Ahh, Dark Castle

Bill writes about both Return to Dark Castle and Zelda today.

There were a few NES games which consumed much of the time I should have been playing outside in my youth. Number one on that list was certainly the original Zelda. As Bill notes, Zelda is interesting historically mostly because of the influence it had on later games, not because of stellar game design. The stilted english translations and inherent limitations of the cartridge format made the game tough to play unless you had access to a walkthrough, which Nintendo Power did a good job of providing every month.

But the amount of time I spent playing Zelda was nothing compared to how much time I wasted playing Dark Castle. I remember it came on two 400k floppies, DC and DC Data, and it took me a while to start it up on the ol' 128 (upgraded to 512k, but no 'e'). Like many early side-scrolling platformers, every time you started the game you had to play from the beginning. I got pretty good at it; I could get the shield 100% of the time, fireball a lot of the time. I could usually make it through Dark Knight 1, and often the game was over in Dark Knight 2. I still remember the first time I beat it, and finally toppled the Dark Knight.

Dark Castle was one of those games that I wished had a level editor. Another game I played a lot around the same time was Pinball Construction Set, and I spent quite a lot of time imagining the levels I would design had a level editor been available for Dark Castle. I remember vividly one time when I sat in the waiting room at the dentist, drawing a Dark Castle level which was a combination of the slide into Trouble 3 and the swinging ropes in Trouble 2.

When Beyond Dark Castle came out, unfortunately the ol' machine wasn't powerful enough to play it. Once or twice a year we would go visit family friends in Lansing who had both an SE/30 and a Mac II (color!). It was the best thing in the world to be able to play Beyond Dark Castle on that SE/30. I never did get enough time to finish it, though.



For a while now I have been using a very useful one-off script I wrote which I call 'openit'. You provide it with the dotted name of any python package or module, and it opens it in your editor. You don't have to worry whether the module is in the stdlib, in your sitepackages, or somewhere else on your pythonpath. I have been using it more and more recently, and the implementation is trivial, so I thought I would share it here:


import os, sys

numargs = len(sys.argv)
if numargs == 1 or numargs > 2:
print """Usage: %s modulename""" % sys.argv[0]

from twisted.python import reflect

obj = reflect.namedAny(sys.argv[1])

fileName = obj.__file__
if fileName[-1] == 'c':
fileName = fileName[:-1]

os.system("open %s" % fileName)

This implementation uses twisted.python because it is convenient, but the implementation of namedAny is short enough that you could really just copy it into the script if you wanted to. It also uses the Mac OS X specific 'open' command, so you will have had to tell the Finder which application you want to edit .py files. If you are on any other OS besides OS X, you can replace the open command with $EDITOR or whatever command you use to edit a file with your editor of choice.

So, how's the weather?

This is a test of using NetNewsWire to post to my blog.

Living back in Michigan has been really exhilarating for me. Every day it's like a new world outside. When we first arrived, it was beautifully warm and the leaves were frighteningly green, quite a change from the endless dreary brown grass of the hills of northern California at the end of summer. Then, fall, with it's insanity of color and endless raking. November was a wild reminder that we are alive and the universe is huge with some pretty crazy storms, power outages, and trees blowing over. Winter -- I think I will remember this winter forever. Being outside in the crisp, dead silence, flakes of frozen ice falling around you...

Then of course there were the snowmobiles. For some reason it seems to be the american way to not enjoy anything. If the air is clean and crisp and cold and silent, americans want to ride around on a noisy, smelly, hot machine. Perhaps it's because people feel powerless in their daily lives that they want to feel power over a machine, and over nature. Another downside of winter this year was that it was overcast for almost two months straight. I think we had maybe five or six sunny days during January and February.

But then, March. This year, it was sunny almost every single day in March. There is nothing quite like sitting in a comfy chair in the sun on a cold day in March. The view is breathtaking and it's always warm in the sun inside. At the end of March this year, we went to Washington DC for PyCon. At first, it was colder than Michigan, and there was no snow. But then at the end of the week, it was in the high 70s. It sure was a nice break from winter, but you know it's going to get hot and muggy there fast.

Yesterday, we had our first really big thunderstorm. Saturday we were in East Jordan and it was beautiful. Sunny, in the 70s at least, sky as clear as a bell. But Sunday the wind picked up and it started to rain on and off. Low, rumbling thunder accompanied far-off lightning flashes. The wind was gusty -- one minute it would be dead calm, the next the trees were flailing in the wind. As the storm moved over us it became completely still, and then something incredibly strange that I have never seen before happened. The water level in the lake dropped dramatically. I went out and walked around on the lake bottom, and Arianna got pictures. I had never seen anything like it before, and probably never will again.

Most people would probably think living in the middle of nowhere was boring. But for me this year, there has been something new and fascinating every single day.