By Ryan Shollenberger

“No Port”

Minecraft is back at ALC-NYC!  Well, it never really left, but the popularity of “Agile Badger” has waned significantly since it’s inception.  This is a thing with Minecraft worlds… You spend considerable time collecting resources, building structures, farms, redstone contraptions, and maybe even beat the Ender Dragon and the Wither.  And then… what?  Sometimes a fresh start feels like a great idea, and so far it has been.

Since @timotree opened “No Port” (named for the IP, which lacks a port), there has been a rejuvenated interest in group Minecrafting, with early contributions from @chimp, @pigcraft8, @douglasawesome, @kirkorovfan, @timotree, and myself.  Though much of my early work has been mining to obtain as much cobblestone as possible, I got a nice little reward for my efforts (which required I “dig deeper” to Y-coordinate 12):

The reason I’ve been stockpiling all this cobble is to avoid a mistake we made in world building on our previous server- building our homes in the spawn chunk.  This area is best reserved for auto-processes, like an iron golem farm, as the chunk (see the above link for more info) is always loaded.  This means that even when no players are in the area, the auto-processes will continue to run in the background.

I want to offer a special thanks to @failspy, who is kindly hosting the server for us.  If you’d like to join us, please email me (ryan@nycagile.org) or message Timo via the ALC website so that we can whitelist your account.

For more information on the history of “No Port,” check out @timotree ‘s blog.

Human, All too Human

“I myself do not believe that anybody ever looked into the world with a distrust as deep as mine.”

Well, not exactly an optimist, eh?  That’s Nietzsche for you.  I think that here distrust means something closer to scrutiny and observation, rather than a judgement.  He goes on to characterize himself as the “enemy and challenger of God.”

I’m about 1/2 way through, Human, All too Human.  It’s written as a collection of short passages with clever titles like “No Within and Without in the World,” and “Some Backward Steps.”  Activate the Übermensch.  Here’s a few ALC-relevant lines…

“You had to acquire power over your aye and no and learn to hold and withhold them in accordance with your higher aims,” (15).

Rangordnung– the problem of grasping the relative importance of things (16).

“We organic beings are primordially interested in nothing whatever in any thing (Ding) except its relation to ourselves with reference to pleasure and pain,” (35).

“The individual fixes his mind too attentively upon his own brief lifetime and feels no strong inducement to aid in the foundation of institutions capable of enduring for centuries,” (39).

“As if any individual could determine off hand what course of conduct would conduce to the welfare of humanity… it is by no means desirable that all men should regulate their conduct according to the same principle,” (42).

“He lives only in order to grow continually in knowledge, and to learn to resign, without envy and without disappointment, much, yes nearly everything, that has value in the eyes of men,” (51) [Jedi]

“[In order to] let man become whatever he wills to become, his [to] will (Wollen) must precede his existence,” (59). [this reminds me of the sign Tomis put on the door years ago… “come as you are; leave as you will.”]

“Therefore:  only because man deems himself free, but not because he is free, does he experience remorse and the stings of consciousness,” (59).

“A lower enjoyment (for example, sensual pleasure) preferred to a more highly esteemed one (for example, health) rates as unethical, as does welfare preferred to freedom,” (61).

“The notion of good and bad has a two-fold historical origin: …the spirit of ruling races and castes [and] the spirit of the subjugated,” (62-63).

“[La Rochefoucauld] warns all those endowed with reason to be on their guard against compassion… in his (and Plato’s view) [it] deprives the heart of strength,” (65).

“Whoever desires no more of things than knowledge of them attains speedily to peace of mind and will at most err through lack of knowledge, but scarcely through eagerness for knowledge (or through sin, as the world calls it).  He will not ask that eagerness for knowledge be interdicted and rooted out; but his single, all powerful ambition to know as thoroughly and as fully as possible, will soothe him and moderate all that is strenuous in his circumstances,” (70).    [Faust]

“A good author, whose heart is really in his work, wishes that someone would arise and wholly refute him if only thereby his subject be wholly clarified and made plain,” (71).  [Watts]

**I will resume this post as I finish more of the book** until next time- Love and agility!

MLB Playoff Predictions

October is almost here, and that means it’s time for the MLB playoffs.  I know @fireballdeath is currently working on NBA predictions, so I’m going to post my MLB playoff predictions here…

 

American League

Wild Card Game

New York Yankees     vs     Minnesota Twins

For the AL Wild card hunt we find two unlikely teams.  The Twins spent 2016 in the basement of the AL Central, and the Yankees were predicted by most to do no better than 3rd in a tough AL East this year with a lot of question marks around their starting rotation.  I’m giving the edge to the Yanks here based on the probable pitching match-up (Severino vs Santana).

