crisis in my apartment

Day 5.

I would say I'm sick of hearing about the tactical capabilities of short range missiles launched against a nuclear power, but fortunately I've been deprived of CNN for 5 days.

In all seriousness, this is a very exciting day. We have power again, the first time since Wednesday! There are still trees down everywhere, and Cookie did not behave well, but all in all, we escaped mostly unscathed. I figure between food that was thrown away (I took out 6 garbage bags worth of trash yesterday) to extra gas and eating out, this little vacation from the electric grid cost about $100. There's something about feeling like you don't have a home and everything about life being up in the air, not knowing what's happening next, not sleeping in your own bed for several days, that is very discomforting. I have never in my life seen 22 unread email messages waiting for me when I get home. Civilization has been toying with me, sitting there unplayable.

And there are people still who don't have power. It's not that any of this is life threatening (generally), it's that it's life altering. That's what's been so amazing and frustrating about this episode.


brick ovens and remote blogging

Technically, I suppose all blogging is remote. This is particularly remote as many of the brick buildings around town can currently be more accurately described as brick ovens. Great for pizza. Not so hot for people and pets. So I'm off exploring south city with Julie and Emily. It's great when you're getting calls about St. Louis being a disaster area and you have no clue what people are talking about. Hello, we don't have power; we haven't been watching the news on TV and reading it on the internet. No, I didn't know there was fun at Busch Stadium. What, part of the East Terminal blew onto the Interstate? And so forth.

It was really fun last night; we went to Ben and Jerry's for dinner and wandered around the loop. Just kind of walking around half in a daze about how fast the weather had changed and all these tree limbs down everywhere. Storms always bring in a really neat atmostphere, and when people are without electricity, that adds an interesting element to the evening. I should say, it was fun until we got back to the apartment. Hot at bedtime is not fun.

Let's see, this morning didn't shave, and didn't even get breakfast. I drive by McDonald's on the way to work and there's a handwritten note on the door saying sorry, we're closed because we have no power. It's very interesting not being able to get something like food when you want to have it. Most of us experience that so infrequently in the US it's hard even to explain what that's like going 24 hours without a real meal, as if ice cream and granola bars isn't enough to hold one over anyway. But it was a good excuse to crash an evening with Emily and Julie, and it adds almost a childish fun to a work environment where people have other concerns besides just work that spill over into the work day.

Oh, and to be clear, I'm fine. I need to shave, and I have lost a fair amount of food, but my car seems ok and my work had AC and I have a place to set up temporary camp in. What more can you ask for?


eye candy

I have decided that Civilization IV definitely falls under the addictive category. There are some very high expectations here, so I haven't had enough time to decide if it meets them, but I am certainly having a different reaction than when I bought Master of Orion III a while back, a downright terrible and worthless addition to follow the masterful Master of Orion II. The tutorial was amusing in that there's a little animated Sid Meier giving you instructions to follow as you start a new civ. I do have some of the negative reaction wondering why so much of the eye candy one expects in a first person shooter video game has to have migrated into Civ IV, particularly as it requires much more processing speed and RAM and the DVD has to be in the drive to run (I really don't know why it doesn't allow you to do a full install; there are internet features with multiplayer options, so surely they could check serial numbers that way for copy protection). But I will say that much of it does add to the gameplay, and aside from the time and expense of development and greater system requirements, none of it really detracts from the gameplay; it appears they didn't sacrifice playability to spend more time doing fancy graphics.

Religion finally does something interesting, and there is more flexibility among governmental effects. However, at least with the government civics, it seems like a lot of real world effects have been blurred for the sake of playability, which is an interesting choice given that the Civ series has been the benchmark for making playable computer games that bear some semblance to how things have worked in history. It is quite likely this will seem more realistic as I have a chance to spend more time with it, but it feels like there should be more benefits in going from, say, hereditary rule to universal suffrage than there are built into the game mechanics.

Or maybe that's just my cultural relativity biasing my opinions. At any rate, clearly an issue needing further inquiry and research. Enough with this writing already.

Before I go, Brian, I have to ask, do you need money or something? I know law school is expensive and all, but turning brianshank.com into a porn site, come on man. At least it should have been something a little more your style, a little Asian flavor or something.


short version

I said my next post would be a review of Civ IV. Fortunately, I didn't promise how long it would be.

