TBT: SimEarth

I’ve been on a video game kick lately, diving back into the Civilization games and listening to a lot of the Gaming Historian on YouTube.  As such, it seemed like a good time to look back at another video game post, one about the planet simulator SimEarth.

SimEarth was one of those games that I found instantly appealing—a massive simulator of an entire planet, going through all its geological, biological, and civilizational phases.  Even growing up in a household that rejected the theory of Darwinian evolution (a theory I still don’t accept, although I acknowledge that adaptation and mutation are both possible and happen frequently), the prevailing scientific understanding of our world made for a fun video game.

The possibilities were endless.  Want to be a Deistic god and let the world run on its own?  Go for it.  Want to interfere frequently in your planet’s development?  Do it!  Want to make starfish or Venus fly traps sentient beings capable of forging an advanced civilization?  Why not!

I used to be able to make pretty compelling planets in this game, with rich histories and multiple species in succession rising to sentience, before heading off an intergalactic journey of the stars.  Apparently, I lost any skills I had, as my last game a couple of years ago (detailed below) ended in nuclear winter.  Oops.

With that, here is 27 May 2020’s “SimEarth“:

Read More »

TBT: Heavy is the Head

Over at her blog Words on the Word, Audre Myers posted a piece yesterday entitled, simply, “Life.”  It’s a succinct and effective little piece about how Life often disrupts our, well, lives, and how our best-laid plans are often thrown out the minute Life demands our immediate attention.

The past several weeks have been full of Life for yours portly; indeed, this school year—which seems to be dragging endlessly onward—has been one of the toughest of my career.  It got me thinking about this post from last May about the difficulties and joys of responsibility.

We all find ourselves busy at times, and I imagine many of us dream of shirking our responsibilities.  The sad fact is, many Americans do—the moment anything becomes inconvenient, or no longer offers the fun thrill it initially did, we move on to something else new and exciting.  There’s an inherent restlesness in that lifestyle, a lifestyle of constant pacing and chasing.

That’s the child’s response to responsibility and difficulty.  As adults, we should adapt to difficulties, and bear our responsibilities cheerfully, even when they are more burdensome than usually—perhaps especially so at those times.

As I noted last year, most of our perceived problems either dissipate into mootness or are otherwise resolved before they truly become problems that need addressing.  Case in point:  I was slated to teach an online class this summer.  That’s not a problem so much as an opportunity, but it was going to require a good bit of legwork this week to get the course ready to launch Monday.

I got home Tuesday evening to take a look at the course, and realized it had either been purged (due to low enrollment) or given to another instructor (likely a full-timer who needed to make his hours).  While I’m a tad disappointed about losing out on some relatively easy money, it’s also “solved” a problem for me—finding the time to put that course together during yet another busy week.

Again, another problem resolved before requiring any real effort on my part—perhaps not on anyone’s.

With that, here is 5 May 2021’s “Heavy is the Head“:

Read More »

TBT: Egged Off

Shortly over a year ago I wrote a piece about officious bureaucrats shutting down two little girls selling chicken eggs in Texas.  The girls were trying to help people out and make a few bucks after the crazy ice storm massively disrupted Texan supply lines.

Since then, I’ve obtained a source to bring farm fresh eggs to my home on an as-needed basis; it’s one of many small blessings for which I am thankful.  With food prices even higher than they were a year ago, free eggs is a huge boon.

I ended this post with the admonishment “The time to start growing and raising our own food is now.”  But even yours portly has largely ignored his own advice.

Let’s work on changing that in 2022.

With that, here is 30 April 2021’s “Egged Off“:

Read More »

TBT: The Joy of Spring

Spring has sprung here in South Carolina, with some gorgeous weather.  It’s actually a bit chilly this morning, but overall there have been some warm—even borderline hot—days, with plenty of bees a-buzzing.  One managed to get into my house, but I was able to capture him in a Tupperware container and release him back to the world, though I flung the container as I opened it and dashed in the other direction—yikes!

Just like two years ago, my flowerbeds are 80% weeds, 20% plants I want growing there, so I’ve got to get on that this weekend.  The relentless growth of dandelions makes it a Sisyphean task, but I must endeavor to do better in my humble flowerbeds this year.

It’s also the downward slope to summer vacation.  At this point, there’s probably another couple of weeks of actual learning to be had, then a leisurely drift into exam review week and exams themselves.  I’m also cooking up the 2022 iteration of the TJC Spring Jam, which I might make into a recital for my students this year.

Two years ago, during The Age of The Virus, we enjoyed an unusually long, mild spring in South Carolina.  Readers who don’t live in the South might not appreciate the significance of that:  we typically get a couple weeks—maybe three—of proper spring weather before summer dominates everything in a veil of humidity and heat, refusing to lift its terrible, sweaty fist until sometime around Thanksgiving.  At a time when every remotely communal activity had to be done outdoors, a mild spring was a Godsend.

Indeed, I think it was a literal one:  I really do think God sent us that cooler weather so we could still be together during that difficult time.

Regardless, hot or cold, I’m glad to be alive, and that The Age of The Virus—at least for now—seems to be an increasingly distant memory.

With that, here is 11 May 2020’s “The Joy of Spring“:

Read More »

TBT: Spring Break Short Story Recommendations 2021, Part I: “Black Tancrède”

Going through last year’s Spring Break Short Story Recommendations, I came across the first one of 2021, a delicious little tale of Caribbean horror, Henry S. Whitehead‘s “Black Tancrède.”

