Tuesday, April 30, 2013

All About Everything - Week of April 30, 2013

This Week's Topic: SimCity (1989 Video Game)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

SimCity is a city-building simulation video game, first released on October 3, 1989, and designed by Will WrightSimCity was Maxis' first product, which has since been ported into various personal computers and game consoles, and spawned several sequels including SimCity 2000 in 1993, SimCity 3000 in 1999, SimCity 4 in 2003, SimCity DSSimCity Societies in 2007, and SimCity in 2013. 

The objective of SimCity, as the name of the game suggests, is to build and design a city, without specific goals to achieve (except in the scenarios). The player can mark land as being zoned as commercial, industrial, or residential, add buildings, change the tax rate, build a power grid, build transportation systems and take many other actions, in order to enhance the city. Once able to construct buildings in a particular area, the too-small-to-see residents, known as Sims, may choose to construct and upgrade houses, apartment blocks, light or heavy industrial buildings, commercial buildings, hospitals, churches, and other structures. The Sims make these choices based on such factors as traffic levels, adequate electrical power, crime levels, and proximity to other types of buildings—for example, residential areas next to a power plant will seldom appreciate to the highest grade of housing.[8]

Also, the player may face disasters including flooding, tornadoes, fires (often from air disasters or even shipwrecks), earthquakes and attacks by monsters. In addition, monsters and tornadoes can trigger train crashes by running into passing trains. There was also a reported case of a nuclear meltdown. Later disasters in the game's sequels included lightning strikes, volcanoes, meteors and attack by extraterrestrial craft. In the Super Nintendo version and later, one can also build rewards when they are given to them, such as a mayor's mansion or a casino.

* * * * *

Oh, how I loved SimCity. We had it in our middle school's computer lab, and during our 25-minute recesses we might be lucky enough to nab the computer that had SimCity installed on it. (If you weren't lucky, you got SimAnt, SimEarth, SimLife, etc., or Where In Something-Or-Other Is Carmen Sandiego, or Lemmings, or you had to play around on Hypercard, or, if you were really pathetic, you got to look up stuff on Grolier's Electronic Encyclopedia.) None of which was never as fun as BUILDING TINY CITIES and then DESTROYING THEM.

Why did I destroy them? Well, when you only had 25 minutes to build a city, and couldn't save your work (because those computers were terrible)... what else could you really do? Besides, all my cities were miserable and citizens would always leave in droves, unless I lowered taxes, and then I'd just go quickly broke. So 25 minutes was actually perfect -- enough time to establish a city with trains, buildings, lakes, and highways, but not enough time to watch it go to natural, inevitable, ruin.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Ye Olde Photoblog

I've started a new photoblog -- http://yoretown.tumblr.com/ -- to house all the snapshots I keep buying at estate sales/antique shops/shows/etc. (Edited: Changed the URL to one you can access more efficiently)

If you enjoy looking at old black & white photos of people you don't know, this is the place for you!



Monday, April 22, 2013

All About Everything - Week Of April 23, 2013

This Week's Topic: The Carnegie Artist Studios

photo from nymag.com

Imagine living in a spacious, light-filled studio apartment above one of the most famous venues in America, Carnegie Hall. Imagine being neighbors with artistic legends -- actors, painters, writers. Imagine living in one of those for fifty years, with your rent frozen at a mere $650 a month. $650. In Midtown Manhattan.

And then imagine it all being taken away.

That's how it was for the residents of the Carnegie Artist Studios a few years ago.

In 2007, the folks living there learned the owners of the building wanted to evict them and renovate, make practice rooms out of their apartments. Naturally, they put up a fight.

But in 2010, the tenants' battle came to a sad end. The corporates got their way. The artists would have to go. 

In 2011, one former Carnegie Studios resident put out a documentary: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-farr/a-sour-note-at-carnegie-h_b_863208.html

Warning... the trailer is depressing.

I've never even been to Carnegie Hall, but this makes me so sad. I can see the beauty that was in that place, those dwellings, those people. NYC had something really neat, there, and they've destroyed it. So not cool.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Random Things From My Childhood Part 7

Random Things From My Childhood, Part VII
(See Previous RTFMC Posts)

1. Candy Land

Why, it's as though someone went inside my very dreams and made a game out of their contents! :-D

Okay, mostly I just liked staring at the game board and drooling. The gameplay left something to be desired.

