Wednesday, March 22, 2006

I'm moving... a different blog! My new address is Please pardon the mess while I get everything organized.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Best of my best

Something that has been suggested for bloggers is to put links to "Best of..." in their sidebars. That way, a new visitor can get a sense of the sort of content available on the blog and returning visitors can easily locate popular articles. If you look to your right (no, the other right), you can see where I've started doing this. I currently have four items on this list. My question to you, my faithful readers, is this: are there any other items that you can think of which you think should be added to this list? Please let me know in comments. If I don't get any comments, then I'll know that no one is listening.

Aztecs with Nukes

(For those of you bored with game-related entries, please ride this one out.  There is a point at the end.  Two, in fact!)

Last night I stayed up way too late and finished my current game of Civilization IV.  For those of you who don’t know, Civilization IV is the latest entry in the Civilization series.  In it, you take a civilization from founding its first city into the modern era and beyond.  The game can be won in a variety of ways, including overall performance, control of a large portion of the available land, simply wiping out everyone else, earning a diplomatic win from the United Nations, building the three greatest cities in the world, or being the first to launch a colony ship to Alpha Centauri.  There’s a lot of detail in the game, and I enjoy the changing technologies and time periods.  Early in the game, you’re building city walls mustering spearmen and archers to defend against barbarians.  Late in the game, you’re launching SDI satellites and running bombing missions with Stealth bombers.  Lots of fun.

In the game that I just finished, I was playing the Aztecs.  Recently, I bought a board game called Mexica which is about building the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan, so I’ve been doing some reading about these people.  So, they were on my mind when I started this game.

Now, like any self-respecting Aztec, determined to preserve himself, when I located the Spanish, I killed them as quickly as possible.  Then I settled into the raising of a large and prosperous civilization and intimidating everyone else into submission.  I figured that I’d aim for a Time Victory, which means that I have the overall best civilization by the year 2050.

Then disaster struck.  One of my neighbors across the sea (the Americans, actually) began the project of building the colony ship.  I knew that he would complete the project before 2050, costing me the game.  So, my course was clear.  I declared war on him and launched my attack.

However, this was different than my war on the Spanish.  The conquest of the Spanish had been led by hordes of Jaguar Warriors, armed with obsidian-studded clubs.  The war against the Americans was spearheaded by a massive nuclear strike.

That’s right.  I pushed the Red Button.  I will confess that, game or no game, I cringed a bit at the necessity.  There was something sobering about the initial strike.  Even though the American SDI system shot down most of my missiles, a couple made it through.

Mushroom clouds bloomed over Boston.

It was a little disturbing at first.  But soon that changed.

The other surrounding nations also began building colony ships.  So I declared war on all of them.  At one point, I was at war with three nations at the same time.  I needed that edge, if I were to take them on.  So, as my tanks crossed the frontier, the missiles again began to rain from the sky.

Soon I had thrown the entire weight of my economy behind producing tanks and ICBMs.  Every five turns or so, I had another salvo ready to be launched.  Most were shot down by defense lasers, but enough found their mark to deliver their deadly payload.

Other ill effects began to show themselves.  The fallout spread across the globe, damaging the earth.  Large stretches of desert appeared as the result of my constant nuclear bombardments.  But still I persevered.

I presided over my very own World War III.

Finally, one of the other nations built the United Nations and quickly implemented a nuclear ban.  I was unable to continue my nuclear assault.  But, by then, the damage had been done.  By 2050, none of the colony spaceships were ready for launch, and I won.  The American homeland was literally glowing in places as we slid across the finish line.  Doing a little poking around, I discovered that they would have completed the final component of their spaceship in just three turns.  Three more turns and I still would have lost.

It was a nail-biting end to what could have been a fairly mundane endgame.

But that’s not my point in writing all this up.

Instead, I have a couple of thoughts.

First, while I have a hard time asserting that a game is a reasonable historical simulator, I found myself thankful that the Aztec people had not developed their culture into the modern era.  The little reading that I have done confirms for me that they were a blood-thirsty and violent people.  What if the Aztecs had been equipped with nukes?  Is my scenario so far off?

The second point is a little more personal.  Even though it is only a game, I had the feeling of crossing a line when I launched my first nuke.  I was about to do something irreversible.  Something deadly.  Something…bad.  Indeed, the icon on the screen to launch a missile is a picture of a Big Red Button.  I pushed the Red Button.

Anyone who grew up during any part of the Cold War should understand this sort of feeling.  I remember living in New Jersey at age six or so, seeing a map of the devastation that would result if a 100-megaton warhead were to be detonated in New York City.  My home would have been affected by the blast.  It scared me deeply.
So, here I was, starting a nuclear war.

Yet, very quickly, necessity took over.  After all, I needed these nukes to win the game.  Losing was not an option.  So, soon I needed more missiles.  More missiles!  Easily half of my economic power was dumped into creating these missiles.  As soon as one was ready, I launched it.  What had started as a horrible act became normal and, indeed, rejoiced over.  I was thrilled whenever a missile became available, and I mentally cheered whenever one penetrated the SDI defenses of my foes.

And I realized how quickly we humans become hardened.  What was once evil becomes distasteful, then becomes needful, and soon becomes rewarded.  Bleak?  Perhaps.  But very true.

And I wonder how much of our foreign policies are formed in just the same way.


I've been reading about the Mayans recently. I figure that I'll end up blogging about it in the near future, but, in the meantime, check out this virtual tour of Tikal.

The Town of Allopath

The Town of Allopath Does this sound like any place you know?

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

A brief note about nothing

I don't feel like I've really been blogging much recently. Maybe that's because I haven't been. So, now I have some time. I could blog. I could write about Tikal or about how I've been reading about Mesoamerica, because of the board games that I recently bought (Tikal and Mexica). I could discuss how I read my first John le Carre book. Or I could go play Civilization IV. See ya round!

Monday, March 13, 2006

Doug Wilson on Sins of the Tongue

Trial By Internet I've been appreciating Pastor Wilson's series entitled "A Justice Primer", but I thought that this article was particularly apt.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Cold and tired

I'm not sure how I should be feeling right now. I feel like maybe I ought to be upset or heavy-hearted. Instead, I'm just tired. Maybe that's a coping technique; I don't know. I went down to the hospital tonight to see William. I had been there in the morning, and he was moving a bit and was warm to the touch. I was planning on going back down there to read Beowulf to him. William and I had talked a bit about Beowulf; it was one of his favorite stories. But when I arrived at the hospital, I found that William was doing worse. His skin was pallid and yellow, and he was cool to the touch. It reminded me of touching my mother when she was dead. He wasn't moving anymore. But still the ventilator continued its hideous mockery of human breathing. Inflate, deflate, inflate, deflate, in, out, in, out. And his chest heaving up and down, like his body was pretending to breathe. It's run off me. It doesn't hurt anymore. At least, it doesn't hurt now. At the hospital, I held it together because I wasn't there for me; I was there for William's family. And now, honestly, I'm just too tired to feel hurt. The pain doesn't stab anymore. It just drags at me, like gravity, pulling me down. Yesterday I cried. Today I am cold. Am I cold? What does this mean? Have I done something wrong that I am not feeling anything? Or is it just too much, and so I shunt it to the side? Or is it a special grace from God? I don't know. I'm tired, but I think that I will be able to sleep well. So, perhaps I should. After all, there's still much to be done. My work isn't over. And tomorrow, William may be dead.