The mystery of the Resurrection

Screenshot anime The Golden Laws

In the Japanese animated movie “The Golden Laws”, two teenagers in a time machine witness among other things the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. (They conclude that the resurrection must be the work of the God of Love, Hermes, the husband of Aphrodite…) Since we don’t have time machines, all we have are the words of people who lived reasonably nearby in time and space.

Today is Easter Sunday, arguably the holiest day in the Christian calendar. While I don’t celebrate days and seasons, I think it may be a good idea for most people to do so, and especially where there are children, to help them notice something different from the usual chase after stuff that fills the world every day.

It is a highly unusual day indeed, for it is said that on such a spring day many centuries ago, a man who had been dead returned to life – and more than life. “The first Adam became a living soul, but the second Adam became a lifegiving spirit.”

There are various stories about people returning from the grave. One imagination that is particularly popular in our days is that of the zombie, a dead person who returns from the grave to a state of half-life, as it were, something in between death and life, a body animated but without a human soul. Variants of these stories tell of ghouls who eat human flesh, and vampires who drink human blood, as their unlife is not enough in itself to sustain their continued existence without draining the lifeforce of others.

While such stories are common in folklore, the resurrections in the Bible are rather different. They generally show people being restored to full health, able to resume their life on Earth for the remainder of their natural lifespan. There are several such stories both in the Old Testament and the New.

The resurrection of Christ is portrayed as different from all of these. Then again he was different well before that. Even so, after his resurrection he seems inordinately powerful even by his earlier standards. He disappears before the eyes of people and appear in a closed and locked room. He changes his appearance, or perhaps other people’s perception of him, effortlessly. Despite still bearing the wounds of his execution, he seems unhindered and unbothered. He is seen by his friends as someone who has not just escaped death, but overcome death. Someone who is restored not merely to life, but to an abundant overflowing life, enough to share with others. To them it seems unthinkable that he can possibly ever die again, and very thinkable that he can not only resurrect others but even make them immortal as well.

You may say about the people of the first century CE that they were an ill-educated and superstitious lot, but one thing is for sure: They knew death, and better than most of us. They lived in an age where life was still fairly nasty, brutish and short. It was not that there were no old people, but they were fairly rare. Infants died with disturbing regularity, children passed away, young people died in various ways. Weakened by hunger when crops failed, killed in battle when wars raged, struck down by plagues – death was a common sight, and was not hidden in secluded and sterile buildings. People knew death, and they bloody well knew that death was highly unlikely to have a positive outcome. Think about it, these were not kids. They did not see death on TV, they buried their family members and friends. They knew what was going on.

These were the people who were convinced that Jesus Christ had become some sort of spiritual superhero, scattering the shadow of death like the rising sun scatters the darkness of night. So convinced were they of this that they did not hesitate to die rather than stop telling everyone what they had seen and, in a few cases, touched.

Whatever happened that day, we can never prove it or disprove it without a time machine. But what we can say for sure is that this man, Jesus Christ, was such a person that a rather large number of people found it believable that he had returned from death in abundant glory and overflowing life, even though they had seen him die a gruesome and humiliating death only a couple days earlier, in plain sight right outside the capital city.

According to the letters of St Paul, it was commonly accepted among Christians that the risen Christ had been seen by more than 500 people, some of them still alive about 20 years later when this was written. The explosive start of the new religion certainly points in the same direction. It may seem contrary to all laws of physics that this actually happened; but as I said, death was something these people knew at least as well as we do. And whatever really happened, whatever the Resurrection really was, this was how they perceived it: The man who had died horribly in plain sight, had returned with the power to scatter the chains of death and grave. That’s what they experienced.

I don’t know the physics of it any more than the rest of you, but I know that this man who died naked or nearly so on a timber pole, he changed the course of history so thoroughly that we cannot even imagine how the world would look today without him. And by all accounts, he did so AFTER he had died and his followers had fled like scared sheep, hiding behind locked doors.

Perhaps we’ll never really understand. I’m fine with that. To think that I can understand everything that has happened in human history, that’s a bit over the top even for me. And this mystery is quite possibly the biggest of them all. (Your mysteries may vary.)

I brought this on myself

Screenshot anime Chuunibyou (Rikka Takanashi is worried)

“…my heart races so fast I can hardly bear it.” Evidently this is a familiar problem for young people. Somehow most of them survive. So did I, although with less margin.

