The heat is on

Today was hot. Really hot.  Well, not by most of the world’s standards, of course, but this is Norway.  It can’t be helped, since it is summer, but I am weak to heat.  And since the summer is so short, almost no one has air conditioning.  (Except in their cars.)

A couple years ago I talked to the landlord about getting installed a two-way heat pump, which would provide heat in the winter and cool in the summer.  The utility offered to install it at no immediate cost, and just add the payment to the electricity bill over the course of several years.  Since it would save a good deal of heating in winter, the price would not be excessively higher than before.  I was all for it, and I would after all be the one paying it for as long as I stayed here. But I can’t just modify the house without the consent of the landlord, and he (not living here) just evaded the topic.  So I am stuck in the heat.

I have a moderately large fan that I use on the hottest days, but that is not all good either.  My body is then colder on one side than the other, and does not know quite what to do.  And of course a fan does not actually cool down the air.  It just makes more air pass by the body, so my sweat evaporates more quickly rather than collecting on the skin.  I still lose a good deal of water, and tend to not drink enough.  I try, though.

Another trick I use is to keep my hair wet.  It has a pretty large surface, what with all the individual hairs, from which the water can evaporate.  And that water does not have to pass through my body first.  If worst comes to worst, I will apply water elsewhere too.  It is not like I wear more than the barest minimum of clothes anyway.

But I write this each summer, don’t I?



Why did I wish for world peace?

Conceit is a constant problem for those of us who have any spiritual aspiration. It may be that you are immune to it if you want nothing more from life than animal pleasures, but who would want to live like that? It is certainly not a trade-off I would even consider.

Let us take the example in today’s illustration picture. It is from the anime Hatsukoi, which means “first love”. The picture shows a brother and sister. The sister’s first love is her brother. Although there is no actual physical incest, parts of her behavior is more fitting toward a boyfriend than a brother. This embarrasses him deeply, as he has the social antenna she lacks. In this picture, the two of them are on their way home from the temple. As is common during New Year in Japan, they have visited a local temple, said a prayer and bought a reading of fortune for the coming year. On their way home, they meet a girl the brother likes. His sister gets jealous and tries to make a scene.

“Why did I wish for world peace?” The prayer was well intended at the time, but actually none of them has personal peace. On the contrary, they live in a situation that, if unresolved, threatens the stability not only of their own future but of the tiny corner of society in which they live. This should be their priority, surely. There can be no world peace separate from the condition of the actual humans. As we say here in Norway: When you see two children share a bottle of soda, you know why there is war in the world.

It need not be so far-fetched as the story above. Conceit is more or less the human condition. I certainly know this from my own experience. Ever since my youth I have frequently been preoccupied with things I don’t quite understand, things that are too great and mysterious for me. To some extent I think this is how it must be, for our eyes are always on the things ahead, kind of like when driving a car or a bike, the headlights are always ahead of us and not shining down on the road right below us. But I have some exceptionally strong headlights, I guess, or perhaps it is more like the biblical proverb: “The eyes of the fool are at the ends of the Earth.”

For instance, what could possess me to believe that I could say anything meaningful about conceit? Even after years of practice, I still only understand it dimly.

A game that heals?


I’m not talking about my imaginary girlfriend today, but her imaginary sister. Not that it makes much difference, I suppose.

I came home from work and was about to mow a part of the lawn again. I try to do this for a while each day when it is not raining (and rainy days are few here on the south coast of Norway). I do it as exercise as much as I do it for the lawn. So I strapped on the pulse clock and belt, so I can keep track on how hard I work. I try to keep my manual lawn mowing in the range of 120-140 beats per minute, whereas my resting pulse is around 60 (55 on a good day, up to 70 if I have worked hard the day before or if I have a cold.) Well, to my surprise my pulse was much faster than usual. Whether standing, sitting or walking, it was nearly 20 bpm faster than the baseline. That is about as much as it gets without breaking out in actual fever.

Since I had recently walked home from work, it might be some delayed reaction to the walk home or the stress of the workday. I sat down and meditated for about 40 minutes. This had barely any effect at all. So I gave up on the mowing and went online. Soon I was playing City of Heroes, duoing my Fire/Willpower scrapper with the Gravity/Kinetics controller of my imaginary girlfriend’s imaginary younger sister.

After a bit over an hour, I logged off. I checked my pulse again to see if it had grown worse. When it is 15 bpm over baseline, it is usually either because I exercised hard enough yesterday or because I am catching a cold. And this was higher than that again. So I expected a nasty infection, that’s why I checked up again. And the pulse was down to normal levels. Not the very lowest I’ve seen, but normal for a workday.