ALDS

New York Yankees     vs     Cleveland Indians

As magical a season as the Yankees and young Mr. Judge have had, I think it ends in Cleveland.  Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco (not to mention Trevor Bauer and Steve Clevinger) have been too strong lately.  I don’t see the Yankees starting pitching keeping pace with those guys.  Prediction:  3-1 Indians.

Boston Red Sox     vs     Houston Astros

This should be one of the most evenly matched divisional tilts featuring plenty of offense.  While Sale and Keuchel are certainly aces- the former should even garner top 2 Cy Young votes- they haven’t been pitching well of late.  It will be interesting to see how Sale performs in the playoffs after spending his entire career playing for a mediocre White Sox club.  I’m flipping a coin here… the probable MVP and a much improve bullpen should ensure the Astros advance.  Prediction:  3-2 Astros.

ALCS

Houston Astros     vs     Cleveland Indians

Pitching and defense wins championships, and the Indians have both of those in larger supply than the offensive-minded ‘Stros.  I can’t see them beating Kluber twice (heck, maybe not even once), and Andrew Miller and Cody Allen should hold things down once the Tribe starters make it through 6 innings.  Prediction:  4-1 Indians

National League

Wild Card

Colorado Rockies     vs     Arizona Diamondbacks

Much like in the AL, this year’s NL Wild Card game features two teams not many prognosticators would have picked to make the playoffs.  These squads have gotten it done with offense for the most part, though the D’Backs do boast a potent one-two punch with Zack Greinke and newly ascended ace Robbie Ray.  While both of these teams have the firepower to put up double digit runs in this single game playoff, I am not sure the Rockies have anyone to throw out there to slow the D’Back bats.  Greinke should do enough to keep his team ahead.

NLDS

Arizona Diamondbacks     vs     Los Angeles Dodgers

The unsung hero of their rotation, Zack Godley, may be the key to the D’Backs making a deep run.  He was quietly a top of the rotation starter (except for his win total) this year.  Having a perennial MVP candidate at first base certainly doesn’t hurt either.  The Dodgers have had a phenomenal year, but aren’t without their deficiencies.  Corey Seager and Justin Turner have been banged up, but there is always Clayton Kershaw.  Keep in mind his playoff ERA has been pretty terrible compared to his god-like regular season numbers.  Yu Darvish is the key to this series in my opinion.  Prediction:  3-2 Dodgers.

Chicago Cubs     vs     Washington Nationals

It’s always hard to repeat after a World Series win, and the hangover has to be way harder to overcome for a franchise that hadn’t won in over 100 years.  Really, the Cubs starting pitching has been disappointing this year, and that will be their downfall.  Scherzer and Strasburg will be enough to move the Nats into the NLCS, and having their best hitter back and (hopefully) 100% will be a huge boost to a team that’s been on cruise control since May 5th (the last time they have less than a 5 game division lead).  Prediction:  3-0 Nationals.

NLCS

Washington Nationals     vs     Los Angeles Dodgers

I really hope this series happens.  It will feature Scherzer vs Kershaw, Strasburg vs Wood/Darvish, not to mention other starters capable of shutting down opposing offenses in Rich Hill and Gio Gonzalez.  This one might come down to whoever can score two runs each game.  The Dodgers definitely have the advantage in the bullpen, especially at closer (though Doolittle is no slouch).  As a Phillies fan, I just can’t bring myself to pick the Nats.  Prediction:  Dodgers 4-3.

…check back later for World Series predictions…

More life in the space

Ever since the death of the plants @abbyo brought in for the back fire escape last year (?), I’ve been wanting to bring in/grow some more plants at ALC.  A few months ago, I ate a bell pepper and decided to throw the seeds into some tea tins and see what would happen.  In hindsight, I put way too many seeds into each container, and had somewhere between 10-20 little seedlings pop up in each box.  After a few weeks, they choked each other out until there was only one or two left in each container.  The four (there are two in the box in the left that got root bound) plants below are what have survived an aphid and fungus gnat invasion in my apartment:

It was clear that these guys needed some more space to spread out if they were going to give us any sort of peppers.  They have begun flowering, so I decided it was time to re-pot.  In order to remove the clustered root balls from the tea tins, I used tin snips to peel away the walls and remove each plant.  I then migrated them to new pots and filled them in with potting soil.

Here’s the pepper plants, re-potted and in their new home on the windowsill in the quiet room:

Look for more gardening updates as we grow more stuff at ALC this year!  Shout out to @catmooy, whose cleanup job is watering these guys!

You P(l)ay to Win the Game

Here’s the thing about most video games…

Even a sandbox game like Minecraft has objectives and an “end” goal.  Sure, the best games have nearly limitless replay value, but most have some sort of story arc or list of objectives, culminating in a final boss or challenge.

