Playing games on my Android phone

I used to be the sort of person who played games on my PC – big games, games in beautiful or mysterious settings.  I’ve played MMO games – massively multiplayer online games.  I’m a fan of Guild Wars, I’m waiting for Guild Wars 2, and I have a lifetime subscription to Lord of the Rings Online.   I have accounts with Second Life and Free Realms.  Note to self – I am going to get an Xbox 360, and a Nintendo WII.

In February 2010 I got my Motorola Droid smartphone, Android operating system. The screen is small, but it’s beautiful.  When I hold it close it fills much of my field of vision.  And it’s so darn convenient, and it’s right there, and the games are, mostly, designed to be played in little blocks of time – though you might end up playing them for a long time!  Something about a game being really accessible makes you want to play.

I’ve tried many games.  Here are my favorites.  The screenshots of my Motorola Droid are taken with my digital camera, as there currently is no easy to use a screenshot app for an Android phone.

Simple physics games.

Physics games are games where objects have physical properties and behave like they would in the “real world”.  The games usually involve dealing with gravity and manipulating an object that has mass.

What could be simpler than a game where you throw a balled up piece of paper in the trash?   If you get it right, the thing goes into the trash can with a rewarding clunk.  The challenge is throwing the ball in the trash basket when a fan is blowing at varying speeds.  The game is Paper Toss by Back Flip Studios,

One of the settings of Paper Toss perfectly exemplifies the noisy ennui of waiting for your plane at the airport, the ambient noise, the announcements over the intercom, and the sounds of the annoyed passengers you hit when the ball goes off the screen.

Paper Toss, at the airport, October 2010

Toss It is a similar game, Boolba Labs, This game has beautiful levels, including a funny one where you toss your iPhone into a trash basket!

Toss It, ready to toss the paper ball, October 2010

Toss It, iPhone setting, October 2010

Tile Puzzles

Kittens Puzzle, Playgamesite, .  An adorable jigsaw puzzle game where you switch tiles around to make a picture of a kitten.  You can save the pictures to your SD card.  There are many levels.   The game is relaxing, and the kittens are adorable.

Kittens Puzzle, a puzzle, October 2010

Kittens Puzzle, a puzzle solved, October 2010

Games that tell a story

Kongregate has a site where you can play free Flash games –  Some games are optimized for mobile devices.  The Butterfly Fantasy series, developed by Garbuz Games ( is a “click the differences” game.  You are presented with two nearly identical screens and you click on what is different on each screen.  After you find the differences, the next screen is presented.  Each successive screen unfolds the story.

The story progresses via pictures, no dialogue but a soundtrack.  It looks like a graphic novel. This is very moving story, nicely done, with fantasy elements and a beautiful look.  I loved this series.  Parts 1 and 2 of the trilogy are available for mobile devices and PC and Mac. Part 3 is not available for mobile devices, only PC or Mac.

The tag line for the first game is “What can happen when the last hope disappears and it seems there is no way out.”  What could be more evocative?

Butterfly Fantasy, it begins, October 2010

Butterfly Fantasy, wonderful scene, October 2010

Butterfly Fantasy 2, scary stalkers, October 2010

Angry Bird, Rovio,

The back-story is that some mean pigs stole eggs from birds.  The birds are very, very angry and they seek revenge.

You use your finger to launch the birds against the pigs’ strongholds.  This is a physics game – you have to figure out how to control the birds’ trajectory.

It’s hard to explain how addicting this game is.  The cartoon graphics are engaging.  The angry birds are very funny in looks and sounds.  The pigs are funnily “piggy”.   There are many levels.  Some levels are easier than others, but with practice you always get it.   This is one of the great games of all times.

Angry Birds. Those birds sure are angry! October 2010

Angry Birds. A pig in a piggie fort! October 2010

Pocket Legends, a big game on a little phone

Spacetime Studios,

Pocket Legends is an MMORPG, a massively multiplayer RPG, role playing game, very similar to games played on the PC.  You take on the role of a bear warrior, a cat enchantress, or a bird archer.  You join with other people to battle monsters and acquire money or objects that you can use, such as weapons or clothing.

