Saturday, September 30

A little catching up

+ I see, when looking at Google Maps of Europe, that they seem to be making an effort to label countries and cities as much in their native language as possible, including Greek and Cyrillic letters. But isn't it kind of arbitrary? Eg, why 'Ukraine' in Roman letters, but 'Kiev' in Cyrillic?

+ Wish I was watching the big game tonight with all of my Hawkeye and OSU fan friends. On the OSU side it'd be Pete and Jim. On the Hawkeye side, there's too many to list. I hope Iowa finds a way to win by playing out of their heads. But I don't expect it.

In fact, I won't be watching the start at all. We have a wedding to go to...

+ REALLY cool, 90 second, animated Flash map: Those who've ruled the Middle East over the last 5000 years (via CA).

It would be interesting to rank the top 10 empires of history, judged by size, power, and longevity...

+ I really like the Bloglines upgrade: more Ajaxy delineation of content through formatting.

What is my problem?

Why am I not posting? Not sure. I've been playing a fair amount of Alpha Centauri. We were out of town last weekend. Don't know. We've seemed busier...

My nice friend, Kathy, even asked me to come back.

Anyhow, let me break the silence, which you may have enjoyed, with this morning's playlist:

Rhinestone Cowboy - Glen Campbell (I always get him and Kris Kristofferson mixed up in my mind...)
If you leave - OMD
Policy of truth - Depeche Mode
Zombie - The Cranberries (ahh, the crunchy 90s...)
(by happenstance, those four might be in chronological order)
Kids in America - Kim Wilde

Thursday, September 21


Don't forget, tomorrow is Bilbo's and Frodo's birthday.

Wednesday, September 20


Not sure why I got served this ad...

A 4-Chambered Piggy Bank

The Money Savvy Pig is the piggy bank for the 21st century.

But, I can testify that it's a really great product. We have these and really like them.

The 4 chambers are Save, Spend, Donate and Invest. Great visual object lesson. Your child gets a dollar. Break it into dimes. Have them put 1 in Save, 1 in Donate, 1 in Invest, and then they can decide how to allocate the remaining 7. Or you can decide together. Great way to teach about money and to regularize your family's values. (Now, if only you adults would do so well... ;-)

Now, I'm not real concerned about teaching 7 year-olds to invest as long as they are learning to Donate and Save. Plus, at our house, so far, they want to save up for American Girls and Nintendo games, so there's not much immediate Spending.

I think I'm ready to share now...

I have been conducting a little experiment with Google Ads and myself.

I started a new (!) weblog called Google ad voyeur.

I have seen a lot of interesting Google ads, especially in Gmail, so I thought I'd try this.

My original plan was to also serve Google Ads in the sidebar. Silly me. Google denied me an AdSense account. I wasn't going for click fraud, but I guess they're justifiably worried about it.

I may look into serving some other ads, just to add to the data stream.

What do you think? Is this interesting to you at all? Think I'll be able to quit my day job? ;-)

Weight loss report

Well, my weight loss has slowed down a little, but I'm still on the wagon. The wedding that was our target date is this saturday and we'll all be getting together.

My goal was to have lost 1 pound a week for 11 weeks and be down to at most 199 by today.

Well, as you already know if you've been reading, the first 10 pounds went really fast. I forget the specifics, but I changed my goal to by 195 by this friday.

Today on the scale, I was 193 or 194 (our scale's not very accurate).

So that's really good. Good job, me!

The plan: hold the line 'til this weekend. Party a little for my brother's wedding (but try not to go nuts). Recommit next week to lose at least a pound a week, including adding some exercise of some sort (maybe dumbbells).

9 weeks to Thanksgiving. Let's shoot for an even 10 more pounds by then, 185 or less.

Monday, September 18


You read another post like Steve's on the MPAA and the RIAA and their persistent stupidity (my interpretation, not Steve's) and you just keep shaking your head.

But then you see that Warner will work with YouTube to show videos and share the advertising revenue . And you think 'Somebody gets it!'

