Archive for August, 2007

Crudely Awakened

August 2, 2007

Yeah… bad pun and all, but I did happen to be in blogger-hibernation for a full semester. A lot happened, not much happened… I don’t know. The short of it is, I want to blog again!

Also, the specific impulses that have driven me to restart blogging are Scott’s recent “Thing a Week” post, and the “Crude Awakening” documentary. Scott’s post reminded me that I need not strive for a superb level of literacy in this blog, and the documentary inspired me to action. By which I mean, sitting in front of my computer and typing away…

First of all, if you haven’t seen this documentary, do so. It is worth it. It might not be as well put-together as Michael Moore’s films, but that’s almost a good thing – “Crude Awakening” feels like an honest effort to present one side of an issue, not like propaganda. Of course, I like Moore’s films as well, but… hey, they haven’t made me blog, and this did! And I, it seems, have a very high blogging threshold.

“Crude Awakening” is an articulate, if slightly one-sided, presentation of the phenomenon of “Peak Oil” – the highest points in the Oil extraction and production curves, followed by an inevitable downward slope. Being a computer gamer, my most immediate association with the documentary’s message was a game of SimCity 2000. In SimCity 2000, you had power plants; you always needed more, they were nearly the most important thing in your city. You started out with Natural Gas, and quickly moved on to oil-based production, which was better but still led to a lot of pollution… and then you were left with several options:

-wind/solar power, which, as “Crude Awakening” mentions, is not very efficient. In the game, it was plain old pathetic – after the oil monsters of your early gaming, the wind/solar fields of later hours just could not provide the electricity, took up too much space, and were overall not fun to look at.

-nuclear power. This was fun because you could watch a meltdown; of course, after the meltdown, you’d load back into a pre-nuclear save point and build something else. Also hideously expensive. (One thing the documentary mentions that I did not know is that Uranium is also a pretty scarce resource, and we would also run out of it pretty quickly if we instantly switched over to nuclear power).

-fusion/other futuristic devices. These were rather unrealistic, but definitely the power plants of choice after a certain point.

So now, back in the real world, we are left staring at imaginary pictures of our cities, and noticing angry “pollution” bubbles, and watching resource curves, and wondering where to go next.

We could always micromanage; but that is really not the human way out of trouble. Painstakingly checking every pop-up and window option in existence to optimize your expenditure while keeping all your people happy is for a computer, not for a human. Humans invent and weasel their way out of situations like this.

We could start over. But that’s a rather disappointing outcome, and involves coming back to the blank map, with nothing built on it yet, and having that “damn, I could have been making Arcologies!” now feeling as you re-lay down the groundwork of your first neighborhoods (which will function on crappy powerplants!) and deal with the horrors of the subway system.

Or we could do what I did, and hex-edit. I once hex-edited a volcano into SimCity. It was rather difficult, and I’m sure I almost erased my computer’s hard drive in the process… but So Darn Cool when it worked! It was inventive. It was going behind the virtual reality, and doing the “impossible” – impossible, simply because it lay outside the established (but also virtual) laws of that reality. It was cool.

I will leave the open question and corresponding cliche statements about life and code and secrets as an exercise to the reader.

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