I stand corrected – buying virtual land

A BBC News story has pointed out that my prior post (which I can’t find on my first blog) in which I called this guy a moron for spending $17 thousand to buy land in a virtual world. Afterall, it’s only an investment if you can sell if for a higher price. However, according to the story, there is a strong chance this guy and others will be making money! Should we all rush in and do this? Nah! I think it’s probably like most investments, if you’re not the first one in, you’re not going to make as much money. Afterall, you have to pay more and then hope the price goes up even more. This may end up making a lot of money for the first batch and be a bust for everyone else. Time will tell and I’ll keep a close eye on this story.

Sony and their Malware

BBC News has reported today that Sony BMG implanted malware into one of their country music CDs to prevent it from playing in certain Windows Media players. Not only that, but the software installs itself into the dark recesses of the computer where only the most technologically savy can find it. This is the kind of crap I expect when installing Kazaa, not when LEGALLY using a STORE BOUGHT CD. I don’t want anything installed on my computer unless I installed it myself purposefully. That’s why I use Mozilla Firefox instead of Internet Explorer and limit my usage of shady Internet-downloaded software. And, if I decide to do one of these things, I take a calculated risk. How badly do I want a program to, for example, remove region restrictions on dvds? Is it worth possible spyware and malware? But NO ONE thinks of those things when they put a musical CD into their computer. This is a blatant faus pax and Sony is extremely lucky that this story doesn’t seem to have made news in the United States. Again, people escape media wrath because American news organizations are relatively lazy. I advocate making this a huge deal and I hope more bloggers help push this story to the mainstream.

Tom And Jerry Not for Children?

Today I read something that delighted me! On the back of the volume 2 DVD of Tom and Jerry it read “this dvd is intended for adult collectors and may contain material unsuitable for small children.” Why did it make me happy? Because it’s finally an admission that cartoons were not created originally created for children. Most of the cartoons played prior to movies with adult and/or family audiences. So I hate this sanitizing of cartoons that has been occuring on some of the box sets lately. Also, there were some cartoons which would never have been made into today’s PC world. But they WERE made and I think it is an important cultural history that we preserve these cartoons instead of putting them in the closet. We need to see these cartoons and understand why they are wrong and why they were ok back then. I think it’s important and the past can’t be changed, so don’t try to change the record! So I will enjoy this DVD more than I have enjoyed most recently.

My first Civ4 Game

Here’s a save file from my first civ game. All you need to do is load up the game and hit “enter” to complete my turn. This will give you something to compete against in your Hall of Fame – unless you’re way better than me. My brothers and I started doing this with Civ3 sine we each had our own computers so the score from the others wouldn’t show up in our Hall of Fame. It’s fun to compete against yourself, but not as much fun as competing against others.

Microsoft Wireless Powered by Linux!

Over at Geek Ramblings they pointed out just one more blow to Microsoft FUD. The article says MS will be deploying tens of thousands of routers around the world which will be running Linux. All the while, MS has be claiming that Linux is a POS. This is almost as great as when I heard that the new Halo movie would be made using Linux computers. Of course, what does a Halo movie mean for the folks over at Rooster Teeth – the Red vs Blue creators

Technorati Annoyances

Technorati.corn is a blog search engine. (They also search flickr images, but that’s a minor part of their operations) They are considered to be so important that, on more than one occassion, I have seen CNN’s Internet reporters referring to technorati’s top search items as expressive of what Americans (and others) are interested in. The top search items, appearing under the search bar in the home page, are updated every hour to reflect what most people are searching for.
About 1-2 weeks ago, I finally joined technorati. I had always been pinging technorati, but you have to claim your blog for the results to show up publicly – at least that’s what it seemed like in my experience because when I searched for stuff I had blogged about before joining, it was not displayed.

I think it’s a really great search engine and I have discovered other blogs through my searches and have been discovered by other bloggers who have linked to me. And what a difference one link makes! A second person linked to me and my ranking went from somewhere around 750,000 (1 being most linked to) to somewhere around 550,000. So I guess there are a lot of blogs out there with just one link less than me.

But on to what is annoying me about technorati. Technorati’s jingled is that they don’t search the World Wide Web, they search the “World Live Web”. The implication being that they have much more relavent results than Google with respect to the temporal dimension. In other words, you may find better data on Google, but it may be a few years old. In today’s fast-paced world you want recent data – especially when blogs are concerned. Therefore, when you search for a term on technorati, it lists the relavent blogs in order from most recent to oldest.