This is quite possibly the worst tachycardia (racing heart) episode I’ve had yet, and I brought it upon myself. The Light warned me already the day before, repeatedly, but I joked it away. That may sound like a weird thing to do, but I just did not want to listen. When I get an idea in my head, I can be stubborn as a mule.

In my fictional Lightwielder universe, there is a saying so common among the Servants of the Light that they can say it without thinking: “The Light informs, warns, protects and heals.” Of course, that is a fictional world, but loosely based on my own experience and that of others, just transposed into a more literal or physical form. Yesterday, and today, the warning was unsettling in its clarity. But I decided to take the chance, thinking perhaps that the Light would protect me when it could no longer warn me. That’s not exactly how it went. Or perhaps it did, but not as much as I had anticipated.

My pulse was over 200 at the highest … 204 or 205 according to my pulse watch. That should not even be physically possible at my age. The rule of thumb is  220-(age), so in my case 165. That’s pretty close to what the cardiologist found on the bike test last year. So basically my heart was not entirely beating in the ordinary sense, but starting to fibrillate – the final stage before it stops, although people can endure various degrees of this for various lengths of time. A young friend of mine who was born with a reversal of the heart chambers sometimes had a pulse of 400, if I remember correctly. Eventually he died from it, in his teens. But it is a lot more than me, so, who knows what I may or may not survive.

I’d like it to not become a habit though. That probably means I shall have to listen to the Light before things get out of hand like that. I’m just not a very good Servant of the Light in real life, I’m afraid. But that which does not kill us makes us scared, so that is a step in the right direction.

The main attack lasted for about 5 hours, but it was above max pulse only when I walked. Perhaps I should just not do that. Or perhaps I should not take stupid pointless risks to my body and soul in the first place.

Thank you for clicking

Screenshot Sims 3 (gardening)

I myself, like my sim, is unlikely to do things like this without being clicked on.

On The Hungersite (which does not actually try to promote hunger, but alleviate it) you may sometimes notice the text “Thank you for clicking.” But to me this has a different meaning as well. It is for my guardian angel, or whoever it is who is watching over me.

When I play The Sims 3, my small electronic people have a will of their own, but it is pretty basic. They can keep themselves alive and employed, usually. If they are hungry, they make food and eat it. If they are sleepy, they go to sleep (especially in the night) or take a nap. If they are lonely, they speak to someone in the house. If they don’t have anything else to do, they seek fun. Computer games, musical instruments, books or painting. (If made in my image, usually computer games.)

But by themselves, they don’t achieve their wants, except by accident. Perhaps they wake up with a want to make a meal, and eventually at some time during the day they get hungry and make a meal. But more advanced goals, not to mention their lifetime aspiration, is beyond them. They need me to click on them or on some object they can use to work toward their goals. And often they need me to click on their action queue to cancel something useless they intend to do.

It’s much the same way with me. I have this tendency too, to just live in the moment and do whatever seems pressing at the time. Which may be fine if it is the bladder that seems pressing, but not if I spend the whole day playing The Sims 3. There are other things I want to do with my life while it lasts. So that is where my player clicks on me to remind me to change my plans.

It could be very subtle, just an impulse in my mind. If I am not too absorbed in something, that can be enough. Like a reminder really. I am sure all people have this, they suddenly remember that there was something else they were supposed to do, even without anyone saying it. I have grown used to this, so that I do very little planning and very little to remind myself. To-do lists are alien to me, and even post-it notes are rare and only at work.

But sometimes I need a stronger push. Sometimes a sudden physical sense experience, like a jolt of pain or a moment of dizziness, makes me wake up and reset my action queue. That’s usually if I am playing a game or watching a movie, and there is something else that needs to take priority.

I am sure many people experience something like this, but they don’t frame it in the same way. Because they haven’t played those particular games (Sims 2 and Sims 3), they don’t imagine it as if someone one dimension up is clicking on them. But strangely, this image is not so different from what religious people through the ages have imagined, that a guardian angel or guiding spirit living is keeping watch over us from outside the limited realm where we live, and occasionally nudges us (or pushes us, in an emergency) to lead us to the good stuff.