It’s a weird little story, but a fun one.  I won’t prattle on too long—here’s me one year ago in “Spring Break Short Story Recommendations 2021, Part I: ‘Black Tancrède’“:

Read More »

TBT^4: End the Income Tax

Here it is:  my annual call to end the income tax.  My disdain for the income tax is two-fold:  it’s incredibly annoying and invasive to file it every year; and it’s become a complicated, bureaucratic morass that attempts to social engineer our society by tweaking bits of the tax code.

I think there are downsides to a consumption tax—a national sales tax—but it makes way more sense than a tax on income.  Any tax is a disincentive to engage in the activity taxed, and no tax is perfect.  Being a necessity—perhaps an evil one—we should at least try to get the least bad tax possible.

Taxing income, then, is a disincentive to earning more income.  I faithfully track every dollar I earn in private lessons—even those paid in cash!—even though the tax burden is insane.  I suspect many Americans do not do the same, so there is already de facto tax evasion baked into an income tax.

A national sales tax would be virtually unavoidable.  That might be an argument against it.  Here’s an argument for it:  it would be a major disincentive against spending.  At a time when inflation is rocketing prices skyward, I don’t expect that such a proposal—which would make everything more expensive—will be very popular, but it would almost certainly encourage saving money.

Of course, you’d soon have all the other problems.  Industries would lobby for exemptions to the sales tax.  Should food be taxed?  If so, should it be taxed at the same rate as, say, computers?

Ah, well, forget it.  Let’s repeal the Sixteenth Amendment and let the chips fall where they may.  Tariffs aren’t so bad, eh?

With that, here is “TBT^2: End the Income Tax“:

Read More »

TBT: Flashback Friday: Opening Night

Last night my students had their big Spring Concert, and I am hoping it went well.  I’m writing this post a day before the concert, but barring any wardrobe malfunctions or massive technical failures, it probably went well.  My students are well-rehearsed and know the songs they’re doing, so I think we’re in good shape.

Tonight the Drama students open their two-night run of Twelve Angry Jurors (Twelve Angry Men originally, but we have a mixed male-female cast).  A couple of students had to back out last-minute due to illness, family emergencies, etc., so I have to step in as Juror Ten, the bigoted one—gulp!  Fortunately, I’m not expected to memorize my lines, but I’m going to try to conceal my script in a legal pad so it’s not quite so obvious that I’m reading directly from the script.

Acting is very difficult.  This week’s TBT post looks back to when I played the lead in a play one of my former students wrote, Catching Icarus.  It was easily one of the most difficult and rewarding things I’ve ever done—and I’ve steadfastly avoided acting ever since.

I am somewhat mercenary in my artistic habits; acting is too much of a time (and mental) commitment relative to the gains (both artistic and financial).  I can slap together a good concert in a fraction of the time it takes to write, rehearse, direct, and stage a play.  And if a couple of kids can’t play on a concert, it doesn’t derail (typically) the entire event.

In other words, for me, acting is too much investment for too little return.

That said, it’s also very fun when everything clicks, and I see the appeal for those who are really into drama.

With that, here is “Flashback Friday: Opening Night“:

Read More »

TBT: Wayback Wednesday: Airlines; Back to the Grind

I flew to and from Indianapolis, Indiana this past weekend (as readers are wearily familiar by now), and it gave me another opportunity to interact with that most loathsome of institutions, the American airline.

Honestly, I was blessed with two easy, uneventful flights—no delays, no missed connections, no overly officious airport functionaries.  I even got two Coke Zeroes on my flight up.

One jarring element of flying was the abundance of mask propaganda at the airport.  Living in South Carolina—free territory—I seldom have to wear a mask anywhere anymore, so wearing one on the plane was a bit shocking.  A friend reminded me that I would need one, and that gaiters are not allowed, so I begrudgingly took a pack along.

In the Charlotte, North Carolina airport, one guy asked me, as I got into the security line, if I had a mask.  I started fumbling for it in my pocket, and he said, “You’re good.”  Apparently, he just wanted to ask make sure I had one so they wouldn’t boot me off the plane.  I did put it on before passing through security (where you have to pull it down so they can check your face against your ID), but ripped it off again as soon as possible.

I’m still blown away by how many folks wear them, but especially at the airport.  Out of the hundreds of people I saw, I was probably one of five people in the entire Charlotte airport not wearing a mask.  In the Indianapolis airport, there were even fewer facial nudists.

Regardless, it seems like a lot of the mask hysteria has died down.  Yeah, there was tons of mask propaganda plastered all over the Charlotte airport, and the flight attendants made a big deal about it rhetorically on the flights (especially the one from Indianapolis back to Charlotte), but I got the impression that if I wanted to sit maskless for the entire flight, no one would bother me about it.

The airline industry is probably the worst of all about treating human beings like cattle to be herded mindlessly on board flying metal tubes.  Probably only credit agencies are worse, and at least on a plane you get some pretzels (thanks to the peanut allergy folks for ruining something else for us).  I don’t think TransUnion is going to send me any treats anytime soon.

So if airlines are cooling on the mask hysteria, we might finally—finally—putting that absurdity behind us.

Anyway, I didn’t mean to go on a mask rant, but here we are.

With that, here is “Wayback Wednesday: Airlines; Back to the Grind“:

Read More »

TBT^2: Nehemiah and National Renewal

This past Monday, it was my responsibility to lead men’s Bible study for the monthly fellowship I attend.  I would love to say I prayed fervently for The Lord to deliver a message to my heart, but instead I do what bloggers and teachers do frequently:  recycle and reuse.

As such, I went back to the tried and true, Nehemiah 1:1-11, the passage from my hit post “Nehemiah and National Renewal.”  It’s all about Nehemiah crying out to God to order his steps amid the fallen state of Israel.

Also, it’s about rebuilding a wall.  Seems wise, yes?

With that, here is “TBT: Nehemiah and National Renewal“:

Read More »