A trend that has become increasingly popular in game design is “pay to win.”  Such games are usually free to download and play.  The catch is, certain in-game upgrades are available only by paying real-world $.  Sometimes these things are obtainable by completing objectives in the game, but often they are much harder, dare I say impossible to collect without shelling out bucks IRL.

I’m generally against pay-to-win games, but I recently stumbled upon one that I can’t put down… Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes.  It’s produced by an oligarchic trio of entertainment, headed by the gaming giant, EA Games, in partnership with Disney and Lucas Arts.

The main goal of this game seems to be collection.  Maybe my childhood affinity for “catching em all” has something to do with why I like this game so much…  There are tons of characters to collect and deploy in Final Fantasy style, turn-by-turn battles in a single player story mode (including special events with restrictions on squad composition and that offer special rewards) that takes you to battlefields across the Star Wars galaxy, and vs other players in a battle arena.  To stretch out the collection process, you don’t receive characters all at once, rather, you collect “shards” of each character until you assemble them piece by piece.  The higher the number of shards required for assembly, the more rare and OP that character, it seems.  Also, when you finally assemble a character, you aren’t done yet.  Each character has a star rating, from 1 to 7, that can be upgraded by collecting more shards of an already assembled character.  In this way, the replay value of the game is expanded.

There are elements of many other RPG style games present in Galaxy of Heroes including XP, leveling up, in-game currency, gear that upgrades the power of your characters, and squad composition strategy (i.e. using a balanced team including a healer, attackers, and defenders).

The main single player battle mode is broken down into Light side and Dark side battles, allowing Jedi and Sith alike to join the fray with their favorite heroes and villains, provided they do the work (or pay the $$$) to assemble the shards save up their credits and training droids to level up and continue the fight.  I have to admit, it feels a little weird to “kill” Han Solo as an Imperial Guard or Snow Trooper (two of my first dark side characters).

When you have completed enough Light and Dark side battles and reach the requisite levels, you can unlock other special challenges and battle arenas that I’ll outline here:

a) Squad Arena– Here you can battle against other players’ squads.  In theory, these battles are supposed to be against other real players, but I have a strong suspicion that you’re either matched up against bots, or other players’ actual squads being operated on some sort of auto-pilot.  My logic here is that you never receive a random request to face off in the lobby, and instead always must initiate the battle yourself.  The squad arena features some pretty nice rewards that players receive based on their overall rank.  Like most other areas in the game, the squad arena has it’s own currency and store.  I’ve found this is one of the best places to buy character shards (often sold in packs of 5), especially some of the more rare early game characters like Boba Fett and Luminara Unduli .

b) Cantina Battles– In this area, you can assemble mixed (Dark and Light) squads to complete a series of battles against other mixed squads.  This is another area with great rewards.  You can collect shards, ability mats (to upgrade the power of characters’ individual attacks/abilities), and Cantina-specific currency to purchase rare shards (again in packs of 5) like Poe Dameron and Old Daka (not to be confused with Mother Talzin), a powerful Dark side healer.

c) Challenges– At a table in the far corner of the cantina you’ll find Jedi Master Plo Koon sitting at a holotable.  He’s dusted off his texts and come up with special challenges for players.  These often have special themes linked with squad restrictions to make them more, err, challenging.  For example, I just completed a “healer only” event that would be impossible with a squad that isn’t able to recover health.  The rewards for completing these challenges are also consistent with their themes (i.e. the “bounty hunter” challenge pays out boku credits).

d) Events– These limited-time battles also center around a theme, character, or particular event from Star Wars cannon.  In addition to the usual rewards for battles, the Events section of the cantina is where players can collect shards from ultra-rare characters like Master Yoda, Han Solo, and Emperor Palpatine.  Events also seem to be the vehicle for the game developer to introduce new characters, most recently Rogue One newcomers the Shoretrooper and Bistan.

e) Guilds– This seems to be the weakest aspect of the game that I’ve encountered so far.  Guilds are meant to be organizations of players working together to collectively build power and complete challenges called Raids.  In addition, players can make requests for gear they need to upgrade their characters, and donate to other guild members who need gear that players have a surplus of.  Again, I’m not sure every player in my guild, “Non-stop,” is actually a real person.  If they aren’t bots, than they aren’t really contributing to the guild… I’m one of the lower level members, but have already made the greatest contribution to the guild bank (a place for shared currency used to pay for the Raids mentioned above), and have donated the most gear to other guild members.