It may be that it is this ancient imagery that eventually caused Will Wright to create The Sims that way. I am not even sure whether he was aware of that or not, but it is a strange correlation. But in any case, thanks to him there are now millions of people who will be familiar with being on the clicking end, and perhaps at least some of them will recognize this feeling when they are on the receiving end of the click. Or, occasionally, the kick, when needed…

Not an angel

Screenshot anime Minami-ke Tadaima. Don't worship Chiaki!

“Stop wishing and praying to me!” If you’re paying even a little attention, you can see that I am not an angel. If I am suspended between Heaven and Earth, it is certainly not by the power of flight.

Wherever the rays of the sun reach, we say that we are “in the sun”, and in a way that is true. Inside the globe that is also called the sun, nothing can live. If the sun itself extended to this planet, we would be vaporized. In the heart of the sun itself is utter darkness and deadly energy that rips apart even the atoms themselves; yet here, at a safe distance, we are basking “in the sun” on a bright spring day. The sun that maintains all life here on Earth is alien and dangerous, yet it is still here, in a form that can support us.

They say you are what you eat. In that case I am stardust charged with sunshine. Everything on your plate and everything in your body is made of this, but chances are you also haven’t thought of it very often?

The True Light is also alien beyond imagination, and yet it is from this that we are made and from this that we are maintained.

So make your wishes and prayers to the Light, the Eternal, the Uncreated. If it sees fit to choose me to use, even if I don’t deserve it, then I am going to do so whether I plan to or not. And if it chooses otherwise, there is nothing in my power to do about it. I can choose what to do, to some extent, but I cannot really choose the outcome of it, for there is always more than this one pawn in the play.

If I forget this, there is a good chance I will be reminded of it, quite forcefully. That is a special love and I am grateful for it … afterwards. Sometimes long afterwards.

Well, that was certainly pretentious enough. I will make myself even smaller than this.

Viewpoint character

Screenshot anime Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai NEXT

“Because I’m chosen by God!” Yes, but to be a viewpoint character, not the main character!

I have been left less than impressed by the MMORPG Champions Online, which I started subscribing to soon after City of Heroes shut down. The two were made by the same company, Cryptic Studios, and Champions was the newer of them. It sure has a lot of options, but it just does not engage me. There is something lacking. Or perhaps that’s just me growing up.

In any case, I came across an entry from early 2010, in which I fretted about the possible negative influence on my soul by all the fighting in City of Heroes (although at least it was heroic fighting – to protect the innocents and chastise the wrongdoers, I descended time after time). Less than two years later, the game closed down. Problem solved! but not by me.

(Incidentally, there are already RPGs where you can level up by healing and blessing people. I just don’t play them.)

Seen from my point of view, as the Very Important Person, I could say that God closed down CoH in order to help me focus on less violent activities. There is nothing wrong with that point of view, as long as one retains enough sanity to realize that this was not the only and hopefully not the main reason why the game closed down. (I believe the main reason was that it stuck out like a sore thumb in NCSoft’s new profile, where they focused on their Asian RPGs. Even though the game was profitable in itself, it might turn off potential customers with its America-centrism. America is no longer cool in Asia, where NCSoft has its headquarters and core audience.)

A bad leader focuses on micro goals instead of macro goals, a good leader focuses on macro goals instead of micro goals, but a great leader is aware of opportunities to combine them. God is a great leader, so it makes sense that he would throw me a boon while taking care of more important business.

The problem arises when the Viewpoint Character mistakenly thinks that he is the Main Character. I attended a Christian meeting here in Norway shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union, where an until then rather unassuming elderly member of the congregation informed us that he had prayed for Soviet Union to fall, and now it had happened. Yes, I am sure he had, and it had undeniably happened. Good for him! He had prayed according to God’s will, evidently, which is a comforting thought. But the moment you think God is your hammer that you can wield to bring down empires, you have a problem. Oh yes.

During the last frenzied month of America’s economic bubble, gas prices reached new heights (although they never reached European levels). Faith-filled believers gathered to pray down the prices. Behold! From out of Heaven! The gas prices plummeted. All it took was the crash of the banking system and millions and millions of people losing their jobs, no longer needing to drive to work or affording to drive elsewhere. There we go! Problem solved! Good job, guys! When God is your hammer, anything is breakable.

In reality, of course, God is not our hammer. I am not the Main Character. What I am is a Viewpoint Character. I think it is great that there are viewpoint characters. Sometimes our goals are aligned with the greater good, sometimes the opposite (although hopefully we don’t do that on purpose), and sometimes not really related. The role of the Viewpoint Character, I feel, is quite valuable. As long as neither the Viewpoint Character or others confuse this with being the Main Character.