So far so good! Here’s the annoying part – when I search for a given term, sometimes I see a blog that technorati lists as “posted 5 minutes ago”. But when *I* post about something, it doesn’t appear on technorati for hours! That’s not useful to me! By that time my link might be on page 2 or 3 where it is exponentially less likely to be read by someone!
I want to know why this is! Why can’t MY posts appear five minutes after a post? Is it something wrong with the way my server accepts bots? Is it because I haven’t been a member long enough and so I haven’t earned the right to be posted right away? Do I not have enough links?

I’d love to know why, but it isn’t listed anywhere on the technorati site – and I’ve spent hours looking for it. If anyone knows that answer – please leave a comment on this post so that I could finally be at peace.

Civ4 from another’s perspective

If you think that my review of Civ4 was a bit too rosy, check out this review by Tara, who has a review close the middle, but a little more towards the negative side. A verteran civ gamer, like myself, she found herself basically feeling something was different without quite being able to put her finger on it.

One thing we both noticed was that the huge map is much smaller than a huge map in civ3. I felt as though the map wasn’t as large, but I wasn’t sure if it just felt that way. Good to see someone else agree. Check out the review – it’s well written and have even more screen shots!

Bird Flu

Bush asked Congress to earmark approximately $7 billion to help save us from a bird flu pandemic. I think this is good, but with the regular “plain jane” flu season around the corner, I think we’re going to have a huge problem. First of all. Congress takes forever to take action on Bush’s initiatives, if they take action at all. Remember all that money Bush promised the Katrina-ravaged gulf states? The vast majority of it still hasn’t been approved/sent out to the states that need them so badly. And this is something that has already happened, therefore allowing people to demand action. We usually have a problem getting a large number of people mad about something that may happen in the future, but people can protest really quickly over something that has already happened and is currently affecting them.

I think, and many others will agree with me, that this is clearly a case of too little too late. How long have we been hearing about this bird flu? I can definitely remember hearing about it for the past two years, if not longer. So we have had TWO YEARS to stockpile all the drugs we need and be prepared for this potential pandemic. But I know what’s going to happen – we’re not going to take it seriously until the country starts going to pieces because everyone is dying. Then suddenly the president will begin doing all he can to save whatever is left of the country.

I think it’s very distressing that in our age of technology where we have mastered the fabrication of machines so complicated, the designers much have PhDs and our computers are capable of making billions of calculations per second that we may fall to a pandemic and where we have cured polio and the measles. Usually, when I think of pandemics I think of the Black Plague in THE MIDDLE AGES!

During World War II the government mobilized factories for the production of tanks, planes, guns, and other supplies necessary for the war. They basically went to Ford, for example, and told them the factory was to be used for production of tanks and they would have to wait to sell cars to Americans until after the war. I don’t understand why the Bush Administration can’t simply go to Pfizer and tell them they are to make flu vaccinations and profits be damned! If we all die from the bird flu, there will be no one to buy all their profitable drugs like prozac and tyienol. (And no, I don’t care if another manufacturer makes those drugs – they are for illustration

purposes) Are you telling me that the most powerful nation in the world cannot get enough flu vaccinations? We are not some developing country, this is the United States of America!

During the cyclical pandemics of the 1800s and centuries prior, devastating amounts of life were lost. During one of the Black Plague epidemics, nearly 1/3 of Europe’s population was decimated. This type of loss has profound effects on progress. When so much of a population is lost, no one is left to make new discoveries in science and technology. Additionally, if, in a worst-case scenario for the US, other countries were much more prepared for the pandemic than we were, it could be the impetus for a shift in the balance of power. Say, for example, that the European Union was able to save just one order of manitude more people than the US – we lose 100 million and they loye 10 million – they would be in a better recovery position. Now, while the US plays catchup – birthing more children and waiting for them to grow up and be taught, the Europeans march ahead and we lose our spot on top. And that’s an OPTIMISTIC scenario.

Because the person on top never gracefully steps to the side. Rather, they stage-dive into a pile of spikes, spurting blood everywhere. In other words, the US loses many more people than Europe and instead of watching ourselves slip, we decide to use force to stay on top. That would be even more deadly for the US. Just as in the second Pelponesian where all the other countries turned against arrogant Athens, I fear the whole world, tired of our domination, would turn against us. We can defeat the Iraqis in 1 month, but we cannot fight the entire world – not when our country has lost that many lives.

Bird Flu Vector?

Secret Sessions of Congress

Two days ago, the Democrats called a secret session of congress to look into whether the Bush Administration purposely misled the American public with respect to the resons for the War in Iraq. This is an open secret to me. Only a fool doesn’t know that Bush or his cronies purposely lied about the war in Iraq. They wanted to go to war from the time they came into office and the terrorism attacks simply gave them the excuse they needed to waltz right in and take the country.
I mean, that’s the whole point of the Valery CIA Leak investigation. Her husband found out the yellow cake excuse was BS. When he told the Administration they ignored him. When he leaked to the press, they put out his wife’s identity. Why do this? Because they were lying! Otherwise, why be scared of what he was saying?