Oh, sweet, glorious candy... why were not you real?

2. Micro Machines

There's a lot of talk nowadays about assigning gender roles to kids and how buying them gender-specific toys may be harmful in some way or another. Well, I don't know much about that, but I'll tell you this... I had one brother, two years younger, and even though I was the one obsessed with watching Transformers on TV, he was the one who got a Transformer for his birthday. Even though I loved Tinkertoys and blocks, when holidays rolled around, he got Duplos and I got dolls. At first it didn't bother me, because I did like dolls, but one Christmas in particular I got rather annoyed. A relative asked me what I'd like for Christmas, and I told her model kits. When Christmas came, the relative gave me doll accessories... and my brother got the model kits.

Micro Machines, I remember, were one "boy toy" I was not going to let my brother get a foothold on, though. Sure, he's the one that got the giant Micro Machines city that looked like a toolbox and transformed into a sprawling metropolis. But I had spending money, and I made sure I got a few Micro Machines of my own. Sure, he had more, but he could be nice. Sometimes we'd line up all of the vehicles and take turns choosing our favorites. Then we'd scoot them up & down the ramps of that city, past the decals that were starting to peel off, over the bridge that never quite set right in its plastic mold, and down to the marina, where the pink and white micro-speedboat awaited passengers that would never come.

And then there was the guy in the commercials who talked super fast and was on Mathnet that one time. Classic.

3. Newton's Cradle Office Toy

If you had one of these in your home office, why, good sir, you had class.

4. "Movie Monster" for Commodore 64

I remember loving this game because you got to go around destroying things. It was like an early version of Grand Theft Auto. Only with monsters.

Years later, I would reminisce about old Commodore games with my brother, and be all like, "Hey, remember that one game with Godzilla where you could destroy a bunch of stuff?" And he'd say, "Movie Monster?" And I'd look up Movie Monster on the internet and go... "No... it can't be that... the game I remember was AWESOME, and that... isn't."

And then I'd remember that all Commodore games used to look awesome. Because that's all we knew.

Sigh... I guess we'll always have nostalgia to keep us warm.

5. Smokey Bear

Was anyone else afraid of Smokey Bear? I think it had something to do with the fact that he wore jeans and a hat but no shirt, how he always looked angry or somber, and maybe because our teachers/parents neglected to actually explain what the word prevent meant. For all I knew, prevent meant start. What I DID know was that there was this bigass scary bear who carried a shovel, whose name had to do with fire, who talked about fire a lot, and who liked to point at me. OKAY!! I WON'T PLAY WITH MATCHES!!! AUGH!!!! PLEASE DON'T HARM ME!!!!

(It should be noted that I was also afraid or suspicious of McGruff the Crime Dog, the Jolly Green Giant, Mr. Clean, and Mrs. Butterworth, for various reasons.

6. Tupperware Shape-O Sorter

We had one of these at church and it always frustrated me. I could get every shape to go in its proper slot, but once they were in, I lacked the strength and/or coordination to open the device and retrieve the shapes. A kids' toy that a kid can't even fully operate -- how has this lasted for so many generations? 

7. Super Soaker

Don't even think about bringing a mere water pistol to a neighborhood water fight, AMATEUR. The only way to show you mean business is to bring a Super Soaker. And not one of those off-brand fakery water guns, either. Only the original Super Soaker and its brethren. And the bigger number plastered to the side of it, the better. 20? Okay, sure... weakling. 50? Beeeettttterrrr. XP105? Okay... now you're just showing off.

8. Neapolitan Ice Cream

Because when it comes to flavors, why settle for just one? (Hint: Never Settle.)

9. Bike Flags

Before bike helmets became a thing, we were given bike flags. These were meant to make us be seen by drivers of cars. Be seen by drivers, the theory went, and you won't get hit by a car.

But apparently the flags didn't work all that well, because soon afterwards, they took away our flags and gave us helmets instead. It was like they were saying, Uh... so it turns out drivers are incorrigible morons. You're probably going to get hit at some point. Let's just try lessen the impact.

