Mario Kart Wii Choosinator!

Hey there, race fans! As you all know (or at least should know), Mario Kart Wii is the most awesomest video game ever made. One of the difficulties, however, of trying to shave a few thousandths of a second off of your time trial, or of trying to beat your 10-year-old son, is knowing what is the best kart (or bike) to use (for your particular driving style, and the peculiarities of the course you want to run)? Indeed, which character to drive it, as each gives a subtle boost to some of the vehicle’s innate characteristics, in their own character-specific way.

To try to take some of the black magic out of the kart/character-choosing process, I created a spreadsheet. For the raw data, I am indebted to some other Nintendophile who goes by the handle of ‘ark42’, and who painstakingly gathered these tables. (I can only imagine that he grabbed screenshots like this one of all possible character/vehicle combinations, and measured the pixels in every yellow bar!)

As great as that resource is, I wanted more. So I perled up a spreadsheet that computes the character-boosted stats for each character/vehicle combination, and put some weighting in there to compute a single final SCORE. This way, a player can enter weights that reflect how relatively important he thinks various characteristics are, the SCOREs will recompute, and all of the data can be re-sorted to find out what are the recommended options.

I made a version of the spreadsheet available as a public Google Doc. Click on this link to view it, go to menu item File/Make a copy… and you can have your own copy of the spreadsheet that you can type weightings into. The Google Doc is set up to automatically re-sort whenever the weights are changed. It’s a nice idea, but VERY slow. (Also, there seems to be a bug with Google Spreadsheet at the moment, that when you click on a cell, it actually selects the adjacent cell. You should be able to navigate correctly with arrow keys though)

Another option (and probably preferable given the slowness of the Google doc autosorting), is you could File/Download As… Excel (or OpenOffice), and tweak it for yourself.

So the first lesson is, it takes a LOT of weight on Speed to get the Quacker out of the top spot (I leave the spreadsheet in its “neutral”, equally-weighted state). You should play around with the weights until you start to see vehicles you know to be good come near the top. Maybe for fun, you could try to figure out what weights are necessary to get your favorite combination at the actual top of the list. But when you figure out how hard that is, maybe you can take a look at some of the other options that keep turning up ahead of your preferred combination, and give it a try.

Seven Numbers

If you got hauled into a police station and led to a payphone, how many people could you call? I think I must be quite a freak in this current phone-obsessed culture; I only know 7 phone numbers:

  1. My home number
  2. My work number
  3. My parents’ home number
  4. T’s parents’ home number
  5. My dad’s work number (which hasn’t changed in 20 years)
  6. My parents’ previous home number (from my high school days, now obsolete)
  7. danielbalc‘s parents’ home number
  8. Update: danielbalc’s work number!

That last one is kind of an oddity; dbalc’s dad was my pastor growing up, and our family used to hang out with theirs 4-5 nights a week back in the day (or so it seems to me now). I don’t know that I ever called the number that much, but I somehow can’t forget the visualization of the particular geometric pattern in which the numbers circle around the keypad. They have since moved house, but I seem to recall that they managed to keep the number. If not, I’m down to 6 (only 5 of which are active).

T’s parents’ number is also kind of an interesting case. It’s the same exchange as our home number, and the back 4 digits are peculiarly easy to remember. I call the number once in a while, but more often I use their number when I shop at Vons (Safeway). My Vons customer discount card doesn’t swipe anymore, and it is tied to the home number from the apartment T & I & #1 briefly lived in, which I can’t remember. So I always get my customer discount by entering my in-laws’ phone number. I sometimes wonder if nana or papa are ever puzzled by register-printed coupons which are based on “their” buying history (“How presumptuous of them to give me a coupon for diapers!”)

Now, you might pooh pooh my “accomplishment,” saying “nobody knows phone numbers anymore — we all have speed-dials and cell phones!” And yes, at work I rely on VOIP phones with call histories and searchable directories (so that I rarely even use the number buttons). But I have never owned a cell phone, and our landline at home has no programmed speed-dials (or maybe it does, I wouldn’t know!)

So step up, any and all challengers, if you know fewer phone numbers! But otherwise, call Guinness, because I think I deserve a record of some sort!

White Hole Cosmology

AfterD. Russell Humphreys months of friendly pressure from the loaner, I finally spent a Sunday afternoon reading Starlight and Time, and found it quite interesting. The author, D. Russell Humphreys, attempts to demonstrate how it can be that a thousands-of-years-old earth can see astronomical objects which are billions of light-years away (which by definition means the light had to have billions of years to travel to us).

So you are probably familiar with the concept of time dilation due to velocity. Of course I am!

Fresh Steps

Imagine that every human footstep since Gen 1 left an indelible, visible footprint, like walking in half an inch of fresh snow.  Continue reading

Speculative Guinness

No, not the beer; I’m talking about a penchant I have for ruminating on Guinness-like records that are unmeasurably lost to history. Continue reading