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Diary
By Man (Tue Feb 07, 2006 at 11:53:25 AM EST) (all tags)
This page has changed!

Anyway, long time, no type. Inside: construction, Civ4, books, sexism, job etc.



Construction

I took yesterday off so that I'd have a three-day weekend to paint:

It was exciting to see the doors opening out to what use to be nothing. We've left the original wall just primed for the moment as we still haven't picked the color. (Though the way my wife works, it may be being painted as I type this.)

The FoML loved it. We plopped him down in front of the TV and he watched non-stop movies as we painted. We actually wore him out on it. After five hours, he turned the TV off himself. (Normally, he's only allowed 30 minutes of TV at most, and only if we're feeling nice.)

For the record, he watched Monsters, Inc., Babar, a DVD of Thomas the Tank Engine stories, and an episode of Dora. In regards to Babar, my wife noted that children in kids' stories always have one parent, and that it's always the mother that gets it.

Next, the contractor will put in the trim and we'll get carpet the family room and flooring in the new den. (Through the door you can see in the distance.) In two weeks, we can move stuff into it.

I'm dreading the next couple months. Once the new portion is ready, we have to move all the furniture in the old house (except the master bedroom) into the new part, then essentially move out while they refinish the floors. (Including in the existing living room, where we're ripping up the carpet.)

We've been pleased that the natural light the new room gets is good, and with the pocket doors, the old living room gets even more light then it did before.

As with any construction, I've given my pound of flesh. When coming down the ladder, I stepped on the paint can. Realizing I'd stepped on something, I rolled (my wife called it a very impressive roll.) In doing so, I managed to avoid actually spilling any paint (despite impressively denting the paint can.) I did, however, land on my bad knee, making it my worse knee.

Civ4

I've been impressed about how Civ4 makes playing pacifist games viable. (A pacifist game is where you never attack any units outside your territory.) I've now won two "culture victories" in a row. In both, I never attacked another player. In the second one, I never had a war with another player.

Fittingly enough, it was as Ghandi. I won the game, having only fought three battles. Once, my swordsman removed a barbarian warrior. Once, a barbarian galley sank a galley of mine. Immediately after, my galley sank it. That's the entirety of the combat in the game. Everything else was just development. Ghandi won building 13 cities, never conquering or raising any others.

The first culture victory was as Elizabeth, and she's the recommended one for those going for that sort of victory. All those great people allow for massive culture. (I shared an island with Napoleon, and pretty much shoved him onto the coast with the power of English culture.) Ghandi, on the other hand, is a wonder-building machine. With stone and marble (which I had) he can build wonders at 4x the standard rate, putting many in the realm of other buildings. Add to that fast workers making chopping easier. At Prince level, I was able to get the first eight wonders, and ended up with 80% of them at the end.

I was helped by being on an island alone. By the time I met everyone, I was behind in tech, and never was able to catch up, but I was close enough to stay in contention. Once, I managed to appease the mongols off. I noticed a fleet off my coast, gave Kublai Khan fascism and he eventually wandered off. I'm not sure if those two things were related. The computer players seemed more interested in fighting each other.

Note: spiritual civs should always get the Pyramids! You can do fun things like declaring Universal Suffrage for a few turns just to buy a building.

Anyway, it's nice as in previous versions of Civ, there was pretty much no way to play pacifist and win at the same level you could win as a warmonger.

Books

On a whim, I recently read The Door Into Summer. I may have read it before, but if I did, it was as a teenager, so I was basically reading it cold. It's not Heinlein's best, by any means, but like a lot of SF of that period, it's interesting for what it says about the time it was written.

It's a standard Heinlein plot, with standard Heinlein characters. There's the hero, clearly a stand-in for Heinlein. There's the creepy near-pedophilia. There's the time travel and the uber-capable engineers. There is one rarity for Heinlein: a female villian. One wonders if it is a standard for Heinlein's ex-wife.

There are many bits that amuse, like the constant smoking references, including the doctor who recommends a smoke in a hospital room. Lots of drinking goes on as well. The book is set in two "future" time settings, 1970 and 2000. His 1970 reads a lot like the fifties with a couple minor additions.

One interesting bit is that much of the plot concerns robotics. The hero is a robotics engineer. What makes it interesting is that Heinlein gets it much more right than Asimov ever did. In his future history, the first consumer robot is...a vacuum cleaner. It is in the seventies...like everyone else in that area, he underestimates the difficulties in robotics, but he did (unlike other SF writers of the era) understand the fundamental difference between an autonomaton and an intelligence. He got right roughly the order things would go in, though not the speed of development.

The unaware sexism, though, is amusing...these household robots are presented as a way to "make women's lives easier". It is fascinating how he was (or at least appeared) utterly unaware at the sexism in gender roles while at the same time, populating his stories with intelligent, capable women.

What's also interesting is how little new SF of this era actually showed. Through the entire book, I doubt there's more than ten things novel for the time. (He does also predict the automatic teller, or at least implies it with the "24 hour bank".)

As a novel...it's just mid-range. It's fairly predictable.

I've been listening to a lot of the old x-minus one SF radio plays, which are also of the same era. Obviously, they are all quite dated, however, there's an interesting split in that some still work at a certain level, while others are just plain silly. The ones that work are all by writers that we remember (Heinlein, Bradbury, Sheckly) while the ones that don't are ones that have been forgotten (Leffarts, Kinoy.)

It's funny how glaring it seems that spaceships in these shows are invariably all-male affairs. I'm sure at the time, no one even thought about it, but after seeing the latest BSG episode, with two female fighter pilots going at it mano a mano, it is jarring.

