anything else that I can think of. I am also planning on starting a new show (to be co-hosted by Ian Decker) on Ryan's podcast network The Nexus. On that show we will mostly talk about gaming news. We are also planning on doing live game streams, especially coop ones (Borderlands 2 looks to be first on our list).

So there you have it, I hope you enjoy reading along.