Monthly Archives: December 2005

Department of the Best Things in Life Are Free, Computer Division

If you’re a parent whose kids didn’t get a new computer game for Christmas — or if they did, and they’ve already beaten it — or if you’re feeling in need of a new game yourself — you probably ought to look into freeware games.

Moreover, if you want to play one of those MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game), you don’t have to shell out money for a monthly subscription. There are quite a few free MMORPGs out there which are free to download, free to play, and just as fun to play as the big-name ones. But pick carefully. Some games are free, but playing them on the server isn’t… which means it’s not really free.

Maple Story is a good example of a company-run semi-free MMORPG. It comes from Singapore, but folks from all over the world play. It’s only got 2D graphics, but those graphics are charming. It’s still a work in progress, but the world is big, the community seems nice, and you can’t waste your time on pointless player vs. player battles. What’s not to like?

However, not everything is free. The money-making idea is that there are items in the game (character facial expressions, non-stardard issue clothing, and similar cute things) which customize your character and can be bought with earned-in-game money. But what if you really really want something and don’t have the in-game money? Why, you pay real money to get a card full of game money. Devious, huh? But wait, there’s more! Some of these cute items only exist for 90 days or so. At which point, you’ll naturally want more cute stuff for your character, so….

Yes, there are games out there which are absolutely free, whose creators don’t even ask for shareware donations. There are also whole communities of people who love to play games so much that they’ll even play untested freeware games and tell you what’s good, bad, and indifferent.

Acid Play seems to be a very solid site for freeware downloads and reviews. You can pick out free games by genre, or look up at the top for lists of the best rated freeware games out there. There are even forums to discuss the game or get help. You can also download trial versions of commercial games.

If you like a free game but it’s giving you trouble, you can also search the Web for the game name and “walkthrough” or “manual”.

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Bible Comics… Sorta.

Okay, this link is definitely twisted and not really work-safe, but since the good bits made me laugh hugely….

A comics retelling of the Bible, as told by a guy who has trouble remembering the plot.

But it’s funny on purpose, see, because his buddy (raised Catholic) is amused by the fact his non-religious friend never learned any of this stuff except what he picked up from pop culture, as those whose parents are heathens don’t have to go to CCD class. The raised-Catholic guy then proceeded to transcribe the non-religious guy’s oral retelling and turn it into a script. (This would be really cruel, except that clearly, the non-religious guy also had a little fun with the retelling. The apostle Levon?) Then the non-religious guy illustrated the script. (With Sharpies!)

Typical narration:

Next up are Cain and Abel, Adam and Eve’s kids.

Cain killed Abel, because he was jealous over something.

Maybe a girl? I don’t remember.

The scary thing is, this comics interpretation is actually more accurate than many things I’ve seen written about the Bible on the Internet. Definitely better than Jack Chick comics. Probably a good insight into a non-Christian Everyman’s Bible knowledge, for all you apologists and evangelists.

And really, some of the illos aren’t bad at all, especially given the context. I think Mary comes off rather well. Not to mention some of the crucifixion scenes.

Of course, it’s a bit depressing that some cartooning fanboy without religion and with Sharpies can do a better religious illustration as part of a joke than a lot of folks who get paid to do this. But let’s focus on the positive here.

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Dog Health Alert!

Little did I know, but my parents were very busy last night. Our Irish wolfhound Liath was a very sick little hound indeed. Her stomach swelled up hard and hollow like a drum and stopped making digestive noises, she kept retching and hacking unproductively, she foamed gunky slobber at the mouth, she didn’t want to lay down, her heart raced, and she kept trying to find a place to hide.

What they (and I) didn’t know is that this is called bloat. It’s the earlier form of that killer condition, torsion — which is when the stomach or the intestines get twisted by all that gassy bloat. But even if torsion didn’t occur, the chances were extremely good that Liath was going to die from bloat alone.

Now, my parents did give Liath simethicone anti-gas pills, which was exactly right. And it probably didn’t hurt that they gave her plain yogurt and massaged her stomach to try to release the gas.

But they did not take her to the 24 hour vet hospital, and that was wrong. If need be, the vet could have released the gas with a needle directly through the stomach wall, given her other helpful medicines, and used an X-ray to find out what else was going on in her innards — like torsion. If they had taken her, she would have gotten immediate attention. Bloat is always a dire emergency. It is nothing to fool around with. (And some dogs even re-bloat, right after getting their stomachs decompressed!)