All you need to know is that I had a great weekend, a long one, an exhausting one, with lots of driving from the corn fields of Iowa to the blacktop around Ted Drewe's. [Don't worry, you may or may not get to know more about the weekend.]

I had to do laundry Sunday night, so naturally, I fire up a little Civ while doing it.

I didn't make it to bed until about 1:30 this morning. Not a good way to start the week, especially when your COO is getting back from his two week vacation. [Don't worry, more about Civ will come later, too. But that really is all you need to know.]


explosion of chihuly

Hmm, my intent is to write about things roughly as they are happening, but I seem to be continually behind the times here on Stay Curious these days. Here it is Tuesday, and you are just now allowed to know how awesome my weekend was.

As awesome as it can be with family, of course; they are on their way through to Michigan and Ontario for camping and whatnot. Friday we went to Soda Fountain Square for dinner; good times. My sister took forever with her milk shake, kind of like how she took forever walking last year when it was free t-shirt night at the baseball game and we ended up being too late to get free t-shirts. Went back to the apartment, played a couple games, and did a reasonable job of getting to bed at a decent hour.

That was important because I was taking them to the Missouri Botanical Garden to see the Chihuly exhibit in the morning. I'm not particularly artistic myself, so it's one of those things that I more felt I should see to expand my horizons and crap like that rather than actually wanting to go, but I figured my family would like it and in general I like the garden a lot. The exhibit incorporates glass blowing into the lawns, fountains, and in particular, the foliage in the climatron and temperate house. It was pretty much what I expected, impressive in the scale of the work and every once in a while inspiring an unexpected appreciation for a certain color or shape or something, but basically feeling like a distraction from the gardens rather than an addition to it. I most disliked the glass lillipads put in the ponds between the climatron and the rose gardens. My parents both liked it, and I successfully ran the juice dry in my dad's camera! Unfortunately, my sister didn't seem very enthused, so that's a bummer because I thought she might get into it, but what can you do?

As I am sure you know, the real excitement of the weekend, the reason it has existed for months and months and months, is because it is the opening weekend for the second Pirates movie! The first one is the kind of movie that if it’s on and I walk by, it will take me 20 minutes to realize I stopped to watch it. And have I mentioned recently how awesome Keira Knightley is? Even if that’s not a draw for you (horror of that notwithstanding), what’s not to love about a fun movie with pirates and sword fighting and a feisty governor’s daughter? Obviously, a movie made simply because the first one did well isn’t going to be as good, and in particular I’m not a fan of the CGI creatures, but let me just say that my Pirates craving has been satisfied. And I got to show Julie and my parents a real movie theater; you know, the kind that gives you mints afterward.

Then Sunday kind of gets lost in a blur of seeing church people I haven’t seen in a couple weeks and doing laundry and spending some time with my neglected computer and cheeseball-filled World Cup goodness and being a taxi driver for a certain someone and so forth.

Next up: initial review of Civ IV! Oh, how exciting it is when your package finally reaches Hazelwood, MO. Even Sid’s talking tutorial is worth a mention…


how to celebrate the fourth of july

Other than blogging, of course! So much to write about, where to start?

After much fun with good barbecue this weekend, I was thinking what more fitting way to celebrate such a patriotic holiday as treating our leaders to the things they feel are "medically necessary in a humane and compassionate manner". Heck, the manufacturer says they're comfortable, safe, and don't cause injury, so, well, they must be. You see, we want our leaders to get all their nutrients; Cheney and Rummy look especially in need of some lifestyle assistance. So, we line up President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Secretary Rumsfeld, Justice Roberts, General Myers, and others who propogate the wreckless immorality in our prisons, and just as the band strikes up for the finale in the fireworks display, we force-feed them through Texas-sized plastic tubes shoved oh so daintily up their nasal cavities. Of course, due to budget constraints, there's only one tube available. As the President's the born-again one, he'll get the feeding tube last, so he can really know what it's like to follow Hebrews Chapter 13, "...remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured."

