I'm kind of ashamed to admit this, but...
I ended up not voting because I couldn't make up my mind. Even after doing a bunch of research into both of the candidates, I still honestly liked both of them. I was left with a feeling that either one of them would do an acceptable job. Since I couldn't decide on a preference, my vote would just come down to a coin toss. So instead of waiting in line, I just went straight to the taiko lesson instead. Does that make me a bad citizen?
Helen Shiller won by a margin of just a few percent; that's fine with me. Obviously Daley is still mayor (and if he finishes this term he'll be Chicago's longest-serving mayor) but he got "merely" 71% of of the vote, compared to 79% at the previous election.
So, this means nothing to my friends who don't live in Chicago, but the Chicago elections are today. We're voting for aldermen and we're voting for mayor.
|The Chicago River in February|
The mayoral election is not interesting because the only question is whether Daley is going to win with 80% of the vote or merely 70%. We've had Richard M. Daley
as our mayor since 1981 and before that we had his father Richard J. Daley
for 21 years, 1955 to 1976. So they're sort of an indestructable dynasty. Everybody in Chicago loves to complain about them, but nobody (well, very few people) ever vote against them. We've had a Mayor Daley for so long that one commedian said:
When I was little, I thought that "Mayor Daley" was the generic term for the leader of any large city.
If you think about it, the mayor of a large city like Chicago, or even more so New York, is more powerful than a lot of state governors and evn more than the leaders of some small countries.
But that's not what this post is about. This post is about the aldermanic election.
Yes. Yes, that's a word. "Aldermanic" is the adjective form of "Alderman". Isn't that awesome? I could say "Aldermanic" all day. It sounds like "shamanic" or something.
A few weeks ago, I braved the biting cold night winds to ride over to the "Walt Disney School" on Marine in order to watch the 46th ward aldermanic (tee hee) debate/Q&A session. ("Walt Disney School" just means he paid for it, I think.) I was originally going to write about the debate that night when I got home, but I was too tired, so I said I'd do it tomorrow, and then a bunch of other stuff came up... but this is the day of the election so I finally have to either write a post or forget about it. And this is why "blogging" is not journalism, folks: Complete lack of enforceable deadlines!
When I went in to watch the debate I had no idea what to expect. I didn't know who my current alderman was, who else was running, or what sort of issues they might be debating. The only reason I knew about it was because some teenagers were going door to door in my neighborhood registering people to vote, and I said "Hey, it's great that you're doing that, but I'm already registered, so buzz off." and they said "OK but please come meet the candidates on Wednesday!"
The incumbent is Helen Shiller. She's been alderman of the 46th ward for about 20 years. My first impression of her is that she was extremely frazzled and a terrible public speaker
. She talked way too fast and she rambled on and on about irrelevant details and ran over her time limit every single time
it was her turn to talk.
Challenging her is James Cappleman. He had a nice suit and a slick politician-like demeanor. He was much better at public speaking, but his words were mostly vague generalities and empty cliches. He's currently a family advocate at the University of Chicago hospitals, and before that he was a Franciscan friar(!?!). He's also, according to his bio, a Mac user (ok, instant points there!) and is openly gay.
Interesting: in the 46th ward, being gay is not only something a politician can admit, it's a complete non-issue. After all the stupid, tiresome, endless, irrelevent arguments over homosexuality in national politics, it's refreshing to see a campaign where everybody is mature enough not to drag their opponents' private sex lives into the spotlight. In fact, in this area gayness might even be a slight advantage, since part of "Boy's Town" protrudes into the 46th ward. (Maybe I should say it "penetrates" the 46th ward. Tee hee hee! What was I saying about being mature? That doesn't go for me, obviously. |=`P )
Stepping back a bit, a nice thing about this campaign (and perhaps this is a feature of local politics generally, but I'm not experienced enough to know) is the complete absence of ideological polarization. Policy-wise, the candidates were identical
. The debates were all about personality
. We all agree that we need to get more businesses to move into those empty storefronts on North Broadway, now who's going to do a better job of it?
