Extremely Lazy Sunday (Still Migraining)

Hello again, readers.  As I noted yesterday, I am suffering from a gnarly migraine.  I thought I was recovering last night, but I awoke in the wee hours with more spikes.

I have been lounging like Goethe all day, trying to recover.  I know have some Excedrin Migraine and a cold pack for my head, and have been drinking plenty of caffeine.

Hopefully I will be better soon.  I am seeing a neurologist either Monday or Tuesday, so we’ll see if he can shed some light things.

—TPP

Delayed SubscribeStar Saturday Today: Migraine

SubscribeStar Saturday is going to be delayed today, likely until tomorrow.  Earlier in the week I came down with a mild stomach virus.  That morphed into what may have been a mild fever—I’m not sure—and, around Thursday, sharp, stabbing pains on the right side of my head.

I thought I was suffering caffeine withdrawals, as I stopped drinking coffee after Thursday morning when I suffered some lingering side effects of the stomach bug, and also because I was struggling with terrible acid reflux that night.

After treating my caffeine addiction with some Diet Pepsi (which I called my “methadone treatments”)—and then returning to a weak couple of cups of coffee this morning—failed to resolve the issues, I began to despair.  Every thirty to sixty seconds I was getting sharp, painful stabs just above and behind my right ear, and even ibuprofen, that wonder drug, failed to have any effect.

Finally, my dear mom suggested I probably had a migraine, and I needed to lie down in a dark room.  That almost immediately provided blessed relief after nearly forty-eight hours.  I am typing this brief post with “Night Mode” enabled in Windows 10, which cuts the harsh blue light, and wearing sunglasses; I have not experienced a single “spike” while typing it.

Hopefully I’ll be back on the mend tomorrow—which I’ve been saying everyday since Tuesday.

Thanks for your patience.

—TPP

Trump Takes Action on Big Tech

President Trump finally did it—after years of calls from blackballed conservatives, GEOTUS signed an executive order yesterday removing liability protections for social media companies that censor users based on their political views.

Here is a lengthy excerpt from Fox News‘s reporting:

The president’s order, which also cuts federal funding for social media platforms that censor users’ political views, came just two days after Twitter took the unprecedented step of slapping a “misleading” warning label on two of Trump’s tweets concerning the fraud risks of nationwide mail-in balloting. The move immediately backfired: Experts disputed that Trump’s tweet was actually misleading, in part because mail-in balloting has been linked to ongoing fraud; Twitter’s fact-check itself contained false statements; and Twitter failed to apply the standard of review to other users.

At Thursday’s signing ceremony, Trump called the fact-check “egregious,” and held up a photo of Twitter executive Yoel Roth, who heads up the site’s fact-checking and rules-making operation. Fox News reported on Wednesday that Roth has mocked Trump supporters, called Trump’s team “ACTUAL NAZIS,” slammed “scary trannies” in New York City, and called GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell a “bag of farts.” (In a statement, Twitter did not dispute Fox News’ reporting, but called it “unfortunate.”)

“My executive order calls for new regulations under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act to make it so that social media companies that engage in censoring any political conduct will not be able to keep their liability shield,” the president said.

Essentially, social media platforms have always had a choice:  either act as a publisher, in which case you’re liable for what users post, but you can remove and censor content as you see fit; or act as a neutral platform, in which case you’re protected from liability for what users post.  Twitter, Facebook, et. al., are trying to have the best of both worlds—ban political posts and users with which they disagree under the companies’ “Terms of Services,” while disclaiming responsibility for everything else.

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TBT: Hustlin’: Minecraft Camp 2019

It’s been a week to talk about video games (I even found a downloadable version of SimEarth that runs in DOSBox, which is one of the nerdier sentences ever written), and my annual Minecraft Camp is less than two weeks away, The Virus permitting.  As such, I thought I’d look back to last summer’s post about camp for this week’s TBT.

The post mostly goes into some of my side gigs, and talks about the weather (we had a blessedly pleasant spring this year, unlike 2019).  My private lessons have died down a bit due to The Virus, but I’m hoping to get those going again soon.

That’s about it by way of preamble.  I’m still recovering from the after effects of this little stomach bug.  The plumbing is fine, but I’m still a bit weak.  Hopefully I’ll be 100% by the time you read this post, and posts will get back to their usual quality soon enough.

With that, here is 2019’s “Hustlin’: Minecraft Camp 2019“:

The June slump has hit, as people are less interested in news and politics and going outside.  It’s been a gorgeous few days here in South Carolina.  I left the house Wednesday morning and it was cold.

For non-Southerners, allow me to explain:  here in the Deep South, our only true season is summer, which runs from late March through Thanksgiving.  I’ve seen people mow their lawns a week before Christmas.  If we’re lucky we get a mild summer.  After an oppressively muggy May, a morning in the low 60s is a blessed reprieve here in the Palmetto State.

