Civ-tastic!

Reading on the Civilization IV developer’s blogs, I gleaned the following great tidbits!

On Great People:

“Great People are created at the city level, as each city can generate “great people points” based on conditions and structures in the city. You can affect the amount of people points generated in several ways. One very dramatic way is through the creation of a great wonder. For instance, building the Pyramids will make it more likely the city will generate a Great Engineer, while building Stonehenge will make the city more likely to generate a Great Prophet. You can also generate more great people points by taking city population away from working the land and turning them into specialists. Certain Civics choices can work to make your specialists more productive and that can also have a positive effect on your great people point production.

All Great People share certain common abilities that differ somewhat based on the type of great person. All can be used to immediately research a new technology with the type of technology determined by the great person – Prophets would give you a religion technology like Priesthood, Artists may give you a technology like Literature, and Merchants would perhaps give Banking. All Great People can also settle in a city for a period of time and give a constant boost to that city’s production, based on their type. Finally, all Great People can be used to trigger extra golden ages for your Civilization, with each subsequent golden age requiring more Great People. Each use of a great person consumes that unit and it is removed from the game.”

On Religion (on of the facets I’m MOST excited about):

“Through our tests, it was determined that the optimal number of religions for gameplay purposes was seven (a number that seems to come up quite often when designing versions of Civilization). We then set about making a list of seven important and recognizable religions. After a lot of deliberation and more testing, we narrowed the list down to these: Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and Taoism.

If you are the first to discover the technology associated with a religion, the religion is founded in one of your cities. Religion can spread passively throughout your cities and even into neighboring cities belonging to your opponents. Establishing trade routes can help spread your religion faster and farther. Certain religious buildings can also help this passive spread but if you want to move the process along, you will want to create missionaries. Missionaries are units that you can move to another city (your own or an opponent’s) and attempt to directly convert that city to your religion.

In addition, having cities that have converted to your state religion can give you monetary and happiness bonuses. You can also get some line of sight benefits, and provide yet another interesting decision in a game already filled with interesting decisions.”

Excellent!

On Civics (the Civ4 replacement for governments):

“In the game, when you first open the Civics page you will see 25 options divided into 5 categories. The categories are: government, legal, labor, economy, and religion. Initially, you will be limited to the lowest levels for each (making you a barbaric, decentralized despotism with tribal labor and practicing paganism), but you will unlock more of the choices based on your research. Changing to new Civic forms will have a dramatic effect on the character and success of your civilization. You’ll be able to boost or cut productivity, wealth, and happiness, make choices to increase/decrease the spread of religion, and even affect your ability to produce and maintain a large standing army.

Of course, it’s not just as simple as picking all the highest level Civic options. A monarch needs to make the tough decisions. Every choice has an upkeep level assigned to it and you could end up with a really great government that puts you in the poorhouse. In addition, your current circumstances might make it impossible for you to use some of the higher-level choices. The good news for all the leaders out there is that you will be able to play around with all the choices and get an idea of the costs and benefits before you have to “Start the Revolution”.

So, the choice is up to you. Will you be a despot or a king? Will your people respond better to a democratically elected ruler or a theocrat? Will you have a free market or is everything state property? Make the best choices and lead your people to their rightful place in history!”

I have to say that I am very excited for the prospects of this game. I love how wonderfully complex it has become to enable a better modeling of reality. However, I just hope that it hasn’t become SO complicated that it won’t be fun to play. Suffice to say, because of all of the interesting features and the way they interact, I may never get to do what I did in Civ3 – develop a strategy that always works. Afterall, the personalities of your enemies are determined by their leaders, something which may change each time I play!

Tomorrow is a great day for war!

Just reserved my copy of Civilization IV Special Edition at EB. You can bet I’ll be all over that sucker tomorrow after work. Hope to have a more substantial blog post later. q;o)

Oh yeah, people are coming back to my blog! About four hundred unique visitors have come in the last couple of weeks.

Cinelerra – Making Movies on Linux

As some of you know from having been to my drop the bomb productions site you can see some of the stuff I’ve done. Of course, I haven’t done much serious stuff yet, but have mostly just done work for others to showcase my editing abilities. However, I am constantly making videos for different reasons. For example, I just completed making a two DVD set video of my own wedding. I also made a graduation video for my brother, Dan, a couple of years ago. So I love to keep up to date with the latest in video software. Other than photography (and lite gaming), it’s my biggest reason for using a computer.