Why should God get all the glory?

Screenshot anime Rebirth of Buddha

Feel how deeply precious it is that you have been given life…

Why should God get all the glory? That’s what some guy (I did not check the name, but it is always guys) wondered about on Quora. Why do people thank God when something good is achieved, but not blame him when things go wrong? It ain’t fair, yadda yadda. (What, they don’t blame God? Go read the Book of Job and say that again with a straight face.)

Well, here’s a few thoughts on why.

Basically, to a believer, the relationship to God is like the relationship to parents, only more so. Without them you would not been here, and without God they would not been here, nor the world in general. If you think it is a good thing that the world exists, and if you think it is a good thing that you are in it, it behooves you to pay some respect to the Creator, if any.

Of course, if you start from the position that there is no Creator, it makes no sense to pay any respect in that direction. We know that.

Now if you think making the world was a big mistake, you have a legitimate quarrel with God. This is a very rare point of view, though. Most people who stay in the world think it has some good qualities.

From the point of view of the believer, lack of gratitude to God is like being a whiny child.
“Waah! My dad gave me a gift but it wasn’t as big as I wanted or as much fun as I wanted! Waah!”
“Waah! My God gave me a life but it wasn’t as long as I wanted or as comfortable as I wanted! Waah!”

Being given life is seen as a priceless opportunity by the believer. (Of course, most of us still want the biggest and most shiny version, given the chance. Nothing wrong with that, but sometimes that doesn’t happen, and we tell each other that it was perhaps not what we needed, and Dad knows best. This makes us feel better – “us” in this case being those who say it, not necessarily those on the receiving end, see Book of Job again.)

But of course, if you are not a believer in the first place, none of this makes sense. Humans, trees, rocks … all are just assemblages of molecules, shifting forms that arise and disappear into ultimate oblivion. There is no life, only organic chemistry. There is no hope, only electrochemical fluctuations in the brain. Nothing lasts, except entropy. We are random shapes born to be forgotten, drifting without volition through a brief existence on a temporary speck of dust in a vast, cold cosmos relentlessly winding down. A logical worldview – but not one that resonates with most people, at least not yet.

How it feels to get a higher IQ

Screenshot anime Chuunibyou demo Koi (Yuuta thinks back)

“I’d love to go back (in time) and hit myself!” One of the less pleasant effects. Overall it is worth it, though!

A question from Quora again. I cannot answer it in its current form: “What does it feel like to transition from having a low IQ to having a high IQ?” The ingress also specifies that the IQ should increase by at least 40, and either be obvious or measured by official IQ tests. I doubt this has ever happened, and may never happen unless there is some new dramatic breakthrough in medicine. It is hard to imagine what that would be: Even if you cure a condition that causes mental retardation, you have to do so early in life, or the damage is already done. At that point, IQ tests are not very precise, if possible at all, and people’s memories will be hazy at best.

The brain follows a fairly specific path of development. It is true that there is plasticity, and that parts of the brain can continue to develop through life. But there are severe limits on what can develop and in what order, after the first months of life. It is not like a supermarket where you can come back and buy what you forgot, or pick things in any order you like. What is not done at a certain stage of development cannot simply be inserted. (We are talking about the hardware here mostly. For software there is some more leeway.)

Therefore, if you want an example of a person getting a noticeably higher IQ, you would look for someone who developed slowly but continued to develop for longer. As it happens, this is me. Or at least to some degree.

I come from a highly intelligent family, but one with a long natural lifespan and slow maturation. In primary school and middle school, I was always smaller and weaker and less mature than my classmates, and indeed the class below me as well. I got along the best with the class below there again. When I ended middle school, I was just getting past puberty. My voice was still high and I was not near my adult height. And my grades were not particularly impressive. I don’t have them around, but they were largely just above average.

Over the course of high school, my body and brain continued to grow at a brisk clip. Those of my fellow students slowed down. From just above average, I became a top student without really trying. At the time, I was most interested in learning the Truth from the Christian Church. I read their books and transcripts of their speeches, and just skimmed the school books. My ever rising grades I attributed to wisdom from God. This is not necessarily wrong: Software certainly plays a role, and having a good framework for thinking and good values and habits can make a big difference. Studying books of timeless wisdom is certainly better for your academic progress than alcohol, weed, and days and nights spent in pursuit of random sexual experiences.