It was obvious that I was not going to get to ask questions, since all of the questions were prepared ahead of time by various local organizations and interest groups and then read in front of a microphone. I quickly became annoyed because the questions were asking the same thing over and over again. Seriously 2/3 of the questions were some variant on:
How are you going to stop my rent from going up?
Usually this was phrased as "Ensuring continuing access to affordable housing" or whatever but that's just a fancy way of saying we don't want our rent to go up. It makes sense -- that's the whole reason I ended up in this neighborhood in the first place, because I was looking for a cheap apartment. I guess everybody else was too.
|The challenger encourages pessimism|
This explains some things about my neighborhood which didn't make sense to me before. Most neighborhoods in Chicago have a demographic spectrum like a laser beam: everybody there is one ethnicity, one income level. You can tell as soon as you step onto the street and look around. "OK, all the signs are in Spanish and have bars over their windows and there's a Currency Exchange on the corner. Got it.". Or for another example, "Starbucks next to an indie record store, pamphlets stapled to a pillar advertising some theater group, and a couple of white teenagers in expensive clothes." But where I live is not like that. Where I live is everything mixed together. We have real nice new Starbucks and Borders and banks right next to boarded-up windows and scary homeless dudes hanging out under bridges. We've got African, Japanese, Vietnamese, middle-eastern, and carribean resturaunts. We got the currency exchange (those places scream "sketchy") but also famous theaters and jazz clubs. I ride the bus with Mexican immigrants and Nigerian immigrants and muslim women with head scarves and white yuppies. I could never quite figure out the neighborhood until I realized that it's an intentionally mixed-income neighborhood.
|The encumbent encourages optimism|
That means both candidates spent a lot of breath going on and on about "diversity" and how great diversity is and how great it is that we have so much diversity. It also means that whoever wins has to do a delicate balancing act to preserve that diversity. If property values get too low, all the people with money leaves and the neighborhood turns into a slum. If property values get too high, poor people can't live here anymore and they have to move out and the place gets gentrified.
To win, Cappleman has to convince everyone that Shiller hasn't been doing a good job over the last twenty years. So naturally, he emphasizes the negative. At the debates he kept accusing Shiller of slacking off while stores get boarded up and gangs roam around robbing people and selling drugs. His mass-mailings continue the theme. To each of his accusations, Shiller responded by pointing out all the good things about the neighborhood, and describing exactly what she was already doing to fix various problems, describing what was getting in her way and why they hadn't been fixed yet, and what she was going to do tomorrow to attack the problems some more. (And then going over her time limit. Every single time. The moderators started getting really annoyed. "YOUR TIME IS UP, STOP TALKING NOW.")
It was a classic battle of personalities! Every time the optimist and the pessimist clashed, they got more and more animated. By the end of the night, they were really letting it fly. "I don't think my opponent has a clue what it means to be alderman!" said Shiller, to shouts and applause from the audience.
What are the burning issues aside from affordable housing?
|The controversial "blue light"|
- The Red Line train station at Wilson. This station is old and damp and dirty and poorly-lighted and generally scary. People don't want to come to our neighborhood by train because the station is so sketchy and it looks like a place where they might get mugged. So this is a point of contention: How come Helen Shiller has been promising us for years that the station would be renovated, but it still hasn't happened?
- The police surveillance pod. This is a high-tech "Big Brother"-ish device that was installed on a high pole at the corner of Wilson and Magnolia. People call it a "blue light" because it flashes blue whenever it's in use, which is ALL THE TIME. The pro side is that it keeps crime down because anybody who commits a crime within its field of vision will be easily caught. The con side is that hey, maybe police officers are looking into our windows with it or something.
- The proposed "Wilson Yards" development plan. Shiller I think wants to tear down a bunch of old buildings and put in a great big Target shopping center type thing. Cappleman sent us a mailing warning that the plan was flawed and the area was a slum waiting to happen.
