Ides of March Morbidity

During the holiday season, I got to thinking about nativities, and what other holidays could possible have that sort of decoration, with all the little statuettes assembled to form a scene.  My favorite pieces of artwork tend to be tangible pieces, like statues, so I really like the art of nativities, but I’m an atheist, so I don’t have any desire to actually own or display one.

The first holiday that came to mind was the Ides of March, with Julius Caesar’s assassination.  I think it’d be neat to have a little miniature senate, with a small statue of Pompey for everything to happen under, and then a collection of statuettes depicting Caesar, Brutus, Cassius, and the other senators involved in the assassination.

Maybe it’s just because I’m both morbid and a history fan, but I’d like it.  What do you think?

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Nuclear Gift Ideas

John Kutensky

I’ve had an interest in nuclear war and bombs for a while now (purely theoretical, of course), and with Christmas coming up, I thought it might be useful to collect some of the more interesting books, movies, and knick-knacks I’ve come across that might be of interest to you or anyone you know who’s as fascinating by the thermonuclear as I am.


Dr. StrangeloveDoctor Strange, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb is probably the best known movie about nuclear war.  It’s one of my favorites.  Darkly humorous, Peter Sellers and Stanley Kubrick make this movie something special.  Back when I worked at a summer camp, the teacher showed the students this film, and the TA and I spent the class in the back laughing.  Unfortunately, the students didn’t seem to enjoy it quite as much.

On the Beach and Fail-Safe are too more movies from…

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Fan-Made Short Films About Games

Lately I’ve seen two really good fan-made short films about games, and I wanted to share them.  The first is Terrible Fate, about Majora’s Mask.  I really like it.  Gorgeous models.  Amazing music.  And Majora’s Mask is suitably creepy.  The only thing I don’t really like is that I feel Skull Kid is a little too innocent, and that’s a criticism I saw elsewhere, too.  It was a deliberate decision by Ember Lab to show him as a victim of Majora’s evil, too.  But in my head, Skull Kid was mischievous before he got the mask, and the biggest change that happened once he got the mask was that now he had unlimited power to dick around with people.  Minor critique, though.  I still love the film, and I do like the focus on Skull Kid’s time with the fairies.

The second one is Metroid: The Sky Calls.  It feels a little bit rougher than Terrible Fate, but that could just be because this one uses live action, too.  I like the actress who plays Samus, but I don’t know, she just doesn’t fit my own idea of what she looks like.  I love the music, though, and the suit design is pretty cool and unique.  The story line is probably the weakest part to me.  I’ll discuss it under the video to avoid spoilers.

It just seems weird to me that the Chozo would have such a small window for her to arrive there.  Also, why are planets orbiting the same star in opposite directions like that?  Shouldn’t they all have formed from the same protoplanetary disk?  Or are half of the planets captured objects?

Also, seems kind of dickish to just shuttle Samus to parts unknown without warning her.  What if she had been in the middle of a mission, and now there’s no one to stop the Space Pirates?  Hell, isn’t she supposed to the Hunter?  Is this a new system that the Chozo really messed up, and now they need her there?  I guess it could work with more follow up, but honestly, I’d have preferred a message or something like that.  It kept me from enjoying the film as much as I would have otherwise.

What are your thoughts?  Any other recommendations?


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Love Insurance

Love Insurance

A somber figure entered the room.  The salesman sat down at the desk, opposite a distracted-looking man and an eager young woman.  He jogged the papers in his hand and looked over them at the couple before him.  The woman leaned forward, smiling expectantly.

“Ah, before we discuss your premiums, perhaps it would be best if we first talked a little about why you’re here today,” he monotoned.

“Well, it’s just the smart thing to do,” the woman explained.  “When you have something as valuable as true love, you want to protect it.  We insure our house and our car, and they’re not nearly so important.  I just don’t know what I would do if anything happened to James and I.”

“And you…James?”

The man stirred in his chair somewhat.  “I agree with Stephanie.  It’s the logical thing to do.”

“Why are you asking us this?  Is something wrong?” Stephanie inquired.

“No, no, not as such.”

“What is it, then?”

The sound of a sigh came from the far end of the desk.  The man put down the papers and turned them towards the couple so they could read the circled number.  The two looked from the man to the numbers and back.  “But…that can’t be right,” Stephanie protested.  “Why is it so high?”

“You have to understand.  We’re not a charity, ma’am.  We have to set our premiums to match the risk being asked of us.  When there’s a very high risk, we need to set high premiums.”

“Risk?  What risk?!”

“Ma’am, please.  It’s just the statistics,” he explained.  “The odds just aren’t good for…mixed marriages.”

Stephanie stood up as James tried to calm her down.  He had seen this before.  “So that’s what this is about!  I can’t believe that such prejudice still exists in this day and age!”

“Darling, it’s fine.  Let’s just go,” James pled.

“No, James!  It’s not right that he gets to sit there and tell us that our love won’t last!” she yelled, slamming her fist into the desk.

“Please calm down, ma’am.  That’s not what we’re saying.”

“So what, then?  Are you just against mixed marriages?”

“We’re not against android-human marriages.  It’s nothing personal…it’s just business-“

Oh, it’s just business!  I guess it’s alright to discriminate against us if it’s just business!  Come on, James, we’re leaving!”  She grabbed him by the wrist and dragged him out behind him, his lips mouthing “I’m sorry,” as they disappeared out the door.

The office door squeaked open after a brief pause.  An actuary walked in and stood next to the salesman.

“Heard everything, huh?”

