December 2006 Archives looks a little something just like this:

The beard is not at all well-kept; I haven't been shaving the neck or cheek area, nor trimming the beard part. This is because the beard is essentially the result of my taking a hiatus from shaving around Thanksgiving. Now that finals are winding down, I'm planning to shave it off again. It's far too itchy and I don't really like the way the hair comes in (Too thin and scraggly and in annoying colors, particularly around the lips).

On the other hand, it's been a pretty warm winter so far, but will probably get colder by the time I come back here in early January. Maybe a little extra hair would be nice to have around in cold weather...


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I haven't been sleeping much, lately. Saturday night I got about four hours of sleep. Last night I got two. Tonight I was set to go to bed around 11, then woke up about half an hour later and wound up at a chinese restaurant eating curry noodles. Then I was REALLY going to bed at around 1, but somehow wound up in the living room playing Metal Slug until 5 in the morning. I have to wake up at 9 tomorrow to take another take-home exam, so this is looking like another 4 hour sleep night.

What's weird is that I'm not really tired at all. Well, it does tend to hit me when I wake up in the morning, but after a shower I'm awake and alert and ready to stay up 24 hours if need be. It's quite probable that once finals are done I'll crash and sleep for a week straight, but I sort of wouldn't mind being able to keep this schedule. I kind of hate sleeping, since it feels like I'm wasting my life when I'm asleep. When I'm on a two-hours-a-night schedule I can both get a lot more productive work done and have more leisure time.

Slow-motion Disaster

Right now there's an eBay listing for an incredible bundle of video game consoles, games, and peripherals. The entry is here. It includes a brand new, unopened Playstation 3, an XBox 360, an XBOx, a GameCube, a Dreamcast, a PS1, a Nintendo 64, a Super Nintendo, an NES, two Nintendo DSes (both DS Phat and DS Lite), a PSP, two GBAs (regular and SP), a Game Boy Pocket, a Game Boy Color, a Game Boy Printer, a Sega Game Gear, a Neo Geo Pocket, and a Virtual Boy. It also includes a rather large inventory of games for each of those systems. The bidding starts at $25,000, and if you purchase it for the Buy It New price of $75,000 he'll throw in a brand-new Wii.

This collection is the result of a lifetime of video gaming on the sellers part. So why is he unloading it? "Well, the only reason I'm considering selling this collection is to have enough money to buy my girlfriend of 3 years the engagement ring she deserves this Holiday. I hope to surprise her on Christmas Day with the perfect ring and proposal (and having some extra money to help pay for the wedding wouldn't hurt either). So really, when you think about it, not only are you getting so many videogames ... but you're also investing in a love that will flourish for a lifetime."

Wow. I mean, that certainly dedication, but this seems like a really... unwise choice to make. I could understand cleaning out your collection of games you don't like much or don't play anymore to raise some money. But this is selling off his entire hobby, that he's been engaged in for probably about 20 years. Still, I can see it being rational to cut off all ties to video gaming if he'a taken a look at things, decided he really has completely lost interest in video games, and is certain he's not going to regain it again.

But the circumstantial evidence makes me really doubt that that has happened. Look at what's on offer. The Playstation 3 is noted as unopened. The XBox 360 is not. The 360 came out last Christmas, so he was in the market for (expensive) new consoles within the last year. He also bought the $500 version of the 360, the choice of the more hardcore gamer. And he's offering 16 360 games in the lot, including Gears of War, which came out only about a month ago. Unless he bought GoW exclusively to sweeten the pot for this sale (which seems unlikely, given the magnitude of the collection), that means he was still very much into video games as of a month ago at the earliest. So his decision to expunge the hobby from his life seems to have come quite recently.

Needless to say, I think this is all a very bad idea, and not just from the perspective of a video game player. Making a sacrifice for your significant other can be fine, but making an enormous, outsized sacrifice for your significant other could lead to a lot of resentment down the line. What happens after Christmas, after the glow from the incredibly selfless gift that he made has worn off and life continues with his fiancee (and, eventually, wife)? What happens when he wakes up and realizes that perhaps he wasn't ready to give up on video games after all? I obviously don't know him, and don't know how he'll react, but it seems like there'd be a high probability of getting extremely resentful over it. There would, I think, be a great tendency to link the marriage and the fiancee to the loss of video games, and to place her as being responsible for it.