But looking back across the great expanse of time, I realize that my brain also continued to develop after most others stopped, because my internal clock was slower than those around me. If I had been compared to those of the same physical development as me, or even the same height and body weight, I would have been smart all the time. But because I was constantly running two years behind my classmates, I barely managed to keep up mentally, and not at all physically and socially. Now that I caught up with them, I became a genius.

So how did it feel? It felt amazing. It felt miraculous. I had moved away from home when I was 15, as there was no high school nearby. I lived with my aunt and her husband and daughter, who did not really know me well enough to realize what was happening. The only way I could conceive of what was happening to me was in religious terms, which was my reference point in the world at the time. With all due respect for my aunt and her family, I was increasingly “alone with Jesus” (as the actual members of that particular church lived several towns away). So to me, it was a miracle. God had given me wisdom, as he promised, so that I now could see things that other men could not. The scripture was fulfilled which said: “I have more insight than all my teachers, for Your testimonies are my meditation.” (Psalm 119, 99.)

Looking back, I realize that “wisdom” may be a bit of an exaggeration, but then it is for most adults, alas. But it was true that I now felt more on a par with teachers than with fellow students, and it continued that way for the duration of my education. Only when I started looking for work, did I gradually begin to realize that I wasn’t as awesome as I had begun to feel. I could not understand that I was rejected for two hundred jobs in a row despite having top grades or nearly so all over the place. (This was before grade inflation – top grades was for geniuses.) I was not intelligent (or wise) enough to realize that many of those rejections might be because of those grades rather than despite them.

But the transition itself was glorious, apart from the confusion that comes with being a teen. To go from being at the bottom of the pecking order to being a natural winner? It was like going from larva to butterfly. I suppose I ought to write a novel about it, if I live long enough. But then, it was only the first of several changes in my life, and there are things more important than raw IQ. It took me years of running against the brick wall to learn that. Still, genius is certainly a wonderful gift or heritage and reason for gratitude.

Self-spaced repetition software

Screenshot Sims 3

Games are usually the enemy of studying, but some elements of games can be used to improve learning.

Spaced repetition is an amazing technique for learning without understanding. Understanding is certainly superior and in a league of its own, but it is hard to command or even predict; and sometimes you need to memorize for a while before you can understand. One may compare this to gathering ingredients before you can cook. Before you can read sentences, you must know the words, and so on.

Spaced repetition takes advantage of a particular memory effect: The best time to repeat something is just before you forget it. Repeating many times in a row adds little after the first couple repetitions. Repeating at fixed intervals helps, but the best effect comes with increased intervals. You may for instance double the intervals, which is more effective than fixed intervals. But the best effect is when one actively recalls a fact just as it is about to be forgotten: It should take a little effort to remember it, but one should be able to do it.

Since our brain is not under constant surveillance, the only person who can know this time is ourselves. Conventional Spaced Repetition Software (SRS) starts with a standard model of human memory, then adjusts intervals down if people keep forgetting, or up if they remember everything. Good SRS lets the user mark the difficulty with which they remember. But there is an even better solution, at least in some ways, and the Duolingo online language site has found it.

When you start a study unit in Duolingo, the “learning meter” is empty. As you learn, it fills up until it is full. But as time passes afterwards, the learning meter begins to slide down toward empty again. You can see this for each topic, and for each “workbook” in a topic. (This is a session that typically takes 10-15 minutes to go through.) You can then go back and test yourself.

If you go back and run the test while you remember everything, you will certainly get the learning meter back to full again, but the experience will be rather boring. Duolingo is a very game-like learning system, where you have to translate back and forth, listen to sentences in the target language, describe pictures or pick from multiple choices. You never know what the next question will be. But if you know everything by heart, it is not very exciting. It is like winning chess against a small child.

On the other hand, if you wait too long and have forgotten the words or phrases, you will be thrown out after three mistakes and have to start that workbook over until you get it right. That is not too much fun either, even though it only costs you a few minutes.

The result is that the users themselves find out how long to wait to get the most rewarding “game” experience. If it was too easy, you learn to wait longer. If it was too hard, you make sure to return earlier next time. There is no need for the software to know whether you learn fast or slowly. All it needs to do is reward you when you get the balance right, and it does so with an exciting learning experience and a feeling of winning against a worthy opponent: Your own forgetfulness. You pick your battles, so with a little experience you pick the best time yourself.

