rocket science

Friday, October 5, 2012

App-building 101? Local developers talk concept to reality

Posted By on Fri, Oct 5, 2012 at 12:11 PM

Cool Pizza leaderboard shortly after launch
  • Clay Duda's iPhone
  • CROWNED KING (OKAY, FIFTH): Cool Pizza's leaderboard shortly after launch

The best part of getting in on a new game early is you actually have a shot in hell at making the leaderboard. For a few magical hours last Friday — a total of two, I think — I was ranked fifth in the world in Cool Pizza high scores.

Of course, there were only about 500 total people playing the game released by a boutique Atlanta game development company barely 24 hours before. Since then my score has steady slid from the rankings, ending up at no. 40 at the time of writing.

The wacky, fast-paced game is the second the three-man crew at Secret Library, a start-up based out of a small home office in East Atlanta, has put out since quitting their jobs and diving head first into the videogame, app-building world a year ago.

“It’s really the best time it’s ever been in the history of video games to self-publish,” said Cool Pizza designer and Secret Library co-founder Nick Ralabate. “Honestly, you pay Apple $99 and you can publish whatever you want [to its app store].”

With advances in game building tools, a profoundly low barrier of entry, and the increased adoption of smart phones, just about anybody can get in on the action these days — provided they’re willing to invest the time and energy it takes to turn an idea into some tangible.

At least, that’s the theory.

We caught up with Cool Pizza designers and developers Carlos Quinones and Nick Ralabate earlier this week to get the rundown and see what it actually takes to turn a rough sketch of an idea into an interactive — and hopefully profitable — application accessible around the world.

Related event:

SIEGE - Southern Interactive Entertainment and Game Expo. Oct. 4-7. Atlanta Marriott Northwest. $35-$230.

Clay Duda: It seems like everybody and their mom has an idea for the next “million dollar” app, but you rarely see this things come into fruition. It’s a super broad question, but what does it take to bring a concept like this into reality?

Nick Ralabate: Well, it mostly takes time and patience I suppose. We spent maybe three or four months on our first game, and three or four months on our second game. To be fair, I don’t think they were million dollar ideas — I think they were barely thousand dollar ideas — but we’re doing this because this is what we’d like to get good at and do [for a living].

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Monday, March 19, 2012

Yelp reviewer: 'Don't forget to not drive in Piedmont Park'

Posted By on Mon, Mar 19, 2012 at 9:38 AM

It's a little bit strange that Piedmont Park has a Yelp page. As one reviewer put it, "It's a great big park ... Why are you reading reviews about it? Haven't you been to a park before?"

Still, lots of people — 161 of them — have used the page to share their experiences and helpful tips following visits to the park, tips like, "The roads that people are walking on are actually sidewalks and you can't drive your car on them." Very helpful!

This review was posted by "Justin R." of Nashville, Tenn. in February. Two people deemed it "useful," three said it was "funny," no one thought it was "cool" ...

Just so you know ... there is no driving in Piedmont Park. I guess you are wondering why I'm starting my review what that statement. Well, let me tell you a little story.

On a recent trip to Atlanta, my girlfriend and I had a few hours to kill before our flight left. So, we grabbed some lunch, and then headed over to the park to walk some of it off. Every park that I have ever been to, the set up it this. Travel to the park (either by car or bike). Park your said mode of transportation at the park. Enjoy the park. Simple right? Well not at Piedmont park.

When we arrived at the park, in a car, we saw an open gate and what we thought was a road. So, we did what any logical person would have done. We turned on this road, and headed in to find some parking. We drove around for a while and just could not find any spots. We kept thinking how strange it was that there were no parking spaces, or any other cars driving around. But, we kept driving.

Finally, we started getting dirty looks from the people that were walking around on this "road," and started getting worried. After a few more minutes of looking for a place to park, we realized that this "road" were were driving was in fact not a "road." It was in fact a very oversized sidewalk. Yes, we had been driving around on a sidewalk, in Piedmont, for ten minutes. And to think we were giving these people on this "road" dirty looks the whole time, wondering why they were all walking around in the middle of the road.