- Recycling: Chicago still doesn't have a real recycling program. We're supposed to have something called the "blue bag" program, but it's a total joke. Most denizens of the city have never seen one of these supposed blue bags anywhere, and even if we could get some, nobody's collecting them. This was the big question on my mind when I went to the debate, because I wanted to hear that somebody was planning to start recycling for real in this city. My wish is granted! There will be a new recycling program starting in August on an experimental basis, and ours is one of the pilot neighborhoods. So all I have to do is talk to the landlord of my apartment building to make sure we're participating and that we will have a recycling pickup spot.
|The controversial proposed Wilson Yards project|
Of course the question of the Wilson Yards plan led us into a debate on the so-called "Big Box" law which was such a controversy last year. The city council was trying to pass a law saying that stores with larger than X square feet of floor space had to pay employees a certain minimum wage, much higher than the normal citywide minimum wage, plus lots of extra benefits and stuff. Although it didn't mention them by name, it was clearly aimed at WalMart and Target.
I was against it, because even though it sounds at first like a good thing for the workers, it doesn't take a degree in economics to tell you what the result of it would have been: WalMart and Target would have put stores just outside the city limits, where they could still pay the lower wages, and closed down everything inside the city, and not a single worker would ever have seen the proposed benefits, and I wouldn't have been able to go shopping for cheap junk at the Target on Roosevelt anymore. Anyway, the law was never passed because Mayor Daley vetoed it, earning him even more love and hatred.
Alderman Shiller was being criticized because she spoke out in favor of the increased living wages, but then she voted against the law. She explained herself quite well, I thought: she said the law was badly designed, would not have accomplished its intended purpose, and would have either been overturned on the grounds of unfairness or else tied the city up in expensive lawsuits for years. Cappleman was asked what he thought of it, and said basically the same thing -- it's completely unfair to require WalMart and Target to pay higher wages while not requiring the same of McDonalds and Subway, etc etc. Agreed!
And now, I have no more to say, because it's time to go vote. And then after that I'm going to my first taiko drumming lesson. Later!
Airports and hotels are boring!
This has nothing to do with PyCon specifically, it's just a thought about conventions in general.
Every airport is the same.
Every large hotel is the same.
Every convention happens at a large hotel next to an airport (somewhere on the outermost outskirts of a large city).
Therefore, every convention happens in the same setting, or at least, a setting so similar that it might as well be the same place. In other words, I'm not in Dallas, I'm "At a Convention", i.e. a hotel, an airport, and a little strip of road between the airport and the hotel, which has the exact same franchise resturaunts as every other strip of road between every other airport and hotel.
I'm curious what Texas is like, but I'm sure not going to find it out from this trip!
The only way I know I'm not in Chicago is because when I go outside, the trees are still green and the temperature is merely cool.
Also, I went to a Starbucks this morning, and they didn't have breakfast sandwiches. "Those are only up north", they told me. So I guess that's about as much local color as I'm going to get.
I'm in Dallas
I'm at PyCon, the Python programmers' conference in Dallas, TX for the weekend.
This means I pretty definitely won't have a comic finished for Monday... Blah!
Pictures from Uchicon Weekend
The anime club from U of C puts on its own mini-convention (in the biology building, since they have the best A/V equipment, for some reason). This is the fourth year of "Uchicon". Each year we get some local webcomic artists, we get some academic experts who have written papers on japanese culture to come give talks, we buy lots of pocky, we have a video game tournament (put on by the video game club, "Order of the Blistered Thumb"), show movies, and generally have a real good time. The attendance has hovered between 100 and 200 people, so we're still very very small, but it's a great time despite that (and despite some headaches this year when the school bureaucracy, funding committees, RSO advisors, and UPS deliverymen all dropped the ball really bad).