There are towns where you can meet with other players and receive your quests.  There areas where you and around four other players go on quests.

Pocket Legends will automatically group you with people. You can also start a quest and have people join you (they always do), or pick a group and join them.  Quests are short.  You can get something done in about fifteen minutes.

It’s possible to chat with other people in the game, but it’s awkward.  You don’t have a keyboard and you have to move your player on the screen and shoot weapons or cast spells or heal other players (auto attack works well).   I really like this game.

Pocket Legends. Intro screen. November 2010

Pocket Legends. My character. November 2010

Pocket Legends. In town. November 2010

Pocket Legends. I get a reward. November 2010

Pocket Legends - my group defeated an enemy. November 2010

I’ll keep you updated on new games I enjoy, as I find them.

2010 Retrospective, gallery trip to Chelsea, New York City

In April, 2010, I took the bus into New York City, to see art.  NYC has the most extensive collection of contemporary art galleries in the world.  I like contemporary art.  On my rare art trips to New York City, I used to go to the galleries in the SoHo neighborhood, Manhattan, which was good.  But, many galleries have moved to the west Chelsea neighborhood in Manhattan.  On the brochure I picked up (published by Art in America, International Review – –  there are over 200 galleries listed.  Here’s a good gallery link –

I generally regard New York City as Gotham City, but I seem to have developed some peace with the place.  It helps that New York City is much safer than it used to be, and I finally figured out how to use the subway, which is also much safer than it used to be.  It seems silly to try to find a cab unless you have to, and I find riding buses to be confusing.  Subways are easier. I rode the subway in London – how hard can it be in New York City?  Not hard, since I read up how to do it ahead of time.  I learned the weird little quirk of the New York City subways – north is “uptown”, south is “downtown”, and pay attention to the entrance you take down to the subway.  If you go into a subway entrance for “uptown”, you can’t generally cross over to “downtown” and vice versa.   With those two things in mind, I was all set.

West Chelsea is fine, lovely in parts, and appropriately warehouse looking in other parts, which is great for gallery space.  It’s an upscale area now.  I had a fantastic wonderful time.  I found a pocket park.  I had lunch.  I walked by the Hudson River at the Chelsea Piers.  I went to about 20 galleries.  There are so many more galleries to go to, next time.

Here are some photos.

“The Commuters”, George Segal, Port Authority Bus Terminal, New York City. Photograph, April 2010.

Street Scene, 8th Avenue, Chelsea, New York City. Unlike most of my photographs there are some people in this picture. April 2010.

Rooftop garden, Chelsea, New York City. April 2010.

Lovely tall buildings, think it’s 8th Avenue, Chelsea, New York City. April 2010.

Coffee Shop, Chelsea, New York City. I like the sign. April 2010.

Building behind screen (construction), Chelsea, New York City. I like the interplay of the screen and the light. April 2010.

Chelsea Park, New York City. A very pretty pocket park. April 2010.

Jack Shaiman Gallery, W 20th Street, Chelsea, New York City. Most of the galleries are on the streets, not the avenues. April 2010.

ZietherSmith Gallery, W 20th Street, Chelsea, New York City. Most of the galleries look like nothing from the outside. It’s helpful to have a good map. April 2010.

529 Arts Building, Chelsea, New York City. The streets have an upscale warehouse area look to them, which I like. April 2010.

View from lunch at Don Giovanni. The umbrella looks like a sculpture! New York City, April 2010.

Interesting architectural detail. Chelsea, New York City. April 2010.

Street scene. Think it’s W 22nd Street. Might be W 25th. Chelsea, New York City. April 2010.

Hudson River from the Chelsea Piers, New York City. April 2010.

At the rehab place last May, beautiful grounds and bad art

In May 2010, a family member of mine ended up in a rehab facility. Thankfully, there was a complete recovery from the injury.

