September 2008 minutiae

  • Lamenting my inability to win on the Monarch level of Civilization IV: Beyond the Sword:

    Adam says:
    It is difficult to play on a high level
    Adam says:
    When you try to expand it is costly and your economy goes into the toilet
    Elizabeth says:
    Yeah, I always play on a low level because I am lazy and like success
    Adam says:
    You cannot afford any research and so your people become stupid
    Elizabeth says:
    That is what happened to your country
    Elizabeth says:
    Bush should have played on a lower level

  • I did finally win one, though it took a few reloads. Playing Augustus Caesar, my starting position was right next to Germany, so after getting outflanked I had to reload to make sure I kept Germany confined to the coast and unable to expand. The second reload was to make sure Portugal, the other civilization on the continent, didn't get so far ahead technologically that it already had knights by the time I was able to invade with an army of praetorians. Then I had to figure out how to keep my economy from tanking given all the upkeep costs of a continent-spanning empire: the solution was pacifism, a civic I had never been able to adopt before because I'd never had a huge continent essentially to myself. The low upkeep saved my economy and the Great People kept me in the game technologically. Except it turned out that Russia was so far ahead that it kept invading me with superior weaponry before I could catch up. The third reload was to switch to police state in 1822, build a huge army, invade Russia, and do something else I'd never done before: raze several of its cities, turning about ten wonders to rubble in the process. With Russia no longer a factor, the fourth reload was to follow that army with a huge navy to stave off the inevitable invasion by the Americans (and raze Washington while I was at it). And with that I was finally able to stay in front technologically, keep enemy units off my continent, and win on monarch level. And then finally put the CD away.

  • One interesting thing about my tutoring job is that you never know what is going to make a kid perk up. A while back I had an SAT student who was very much a buttoned-down, by-the-numbers, no-joking-around kind of guy. One day we were going over vocabulary and the word "rustic" came up. I mentioned that at the Acme bakery they offer a line of rough-hewn, unshiny "rustic" breads and that at one point I had cut my hand on a rustic loaf— and then I couldn't finish my sentence because he was just howling with laughter. "Ha ha ha ha ha! 'Rustic loaf'! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!"

    I have another student who's only in eighth grade but whom I'm teaching trig because her dad wanted her to get a head start. She picks things up pretty quickly but rarely seems to actually enjoy learning the way a true geek does. Recently I was surprised to find how much we'd covered in just a few sessions. "Believe it or not," I said, "that is basically all the trig that gets covered on the Math 2 exam. Hunh, what did my trig class do all semester? I guess we spent like a month on cardioids." Blank look, so I explained: "A cardioid's an equation that when you graph it looks like a little heart." She lit up. "COOOOL!" she exclaimed.

  • I wonder whether John McCain's running mate is actually named "Sarah Paling" but she just can't pronounce it.

  • Many countries have funny names but if pressed I would have to say the funniest is Portugal. I mean, you can't really pick something like Kyrgyzstan — that's trying too hard.

  • Looks like losing all that weight (I'm now down to 138) paid off. My latest blood test came back as follows: cholesterol, 185 (was 245); HDL ("good cholesterol"), 40 (was 32); LDL ("bad cholesterol"), 129 (was 155); triglycerides, 80 (was 288). Hooray. Perhaps I will celebrate with a Cote Nord.

  • You know, I keep hearing that this is the most important election of my lifetime, and it's just not. 2004 was the most important election of my lifetime. The 2004 election determined whether the Bush years would be an unfortunate blip or a crater from which it will take America decades to recover. And it turned out to be the second one. The economy is a wreck, Rehnquist and O'Connor were replaced by far-right ideologues who will be on the Court until I'm seventy... we're fucked. 2008 is still important, in that it will determine whether we start to climb out of the crater, but 2004 was when we could have headed off this disaster, and we didn't.

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