Plus the flag made it hard to park your bike in the garage. Or ride under tree branches. Or look remotely cool.

10. Nintendo Cereal

And again I say: Why settle?

Nintendo was such a huge deal when this cereal came out that even if your parents were too (frugal/strict/odd) to get you an actual NES, you still wanted the cereal. Kind of how little preschoolers play with toy phones and emulate their parents' phone conversations. We poor, NES-less children had to have the next-best thing: the limited-edition box of mutant corn puffs. BUT WAIT! IT'S TWO CEREALS IN ONE! Even if she didn't have a double coupon from Safeway, surely mom would see what a great deal it was!!!!

Or... not.


Thursday, April 11, 2013

All About Everything - Week Of April 10, 2013

"Tere Jo Duperrault became the most famous 11-year-old in the world in 1961, when she was rescued from the waters off Florida after almost four days without food or water. 

Almost 50 years later, the girl dubbed the "sea waif" by Life magazine, now Tere Duperrault Fassbender, is recounting the chilling story of her family's murder and her survival in a new book, "Alone: Orphaned on the Ocean."

"Everybody was told not to speak to me about it and so I never was able to talk about it," Fassbender said on NBC's "Today" show this morning. "It was always in my mind."

Fassbender is breaking her silence about the tragedy of the Bluebelle, the sailboat her family rented in November 1961. While enjoying a family vacation with her parents, brother and sister, the ship's captain, Julian Harvey, a pilot and war hero, murdered his wife and all of Fassbender's family. She awoke to find her family dead in pools of blood and Harvey pulling the plugs on the boat, preparing it to sink.

"I think he probably thought I would go down with the ship," she told NBC's Matt Lauer.

Instead, Fassbender now says she jumped onto a two-and-a-half-by-five-foot cork float, with the captain on her trail."

(Credit: AOL News/Michelle Ruiz)

* * * * *

I'm fascinated by survivor stories, and Terry Jo's is pretty epic. It's awful that her family was murdered, but it's incredible that she not only survived the massacre, but that she also survived three days on a tiny raft before being rescued, and was able to bring the truth to light.

In 2010, Tere (she changed the spelling of her name later in life) co-wrote a book about her ordeal. I read it and very much enjoyed it. It was scary, really, but very interesting. When she described having to sit in/on that tiny float for days, in which there was really only one position she could sit in because it was so small and she didn't want her legs to be in the water (sharks were nigh), and how every time she'd nod off for a bit of rest, she'd jerk awake, afraid of falling off the little float... wow. It makes me not want to complain about anything ever again.

If you like books about true crime, or books about inspirational people, Alone: Orphaned On The Ocean is the name of the book. I'd recommend it.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Normal's Relative

I used to Google myself every so often. (Tell me you haven't done it.) I don't know what I was ever expecting to see or find, but it's something I'd do. Usually all the sites Google found would be my own websites (...surprise!), or posts I'd made on message boards, or messages I'd left on websites' guestbooks. 

But as the internet expanded, the pool of Molly Pattons got bigger. Apparently, there are a bunch of us. I've stumbled across the pages of a lot of girls who are younger than I am, plus a plethora of old ladies' obituaries, ladies who were christened Mary but were called Molly, then (I assume) married a Patton. So, before long, my Google searches became even more pointless. I might find one page that was mine, and everything else was other Mollys. 

However, recently I decided to Google the name of my book, because I was curious about where it might be being seen or whatever. And I came across a blog whose name is the same as my book title. But here's the fun part: the blog's owner had referenced my book in a 2012 post in which she(?), half-jokingly(??) suggests(???) I stole the title of that blog for my book title, or, at the very least, didn't do my homework and properly Google the title beforehand, to make sure it wasn't being used by, you know, someone's... blog.

And it's funny, because, actually... I did Google it! I Googled it back in 2003 when the title of the novel came to me. Then, because I liked it, it stuck, and I wasn't going to keep Googling it year after year, going "Oh gee, I hope no one else has taken it!" I had it and I liked it, so I went with it for the next seven years till I finally put it out in the world. During that time, a TV show came out called South Of Nowhere, and that kind of gave me pause, but I decided it was different enough, and so I continued with my plans.

