What To Do With Leap Day


I haven’t decided what I’m going to do with my Leap Day. I know, confessing that makes me sound like I can’t make decisions before the last minute. It’s not like we haven’t known it was coming. The leap day’s been scheduled for thousands of years now, and here we are maybe hours away, and I still don’t have an idea in mind.

Anyway there’s not much point my making plans too far ahead. I’ll end up forgetting them anyway. I’m so good at forgetting plans that I can forget my plans while I’m making them. It’s only months after the plan would have mattered that I’ll have any inkling of the idea. I’ll sit bolt upright in bed — dropping a conversation mid-sentence, if I have to, to rush back home, change into my sweatpants, and hide in bed, to sit up in it — and slap my head. It’s enough to make people think I’m not that good at interacting with them.

I also don’t know what other people are going to do with their leap day. I figure most are just going to take it as the 29th of February. It’s kind of cliche, but it’s got a lot of public support. And there’s almost nothing else to do with it. In 1996 I tried putting my leap day into my checking account. By the time I took it out again, in June when it would do me some good, the monthly fees had reduced it to 23 hours and 46 minutes. I don’t mind losing fourteen minutes from my day if I’m doing something useful with it, like ping-ponging between Nathan Rabin’s web site and Son of Stuck Funky, trying to figure if there is a new article, while waiting for whatever Javascript monstrosity they’re running to finally crash my web browser. But that’s my choice. I don’t want it lost because the bank is nickel-and-daying me. Also, “nickel-and-daying” is a phrase that I like, and yet I know not a single other person in the world is ever going to like it. Not even a little bit. It’s not even not funny. It exists outside the realm of possible amusement. It’s the writing equivalent of a blot of ink on the wall too small to care about repainting. It just is, and barely so, and will never be more than that. And yet I have already wasted fourteen minutes today grinning at it.

Anyway, after that experience I’ll probably take Leap Day as the 29th too. It can be fun having this sort of exceptional day. We all know how it exists outside the normal bounds of time and space. None of the ordinary laws of time exist. You can sleep in until 3:30 pm and still be in time to catch the sunrise, four times over. You can spend an hour on the phone talking with your parents and finally hang up two minutes before you call them. You can watch one of those two-minute Popeye flash cartoons and have it fill eighteen hours of the day. You can spend 57,500 years trapped in amber and be broken out and it’s still not 10:30 am. You can return library books that were due the 28th and not get charged late fees. You can turn on broadcast TV and catch an all-new episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show. It’s everything that’s fun about Daylight Saving Time, only twenty-four times as much of it, and no whining. If you want to declare it’s outside the whole seven-day week experience, that it’s actually happening on “Thworbsday”, nobody can protest. That’s just how the day works.

And yet for all that, my imagination fails me. I used to know what to do with a free day. I would play Civilization II, trying to repeat cool experiences like conquering the entire world without ever building a boat. Today? I don’t know. There’s stuff that I could usefully do, like spend a couple hours deleting e-mails from the Amy Klobuchar campaign. But, jeez, I could do that anytime. I could delete them as fast as the campaign sends them to me. Well, OK, no I couldn’t. But still: the day doesn’t come up much at all. It really seems like I could have something more special going on.

This Seems Like A Lot Of Sweden For Me


So here’s Twitter’s recommendations for who I ought to start following.

Who To Follow: Sweden.se; Radio Sweden; and @Sweden / Fredrik.
Sure, but does Sweden ever follow me? I hope not. I feel nervous enough I have like twenty people reading this on a regular basis. A whole country? My sole qualification for having a country follow me is that I’m pretty good at the Europa Universalis line of grand strategy games. Also when I play Tropico the economy is a weird swingy mess between boom and bust years but everybody feels really, really secure in their civil rights.

I don’t have anything against Sweden, since it’s almost never the problem when I play a grand strategy game. But I don’t see why Twitter is so sure I need to think about it so much suddenly. Also I feel like an account that’s called Sweden.se seems awfully on the nose. It’s like having a site that’s usa.usa.usa. At least as long as that actually is the flag of Sweden. It might be. A lot of those northern European countries have flags that are white crosses on a color, because they got to pick first. Also I don’t know who sweden/Fredrik is, or whether that’s just a joint account for everyone in Sweden who’s named Fredrik. I would hope they take turns with it. Oh, now, wouldn’t it be something if the account was really an enormous troll by Finland?