Bloat makes lots of bad things happen to a dog’s body — toxins in the blood, heart strain, bloodveins to important organs blocked, important tissue slowly dying — and torsion is even worse. Dogs can have heart attacks or go into shock, too. If any of these things happen, the dog can die in less than an hour, or suffer on and on for an interminable time before having a painful death. So the fact they didn’t go to the vet is pretty scary. (Especially since they suspected it might be something like torsion, and we lost one of our previous wolfhounds to that.)

As it happened, Liath finally managed to pass a mighty burst of wind through her constipated guts, and that seems to have relieved the whole problem. (If a dog manages to burp, that’s also a good sign.) But frankly, I’d be a lot happier if Mom and Dad would take Liath for a checkup before they take her on vacation. (Especially since they’re traveling to a state not known for medicos who care about their patients, so I assume that veterinary care is probably as bad or worse.)

Bloat and torsion are more common in deep-chested dogs, like Irish wolfhounds. But all dogs can get it. So please be aware of the symptoms.

The major cause of the disease is not understood well at all, but it seems to be associated with wolfing down dry kibble, drinking lots of water, jumping around, and then having the bad luck to have the stomach’s rhythms disrupted for some unknown reason. The last part is the important part, of course. (Liath didn’t drink an unusual amount, didn’t run around at all before or after, and only ate her normal evening ration of food.)

The major way to try to prevent the disease is to feed the dog more than once a day. Feeding the dog kibble that’s already been sitting in water half an hour, or including more meat or table scraps, also seem to reduce the incidence of bloat and torsion. But nothing is sure.

Dogs who have gotten bloat once are more likely to get it again. There is a surgical remedy, though — sewing part of the stomach to the wall of the body. It sounds gross, but is apparently pretty simple and effective. So a lot of folks have it done for their puppies at the same time as when they go to be spayed or neutered.

Liath was always fed twice a day, since she’s always bolted her food. But she is going to four times a day now. I am going to work on my mom to wet down Liath’s food a little. Other than that, I don’t know what we can do. She can’t have surgery, since wolfhounds are apparently notoriously bad at surviving anesthesia.

She seems to be all right now, and I hope she never gets bloat again. But people need to know that this can happen, and what they should do.

“Stomach Bloat in Dogs” by Anita R. Weidinger, D.V.M.

A bloat FAQ

Bloat in dogs

Bloat statistics and risk factors

More bloat statistics

Raised dishes — good or bad? Plus other comments on the Purdue bloat study.

Bloat First Aid has a list of stages of bloat and appropriate things to do about it.

If you’re really desperate, the vet’s far away, and your dog’s all shocky, here’s “How to Tube Your Dog” by Karen Leshkivich, DVM. This article explains how to safely work a tube down a dog’s throat to let the air out of his stomach, as well as a few other emergency bloat treatments. Read this and be prepared, I’d say. (If this link disappears, try “tube your dog” as a Google search term, and use the Google cache if need be.)

Bloat First Aid also has pictures of the tube procedure.

Gaysie Mae’s bloat story

Signs of bloat noticed by owners.

Bloat links

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Watching Morning Toons….

I tell you, having days off certainly lets you see quite a few interesting shows that you’d normally overlook. (Especially since I don’t have kids, and hence don’t monitor the shows for the really little kids.)

Cartoon Network has been running a weekday morning show for little kids for the last few years. Tickle is the current name of the block. Peculiarly, the channel runs perpetual parental humor hints at the bottom of the screen. (This part is called Tickle U, and they must be getting a grant for it. Still, I suppose they may be a blessing to really harried young parents.)

Following up on Krypto the Wonder Dog, Alan Burnett has another little kid show — Firehouse Tales. This pretty much tries to be an American Bob the Builder or Thomas the Tank Engine, except with CGI. I can’t tell you how charming the firetruck characters are, with their big googly eyes! But what really strikes me is the exaggerated realism of the backgrounds. It’s set in Burbank and surrounding areas, and even I, who visited Burbank all of once, can often tell the exact street that the trucks are traveling by the landmarks. Furthermore, just like in the real LA, the trucks have to take the highway every five minutes to get everywhere. There are tons of ramps and tunnels as well as surface streets, and always, the mountains rising up into the wide Californian sky.

