Saturday, September 26, 2009

Thoughts on Cyber Living - Games

Then, there are the obsessional, facebook games.

Farm Town

I toyed with some collection games but it wasn't until I entered "Farmtown" that my time really started draining away. There isn't much to farm town. Virtual plowing, sowing, and harvesting. Harvesting produces money which is needed to do all of the above actions. Plowing and sowing produce "experience points" that move you up the Farmtown hierarchy and unlock larger fields, fancier buildings and decorations, and prettier and more profitable (as well as more expensive) crops. I am thankful that there is not a mechanism that is measuring the time I have spent on Farmtown. I really need a 12-step program. Anyway - these are my Farmtown observations.

First, my motivations. It really has been about creating patterns of color on my farm quilt. Rice is planted in a pretty blue watery field - but it quickly grows into green and then gold. I like the way cotton has white puffballs for a couple of days of growth. Carrots make an interesting progression from green leaves to white flowers, to orange roots with lacy green foliage. Peppers are hot - red and yellow. If you want the good blue, you've got to hold out for blueberries at level 28.

Virtual farming is so much cleaner and cooler than reality gardening. I've yet to sweat. As a consequence, I have weeds filling in the bed I worked so hard to retrieve from its overgrown state only a few short months ago. And, my real plants disappoint me in ways my virtual crops and flowers never do. My palm has scale. My sweet peas are stunted with no intention of producing a bloom. My last surviving petunia bit the dust. Should I neglect my virtual flowers and they dry up... a little sprinkle brings them back to full bloom.

Then, there are the animals. While cute, they are pretty useless in Farmtown. You can sell them for a pittance, but the cows don't produce milk nor the chickens eggs. They will wander about, lie down, eat, "moo" (or quack or baa or meow or crow or..) But, I've frozen them all. If left to their own devices, both my virtual dogs and cats spend an inordinate amount of time SCRATCHING. Its bad enough that I have to face Zelda's itchiness each day - but why should I let my virtual pets rub in my veterinary inadequacy?

Underwater World

Kevin suggested I try this. He's getting a bit bored with my aquarium. It is in its second incarnation of planting and snail infestation without ever achieving "fish worthiness". I thought I had a plan - I was going to BUY some more neutral water to fill my tank - but then my pump had a coronary and while it still pumps, it does so with so much groaning that Kevin has threatened divorce. So, a virtual fish tank.

After planting plants (NO SNAILS!!) and stocking my tank with a few fish, I returned to find the tank walls covered with algae. (No problem. I have real experience with that.) And, my fish all floating upside down. Quickly, I saw the button "flush" and sent them on their way to the virtual sea... only moments later to note a "healing" button. Again, my veterinary skills are challenged by e-animals.

I spend most of my money buying plants to fill my tank. Not only because I think they are attractive, but also because they increase my fishes happiness. What I can't figure is why I would care that my fish are happy? More frustrating, it seems you can cram your tank FULL and the fish are never completely happy. What's with that? Fish - they only have a brain stem. They should be relatively easy to make happy! (Recently, Fishworld had a server problem, and lost most of my plants. Supposedly, they'll be back. FW gave me a whole passel of money to buy new, but I haven't had the heart. My fish are much less happy.)

Mafia Wars

I had to try this for the simple reason I was so amused by the comments my friend players were adding to the standard Mafia Wars Requests. I've only been "playing" for a couple of weeks. I have a bit more understanding of it now then I did initially. Still, I've recently started hemorrhaging money from my account. Friendless says I need to sell guns. Unfortunately, I'm still on a negative track after clearing out everything excepting what I need to use right now. Meanwhile, I keep getting beaten up. I am not feeling successful.

Bottom line. These games are going to stop. I need more Ann life. I have projects piling up. Nothing is getting finished. And, it will take 10,000 points to get to pineapples.

Thoughts on Cyber-Living - Photos

Photo Statistics.