The moral of the story is that there is no parking in Piedmont Park. Unless you go to the parking garage and pay $10.

Good for honest, forthcoming Justin R. Had I done this, I'd go back to Nashville and forever deny I'd ever been to Atlanta, let alone Piedmont Park.

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Friday, December 16, 2011

A UGA professor might've cured cancer

Posted By on Fri, Dec 16, 2011 at 4:02 PM

Geert-Jan Boons (!!!), a University of Georgia chemistry professor and certified genius (I don't actually know if this is true) has, with the help of Mayo Clinic researchers, developed a vaccine that just might cure cancer.

From UGA's newswire:

Researchers from the University of Georgia and the Mayo Clinic in Arizona have developed a vaccine that dramatically reduces tumors in a mouse model that mimics 90 percent of human breast and pancreatic cancer cases-including those resistant to common treatments.

The vaccine, described this week in the early edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, reveals a promising new strategy for treating cancers that share the same distinct carbohydrate signature, including ovarian and colorectal cancers. The vaccine dramatically reduced the size of tumors in laboratory mice and was particularly successful against breast and pancreatic tumors, two of the deadliest forms of cancer, the researchers reported.


Boons, [Mayo Clinic researcher Sandra] Gendler, and their colleagues are currently testing the vaccine's effectiveness against human cancer cells in culture and are planning to assess its toxicity. If all goes well, they anticipate that phase I clinical trials to test the safety of the vaccine could begin by late 2013.

This seems like a really big deal, but all I can think about are mouse models with human breasts.

In the study he co-authored, Boons says, "This vaccine elicits a very strong immune response. It activates all three components of the immune system to reduce tumor size by an average of 80 percent."

If maybe curing cancer wasn't enough, Boons also founded a biotech company in Athens that could eventually manufacture the vaccine and also create jobs. Someone's gonna have a braggy holiday newsletter.

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Thursday, August 14, 2008

I keep summer hours

Posted By on Thu, Aug 14, 2008 at 4:36 PM


The city in the summer. A concrete inferno reeking with the stench of hot garbage and overripe armpits. Infinite ring around the collar, circling into a downward spiral toward the unpleasant sensation that you’re going to completely lose your mind if you don’t watch out. Which is why I keep Summer Hours.

I get up in the morning – let’s call it “Monday morning.” I shower and get dressed. I grab a Grande Frapp on the way to work and get to the office by 10 a.m. I say hello to co-workers. I answer a few emails. I leave the office at 10:50 a.m. and walk the city with my sports coat tossed over one shoulder. I find an open ice cream shop. I walk inside to enjoy the air conditioning. I order a double scoop of mint chip on a sugar cone, the Official Cone of Summer Hours.

Later, I return to the office, but everyone has gone home. Then I remember: It’s “Monday Afternoon.” Summer Hours. I decide it’s too hot to go home just yet and that I’ll take a nap on my desk.

When my boss wakes me, he says, a bit rudely, “We’re all in the Monday meeting. Get your ass in there, now.” So it turns out everyone didn’t go home.

“Jesus, you’re all here,” I say as I enter the conference room.

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Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Get what you ordered: Four ways to make sure you receive your bagel with cream cheese

Posted By on Tue, Jun 3, 2008 at 10:00 PM


1. Go to the café. Stand in line. When it is your turn, approach the counter. Order a toasted bagel with cream cheese from the cashier with the purple hair. Pay for it. Tip with change. Move to the receiving area. Once the cashier and her sidekick with the tattoos forget about your order and begin to serve people who ordered after you, put on a chauffeur’s outfit. Take out an 8-and-a-half-by-11 piece of paper that looks like you found it in your car’s trunk, under a body. Write in black marker the “name” of the “person” you are here to pick up: TOASTED BAGEL WITH CREAM CHEESE. Hold the sign at chest level. Make hopeful eye contact with everyone who looks at you, as if they might be the Toasted Bagel with Cream Cheese you’re looking for. Approach the cashier and her sidekick behind the counter. Say, “Excuse me, are you Toasted Bagel with Cream Cheese? I’m here to pick up Toasted Bagel with Cream Cheese?” Act completely innocent when the cashier calls you “asshole” under her breath. Receive your toasted bagel with cream cheese. Thank the cashier and her sidekick for helping you find “him.”