But talking about the weather is probably why my numbers are down, so I’ll move on to another non-politics-related topic:  my penchant for hustlin’.  Readers know that I have a few gigs running at any time, including private music lessons, adjunct teaching, my History of Conservative Thought summer course, and playing shows.  I also paint classrooms and do sweaty manly maintenance work at my little school when I’m not molding minds.  And while it doesn’t pay anything yet, I’m hoping to get a few bucks for my writing.

But perhaps my favorite side gig is an annual tradition:  my school’s annual Minecraft Camp.  A former school administrator started the camp, and I’ve carried it on for some years now.

For the uninitiated, Minecraft is basically LEGOs in video game form.  The genius creation of programmer Markus Persson, the game places players in a massive sandbox world, with the objective being… anything!  There are no timers (other than a day and night cycle), no goals, and no ending.  Players generate a theoretically endless world from scratch, and proceed to build—craft—their way to civilization (or endless PVP battles).

Players can activate Creative Mode, which allows for endless flights of fancy, with access to every block and resource in the game, or they can play in Survival, which is exactly what it sounds like:  players hide from (or fight) monsters at night, hunt for or grow food, and have to keep their health up.

Minecraft has enjoyed ubiquity since its release in 2011—it’s the best-selling video game of all time—and when we started Minecraft Camp back in the day (I think it was summer 2013 or 2014, but I’m not sure), it was HUGE.  The game has inspired probably tens of thousands of mods, from simple additions like extra monsters or types of blocks, to total conversions that completely rebuild the game’s mechanics.

With the rise of Fortnite a year ago, the game seemed to wane in popularity, but it’s apparently enjoying a resurgence:  our camp was up to twelve Crafters from a low of about four or five last year.  It gets absolutely chaotic at times—like during our final camp PVP battle, and a hectic boss fight against a gigantic, camper-created Creeper named “Creeperzilla,” that saw kids shouting nearly at the top of their lungs with unabashed glee—but it’s also beautiful to see the creativity of young children.  I am constantly amazed to see what they create.

And, let’s face it, there are worse ways to make an extra buck than playing video games with a group of creative eight-to-thirteen-year olds.  It definitely beats raking up old pine straw and spraying Roundup on cracks in the parking lot.

You can check out our camp’s blog here:  https://tbcsminecraft.wordpress.com/

SimEarth

Yesterday I wrote about SimRefinery, the oil refinery software lost to time (I’m praying it’s sitting on a long-forgotten floppy disk somewhere).  What I didn’t tell you was that I had succumbed to a mild but annoying stomach virus, so I was essentially useless for the rest of the day.

Of course, what better way to spend one’s time when sick than with video games?  After writing about SimEarth and doing some nostalgic reading about the world-building simulator, I tracked down a playable DOS version.  A helpful commenter also linked to the game’s 200-plus-page manual, which is necessary for accessing the game.  Anyone familiar with 1990s-era computer technology will recall that, in order to prevent piracy, games would often ask users to look up some piece of information buried in the manual, the theory being that if you owned the game legally, you’d have the manual.

During this sickly walk down memory lane, I realized how much I had forgotten about SimEarth.  The game is more complicated than I remember.  It’s not that deep, but what makes it difficult is balancing all the different inputs to your planet—the amount of sunlight, how much of that sunlight is reflected by the clouds and the surface, how much cloud cover to have, how quickly animals mutate and reproduce, how frequently meteors strike the surface, etc., etc.

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SimEverything

Summer Break is approaching, which means unstructured time, our most precious resource.  I plan on using that time to work on some long-delayed eBooks—including one on Christmas carols—and to teach my History of Conservative Thought course.  I’m also hoping to rebuild my music lesson empire after The Virus sacked the imperial capital.  There will also be lot of family time built in.

In addition to all of those wholesome and productive activities, there is also the siren song of video games.  Video games can become a major time sink (I’m learning that with Stellaris), but they’re a good way to unwind, and require a bit more focus and decision-making than passively consuming television.

One of the major video games meta-series of my youth were the various Sim games from Maxis—SimCitySimEarthSimAnt, etc. (I had a particular fondness for the scope and breadth of SimEarth, which I obtained on a bootlegged 3.5″ floppy disk from my buddy Arun in high school, back before I knew about or respected intellectual property rights).  The sandbox style in play, which encouraged experimentation and open-ended decision-making, really made those Maxis games fun (not unlike Minecraft, which also encourages exploration and free play).

So it was with great interest—and a heavy dose of nostalgia—that I read “When SimCity got serious:  the story of Maxis Business Simulations and SimRefinery” on The Obscuritory, a website dedicated to exploring games lost, forgotten, and never played.

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Memorable Monday III: Memorial Day 2019

It’s Memorial Day 2020!  We’re still in The Age of The Virus, but even Blue Staters in Maryland are hitting the beaches.  People have had enough of sitting around in fear.  It’s summertime, baby!