I mean, no one's watching those videos anyhow. Put them to work for yourself


You read another post like Steve's on the MPAA and the RIAA and their persistent stupidity (my interpretation, not Steve's) and you just keep shaking your head.

But then you see that Warner will work with YouTube to show videos and share the advertising revenue . And you think 'Somebody gets it!'

I mean, no one's watching those videos anyhow. Put them to work for yourself.

3 important issues (and 1 cool tour)

+ Mark had a great post that began:

Does anyone out there have a good explanation for the intellectual exhaustion that prevails in our national political class, Left and Right?

+ Stuart has a good post about global warming scare tactics and assumptions .

Since this is such an obvious danger what can we do about it?

+ Curzon of Coming Anarchy got a civilian tour of the USS Kitty Hawk while it's on active duty. He posted some cool pictures, too. How great is that?!

+ Chirol of Coming Anarchy has the strongest repudiation I've seen of the current flap about the Pope's quote . I probably wouldn't have put it that strongly, but it's hard to disagree.

I felt a little sympathy for the complainers about the Denmark cartoons because the intent to ridicule was there (albeit basically justly).

These complaints are, to use Chirol's word, 'idiotic', because the Pope did not intend to insult at all and, indeed, was calling for calm dialogue.

(Ahh! I quoted Chirol's use of the word 'idiotic'! Now I'm guilty, too! ;-)

9/11 follow-up

President Bush's speech

In Memoriam - mp3 post including music by Arvo Part and John Williams

Lexington Green, in this comment (on a post by Steven Den Beste(!)), links Strategy Page's assessment of the War on Terror. While I think their assessment is a little too enthusiastic, I fully agree that the Middle East has changed for the better since 9/11. This is an argument that Tom often makes. Even in Palestine, for example, we've got something different from the ineffectual Fatah party. True, it's Hamas. Let's see them build a state. Maybe their people will tire of them, too. It's easier to tear a state down than build one. Let's see Hezbullah build a state, something tougher than providing relief in the wake of the wrath of the Israeli army that Hezbullah themselves brought down upon the Lebanese people.

Friday, September 15

Catching up

I wonder how many stored-up links I can give you...

Let's do Iowa City first.

+ I say it here, it comes out up there. Remember when I wrote that the UofI should buy the Old Capitol Mall? They're headed that way - up to 62% now . This is best for everyone: the owners, the UofI, downtown Iowa City, even the tenants. Plus, there's some prime parking in that deck...

+ They're bringing in a portable cell phone tower to help with all of the demand during the Iowa-ISU game.

+ Coming Anarchy had an interesting post a looong time back. Let me give you this quote for the flavor:

While Chinese, Indian, Korean and other Asian Universities are graduating millions of engineers and scientists every year, Western Universities have been reduced to "hippie factories" teaching about the evils of the West.

I see where that thread has 35 comments, too.

+ defective yeti had two funny posts recently. One about going to the dentist/oral surgeon (Christine said she laughed so hard she couldn't breathe, but she has dental issues), and one about the Squirrelly and bear toy body parts.

+ The Economist has a REALLY funny article on what flight attendants would announce if they were being honest.

+ Electronic table for massive flexibility in gaming. Imagine being able to change a board anytime you wanted...

+ If you've never seen the Old Glory Robot Insurance for Seniors spoof tv ad from SNL, you're missing out...

+ This is ancient, but thanks to Jaq for linking me with other Pluto sentiments.

+ Jason had a great post about his son's enjoyment of their new basketball hoop. If Clay practices as much as his old man used to, he'll be great.

+ Dan, a conservative who likes to come strong, wrote Another Reason to Despise the Republican Congress .