2. Find a jet engine. Take it with you to the café. Stand in line. When it is your turn, approach the counter. Order a toasted bagel with cream cheese. Pay for it. Tip with change. Move to the receiving area. Once the cashier and her sidekick forget about your order and begin to serve people who ordered after you, put on those headphones that airline people wear on the tarmac. Turn on the jet engine. When the cashier and her sidekick look at you like, “What are you doing, weirdo?” take out those hand-signal things that tarmac people use to direct jets into the terminal. Make the signal that says, “I am waiting for my toasted bagel with cream cheese! I ordered it several minutes ago! Please send it this way!” Keep making these signals until you guide the toasted bagel with cream cheese into the terminal that is your mouth. Turn off jet engine.

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Friday, May 30, 2008

A phlegmatic masterpiece

Posted By on Fri, May 30, 2008 at 1:35 PM


There are few opening scenes in the history of cinema that will match the introduction of "My Cough" in subtle textures and old-fashioned innocence: Here is my cough, the familiar but forgotten villain, barely audible over the din of a subway.

He is a light, quick explosion of air due to a faint itching in the throat. So soft is his entrance that we immediately see my cough as weak, harmless, inconsequential. It's a startlingly simple scene, and the summer heat that surrounds it seems to imply that my cough and his self-titled production will end here. Coughs do not thrive in the late summer, after all. Of course, we are wrong.

In the gripping narrative that follows, first unfolding as languid moments in the sultry heat, and then elevating to full-throttle hell-on-earth psycho-drama, my cough transforms from a meek afterthought in conversation into a raging lunatic capable of leaving all men broken and gasping for air. It is wildly frightening stuff, the kind of sick entertainment that leaves one feeling guilty for witnessing it in the first place. And then my cough eventually goes from whence he came, quieting, quieting, quieting, until we are left with mere traces of him that will perhaps never vanish from our soul.

"My Cough" is at once an authentic blockbuster and an overpowering, gut-wrenching work of art. And this is its star at his finest — controlling, demanding, incapable of allowing others to engage in even the simplest of dialogue.

In one turning-point scene of "My Cough," wife Angelique unveils her feelings over breakfast: "I said, 'I love you.' Did you hear me?"

Of course, the response is my cough. Seemingly at the sound of Angelique's voice, my cough devilishly drowns out her sweet confession in a hacking, loogie-inducing spasm. It's so grotesque that any idea of love is quickly and sensibly forgotten. Things get worse from there.

At a work conference, the boss launches into his status-quo humdrum, and you can practically feel the tickle dying to get out. But my cough holds himself in until an infinite volley of throat-sore explosions is the only answer. My cough continues through dirty looks and, finally, the plea from a witness, the boss's right-hand man, "Why don't you just go get a drink of water?" It is a beautiful and tension-filled moment stolen by my cough and the now silly notion that a drink of water could actually calm this savage beast.

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How to avoid road rage

Posted By on Fri, May 30, 2008 at 4:00 AM


1 When waiting for an accident to clear off the parking lot of traffic known as I-75/85, an hour late for your first job interview in weeks, do not succumb to that specific urge, the one that tells you to pick out the nearest dump-truck driver and make faces at him, including the one where you put your thumb to your nose and waggle your fingers.