I obviously don't know him, don't know her, don't know anything about their relationship. For all I know, this is a very smart and mature move to make and will lead only to happiness down the line. Still, I would argue that in general one should be cautious about making large, possibly unneccessary sacrifices in the name of romantic gestures.

I Like Vegetables

Hey! According to the BBC, a study has shown that high IQ correlates with vegetarianism. The study gave IQ tests to a group of over 8000 children in the 70s, then went back and took their demographic information when they hit 30. The average IQ of the children who grew up to be vegetarians was 5 points higher than the average IQ of the non-vegetarians.

Some caveats: First, the demographic data gathered in the second stage counted everyone as a vegetarian who claimed to be one, rather than defining a criterion for vegetarianism and determining who was one based on that. This makes sense, because there are a great many flavors of vegetarianism, so to speak. This means that people who eat meat or fish, but who self-identify as vegetarians, are counted as vegetarian. In any case, it doesn't seem to have made much difference in the results.

Also, it's hard to tell how much of a correlation vegetarianism specifically had. Apparently, a good amount of the IQ differential could be accounted for by class and educational differences. When class and educational difference are controlled for, however, there is still apparently a positive correlation between vegetarianism and higher IQ. They don't give the post-control values for that, though.

I like the quote at the end from Dr. Frankie Phillips of the British Dietetic Association: "It is like the chicken and the egg. Do people become vegetarian because they have a very high IQ or is it just that they tend to be more aware of health issues?"

First, it's an interesting choice of simile, given the topic. Second, I'm not sure if he's using Chicken-and-Egg right, here. Chicken-and-Egg tends to be "Does A cause B, or does B cause A?" Here, he's asking whether High IQ causes Vegetarianism or whether High IQ causes Health Consciousness, which causes Vegetarianism. So his question is more "Does A cause B directly, or does A cause C, which in turn causes B?" The proper Chicken-and-Egg formulation of the High IQ-Vegetarianism correlation would be "Does having a High IQ cause you to become Vegetarian, or does becoming a Vegetarian cause you to have a High IQ?"

Oh, wait, no it doesn't.

More Songs About Video Games and Food

A few items that may be of some interest:

Through the internet, I've just learned about a fascinating easter egg. There is a simple little song that shows up in a good number of games created by Nintendo, spanning at least 14 years. What the games all have in common is that their music was composed by a man named Kazumi Totaka. Hence, the song has been nicknamed Totaka's Song.

What's interesting about Totaka's Song is that it isn't a motif, a theme that worms its way into the games's soundtracks. Rather, the song is hidden in the games, generally in its original 8-bit form. Finding it could mean clicking somewhere where you're not supposed to click, or going to a certain screen and waiting for 3-5 minutes until the song starts playing. The song has been found in nearly every game that Totaka has worked on (and people are still searching for it in the games that he has worked on where it hasn't been uncovered yet).

I learned about the song through the blog, where they've made three videos now setting explaining the song's history and demonstrating it in various games. The first video can be found here and follow-up videos can be found here and here. The latest piece of the puzzle is that Totaka did the music for Wii Sports, the Wii's pack-in game in America. I'm now struggling to restrain myself from loading it up and sitting on all the various menu screens for 5 minutes at a time in the hopes of hearing it. Though, really, that would be a somewhat passive activity. I could probably do it while studying. Hmmmmm....

This morning I woke up with a strong urge to eat a tomatillo. Fortunately, I have some tomatillos on my windowsill in the kitchen, so I ate one. It was like eating a slightly-sour, green plum with no pit, and without the hardness of flesh one associates with a sour plum.