Ok, while they suffer "dumping syndrome" - nausea, vomiting, bloating, diarrhea, and shortness of breath - for the 3 hours the procedure, give or take, will last, what's next? Ah, Cardinals baseball! I made it to my first baseball game at the ridiculous waste of money otherwise known as the new Busch Stadium. It was my reward for working a ridiculous number of hours the last couple weeks. Good times. They had lost 8 straight, so it's funny to see fans of the first place team seem anxious, upset, and even angry. They booed the Cardinals a couple times. And people left before the end of the game. And this for a team that, let me repeat, was in first place in their division! I was most upset with St. Louis people and my respect will take some time to fully recover. But the ending helped a lot. Those that stayed figured out what to do with seat cushion night. Sure, you can sit on them. But what are seat cushions, really? They're pieces of foam wrapped in plastic. And light objects with a plastic surface area, when banged together, are thundersticks! Seat cushion night may never happen again, but that was playoff energy. Ah, good times. Nothing like winning in the bottom of the 9th to a raucus crowd armed with lots of projectiles.

[How ya doin' there, Georgie?]

So that was a while ago, but there hasn't been time for writing. Why you ask? Well, you, that's because work has been crazy. Among other things, one funder decided to change a contract and another one didn't get funding they were hoping for in the next year. So, lots of extra budgets and moving things around and "one more scenario..." and confused and angry staff and setting off alarms and sore necks and more goodness I'm sure that I've forgotten.

[Yeah Rummy, I bet you're glad we funded buying all these restraint chairs instead of funding programs that provide employment, training, and emergency assistance to veterans. It's not like those people did anything for our country, anyway. Having trouble settling into civilian life? Eh, just re-up; who cares if you're 39 or have damaged vision or carry deep psychological wounds. But ways of inflicting non-lethal pain on foreigners; that's a good investment for the nation!]

Saturday was good. Got to see some Liberty friends. All except the one I haven't seen in forever because she's been in Europe. Nope, her plane decided to stay in Chicago for a while. Good going Sarah.

[General Myers, you're probably enjoying this, watching all these civilians get what they deserve. But you wouldn't command uniformed personnel to do anything to anyone that couldn't be done humanely to you, right?]

Sunday was family stuff, just as the Fourth of July is supposed to be. Almost scary, actually, all this time in St. Louis, the American family get together around the pool, the grill, and vacation photos really does exist! Ooh, and don't forget the strawberry shortcake and two kinds of lemonade.

[Don't worry Cheney, we haven't forgotten about you. What's that? You think you're bleeding and developing lesions? Oh, that's supposed to happen. Good job Johnnie, you might want to press a little more forcefully on his chin if he starts trying to move again.]

Speaking of moving, drove past an incredibly moving sight while in Liberty, if being moved to embarrassment counts. Liberty is a Baptist town, and our mega-church for Baptists, Pleasant Valley (no, not this Pleasant Valley, with the running count of people entering hell as you surf their website) decided to put up some American flags. Now, this makes sense; Liberty is an all-American town in the heartland, and it's the Fourth of July weekend. Need I repeat the name of my town? At any rate, it wasn't the fact that they put up a couple American flags around the parking lot. It's that they literally surrounded the parking lot with flags. Then after building their fence, they decided to fill much of the grassy land between the parking lot and the road with what can best be described as gobs and gobs of flags. It was absolutely amazing; at once incredibly familiar and yet also showing that I have been successful at getting away enough from Liberty to be appalled as much as anything else by the scale of the effort. Is that fear? If we only have a hundred flags, the terrorists might think they've won! I don't know why; it is just as possible that each flag had a very specific meaning, perhaps a loved one lost or something like that. What I took away from it, in addition to the fun that is the Fourth of July as one gets closer to rural America, is that I've been able to put myself in a different enough position to at least notice something like that and have mixed emotions about it.

[Do you have emotions, Chief Justice? Nah, none of those, no ideas, no agendas; you're just a good-looking doll with the all-American family, right? Ah, so what if you want the President to be able to torture people at will. He's an American, elected by other Americans (well, you know, in theory, kind of like our capitalist system...), so surely anything he does can't be bad.]

And what is the all-American holiday without the all-American hero? Superman is back, in all 157 minutes of glory!

Oh, sorry, I forgot the memo; whenever someone refers to Superman, they are supposed to say Superman returns.

With exclamation points!! Superman Returns!!