I've recently discovered that both Picasa and Photobucket collect stats on view of photographs held on their sites. I find this fascinating. Especially the stats from Photobucket since it has been months, nay, years since I have added anything beyond a few videos. (I don't know how to do that on picasa.) Anyway, there are still people looking at those Photobucket photos and the images they are fascinated by boggle me. In particular - there are people seeking out my slide show of the kootie catcher I made - just to see that I still could. And, even stranger, the slide show of the washed versus brushed potatoes at the grocery store. The slide show that consistently get the highest hits is a series of color variations of a graffiti image I posted for the Queen's Birthday a couple of years ago. Photobucket tells me that these viewers are viewing these photos from either Photobucket or Blogger (those are easy to understand) or "other". I'd have to pay them $$ to become a Pro user to learn about what "other" sites have my photos and to learn about more than the 5 most viewed photos/slide shows each week/month. I can't justify that. Especially since I'm not using Photobucket much anymore. (If you've seen my photos somewhere else, I'd be keen to know.)

Friday, September 25, 2009

Thoughts on Cyber-Living: Friends

From photo a day

Cyber-life has been intruding in Ann-life. Not that I can blame anyone but myself...

well, maybe Kevin.

He is the person who actually started communicating with me via e-mail almost 10 years ago. Before that e-mail was a big virtual e(mpty) mail box. Then, it bloomed. Notes. An occasional photograph. Poems. E-mail kept us connected while he lived in Sydney and I lived in Fayetteville.

Later, I joined an "Internet Community" of similarly aged and similarly staged women. We shared common aspirations, trials, and experiences. When I became unemployed in Cleveland, particularly when Kevin moved again to Australia, I checked my message board two, three, four times a day. When I moved Brisbane, before I started working, while Kevin was away, I practically lived at the computer hitting the refresh button and hoping someone had lodged a new post.

More recently, I have been sucked into social networking sites. This has enabled me to reconnect with friends from LONGGGGGGGGGG ago. Friends I'd pretty much given up ever communicating with again. Friends to whom I now owe a letter.

But, I am also getting friend requests from people I don't believe I know. I just let them sit there - unwilling to either say yes or no. In two cases we were at Duke at the same time and maybe they were students of mine? But, who'd remember a TA almost 20 years later? I think it is more likely they just think I was in their graduating class - except I was in the Graduate School and they were probably undergraduates.

Those aren't half as odd to me as the recent influx (now 3) of strange women who tell me they are following me on "Twitter." (Let me give you some advise. Don't follow me on Twitter. We'll both end up lost.) The first time it happened I said OK and then went to check her out. And, she ended up being some sort of Internet porn site. Obviously, she did not do her homework in choosing me. I ducked into a virtual alleyway and lost her. The next two, even though they may be legitimately nice real women - though they have the same suspect "profile" of one tweet, zero or one followers and following a couple hundred people - I blocked immediately.

Finally, I started my blog to keep my friends and family back home informed about what I was doing and what it all looked like. They, however, are not the people reading my blog. I don't really know much about the people who read my blog. The largest number are reading from Australia. I don't know that many people in Australia, at least relative to the US. And, I know no one in Malaysia.

Anyway, I'd like to welcome whoever you are. Thank you for stopping by. You are always welcome. If you leave a comment, I'll respond.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Bus sign

From photo a day

Recently on a hike to get a blood test, I was passed by the above bus.

Now, I seem to recall that if minutes are dragging by and feeling like hours, it is because I am not having a good time. So, what is the message that is being conveyed here about this beachy island resort? No electricity? Water available from a common tap 2 km down the road? Intense and unrelenting heat with a beautiful beach and water filled with stinging jellyfish and dangerous sharks? What would be necessary to make a week feel like a month?

Don't believe what you see on TV

From Singles 2009

Kevin sent me a frightening piece of data revealing paid holiday time for various countries. Italy is high with 42. The UK and Canada (and I suspect Australia would fit in this range, though it is not reported) weighed in with 28, 26 respectively. The US... 13 days. The data is derived from the World Tourism Organization. I suppose a little further inquiry would reveal whether these paid holidays include paid public holidays...which I suspect it must. At the very least this would be: New Years Day, July 4th, Thanksgiving, and Christmas... though could also include MLK Day, President's Day, Memorial Day, Easter Monday, Labor Day, Columbus Day...depending upon whether you are a bank or post office or veterinary clinic.

