Travelling Alert Again

I’ll be going out of town again shortly, from about Thursday to Monday, so posts may be a bit slow around here til then. I’m taking the laptop with me and should be able to update stuff from anywhere, but we’ll see what happens. My cousin is getting married in Idaho, so looks like I gotta break out the old fancy dress-shoes now. Hopefully the plane won’t be too stuff with travellers!

Settlers of Catan — Homemade Version

I’m currently in the process of making my own homemade version of the boardgame Settlers of Catan since the retail version is around $50. The game is about intermediate on the simplistic-scale, and it has a lot of pieces. I would classify it as a combination of RISK, Monopoly, and the somewhat obscure old BBS door game Baron Realms Elite.

So far, I’ve experimented with a number of media for the board tiles. These tiles are hexagon shapes that represent different land regions from which a particular resource (ore, grain, lumber, brick and sheep) come from, which are laid out at random at the beginning of the game so that the logistics and strategy changes each time.

Instead of making individual hex tiles, I’ve instead opted for an alternative — creating a one-piece (or two-piece in this case) solid game board with drawn divisions for the hex borders. I’m taking a number of circles cut from patterned scrapbooking paper and placing them within the hexes to indicate which hex is which region, so I don’t have to worry about cutting perfect hexes anymore and making sure each one fits with every other one. I’m using two main pieces because the whole layout is slightly wider than the foam board, so I opted to cut the board in half and separate them slightly to fit within the usable area of the board, and I’ll just line them up side by side as normal when it’s time to play.

I bought a pack of thin foam sheeting that was on sale at a local hobby shop and will cut out and glue together little pieces for roads, settlements and cities by hand.

When I get the pieces made as I’d like them, I’ll be sure to post pictures and such. I may even call it my own version of the game, so that I don’t have to fuss with trademark issues by posting such things on the web, just as another website has recently gotten in trouble for doing lately.

The ocean pieces that make up the border have pieces of paper designating them strictly because I may opt to make expansion packs so I won’t be limited to strictly one size board to use.

Them Crazy Gas Prices

I just heard on the radio on the way home from the store that Diesel prices in the UK are now over $10 per gallon — over half of which is taxes! Trucking companies are naturally going nuts, calling for the government to provide some kind of relief since the majority of the cost is directly controlled by policy. Thousands of people could lose their jobs there if something isn’t done quick — and I wouldn’t especially predict government action to be very quick (though, that’s an American perception perhaps).

This reminded me of some of the “petrol” stations in Kenya during my visit — the signs only had 2 number places (not including the “99” cent section that never changes) and prices were already up to 89.99 and 99.99. This was in Kenya shillings, though, which then was about $1 = 65 KS. Plus, the increment was per litre. Still, there wasn’t any more room on the signs if prices went higher than that.

That last paragraph might make a good math problem. Leave it up to me to excite schoolteachers (and/or torment dozens of classroom students) accross the world by coming up with real-world math problems =P

Clarifying Ripley: Federal Hill in Bardstown KY

The May 22 Ripley’s Believe It Or Not comic panel had a blurb about “Federal Hill”, a mansion in Bardstown Kentucky that has 13 windows in the front, 13-inch thick walls, 13-foot high ceilings, 13 mantels and 13 stair steps.

I tried looking it up and found all sorts of picture galleries and such, including a wiki entry for it, but no particular mention of the business of 13 in those.

A visit to the official page, however, (or more specifically, the site’s History section) uncovers the truth:

Federal Hill is a Georgian style mansion that originally had 13 rooms. The number 13 is repeated throughout the house, supposedly to honor the 13 colonies at the time of America’s independence from Great Britain. The front of the home has 13 windows, and there are 13 steps to each floor of the house. Completed in 1796, the rear wing of the house contains a kitchen, two bedrooms, and a smokehouse. The first floor has a dining room, parlor, and library. The second floor has bedrooms, and the third floor contained the nursery. The house is built of brick and has six large rooms that are twenty-two feet square. Ceilings are 13-1/2 feet high. The floors are made of yellow poplar and the walls are 13 inches thick.

Federal Hill also happens to be the structure depicted on the tails-side of the United States Quarter that commemorates Kentucky.

Debunking Forwards: Iraq “Did You Know” Stats

There’s an email forward that’s been circulating since at least 2003 that lists loads of statistical data about various accomplishments in Iraq now that Coalition forces have been present. I doubted that I could find verifications for all of the individual stats listed, and Snopes doesn’t bother to go that far either. One post I found links the Department of Defense as a reference point, being that they, “are verifiable on the Department of Defense web site,” but by clicking the link you’re only sent to the main front page to look them all up seperately by yourself. notes, “The stuff is written simply and factually, but in that bullying tone of self-evidence that omits the relevance of evidence — context, proof, explanation, perspective.