I wasn't involved in organization much this year -- all I did officially was interview some artists, talk on the skit panel, and bake Yakitate! Rice Cooker Bread. (I used live yeast this time and let it rise longer, so it came out all fuwa-fuwa and was a great big hit. Got devoured instantly.) Treated some of the webcomickers to Thai food after the con was over. Since I wasn't doing much organization, I was free to actually hang out and enjoy stuff. We got quite a few cosplayers this year so I went ahead and took pictures of them (all cosplayers love getting attention, right?)
This is one of the Spoony Bards, a local amateur band who play covers of video game music, and who provide the Uchicon soundtrack. They're really quite talented, and they know lots of songs -- you can yell at them "Play something from Chrono Trigger!" and they will, for instance. He's wearing the giant pink head of Maromi from Paranoia Agent which I helped make for last year's ACEN skit.
Rachel from the club cosplaying as Misato from Evangelion.
I don't know her name, but she was on the cosplay panel, and that's an original costume based on the J-rocker style. (If anybody knows the missing names, could they leave a comment and help me out?)
Lina (sp?) from club, as... some kind of maido-san? Wakaranai.
Some girls playing Naruto characters. I remember them from the skit panel, where they said they had seen our ACEN skits from previous years, and something about wanting to come to University of Chicago to be in the club that does the awesome skits (that's a good reason, right?) So I think they were in high school?
Um, I don't know who either of these people are in real life or in costume, sorry.
I don't know who this guy is either or why he's punching me.
This woman talked at the cosplay panel. She has the mad cosplay skills. Here she's San aka Princess Mononoke, but last year at ACEN she was the Great Forest Spirit from the same movie, who I think won the grand costume prize... and WOW she deserved it.
Here's a closeup of the mask from the great forest spirit costume. She told us all the steps she went through to make it, with clay and plaster and latex and power tools and a hair-punching thingy. Wow! Talk about almost-pro at the costume making.
Sunday, the day after Uchicon, I invited some peoples up to my apartment to play Twilight Imperium some more. Aza, Jim, and Phil all came, and by leaving out the special rules and hustling a bit, we actually managed to finish a game in a quite reasonable six hours (Aza, playing the L1Z1X Mindnet, beat us all.)
So help me, I finally did it
I wanted something that says "I am a gigantic nerd and I'm not ashamed of it." Also, that says "I believe in the power of Science."
Yeah, I did it. I brought my Griffiths E&M textbook to the Tattoo Factory on north Broadway, opened it to the endpaper, pointed at Maxwell's Equations, and said "How much to get this tattooed on my upper arm?"
They had a really cool way of doing it, too -- they can use a photocopier to enlarge any image and put it backwards onto a temporary-tattoo transfer sheet, then rub it on to you, let you check out how it looks, and then trace over those lines with the real ink needle.
The ink needle vibrates real fast, jabbing your skin many times per second, so the artist can actually draw with it like a pen. It doesn't hurt nearly as bad as I thought; it was not nearly as bad as getting a shot at the doctor, for instance, because it never breaks the skin, it just goes down about 4 layers. The artist was a pretty cool dude. We chatted about lots of stuff for the ~40 minutes it took. "So I should probably try not to scratch at this too much while it heals, right?" I asked. "No", he said, "There is no try, you WILL NOT scratch it no matter how much it itches. Also, don't go swimming for two weeks."
Maxwell's Equations are great because unlike, say, quantum mechanics, they're something I can actually grok. They're vector calculus, which is about the upper end of the math that I currently understand. And they relate to tinkering with electronics and magnets which is a hobby of mine lately. And they are a triumph of physics, tying together electricity, magnetism, and light, and since they show that a light wave can never travel at any speed other than C they lead directly into special relativity.
Also, unlike names of girlfriends or favorite bands or whatever, which can come and go, Maxwell's Equations are permanent and universal and non-culture-specific.
The red question mark on the third line is because del dot B might not really be zero, if there are any magnetic monopoles in the universe. Basically the only reason we think there might be is because they would make these equations nicely symmetrical. So that question mark is there as a reminder: Science is ever a work in progress. This is important to my philosophy of life.