The rehab place is a very good place, very well known. I thought the care was very good. I was glad we could get in.

The grounds, though not large, were beautiful, well landscaped, with secret little nooks and places where people in wheelchairs could gather.   Being out there was restful.

The grounds of the rehab center. May 2010

Flowers and a path. May 2010

Secret garden. May 2010

Secret garden, and a glider. May 2010

Then there was the statue. I’m sure the artist and the donor were well meaning, but to me, the work does not evoke real and honest emotions. It’s sentimental,maudlin. The sculpture also doesn’t make sense, as a family member pointed out to me. Why is the little girl still clutching her crutches, wouldn’t she drop them?

I think the style is supposed to be reminiscent of the social realists. I’ll quote “hard-edged muscular forms popularized by Mexican muralists Diego Rivera and Jose Clemente Orozco” — This was a style for paintings and murals, not as far as I know, a 3D work. This looks like an appropriation of a style without everything that goes with it. It doesn’t provide the impact, the political punch, of, for example, the murals of Diego Rivera.

I’ve been in enough hospitals and public spaces to have experienced my share of institutional art. While the art is not generally controversial — that doesn’t mean it has to be bad. You can evoke an emotional response, if that is your intent, without resorting to a little girl in a dress and crutches being lifted by a social realist character from the 30s wearing workman clothes. Just stop.

The statue


Clutching the crutches


I’ll close with several photos of the beautifully landscaped grounds.

A space big enough for wheelchairs. May 2010

Lovely grounds. May 2010

In the Land of the Cute, second in a series

The first entry in this series was published on my blog on November 25, 2009.

I go for walks in the small Pennsylvania town where I’m currently living.  On my walks I discovered little figures, lawn ornaments, nestled on people’s properties, on their lawns, on their gardens, on a step.   This is public art. The figures are positioned so you can see them from the street.

Last year I looked for things that photographed well. This year I included some works that didn’t always photograph well, because I liked them.  Several of the works are not exactly lawn ornaments — you’ll see.

What I found the most interesting is that the effect of these works is, often, not what I think was intended!

Follow me on my journey.

This winged creature is either resting in the sun, or perhaps that flower is really, really heavy. What could be in that flower? July 2010.

An assertively cute rabbit, only a little worse for wear. Again, the flower motif. July 2010.

I think this is an angel, hard to see, flickering in the summer sun. It works better for this figure, if you can't see it all that well. July 2010.

I like this rabbit, but the little creature is becoming more and more wraithlike. Is the rabbit crossing over to the other side? July 2010.

Look closely at the lower left and mid right of the picture. Then ask yourself, in what possible universe could these two disparate beings exist -- together? July 2010.

This huge balloon is an advertisement for a car wash. Driving by is a surreal experience. July 2010.

A frog family, hard to see -- the green of the frogs blends into the green of the plants, rather like frogs that breathe. The frog family is a little worse for wear, but bravely sticking together. July 2010.

This beautiful work is an actual sculpture, not a lawn ornament. It is on the grounds of a church, but it is in an awkward spot, next to the electric box. Perhaps the sorrowful angel would be a bit happier if she was in a better space. Thanks to my cousin for pointing this out. November 2010.

A charming decorative ladybug, a good fit for the garden. But, it's so hard to see. You have to wonder, why did they bother? July 2010.

I’ve tried to photograph this dragon several times, but it's always hard to see. Then I realized -- it's hard to see in "real life". An interesting piece, but way too much going on. July 2010.

Another unusual juxtaposition of creatures. As before, in what universe could these beings possibly exist -- together? September 2010.

This little pig is adorable, and it fits the space. I like it a lot. October 2010.

Like the white rabbit (image 4) these birds look like denizens of the afterlife. The rope is to secure the shades of the porch, but it also looks like the owner is trying to keep the birds from flying off. November 2010.

