Monday, March 23, 2009

Electrified with Anticipation

When I was kid, I loved winters. I don't remember there being a whole lot of super cold days, and there were all sorts of fun things you could do on snow or ice that you couldn't do on grass or dry pavement. Some things were as simple as running and sliding on a small patch of ice [1]. Other things were more technologically advanced, like tobogganing. There were the occasional winters where the patches of ice were large enough to skate on. In fact, I accidentally taught myself how to skate one winter when the front patio of our house froze over. I was using front part of the railing of the patio as a support and using the side parts to push myself from one end to the other. After a while I noticed that I didn't need the railings for support or to get myself moving. That was the last time that winter that it was icy enough to skate outside, but the skills learned on the patio would prove useful later on.

That winter or the next, my family moved to the city. A short block away from our new house, there was a water reservoir, which was covered over by soil and grass so that it looked like a hill. It was a great place to go tobogganing, and I spent many hours doing just that. When I got older, one of my friends bought an ATV. The GT Sno Racer got tied to the back of it. We rode around that way for days, until the skis were worn flat.

Later on in high school, the student council organized yearly ski trip. I didn't go until my second last year of high school, but I had so much fun, I made sure to go again the next year. There was also the Quebec trip that only the grade 12 class took, which included about 12 hours (nonconsecutive) of skiing. I haven't been since then. There have been attempts to organize trips, but nothing ever materialized.

More recently, I bought myself a pair of skates, and went skating in downtown Kingston at the market square, which was fun for the few times I went before they closed it down (turns out they didn't close it down as early as I thought they would, so I could've gone a few more times). But this was the sum total of my winter activities. I had high hopes of spending more time doing this things, but just never got around to it. The handful of hours I did get in skating doesn't come close to how much fun I remember having.

Now, winter means trudging through the snow and clearing snow of my car and ice off my windshield more than it does fun. While I surely won't miss these things, this is not the part of winter that I am most eager to see gone.

With the end of winter officially behind us two or three days ago, I eagerly anticipate not getting that little electric shock every time I touch, well, pretty much anything it seems. Anything metal is sure to get me zapped. I get it from my car. I've seen the little blue arc when I put my key in the door. Often people are the targets of my excess electrons. Most recently, I even got zapped by my hand soap, and moments later, by my tap water. Bring on the spring!

[1] I still do this if there's a large enough patch of ice on the sidewalk. Sometimes I feel safer running and sliding than walking slowly.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Scrabble Advice

Some time ago, two brothers from India developed an application for facebook called Scrabulous, that allowed facebook users to play Scrabble against each other. Other than the name, it was no different from Scrabble. It also wasn't licenced by either of the companies that own the trademark to the game. Legal battles ensued, and eventually Scrabulous was shut down. In the meantime, Scrabulous was reinvented as Lexulous, a Scrabble-like game but not Scrabble, while Hasbro, the company that owns the trademark in Canada and the US, and Electronic Arts have developed their own version of Scrabble, which I assume is legal. Mattel, which owns the trademark in the rest of the world, has also developed a version of Scrabble which I shouldn't be able to play because I am not outside of the US or Canada, yet I just did. My impression is that Hasbro's version was hastily put together, ostensibly because they wanted to get the game to their fans on facebook as soon as possible, but more likely they were trying to prevent players from switching their allegiance to Lexulous. The application is still in beta, so there are lots of bugs. Also, it's usually referred to as Scrabble Beta on the discussion board.

Personally, I haven't experienced any of these bugs. The only problems that I've had is that the game is slow to load, if it loads at all, when they're doing server maintenance, but this isn't really a bug. But people are reporting alls sorts of bugs to the discussion board for the game (which is not the place to report bugs). One of the more common ones that I've read about is that the tiles that appear in the virtual rack are not the players actual tiles. The latest such question was as follows

i leave the screen, come back, and my letters have

To which I responded with the advice
The problem is not Scrabble Beta, but your screen. It has become infested with tiny little ants who are rearranging your pixels. Clever little buggers they are. Just tilt your screen to the side, and shake it a bit, kinda like an Etch-a-Sketch. That should clear things up. Oh, and get some bug spray and spray it into the vents at the back of your monitor, to ensure this sort of thing doesn't happen again.