Fun fact: titles are actually one thing you can't copyright here in the U.S. Which means someone else could write a novel and name it the same thing as mine and I couldn't do a thing about it.

I couldn't find a way to leave a comment on that person's blog, though. Not that I felt it needed a response. I didn't do anything wrong, and I have physical proof that JSON's been the title of my book since 2004, when I took my first writing workshop. In the scheme of things, I suppose it really doesn't matter. But I guess -- like Anne with an e -- I don't enjoy being falsely accused. :(

It may be interesting to note, in the future, that JSON's sequel's planned full title -- which I hesitate to divulge yet, but whose acronym is SSFS -- yields exactly zero Google results. But will that still be true in a few* years when I finally finish it?

On a related note, I was going through my journals yesterday and was recalling the saga of he-who-shall-not-be-named, this kid I had an Internet War with over the summer of '98. We both had online fan clubs for the same TV show, and he would constantly accuse me of "stealing" his ideas for newsletters. Ideas such as "trivia" and "member profiles." He was always threatening to sue. If he hadn't been IN MIDDLE SCHOOL I don't know what I would've done.

I love you, Internet.

*= and by "few" I mean more like 79.8

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Diary Of A Young Dork (Age 16)

I'm re-reading my journal from age 16, thinking there might be something I can re-post here and be all nostalgic about. After all, 16 is exactly half of the age I am now.

But the more I read, the more awkward I feel, and the more I realize... MAN, I was dorky. Yeah, I still kind of am, but at least my current dork-self is one I'm fairly comfortable with. The 16-year-old dork is just... creeping me out.

But why should reading these make me uncomfortable? I was young and silly, then. I should be able to laugh about her now. But somehow I can't. That 16-year-old girl wasn't a totally different person. That was just an Early Me. Molly 1.0. She's still a part of me.

Sixteen-Year-Old Molly In A Nutshell

--She is obsessed with TV. Nearly every other journal entry is about the shows she watched that week and what she thought of them and what shows she's looking forward to watching. Her favorite TV shows as of 1/23/1997 are as follows: Lois & Clark, The X-Files, The Pretender, Sabrina The Teenage Witch, Ellen, Friends, Drew Carey, Something So Right and Caroline In The City.

--She likes listening to the radio. Her favorite songs are: When You're Gone by the Cranberries, Wannabe by the Spice Girls, Lovefool by the Cardigans, You Were Meant For Me by Jewel, Where Do You Go? by No Mercy, You Learn by Alanis Morissette, Hook and Runaround by Blues Traveler.

--She loves going online, via Compuserve, and reading messages on the L&C forums. She also enjoys going to "conferences" (aka officially-scheduled chatroom discussions.)

--Desperate to save her favorite TV show from cancellation, she's sent off multiple letters and postcards to the network and the production studio. (Gotta love that optimism. The show is cancelled.)

--She admits to having dreams about Egg McMuffins. (Actually, those sound pretty good right now.)

--ABC was running a bunch of shows with 3D sequences that spring, so she somehow procured the 3D glasses in order to enjoy them. (Didn't they come in cereal boxes or something? The 3D shows didn't get the ratings that were expected so the idea never progressed beyond that one week. Funny, though, that 3D is all "in" again in the 2010s.)

--She was beginning to collect Pez dispensers, and as of June of that year, had sixteen of them. (I stopped collecting them a few years later, when I had probably 100 but lost count.)

--That summer, her family switched from Compuserve to AOL. (AOL offered unlimited minutes, for one thing, and most of my friends and relatives had already migrated there. In those days, you pretty much only communicated with people who were on your ISP; the internet didn't seem as "connected" then as it is now. If someone was on a different ISP you could email them but not chat with them.)

--After a summer trip to Disneyland, she declared: "Disneyland was great! It was fun, getting to hang out with Amy and Emily. I got lotsa souvenirs, too. The best one? A Superman towel! Seriously! Is that cool or what??" (Hmmm.)

--She published her first web page, on Angelfire. (You know how they say everything you post on the internet lasts forever? Well, not 1997 Angelfire web pages, apparently. That thing is long gone, through no fault of my own. I remember also using Angelfire email in our high school computer lab to get around the school rule of: "No Hotmail." Haha remember Hotmail?)