What I’ve found overall is that, while these stats generally speak toward the goodness of things that have occurred there, the media generally does not report these kinds of things so openly because they would have to verify each individual figure — but Betty and Barney J. Hillbilly don’t bother with actually looking something up (ya dern tootin’!) so they feel free to just send out anything that sounds smart and resembles positive thinking. While many of them certainly could be true, actually visiting the locations of each one to verify that a school is actually running is nothing short of wholly implausible — considering what Americans think of a school is not the same thing as a school in Iraq, and may consist of only a handful of students taught by one teacher in a single-room, tin-and-wood structure that to Americans might suspect more resembled a tool shed.

The media is generally after (despite your views on its liberality, etc) the truth as far as, information that can be personally verified. Credible sources generally do not pass along information in the form of, “Well Frankie Sue from two houses past the water tower said that our troops have set up twelve thousand triage tents. I dunno what them is, but it sure sounds swell, gee willikers,” that these emails more often tend to convey, perhaps inadvertently.

A legitimate argument in favor of these details would include precisely what source each fact came from. Instead, we’ve essentially been handed a list of genus species notations and suggested that we could just go ask a biology teacher to verify whether those organisms actually do exist or not — but in this case aren’t even told which teacher to ask as if, heavens forbid, we actually go checking out the story and not taking your word for it because you’re my grandpa or my cow-orker [sp] from the next cubicle over who keeps putting salt in the sugar tin.

Dolphins Blowing Bubble Rings

While we’re on the subject of things I’ve never heard of before, I’ll go ahead and tack on this video about dolphins swimming around in an aquarium blowing rings of air bubbles in the water and either sailing thru them, clipping one side and making a secondary ring and following it around, or whipping it somehow and making the ring twirl around. Dolphins are way more intelligent than I thought!

I, for one, welcome our new dolphin overlords. Watch them go!

Timewaster Game: Music Bounce

I got to level 9 before I had to give up. The levels go pretty quick, and it’s pretty easy to figure out without reading all of the rules. It’s Music Bounce, something loosely similar to Arkanoid, but patterned around music.

You open little gateways on the left that release a ball onto the playing field. If you open up the right gate, a ball will bounce along and clear away all of the tiles it happens to bump into, which form the beat of a rhythm. You’re only allowed a certain number of gates to open at a time, and you’ve got to clear away all of the musical tiles for at least one moment (because they regenerate). It’s easier than I’m making it out to be, so check it out. And see if you can get past level 9 ^_^

Awesome job ideas: “Shipbreakers”

I’d never heard of the idea, but I admit it sounds pretty darn spiffy. There’s a company in Brownsville, Texas, that takes old sea-going ships and takes them apart for the metal scrap. This picture shows a battleship being gradually torn apart, courtesy International Shipbreaking Ltd in Brownsville. Apparently there’s another shipbreaking firm in Viriginia, according to the same page.

You can view the ISL company video here in that nasty RealPlayer format, or download the HQ version (82mb mpeg) here (save as, linked from the same page).

The article I read in our local paper (Associated Press article, found here) reports the feds used to pay the scrap stripping companies like this to dismantle the giant ships, but lately with the soaring prices of scrap metal, the companies themselves are in a sense buying the massive structures just for the chance to get after it. Someone needs to make a full season of documentary footage on this whole process and put it on DVD.. I’d grab it quick.

More pictures..
USS Mississinewa
USS Neosho
Random Artsy Scrapping Shots

Diorama Dismantling Frustrates Students

Looking back over my backlog of newspapers I should have been reading, there’s an interesting blurb about a Civil War battle diorama that was dismantled after only a short while, which took years for a bunch of school students to set up. Since the article didn’t contain a picture, I figured I’d try the web to see if there was any good shots of it.

Here is a Star-Telegram version of the article, and there is the location of the museum that took it down. There‘s a picture of the dude who was responsible for dismantling it, but no pictures that I can find.

I sent an email to the director of the museum asking if he knows of any photo galleries of the diorama, so we’ll see what happens.

Kenya Journal Finally Released

I took a handwritten journal over many of the Kenya trip events, and have compiled a final draft of the 50-page journal (that, if printed out, comes to around 33 pages typed). It’s really really long, so except to come back if you plan on reading the entire thing. It took a long time to finally get hammered out, so I wouldn’t be surprised if it necessitated bookmarking and checking back later!

Journal Entries of the March 2008 Kenya trip with Building Bridges Ministry.

Cardboard Furniture and Container Classes

Came across something I’d definitely be interested in. I usually make all of my own eBay sales containers and such out of reused boxes from prior eBay auctions I’ve bought (among other things) and like to think of myself as pretty good with a craft knife, cardboard and clear “Duck” (brand) tape. However, this guy can make some rather striking furniture pieces out of cardboard with a few elements I never tried — paint and varnish. And it seems he is offering classes? Hmmm…