I am not sure how easy this is to translate into other forms of learning, but I think it may be easy with anything that requires memorization of facts. Geography and history come to mind. Make small, focused units and a table where one can see which ones begin to slip. Adjust the speed at which they slide depending on past performance. It can probably be done better than it is in DuoLingo, but the principle works amazingly well. Humans are very good at learning things when having fun.

Back in the real world?

Screenshot anime Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai Next

“I’ll just escape to the 2D world and console my broken heart.” But the 2D world is not just for escaping anymore – it is invading the “real” world on a broad front, or at least mine.

The Sims 3: University Life is fun and all, but perhaps it did not really deserve four entries. Then again it seems harmless, and does not require lots of special training and strange thinking. The Sims games are a great way to connect to people.

Back in the real world, I will gladly admit that I have mixed feelings about my own scarcity of higher education. I only took two winters of tertiary education. It was a lot of fun, but I was broke and living on my own. My parents were also poor and could not really have helped out much. Student loans were available, but the truth is that I had (and have) no ambitions of career in this world. I enjoyed learning just to learn, but I had no interest in competing and using my elbows to get ahead in the world. As such, I would not fit in too well with the type of people who took higher education in Norway in the early 1980es. It was still some years before college became a natural part of young people’s lives.

If I were suddenly to become rich, I might enroll at a college or university just for the fun of it, but at my age it has no monetary value at all. I would not be finished with a Master of anything until I was 57 or 58, and with the lower bound on retirement age now at 62, no employer would even consider me. We lack qualified workers of many kinds, especially engineers, but the best one can hope for when over 50 is working for a temp agency. I have every intention to work until 75 (the current upper bound on the flexible retirement age) unless some dire illness strikes me down. Which is certainly possible, but what I mean is, I have no intention to ever retire. I intend to work until I die or become disabled, whichever comes first. Work is love. Work is service to God and country and humanity. It is what we were born to do. But learning, learning is fun.

Luckily, unlike my sims, I can study online, and even for free. I can learn math at the Khan Academy, languages at Duolingo and Livemocha, all for free. There are also several traditional universities that offer online lectures and courses, some of these for free as well. I haven’t looked into that yet.

(Livemocha, despite its random name, is a website that helps arrange community-based language learning online. You study some small piece of the language with their course, then practice it with real people who already speak it. Or that is what it looks like from the description. I hear good things about it – it has a lot more languages than Duolingo, for instance – but I would not impose on real people unless there was some dire need. And since I am trying to learn to read, not to speak Japanese, it is anyway not what I am looking for. But it sounds awesome for neurotypicals, who love to do all kinds of things together with real people.)

When not playing The Sims 3, I find myself “playing” with French on Duolingo. It is quite a bit of fun, actually. Between the two, I am even lagging behind on my favorite anime. There are several decent series this year, and I am a couple weeks behind on most of them. What is the world coming to, when learning a random language is more fun than watching anime?

And of course, by now we have to wonder what I meant by “real” world. I suppose studying is more real than watching my sims study, kind of, but I am still listening to a robot voice on the Internet. Between studying French on the Internet and Japanese on my smartphone, playing games and watching anime, there isn’t much that is “real” in the way my grandmother would have meant “real”. But at least i eat real food (noodles are real food, yes?) and sleep in a real bed! Long may that last.

Sims 3 university, 4: Juice, bonfires, comics & sexting

Screenshot Sims 3 University Life

“Vo gerbits!” The school cheer has returned!

Much like in the supposedly real world (if such a concept is even applicable to university life) the academic progress is not the only thing on most students’ minds. This is good, since if you take a light course load, you have all evening to explore the campus and surrounding area, meet interesting people and send them text messages of varying content.

(On a related note, I recommend buying a better bed as soon as you can afford to, since sleeping better means more waking time to have fun. The “meditative trance sleep” lifetime happiness reward also helps with this, but you may not have the life experience for that as a young adult. A sleep elixir from the chemistry set (Generations expansion) can cut down your sleep to a couple hours, whereas the Energy Drink from Mixology (Late Night expansion) can keep you running for much longer while tired.)

