Archive for July, 2014

2014/07/29

Sulsul!

The Sims 2First the Urgent Thing! If you are a (Windows-using) Sims 2 fan and you don’t have absolutely all of the expansion packs, you can install EA’s “Origin” client and go to “My Account” or whatever and then “Redeem Code” or whatever, and enter (holding your nose) “I-LOVE-THE-SIMS” to get the Sims 2 Ultimate Whatever added to your list of downloadable things, and then you can download it.

Free! But This Month Only! Which is almost over!

Thanks to the reader who posted this information over on the About page, which we’d sort of forgotten we had. It sounds like some kind of scam, but apparently it is For Real, as evidenced by an official EA page saying it and all.

Some less-than-wonderful things:

  • Nothing for the Mac (all the Mac Sims 2 stuff was done by Aspyr, and doesn’t seem to be under any active curation),
  • EA are doing this because they are basically withdrawing and unsupporting all Sims 2 stuff, because they want to chug heartlessly ahead with Sims 3 and Sims 4, the meanies; and
  • The version of the Sims 2 Ultimate Whatever that you can get for free comes with the SecuRom DRM, installed also for free. This does not actually bother me much, but I can imagine it bothering other persons.

But anyway! Go and get it right now! If you want to!

It is likely that the person who posted the news to us found us in the first place because of our ancient obsession with Sims 2 storytelling, which apparently occupied lots of our time in like 2005 and 2006.

Having now gotten All of the Sims 2 Expansion Packs, and them having installed correctly onto the laptop here, I thought I would actually find the old Neighborhood One save files, and see if they would actually work.

It turned out that there was something very promising-looking already right here on the laptop, probably copied over from the previous laptop or something. I made yet another copy, from the Sims 2 directory into the Sims 2 Ultimate Whatever directory, and fired up the game, and there was Neighborhood One! As of some time or other in the past, anyway (see below).

Neighborhood One

(Click through for a description of the neighborhood per the image.)

I zoomed around the overhead view, and loaded up the Test House in Build Mode just to make sure that worked. Then I actually went into Joan and Peran‘s house, remembering vaguely that since there’s just the two of them, it might be a simple family to run for a bit to make sure it actually works.

I’d forgotten Joan is pregnant!

And then I very very vaguely remembered seeing Joan deliver a baby in that house, which if true would mean that there’s a more recent copy of the neighborhood save files somewhere. Yow! I might accidentally fork reality!

Places where such a newer old copy of Neighborhood One might be would include:

  • The hard-drive from the prior laptop, which can’t be powered up while in the prior laptop anymore (the prior laptop having a broken power-thing), but which is readable via a clever SATA-to-USB device. It turns out not to have anything that looks like the Neighborhood One save files on it, though, that I could find.
  • The old desktop computer in the playroom. It hasn’t worked for some time, and when the hard drive is removed and hooked up to the SATA-to-USB device, it doesn’t come to life. If Dad were around he could probably talk me through opening up the hard drive case and carefully giving the platter a little spin and then closing it up again; which he always said would fix at least half of all broken hard drives. I suppose I might find a YouTube video or something showing how to do that someday, but not today!
  • An old Seagate Free Agent external USB drive that we “backed up” some of the stuff on that old computer onto. When wired up, it just makes an unpromising ticking noise, and doesn’t present any data either. Someday maybe I will take that out of its case, attach it to the SATA-to-USB device, etc. But not today…
  • This 3TB Western Digital “MyCloud” (gag what a name) that I had entirely forgotten we had on the network here, and which contains a backup of tons of stuff that was on the old playroom machine, including a “The Sims 2” directory, but unfortunately the directory is empty, boo.

So that didn’t work out. Maybe this copy of the save files is in fact the most recent. Or not!

Not sure yet what I’m going to do about it; so far I’ve just been playing an EA-supplied character (Julien Cooke) in an EA-supplied neighborhood (ummm something Green something or something) to work on my Sims 2 skills a little. I don’t want to actually run this Neighborhood One yet until I’m satisfied that I won’t find a newer one sometime and be all disturbed by the forking (which one would be Canon???).