What’s up with that? Games can be relaxing, but not in the same league as meditation, I dare say. And a fast-paced combat-oriented superhero game is not exactly the most relaxing of the bunch, I suspect.

In the game there are various sources of healing, including the “transfusion” power of kinetics. She used that a few times, though mostly for herself. My character is more robust, and has an innate rapid healing. Not quite Wolverine-level (there is a movie about Wolverine now, right?) but still pretty nifty.

But this should not extend out of the game and into real life, right? I mean, I have been flying since shortly after City of Heroes was released, but gravity has the same grip on me in real life as it had then, 5 years ago. OK, I’ve lost a few pounds, but that’s because I lost the fat on my backside during the Months of Starvation. (If you did not know, men are the opposite of women in this regard. If we lose the fat there, it is almost impossible to get back on. Or perhaps that’s just me. Probably not though.)

There are some things in games that carry over to real life though. Primary emotions like anger or sexual excitement acquired in games can have visible physical effects in real life. (Not that this is why I play CoH, of course. And in any case, both my imaginary girlfriend and her imaginary sister tends toward dressing as Japanese schoolgirls, which are actually not very distracting compared to the skimpy or skin tight uniforms of classic superheroines (complete with gravity-defying breasts of doom). So yeah since hovering is the signature movement mode of Levity Lass, you could theoretically look up under those short schoolgirl skirts and see her light blue panties, but why would you do that with an imaginary character?)

Anyway, I think we can’t credit the in-game healing, except possibly by a slight amount of placebo effect. And even then we would have to factor in all the times one gets wounded over the course of the fight against evil, wouldn’t that too feed back into real life if the health did?

One more explanation I can think of is the social aspect, even if imaginary. Humans are social creatures and in general health is strongly correlated with social involvement. Then again, causality is a two-way street. It could be that sick people have less ability to socialize, because they are, you know, sick. And in any case very few humans make my heart beat slower – the number is down to zero, I would say, these days. Subjectively at least I find it easier to relax alone. That is not to say that I hate humans. Relaxing is not the only goal in life. If it was, I would not be playing CoH in the first place, would I? I would sleep and meditate and wait for my final rest. That is pretty far from my average day, I assure you.

Perhaps it took some time for the meditation to kick in. Or perhaps the body really was fighting some invader, but was already winning by the time I noticed, and the lymphocytes had packed up and gone home later in the evening. What do I know. More experiments are in order! Especially since the experiments involve computer games.

No offense to teachers


The teacher appears, but the student is NOT ready. (From the anime Mamotte Shugogetten.)

Despite my age, I still occasionally dabble in the art of creative writing. It is less than before, for sure, but still sometimes I come up with a compelling idea or two. Unfortunately, you need seven compelling ideas and a lot of hard work to make a novel, according to the voices in my head, so I will not finish this latest attempt either, unless some serious inspiration (and transpiration) strikes. Still, making notes for later. (And because while I work on a story, it is not uncommon for someone else to actually write it, and then I come later and say “I thought of this too” and the world is like “riiite”.)

“When the student is ready” is, of course, a title inspired by the famous saying of Lao-Tzu, the Old Sage of ancient China: “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear”. It is generally quoted as a Buddhist proverb, but unless I dreamed this very vividly, the Old Sage said it in a very specific context, namely regarding the immortals or angels. (Some translations say, “…the master will appear”. Not a big difference, ideally. If not all teachers are masters these days, sometimes far from it, that does not apply to this situation.)

In fact, the striking contrast between the original meaning and modern school life was probably what motivated me to start on this story in the first place. And of course gigabytes upon gigabytes of high school anime. The anime / manga inspiration will probably be obvious if one knows it, but not to the complete outsider. The story takes place in Norway, but a Norway in an alternate timeline where the English and American cultural influence is at least partly replaced with Japanese cultural influence. (This actually was something I lifted from a dream I had a couple years ago.) For a foreign reader it is not easy to say what is Norwegian and what is Japanese culture if you know neither.

In anime, the sexy high school teacher is a common stereotype. I can’t say there weren’t any in real life either, althought they were pretty rare. I’d say my biology teacher qualified, but I did not spend much time thinking about it, as I was trying to stay pure. Well, mostly. Anyway! This is not about me, of course. When you first start writing fiction, you may have a lot of personal subconscious stuff that leaks into your story. But after 40 years (I started early!) I like to think I draw more on the collective subconscious than my own.

