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Thursday, March 27, 2003  permanent URL for this entry

Had my bit of escapist fun this evening playing Sim Theme Park, a game we bought for (I think) the little daughter ages and ages ago and she never got around to.

It's a frustrating mix of wonderful and awful. The crowd model is great; these hordes of little kids arrive in bunches by bus and hydroplane, and they crowd and clump and wander very realistically. Each of them seems to have an actual goal at every instant, and considering how many can be in the park at once, that's very cool. You can watch the buses and planes arrive, and watch the visitors milling around and making their way up the walk to your gates, and queuing for rides and food and bathrooms, and all like that.

You can also go into "camcorder mode" and get right down in the action (sorta like Dungeon Keeper II, except you don't actually possess any of your guests, and none of them are wearing leather and spikes, or eating live chickens, and it's lower res). You can ride the rides, and when you're like at the top of the roller coaster you can look out over the park and see people riding the other rides that you've put down.

On the other hand it took me over an hour to figure out how to save, or to exit. And I didn't realize that I could rotate the rides and shops and things before placing them for roughly that same amount of time (it was an interesting challenge, actually, having to always put down shops with the doors facing south; sort of Sim Feng Shui).

Because, you see, all of the normal operation of the game is purely mouse clicks.

But to rotate a building, you use the period and comma keys.

And to save or exit, you press ESCAPE and then choose from the menu that appears. Unless you're in one of the various building modes, in which case ESCAPE takes you out of that building mode, back into normal operation. I had figured out the latter early on, and that apparently kept me from guessing the former.

As far as I could tell, there isn't any online help, where I could have found out about the magical keystrokes. There's this very helpful (and often very annoying) little guy who pops up and gives you advice and warnings and updates about the state of your park. But he never mentioned to me how to save and exit.

And I still haven't figured out how (if at all) to play any park theme but "Lost Kingdom"; the arrows that (I suspect) lead to the other themes are greyed out with no explanation (User Interface Sin Number Six). That's a puzzle for another night, I guess.

It's an old game, of course; probably from the days when mouses were still sort of a novelty, and people were used to actually reading the manual and finding out what keys to hit to do things.

I remember those days.

But in any case, building a dinosaur-themed amusement park was a nice evening's relaxation, even if the interface did have its little quirks. I highly recommend it to world leaders instead of, say... You know.

Wednesday, March 26, 2003  permanent URL for this entry

So that notion I had the other day about talking randomly more, and linking to things less, didn't pan out for long. I hadn't counted on this war, I guess. Being in a war (being a willing member of a nation that's waging a war) makes me not really want to think very hard about things.

Which isn't a healthy reaction for a citizen of a democracy, really. So I'm going to sit here and think about some things a bit and write some things a bit. Although what thinking I do about the war I doubt I'll right down. Not tonight anyway.

The little daughter remembered, as I was driving her home from ballet, that she wanted to make dumplings (you remember dumplings) to bring in for Home and Careers at school tomorrow because they're having a unit on Foods of Weird Furrin Countries. So we discovered that you (we) can make dumplings (only 75 or so; less than a half batch) in just about two hours, if you're (we're) in a hurry.

It was fun, actually, and since she doesn't need 75, we'll get to eat some too.

Senator Moynihan

Dan Pat Moynihan has died. That's sad; he was a pretty cool guy. He was my Senator for quite a long time, and he'd send out these missives that were amazingly calm and rational for political missives, and showed a depth of thought, and especially an awareness of history, that always made me feel good, even when I didn't agree with him.

He had a bit too much faith in the Common Will for me; I remember once he wrote of some particular proposal to give back a certain amount of money to the citizens that, since it would really be a rather small amount of money given to the average citizen, mightn't it be better for the government to take the whole largish total amount and use it to make something "that we would then have"?

I wrote him back on that one, saying that we should put our trust in the individuals instead, and give the money to the people so they could "commit capitalism". I don't think he wrote me back.

This reminds me of a Dave Barry joke (which I'm sure you could look up easily), to the effect that if your car breaks down on the road, the Democrat is the guy who stops to help and ends up setting the car on fire, while the Republican would be able to fix the car but he doesn't stop because although he sees you there he doesn't want to be late to Ugly Pants Night at the golf club.

In the Ideal Collectivist State this probably can't happen since you don't have a car, but if the bus that you and a number of colleagues are going somewhere on were to break down, I expect the fact would immediately be reported, and a repair team dispatched. Would passersby also be free to stop and offer help, or perhaps join in uplifting songs while waiting for the repair team to arrive?

In the Ideal Minarchist State I suppose it would depend on the terms of the contract you entered into in order to be able to use that particular road. Some road contracts might come with repair services included, no charge. In other cases a passing citizen might offer to help you out for a fee, or even for free (no law against generosity, after all). Although I suppose the road contract might forbid ordinary travellers to help stranded people, reserving that right to people who've paid extra in order to get in on the repair franchise.

Would a contract that forbade helping out even people in severe distress (unless you've paid the extra franchise fee) be enforcable? What if it allowed you to help such people, but required you to pay an additional fee after the fact if you did?

I continue to make progress in my project to get rid of old mail from the in-box. I've failed to keep up with the newer mail, so I can't triumphantly declare that I have no mail newer than some particular date, but I can say that I have nothing dated between 14 Feb 2003 and 6 March 2002; and that's something.