Also I figure to have only the one comic strip essay on my mathematics blog this week and yesterday’s was it. Enjoy!

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index rose five points today as traders were all confident everyone else knew something in bidding up the index and that if they went along with it maybe someone would tell them what they’ve heard.

110

Why Grand Strategy Games Take Seven Freaking Years To Learn How To Play


From about the second tutorial screen to Europa Universalis: Rome, a grand strategy game variant I bought when it was on sale and only just got around to now that I got the mothership game done one time. And depending on how wide a screen you’re looking at this on it might be hard to see what I’m pointing to, so you might want to click on the image until it’s big enough you can read the text easily.

A panel tries to explain the menu bar items. There's four items in a vertical list, and they're connected to the horizontally-arranged items by thin white lines, most of which intersect each other. And the lines don't end at the correct points on the menu bar. Three of them point to *other* menu bar items not matching what's described in text.
I’m sure the interface won’t be any harder to understand than the ancient Roman calendar, in which you might specify that today was, say, the 22nd of June by declaring it was the “tenth day to the kalends of July”, or how you’d say that the 12th was the “first day to the ides of June”, because the ides are the 13th in most months and the 15th in a couple of months. And sometimes they’d just throw in an extra month between the 24th and 25th of February because what the heck, why not, and I’m not even making that up.

And I am just awestruck by the multiple levels of failure involved with this screen. I would like to know how they overlooked a few ways to make this even better, such as:

  • Make the text dark grey on a slightly less dark grey background, possibly one with a lot of very dark grey cross-hatching.
  • When you pause or unpause the game, have it shriek.
  • Make the images less directly representative, like, instead of a pile of coins for the treasury and money use a pile of salt, represented by a bottle of soy sauce, which can be quite high in salt; or perhaps represent research with a plain footlong hot dog.
  • Set the screen to occasionally strobe, and in the midst of the strobing effect, have the computer grab some manner of blunt instrument and poke you in the ribs with it, then punch you.

So in summary, I would like to note that when one of the trilithons making up Stonehenge fell in 1797, a report in the Kentish Gazette placed blame for the fall on the burrowing of rabbits undermining the wonder. (Pages 39-40). Thank you.

Why Grand Strategy Games Are Thrilling


I have a deep love of grand strategy video games. Let me explain the genre. You know Sid Meier’s Civilization, possibly from the guys who spent 1993 through 1998 sitting continuously at the computer mumbling weird things about taking on the Ruso-Aztec alliance? It’s what that grew into. Civilization is still around, but it’s not nearly complicated enough a game for me. I prefer the Europa Universalis line of games, by which I mean, last week I just finished my first-ever complete game of Europa Universalis 3, a game I bought in Like 2009 and hadn’t yet understood. I did win.

Anyway. I was playing China, and along about the early 18th century came this exciting bit of pop-up news:

Spread of Discoveries: We have learned about CONNECTICUT. We must find a way to exploit this knowledge.
This is noteworthy because my China didn’t have the naval explorers to go poking around the world. Apparently someone just came up to the Imperial Mapmaker and said, “Hey, you wanna know something the rest of the world hasn’t been letting you in on? Oh, you’re going to love it. This is finally going to make sense out of those weird rumors you’ve heard about New Haven and Saybrook and fill in that gap to the west of Woonsocket!” … … I’m kidding, of course. Why would the Ming court have heard about Woonsocket, Rhode Island, at that stage in history? But, hey, access to Danbury, that’s something!

And I just haven’t stopped giggling about the potential wonders that alternate-history 1722 China hopes to find now that they’ve got an “in” with Connecticut.

In other stuff, my mathematics blog gave me reason to talk about comic strips yesterday. Also, Apparently Frank Page’s comic strip Bob The Squirrel has observed some problems similar to mine.