Monthly Archives: February 2008

Child’s Play Nominated for Six XYZZY Awards

Hey, look at that: while I was all sick and stuff, my text adventure Child’s Play was nominated for six XYZZY Awards, including “Best Game” and “Best Writing”. The XYZZY Awards are the IF community’s Oscar-like awards for the year’s best games by category, and I’m tickled pink to be nominated for six.

Anyone can vote for the final winners, but if you do so, please play through the games in a given category. The games are fairly short, quite good, and most come with a walkthrough or hints (including mine) so you can breeze right through them. If you play the five nominated for “Best Game” you’ll have seen the majority of nominated games right there.

U2 Cures the Flu

Today is day number six of Stephen being ill. He manages to get up and showered and then immediately needs to rest for a few hours before lunch. Following lunch he rests for another few hours before he starts feeling really bad. He’s had fever, chills, aches, joint pain, lack of appetite, a hacking cough, congested sinuses, and random bouts of panic.

And the funniest part is when he went to the doctor to get tested for the flu, he tested negative.

Liza started running a temperature of 102° late yesterday afternoon.

You can see where this is going, can’t you?

I took her to the doctor today and she has a double ear infection. Her right ear? The drum is bulging with fluid, it’s so full. The left one? It just looks the regular kind of bad.

The doctor wasn’t going to do the flu test because she can’t have anything for the flu. I asked if he would anyway so that if we do have flu at Casa Granade, Eli can get a prophylactic dose of TamiFlu.

Shocker! Her test came back positive for the flu. Eli has had his first dose and I’m picking up my prescription tomorrow.

The very best news though is Stephen says he’s feeling better! We’ll see how the fever is tonight and tomorrow.

Me? I’m taking a large dose of U2 to help me cope. I got Vertigo, Live from Chicago for Christmas and this is only the second time I’ve watched it. I’m hoping that this weekend, if everyone is feeling better, I’ll get to sneak off to the movies and see U23D.

Day Five of Being Ill

I haven’t had a bad bout of fever in a while, the kind that would leave me shaking, but I am still weak, tire easily, and my head is so stuffed I’m surprised it doesn’t float away and leave the rest of me behind. My entire body feels disturbing and alien, which will happen to you when tiny bits of foreign DNA try to take you over. I need a good metaphor for how odd I feel right now.

I know, let’s talk about Carrot Top. He’s the red-headed prop comedian who looks like a mutant version of the Wendy’s mascot and who rose to national prominence in the 1990s, back when Pauly Shores roamed the earth.

Have you seen a recent picture of him?

Continue reading Day Five of Being Ill

So It Should Take Eli and Me 31 Turns to Play Candy Land

Yesterday, in one of my brief respites from feeling terrible, I came across a mathematical analysis of Candy Land. He does an analytic analysis which assumes independent draws (i.e. you draw a card and then put it back in and reshuffle the deck) and a Monte Carlo analysis that’s much more realistic. According to Lou Scheffer, a two-person game has a mode of 31 turns.

But wait! There are other analyses! This one is an analytical solution using Maple, while this one uses MATLAB to compare Cootie, Candy Land, and Chutes and Ladders to decide which is the least painful to play. I’ve said that Candy Land is a deeply stupid and annoying game, and the last link backs me up on that — according to his analysis, of the three games, Candy Land is likely to take the longest time to play.

As Barry Wise, author of the final article, says, “This article demonstrates how Monte Carlo simulation can be used to solve a real-world, every day problem: Of these three games, which one will provide entertainment for my four-year-old yet let me retain my sanity?” And people say you can’t do anything useful with math!

Liza’s Sleep Training, Part 3 (or Maybe it’s Misty’s Sleep Training Now)

I haven’t freaked out here lately about the lack of sleep I’m getting because of Liza’s lousy schedule. The good news is that I’m doing pretty well. Mostly because I go to bed every night between 9 and 10:30. Gasp!

Stephen and I have always been hard core night owls. We were bad before we married and living on East Coast time only made us worse. We regularly went to bed between midnight and 1 a.m. when we lived out there. I didn’t have to be to work until 9 a.m., so it was doable. We moved here and I didn’t work and Stephen has the unusual ability to store up sleep on the weekends so we stayed up like rock stars. Then we had Eli and I moved to sleeping when he slept, so we could still stay up late. Again, doable because overall I was getting enough sleep.

With Liza, that’s all changed. Eli gets up between 6:30 and 7. Liza wants to get up and nurse around 6 a.m. My day regularly starts around 5:45 a.m.

Let me say that again: 5:45 a.m.

