Rainy Day Distractions

i-2a70f390b2a4b681794cf711439fa0f2-rain.jpgI've been saving these for a rainy day--a game or other timesinking tidbit for each ScienceBlogs category. I originally was going to wait until a rainy weekend, but the climate hasn't favored that idea. As it is,I'm behind on other projects, so today works. Besides--it is pouring outside, leaving me in dire need of something to chase the rainy blues away. Rather than making ten separate posts, I've crammed the distractions all into one list, counting down to my favorite. I'll admit, some of the categorizations are a stretch (you try coming up with something about politics that is a fun distraction on a rainy day!) ...but all of them are worth the click:

10 Things to do on Rainy Day

#10 (Academia) i-0d24e332cfe4aeeb3d477c913737d61f-MIT.jpgTake a free online class from MIT

In order to take these "open" classes, all you need is some free time and a .pdf viewer. They aren't worth any official credit, but the knowledge gained is priceless. The image shown is from "History of Science", but the classes aren't limited to science. Subjects range from computer technology to dance, so be sure to browse the full course list.

#9 (Planet Earth) i-27c828d6420dcf6688bb337c183dadab-oceanvoyager.jpgExplore the ocean and join conservation efforts with Mother Jones Magazine

This site invites you to take action in the fight to save our oceans, in a weekly multi-media experience. Once you register with your email address, you'll have access to a variety of information, from interviews, to webcams, to available conservation petitions. The first week's theme is "fish pirates": Saving endangered species of fish by reducing illegal fishing.

#8 (Philosophy of Science... ok, so, this one is the first stretch.) i-a0b83827318cda6a921e9b0fe220bd7d-legominime.jpgQuestion the nature of "self" by creating your own Lego mini-me

I almost used this as my profile image, before going with the floppy hat picture. This site allows you to outfit your own Lego person with a variety of costumes and accessories.* (I should note, this site isn't officially associated with the Lego corporation.)

#7 (Culture Wars) i-92e11264d4ea67fe04f9e5e27d3b2f29-churchsign.jpgMake your own church sign

This one sort of speaks for itself. Make the church signs read anything you want.*

#6 (Brain and Behavior) i-153bdd1cb66793c0c0b879b8528606cf-subservientchicken.jpgExplore AI theory with the subservient chicken

Normally, I would never post any links associated with Burger King, but this is an exception. A philosophy professor pulled this up in one of my classes awhile back, and used it as an argument against AI. It wasn't too hard to confuse the chicken. (I still think AI is possible--see this paper--although I doubt Burger King will have anything to do with its development.)

#5 (Medicine) i-af6bc7ef9d4412aa6abf67e743e2f46d-drug.jpgLaugh as JibJab spoofs pharmaceutical commercials

JibJab.com is well known for political satire, but here they take a stab at the pharmaceutical industry.

#4 (Chatter) i-cf66e50edbc5e7b7be833f8575c1701e-hermitage.jpgExplore the Hermitage Museum

The Hermitage in St. Petersburg is filled with spectacular works, ranging from prehistoric pottery to modern art. This website offers 3-D tours of the entire museum, allowing you to browse, room-to-room, without ever getting out of your chair. My personal favorite is the famous Malachite room.

#3 (Biology) i-c3c5865441aea9f5484abe1fe79a498a-spore.jpgCheck out the previews for Spore

This game, set for release in 2007, looks as if it will be the coolest game ever. Designed by the genius behind the whole Sims phenomena, Spore is virtual evolution--from microbes to civilizations. While the game isn't available yet, plenty of discussion about the game is, including this video of Robin Williams giving it a try.

#2 (Physical Science) i-e2d69c5e3f933fcb7144321eacaf0cea-brainstrainer.jpgBuild a contraption to launch a rocket

This game emulates the simple laws of physics, along with educational descriptions, for working parts. That said, it's a chance to build your own glorified pinball machine.* You are given a ball and a target, along with a variety of blocks, bumpers and other parts. Your job is to assemble a contraption that racks up enough points to fuel a rocket launch. It's easy to get the ball to the target, but much harder to make it launch. The more the ball bounces around, the better. You have a choice of several types of balls, varying in elasticity and mass. The contraption I built (pictured) works with both the rubber and metal balls, but the wooden ball gets trapped. I'm still trying. You can save one machine in your browser, or save others by e-mailing them to yourself. This game was mentioned a few weeks ago on JayIsGames.com. Jay not only went to school with the designers of this game, but has the best game review site around. It's worth a few rainy days to check out, all by itself.