Two things have brought me to decide to explore Cinelerra, a video editing package available on Linux. First of all, I have a commitment to open sourced and free software. Idealogically, it is the type of software I have chosen to support. Therefore, I try to use OSS wherever I can because by supporting the software through use and reporting bugs, I will allow it to get better and better until no one is forced to use Windows just because Linux can’t do task A or task B. Thre is also another reason, which should appeal to a lot of people: software for video and photography editing is VERY expensive. Why? Because usually people use them to make blockbuster movies or photos to sell for advertising. If they’re going to make all that money then Adobe, et al figures they can charge a lot. And that works fine, unless your’e a hobbyist like me. I don’t have the thousands of dollars to buy the latest versions of Photoshop, After Effects, Premiere, and all the other programs. So open source helps people like me out. It also helps poorer people who could be the next Tarantino but can’t afford the programs the big boys use.

On Windows I use Sony Screenblast Moviemaker to create my movies. The name sounds like a Mickey-Mouse program, but it literally is the closest anyone can get to professional level software at a fraction of the price. It costs ~$100 vs $600 for Premiere. It used to go under the name of Video Factory when it was owned by Sonic Foundry. Moviemaker is a consumer version of the professional program Vegas Video. Vegas gives the user unlimited video and audio tracks while Moviemaker gives three of each.

Cinelerra is completely free of cost and gives unlimited audio and video tracks as well as the compositor function of Adobe’s After Effects. It’s a VERY good deal. I just have to figure out how to use it at the same proficiency level with which I use Video Factory. In fact, I have a movie script Andrew and I wrote way back in high school which I’d like to produce. I’d like to practive what I preach and not only release it under the Creative Commons License, but also create the film using only open source software.

So, the main purpose of this post is, not only to communicate all this, but to say that I am going to be giving back to the community! That’s right, I know there are Cinelerra tutorials out there, but, frankly, I haven’t found any good ones. So you will get the chance to learn as I learn. The tutorial will be a newbie’s look at Cinelerra. I will posting screenshots and everything! So get ready!

WOW!

I finally had an awesome enough computer to run Gnome and KDE! I was so excited and downloaded Super Karamber, gdesklets, and all the other eye candy I could never enjoy on my old Linux box. (which is now serving as a debian print server) However, having used Fluxbox so long on the old computer caused me to long for fluxbox. There was something I just liked about it. Perhaps it was the inobtrusivness which comes from a lack a large program menu or maybe it was right-clicking for programs or the way I did almost everything in a term window. So I was getting a little tired of having Gnome in Spanish, as I had switched it to about a month ago for fun so I decided it was time to end my session and start a new one. I always wanted to take advantage of having a GUI with a low memory profile since I wanted to begin working on Cinelerra (see my tutorial tomorrow), which takes up quite a bit of RAM.

Boy am I glad I went to Fluxbox! It was always VERY fast to load, but on this box (512 ram 2 Ghz AMD) we’re talking INSTANTANEOUS! Usually Gkrellm had the unfortunate task of telling me that I have 28 MB of RAM left, this time 318! (after opening thunderbird, xchat, gaim, and gkrellm) And that’s another thing! All the programs have been opening fast on my machine, (faster than equiv windows programs in some cases) but all these opened a LOT faster in Fluxbox than Gnome or KDE. I’m glad I came back “home”.

21oct_fluxbox

Save often and Save Well

Linux Uptime: 21:46:52 up 25 days

“Save often and Save Well” that was the motto of one of the best pioneering games of the 80s and 90s, King’s Quest. They spouted that advice because it was easy to make the wrong move and have your character die. If you hadn’t saved, you could lose hours and hours of game play. As anyone knows, it’s just too frustrating in those circumstances to play the game over. The same shoud go when writing a blog post. I had about two paragraphs I had been writing about how I kept forgetting what I had wanted to write so badly while I wasn’t home. One click too many in Firefox killed that sucker. Just like the video games, I don’t feel like writing it again. I’ve always felt that way about writing – unless it’s ridiculously important to me, I just will let it go. On to some of the other things I wanted to write about.

I will be saving often and well in the new Civilization IV which will hit the shelves in four days once this post is available for reading. As I said on my post in Binary World 1.0, I am really looking forward to this latest game in a franchise I’ve been playing since the beginning. One feature of the game that really interests me is the fact that religion will play a much greater role than it has in the past. I think that when the first Civ was created, Sid Meiers and the others gave religion a backseat for two reasons. First of all, it is pretty complicated and the game was already complicated enough for the computers of the time. If you played Civ back then you were pretty impressed with the AI. The second reason I think they left is out is because they probably felt at that point in time that religion had been important in the ancient days, but was now on the back burner. Although I haven’t followed up too much on the Civ developer interviews, I am sure that recent events such as the recent islamo-terrorism have made people question that idea. In previous games, a lot of the religion was tied to Euro-centric religions with things like Artemis’ Temple, Zeus’ Temple, Cathedrals and other such things. In Civ 4, the first Civ to discover a religion becomes the “Mecca” for that religion with others coming to visit. You can create missionaries and other civs of the same religion will be friendly to you while other religions will be more hostile. I am very excited about it!