November 2010. This is wonderful piece, perfectly situated. Is this lion guarding the place or trying to get out? Hang on, I'll cut a hole in the fence and let you out, little lion. Then you'll be free.

Swimming when it’s not summer – the high school pool

My  hometown pool in eastern Pennsylvania is closed for the season — only summer outdoor  swimming around here, though September is often warm enough for outdoor swimming.   I discovered that the local high school has a wonderful pool, available to the public from September through May.   After that we switch to the outdoor community pool.  A season pass is very affordable.

I’ve been here over a year.  I vaguely remember reading about swimming at the high school last year,  but I never acted on it.  Pity.  I could have used the calm and peaceful (yet active and healthy!) enjoyment I get from swimming, though  I don’t swim as often I should.  I love water and swimming so much that I even find an indoor pool to be beautiful.

If and when I ever get to move out (assuming I get a job, think I’m close) — I may still swim here some Saturday mornings.  I’m still planning to be somewhere in the vicinity of eastern Pennsylvania (though it might be New Jersey or Delaware) in the foreseeable future.

Here are some pictures, taken with my Motorola Droid Smartphone.

High School Pool, September 2010

High School Pool, View 2

High School Pool, View 3

High School Pool, View 4

High School Pool, View 5

2010 Retrospective – Summer Swimming

The  summer heat and humidity in eastern Pennsylvania make it wonderful for summer swimming.   Here are many pictures of my hometown pool.  The best moments when I was growing up were at this pool — and the best moments of my time here now.  My photos tend to have a “where are the people”  look to them.  You’ll have to think of the people as being just out of range of the camera shot.

Sunset, June 2010. The pool is ready for opening.

Sign above the entrance to the pool. The season pass is a great deal!

Just before opening day. That clown is a little scary.

I'm in the water. June 2010.

Swimming on a sunny day.

Rope and post separating the deeper water from the shallow water. Interesting reflections.

Sunset, June 2010. I wish there was night swimming. It's warm enough.

View of the slide and one of the diving boards, from the water. August 2010.

A buoy, other side is the lap lane. Overcast day. August 2010.

A cloudy day. Magical. I have the pool almost to myself. August 2010.

I like to put my towel at the edge of the fence, closest to the creek on the other side. In late afternoon there is shade.

Pool nachos, the best junk food snack on the planet. I don't want to know what's in that cheese!

September 2010. The pool is closed for the season.

Watching a TV series that tells a story, my Droid phone, the TV series Lost

When I watch a television series that has an overarching story, I like to watch a season all at once, one episode after the other.  I’m less distracted and able to focus.  I watch the episodes more carefully if I watch more than one episode at a time.  Some things are annoying — I don’t need the constant repetition of what happened in previous episodes.  I can’t do this for a show like Rubicon, which is wonderful, but very very slow.  I didn’t do this for The 4400 – I loved the show too much, weak middle seasons and all.  I watched each episode of The 4400 as soon as it came out.  I did this for Heroes (still one season to go) and Stargate Universe.

One of the risks is that you end up missing some seasons.  This happened to me with Battlestar Galactica (the new series, 2003 – 2007) possibly the greatest science fiction series of all time.  I was doing fine, watching a season at a time, but I was way behind.  Then I holed up at a hotel in Rolla, Missouri, for a day.  I was driving from California to Pennsylvania and I needed a break.  I needed to both relax and focus on something.  The last season of Battlestar Galactica was on TV (one episode after the other) so I got my takeout food from Panera (thank goodness for good chain restaurants, predictable and tasty) and I watched the last part of the last season in my motel room.  So now I know how it ends.  I still have to watch the seasons I missed.

One of the best ways to watch the episodes is, oddly enough, on my smartphone, my Motorola Droid.  Even big beautiful shows work out well.  The picture on the Droid is beautiful, and the sound is great with headphones.  I hold the screen close to my eyes (I’m nearsighted) so that my field of vision is filled with the show.  It’s convenient, immediate, and I can watch the episodes anywhere.