The students tend to at first fall into three distinct categories: Nerds, jocks and rebels. As a rule of thumb, the nerds tend to study science, the jocks sports, and the rebels art. But this is not absolute, and certainly not a requirement for your sims. Your status with each group depends partly on befriending and spending time with its members, but there are also activities that can gain status in each group. For instance, I discovered by accident that reading comics will give you crazy high status with the nerds. The first half a dozen comics I read gained me a reputation level each. I am not sure what the corresponding actions are for the other groups.

The jocks in particular are generous in inviting people to their bonfire parties, so this is a good chance to spend time with them. There is usually a keg of “juice” present, and getting “juiced” at the party will give you bonus rep with the jocks. Kissing, making out and having woohoo (sim sex) during the parties also appear as opportunities to gain reputation with them. Stereotypes? What stereotypes?

The rebels live on the edge of the law or just outside. Tagging walls, painting streets, inciting protests and selling exam cheats all bring the acclaim of the rebels. A less dangerous (but nauseating) opportunity is to root through dumpsters. This will occasionally appear as an opportunity, so wait until then. You must know some rebels first, but they are not hard to spot. (For one thing, the caste of a sim appears if you hold your mouse pointer over them…)

Over time some non-player characters gain levels in two of the social groups (or “castes”), while over the course of a generation there appears more and more locals who don’t belong to any group at all. I am not sure if the castes die out eventually when the playable sims ignore them, but there seems to be a marked reduction. Then again this could be a side effect of the StoryProgression mod that I use, which causes students to have more normal family lives, falling in love and marrying and having children. You’d think their children would pick up the social group of their parents, but it does not seem like it.

Gaining lots of influence in a group can give you new opportunities, in extreme cases unlock a new career. A high reputation can also give you an added personality trait. Unfortunately you cannot pick this – it is either the group trait or a random trait. (In contrast to the extra trait you get from completing your first major, you can choose that freely.)

Intertwined with this social life is another form of social life: Social Networking over the smartphone. Your trusty old cell phone has been upgraded to a smartphone, and there are a number of new options. At first these are pretty limited, but after surfing the Net for a while you unlock the first level of the Social Networking skill. There are also books to buy (or borrow at the library) which let you improve fairly rapidly in the skill. I find it ironic that these are physical books. On the bright side, if you (the player) have shelled out the 500 sim points for a MultiTab tablet, you can read e-books on it. And of course you can improve the skill by use.

From the start you can surf the net, text people you know and stream video. Soon blogging becomes available, and once you get blog followers you can beg them for help financially or academically. Followers are easily lost again, though. Later on there are more features, like the SimFinder app that lets you find a potential friend or date based on their personality trait, gender and age. Unfortunately, it seems this feature is local, so while on campus you won’t find people in your hometown or the other way around, much less the three foreign countries. I guess technology dictates this limit. You cannot even send text messages to your friends back home, although strangely you can still call them.

Most of the new Social Networking skills seem to be added for realism and have relatively little influence on your life, although the SimFinder is really handy if you are looking for that Special Someone with a particular personality. Of course, the ideal person may not exist, but you should come a lot closer than trial and error. And there is a mysterious power for the accomplished Networkers, to alter the relationship between other sims.

While social networking is not particularly tied to campus, college sports are performed in the sports hall and out of sight. These are very exhausting, so I recommend going there fully rested if you want to get home without falling asleep. On the bright side, they give you rapid advancement in the jock group, as can be expected. For a more controllable (and visual) sport, try the flying disc (basically a Frisbee). It can be started and stopped at any time, and while it is exhausting and makes you sweaty, it is also more fun to watch than the outside of a sports hall. And you can break it off at any time and get a shower before you collapse in bed. Not least, you can take it with you home from Uni and play with family and friends.

The kicky bag / hockey sack from The Sims 2 makes its return, more colorful than ever and just as fun. Sporty sims are likely to play with it on their own. Like the discs, you can snag a couple of them for free at orientation to bring home to your family after each semester.

Things to bring with you to college:
-A deathflower, if someone in your family can grow them. The grills and bonfires can easily get out of control, and it may take a while for the firesim to get there.
-A week’s supply of Sleep Elixir from the chemistry set (Generations expansion) if someone in your family has the skill to make them.
-Relevant skill books your family may possess. It seems like learning skills is faster in University generally, and skills related to your major is the most powerful form of studying.

Have a nice trip, and don’t stay up too late the night before finals!