2 When the dump-truck road-rager shoots you the bird, do not claim that his face is your steering wheel and then begin punching your steering wheel. And do not simultaneously shout, "I hit you like this! And this! I dare you to come over here!"

3 When the dump-truck road-rager exits his vehicle and walks through stopped traffic in the direction of your car, do not leave your doors unlocked nor your windows open. When he screams at you and threatens to break the glass of your driver's side window with one punch, and when he describes to you how he's going to kick your mother-fucking ass if you ever get the courage to get out of the car, just hold your hands up, surrendering to his anger, and say through your window, "Hey, hey, easy there. I'm chill, I'm chill."

4 When traffic begins moving again, and you time it just right so that you cut off the dump-truck road-rager while going 75 mph, forcing his lumbering piece of shit into the emergency lane, do not follow the maneuver with rearview-mirror taunts in the spirit of "Hahaha, you stupid mother-fucker, I beat you! I beat you! Hahaha! You suck ass!" This will only antagonize the road-rager.

5 After cutting off the dump-truck road-rager, do not, under any circumstances, slam on your brakes, assuming he will care whether he runs into the back of you.

6 When the dump-truck crazy mother-fucker of a road-rager rams into your car and forces you into the cement wall dividing northbound and southbound lanes, do not lose consciousness. IMPORTANT! You must remain conscious in order to escape the vehicle, not so much because it might be on fire, but because the road-rager is coming after you, like Jason in his hockey mask. Break the glass of your windshield if you must -- anything to escape your vehicle, and the road-rager's mindless wrath.

7 When the dump-truck road-rager chases you with a gun through six lanes of speeding, swerving traffic, do not back down now. Instead, stop at the line dividing the fifth and sixth lanes of traffic and challenge your nemesis to a "tight-rope competition" down the lane divider. This should distract him from killing you, at least for a second. Walk on those long dotted lines, hands outstretched, as though there's hot lava below. Walk as far as it takes to lose him.

8 When the road-rager collars you and uses his brute strength (not to mention his gun) to force you to lie face down on the hot pavement of the interstate, and the cops close all northbound and southbound lanes in an attempt to save you from this total psycho, tell the road-rager everything's going to be OK, that the choppers above mean nothing -- they're just pretty birds, that's all.

9 When the dump-truck road-rager tells you how he's just sick and tired of all the bad drivers out there and how they seem like they're out to get him, do not, under any circumstances, bring up his less-than-stellar driving habits (not to mention his butt-ugly truck). Instead, actively listen as he tells you his troubles: the overdue mortgage. The troubled teen daughter. The wife who takes him for granted. The stripper who keeps calling his cell phone. And the traffic. The goddamned, mother-fucking, stink-ass, stupid traffic.

10 When he says, "Fucking city planners have ruined my life," do not intimate that you were once a city planner before getting fired, that you know any city planners, or that you might know someone who knows city planners. Instead, agree with him. Say, "Fucking A, right." But most of all, just lie still.

11 When the cops arrest the scumbag road-rager, but witnesses to the accident and attempted murder try to pin the blame on you and your driving, do not antagonize them with claims that they, too, suck ass at driving, or that they might be part of a grand road-rager conspiracy against you personally.

12 And finally, when the head cop tells you he's going to haul you in for questioning, do not criticize the choice of tires on his cop car as being "sort of feminine." Also, do not threaten to sue the cop if he doesn't take you to your job interview "right this very fucking instant, Pinkie." And do not, under any circumstances, kick him in the shins. Cops are very sensitive road-ragers.

This column was previously published in Creative Loafing on June 26, 2003.

Jamie Allen is an Atlanta writer whose column, Rocket Science, appears occasionally on Fresh Loaf. To read more Rocket Science columns, click here. He’d very much like you to visit The Duck & Herring Co.’s Pocket Field Guides website, which he edits.

