it rings!


By Ogdard’s girth, it’s cold!

(Got that from the Random Thor Oath Generator. There is no Norse god named Ogdard; sounds like Osgard's hapless twin brother.) (Note: there is no such thing as the Random Thor Oath Generator. But there should be.) (Sigh. Now checking the interwebs to make sure there isn’t.) (By Gromnar’s Fistula, I find the results lacking! Someone get on this right away. A need goes unfilled? In this day and age?)

I did find this page, which shows how little I know about computers. Bottom Line: THOR is a storage and retrieval system. It is does not search for chemical information, which is the job of Merlin. What makes it work? Hash tables!

As I was saying: it’s just cold. That mean, bereft, dead-hard-heart of-January cold. (I had originally written shoot-a-man’s-crocodile-skinned-briefcase-for-the-sport-of-it cold, but once again, that’s a reference only seven people would get – eight if Mel Gibson reads the Bleat.) A man goes to smoke a cigar outside, and both ends freeze between puffs. To hell with it. On the other hand, I see that it’s 40 something in Arizona tonight; I like that. Cold enough for a leather jacket when you walk the dog. Warm enough so the dog’s nose doesn’t freeze. Poor fellow tried to find a place to leave a digestive edition tonight, had to balance his rear in the peaks and valleys of the frozen boulevard.

Of course, in Arizona he’d be shot on sight as a coyote.

There’s an ad on the local radio for a new Pet Crematorium. The services offered sound decent and respectful – they only do one pet at a time, and promise that you will only get the ashes of your pet. They don’t say that other pet crematoriums burn ‘em in batches and give you commingled ashes; they don’t have to. It’s a good enough ad, but I balk everytime the announcer invites us to “visit the crematoria” and see for myself, because crematoria visitation is just not high on my list of things to do.

When Jasper’s time comes – and may he live a thousand years, even if they’re dog ones - he will be interred under the odd rock in the backyard. It’s in the middle of the yard, and appears to be some sort of concrete residue from a long-gone project. Can’t quite figure out why it’s there, but there it is. It’s the spot where I light off the fireworks every year. I imagine the previous owners did the same – it’s just a natural platform, since it’s 12 inches in circumference and equidistant from anything that might go up in flames. So every Fourth we will remember him . . . by setting off the things he hated more than anything else in life. Jeez. Nevermind.

Longtime readers of this site may recall that I want useless, open-ended computer games that mirror the quotidian realities of ordinary life – but set in another age. A game that just lets you explore Manhattan in 1936. A game that lets you drive across country in 1955, stopping in at local diners, playing the jukebox. Such a thing would only be possible with much faster processors and perhaps some sort of multiplayer persistent universe, where other people could open up cafes or hardware stores and interact with you in ways no computer program could. A gigantic Society for Creative Anachronism, in other words.

Well, I just got closer to The Dream.

Rollercoaster Tycoon 3.

I’m serious. It has the much-desired “Sandbox” mode, which lets you play without hopping around like a flea on a flaming dog from one problem to the other, trying to fulfill the demands of the scenario. I played an earlier version of the game years ago when I had a PC, but quit abruptly when I had a mild case of the flu and had fever dreams about the game. Never went back. But since this version has open-ended play, I thought I’d give it a try. It has flaws – the interface sounds have a moist clickety sound that’s slightly unnerving, like someone running a Chiclet around his false teeth, and all the buttons are roundy-cutey and rather infantile; they’d be right at home on a My First Year diaper bag. But here’s the thing: you can get on the rides. Okay, so what? Well, when you build a midway, you put in the lights as you like, choose the foliage, the benches, where the ice cream store goes; you design everything to your specs, and as ugly as it might be, it’s utterly unique. When you switch to the viewpoint of a patron and get on the ride, that’s what you see. Your park. When you get to the top of the rollercoaster, you’re looking down on your park, not some static pre-made vista. The rides are going, the people milling around, the blunt polygonal fast-food clerks are pouring sodas, the clouds pass overhead. It’s an impressive achievement, and I’ve never seen anything like it in a game before. And at night! If you light the park correctly, it's like the Columbian Exposition.

What an expansion pack that would be.

I showed it to Gnat and said we could build our own Fair. It took her about 10 seconds to grasp the coolness of it all and 30 seconds to ask if she could sit in my chair and do it herself. I showed her how to build the entrances and exits to the rides, how to lay paths and activate the rides. Took a crowbar to get her off the machine. She was looking forward to doing it again tonight, and did nothing but talk about it all morning. When I picked her up from school she talked about it. When I took her to choir she talked about. (While she was at choir I began my own private park, arranged to my designs. Laid it out like the World’s Fair ’39, as best as I could, built all the light rail and walkways; like SimCity, it brings out my inner Robert Moses.) She got to play after she did her homework, and built her own park. We rode the rides – the rollercoasters are incredible, especially on a 30” monitor, and she grabbed my neck and shrieked with delight. A good way to spend a January evening.

Me, I could stay up until 3 AM on this thing, tweaking and planning.

Say, I owe you some screen shots, don’t I? Don’t know if I can – it’s one of those programs that takes over the computer, thereby betraying its PC origins. Let me go try.

Note to world: attempting screen grabs of RCT3 on the Mac freezes the system and requires a reboot.

Long day – filed four columns, and now I’m going to attack the email. See you tomorrow. I know, I know: all very lame. If nothing else, my contribution to the language will be the phrase “as lame as a Wednesday Bleat.” Ah, sure, he meant well, but t’was as lame as a Wen’sday Bleat, t’was.

Ah, shut up, ya fargin’ Leprechaun.

on Monday
on Tuesday


c. 2005 j. lileks .