So we have a slightly Japanized (Nipponized?) Norway. We have a high school boy who is a bit of a bookworm. Not the caricature nerd that trips over his own feet and is painfully shy. Rather, he just has a high opinion of books and a low opinion of people in general, although he has a few good friends from grade school that are still hanging together. The three of them who are still single is Johan (the above mentioned bookman), Ove (the horny type) and Cecilie (standard childhood friend with romantic potential). And then comes the teacher (tentatively called Gudhild Hoshiyama, unless I come up with something better.) And yes, she is an immortal, or as close as you come.

The teacher is actually there for our main character. The immortals have divined that he has the potential to become one of them, something very few humans in each generation have. So she is there to keep track of him until such time as he is ready to begin on the Path, and help him make that decision.

Due to the beauty and perfection of the teacher, or simply because she has breasts, several boys are strongly attached to her, most of all Ove (the best friend of main character). Johan (still main character) has a very different reaction. Apart from being less interested in romance generally, he can somehow notice that she is immensely powerful, and is scared. He is also confused that no one else sees her strength, or generally that she is too good to be true.

So as the story begins to move, we have two love triangles both involving the MMC (male main character, for the non-romance-writers out there). His best friend is drooling for the teacher, who only is interested in the MMC. Jealousy arises when that interest starts to show. On the other hand, we have the childhood friend, who has vague plans for MMC and suspects teacher is out to get him. More jealousy arises.

And of course there should be supernatural stuff and tasteful preaching of Religio Perennis. The “immortals” actually spend much of their time on a slightly higher plane of reality, which they (unlike yours truly) visit physically. In order to survive that trip, our hero has to undertake various mental and physical exercises that seem pointless and conceited to those who don’t know what’s going on, that is to say, all mortals.

The device I have invented for their bodily transition is a pilgrimage to the mountain of Hoshiyama (Star Mountain) from which the FMC has derived her name. The path at the foot of the mountain begins in the mundane world, but after walking through the layer of fog or low clouds that always hang around the mountain when there is a pilgrimage, one arrives in the higher world. Magic and tasteful preaching ensues. Or perhaps I should postpone that to the next book and end this one as our hero enters the fog, thus leaving the reader in doubt as to whether he really is destined for greatness or is just plain insane. I love that. In fact, I think there are times when my journal conveys some of the same confusion…

Widescreen monitor day 2


Not quite worth it.

Yesterday I listed various good things about the widescreen monitor I bought then.  Today I will talk about what didn’t work so well.  Initially, Sims 2.

That is not really a big deal if you have two fairly good computers, as I have. In fact, I usually play Sims 2 on the other computer. It is slightly slower, but it is out to the side so I can keep half an eye on it but still do my writing on the primary computer.  The only reason I played it on the quad-core computer this time was that I wanted to see how it looked in high-resolution widescreen, and then it looked so good I wanted to continue to see it that way.  That was not to be, however.  After a while, it crashed.

The first crash came unexpected, and with a tiny cryptic error message saying something about 3D.  I’ve gotten used to playing for half an hour or more between saving, so I lost some progress.  And a few minutes later it crashed again.

After a few crashes, I gave in and installed the specific drivers for this monitor, from the CD that was hidden at the bottom of the box. Until then, the monitor had shown up as generic plug-and-play monitor. I hoped the problem would be solved now. Also, occasionally when changing screen resolution (including going into Sims 2) it would crash iexplore.exe, which includes the start menu and the task bar, as well as any folders that happened to be open at the time.  I would then have to close it using task manager.  (This is on Windows XP, I am not sure you can close Vista with the task manager. Then again I am not sure you need to.)  I expected all these problems to be fixed by installing the driver.

As you can guess, I was wrong.  But more than that, the next or second crash took Windows with it.  It showed a Blue Screen of Death blaming a driver named NV4_disp.dll.  So I went online and looked for a solution to this.  There were many different solutions, none of which worked.  The most common was to delete all graphics drivers and remove all traces of them and then install the newest driver for the video card.  I already did this a few days ago to get Age of Conan to work.  Doing it again had of course no effect on the Bluescreen.

(Incidentally, I have not tried AoC in widescreen. I am sure the game supports it, but one day of AoC was enough for me for now. If I enjoyed heart-pounding danger, senseless murderous violence and barely censored adult content in a disturbingly lifelike world, I would go to bed earlier so I could remember my dreams.)

Unfortunately I have not found any solution to the NV4_disp problem. What I have found out is that it takes too much time to play Sims 2 on my main machine so I can’t do anything else while the game runs.  So I have moved it back to the computer where it belongs. Although I do miss the big pretty highly detailed screen while playing it.  There is a tiny little temptation to replace the old LCD monitor for that machine with a large new widescreen too. It was an early model, and there are no Vista drivers to it at all.  And isn’t the picture getting a bit dark?…

Widescreen monitor


With the onset of summer heat, what could be cooler than to replace my last CRT monitor with a new energy-saving LCD monitor?  Especially if it has twice the screen area despite taking up less space on my desk.