That's about the gist of 16. Seventeen would hit and I'd become enamored with Titanic, Dawson's Creek, and Buffy.

But all this reading has made me want to go curl into a ball. So we'll just have to save seventeen for another day....

Friday, April 5, 2013

All About Everything - Week Of April 3, 2013

Today's Topic: The Great Gatsby

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

The Great Gatsby is a novel by American author F. Scott Fitzgerald. The story takes place in 1922, during the Roaring Twenties, a time of prosperity in the United States after World War I. The book received critical acclaim and is generally considered Fitzgerald's best work. It is also widely regarded as a "Great American Novel" and a literary classic, capturing the essence of an era. The Modern Library named it the second best English language novel of the 20th century.

The Great Gatsby received mostly positive reviews when it was first published[19] and many of Fitzgerald's literary friends wrote him letters praising the novel. However, Gatsby did not experience the commercial success of Fitzgerald's previous two novels, This Side of Paradise and The Beautiful and Damned, and although the novel went through two initial printings, some of these copies remained unsold years later.[20]
When Fitzgerald died in 1940, he had been largely forgotten. His obituary in The New York Times mentioned Gatsby as evidence of great potential that was never reached.[21] Gatsby gained readers when Armed Services Editions gave away around 150,000 copies of the novel to the American military in World War II.

[There is a film version of] The Great Gatsby, directed by Baz Luhrmann and starring Leonardo DiCaprioCarey Mulligan, and Tobey Maguire. It is set to be released on May 10, 2013.

* * * * *

So they had us read Gatsby in high school. Unfortunately, I rarely read anything I was supposed to read in HS. I somehow managed to read the first chapter of all the books and the BS my way through the discussions and tests. I don't know how. I am slightly ashamed of this, but I do wonder at the fact that it was possible to have even done so. (The same was true for math classes. I somehow managed to suck at it, and fail to understand the concepts, but to still make decent grades.)

Then came college, a whole different ballgame. There, you could rarely BS your way through anything, at least not without a low grade to show for it. So I figured out pretty quickly that I would have to study, and, you know, actually read the assigned books. This wasn't always easy -- I enjoy reading the things I want to read. Go figure. When it's an assignment, I tend to want to rebel. I remember in HS there were two instances in which we were allowed to choose our own books from a list, rather than get an assigned one. I totally read those books cover-to-cover. 

When University rolled around, and I found myself being assigned multiple novels, plays, short stories, poems, and essays each and every term, I (usually) got right down to it and read the darn things. Sometimes that happened the night before they were due, but I did read them. And lo, along came some of the novels we'd (supposedly) already gotten in high school -- here again to haunt us. And there, again, was Gatsby. And I thought, Okay, I can do this. And I read it. And it was really good! A bit depressing, yes, but good.

Ah, Leo... I was very interested in you in high school! 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Bricks Cascade 2013!

I attended Bricks Cascade (the Lego convention in Portland) the weekend of March 9th, 2013.

Here are the things I brought:

*There Was An Old Woman Who Lived In A Shoe
(Will probably go to BrickCon but I may modify it.)

*Rinth Island Model

*The Secret Laboratory of Dr. Charles Egbert Hinson III 
(Complete with secret bookcase passage! I'm not happy with the roof so I may modify this one... or add a second story.)

*Gingerbread House (which I profiled here)

*Fun House 2.0 (a bigger version of the fun house I made for BrickCon in October; I'll be retiring this one soon)

*Indiana Jones And the Lost Temple Of Something Or Other 
(I think I will bring this to the 2013 Brick Con; I might add to it.)

*Blue Moon Module
(since retired)

*Happy Sunny Magical Princess Castle
(Not sure what I'll do with this one. I like the scenery but I'm not totally happy with the actual castle.)

(photo by Wired For Lego)

My two favorite things about the convention this year:

*Participating in the competitions on Friday -- including the epic team build -- with my brother and my friend.

*Attending the public convention on Sunday, bringing along my 11- and 10-year-old cousinettes; getting to see my other cousin as well as my neighbors who all came to the convention. Yay moral support!

I had a good weekend and I am eager for BrickCon in... six lonnnng months.