I recently finished Baxter's Manifold:Time and hated it. The characters weren't cardboard...they were paper. The plot was contrived and senseless. It was a book about big ideas in physic, but nothing about it really made sense.

First of all, the "Carter Catastrophe" is just idiotic from a logical standpoint. Then, the book makes it worse than it is. (Wiki says "95% chance of extinction in 1200 years", the book implies "100% certain in 200". Then it makes the basic probabalistic error of confusing "will be extinct in 200 years" with "will become extinct in exactly 200 years".

But the worst mistake is in human psychology. Even if you buy the logic of it, the idea that the bulk of the human race would believe it to any real extent is just stupid. Does he really think humans would give up on religion for this when they refuse to except easily supported notions like evolution by natural selection?

Also idiotic is the way the book claims that intelligence is so rare that it can only exist in one place in an infinite universe and yet gives us not one, but two superhuman intelligences! (the idea that we could create human level intelligence in squid with today's technology is ludicrious.)

Much of the rest of the plot seemed engineered solely to get the characters to witness the end of time, etc. An explanation of exactly how the "blue children" cropped up would have been nice. (Though in fairness, this is only book 1 of 3.)

I also just finished Charlie Stross' The Family Trade. It's a sort of fantasy, obviously imspired by, but not derivative of, Zelazny's Amber books. What sets this apart is that there is only a single fantastical element. There's an alternate Earth (literally so, with the same geographical terrain) in which the medieval Norse run North America. People in a certain family on this earth have the ability to walk between ours and theirs. The heroine is both a long-lost princess in this family and also a modern dotcom/biotech journalist.

What makes it all interesting is the great realism Stross brings to the book. How this family becomes rich and powerful, how they interact with our modern world, how the modern woman interacts with them, all ring very true. He's not so simplistic in making the medieval culture purely knights in armor. Instead, he presents a people who get the tools (knights in business suits holding automatic weapons and cell phones) but are of a completely alien culture. (The characters are also well-drawn, with people who've "gone native" to one extent or another.)

This is also book 1 of 3 or more, so we'll see how it turns out.

Job

Much in flux. And this point, I wonder if I'm going to be a programmer much longer, and also wondering if that's a good thing or a bad thing. I've been playing with new tools, which is good. Some of them are a pain to work with, which is bad.

Basically, a month ago, I was taken off the year long plus project I was on, and put on something that is still a bit nebulous. It's depressing, as on that project, we'd finally gotten some freedom to do things right. I was offered a job with the other group almost immediately when they found out, but sadly, I doubt it'd be a politically good move to take it. (My removal from the project, plus the removal of another person, bodes ill for the continued lifetime of it.)

The upshot is that I'm still here a year later, despite promising myself to leave. This, despite a job offer that fell through at the last minute, and another I didn't take.

My wife is also having job issues. She works half time as a compromise between wanting to stay home with the FoML and wanting to keep her job. (They only allow a year off before she'd have to reapply.) Unfortunately, her partner teacher has gone out on disability, leaving it likely that she'll have to find someone else to partner with full time. If she can't, she'll have to decide between quitting for another year or two until the FoML hits kindergarden or going full time. Unfortunately, half time is also a good financial compromise. Staying home means we have to do some belt tightening. Working full time means we're rolling in it.

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civ 4 by alprazolam (4.00 / 1) #1 Tue Feb 07, 2006 at 12:19:39 PM EST
i'm surprised you can get a culture victory on such a hard level....50k is quite a bit of culture, although i guess if you know you're going for that in the first place, it's possible.

Planning by Man (4.00 / 2) #2 Tue Feb 07, 2006 at 12:34:51 PM EST
Once you learn how, it's not actually that hard. (I'm two for two.) The important thing is that you have to decide to go for it real early.

For example, one thing I did was to intentionally spread as many religions as I could. Whenever a city got a religion I didn't have, I immediately built a monestary there and started pumping out missionaries. This let me build three of the cathedral/synagogue/whatevers in each city, each giving +50% culture. Other than that, you obviously want to build every +culture building available.

The other thing you have to do eventually is give up on all science and ramp culture up as high as possible. You have to pick the right time, as you need to be able to defend yourself. In my Ghandi game, I did it right after getting infantry. (And I never got flight/cannons/destroyers.) Of course, once you do this, you lose any chance of getting a domination or space race victory. When you do this, you should be generating 450-550 culture per turn in each of your three main cities.

Finally, you have to be willing to lose cities. Once you ramp up culture, your only important cities are the three you need to win with. Anything else is expendable. Basically, once I ramp up culture, I have every other city building defensive military units.

Also, do everything you can to produce great people, especially great artists and great engineers. (Great artists to add culture directly, great engineers to get wonders.) In particular, spend the whole game with pacifism once it's available.

[ Parent ]
It's been a while by LoppEar (4.00 / 1) #3 Tue Feb 07, 2006 at 02:40:59 PM EST
since I read the Manifold series. Being largely uneducated, I found the concept to be novel. (The following only barely count as spoilers, but if you really want to approach Space with your current mind, don't read them. Is there actually anyone who doesn't read them?)

Agree that a good portion is just there to get them through the end.

As I recall, Manifold:Space was the best story of the three, for the simple reason of 'alternate spatial dimension pantlegs' being a easier concept to fit with a 'humans-running-around' storyline. I'm not sure that makes it the best book of the series. For completeness of the series I recall Origin being good, but I think if you start Space and don't like it, it's probably not worth finishing it or starting Origin. (Again as I recall, there's nothing you're waiting for the next book to explain more clearly.) ( You'll see what I mean when/if you get a little ways into Space. You'll either appreciate Time more, or feel slightly used. )


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