It’s fitting that the day when Americans remember those who gave their lives for our freedom, we’re going out in droves to enjoy it.  I don’t wish The Virus on anyone, and prudence is warranted, but it’s time to get on with our lives.

I’m spending time with family, then am going to take in some of our great State on a leisurely drive home.  There’s not much time for fresh material, so today I’m looking back to last year’s Memorial Day tribute.

Here is 2019’s “Memorial Day 2019“:

It’s Memorial Day here in the United States, which marks the unofficial start of summer.  More importantly, Memorial Day is a federal holiday set aside to remember veterans who have fallen in combat.  The United States observes two other days dedicated to veterans:  Armed Services Day, which honors those men and women currently serving in the armed services; and Veterans’ Day, which honors all American servicemen and women, living, dead, retired, active, etc.

We often hear encomiums this time of year about the numbers of men and women who have died to preserve our freedoms.  These tributes are, of course, true (and, one hopes, heartfelt), and are worth reiterating.

I end every year of my American history courses urging my students to remember how precious their patrimony is, and that liberty is a fragile thing that must be preserved.  I, too, mention the “men and women who gave their lives so that we might be free.”  I then follow that up with noting that, while they hear that sentiment expressed often, they now know (having completed a year of American history) how true it is.

Nevertheless, it’s easy to forget the magnitude of that sacrifice.  In an age where wars are so distant and remote they barely register for us anymore (remember:  we’re still fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan), it’s easy to take our soldiers for granted.  It’s easier, still, to forget the sheer number of combat deaths—750,000 in the American Civil War alone.

To that end, I’ve elected to spare you any further pontificating, and present instead this Wikipedia entry on “United States military casualties of war,” which breaks down the numbers succinctly.  Yet even dry statistics and bar charts speak volumes.

God Bless America!

–TPP

Lazy Sunday LXIII: Holidays

It’s Memorial Day Weekend, which means no one is reading self-indulgent posts on third-rate blogs.  While a good chunk of the country is still shut down, lots of the the sensible parts are opening up again.  People aren’t going to let The Virus ruin the official opening weekend of summer.

Since it’s a fun holiday weekend, let’s look back at some holiday-themed posts (note—instead of posting these in chronological order by publication date, I’m placing them in order based on when the calendar would appear in a calendar year):

  • Phone it in Friday VI: Valentine’s Day” – I didn’t write very much about love or romance in this post, though I was “dreaming of Tulsi Gabbard donning a MAGA hat.”  I also linked to photog’s blog post about matchmaking, which features a detailed rundown of the horrors of modern dating in the comments.
  • He is Risen!” (and “TBT: He is Risen!“) – A short post about Easter, the most important date on the Christian calendar (with Christmas a close second).  The original post details some of the sobering statistics about religion in decline, but it was heartening to see that 2/3rds of Americans in 2019 believed that Jesus rose from the dead.
  • Happy Halloween!” – Big surprise—I love Halloween.  This post details why, and includes pictures of my jaunty l’il Jack O’Lantern.
  • Thanksgiving Week!” – There sure are a lot of exclamation points in these titles.  This post isn’t about Thanksgiving, per se, but more about the nature of the school calendar that ceded the Wednesday before Thanksgiving as another day to the holiday.  I also offer up some reflections on the limits of logic, especially of following ideas to their absurd conclusions.  Practicality plays a role on putting the brakes on some ideas.
  • Christmas and its Symbols” – This post features lots of French horns, as well as a Daily Encouraging Word devotional about the symbolism of Christmas.  I go after atheists, too, which is always fun.

Enjoy barbecuing and being normal again with your friends and family this weekend!  ‘Tis the season.

—TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

SubscribeStar Saturday: Graduation Day Wisdom

Today’s post is a SubscribeStar Saturday exclusive.  To read the full post, subscribe to my SubscribeStar page for $1 a month or more.  For a full rundown of everything your subscription gets, click here.  NEW TIER: $3 a month gets one edition of Sunday Doodles every month!

Today marks graduation for the private school where I teach.  For the first time in my teaching career, attendance at graduation is option for faculty and graduates, except for “essential personnel.”  I’m The Sound Guy, so I’m essential.  On the plus side, I’ve rigged up my Yamaha mixer in the teacher’s lounge, so I’ll be chilling—literally—in air-conditioned comfort while my colleagues are sweating it on the front lawn.

We’re conducting one of the first major graduation ceremonies in The Age of The Virus in our region, so the school is going to great lengths to make the graduation as safe and socially distant as possible.  They’re spreading everyone out over a yuge front law and capping attendees to four per graduate.  Everyone’s wearing face masks (facial freedom is another benefit of being alone and inside behind my Wizard of Oz curtain).  Our Buildings & Grounds crew has been working hard all week to make everything look immaculate, and I pre-rigged cables earlier in the week.

With today being Graduation Day, I thought I’d do as so many other unqualified individuals have done and offer up my nuggets of wisdom to the Class of 2020:

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