#1 (Policy and Politics... Ok, so this one is a BIG stretch... but I couldn't find anything to represent politics except for things that kept going in circles ...but this game includes some issues, like foreign relations... um... right? Just smile and nod.) i-11707fccda63092b5934ebda83dd8cf0-samorost.jpgSave a planet and a dog

If you've never seen Samorost, you're missing out. This delightful and artistic flash game has won awards and enraptured gamers since the first game was released in 2004. Part two came out this year, although only the first half is free. (I bought the second half right away--and never regretted it.) In order to save the little guy's planet, you have to click around and explore things. Some things happen in a certain sequence, but you shouldn't need to reset at any point--there's no way to die, or to lose. That isn't to say you won't get a bit frustrated. Help is out there... again, see Jay's site.

*: Feel free to send me your own church signs, Lego people, or rocket designs, or post them somewhere, and drop a link in the comments below, for all to see.

Each image via the link attached, except the rainy day, which I photographed.


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Hi karmen!

Wow! Glad to see "Samorost" around again. I haven't played it for ages, but I can still remember...
Well, it's not about the game for me, the images, background-music, and overall atmosphere does enough for me.
BTW, I didn't know "Dragon" was on your old site too. Must've just missed it between all the furniture you were moving at the time.
As I said in my last comment: nice tale. I copied it (and even printed it), so I can read it to my children someday, and they to their children, and...
(re: Michael Ende, "The NeverEnding Story")...
Still very much enjoying your blog,

Ps: I don't know if you're familiar with interactive fiction, but I immediately thought of this alternative (and slightly ironical, sorry...) title: "ATWAD"

By Kim Boone (not verified) on 26 Jul 2006 #permalink

Kim, I love Samorost, and have played it many times. In fact, it was while I was looking for a Samorost substitute that I discovered Jay's site. I hope you've tried part II; it's as good as the first. As for "Dragon", I did see your comment, and I'm glad you liked it. It was on the old site, too, but fairly recently. I was surprised too--it's unlike you to miss a new story! On the "Ps", I've gone through a few IF fanatic phases, but ATWAD doesn't ring a bell. Maybe it's been too long.

When I first heard about Spore, they said it would only be on the playstation, or something. (I said it'd be worth buying one.) Now, thank goodness, it seems it is slated for the PC. It makes sense... all of the other "Sims" games have been available for the PC. I'll probably do a full review when it comes out. *drool*

Hi Karmen,

AGWAD is the acronym for the ironic title of an adventure game: "Another Game With A Dragon", making fun of the old fantasy-clichés.
Not that I want to belittle your story, but "Another Tale With A Dragon" just kinda sprung (sprang?) to mind.


BTW, I've been working on YATWAD (Yet Another Tale With A Dragon) for about a year now. The official title being "Krijzeltand". Unfortunately for the plot, it's turned into a kind of worldbuilding exercise the last few months. I'm trying to get a consistent setting, and trying to get a lot of my metapphysical and philosophical ideas in there. I guess Johannes (my main character) will have to delay his quest until I've got his world figured out...

Anyhow, till next time.

Just read the comments to "Dragon" on your old site. Way to deal with the dumbwitted comments. And let's hope they someday do feel the headache of original ideas. It may take some getting used to, but they'll be better off afterwards.

On Jay's site, I just read in the comments that you plan to make your own IF-game someday. Do you mind if I hold you to that promise? It would be really neat (avoiding cool words, 'cause they don't fit in this context:)
Seriously, it would be nice to see your storytelling abilities combined with a good IF-game.
(Hope there wasn't another Karmen commenting at Jay's, i'ld feel silly )


Is your story an IF game? I'd love to hear your ideas sometime, if you ever wanted to email them over. Yes, that was me saying I hoped to someday write an IF game of my own... the key word there is "someday". Ideally, I'd probably want to co-write it with someone else who could handle the game command structure. Then I could just write the interactive story. (I used to love those Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books, too.)

There are so many pieces that go into a story, so I understand your troubles. My mom has a million ideas for a fantasy story, but it is mostly what you'd call world-building. She knows the characters, their personalities, their hometown festivals and everything in between. The plot, however, is light to non-existent. Someday, I'd like to help, but when we get together it might turn into an ongoing series. It could be good... The Dragon story was a myth of the people in her world... I just borrowed it ;)

PS Thanks for your support on the Dragon comments. I rather feel sorry for that person, but glad they didn't come back.

oh, and, my favorite IF game of all time: "She's Got a Thing for Spring" (placed 4th in the 1997 IF awards)


No, my story is not IF. I'm quite illiterate when it comes to programming, so if I ever want to do an IF-game, it would also have to be in cooperation with a techno-whizz.
My story actually did start out with a pretty much worked out plot, but after a few months, I got really absorbed by the world and its culture, mythology, social habits, flora and fauna, geography, different peoples...
I still mean to get back to the actual plot though.
Yeah, I've played "A thing for the spring" a few months ago. I also very much enjoyed it. My personal favorite so far is "Anchorhead". It's a truly scary horror-piece with great pacing and building of tension.
And I also feel kinda sorry for the insulting commenter on "Dragon". If that level of conversation is all he/she has to draw some attention, well, pretty sad.