My short EVE Online experiment

Yeah, I tried another MMORPG, EVE Online. Fell for the claims that it was different, that it was good, has wonderful graphics. It offers a total sandbox approach where everything is pretty much player created, even bounty-hunter mission assignments, corporate powers and the economy. They offered a 14 day free trial and I, being a total sucker, gave it a shot.

I was done with it in one afternoon.

Okay, it was different. No first person shooter, just you piloting a space ship. Graphics are gorgeous. My big problems with it are: the camera, the interface, the learning curve, the general feel.

The camera: staring at my own ship during combat is annoying. Controlling the camera in space, when in galactic map mode, etc. was difficult and annoying. This is why I gave up on Homeworld: camera issues made combat almost impossible. In the future, there will be some kind of combat schematic optimized to filter the necessary info out of lots of useless data. In Homeworld and EVE, well, can't let info management get in the way of showing off cool nebulas.

The interface is just overloaded with information and trying to figure out which system you're in is a chore. I lost the intro tutorial when I entered a space station, only to realize it was waiting for me to do something before it continued. The learning curve is tremendous: you essentially have to memorize a skill and spaceship parts catalog where every item sounds/looks just like the last one. You have to learn how to navigate through space with warp and jumpgates and nearly impossible to read maps of routes between planetary systems. Plus, you spend most of your time watching your ship fly through space with nothing to do.

It all adds up to not being fun, which is the point. Why would a casual gamer bother? Why would a hardcore gamer make the time investment to figure it out?

In contrast, recently I downloaded MS Visual C# and Sql Server Express Editions to toy with related to an experiment at work. I was up and running, and knowing what I was doing, within minutes of starting each program. My actions produced understandable results and I could see myself improving instantly. Why can't video game designers shoot for the same result?

Trackball math class tracking update: another loss

An update on the continuing saga of Minnie Trackball's math class tracking. If you remember, we were concerned about the frequent cancellations of math class in 2nd grade and resolved to keep a count of how many school days included a math class casualty.

The first two weeks of school, there was no math. They were both four day weeks though. Every day since then, there has been math. And it's been good stuff.

Until today. Math was cancelled for disability awareness day. Wheelchair races, awareness raising, etc. I have no problem with that. But cancel something else. Even reading or language arts. Illiteracy is not the problem in a high-performing school, but there is a chronic math and science lag all across the US, in even the best schools.

So far, there have been 9 days of no math class, a lot less than we feared by this point.

Post-food, but not dead

In the past, I've mentioned that I am evolving to a post-food position. Post-food, like post-materialist, means that one is no longer obsessed or possessed by food. It doesn't command a huge amount of attention, or produce a large amount of excitement or interest.

Having said that, I should point out that this doesn't mean that I don't like food or ignore it. Being post-food means that quality is more important than quantity. Which leads me to the three objects of praise in this post: Trader Joe's, Let's Dish, and Wegmans.

Trader Joe's is the much heralded low cost, mostly healthy grocery chain that sells a lot of its own brand food. Everyone who has access to one raves about it and for years I wondered if the hype was for real. We finally got one in Columbia, and it has lived up to everything everyone has said. The food is great, unique and cheap. Plus shopping there is a different experience.

As people who lunch with me know, the Trackballs have been using Let's Dish a lot. Dr. Trackball spends 2 hours a month preparing about 8 meals at their place, which she takes home and chucks in the freezer. The food is very good: usually a meat entree (we favor the poultry and seafood) that is tasty and just needs to be cooked.

Finally, Wegmans. Wegmans is a super grocery store from back in My Shire that has everything. Growing up in the Shire, I disliked the store for reasons having more to do with the upbringing that didn't fit me than anything else. In the land of crappy Giant and Safeway stores, Wegmans is a huge step forward. Still waiting for it to settle in Columbia.

Bon appetit.