With respect to WMD, I can give them a little they had WMD and therefore should have waited we also didn’t know there wasn’t any either. not have been lying to us.
lattitude. While we didn’t KNOW for the UN inspectors to finish, So I would say on WMD, they might

With respect to the link between Saddam and Al Queda – there was no link whatsoever. If they had checked with any Saddam experts, they would have known that someone as paranoid and meglomaniacal as Saddam wouldn’t have trusted Al Quaeda for any help. Therefore they lied here.
So I think the Democrats are just trying to bring to the forefront, what most people already know. So I see this as probably more of trying to kick Bush while he’s down (Supreme Court nominee. Scooter Libby, plummeting ratings) rather than truthfully being concerned with whether the Administration lied about the reasons for war.

Civ Second Look

Here are some more screenshots from my first Civ4 game.

civ4 screenshot

Above you see some of my cavalry units preparing for war. This unit has a lot of cavalry on the map representing the upgrades in defense I have given it.

civ4 screenshot

In the above shot you can see both the industrial era worker as well as the rifleman.

civ4 screenshot

Here I am in the midst of a war with cavalry against spearmen. You can see the gunblast from the cavalry units.

civ4 screenshot

civ4 screenshot

Above you see what a great artist looks like in the modern era. Whereas in the olden times they look like painters, they all now look like Elvis.

civ4 screenshot

That there Texas black gold!

civ4 screenshot

A weird cultural boundary anomaly.

civ4 screenshot

Fear the mighty Japanese tank!

civ4 screenshot

The navy I spoke of before – or at least a portion of it.

civ4 screenshot

My tanks attacking a city.

civ4 screenshot

My new high ranking of Ethelred the Unready.

In depth Civ4 coverage continues with Navy/Airforce Review

Another area where civ4 has become more balanced for me is in the role the sea and air units play. Although I was always primarily a winner by culture in civ3 and space race in civl/2, whenever I *was* faced with aggression, it was usually my armies that did the heavy lifting. I almost never had a navy save for the purpose of transporting units around. Since my rivals didn’t have navies, I could let my tranports roam the seas unattended.

My air force also had a limited role since the units had as high of a chance of taking out buildings I wished to have intact when I took the city as they did of taking out units. I also never used helicopters.

In civ4 the air and sea units have a much greater purpose as their bombardment attack has been tweaked. Instead of taking out city improvements, a bombardment attack reduces the city defense bonus for units protecting the city. With a large enough combined airforce/navy, a player can esssentially eradicate all of the bonuses granted to units protecting the city. When this is combined with the city raider unit upgrades for the attackers, the player can quickly assemble an armed forces division deadly to all who dwell in cities.

Helicopters are now much more useful attack units and are called gunships in civ4. Your remaining cavalry units upgrade to gunships – a strange choice as far as I can tell. I would have upgraded mounted units to a tank unit, but that’s just me. I think they get a certain bonus when fighting ground units due to the fact that they are in the sky. I found them to be less useful than tanks as they are less powerful, but still good units to have – and allow you to transition your attack force into the modern age.
I currently only have one fighter jet, so I’m not sure if they can kill units. However, they reduce an enemy’s strength by a certain percentage which is randomly calculated within some bounds. The highest I’ve achieved has been 18% on the first fighter – not the advanced fighter.

I haven’t used my subs to their fullest capacity yet. However, as they are invisible units unless the foe has the battleship, I wonder if it would be an act of war to block the port cities of those who are not at war with you. Actually, I guess not because in civ4 you can occupy the same space as any other civ you have peaceful relations with and not spark war. However, if you blockade an enemy and they try to send out a ship they have just built, do they automatically fight your sub? Would that not alert them to the presence of your subs? But then again – that IS realistic. Once a sub attacks, others know it exists. It would be interesting to see how this would pan out in a multiplayer game.

Civ4 Score

A score of 3447 in Settler mode is enough for me to no longer have the leadership skills of Dan Quayle, but of Ethelred the Unready. “The Unready” – doesn’t sound like much of a promotion, eh?

Workers working harder in Civ4

In Civilization 4, one of the most significant changes outside of the civics and religions, is the expanded role given to workers. Previously, it was very easy to know what to do with your workers. If a mountain or hill was involved, put a road and mine; otherwise irrigate and road. Jungles and forrests had no purpose except to make your cities sick or deprive you of an irrigation spot. However, if you eliminated them, you would miss out on certain key game resources which only appeared in jungles and forests. So you had to just deal with the sickness and hope that a resource would appear nearby to validate your city’s sufferings.