In my book, that is the butt crack of dawn.

I’ve never liked getting up in the morning and for the first time in my life, I am a regular early riser. So in order not to commit hara–kiri, I now go to bed like a regular person. I’m such a mom sometimes it scares me.

The bad news is that Liza still isn’t sleeping through the night. We had two good nights this week. Two good nights when she slept, but I still woke up because I was used to her waking me up.

Then she got another cold. So we’re back to getting up to give her cold medicine two or three times a night. And then rocking to calm her down until the meds kick in.

Overall, she is better. I have to keep reminding myself of that because it seems like a never-ending ordeal. She now goes down for naps well and to bed well. No crying for any of that, usually. The problem still is when she wakes up in the night and instead of realizing it’s night time and she should go back to sleep she thinks, “Where is everybody? They must be here with me to witness my awakeness! I will scream until the one with crazy bedhead or the the one with no hair appears!”

Sometimes that comes in the form of one “Whaaa!” and she goes right back to sleep. Sometimes she takes five minutes to remember it’s still night time. Sometimes it takes 30 minutes. The times she wakes up are not on any sort of schedule so there’s no way to do the wake to sleep trick.

What I’m coming to understand about Liza is that she’s a noisy, restless sleeper. She moves around a lot in the bed. I’ve just about decided she wakes herself up, at least part of the time, by scooting into the end of the bed with her head. Last night when she started crying, I jumped up and got in there and she was writhing around with her head up against the slats. I picked her up and I’m not sure she was even awake yet. Of course, when I went to put her down because I thought she was still asleep, she was very awake!

My new trick after this cold is going to be to not have the monitor on at night. Why, you ask, do I still have the monitor on? Because I’m paranoid. I didn’t take the monitor out of Eli’s room until he started getting out of his big boy bed on his own–in other words, right before I had to move the monitor to Liza’s room. So turning the monitor off before she’s 12 seems like a huge deal to me. But I think if I start doing that, we might all start getting some better sleep.

A Fever That You Can Lie Around Listlessly With Part Two

My gentle bout of post-nasal drip that I woke up with earlier this week has turned into a full-blown viral infection. The doctor cheerfully told me that it wasn’t strep and wasn’t flu, but that it was a “flu-like viral infection” that I’d get to ride out. It’s like I went into the dealer wanting to buy a simple cold but got upsold by a smooth-talking salesman into driving home fever, sweats, and aches.

I will feel better for a while and then worse for a while. I can tell when “worse” is going to happen because I start shaking like a thirteen-year-old boy getting his first real glimpse of internet porn. With luck I’ll be done with my fever by some time tomorrow, but if not, send ibuprofin for me and a robot butler for Misty.

My Friends Taped Jonathan Coulton

I’ve been meaning to post about this for days — days, I tell you — but was too lazy to do so. But now I have gumption running out the ears!

Some time ago, Brian, Crispy and I (in our guise as the robot PODTRON) saw Jonathan Coulton play in Atlanta. Brian and Crispy shot footage of the event for Yahoo News’s People of the Web. They’ve gone and used that footage in their article about Jonathan Coulton, and even included clips of the Re Your Brains music video we did last year.

Libertarian Children’s Books

During yesterday’s discussion of my dislike of The Giving Tree, we got to discussing The Rainbow Fish. siliconchef pointed out Starboortz Fish, a libertarian re-telling of The Rainbow Fish in which a starfish has to earn the respect of others.

That got me to thinking. There aren’t really any libertarian children’s books I know of, at least not picture books. Rather than write entirely new ones to fill that void, what if we re-purposed existing books, but gave them a shiny new coat of libertarian paint?

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the best libertarian children’s books.

Where the Free Beings Are, by Maurice Sendak

A downbeat allegory of how Americans are conditioned to be uncomfortable with freedom. Max escapes from an all-encompassing nanny state and sails to a land where his individual gifts are recognized and everyone is free. Over time Max finds this freedom disconcerting, and returns home where his government dole is waiting for him in the form of dinner.

Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!, by Mo Willems

A brave pigeon struggles against the oppressive governmental agency that would deny him a bus driver’s license.

Puff the Magic Dragon, by Peter Yarrow, Lenny Lipton, and Eric Puybaret

Legalization of marijuana leads to little Jackie Paper growing up in a laissez-faire utopia called Honnalee.

Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel, by Virginia Lee Burton

Facing stiff competition from more modern diesel-powered shovels, Mike Mulligan and his steam shovel Mary Anne win a contract by promising to dig the basement of a town hall in one day. They do so, but forget to leave a ramp for Mary Anne to drive back out. Undaunted, Mike takes his substantial bonus for a job well done and enhances his competitiveness in a global market by buying a diesel-powered shovel, leaving Mary Anne trapped in the building’s basement.