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Outtakes from a public radio pledge drive

Posted By on Fri, May 30, 2008 at 1:00 AM


You know, sometimes I'll be out and about in public places and I'll hear someone talking loudly on his cell phone. So loudly I can hardly think. Many of us have experienced that before. Sometimes I'll say, "Hey, could you keep it down a little?" Often, I'll get the finger.

But you know, I think I have a right to say something because that kind of inconsiderate behavior makes me angry. Just as it makes me angry to know that you're sitting there, listening to public radio, just like you do every day, and you still haven't sent us a single cent. You're as bad as the loud cell-phone talkers.

— So please, call now and give a pledge to public radio. —

I was at the market the other day, and I asked the butcher if I could see the prime rib. He pointed it out in the glass case. I asked him if I could hold it. He gave me a funny look, as butchers often do, but he proceeded to pull a nice prime rib out of the case, wrapped in wax paper. I took hold of it, thanked him, and ran out of the store. Within moments of leaving the parking lot, I was pulled over and arrested for shoplifting prime rib.

— Public radio is a lot like prime rib. You're stealing it from us right now by listening and not paying. We're going to have you arrested unless you donate today. —

The other night, I was out for an evening walk through the city. It was a nice autumn evening, featuring the kind of cool weather that makes you happy to be alive. I happened upon a young fellow busking for change. He was strumming guitar into the dusky air, and his guitar case was open. Inside the case, strewn about haphazardly, were an impressive number of dollar bills and some spare change. While watching him play, several more people walked by and dropped cash into his case. Needless to say, that disturbed me. I went home and cried myself to sleep.

— Please don't give your money to that well-meaning but amateurish guitar player. Public radio needs your money more. Call us today. —

Remember when you were in eighth grade and you were masturbating in your room and your mother walked in with the clean, folded laundry and caught you? And then, after most of the embarrassment had cleared and you walked out of your room, you realized that your mother had fainted shortly after leaving your room and knocked her head so hard that she suffered a slight concussion? And you felt so guilty? Do you feel guilty now? Sitting there? By yourself? Listening? I think you know the answer.

— I'd like to ask you to come out of your little room and make amends for the trouble you're causing by sending a $300 pledge our way. —

I was in Starbucks the other day and I saw a man buying a large — I think they call it Venti — cappuccino. I stopped him and asked, "Do you buy a $4 coffee every day?" He admitted that he did. I said, "Give me your cappuccino. That belongs to public radio." A struggle ensued. The drink spilled on my face, and I suffered second-degree burns.

— I'm now suing that man for $1 million. Would you like to be sued? Or do you think it would be easier to send $4 a day to public radio? —

Let's face it: You're a horrible cheapskate. I mean, you went dutch on your date with your co-worker the other night. And you were the one who asked her out to the nice restaurant in the first place. What gives? Did your mother not raise you properly? And why did you still expect a kiss at the end of the date? I suppose if you had paid for the dinner, you would have expected sex?

— I don't know — it just seems like you're awfully comfortable with the idea that you're owed something. But you don't owe anyone anything — is that it? Listen, don't call me. Not until you're ready to treat me with some respect. I deserve respect in the form of a $500 pledge today. —

Once, when I was in kindergarten, a bee stung my finger during recess. I cried out, and my teacher came over to help me. She took me back to the classroom, pulled out one of her cigarettes from a pack in her purse, broke open the cigarette and emptied the tobacco onto her desk. She then used Scotch tape to wrap the raw tobacco over the point where the bee had stung me, claiming it would "make it feel better." I suppose we didn't have a proper first aid kit around.

— That is what happens when you don't fund things properly: Children are introduced to the healing powers of cigarette tobacco. Please call our station with a pledge to public radio today. —

This column was previously published in Creative Loafing on Nov. 19, 2005.

Jamie Allen is an Atlanta writer whose column, Rocket Science, appears occasionally on Fresh Loaf. To read more Rocket Science columns, click here. He’d very much like you to visit The Duck & Herring Co.’s Pocket Field Guides website, which he edits.

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