A Final Fantasy Tattoo, in Memory of a Fallen SoldierLast June, the brother-in-law of reader Taylor was tragically killed in action while serving in Afghanistan. He had been due in September to return home and join Taylor in getting tattoos.

While he never made it back, Taylor decided to go ahead and get a tattoo done anyway, only now it would be done as a memorial.

Because the pair bonded while playing Final Fantasy XI - "it was the thing that made me see him more as my brother and not just a guy dating my sister" - Taylor got his brother-in-law's character emblazoned across his shoulder, complete with dog tags around the chocobo's neck.


The Most Amazing Playgrounds You've Ever Seen Danish company Monstrum may sound terrifying, but they do amazing work, building children's playgrounds across Europe that look more like fantasy arenas than the dirty old contraptions most of us grew up with.

Founded in 2003, Monstrum takes playground design very seriously, building with things like Siberian larch, Robinia wood and birch plywood, which the company say helps them last for up to 40 years.

"We meet boys that like pink and girls that likes trees", the company's website says, "so why only play on a monky frame and a sandbox, when you can play in a moon crater or a submarine or a giant spider or an enormous snail or a Trojans horse or a rocket or an ant or a princess castle."

Monstrum [Official Site, via Super Punch]

The Most Amazing Playgrounds You've Ever Seen The Most Amazing Playgrounds You've Ever Seen The Most Amazing Playgrounds You've Ever Seen The Most Amazing Playgrounds You've Ever Seen The Most Amazing Playgrounds You've Ever Seen The Most Amazing Playgrounds You've Ever Seen The Most Amazing Playgrounds You've Ever Seen The Most Amazing Playgrounds You've Ever Seen


From Pro Gamer to Pro...Poker Player?It's a question proper athletes face all the time. What do you do when you hang up the cleats/boots? Well, if you're Griffin "Flush_Entity" Benger, former pro Counter-Strike player, you make the move from video games to online poker.

Which sounds a little random, seeing as one involves furious mousework and fast reflexes while the other relies on cool heads and a honed bullshit reflex, but apparently it's a natural progression.

"I used to be a professional gamer", Benger tells PokerListings. "I played Counter-Strike for a living, so I transitioned into poker because it has a lot of the same skills, mostly being able to sit in front of a computer for long periods of time."

"But it's a pretty natural transition and a lot of people were doing it. Once I got into poker I became really obsessed with it. It's really one of those games where there's always room to get better, and that was one of the problems with Counter-Strike, I got to a point where I couldn't really get much better."

That...actually makes sense. I mean, I'm sure the fact there's a ton more money in poker helps, but the ceiling's got to be a lot higher for getting to the top of the food chain.

Counter-Strike Champ Griffin Benger Wins Millions at Online Poker [PokerListings]


It's, um, not quite as slick as the official HBO version. It's definitely not as well lit. But the combination of craftsmanship and charm still makes this worth a watch.

Just remember, dudes building LEGO with a stop-motion camera are a little slower than fancy computer graphics.

I love the soundtrack. It's like Game of Thrones: a Super Nintendo Role-Playing Game.

GoT - A Clash of LEGO [YouTube]


This Guy Created Angry Bird's Physics and All he Got Was This Lousy SweatshirtA few years ago, in 2006, Erin Catto created some code called Box 2D. It was a simple, free physics system the "math-obsessed PhD gamer" came up with in his spare time and gave away for free.

A year later, the iPhone was released. And suddenly his convenient, effective little code for implementing realistic physics in games was in big demand, and was being used by hit titles like Crayon Physics.

It was also used by Angry Birds. Now Rovio, the company behind Angry Birds, has sold so many copies of the game that it's worth over one billion dollars.

While Box 2D was released for free, and Rovio have no obligation to compensate Catto, you'd think that, as a gesture - especially considering Angry Birds' gameplay is built on physics - they would have properly thanked him. Maybe sent him a cheque or something.

But no. Catto says all he ever got was a hoodie.