Also I just noticed that they left the dot-product symbol out of the third line. Curse them! I will go back there and demand that they put in a dot at no further charge.
I've got plenty of ideas for other tattoos -- the "Jono" kanji, the "Aikido" kanji, the Enso logo, maybe some Python code... my body shall be a medium for expressing my ideas.
Early to Rise and Early to Bed Makes a man Healthy but Socially Dead
I haven't been going to Aikido for a long while -- not since the new year, in fact. It's partly because I get there by biking and the cold and snow has made biking nigh impossible. And it's partly because I've been working late most nights, usually well past 6pm which is when I would have to leave to make it to the 7pm class. Lack of exercise has made me feel lazy and depressed, and lack of contact with anybody outside of Humanized on most days has made me feel lonely and depressed. So it's been bad news all around.
Yesterday, Andrew surprised me by proposing a solution: what about going together to the morning Aikido classes, before work? He was curious about trying out this Aikido thing, and he was willing to pick me up and bring me there. Sweet! Only problem was that the morning class is at 6:30am. Which means leaving about 6am to get there, which means getting up at 5:45am at the latest. Well, it's worth a try, right?
So, today I was up before the crack of dawn, and we drove over and got to the dojo while the door was still locked. There were six people at the morning class, a decent size, and we had a nice not-so-strenuous lesson (Choate-sensei was in "yoga" mode instead of "Blindfold you and stab you with knives" mode). Good because I'm pretty rusty after that hiatus.
(I've never seen so many bloodstains on the mat! That makes it sound pretty scary, but I heard the story and it was actually all from this one guy who had a cut on his toe the night before and didn't realize it, so every time he moved his feet he left another drop of blood. Me and Andrew both spent some time after class spraying peroxide on the blood specks.)
It was still really early so we had time to go grocery shopping before work and get some bacon, eggs, toast, fruit, and sardines for a healthy old-fashioned breakfast (instead of our usual working breakfast of cereal and Starbuck's dessert-in-a-cup).
Also, the weather has finally turned warm -- as in, above freezing, but that seems balmy compared to all the subzero-farenheit nights we've been having. (I taped bubble wrap over the edges of all my windows and slept in a sleeping bag with three layers of blankets on top while my heater ran almost constantly just to keep the place above 50 degrees.)
So, between getting up early, exercise, restarting Aikido, healthy breakfast, and good weather, I'm feeling extremely cheerful today. Feels like the bleak days of February (the most depressing month, usually tied with April) are finally at an end.
Wait, it gets better. Aza has been inspired by the example of me and Andrew to look up Judo dojos in Chicago and get started with that again. AND I happened to do a search for Taiko drumming lessons in Chicago and guess what? The place that gives them is freakin' three blocks west of my apartment. I walked past it every day and didn't even know I was there. So I am totally going to take taiko lessons and beat drums with sticks for an extra dose of Japanese culture and musical excitement! Just what I need, another hobby, right? But I can do this because Aikido is going to be in the morning every day. Nothing will interfere with that, as long as I can keep getting up at quarter-to-six. So if I can manage to start leaving work at a reasonable hour, my evenings are wide open! ...until 10pm when I'll have to go to sleep.
The comic is up. A day late because I spent Saturday at Uchi-con and Sunday playing Twilight Imperium. And I'm not sorry! Later on I will post pictures from the weekend.
There's an amazing Thai restaurant on Western & Irving Park called "Sticky Rice". It bills itself as "Northern Thai" cooking, so I guess what we get everywhere else is southern Thai?
They have all the usual stuff like Pad Thai etc etc, but the exciting part is the extensive northern-style part of the menu, where everything is served with sticky rice (aka mochi rice). It's very good stuff and the spiciness level is high enough to satisfy even Jeremy. Also there are some pretty exotic things on that part of the menu, including a stew made with cubes of gelatinized pig's blood, a vegetable called "toon stem", and...