Another thing I wanted to talk about was a recent move by Google where they updated their maps on Google Maps to no longer listed as a province of China. This put China into an uproar because, as they always assert, Taiwan is just a renegade province; never mind that Taiwan happens to think it’s a country in its own right. Personally, I think China is full of crapy, but don’t tell them that! They get pretty peeved. I’d like to follow this and see if Google bows to the pressure or not.

Life

In our recent move, my wife and mother were on a mission to get rid of as much junk as possible as I’ve been labeled by them as a pack rat. I saved this poem from destruction. I don’t remember anything about it, not even the circumstances in which I wrote it. But here it is for you.

Life
It’s no longer yours.
You can’t do what you want with it.
That’s like coming back to live in/remodel a house you’ve sold.
You see, the owner dictates what happens to his property, as demostrated in Merchant of Venice.
But what do you do if you’re caught in the moment?
Especially with the other being so tempting, so manipulative.
To give in is a breach of contract.
At the same time, you know the judge is forgiving.
As far as you know, there is no limit to the forgiveness.
Do you push it?
Test the limit?
Is one moment worth eternity?
Especially one quickly forgotten.
But…that IS the main question….
the one up for debate.
We have access to law books, but they are written in confusing jargon.
If only the judge would answer you directly.
Yet, he is a witty man.
His favorite means of communication is through metaphors and analogies.
So I stumble through the books looking for the answer.
How do you confront the other without risking it all?
It almost seems like one or the other.
There must be a compromise…
somewhere…
But right now… right now somewhere is as good as nowhere.
Patience is not my strength.
If it is wrong to do it directly, then can it be done indirectly?
Is it now right?
Half as wrong?
Still fully wrong?
I really need to know for I fear jail almost as much as the side effects/penalties.
In such a “now” world, it’s hard to consider eternity.
So now I continue to wonder…
I hope that I will somehow find the answer in the books.
Until that time I simply dreak making the decision.
Which will it be – the moment or eternity?

Eric Mesa

The Balloon Project (Or Happy Birthday Abuela Part 2)

While talking to my mom last night she asked me to do her a favor. For today, her mother’s birthday, she asked me to write a message on a balloon and let it go into the air, metaphorically going to my grandmother in Heaven. I did it, taking pictures to document the act because that is a symbolic thing to me as a visual person and photographer. I was fine while I did it but when I came inside and looked at the weight which had kept the balloon down while in the supermarket, I was instantly depressed. I was having one of the most amazing days of my life, propped up by the fact that my blog was back and this was just like jumping into one of Ithaca’s gorges. I didn’t even feel like having dinner anymore. Eventually, I got it out of my system and I feel better. I am still a little down, but nowhere near as bad as before. Stay tuned for the next part, where I put up some pictures of the event.

Happy Birthday Abuela

Today would have been my grandmother’s birthday. She died this past March during my Spring Break and I loved her very much. I know that she’s up in Heaven now having a heckuva time with her husband who was taken from her more than twenty years ago. She remained faithful to him to the last day and never remarried. I miss her so much whenever I open up my phone and think of someone to call. I would always call her when I had a free minute. I always get so mad that she didn’t get to see the wedding or my graduation. I mean, I’d like to believe that she was able to see it from Heaven, but she didn’t get to hug me that day. I didn’t get to see the smile on her face. The best way I know to remember her is to use my talents and remember her through my photography. Here is a tribute to her on her bithday:

Happy Birthday Abuela!

(Also, my father and Daniel loved her a ton too. I just don’t have any pictures of them with my grandmother.)

Things that make you believe…(part 1)

Just a quick thought that I may elaborate on later (hence the part 1). Some may just call it coincidence, but days like this further my belief in God. Out of the blue I think that perhaps I should just try my server again, after trying EVERYTHING when I first moved in. Now it suddenly works! I feel God put that idea in my head. Thank you.

[1.0] The Artform of the Photograph Elevated

Recently I’ve been reading a book on photography. Unlike my usual photography reading, this isn’t a book on how to TAKE or MAKE pictures, it’s just a book on the work of the greatest photographers of the 20th Century. They’ve inspired me in a way that’s nearly impossible for me to describe. But I’ve been presented with all sorts of techniques and concepts that I am now fiddling with. My photography has progressed from the time that I was a little child simply photographing the events of my childhood to taking pictures for aesthetic reasons to attempting to create art. I don’t know how inspirational this phase will be in my photography, but I’m excited by all the new ideas bubbling inside of me. It’s as though the book was the key to unlock something inside of me which has been waiting to be expressed. Something always called to me from Dali, for example, which I have been expressing recently in my art. Here are some examples:

Self-Canabalizing

Half-Naked

See No Evil Hear No Evil Speak No Evil

Here’s another I was inspired to do from the work of an artist whose name I cannot recall right now:

Temporal Transformation 1 - Tomato

[1.0] Civ 4 will be out soon!