"I have the sweatshirt but actually I have never worn it because it's red", he told NPR. "I generally don't wear red. That's a silly reason. If they would send me a blue one I would wear it!"

While you'd think all this would be grounds for him to be the world's grumpiest programmer, he's actually taken the whole thing rather well. Not only did Box 2D lead to jobs in the games industry (he now works at Blizzard, as a Principal Software Engineer!), but Catto takes pleasure just from other people's...pleasure.

"Almost everyone says ‘Jeez, Erin, you could have your own island now if you just charged for Box 2D!' The ironic thing about that is then I wonder what if Angry Birds used something else because I was gonna charge for it? Well, maybe if they used something else that wasn't as good, maybe Angry Birds wouldn't have succeeded. And I'm just happy that everyone is enjoying the games."

The physics and physicist behind the hit game Angry Birds [KPCC, via G4]


It's the End of the World as This Concept Art Knows itIoan Dumitrescu is a Romanian concept artist who does mostly freelance work in the video game industry. While you've likely never played some of the games he's worked on, like World of Mercenaries, that shouldn't stop you from enjoying some of his amazing artwork.

You can see more of Ioan's art at his CGHub site.

Fine Art is a celebration of the work of video game artists. If you're in the business and have some concept, environment or character art you'd like to share, drop us a line!

It's the End of the World as This Concept Art Knows it It's the End of the World as This Concept Art Knows it It's the End of the World as This Concept Art Knows it It's the End of the World as This Concept Art Knows it It's the End of the World as This Concept Art Knows it It's the End of the World as This Concept Art Knows it It's the End of the World as This Concept Art Knows it It's the End of the World as This Concept Art Knows it It's the End of the World as This Concept Art Knows it It's the End of the World as This Concept Art Knows it It's the End of the World as This Concept Art Knows it It's the End of the World as This Concept Art Knows it It's the End of the World as This Concept Art Knows it It's the End of the World as This Concept Art Knows it It's the End of the World as This Concept Art Knows it It's the End of the World as This Concept Art Knows it It's the End of the World as This Concept Art Knows it It's the End of the World as This Concept Art Knows it It's the End of the World as This Concept Art Knows it


This Action Figure Will Make You a God Damned Sexual TyrannosaurusThere just aren't enough Jesse Ventura action figures in the world. And while the very top of my wishlist would have to be a piece based on Running Man's Captain Freedom, seeing this Predator figure is almost as good.

Built by toy creator Count Chocula, he's a combination of custom sculpted parts and cannibalised pieces from various GI Joe figures.

Blaine Cooper Custom Action Figure [Figure Realm, via toycutter]


Sham Kickstarter Project Found Out, Closes DownWhen the whole Kickstarter thing blew up earlier this year, there was always a very quiet suspicion. That amidst all the nostalgia and indie enthusiasm, someone would use the service to try and rip people off. Well, looks like we've got our first scammers.

A Kickstarter fund for a game called Mythic: The Story of Gods and Men has been found to be a complete fabrication, to the point where even the photos of the developer's "office" had been stolen from somewhere else.

The project managed to "raise" $5000 before it was found out, and has since tried to scrub all associated sites and Facebook pages in an effort to cover their tracks. Weirdly, the only page it hasn't been able to get rid of is the actual Kickstarter link itself.

Or course, it never raised a cent: Kickstarter funds have to reach their goal then "cash in" the donations to see any money. But still. The fact these bums raised anything shows not only how poor the quality control standards are on the site, but how willing some people are to give money to something that didn't even exist.

MYTHIC: The Story Of Gods And Men (Canceled) [Kickstarter]

Fake Kickstarter project 'Mythic' uncovered by internet users, forced to shut down [The Verge]


5 Scientific Explanations for Game of Thrones' Messed-Up SeasonsWe real-world Earthlings take for granted that the seasons will change on schedule. Our planet's clockwork-like seasonality allows us to predict the passage of time with complete precision, and we can always be sure that spring is right around the corner. The same cannot be said, however, for the unlucky inhabitants of George R. R. Martin's Westeros.