For those who are fans of 2D platformers, and especially those who are fans of 2D platformers that can be played on their computers, free of charge, using the arrow keys, Nintendo has created a winter-themed platformer called Mission in Snowdriftlad. You play a snowman in a bellhop hat making his way through a platformer world, avoiding the usual gamut of strange, cartoony creatures who don't like you for some reason. It's also a sort of advent calendar, with a new level being added every day through Christmas Eve. It's quite well made for a free on-line game, and you win various wallpapers, MP3s, and other such for finishing levels. Also, ads for Nintendo games appear in a side-window, so that's the corporate angle to the game. Still, fun, free, and computerized if that's your thing.

Urge to Post... Rising...

This article has created a minor ripple in the feminist blogosphere. I'm a little too tired and have too much studying to do to write a long post about it, but I'd be interested in what people think of it. I'm also interested in people's reaction to the reaction, examples of which can be found here (at Salon; must watch ad to read), here, and here.

Fight, Molten Boron! For Everlasting Peace!

I'm waiting for my Criminal Investigations exam to start, in approximately 10 minutes. I'm almost sort-of prepared for it! I'm taking 5 exams, Criminal Investigations today, Corporations Friday, Professional Responsibility Take-Home (8 hours) Monday, Anthropology and the Law Take-Home (8 hours) Tuesday, and Evidence Thursday.


*Grumble Grumble*

The Virtual Console is one of the more insidious features of the Nintendo Wii (about which I will post more once I no longer have 5 finals to take in the span of a week and a half). The VC, as it is known on the street, is a very sophisticated complex of emulators built into the firmware of the Wii, coupled with user-friendly front-end for purchasing and downloading content from Nintendo.

Which is to say: The Wii can play absolutely perfect renditions of games for the NES, the SNES, the N64, the Sega Genesis, and the TurboGrafx16. You can purchase games for the Virtual Console through Nintendo's on-line store, which you access directly from your Wii. You easily click through a couple of menus, select a game, and download it to your system. From them on, the game is available right on the front page when you boot up the Wii; no need to insert or remove discs, just turn on the Wii, point to the game you want to play, hit the A button, and suddenly you're playing a rendition of the game that is essentially indistinguishable from playing the game on the original console. The only way it differs from the original experience is that, first, you'll be playing on a Wii-compatible controller (the Wii remote, the Wii classic controller (looks like an SNES pad with a pair of analog sticks on the bottom), or a Gamecube controller) and second the graphics have been altered to actually work on a modern television set. If you've tried hooking up an old console to an HDTV (and who among us hasn't?) you'll discover that the results are quite gruesome. VC-emulated games are modified to look the same on a High Definition television as they did on an analog TV coming out of the original console. So, the only alterations are designed to make the experience more authentic than it would be with direct emulation.

What's insidious about the system is that you now have a library of classic games available through your Wii, ready to be purchased at any time, day or night. You can wake up at 3 in the morning, decide you feel like playing Mario 64, stagger to the living room in your underpants, and five minutes later (and $10 poorer), you can be playing the game. Normally, when making a purchse, you're faced with a trade-off between physical effort and instant gratification. If you want a game/book/whatever right now, you have to throw on clothes and trek to a store during normal business hours. If you want the convenience of internet shopping, you have to wait for the item to ship to you. The VC provides easy access and instant gratification. The only reason I still have money for rent is that the library is currently fairly modest; only 25 games are available, and not many of them are A-grade. Still, Nintendo has promised to add at least 4 new games for download every Monday at noon, and thus far they've kept that promise. By this time next year, the Virtual Console will have at least 200 games available for download.

With this as background, Friday night at 4 AM I found myself entering my credit card number into the Wii to purchase $20-worth of games. The next day I found myself at the post office shipping a package, only to discover that my credit card no longer resided in my wallet. Apparently I'd left it in the living room after making my purchase, even though I explicitly told myself to remember to put it back as I took it out the night before.

I spent the last couple of hours scouring my room and the living room for my card, but no success so far. Unfortunately, between when I lost it and when I began searching for it in earnest both my roommate and I have independently taken stabs at cleaning up the living room. I haven't seen my roommate since he did his part of the clean-up, so I haven't been able to ask if he saw the card and put it anywhere. I just hope that neither of us unwittingly threw it out.