An omelette full of...
The ant eggs were kind of disappointing -- they didn't really taste like anything. (I was hoping they'd maybe be unbelievably disgusting). I'm thinking maybe they're a "status food" eaten not for flavor or texture or nutrition but because they must be freakin' hard to collect, therefore rare and expensive, therefore something you can show off by eating. Well, it was a good omelette all the same.
For dessert: fresh Durian boiled with sticky rice in coconut milk. Ohohohohohohohohoho. Where have you been all my life?
Yakitate for real!
I made bread in a rice cooker.
The recipie is from Yakitate! Japan. They totally broke the fourth wall on one episode and told the audience to write this recipie down. "It's so easy, even the producers of the Yakitate! Japan show can make it, and they suck at baking!"
Japanese kitchens typically don't have ovens, so giving the audience a recipie they can make in a "suihanki" electric rice cooker is a great idea.
The recipie was in grams; I had to convert it to barbaric volume-based American units using this site which knows the densities of common kitchen ingredients. Speaking of barbaric units, somebody finally explained to me the other day that there is one "ounce" which is a unit of weight and a different "ounce" which is a unit of volume, and the two happen to coincide for water at STP. Ohhhhhh! That's been confusing me for years. THIS IS WHY ALL NON-METRIC UNITS MUST BE DESTROYED! SUBMIT TO THE POWER OF TEN, PUNY HUMANS!
- Flour, 350g = 2.8 cup
- Butter, 21g = 1/5 stick
- Sugar, 21g = 5 tsp
- Milk, 35ml
- Water, 180ml
- Yeast, 5g = 1.25 tsp
- Salt, 6.5g = 1 tsp
Mix everything except the butter together, knead it into dough. Soften the butter and knead that in. Continue kneading until the lump of dough is not sticky anymore. Then let it rise for 60 minutes.
Drop it from a height of 50cm (this is what they said, but it's probably not important to measure the exact height...) and then let it rise a second time for 60 minutes.
Put it in the rice cooker and push the button. Then ignore it for 60 more minutes. (I made a mistake here -- I thought the rice cooker had to be on "cook" mode for 60 minutes, so I used a pencil to jam the button down so it couldn't revert to "keep warm" mode. Soon smoke started pouring out of the top. When it wants to revert to keep warm, let it revert!!)
Open the rice cooker, flip the bread over, close it, push the button, wait 60 more minutes.
Repeat the above step one more time. Done! So in total it was rising for 2 hours and cooking for 3 more hours. Since it requires no attention during this time, you can go do something else.
I'm fairly pleased with the result. I think the yeast I was using was mostly dead (it had been in my freezer for a year) as the bread didn't rise as much as it should have. It rose a little, but it was quite dense and chewey at the end. Entirely edible, though!
Beware the Cassava!
The Humanized members had a great lunch at a Peruvian restaurant called Ay Ay Picante one day. Among the many delectable exotic treats was a plate of fried yuca. It is a little like fried potatoes but with a unique and subtle flavor. I decided to try to make some.
I hit up the Vietnamese supermarket near my apartment, and found lots of alien-looking root vegetables. I had to ask which one was yuca since I've never seen it raw before.
So, I brought the yuca root in to work, chopped it up, and fried it in oil, and we at it, and it was good.
Then I checked out the Wikipedia article on yuca, to see if it's related to that spiky-leafed plant that some people have growing in their backyards. (It's not. That's "yucca" with 2 "c"s. Yuca with one "c" is the same plant as Cassava, also called Manioc, and flour from the root is used to make tapioca.)
From that Wikipedia article I found out that raw cassava contains cyanogenic glucosides , and cassava must be processed to remove these chemicals before you eat it, because they will turn into cyanide and kill you.
Oh. Wish I had found that out first.
Since I'm still alive, the ones we got must have been the "sweet" variety of cassava, which contain only 20 parts per million of cyanide, and not the "bitter" variety, which contains a much deadlier 1 part per thousand. I'm pretty sure that the deadly bitter version is not allowed to be sold commercially in its raw form for this very reason.