Why is this? And what are the possible scientific explanations for Westeros' long, unpredictable seasons?

A unique feature of Martin's Song of Ice and Fire world is its extreme seasonal variability. Summers and winters have an indeterminate length, leaving its citizens wondering how long the current season will last — and how long they may have to endure the next one. At the opening of Game of Thrones Season Two, the good folk of the Seven Kingdoms learn that the summer, which has lasted seven years, is coming to a close, and with it, the onset of what could be a very long and bitter winter.

This makes for some pretty great fantasy, but is this actually possible? And is there any chance that variable-length seasons as portrayed in Game of Thrones could eventually happen on Earth?

The answer is yes. And in fact, there are at least five scientific explanations that can help explain what's going on in the Seven Kingdoms.

1. A wobbly planetary tilt

Earth's seasons are caused by the tilt of its axis of rotation - a 23.4° offset of the axis to be exact. The direction of the Earth's rotational axis stays nearly fixed in space despite the fact that we're also revolving around the Sun. As a result, depending on the Earth's location during its orbit, the northern hemisphere is tilted toward the sun, causing us to experience summer. Half a year later, when the Earth is on the opposite side of the Sun, the northern hemisphere is tilted away from the Sun, resulting in — yes, you guessed it — winter. The seasons are, of course, reversed for the southern hemisphere.

The seasons themselves are the result of shifting daylight exposures. In temperate and polar regions, the seasons are marked by changes in the intensity of sunlight that reaches the Earth's surface. The less sunlight, the colder it is. Makes sense.

It's important to note that the Earth's axis of rotation is extremely stable. If it wasn't, the Earth's tilt would be very wobbly, resulting in inconsistent and unpredictable seasonal lengths like the ones portrayed in Game of Thrones.

But thankfully we have the Moon. Or more specifically, we have a very large moon. The Earth's moon is disproportionately large compared to other planetary satellites in the solar system. And without it, there might not be any seasons, or the seasons could be very different than what we're used to. The Moon has the effect of stabilizing the tilt of the Earth's rotational axis. Without it, Earth would be a wobbly mess.

Now, back to Game of Thrones — in the episode "The Kingsroad," we learn that Westeros has at least one moon. It's very possible, therefore, that they have a very small or distant moon, that is causing a variable tilt in their planet's rotational axis.

It's interesting to note that, according to legend, Westeros used to have two moons, but "one wandered too close to the sun and it cracked from the heat" pouring out a thousand thousand dragons. Well, dragons aside, it's conceivable that some kind of cataclysmic celestial event could have wiped out their second moon, which would have thrown their planet's rotational axis out of whack.

As for our situation here on Earth, we're not completely immune from this problem. If our moon got knocked out of its current orbit, say by a massive object or a nuclear explosion, we would be in quite a bit of trouble.

2. An extremely elongated orbit

It's a commonly held myth that the Earth's seasons are caused by its changing proximity to the Sun. This makes sense from an intuitive perspective; the Earth is in an elliptical orbit around the Sun, which would indicate that the further it is away from the sun, the colder it would be. Hence, Earth's location at the aphelion point (the farthest point from the Sun) would indicate winter.

But this is not the case. Earth may be in an elliptical orbit, but it's practically a circle. Our distance from the Sun at the aphelion point has virtually no impact on the Earth's climate, though some experts believe that it may account for the southern hemisphere's moderate winters.

Now, that said, not all planets have a near-circular orbit like the Earth's. Mercury, for example, has the largest orbital eccentricity of any planet in the solar system at 0.2056 (compared to the Earth's 0.0167). The closer to zero the orbit is, the closer it is to being circular.