ANYWAY - I followed another link and found THIS list

America's Best Beaches, 2006

1. Fleming Beach Park Maui, Hawaii
2. Caladesi Island State Park Dunedin, Fla.
3. Ocracoke Island Outer Banks, N.C.
4. Coopers Beach Southampton, N.Y.
5. Hanalei Bay Kauai, Hawaii
6. Main Beach East Hampton, N.Y.
7. Coast Guard Beach Cape Cod, Mass.
8. Coronado Beach San Diego, Calif.
9. Hamoa Beach Maui, Hawaii
10. Barefoot Beach Park Bonita Springs, Fla.

If you discount Hawaii, which surely you must, I thought it would surprise people who don't actually live in the US and beach there that every other beach, save one, is on the East Coast.

Go Ocracoke! Atlantic all the way!

You've definitely waited too long!

From photo a day

No one, I repeat, no one took me up on the clean floor and now Brisbane has had a torrential dust storm! EVERYTHING has a fine layer of grit.

It was fascinating to watch the sky turn red. I was at work and initially my nurses thought maybe there was a fire. I checked for a nuclear bomb or red zombie plague. No. Dust. Rob called and said it was blowing across the country. It had been closing down Sydney airport earlier in the morning. Per Scrabblet - the news reported "the wind moved 16,000 tonnes of dust per hour." And, I'm quite sure she is correct that the news would have reported tonnes. She is also responsible for this link with some fabulous photos of Brisbane during the red blow.

I did have a break for lunch so went home and closed the windows. Too late, however, for that floor eating project. My photos, shot quickly around home, are not so exciting. It helps to have bridges and rivers and skyscrapers as subjects.

From photo a day

Red sky all day.

At night as we were leaving I mentioned to Kayla that in the dark you can no longer see the dust. So, she pointed up to the street light where there was a haze of particulate matter blowing.

I told her that sometimes snow looks like that. She thought that was cool.

No pun was intended, I'm sure.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Twins

He groused about Hitler, who had merely been a half-wit at first, but had gradually come to enjoy the status of a dangerous lunatic.

Twin sisters born in Germany are separated at 6 years old after losing first their mother and then their father. Lotte is suspected of having tuberculosis and so, unfit for work at the family farm, is sent to relatives in Holland. Healthy Anna goes to live with her uncle - and becomes the farm's principle laborer.

Enter World War II.

The sisters accidentally find each other when they are in their seventies and visiting a health spa in Belgium. They have had minimal contact with each other since their separation. They spend their time between healing baths telling each other the story of their lives. Each wants to be understood. Anna wants to be accepted. Lotte is not sure she is interested in knowing this brash German woman, let alone accepting her. As a German, she is still "the enemy".

In this way her suicidal urge was driven away rather prosaically with coffee and cake, in order to make room for being merely unhappy.

Harrowing stories of hardship, struggle, loss and pain. And, while I definitely saw the ending coming, I still cried.

I listened to this book on CD and it was fun to hear the dialog with a German accent. An excellent job of reading. (And, a critical help on the great mopping event of 2009!)

Speaking of Halloween

It is getting to be that time of year. I've even seen a few ghouls in windows at Chermside Mall. But, of course, the biggest inflow of Halloween news comes from home. My mother is on the prowl for the new Martha Stewart Halloween Special issue. She's just bought her cartfull of pumpkins, gourds, and yellow mums. And, she's pushing all her imagination buttons trying to come up with this year's costume.

In the meantime, she's been reading magazines. Yesterday she told me about this great site to find fabulous Halloween decorations. "Good stuff that you'd add to your collection every year." In particular, she was pretty sure Kevin and I needed this. "You could hang the man from your front porch."

From Singles 2009

"Uh, Mom. I don't want to give our spiders any ideas."

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Hurry, hurry, hurry...