“Hard not to.  She was pretty loud.”  The actuary felt the dent she had left behind in the steel desk and whistled.  “Angry, too.  But the facts don’t lie.  The odds are worse than 10:1 they’re still in love in two years.  If they are now, that is.  There’s just no such thing as true love between man and machine.  Only infatuations.”

“It’s a shame.  Girl like that could be with any android she wants,” the salesman muttered with a tinge of bitter envy.

“Takes all types.  Can’t imagine what she sees in a human, though.  Fickle, dumb, short-lived…and that smell…  I have to disable my sensors whenever I’m around them.  I guess some things just can’t be understood.  Was that your last appointment today?”

“Yes, thankfully.”

“Come on, let’s recharge, then.  I’ll treat.”

“Thanks, Nick. I’d like that.”

Thanks for reading!  If you enjoyed it, you can find more of my stories here!


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Katanagatari Ending Narration

I was looking for a transcript of the ending narration of one of my favorite anime, Katanagatari, and couldn’t find it.  So I went and did it myself.  Enjoy!  Spoilers below, I guess, so don’t read unless you’ve watched or don’t plan to watch Katanagatari. Continue reading

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What I’d Like to See in Startopia 2

While I’m dreaming, I figured, why not imagine other sequels that will probably never happen?  So I’d like to talk a bit about Startopia 2, a game that will never exist. The original was one of my favorites, and I’ve always been a little surprised that it never even got a spiritual successor.  Along with Evil Genius, it’s the game I’d most like a sequel for.

Just to give a quick summary, in Startopia, you run a space station.  Each alien race has its own preferences and desires that affect their needs, and they each have a particular job they specialize in.  Zedem Monks handle religion, while Greys take care of your station’s medical needs.  As your station grows, you need to think about entertainment, security, medicine, and trade.  Trade was always my favorite part of the game.  Each race has its own prices for different goods, so it’s easy to buy medical stuff cheap from the Greys and sell it as a massive profit to the Sirens, then use that money to buy their entertainment wares to sell to the Turakken, and so on.

For me, the appeal was running this space station with all these various aliens and trying to make the best station I could.  It was a lot more personal than Tropico, probably the most similar game I’ve played to it, since you’d have far fewer aliens working for you, and I loved the humor.

The first change I’d like to make in a sequel is to make the game more transparent.  While I loved Startopia, it was a very opaque game.  It was basically impossible to tell which buildings were profitable or whether your station was performing well.  There were little bars that told you whether the aliens on your station were getting their needs satisfied, but that was really it.

I’d like something similar to what Tropico has.  You can click on a building, and see it’s lifetime profit and it’s profit over the last year.  It makes it a lot easier to compare different buildings and get an idea about what’s best to focus on.  Similarly, Tropico 4 had various tourism rating for different classes of tourist.  It’d be great to be able to see what different alien species think of your station, so you know whether you need to focus more on attracting certain species.  I could look and see which species were most common on my station, but it’d be a lot easier to check and see that, for example, my station has a 60% popularity rating with Greys, and they like the Roulesse Wheel, but dislike all the crappy motels, and they wish I had nicer bars.  Something to give me an idea of how I can improve things and how I’m currently doing.

In terms of the aliens themselves, while I’d like to see new races, I have a hard time imagining where they could fit it.  The original nine do a pretty good job of filling the available space, and there aren’t really any obvious holes.  You’ve already got manufacturing, medicine, communications, military/police, love, science, farming, religion, and the useless aristocracy represented.  What else could you have?  Artists, perhaps?  Office workers?  Explorers?

On the note of the various professions, I feel like it makes more sense to pay your workers a salary.  In Startopia, you just pay then one lump sum to work for you indefinitely.  You need to give them raises as their skills improve, but it still feels like an odd arrangement, economically.  I feel like it would make more sense to pay them a certain amount per cycle, which you can then raise based on their skills.

I do like the little CVs all the aliens have.  It gives them a bit of personality.  I wish you could see recent thoughts/conversations, though, as in the Tropico series.  It gave you an idea of what people were thinking, and a lot of them were pretty funny.  I’d like to know what they think of the various buildings aboard the station.

One minor gripe I have is that all members of a given species act the same way.  It’d be more realistic if the benefits they get from buildings or their own preferences were randomized a bit.  Are they really no Turakken who like talking to Zedem Monks?

Combat needs an update.  In Startopia, combat boils down to having more guys who shoot guns than the other side and hoping they go bankrupt first.  Taking over their sections is rarely even worth it, as you’re basically just saddled with junk for a while.  I’m uncertain how to improve it, though.  Maybe make it possible to buy segments from other players, so that war isn’t the only way to expand.  Maybe place limits on army size, or allow for various upgrades, so that a small, elite force is a practical way to go.  It was nice being able to send assassins and saboteurs, but why not let us control them?  Maybe there’s something specific I want to blow up.

Lastly, I’d like more extensive missions.  Part of this is my own problem.  I just don’t like sandbox mode.  My favorite mission of Startopia was the ninth, where you’re paying rent to the slugs who own the station.  I spent most of the mission right on the edge of going bankrupt.  It was thrilling.  If there is a sandbox mode, I’d like to be able to set conditions like that.  Allow for rent.  Allow for very specific criteria, like healing 200 patients or reforming 200 criminals.  Stuff like that would make it more fun, I think.

That’s really about it, though.  Startopia as it is is already a great game.  With some updated graphics and some more clarity, it’d be pretty much perfect.  If you like management games, you should give it a try.  It’s pretty cheap on Steam.


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The Claiming of Man – Audio Version

The Saturday Storytellers have been awesome enough to do another audio version of one of my short stories.  This time, they did The Claiming of Man.  You can check it out below, or here.  Be sure to like the video and subscribe to their channel.  They do a lot of cool stuff.

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