In Game of Thrones, it's very possible that Westeros has a very eccentric or elongated orbit. Unlike the Earth, their world could be extremely far from its sun at the aphelion point, which would explain the long and severe winters. Conversely, during perihelion, the planet would have a prolonged summer. Our very own Mars experiences this kind of thing; it undergoes wide temperature variations and violent dust storms every year, when it reaches perihelion.

The problem with this theory, however, is it doesn't explain the unpredictability of the seasons. The citizens of the Seven Kingdoms would still experience consistent yearly cycles and fixed length seasons, even if they would be longer than what we're used to here on Earth. So this theory, at least on its own, is not a very good explanation.

3. A complex Milankovitch cycle

The Earth is subject to some significantly longer orbital and axial trends. Variations in orbital eccentricity, axial tilt, and precession of the Earth's orbit can determine climactic patterns that can take tens of thousands of years to play out. It takes about 26,000 years for Earth's axis to complete one full cycle of precession (the change in the orientation of the rotational axis of a rotating body), while at the same time the Earth is orbiting at a variable speed. The combined effect of these two phenomena creates a 21,000-year astronomical season. This is what is referred to as a "Milankovitch cycle."

This extreme long-term seasonality slowly changes the climate on Earth, typically resulting in colder winters in the Northern Hemisphere. It's thought that Milankovitch cycles are what's to blame for Earth's past ice ages. And anthropogenic global warming notwithstanding, current models suggest that the current warm climate may last another 50,000 years.

All planets have their own Milankovitch cycle which affect the weather and seasons in unique ways. Mars's polar caps vary in size on account of orbital instability related to a latent Milankovitch cycle. And Saturn's moon Titan has a 60,000 year cycle that changes the location of its methane lakes.

Looking at the situation in Game of Thrones, it's possible that Westeros's Milankovitch cycle is quick and complex. If this is the case, their seasons would be subject to variations in both length and severity — exactly the sort of thing that is seen in the series. Such long-term trends could be predicted when analyzing the physics of it, but it's nothing the planet's medieval-stage observers could measure or anticipate.

4. Oceans, currents, and winds

Any given region's climate is profoundly influenced by such factors as its latitude and proximity to large bodies of water. Take the South Pole, for example. It is in the middle of Antarctica, and a considerable distance from the moderating influence of the southern oceans. The North Pole, on the other hand, is in the Arctic Ocean, and its temperature extremes are buffered by the water. The result is that the South Pole is consistently colder during the Southern winter compared to the North Pole during the Northern winter.

Ocean currents and prevailing winds can also have an impact on climate, and they themselves are subject to cyclical variations. Currents like El Niño and La Niña impact on regional climates across timescales as long as five or more years. The power of Canada's warm Chinook winds are largely unpredictable, but their impact on the Prairies is significant.

The Seven Kingdoms may be subject to these sorts of long-term weather trends. The geography of their world may be considerably different than Earth's. Westeros may contain larger oceans, bigger mountains, stronger currents and more powerful prevailing winds — all of which would combine to create fairly unpredictable and long-term weather trends.

It's worth noting that global warming and rising ocean levels on Earth are stunting the ocean currents. Some experts believe that this could indeed result in a new ice age.

5. A combination of all factors

It's also possible, of course, that it's through a combination of some or all of these factors that Game of Thrones' seasonal variability can be explained. As shown, seasonality and climate are clearly the result of many factors.

Regardless, it's time to bundle up. Winter might be coming.

Image via.


Obiwan Kenobi Arrested, Charged With Hit & Run, Yes, This is a True StoryA 37 year-old man from Roseville, CA by the name of Obiwan Kenobi has been arrested and charged over a four car pile-up on a motorway last week.

Seems Kenobi, while driving, came across some cars backed up on the road. While trying to change lanes, he hit two of them then sped off, which went on to cause the pile-up.

He's been charged with hit-and-run causing injury, but is currently out on bail.

What reports fail to mention is why he's got that name. Did he change it because he was anxious to avoid any Imperial entanglements?

Obiwan Kenobi arrested in connection to Roseville hit, run [News10]