+ More love: my personalized Google home page now has tabs. Hubba hubba!

search for links

Wednesday, September 13

Arguing with Jim

My good buddy, Jim, has posted some provocative anti-Bush administration stuff lately (is that a fair description, Jim?). Though I'm not a Bush supporter, I don't fall in with Tom Tomorrow or Keith Olbermann either, and I said so. So Jim posted more about his intentions, and I made this comment, that I crosspost here:

hmm. are you driving me a little crazy? maybe, but maybe i was taking this too seriously. maybe i should not have assumed that these videos were representative of your views, or close to them.

you and i have very different positions on this. i *despise* the 'entertainment/politics' of the right and left; Rush, Coulter, O'Reilly, Franken, Moore, whoever. not only do i have no use for these people (and Olbermann in this op/ed), but i think they do the electorate a great disservice by representing themselves as sincere. they may be self-consciously entertaining, but too many people take these people's word as gospel. i have no use for those who contribute more noise than signal to the political discussion.

i think it's fascinating that you view the media as soft on Bush, while those on the right constantly decry the 'liberal media'. i tend to think the media is fair to hard on Bush. my diagnosis? you'll hate it... it's the people who don't care. we get the media, and the government, that we want and deserve.

'The government has engaged in some dangerous, and illegal activity since 9/11 as well as making some terrible mistakes.'

i fully agree. further, i agree that we could easily overreact in the war on terror and move toward tyranny and fascism. indeed, this would be a partial fulfillment of the terrorists' desires.

though i disagree with these specific calls to action, i greatly respect your intention and desires. i would not say you are not good at pushing people. you pushed me ;-)

Monday, September 11

In memoriam: September 11th, 2001

I don't plan on saying anything brilliant or really touching in this post. I simply want to observe this fifth anniversary of our most recent national tragedy. Video and audio clips from that day still move me.

We remember the victims of those attacks. We remember those who gave their lives above Pennsylvania to stop the fourth hijacking. We remember those who responded to the crises, many of whom bravely gave their lives. We remember those who live on in grief. We remember those who fight and serve at home and on foreign soil to defend and to attack.

Here are some of the posts I have seen and liked today:

The Greatest Multinational Economic & Political Union in the World

Recommended Reading: Remembering 9/11

Five years in, remembering why we'll win

A memory to observe

Remembering 9/11

Friday, September 8

Various and sundry

I've been out of it for a while - pretty busy. Here are a few links I haven't logged yet:

+ I emailed the defective yeti post about going to the dentist/oral surgeon to Christine, and she replied that she laughed so hard she couldn't breathe.

+ Bradd/Steve have a great point about the reason our all-volunteer force has so many flags .

+ This Labor Day mp3 post listed included Finest Worksong (which 1. Is pretty awesome, and 2. I listened to on Labor Day).

+  I hadn't clicked over to for a long time. Doing so, I see they've upgraded some, including header images. I think the Yellow stands out quite nicely, don't you? ;-)

+ Started listening to Sufjan Stevens' Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing the other day and Wil said 'What's this country music?' Weird. I said something like 'How do you know this is country music?' But he couldn't really answer it.

+ New tagline for me: The SysAdmin for the guy who advocates a SysAdmin force ;-)

Wednesday, September 6

More thoughts on Settlers of Catan strategy

Jumping off of the guide I mentioned before:

One approach to scarce resources:

If for example ore was only produced on 2, 10, & 12 then it is likely to be in short supply. Therefore you will want to try to ensure that you produce some if you can by placing one of your initial settlements next to that 10 hex. Otherwise it will be expensive to trade for the ore via other players, the ports or the bank.

Road placement

If in doubt (or because you're placing early) it is generally a good idea to place the road pointing towards the edge of the board as other players are less likely to build on the coast and block you in.

You can place your settlements in such a way that they block your opponents. Since settlements must be at least two sides apart, you can easily block future placement options for your opponents. Instead of taking the highest probability intersection and hoping to get to the next highest one two sides away, you might decide to place your settlement in the middle of those two and take command of all three of those intersections.

While I have advocated probability analysis, Octavian's approach seems a little overboard. It's hard to argue with his logic. I'll try by saying, in the games I've played, there's usually more competition for the lumber and brick than the ore and grain. And maybe the increased production from cities makes up for the extra resources needed. But my guesses aren't very scientific.

Next up from the BGG site: Thoughts on trade.

Settlers of Catan Strategy

[Not sure any of my regular readers are going to be interested in this. If not, feel free to skip it. ;-) Otherwise, it's just in here for folks to (maybe) find via Google. And for me to write it because I thought it.]