But one thing I could do without danger of reality forks is to post a few of the stories that are sitting in the save files as pictures, but that have never been posted! Joan and Peran moving out of Rooms to Let, for instance, and into this very fancy house that I built them:

Joan and Peran's House -- the Library

It is a very dreamy house (the upstairs is like solid library ooohhh), and it looks to me like the story of their moving out and into it (and Joan becoming pregnant) has never been told.

So I might do that!

But probably don’t hold your breath. :)

Just in case…

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2014/07/26

More bingewatching

I went and fixed the spelling of “Numb3rs”, which I had written as (the more properly-133t) “Numb3rz”, and added Dollhouse to the list of ones that I want to pay attention while I watch.

Also just watched another Numb3rs, and it was so awful that I want to rant. :) It was actually light on the “ridiculous modeling” aspects, because the Fancy Math(tm) was mostly used only to do things you wouldn’t actually need much fancy math for.

But!

First, the whole premise of why things were Very Serious was that a body was found of a person who had had Avian Flu, and although Avian Flu isn’t really contagious between people, the flu in this particular person might have mutated into a very contagious form, even though it has never done that before in the entire world, and we have no actual evidence that it has in this case, so we might be in danger of a rapidly spreading endemic flu outbreak! Uh oh!

Second, and even more infuriating, the especially-nerdy-professor character, who dresses badly and is familiar with all world literature and science and doesn’t use contractions and always speaks as though he were writing a journal paper, misuses “begs the question” to mean “raises the question”, just like a semi-literate Web comment-writer. Arrrrgghh!

Further update:

House: Not watching this very much anymore since I realized that every episode has exactly the same plot.

Leverage: a fun little show about this good-guy insurance investigator who loses his job because the insurance company is evil, and gathers a bunch of quirky criminals to help him pull a con to get revenge and set things right, and then decides that that was so much fun that he’ll set up a company to do that to other bad guys who are otherwise untouchable. I actually forget why I haven’t been watching those recently; I’ll have to add it back to the rotation! (See also our alternate-universe review of this back in Passive Gaming.)

2014/07/25

Bingewatching

Old TVIt turns out that having some random TV episode or movie streaming on my Cellular Telephone off to one side of my desk at work helps me focus, and/or keeps me from wandering off to get yet more food that I don’t need. So I have been watching lots of things in a “not really paying attention” sort of way, on the Net Flix. A few movies, but mostly many consecutive episodes of various old TV series.

Let us write things about some of them!

Warehouse 13: This was fun, and I’ve watched every episode that NetFlix streams. Which includes only Seasons 1-3, darn them. I could like pay Amazon money to see some more, but that would be silly.

Numb3rs: This felt kind of fun at first, but eventually the horrible scientific / mathematical gaffes got to be too much to take. Now I just watch a single episode now and then, when I’ve OD’d on everything else obvious. Pretty much every episode involves Our Hero making a mathematical model of some very complex real-world phenomenon (generally a crime), and using that model to figure out Who Done It, or How Many Shooters There Are, or Where The Killer Will Strike Next. And in every case it’s utterly implausible if you actually understand anything about how modeling works, how rough and approximate it is at best, and how many unknown input parameters are always floating around.

Bones: This is superficially better, because not being a forensic anthropologist I don’t realize that all the cool-looking science is crap (I have heard third or fourth hand that in fact it is, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised). But over time the soap-opera stuff starts to pall, and the basic moral-majority premise, that the rational atheist polyamorous Bones will not be truly happy until she is an irrational religious believer in the Magic of Love and monogamy like Booth, palls even more.

Lie To Me: Fun premise here, where the protagonists have the scientific ability to tell whether people are lying, what they are feeling, and so on, from the microexpressions on their faces, and their body language. I’ve watched a bunch of these (and when watching something else afterward I’m always wondering why the characters are so clueless about what the bad guys are thinking and all). But recently they’ve been mostly about how angry the main good guy is about everything, and how much trouble their company is in for various reasons, and so on, which seems unnecessary.

Sliders: Premise sounded good, but is apparently targeted pretty narrowly at High School Kids or something.

CSI / Law & Order : NY / SVU / LA / Criminal Intent: So far these all sort of mush together as decent Police Procedurals with high production values, but everyone is always frowning glumly and darkly alluding to grim back-stories from off-camera or last season or something and being generally depressing. So I don’t watch these alot.

Star Trek: TNG: Eh. I should be all fannish about these I guess, but the science and general plotlines are so often so bogus, just clumsy artificial set-pieces for some particular character interaction or whatever. Will have to try various Star Trek things again sometime, there must be something there?