It isn't the end of the world; I still have my debit card, and prefer to pay in cash in any case. One practicaly upshot, though: So long as I don't have my credit card, I can't blow any more money on Virtual Console games.

Huh. Via J. Bradford Delong, apparently LibraryThing has created an UnSuggester, which examines the book collections of LibraryThing members and determines, based on a given book, the books least likely to be found in the same collection. Thus, if you own Book A, you're incredibly unlikely to also own Book B.

Delong discovered that if you own a copy of Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand then according to LibraryThing the book you are least likely also to own is Where's my Cow? by Terry Pratchett. This result surprises me just a little, because if you had asked me before hand I would have thought that there would be a loose correlation between Ayn Rand fandom and Terry Pratchett fandom. I associated Ayn Rand fannishness with a certain strain of high-tech internet libertarianism, which in turn I tend to think correlates with geekishness. Similarly, I tend to think Pratchett fandom correlates with a certain strain of nerdery. Therefore, I would think that there would be a decent number of fans both of Pratchett and of Ayn Rand, simply by dint of shared dorkitude. Nonetheless, if LibraryThing is accurate, not only does a positive correlation not exist but there's actually a negative correlation.

I would assume at least part of this can be explained by failures on LibraryThing's part; not a large enough sample, flawed methodology, etc. Still, though, I'm sure there are at least some Pratchett fans that will be happy to know of their repugnance to Ayn Rand people. And vice versa, apparently.

Also, people who like the absurd, rambling, discursive, proto-Douglas Adams stylings of Jerome K. Jerome's Three Men in a Boat are also highly unlikely to enjoy the offbeat witiness of the poems of Shel Silverstein. This makes me somewhat more dubious about LibraryThing's results.

Throw Your Life Away For Justice!

I now have two jobs for next summer! I will be splitting my summer between two employers; the first 8 weeks will be spent with the Justice Department for the Southern District of New York, Criminal Division. The remainder of the summer I'll be interning with LeBeouf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae. This will mean significantly less money, but a greater diversity of experience. So, yay!

Roads and Boats, Together At Last

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The board game club was appropriated a goodly amount of money to spend on new games this semester, and today our shipment finally arrived. Behold! $400-worth of board games!

I couldn't fit everything on the table, so I had to stack some games on top of others, obscuring the box art for Roads & Boats and Mare Nostrum.

So, we have Ys, Hacienda, The End of the Triumvirate, Commands & Colors Ancients, Roads & Boats, Mare Nostrum, Antike, The Scepter of Zavandor, Masons, and Blue Moon City. Most expensive of the lot? Roads & Boats. By far. Roads & Boats cost $90 from Thought Hammer, which means that it costs about $135 from anywhere else. What do you get for that money? Rule books and scenario books in English and German, four bi-lingual quick reference cards, 1259 assorted wooden bits, cardboard chits, and glass beads, several dozen small baggies to sort and store the afforementioned 1259 assorted wooden bits, cardboard chits, and glass beads, a giant rolled-up sheet of plastic to lay overtop the hexagons you use to make the map, and one black erasable marker to draw your roads on the afforementioned plastic sheet. According to the box, the game takes about 4 hours to play. And if you can't find a friend, the game helpfully includes several solitaire scenarios.

I honestly don't know that much about these games. Hopefully they're good; people on Board Game Geek seem to like them. Theme-wise, of the 10 games we've got 4 Ancient World-themed games (Triumvirate, Command & Colors, Mare Nostrum, and Antike), 3 Fantasy-themed games (Ys, Blue Moon City, and Scepter of Zavandor), 1 Medieval-themed game (Masons), 1 New-World Farming-themed game (Hacienda), and one... um... giant transportation-themed game with no connection to any particular location or time period (Roads & Boats).

Done with Classes!

As of 1 PM this afternoon, I am finished with all the lectures for the fall semester of my second year of law school. I am done with class.

Now, all that remains for this semester is to do the actual work that will comprise the entirety of my grades for all my classes.

In a sense, law school is like making people run a marathon, but not starting the clock for each individual runner until the final 100 meters. So the other 26 miles is find and dandy, but the only thing that counts is your performance in the sprint at the end.

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