This brings me to the TV series Lost.  When Lost first came out I watched the first season and part of the second, and then, for some reason, I stopped.  But Lost is a cultural phenomenon, it’s compelling, and it’s great TV.  When I watched Lost, I liked the mix of character driven individual stories with an overarching story full of mystery and science fiction elements.  I felt that I missed out by not watching Lost.  So, when all the seasons were available, I watched all six seasons of Lost on my smartphone.  Doing this filled up all my free time.  There were nights I didn’t get much sleep, but I’m done.  I would have never gotten “done” if I had not watched the show on my beloved Motorola Droid.

Most shows that tell a story end in a way that I think of as very modern, the way we do fiction now.   The story comes to something of a conclusion, but it also continues.  Not everything is wrapped up neatly.  The characters and the world continue.  You have some insight into the world and the characters, but you get the feeling that everything and everyone will continue without you.  I like that.

Neither Lost nor Battlestar Galactica ended like that.  Both had definite, “we can’t go back, we are done” endings. The ending to Battlestar Galactica seemed right to me, “deus ex machina” notwithstanding, something I don’t usually like.  I didn’t feel that way about Lost.

I hated the ending to Lost.  The ending felt fake, and it felt forced, a way for us to feel happy for the characters.  I felt manipulated.  I realize that all fiction manipulates your emotions – that’s a writer’s job, but this manipulation felt too obvious to me.    I also didn’t like the good versus not good (didn’t exactly seem evil) mythology of the island – I thought it was boring.

I think ending the series with season four would have been great, though it would have needed some rewriting.  Not everyone would have ended up perfectly happy, which made it seem more real to me, science fiction elements and all.  I would have been left wondering what happened, which would have been fine with me.  Another way to end would have been to keep the series ending, ending with Jack closing his eyes, but don’t include those extraneous meeting scenes, show Jack’s final minutes on the island and that’s it.  I’d make the ending music pensive, less uplifting.  The ending wouldn’t have been shiny happy perfect, but the ending would have still come full circle, referencing the first scene of the series.  It looks like the writers tried to do that, but then they just couldn’t follow through, which was our loss.  I don’t feel it’s a show’s job to reassure me that everything is wonderful after we die.  Don’t go there.

I’m not as bitter as the following writer, and I liked the ending to Battlestar Galactica, but this article makes some excellent points.

I’ll end with a few pictures

View from the parking lot of the motel where I watched the last season of Battlestar Galactica, July 2009

Watching Lost on my Motorola Droid smartphone. October 2010

More pictures of my community pool, part 2

This set of pictures takes you from January through June, right before the pool is set to open.  Walking by this pool and taking pictures is a thing with me.  It’s a solitary pursuit.

Pool, January 2010. Sunny day, now snow.

Pool, February 2010. Snow.

Pool landing, February 2010. My footprints.

Pool, February 2010. So very much snow.

Pool, March 2010. Dreary day.

Pool, March 2010. Dreary day with ducks!

Pool, April 2010. The trees are green.

Pool, May 2010. Drained, scrubbed, ready to fill. The cartoon characters are back.

Pool, June 2010. Dusk. The empty pool reflects the sky.

Many, many pictures of my community pool, part 1

This is my local community pool.  I know, it’s not a natural body of water, like a creek or a spring, but I like to see how it looks over the seasons.  I’ve taken many pictures in the course of my walks.   It’s a thing with me – walking by this pool.  I’ve made a path through the snow in the winter, to get up the stairs to the landing so I can look at the pool and take pictures.   What does this say about me?

Pool, August 2009. Swimming is wonderful.

Pool, August 2009. Mistly. The clown is a little creepy.

Pool, September 2009. No more swimming. The cartoon characters are gone.

Pool, November 2009. A few autumn leave remain.

Pool, November 2009. No more leaves.

Pool, December 2009. Sprinkling of snow.

Pool, December 2009. Snow and reflections.

Pool, December 2009. Pool at dusk.

Pool, January 2010. Cold. Snow and ice.