Everything I've read says to boil cassava to remove the poison; I chopped up the raw stuff and went straight to frying it. I can't find a clear answer on whether or not frying alone is sufficient to make it safe, but here I am.
Anyway, yuca/cassava is tasty, folks, but if you try it, make sure you boil it first.
This is what good board games should be!
As I mentioned in a previous post, when my Humanized homies gave me Twilight Imperium, they told me the guy at the game store said, "Call me up when you're going to play this, I want in."
So I did.
I called up Gamer's Paradise at 2800-somethin North Clark and told them what my friends had told me. "Oh, you want Jon", said the guy on the phone. "Here."
"Hello, Jon, are you working tomorrow?"
"That's too bad, because I was gonna play Twilight Imperium"
"I can get out of work."
So Jon came over to my place, along with Andrew, and I made some curry rice and miso soup and taro buns. A guy I know from a Warhammer forum was also going to come but he had to cancel due to computer troubles and responsibilities. So we just did 3 player: Andrew was the space pirates of the Mentak Coalition, I was the insectoid warriors of Hive Queen Sardakk, and Jon was the Federation of Sol. (It should be noted that Earth is not called Earth or Terra or Gaia in this game, it's called "Jord", so apparently the Swedes took over the world at some point.)
We started about 1pm; when we were done, it was after dinner and dark out, so I was thinking it must be 7 or 8 -- nope. 2 AM. The time just flew by. That's a good game! And there's virtually no down-time, there's lots of different paths to victory, and you get to debate in the Galactic Council and do sneak-attacks through wormholes to virus-bomb enemy planets and all sorts of other suitably epic space-opera-ish things. This is why Jon says it's his favorite game (after playing every one in his game store presumably). He beat both of us even though we ganged up on him, using all sorts of dirty political and diplomatic trickery and covert operations.
Anyway, since I gave him food and a good day of gaming, Jon gave me a discount on anything in the store, so I got some Warhammer bits and Carcassone: Hunters and Gatherers. I wanted the original but they were all out of it, and Jon suggested that this stone-age spin-off version was just as good and better in some ways.
My fiendish long-term plan is to make sure Aleksa grows up to be a gamer by exposing her to lots of cool board games. When she visited my apartment she was totally enchanted with the D&D miniatures and immediately wanted to be the mountain lion. But anyway, I'm always looking for something that's right for her age but also a well-designed game with enough depth to keep me from being bored (i.e. NOT CANDYLAND). I thought Hunters and Gatherers might work, so I brought it to La Grange yesterday and told her about it. We got Mom to play too. Here's a picture of us:
I think it worked out pretty well! Aleksa loves the theme, the prehistoric animals, the feeling of growing a map and the gold nugget tiles, and the basics of the game are simple enough to explain, but it has a lot of depth and replay value for adults. One of the few games I've ever found to actually fulfill the promise of "fun for all ages"!
What caught me by surprise was how much Mom got into it. She got really competitive and picked up on the tactics of using a tile to screw over somebody else's big-scoring area. When we were done she wanted to play again right away. Also she picked up on the fact that my OCD tendencies make me desperately want to fill in any holes in the map, and she kept trying to use this to her advantage.
Aleksa's attention span started running out towards the end -- if playing this with young children I might recommend using only about 2/3 of the tiles so the game will be over quicker. On her turns she would sometimes stare at her tile for minutes on end, making up songs about whatever animals were on there and what they were doing, and she'd just keep singing and singing while we told her to take her turn, already.
Also, Aleksa is getting very good at writing words now, although she needs a spell checker. Also I'm happy to find out she has a lot more appetite than before.
One last game-related picture: I got in a shipment of tiny (1/8 inch diameter) rare-earth magnets and glued them onto all my Warhammer 40k battlesuits and vehicles and weapons, so they cling on sturdily but are easily swapped around (or removed as a result of battle damage!) Here's the weapons decorating my fridge:
This is going to be my pet peeve forever
Enzo: A car made by Ferrari: NOT OUR PRODUCT.