In the 6 March 2002 issue of gorjuss was this fascinating tale, about a mysterious ship seen flying in the air just a little while before ships started flying in the air. Venus, or a mad scientist a bit ahead of his time? I know which one I'm voting for.

Spam subject line o' the Day: "GALLOPING CORONERS hasanain Save Today Chess Schlafabteils". I can't quite figure out the strategy here; I guess the random subject line is to fool spam filters, but it certainly makes it very obviously spam to the human eye. I don't remember if I opened it; probably not. Love the phrase, though.

I noticed an unfamiliar livejournal in the reflog the other day. Apparently the author liked one of my digital pictures enough to have it as part of her page design (sucked directly from my server, not copied) for at least a few days (looks like she changes designs pretty often). I briefly considered getting all mad about "bandwidth theft", but then I remembered that I think people who do that are silly. *8)

So here's a question that we were debating on a lunch walk the other day: if everyone were to come to know (and to know that everyone else knew, and so on) that the closing price of a certain stock was going to be (say) 100 on a certain day (say) two weeks in the future, what would happen to the price of that stock? We tossed various answers around, but there wasn't single consensus.

Whaddya think?

Tuesday, March 25, 2003  permanent URL for this entry

Much too sleepy to blog.

Otherwise everything fine.

(Except for this damn' war and all.)

Sunday, March 23, 2003  permanent URL for this entry

Don't wanna study war no more

...but I can't help myself; I've been obsessively reloading the CNN homepage and watching for new headlines, reading the old stories again to see if anything's changed, reading the blogs to see what's happening outside the focus of mainstream attention. So mostly what I have today are links, and mostly links about the war. Deep thoughts will have to wait.

Lists of places to obsess: "War on the Web; Sites to see on the road to Baghdad", and MSNBC's list of blogs. (Thanks to a Paul Boutin entry for pointers.)

"Today I Weep for My Country".

Scary in multiple ways (from here and/or here):

Q: Ari, if the United States is at war, and if you assert that the United States has the right to target the Iraqi leader and his inner circle as part of command and control, does that make the President and the White House a legitimate target for Iraqis?

MR. FLEISCHER: Somebody -- a reporter asked me that question a few weeks ago and my answer this is my answer now; you can tell anybody who wants to know the answer to that to get their own international lawyer, I won't do it for them.

Then there's this whole Turkey thing:

Washington has warned that a Turkish incursion could lead to friendly fire incidents with U.S. forces.

And the DoD's rose-colored goggles:

"The coalition against Iraq, called Operation Iraqi Freedom, is large and growing. This is not a unilateral action, as is being characterized in the media. Indeed, the coalition in this activity is larger than the coalition that existed during the Gulf War in 1991."

That's "larger than" in the "much smaller than" sense of "larger than". Also the "I can say any stupid thing I want and no one will call me on it" and the "utter contempt for the intelligence of the American people" sense.

He has of course been called on it, but only by the unamerican leftist media. Can you imagine Rumsfeld issuing a correction?

Everyone's been blogging When Democracy Failed: The Warnings of History; it's certainly worth a read, not so much in the "Bush is Hitler" sense, but in the "things to avoid" sense. (Inevitable MeFi thread)

From Medley, "Top White House anti-terror boss resigns":

"Hardly a surprise," said one former intelligence official. "We have sacrificed a war on terror for a war with Iraq. I don't blame Randy at all. This just reflects the widespread thought that the war on terror is being set aside for the war with Iraq at the expense of our military and intel resources and the relationships with our allies."

(How willing will French / German / Russian / Turkish governments be to work with us against terrorism after we've publically humiliated them?)

Interesting war opinions even infiltrate Amazon reviewer bios.

How's your geography? Label the map. I could find Kuwait and Iraq, but I was pretty unclear about many of those other blobs.

More ways to support the troops: bring them home (and associated billboard campaign), and write them letters. (How hard is it to write supportive letters if you can't express support for the mission as well? I don't know.)

Also from Medley, the Republican version of supporting the troops:

House Budget Resolution Will Slash $9.7 Billion from Veterans Medical Care and $15 Billion from Disability Compensation and Other Benefit Programs ...

The House leadership are pushing these cuts to offset the cost of the Presidentís $1.57 trillion tax reduction plan.

Words fail yet again. How could anyone vote for these people? Maybe it's misreporting (someone please tell me it's misreporting).

Good cartoon pointing out again the trouble with Imaginary Friends.

Israel declared legally insane:

Israeli forces fired teargas and stun grenades yesterday in an attempt to break up a memorial service for Rachel Corrie, the American peace activist killed by an army bulldozer in Gaza on Sunday.

That link from amptoons, whose entry on the subject is very good, including some really heart-wrenching quotes from Ms. Corrie.

Drifting slightly away from the war, another good find from Medley (and widely noted in general):

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia banned broadcast media from an appearance Wednesday where he will receive an award for supporting free speech.

The society for butting broken bedsteads into ponds.

From Alamut, the mystery of the book called Excalibur (by L. Ron Hubbard).

And speaking of books, this MeFi thread leads to this guy who has a list of every book he's ever read (without any commentary, which seems kind of silly), and then eventually to the Distributed Proofreaders of Project Gutenberg. Like to read?

End of link-dump for now. Gotta go check the news.


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