In civ4, however, your workers have become MUCH more intersting units’ It’s not so simple anymore to decide what the best course of action is. For any plot of land you have the option of a cottage, mine or farm. For other land. depending on t characteristics, you have the options of windmill, watermill, lumber mill, farm. Whereas before your only real choice was to build an irrigation for growth and road for commerce, the civ designers have made the game a little more challenging and realistic. Now you have to make a choice – do I want commerce OR irrigation.

You see, roads no longer provide commerce. The purpose of a road is now to connect your cities, thus providing a trade route, as well as allowing your units to easily move around your empire. In order to get commerce you much build a cottage. But cottages provide wealth and no food so you have to figure out whether growth or money is more important. However, in their infinite wisdom, the programmers on the civ4 team have balanced things out by no longer making it desireable to grow your cities without bound. They had similar incentives in civ3, but whereas in civ3 your citizens became discontent, in civ4 they get unhealthy. They therefore, don’t necessarily lose productivity for a turn and demand an entertainer.

Things get even more interesting when you consider another improvement the programmers added to make life more balanced in civ4. You see, before the only cities I could use to build wonders were those cities by hills and they were the only ones generating enough shields (hammers in civ4). In civ4 you can use watermills and lumber mills to increase the productivity of a city. So when you have a city where building units/buildings is very important, you have the choice between growing the city, getting more commerce, or building more objects. It makes for a very interesting landscape. As you can see in some of my screenshots.

Finally, railroads continue to be a great improvement to make in your empire. However, the emphasis has changed a little. Instead of blanketing every square with railroads, you’ll want to concentrate on the land spaces which would most benefit as they increase the effects of certain terrain improvements, but do nothing for others. I’ve noticed that they are of my benefit for lumbermills and cottages. And, as with before, you’ll want to use railroads to get your units around without wasting movement points – very useful during a war. I think there are also some trade route benefits, but I haven’t really explored that.
AnutliejL yuud imp .ruv emeu L in civ4 ia Lha.L the computer players have much better AI when it comes to working their land. In civ3 it seemed as though the computer was programmed to put a mine on every square accompanied by a road. Therefore, depending on how much my workers were needed elsewhere, I often found myself busy replacing all of these mines with irrigation so that the cities would grow beyond size 3 cities.

I have -50 more turns left in my current game of civ4. I have REALLY enjoyed it a lot and I think the team has done a superb job designing it. Now that I have a better idea of the roles of the civics, religions, and workers as well as a better understanding of the revised tech tree, I think I will be able to make much more informed decisions in my future games.

I think I will play a few more games at settler difficulty to ensure that I have a good feel for the new dynamics in the game. (It took me about 5-6 games in civ3 to really start taking advantage of roads and other advanced concepts) I have a hope of completing the space race – something I’ve never been able to achieve since civ2. I’m not sure if this is because it seems a lot easier in civ4 via trade routes and other money producing techniques to spend a lot on science or some other balancing they’ve done in the game or just because I’m in settler mode. I know that by this time in a civ3 game I have wall street and I am not making as much money as I’m currently making in civ4, so maybe they have changed the economics of the game. Right now I have markets/banks (which don’t seem to have the same relationship they did in civ3 and below) in maybe half of my cities and I’m making -300 gold/turn. Usually, with democracy, railroads, forbidden palace, wall street, and stock markets in civ3 I am making around 50 gold.

Relient K Concert

Just got back from a Relient K concert in Philly. My wife and I were lamenting not having ever been to a Relient K concert despite the fact that they are on our top tier of bands when I decided to check the website. I found out they were playing in Philly and wouldn’t be anywhere else near us for the foreseable future. So, after a few phone calls determined that tickets were still available, we got into the car and drove the two hours to the concert. It was Rufio, Relient K, and MxPx; we stayed for the first two. I like MxPx, but not quite as much as I like Relient K; Rufio went first so we had to see them. It was weird being the oldest people there besides parents who took their tweens to see the concert, but we had a great time.

They are great live – almost better than their CDs, a rarity. RK played a pretty good mix of new and old songs and we knew all of them so we were able to sing along. They kicked off their set with the Theme from Family Matters playing in the background as they walked on stage. Later in the set they played the Theme to Full House as a tribute to the actress who played DJ on the show. I was waiting to see if some other TGIF show would get played, but only those two made their “cameos”. Not sure what else to say except that I was mad they said no cameras and yet there were people all around me flashing theirs. I took one shot with my cell phone. I think it’s crap, but I’ll review it tomorrow and post it if it came out ok.

Did everyone remember to set their clocks back last night? good….