There are a lot of tiny little shows with short segments, too, like the African art-styled show Yoko! Jakamoto! Toto! features the eponymous characters (a bird, an armadillo, and a monkey, respectively) having adventures in which the only conversation consists of saying one of the above names in various tones of voice. It’s actually a lot less annoying than Pokemon or Teletubbies doing similar things, and it’s clearly for the really young.

Gerald McBoing Boing is a cartoon about a kid who communicates with the rest of the world solely through making sound effects noises. (This is actually pretty cute, too.)

Little Robots looks like stop-motion, though I guess it must be really good CGI. It’s about a bunch of little toy-sized robots living in a junkyard, who have built a little town out of junk and spare parts. They apparently live under a dome, and hence have a machine to switch from day to night. The details are really charming.

There’s several more shows, but I’m a bit too lazy to watch or describe them all!

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The Candidate

My younger brother, Kevin O’Brien, threw his hat into the ring yesterday. He’s running for Ohio state representative in the 70th District (Beavercreek, Fairborn, Xenia, and Bath Township), as a Democrat.

This puts him up against Kevin DeWine, the majority whip over at the statehouse. Who is also, of course, a member of the DeWine political family.

I don’t live in the 70th District anymore, and I’m a registered Republican anyway, so I can’t help him much in the primaries. My parents are of course conservative Republicans also, so neither can they. But whatever I can do for my brother, I’m plan to do.

To be honest, Taft’s crew of Ohio Republicans aren’t conservatives either, for the most part, and they’ve been doing a lousy job of being Republicans or state servants. It is probably unfair to paint every Republican in office with this brush, but I’m not the only Republican who feels mad. So quixotic as it all seems, there still could be a chance. If nothing else, it’ll certainly be interesting to see what happens.

So I endorse my brother’s candidacy to anybody out there who happens to be interested. He’s a moderate Democrat, but he’s a pro-military, pro-guns, and pro-life moderate Democrat!

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Sin-Eaters

Something that’s been bothering me is an attitude I’ve been seeing lately. There are a lot of people in this country who, though perfectly willing to accept the good results of military action, are also unwilling either to serve in the military or to support the troops in any way (or in any way beyond lip service). The military is a job too dirty or declasse for them. When extreme pacifism is put into this package, things get worse. Soldiers are not just seen as of some lower class of people, they are also seen as having a lower standard of ethics.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that people like this can’t tell the difference between “soldiers should be folks who, if need be, can hunt and kill people without being disabled by it” and “soldiers should be psychopaths”.

Now, most people in the military don’t let this bad attitude stop them from doing good service. Some emphasize the honor and love inherent in doing for those who wouldn’t do anything for them. Some reach for continuity, as repaying the deeds of the past and building for the future. Still others see themselves as the “sheepdogs” that stand between peaceful sheep and violent wolves. But there are some who seem a little too fond of the idea that they are there to do dirty jobs, to sacrifice themselves and even their own souls for what others will not do.

This last is just buying into the idiots’ point of view, albeit from the opposite side. The point of having citizen soldiers is the same point as having citizen police — they do only those things which their fellow citizens would also do, if they had to. If a job is too declasse or dirty for you to do, it’s also too dirty for you to hire anyone else to do.

I readily acknowledge that there are jobs that require more skill or physical strength or even courage than I have. I’m perfectly willing to let other people do those things. But I don’t want soldiers to have lower standards of ethics or morals than mine — I think they should have higher ones (at least where their profession is concerned), because their job is dangerous and deals with ethical problems in a very direct way.

If people have blood on their hands in self defense or just war, then they’ve done nothing wrong. Their souls are clean. But if people have blood on their hands from committing injustice, they’re not serving their country or the military profession very well. You can’t do a bad thing for a good reason and expect it to turn out well.

I don’t want anyone to think their job is to commit sins to save me from dirtying my soul. If a job is too sinful for me to do, nobody should be doing it.

I realize this is a very simple point of view. But there are some things we can’t let get too complicated.

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Laogai Delenda Est

Collagen from dead Chinese prisoners, among other types of Chinese body farming for fun and profit.

Prisoners’ organs for sale, especially to foreigners. Who know the organs are from prisoners, btw.

‘A cadaveric kidney comes from a dead person and in the majority of cases in China, the dead people are prisoners, which allows for us to know at least two weeks ahead of time when the kidney will be ready.’

The corpse art factory in Dalian. Gee, I wonder what happens to all those executed Chinese dissidents?

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