The X-Files: So classic, how could this not be great!? But somehow it feels incredibly dated. “There is a vague hint that there might be an alien spaceship around, CUE SCARY MUSIC!!!” Really, guyz; a vague suggestion of alien spaceships, even ones that maybe sometimes steal people, maybe, just isn’t all by itself all that scary.

Witches of East End: Completely silly-looking premise: there is this group of magical people (“witches”) who came to the mortal world from the magical realm of Asgard (seriously?); the mother is immortal, and she is cursed so that she keeps having these same two daughters over and over, who keep dying young, and then some time later she bears them again (kind of novel!). Her sister can change into a cat and has nine lives, and has also been here for a very long time. This time around, the mother tried to keep the truth about their history and powers from the daughters, hoping this would keep them from dying, but now they know. They have all made lots of enemies over the centuries, who keep bothering them. One of the daughters is engaged to this guy, but keeps having dreams about hot sex with his mysterious ne’er-do-well brother. That sort of thing. And lots of knives for some reason. It’s great because it doesn’t even nod in the direction of reality or sense, so I can watch it without wincing.

Buffy, Dollhouse, and Firefly: Nope! These, I want to pay attention to when I watch. :)

Suggestions for other things that might be good to have playing in the background while writing C++ are more than welcome…

2014/07/20

I need you more than whoa

So Lady Gaga really needs to enunciate more clearly. Listening to Artpop playing loudish on the car radio, with the occasional interruption from the maps app telling me how to get home from wherever, I really couldn’t tell what it was.

More than gold? More than goal? (World Cup reference!) More than dope? More than Dole? (mmm tasty canned pineapple rings!) More than whoa? More than low?

Eggs Benedict on the UWSApparently it is “More than dope“.

Anyway! Great fun yesterday, which was M’s b’day. We decided, daringly, to go into The Big City rather than just to some Mall or other familiar space. Brunch on the Upper West Side, at a sidewalk café even!

Windows has been shut down to prevent damage to your taxi. (photo: Little Daughter)

Windows has been shut down to prevent damage to your taxi.
(photo: Little Daughter)

And little stores, some yarn-related and some not, and the wilds of Central Park, and the Guggenheim Museum.

(The Italian Futurists seem to have been mostly sort of wannabe-Fascist assholes; who knew? The work itself was probably daring and transgressive at the time; today it would be sort of meh.)

And we rested (and recharged my phone; the one thing I don’t like about the Nexus 5 is how battery-poor it is) at work, and then went and met the little daughter (yay!) at this amazing little tea-and-pastries-and-macarons (which I now know have basically nothing whatsoever to do with macaroons) place in Soho, and walked through a buzzing-with-energy Soho evening to the subway and came home.

Whew!

Oh, and there is the interesting Case of The Two Very Similar CDs, but that will have to wait for another time and/or possible world…

2014/07/18

Signs

Train Sign nicely vandalizedDid you know that the various advertising signs in (for instance) Metro-North commuter train cars are just thin cardboard things, at least some of which are blank on the back, which are sort of slid insecurely into little tabs in insecure metal frames?

So that for instance it’s entirely possible to:

  • Slip a particularly repulsive one out of its frame and lay it down to one side where the occupants will no longer be subjected to it (at which some of said occupants might potentially express amused gratitude), and even to
  • Slip one that is say urging people to gamble out of its frame, turn it around to the blank side, and slip it back in, and then draw say an abstract smiley face on it.

Of course one probably shouldn’t do these things, because the train line probably has regulations about interfering with the advertising of our Corporate Masters, and one wouldn’t want to get in trouble with the CorpCops…

Villagers

The shooting-down of flight MH17 was horrible; people should stop doing this kind of thing. I blame it on sociopathic assholes who are willing to cause innumerable deaths for the sake of power; but probably I do this at least partly to find an easy target to blame, so I don’t have to think too hard about what it says about humanity in general, including me. So we won’t think about that now.

But we will think about why, when talking about the people living near where the plane went down, NPR this morning referred to them as “villagers” from a nearby “village”.

(See our earlier essay, Who’s the Chief of the BBC?)

It seemed odd to me. In my youth I lived near the Village of Spring Valley, but I would not have thought of the people who lived there as “villagers”.