So after a LiveJournal friend assured me that City of Heroes runs great on widescreen monitors, and knowing that Sims 2 does the same, I went to my favorite electronics shop. They had a HPw2228 at a rather affordable price (by Norwegian standards), certainly much less than I used to pay for smaller monitors in the past.  And I have very good experiences with HP products in general.

Despite my reference to summer heat, it was actually raining today. No great loss, since it did not rain hard and I would have been drenched in sweat even if I was not drenched in rain.  The monitor is not THAT heavy, at least compared to the old CRT, but when you carry them for some minutes it starts becoming quite good exercise.  So much more since my arms are less exercised than most of my body.

I came home unharmed and switched the monitors. I did not even turn off the computer or log out, although I did save stuff.  That was probably a wise decision, since iexplore.exe died on the spot, taking with it the startup menu and the task bar.  Luckily I could still log off in a dignified manner using ctrl-alt-del and choosing the appropriate menu choice, in this case restart.  The machine recognized the monitor without me running the CD that came with it.  Well, perhaps not perfectly.  I have had one more iexplore crash since, and several Sims 2 crashes.  I may eventually install the driver, perhaps. Actually I don’t plan to use this machine much for Sims 2, but I do it now because I wanted to look at it.  It is awesome. These things are seriously habit-forming.

They are also known to increase productivity more than an increase in processor speed or hard disk space, according to a study a decade or two ago.  Being able to see more stuff on the screen at the same time is quite useful, sight being by far our most information-dense sense. It certainly helps when playing City of Heroes, but the study was about office work. Having reference works open while you write seems another obvious use.

Hopefully this will be enough justification for now. It is midnight again!


Today was our first meeting in “Himitsu Corp.” (name fabricated for our protection). We don’t actually start there until June 2, and are supposed to continue working at our usual job until the Friday before.  Uhm, I believe that is THIS Friday. It is still hard to believe that I am leaving the only employer I have had in my adult life – even though I am actually following my job.

The meeting confirmed my impression that we are, at the outset, seen as crates, or lego bricks, or in other words, interchangeable pieces.  This cannot be helped, since we are new and it is a fairly large organization. Unfortunately it is wrong, however, and particularly so in my case. I am more different from them than the average Chinese or Arab, in one particular area that greatly affect our job. Namely the fact that I don’t talk. Hopefully there won’t be a lot of that, but there will be some.

First summer day


I tried to post this with a suitable quote from the Bhagavad-Gita, but it crashed.  Let us see if I can post it without.

Today was the first seriously warm day of summer. I was warm even in just my shirt and trousers. I took a walk and enjoyed the beautiful weather, before I get fed up with the heat.  Luckily there were clouds that occasionally came before the sun, so I did was not too badly baked.

Age of Conan 1 year


Sunset or sunrise for Age of Conan?

The Norwegian-made MMORPG Age of Conan is celebrating its first anniversary in Europe today.  For some reason it was released 3 days earlier in the USA.  Perhaps the Americans were used as guinea pigs…  Anyway, the game had one of the smoothest launches in the history of the genre (possibly less than City of Heroes, but better than the current top dog, World of Warcraft.) And then a  few days later, it all went down the drain.

Unfortunately only the first part of the game had been fully implemented and thoroughly tested.  The island where you play the first 20 levels is indeed an amazing masterpiece of storytelling and technology. After that, things started to fall apart, and the high-level areas were buggy and unfinished.  Lots of customers – most of them, I believe – did not renew their subscription after the first month that comes with the game.  The share value of Funcom fell, and the game was more or less written off by many gamers.

Be very careful about leaving a Cimmerian for dead…

Today, the game is earning a nice little surplus for Funcom, and there are new players trickling in by the day. It would seem that many of those who left, simply did not have the computers that could pull such a high-end game. Every month, a number of them get new computers for unrelated reasons. And thanks to Moore’s Law, the capacity of new computers double every 18 months.  If you had a three and a half year old computers last May – and that is not uncommon for casual gamers, especially if they are married – then by now a computer in the same price range is 8 times as powerful.  That makes a big difference with cutting-edge games.

In addition, Funcom has tweaked the game to run more smoothly.  And they have added content at the higher levels and fixed bugs left and right.  This is not exactly unique:  We say that the first year of any massive online game is “paid beta”.  Experienced gamers don’t expect it to be perfect right out of the box.

