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Journal of jhi (318)

Thursday January 10, 2002
11:36 PM

The Road to My Bookshelf

[ #2061 ]

I'm probably more than anything a history/geography buff-- I find the subjects to be so linked that I don't know what they are thought as separate subjects. Languages come close third-- and I do mean natural languages.

Currently I'm "reading" (as in: the book is glaring at me accusingly from relatively close to the top of the huge pile beside the bed) Sheba: Through the Desert in Search of the Legendary Queen by Nicholas Clapp. It looks promising, I really liked his previous book, Road to Ubar reads like an Indiana Jones story-- except it's true (and no Nazis). First finding references to an old legend of Arabian peninsula (the lost city of Ubar), noticing an error in an ancient Greek geography text that gives a hint to the location of the place, and using Jet Propulsion Laboratory satellite images to survey the area, Clapp heads off to the rugged incense mountains of Yemen, and one of the most forbidding places on Earth, the Rub al Khali desert ("The Empty Quarter")-- and finds the fabled city of Ubar. Well, "finds" with as good certainty as you can without finding written evidence.

One of the best books I've read recently is Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies that is an answer to a very short question, posed to Diamond by a friend of his, a Papua-New Guinea native: Why do you have all this stuff?, or rephrased as Why did it happen so that the Western culture conquered the world? Jared Diamond's answer (which is a fascinating combination of geography, biology, and blind luck) may not be the full or the final answer, but it's a very convincing answer.

Because of my history twist, I like to unwind by building kingdoms and empires. Never could stand the interface of Civilization, but Age of Empires is cool, currently I'm building away at the expansion pack. (Besides, if you've ever played the boardgame version of Civilization, you know that the computer version sucks raw eggs.) At the university I liked to play conquer (note: conquer, not the PC game of Command and Conquer).

conquer was a cool multiuser empire-building game, somewhat similar to "empire"-- but most people have probably heard of neither. Sigh. :-) Multiuser (rounds of, say, twice a day, or if you were hardcore, every hour...) exploration, resource finding, building, battle game, with fantasy races. Ahhh, being young again and nothing to do than to avoid physics classes by playing conquer, nethack, moria round the clock... Yes, text-only games, I would exchange most of today's fancy candy dandy graphics to a crisp vt420 any day... Yes, I'm that old. This concludes the memoirs of an old fart for today.

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  • As in rhinestone, which is sorta like "Diamond"?!

    • Duh, thanks, fixed. Interesting mental slip, Diamond -> Rhine... there used to be someone called 'Jared Rhine' who frequented Perl mailing lists.
  • I am obliged to put in a plug for Freeciv [] here.

    J. David works really hard, has a passion for writing good software, and knows many of the world's best Perl programmers
    • Yes, I know of Freeciv. If they copied the gameplay, they copied the crap, sorry :-) Yes, it's "free", so I can modify the gameplay? Sorry, I want to play, not to code. The idea was to relax, I could code all day at work and at home If I wanted...
  • For something that was written as a popular science book, I was remarkably affected by GG&S. The author's arguments are well made and have provided me much ammunition in my fights against the one or two racist bigots I sometimes run into. Well worth being on every bookshelf.

  • Hourly updates at conquer is what you called hard-core? When I was working for my university, we'd mark the end of the semester by having a day-long (that's all it took to reach nuclear capability and win) game of Lightning Empire.

    30. Second. Updates.




    • Okay, you win :-)

      To my defense, the hourly conquer was played *during* the term-- you did your move, went away for a lecture/class/lunch, and came back an hour later to see the lizardmen swarming over your borders... some of the guys later moved on to Empire, I don't know what update frequency they had but I do know that they spent nights and weekends in the lab... by that time I think I was hooked by Nethack and Moria.

      In case MUDs are/were your opiate of choice: couple of the Empire-playing guys went l