Enzo: A character from "Reboot": NOT OUR PRODUCT.
Uncle Enzo: A character in "Snow Crash": NOT OUR PRODUCT.
Enso: Japanese calliagraphic circle: THING THAT OUR PRODUCT IS NAMED AFTER. Note similarity between calliagraphy and our product's icon. Note spelling: "Enso". The "s" is pronounced as an "s", not a "z".
Enso: Our product. It is spelled "Enso" and the "s" is pronounced as an "s", not a "z".
The difference seems quite straightforward to me. So why is it that people who have bought and downloaded Enso from our site -- and therefore must have been exposed to the correct spelling literally dozens of times while navigating our website, plus more times while installing, plus again when Enso starts up, plus every single time they press down the freakin' quasimode key -- how come these people still send me emails referring to "Enzo"?
How come Walt Mossberg, the tech columnist for the Wall Street Journal who reviewed Enso, after having an interview with Aza about it, Aza who used the correct pronunciation multiple times during he interview -- how come Walt Mossberg pronounces it "Enzo" in his video segment?
How come people leave comments on our weblog praising "Enzo" when the correct spelling appears several times on the very same page where they're writing their post?
How come when we gave a talk to the Chicago Area Python User's Group, this last Thursday, and said "Enso" out loud I don't know how many times, people asking questions from the audience pronounced it "Enzo"?
Apparently we made a bad choice of name, because apparently 90% of English speakers are genetically incapable of comprehending the simple word "Enso". Despite having only four letters and a perfectly phonetic spelling, the word seems to have some kind of demonic power which makes people instinctively recoil against it and subconsciously translate it into the harmless word "Enzo" because to think or speak or write the word "Enso" would drive men mad. Or something.
One of my linguistics-major friends suggested that English speakers transform unvoiced consonants into voiced consonants after a nasal, but I don't buy that. How do you pronounce the following words:
and so on and so forth. Do you have a tendency to turn the "ns" sound into an "nz" sound in any of those words? I don't.
Japanese people hate confrontation for this very reason
New comic is up. This one gave me a lot of trouble, for some reason. It is starting to go in some kind of weird directions. I am quite proud of Bucho-san's face in panel 3; I redrew it several times to achieve just the right mixture of condescension and dismay.
So, Jono is working on the Humanized billing page, where people attempt to give us money in exchange for our software. It basically works, but wow, I'm having all sorts of adventures in the world of International E-Commerce which I was completely unprepared for.
- A guy called me up because his American Express card wouldn't work. It took me a while to figure out the problem: American Express cards have 15 digits in them. My website code expected 16. 15 digits! What the heck? Anyway I fixed it pretty quick, emailed the guy back, and we got the sale.
- Billing internationally is hard. I just talked to a guy in Switzerland who was trying to buy Enso but we rejected his card. Postal codes and phone numbers are of different lengths in different countries, in some the concept of "state" or "province" does not exist, and then there are all the dozens of ways that computers can mangle text containing accent marks. And that's not even considering the terrifying possibility of trying to process Chinese characters in billing info without letting them get mangled by any of the half-dozen pieces of software involved.
- Here's the Treasury Department's list of countries that the United States has trade embargoes against. We're not supposed to sell to any of them:
Cuba, Cote d'Ivoire, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Sudan, Liberia, Zimbabwe, Sierra Leone, the UNITA faction in Angola, Syria and Burma [Myanmar].
extensive list of specific persons and organizations who we have trade embargoes against -- known and suspected terrorist individuals and groups, family members of Slobodan Milosevic, the Central Bank of Iran, and so on. We're not supposed to do business with any of them.
- Joel On Software says that a startup company in its first month will make $364 if it does everything right. We made four times that in our first week. Nyah na nyah na nyah nyah to you, Jolon!