The Cat in the Hat Goes Splat, by Dr. Seuss

The narrator and his sister Sally exercise their Second Amendment rights to defend their home against a feline intruder.

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, by Laura Numeroff and Felicia Bond

Giving a mouse a cookie leads one young boy to near-ruin, as the mouse’s demands escalate with every capitulation. Eventually the boy comes to his senses and kicks the freeloading mouse out of his house.

Curious George, by H. A. Rey

A man with a big yellow hat curtails George the monkey’s freedom by kidnapping him from Africa. Just as George is adapting to his new life as the man’s neglected pet, he experiences the governmental jackboot in the form of firemen, who throw George in jail. George escapes, but when he returns to his “friend” the man with the big yellow hat, the man locks him in a zoo run by the city. George leads a revolt, overthrows the keepers, and establishes a meritocracy with him at its head.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar, by Eric Carle

A caterpillar eats his way through a tremendous amount of produce, until a heroic farmer saves his crops and thus his profit by killing the caterpillar with insecticide.

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, by Bill Martin, Jr., John Archambault, and Lois Ehlert

In a poignant example of the tragedy of the commons, the lowercase letters a through z swarm up a coconut tree, nearly destroying it and hurting themselves when they fall off of it. When the number 1 buys the tree, installs a fence with concertina wire, and posts a NO TRESPASSING sign, the parents A through Z rejoice.

The Renting Tree, by Shel Silverstein

A boy learns a valuable lesson about the monetary worth of personal resources when a tree in his backyard charges him to swing on her branches or to take an apple.

What Do People Do All Day?, by Richard Scarry

Anthropomorphic animals find life’s meaning in selling their labor in a free-market economy.

Thidwick the Big-Hearted Moose, by Dr. Seuss

When Thidwick the moose lets a bug live on his antlers, he soon comes to regret his decision as more and more animals crowd onto his antlers, and his fellow moose refuse to let him stay with the herd. It is not until he sheds his antlers and forces his squatters to take personal responsibility for their own lives that he can rejoin his herd and be a truly free moose.

Come to think of it, that’s exactly what Thidwick the Big-Hearted Moose is about.

The Co-Dependent Tree

I read a lot of kids’ books when I was young, but I don’t remember most of them because I was a kid and had the memory of a goldfish on a three-day bender. Now that I’m an adult and reading even more kids’ books, I’ve discovered that there are good ones and bad ones. My major annoyance is with those that rhyme but do not scan. Perhaps the authors subscribe William Carlos Williams’s view of meter, but I’m guessing they’ve just never heard of scansion.

I’ve grown accustomed to treacly-sweet books. I’ve learned to set aside my annoyance with those books whose moral statements are all but spelled out in ten-thousand-point Copperplate. I’ve been willing to read and re-read books I think aren’t that good but that have caught Eli’s attention.

I have not learned to love The Giving Tree.

If you’re unfamiliar with Shel Silverstein’s book, let me summarize it in a dismissive and completely unfair manner. A boy loves playing on and around an apple tree, and the tree loves him. She provides him with branches to swing from and apples to eat and so forth. Then the boy grows up and his demands increase. He takes all of her apples to sell for money. He takes her branches to build a house. Eventually he takes her trunk to build a boat and sail away. At each step, the tree pretends she’s a doormat and happily gives the boy what he wants. At the end the boy, now a tired old man, returns and the tree offers her stump for him to rest on.

There are any number of possible interpretations. The book has an echo of truth about life and how we use each other, and how we let others use us, and how, even given that, in the end we can all find a measure of comfort. That’s not the problem. What makes me grind my teeth down another few millimeters is not really the book itself, but how some offer it as an example of what a mother’s love should be like towards her children.

If you take the story as a metaphor for parenting, I think it’s a horrible one. Throughout the book, the boy’s requests are described as wants. The only point at which he’s described as needing something is at the end, when he’s old and tired and needs a place to rest. There is a large difference between wants and needs, and children often can’t tell the difference. As a parent, it’s not my job to give my kids whatever they want. It’s to provide them with what they need, even when that’s the opposite of what they want.

It’s true that I don’t look to my kids to validate my parenting. I’m not waiting on them to be grateful for what I do. It’s also true that I’m willing to give everything to them. Regardless, I’m not willing to give into their wants to the point where they become self-centered assholes.

On the other hand, the book did inspire this particular comic from the Perry Bible Fellowship. That’s a net plus.