f) Galactic War– This is starting to feel a little redundant… another area with battles, and it’s own currency that you can use to buy character shards.  The catch in the Galactic War area is that you battle across a map of opponents that becomes progressively more difficult but your health doesn’t reset when you win a battle.  So far, I haven’t been able to complete a campaign.  I’ve reached the final battle but either my opponent has been too strong, or I have been too weak from the previous battles by the time I reached the final stage.  I’ll update this section once I’m able to complete it.

g) Mod Battles– Well, the good news is, this area doesn’t feature another new currency.  It uses good old Cantina energy for battles and rewards you with Cantina credits, regular credits, XP, and… mods!  Mods are another way to make your characters more powerful by buffing certain stats.  The mod categories are:  health, defense, offense, critical chance, critical damage, tenacity, potency, and speed.  Each character (after reaching the minimum level requirement of 50) has 6 mod slots available.  Each mod is unique, and offer stat bonuses for pairing (and sometimes quad-ing) up on the same mod type.  As you start to reach the upper levels as a player, mods become essential to being a competitive player in the squad arena.

h) Mod Challenges– (coming soon)

i) A Hutt sitting in the back corner… ???

That’s all for now.  Before concluding, I’ll list my current squads for Light and Dark battles, including their *ranking:

1) Light Side

Jedi

*******Luminara Unduli, ******Eeth Koth, *******Ahsoka Tano, ******Jedi Consular, ******Mace Windu

Rebels

******Admiral Ackbar, ******Biggs Darklighter, ******Lando Calrissian, *****Luke Skywalker, *****K-2SO

k-2so

2) Dark Side

*****Emperor Palpatine, *****Darth Vader, *****Royal Guard, ******Old Daka, ****** Boba Fett

That’s all for now-  I’ll do an update once I unlock more areas of the Cantina and inevitably hit the “pay to win” wall.

With love and agility,

agilion.signature

Agilion

 

A change up for Δ↑

Here at ALC-NYC, our Changeup process has been evolving since the school began three years ago.  We started out with a mandatory meeting each Friday where people could bring their awarenesses about the culture and practices of the school, as well as their ideas to improve and upgrade (UPGRADE!) them.

Near the end of last school year, @timotree proposed a change up to the Changeup process.  Instead of having one mandatory meeting for everyone, he instead suggested we have a mid-week Check-in meeting where people would share their awarenesses (and check-in on how visiting students’ weeks were going), and then an optional Changeup meeting on Fridays to work through solutions to the awarenesses.  This would ensure that the people who chose to attend Changeup were focused and committed to the intention of the meeting, and release those that weren’t interested.

In a culture that strives to respect time of the individual and the group, this was a welcome solution for me as a facilitator, especially since much of my attention and energy in Changeup was spent trying to hold the focus of the kids who didn’t really feel called to be there.  It also interestingly meant that the kids who decided not to come to Changeup would be trusting the group who did attend to come up with agreements they would also be practicing.

After working fairly well at the end of last year and for the first few weeks this year, it seemed that Changeup could again use a change up.  We noticed that many of the people who shared their awarenesses on Wednesdays were not coming back on Fridays to work through them, so… starting this week, we decided to have Check-in and Changeup back to back on Friday morning, right after spawn (our morning, small-group intention setting meeting).  The intention here was to continue to honor the time of the group by releasing everyone after sharing and hearing the awarenesses of the group, but also encourage those that shared awarenesses during Check-in to stick around for the 2nd half of the meeting.  So far, so good after today’s Changeup meeting which featured conversations about starting a 3rd, (eventually) student-run spawn point, computer sign-up board agreements, an a review of the purpose of Check-in vs Changeup.

If you’re interested in seeing what we’re currently practicing at ALC-NYC, check out our CMB (community mastery board) on Trello.

[please excuse any mistakes- grammatical, spelling, or general bad English- in this post.  Friday afternoon is not my most focused or well-rested time of the week…]

With love and agility,

agilion.signature

Agilion

The Riddle of the Coins

Good morning at Maths at ALC-NYC.  An aspiring Mathematician joined us this morning and has presented us with a riddle…

You have inherited 8 gold coins.  7 of them are real, and one is fake.  The fake coin is lighter than the real ones.  You conveniently have a scale to measure the weight of the coins.  What is the fewest number of times you can use the scale to find the false coin?

Thanks to Max Baranov for sharing this puzzle with us.  Reply with your answers in the comments.

Love and agility,

agilion.signature

Agilion

Cook n00bs!

Every Friday a beautiful and tasty thing happens at ALC-NYC… cook n00bs!  This offering is presented by @nhoopee, and I can attest to it’s popularity and awesomeness as a regular participant.  This week we made taco pie.  Here are a few photos of the n00bs in action.  Thanks @nhoopee!

timotimo-beth-nancynoobs5noobs3noobs2me-lilpuncher

With love and agility,

agilion.signature

Agilion