NOW is the time. If you've ever wanted to eat off my floor, it is as clean as it is ever going to be. I was inspired by my 75-year-old, busted-ankled mother who was scrubbing her kitchen floor today... so in my holey-kneed, once-favorite jeans, I got jiggy with the mop bucket and a rag. Ah, Sunday. I know how to have fun while Kevin is away.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Just After Sunset

From Singles 2009

Just finished King's most recent short story collection. King. Short stories. It's a good combination.

Kevin read the collection first. He generously let me keep the book (on his library card...and you know how risky that sort of behavior can be...) and even made a list for me rating the stories from most to least favorite. Since I recognized I had a limited time to read this before it was recalled, I started reading from the top of Kevin's list rather than reading from the first page of the book.

So, I liked the book...some good creepy stories. I read them all. Eventually. I had to actually return the book and ask the librarian to allow me to check it out again on my card.

What I found most interesting, however, was how very different Kevin and my taste in stories was. If you took Kevin's list and turned it upside down, you'd get my list. He preferred the suspenseful, imminent danger tales, while I'm more disposed to a quiet, subtle, ghost story. And, monsters. Monsters rated much higher in my list than his. Now, doesn't that surprise you?

What he's articulating is a delusion, and part of him knows it - 'shadows that looked like faces,' etc. - but it's very strong, and strong delusions travel like cold germs on a sneeze.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


From Singles 2009

Well, it's official. I am not a winner in the Small World game design competition. Don't ask me how that could have happened. Who would NOT want to play with Cursing Mummies? or, better yet... a race of Pizza Delivery Boys. Must have been some sort of mix up.

Or, perhaps, the judges have heard that I don't actually like the game that much. I just haven't gotten my mind around it and unfortunately in my last two plays of it there's been a player in each game who, even though I was CLEARLY in last place, decided to REPEATEDLY pummel me. Just not fun. Maybe if I had a pizza, however...

Anyway, if YOU are a Small World fan and if you are intrigued, I'll give you the details. You'll be responsible for your own artwork, however.

Mummies - While active if mummies are attacked they curse their opponent who must then remove one of his tokens from the game.

Pizza Delivery Boys - At the end of each of their turns, the PDB's deliver a (single) pizza to an opponent on an adjacent territory. The tokens on that territory cannot be moved during the next turn. They're too busy eating pizza to participate in any further attacks.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West

From Singles 2009

Melena buried her face in her hands….”It’s not that I don’t love Frexx! But I hate being better than the local peasant idiots!”
“Well, now this green child brings you down to their level, you ought to be pleased,” said Nanny meanly.

Obviously, I've just caught up on the life and times of the Wicked Witch of the West. And, what a ride it was. Pure magic! Ninety-nine million times more fun than the "Wizard of Oz". I cheered her on! I laughed! I cried! Well, I was at least very disappointed to have the story end.

"She's sent the crows out to blind the guests coming for dinner!"
"Well, that's one way to avoid having to dust, I suppose."

Plus, I learned important child rearing tips....should that ever be necessary.

“Bleeding is good for them, makes them less hungry.”

Fractions in the Southern Hemisphere

Typically, a work day goes from 8:30 AM to 6:00 PM. On Saturdays we're only working half days.

That would be 8:30 to 4:00.

I don't think I'll ever catch on.

Monday, September 07, 2009


Once again, I am probably the last to know... they've remade "Fame". I think I've seen this movie more times than any other film. It certainly spoke to me in 1980. And, watching this scene from graduation (I'm undoubtedly ruining the ending for someone), I get goosebumps again.

And, in time, we will all be stars!

Sunday, September 06, 2009


From photo a day

I guess I can't call these my good jeans any longer. Sigh. Time to schedule my next trip home. Shopping to do.

Today is

From photo a day

National Bilby Day! Complete with one of the men who killed the Easter Bunny...
From photo a day

and chocolate bilbies.
From photo a day

Saturday, September 05, 2009

I am being very good

I am not waking Kevin to tell him that there are now DARK CHOCOLATE Reese's Peanut Butter Cups in the US.

And, I haven't bought a flight over, either.

Sainthood. It is only a matter of time.