The game is still evil, though.  Vile sorcery, necromancy, demon summoning, even breasts. And it still splatters blood on the inside of your computer screen occasionally. Rumors have it that the game is less bloody in the German version, I am not sure if that is true.  But you can at least avoid fighting against other players if you want to (and not only in Germany).

In celebration of their anniversary, I opened my account again (it had expired along with my previous credit card when that was renewed for a few more years).  There were, as expected, hours of patches to download, since it is quite a number of months since last I set foot in Hyboria.

Once the patches were installed, I started the game.  I recognized the problem from last time, that my character was almost entirely transparent, only this time so was the terrain, except water.  I don’t remember it being quite that bad the first time.  I did remember however that back then, I had to pretend to change the video settings, even if I changed them back to the original. When I then returned to the game, the picture was fine.  Well, not this time.

I upgraded the DirectX to the March version, probably the last ever for Windows XP.  Still no luck.  I downloaded the latest drivers for my video card.  Still no difference.  I used Google and browsed a few forums, until I saw someone mention that you had to completely erase any trace of earlier video drivers before you installed a new one.  So I did, first uninstalling the last driver and then deleting all the nvidia folders on my hard disk.  I restarted the machine. Amazingly, it has a pretty good screen resolution even without the drivers, and without knowing what video card it has.  I installed the latest driver again, and restarted the machine.  This time the screen remained black. I waited for some minutes, but it did not change.  Then I checked the back of my computer, and yes: For some reason, the video output now went to the port that no monitor was attached to.  Before, it had gone to the other.  (The card has two, although I don’t use more than one.  It can display different pictures to different screens actually, but I prefer to have two computers for my two monitors, thank you.)

Anyway, the problem was now solved.  And the game does run more smoothly on higher resolution than before. Probably because of tweaks to the software, although I suppose the new video driver could be better too.

Right now I have finished playing, and am listening to a Cimmerian dirge that the game plays when not logged in to any of my characters.  It is awesome.  I believe I heard the same song in a valley in the game.  Anyway, I love dirges and lamentations. They rarely fail to cheer me up.  Perhaps there is still a drop of barbarian blood in me?   (Looking back at my younger days, I think that is not a maybe either, but maybe it is still influencing my taste in music, I mean.)  I know the melodies can be bought on iTunes.  (Or perhaps I should pirate it, given that I already bought the game.)  I wonder how my coworkers would react. I have a feeling that perhaps they don’t like wailing as much as I do… It really is beautiful.

I don’t miss the rest of the game much though.  City of Heroes is more my style, not to mention The Sims 2.  And in less than two weeks Sims 3 is upon us.  Believe it or not, I also have other things than games I want to have done while still alive, so… You probably won’t be seeing a lot of this.  I did secure some nifty screenshots though.

Those wacky Asian games…


Would I marry this cute elf girl and raise a happy family with pets? Read on to find out.

I came across another cute computer game today. “Luna Online” is one of the new Asian MMORPGs that are free to play but typically sell extra features to do dedicated players. The graphics are less realistic than in western MMORPGs, more similar to anime and usually excessively cute. The games can usually run on older and cheaper hardware than recent western games.

Luna Online looked interesting enough that I almost wanted to try it. Except for the Match Making. Evidently romance is an integral part of the game, with the game matching compatible characters and setting off a “Heart Alarm” when a match shows up, signifying “love at first sight”. This opens the possibility of a “date instance”, a separate area which the dating couple can explore together, with unique loot. (The voices in my head believe the instances are also decorated differently. I hope I shall never find out from experience.) Dates can be rated, and great dates can lead to establishing a family. Other family relations are also possible, like parents and children. Families can get a farm and grow various magical crops, including pets.

I can only assume that in the game’s homeland, this is considered attractive. I doubt it will have the same appeal here. I try to imagine City of Heroes trying to match random heroes, and my mental picture comes up with just static. It is just not done. (Romance certainly happens, particularly on the unofficial roleplaying server, but it is not aided and abetted by the game.) Even Dark Age of Camelot, which had a semi-automatic cleric performing marriages in the Camelot cathedral, left the actual courtship entirely to the roleplayers. I guess (from my anime viewing not least) that people in the Far East are more accepting of arranged relationships still than we are here. It is not like some places in the Middle East where you can basically sell your daughter, of course: You still have to decide in the end. But for those who don’t feel like hunting down a mate for themselves, it is perfectly normal and honorable to leave it either to the families or to highly trained professionals.

It creeps me out, though. Of course, romance creeps me out in Real Life as well, but even so. I rather not have my games try to marry me off, thank you. At least there ought to be romance-free zones or a no-romance flag…