(G)Nat is playing Caesar IV, a game I bought for us to enjoy together. Warning: enjoyment may be complicated by unplayable jerky graphics unless you readjust the settings so the graphics make Pac-Man look like a Baroque church ceiling. The lag is so horrible that you click and click and click, and then find you’ve built nineteen reservoirs in one spot, or put a grain field nine miles from town, or other such joys. With such pin-point precision, putting down roads is impossible – they meander drunkenly around, widening and contracting, plunging into marshes. It’s a bad sign when a game about Rome can’t get the roads right. Romans knew roads.

Installation provided some hints – when you came to the screen about installing the online play component, you had the option of continuing or canceling. Since I couldn’t imagine a day where I’d want to go online and build aqueducts, I hit cancel. Which cancelled the entire installation. I didn’t know that, so I tried to find the game on the hard drive. (We’re on the Windows side of the Macbook, BTW.) Called up the Search function. There was an animated dog in the corner. Because dogs are good at searching, I guess. Or fetching. But you have to have something in your hand and throw it away for the dog to go get it. Whatever. I typed something in the box, and I must have clicked the wrong option or not unclicked the right option, because it launched a browser and seached for CAESAR on the web. Which was helpful. When I realized I couldn’t find it I installed the game again.

“Sometimes on the computer,” (G)nat said, “if something doesn’t work I just do it again, and it does.”  Wise beyond her years, this one.

We built a few apartment buildings and a grain farm and some wells. By the time I got around to building some civic infrastructure the houses started to burn down. All the houses burned down. We watched the people leave town. They actually walked into the desert and vanished. TAKE ME WITH YOU, I thought. 

Some post-purchase investigation reveals I’m not alone; apparently the main problem with the game is that people expect to play it on a computer different than the one the developers used. On any other machine, well, you’re asking for trouble. Apparently people are expected to download patches before they even play the game, which is a bit like releasing an album that does not contain the Middle C note, or a novel missing the vowel “E.” You can add them later! Or you can move along to something that actually works.

I am curious whether the company actually played the game before they released it.

(G)Nat paused the game and built a very nice city with trees and apartment buildings and a library and schools and farms and fountains. Then she started it up and waited.

“No one’s coming to my city, Dad,” she said. She waited a while longer, then shut the lid of the laptop. “I’m done with this one now.” Tomorrow she’ll probably go back to Mall Tycoon, which allows you to build gigantic ugly shopping malls and fill them with security officers. You need the rent-a-cops to stave off the hoodlums, who are called “punks” and have blonde Mohawks. I learned this when she was playing the game with her best friend, and they started shrieking in mock terror: THERE’S A PUNK! GET THE POLICE! I wandered over and saw a tiny cop manhandling a punk, shoving him out of the mall. This is like someone in 1957 kicking someone out of a store for having a hairstyle like F. Scott Fitzgerald, right? No: time has stopped, and fixed things forever. There is no past, only a rotating cast of archetypes. The guys who walked around London in 1976 with glued hair are still regarded as a contemporary figure. Even though they’ll be fifty soon.

My weekend? Thank you for asking. I watched “Snatch,” which was amusing – and that night I dreamed someone yelled at Guy Richie and said “I don’t want just another tangled mutli-cultural crime comedy, Guy.” (I wrote that down, then went back to sleep.) (Always keep a pen and paper next to your bed; things occur to you.) I didn’t sleep much – usually I catch up on sleep on the weekends, but Saturday and Sunday the body came to life after 6.5 hours like the Nostromo computers upon detecting a xenobiological signal, if you know what I mean. Sunday night I settled in to watch one of the many movies I’ve queued up to enjoy; turned on the TV and saw “Citizen Kane” playing. Realized I hadn’t seen it in a year or two. Got out the DVD and watched it, again. Every time you see it you note something that’s always bothered you, something you like you never noticed, and something that always stuck in your mind, like the way they repeat the opening moments before the opera curtain goes up. This might have been the first time I watched the movie where I wondered how they knew Kane’s dying words – he was alone in the room, after all. Doesn’t matter.  It’s just terrific.


You can sense the desperation in that ad; if you have to tell people it’s terrific, well, they might suspect otherwise.

Sunday afternoon I did errands with the Giant Swede; he had to buy phones for his parents and chow for his new dog – Major, a Boxer. I did now know they made food for specific brands of dogs. (Sorry, meant breeds, but brands works too.) He also bought 12 rolls of poop bags. If you knew nothing of humanity or our love of dogs, this would seem very odd: the biped buys a large sack of compressed granulated animal and grain dust for the quadruped, which he puts through the quadruped, and then collects in the bags. The exact nature of the alchemic transformation is unclear.

Other than that, I worked on the site in preparation for new-book traffic. I decided against moving the Bleat to the main page. I enjoy doing the graphics for this page; it’s my Friday night pleasure. A Balvenie, an old radio show, colors, and fonts. I did manage to complete the Institute overhaul: many old sites have been folded into the Institute, as you’ll see. The main page is also brand-new. Culling and trimming, trimming and culling. I was most gratified to finish the Matchbook Museum project; when I began that one years ago, I’m sure I was very proud of the original design, but I came to dislike it with the fire of nine gas giants, and redesigned it somewhere after 150 pages. However, this produced a stylistic inconsistency, and we can’t have that. Makes it hard to sleep at night. Also, the matches were too small. So . . . better resize all the matches and redo all 260 pages, right? Of course! This will give us a chance to store the matches in separate folders instead of dumping everything into one big messy sloppy folder, too. Order! Perfection! Here’s the new index page; there’s a link to the latest addition.

You may ask how many matches I’ve scanned that have not yet been posted; the answer is 237.

See you at buzz.mn. And if you don't mind: buy the book. Please? Thanks!