Linux Uptime: 17 days, 2:16
Time in Civ3: 3 hours 41 min 45 seconds
Score in Civ3: Eric X the Pathetic

I have been playing the Civilization franchise ever since the first Dos version. At first I didn’t like it, but as I learned the complexity in the game, I began to like it more and more. In Civ1 and 2 my brothers and I used to want to play together so we would each take charge as governors of certain cities and all settlers that came out of those cities. Civ2 also improved the graphics and made the gameplay even more realistic.

With Civ3 we could finally play together as different Civs. The game was also made a bit harder as evidenced by the fact that I could no longer make it into the space race by 1850 as I could in Civ2. However, I loved it even more and, as I was older, I understood the concepts even better and began to receive higher scores.

I usually win cultural victories and it’s not unusual for cities around me to succumb to my superior culture. In one previous game I got 10 cities via cultural conversions. I usually play as the Japanese and take advantage of the piety to use temples to placate my citizens. I used to be the smallest of the civs and least protected, but I managed my alliances correctly and would win those cultural victories.

As I began to do better, I realized that I needed a lot of land to ensure that I could have the resources to take my civ to the next level. In Civ3 you needed coal, for example, to build railroads. If you didn’t have it, you had to hope for a trade or destroy the other civ. I had never attacked another civ until civ3 when I had to get that plutonium or whatever else I wanted. A bit more realistic, no? Therefore, I can’t wait until Civ4 comes out on 25 Oct.

[1.0] Smackdown in New Orleans

Linux Uptime: up 15 days, 23:37

Yesterday as I was running on the treadmill I was watching MSNBC and, to my horror, saw a 64 year old man beaten by the cops. This wasn’t just a “Cops”-like takedown of a criminal. They grabbed him from behind and punched his head into the wall of a building before tackling him to the ground. They say he was resisting arrest, which he denies. However, even if he WAS resisting arrest, how could you beat the pulp out of an old man? How many strong old men are there? This guy had a white beard and all – unless he was a karate master, they probably didn’t have to worry.

The victim/alleged criminal says he was speaking to an officer on horseback about the curfew when another officer came and said something rude to him. He told the second officer he thought he was being a bit rude and finished up his conversation with the first. Then, on his way back home, the second cop beat him from behind with a bunch of other cops. It was all caught on tape and it’s etched into my brain as MSNBC had the tape on loop. It was only a minute or two long so in that half hour I saw the tape about 15 times. It wasn’t pretty.

The officers have been charged for the beating and they plead not guilty. Our speedy justice system, which is sadly one of the speediest, gives them a trial in January. By then who knows what anyone will remember. Anyway, I hope they get punished. I don’t think they should necessarily go to jail for life or anything, but I just can’t see how to justify what they did. Again, it wasn’t like the person resisting arrest was a young man who could have hurt the cops. And, the man says he was never put under arrest to begin with.

There was also some random asian guy in the video who wasn’t a cop, but was helping them tackle the guy. What the heck was that about? Aren’t the cops supposed to keep people from getting involved in official police business?

Oh yeah, and I didn’t want to mention it before so that I wouldn’t cloud your perception of things, but the victim was black and the cops were white. To me, that’s still secondary to the fact that he was an old man.

[1.0] Watching Disney Movies as an Adult Part 2

A long while back (I don’t remember which blog it was) I wrote about watching Roger Rabbit as an adult and getting a lot of jokes I didn’t get before as a five year old. Cinderella just came out on DVD and I bought it for my wife since she collects Disney movies. While watching it last night, I realized something which didn’t mean anything to me when I last saw Cinderella – the name of the cat.

If you remember from the last time you saw the movie, the cat was evil. Not only did it try and keep the mice from acquiring the parts for Cinderella’s dress, but, when the Duke was about to leave, it wouldn’t let Cinderella get the key to her room. The cat even purposely got the dog in trouble early on in the movie. The cat’s name: Lucifer. Shocked you didn’t remember that?

What better name for an evil character than the embodiment of evil Himself. Obviously to call him Satan would have been to obvious, but I don’t think that Lucifer went over the heads of the adult audiences. Additionally, we must remember that at the time period when Cinderella was first release, many adults went to the movies to watch cartoons. The Disney cartoon was a family event, but it didn’t preclude the adults from having fun.

If you look at the songs, plots, and characters, you can see that Disney was for older audiences. I guess that’s when the tradition started and, even today, Disney movies always have some references for adults.