The Wikipedia page on “Village (United States)” does not contain the string “villager”.

The page on “Village” in general contains “villager” twice: the contexts are:

Malay and Indonesian villagers practice the culture of helping one another as a community

Most Russian rural residents are involved in agricultural work, and it is very common for villagers to produce their own food.

So villagers can be Malay, Indonesian, or Russian (if rural).

The obvious Google search suggests that “villager” is usually the name of a local newspaper.

A quick search on the BBC suggests that villagers can be:

  • In early 20th Century England,
  • In India (and mostly illiterate),
  • In China (and being hit by a flood),
  • In a hamlet in Devon, England (coping with storms),
  • On Komodo Island (killed by a local dragon),
  • Somewhere in England (I guess), saving a shop.

The two English ones:

Hallsands villager Jonathan Hale said: “Until the storms we had no idea of the policy of no intervention.”

Reg Moule is in the studio taking your gardening questions plus we find out about a shop in the county that was saved by a villager and is now thriving

If we try CNN, we find that villagers are:

  • In Africa (shunning a relief worker who survived Ebola),
  • In “a tiny district” in Nepal (falling prey to organ traffickers),
  • In Iraq (saving a contractor from ISIS),
  • In Nigeria (fighting off Boko Haram).

which are all a bit Other, but maybe CNN just talks about foreigners alot.

Hm, maybe USA Today? There we have just a few villagers:

  • In Indonesia in an earthquake,
  • In Belgium in the 1990s, building a small memorial to some Tuskegee Airmen,
  • In France in WWII, speaking broken English to some American soldiers,
  • Nelson Mandela, in South African in his youth,
  • In Africa, saving a Navy Seal,
  • In Central China, buying a baby,
  • In New Mexica, being a Latino using evil magic,
  • and so on in foreign countries.

It may be telling here that even the USA Today site has mostly foreign villagers, and the one that is in the US is Latino, and so Other.

Not enough to draw any definite conclusions from, but I get the general impression that “villager” is, for the mainstream West, another word used when Othering people, like those living near where airplanes are shot down in foreign countries…

2014/07/01

Five trivial ways to feel like you’re meditating!

Attractive white woman, probably meditating

Attractive white woman, probably meditating

Meditation, sitting, zazen, vipassana, samatha, dhyāna: practices like these have long histories in human culture; people in all parts of the world, through long centuries, have devoted their energy, their time, and their lives, to the rigors of practice.

But today, fortunately, we know better!

By removing from these practices anything inconveniently spiritual or in any way demanding, and packaging something vaguely like what remains under appealing names like “mindfulness” or “attention”, we have obtained a set of modern products which contribute positively to the health, well-being, self-esteem, and profit margins of the people who sell them online.

In the spirit of recent highly-clickable works like 13 ways to meditate without sitting like a monk from the inner-awareness site MarketWatch Dot Com, and because many people would like to feel that they are meditating, without actually going to any effort, we prevent these Five Top Tips. Thank you for clicking on our ads.

Take a deep breath now and then. Breathing is good, and helps keep your blood oxygenated. Deep breaths can cause a momentary head-rush that is easily mistaken for something significant. Also, people who meditate do breathe, sometimes deeply.

Think “aummm” to yourself. This is a cool sound, that reminds many people of hippies and meditation and things. Also, something about jewels and lotuses. This sound can be made at any volume; we recommend a low volume, so no one else hears it and thinks you are some kind of weirdo.

Don’t worry. All true meditative traditions agree that everything is really all the same, and that whatever is happening is okay. So you can be meditative by not worrying about anything. Or by worrying. Or whatever, really.

Notice how the people around you are not meditating. Most likely the other people around you on the plane or at the espresso bar are not being mindful and meditating like you are. This leads naturally to the next tip.

Feel good about yourself for meditating. Mindfulness improves self-esteem, and self-esteem is really a kind of mindfulness. Simply by being mindful about the fact that you are meditating, and how well this reflects on you, you are meditating mindfully; it is a Virtuous Cycle!

In addition to these Five Top Tips, experts agree that it is beneficial to eliminate from your life as many problems and distractions as you can; so if possible, try to be prosperous, healthy, and not a member of any minority or historically oppressed groups. Reading the Wall Street Journal is good, too.