I've gotten a little more into Settlers since I bought the online version that I can play on my laptop against 3 computer opponents. Being able to play these quick and easy games against easy opponents has helped me to get a better grip on the dynamics of the game.

To get even geekier about all of this, I started looking around at a few strategy guides. And I wanted to write up the strategy approach that I think is most important for SoC. Plenty, maybe even all, of the strategy guides touch on it. But they tend to list lots of factors. Let me boil it down, to start with, to two main emphases.

BoardGameGeek has the best introduction to Settlers of Catan strategy (begun by Mark Stretch) that I have read so far. It inspired me to write this post. There are lots of great pointers over there.

What is the secret to SoC's replayability? What is its genius?

Simple: the board changes every time. The mechanics are basic. It's the changing board, made up of shuffle-able hexes, that makes the game fresh each time.

So what is the key to winning consistently going to be?

All together now: analyzing the unique layout before the game and adapting your tactics thereto.

Of the posts in that thread, Bob Probst's comes closest to this priority.

How plentiful will each resource be, based on probability?

A simple tool will suffice here. The Mayfair version of the game has dots to represent probability. 6s and 8s get 5 dots. 5s and 9s get 4 dots, etc. For a quick and dirty assessment of an intersection, add up the dots.

Same deal with pregame analysis of resources. How many probability dots for wool, lumber, brick, ore, and grain?

Only then will you BEGIN to be able to determine your best strategy for victory. (My point being, if you always want to play the ore/grain/city strategy detailed below, whether it's best or not, you can certainly choose that.)

The next major determiner of tactics will be your position of initial setup. First move doesn't have a lot of choice: Pick the best spot on the board, build your road toward the coast where it MIGHT not get stumped, and wait and see what you've got 6 (in a 4-player game) plays later. Fourth and fifth move has the most choice and can work her placements together.

So, what are you going to do?

The most basic strategy is try to get some of each resource with an early emphasis on brick and lumber to build more roads and settlements. This approach will often try to grab Longest Road. If more than one person is using this strategy, beware the Neverending Longest Road Battle. That's a great way to lose.

Something to remember: in non-expanded SoC, wool is the least valuable resource. You use 1 for a settlement and 1 for a development card. Otherwise, generally speaking, unless you're going to have a 3:1 port or a 2:1 wool port, you don't want to emphasize wool production.

The other basic strategy is to emphasize ore and grain production thereby upgrading to cities. With an occasional wool, you can buy Development Cards. The strategy guides worry that you'll attract the robber this way, but that's one of the reasons you're buying Development Cards. You chase off the robber and grow your army toward Largest at the same time. Conservatively, let's say that gets you to 4VPs for cities, + 2 for Largest Army, + 1 or 2 for miscellaneous VPs from Development Cards. That puts you in the neighborhood of 8, within striking distance of victory.

An even better strategy, if you can work it, is to grab 1 or 2 more good intersections for settlements early on. You might have to do some trading to get enough lumber and brick (at least 2 of each per segment of road and settlement and assuming you're not worrying about joining your roads), which will delay city upgrades, but it may be worth it.

I think this second strategy is more fun, especially if you're playing with people who don't play a lot. While they're duking it out for lumber and brick, you can be cruising.  Plus, it's fun to get Development Cards.

But, again, to bring this full circle, you don't want to go for this strategy (if you want to win) if ore and/or grain are going to be scarce.

There. That's a start. Do you feel more educated? ;-)

The Sound of Mixed-Up Lyrics

Ken's got a post about The Sound of Music. Now, I am a veritable font of SoM stories, having played Kurt twice, in third and fifth grade.

However, my favorite SoM story comes from college and I emailed it to Ken. Since I wrote it up, thought I may as well post it here, too, right? ;-)

German teacher from our college (Wartburg) goes to Salzburg with some students. They take the SoM tour and sing songs from the musical. Do Re Mi. They get to 'Ti' and she sings the lyrics she has thought they were her whole life...

Tea - a drink with Jan and Fred.


You're welcome, and have a great day.