The Sims: a lesson in life




My name is Elizabeth and ..... and I'm a "Sims" addict. Actually, I'm more of a binger. I won't play it for a year and then I'll rediscover it and play non-stop for days. Since Christmas is all about excess, it perhaps isn't surprising that I indulged myself in a bit of virtual reality Sim-life. My sim-Elizabeth moved into a cute Tudor abode with her cat Tallis and lover, Keanu Reeves (complete with Matrix trench coat and sun glasses). Happy days ensued in which Elizabeth progressed rapidly through the medicine career track, Keanu became a sous-chef and even Tallis brought home a steady income as a rescue pet (earning rather more than Keanu). They had the best of everything; luxury bed, piano, hot tub.... and when Keanu presented Elizabeth with a diamond engagement ring, what could she say but yes?

It all went wrong when Keanu (who had family aspirations) strongly desired a baby. Time was running out for he and Elizabeth would become infertile elders in a matter of days. While pondering the issue during long star-gazing hours (ok, I sent him out there every night for a week) Keanu was abducted to return inpregnated with an alien child. But this left a problem: Elizabeth, now wanting a baby herself, was stuck with a husband no longer up to the challenge. The only solution was seduction of a neighbour in the hot tub while Keanu was resting his swollen belly upstairs.

So now we were expecting two children. A handful, yes, but I thought it would be kinda awesome: one alien child and one love child (rather obviously so, since the seduced neighbour was dark skinned). The happy day arrived and Keanu gave birth .... to twins. Within 24 hours, Elizabeth also gave birth resulting in 3 (3!) babies in the house. Keanu was delighted. It became his biggest ambition to have yet another child.

One day later and it was hell. I hired a non-stop cycles of nannies and a maid to try and stay on top of the situation... and failed. Keanu and Elizabeth became exhausted and fell asleep on the floor, the maid never finished the work and had to give up when it got dark, the nanny didn't have time to use the toilet and wet herself... 3 times ... and the cat resorted to asking the maid for attention. A few more days later and the game informed me that the kids aspiration meter was low and I should focus on fulfilling their life ambitions. Life ambitions?! Isn't being alive enough??

Keanu is now mopping up the nanny pee (which the maid seems to have an aversion to doing). His worst fear has become to have another child.

Gasoline

This post is particularly aimed at my American friends who have had to suffer through my complaints about US news broadcasting (too vindictive), US health system (too expensive) and US alligators (too many teeth) and how it (news / health / teeth) would never happen in Europe.

[At a petrol station in Leicester, UK. My Mum fills up the car and then goes to pay inside.]

Me: "Can't we just swipe the credit card and zoom off?"

Mum: "No, most petrol stations don't have that. We have to go and pay inside."

Me: "Bah."

[Inside a shop]

Me: "They don't bag our groceries for us? We've got to pack it all up ourselves?"

Mum: "Start packing."

Me. "BAH."

[Later still]

Me: "I need to use the bathroom."

Mum: "I don't think there are public toilets here."

Me: "This would never happen in America."

Mum: "Do you want dinner?!"

The postdoc who never wanted to grow up

Adviser: Are you generally applying for faculty jobs?

Me: No. I really don't want a faculty position, so there seemed no point in submitting an application since I'd still turn it down in favour of a postdoc.

Adviser: Well, you say you'd turn it down *now*, but if you got a competitive faculty job at a research university ...

Me: ... I'd be mad to turn it down?

Adviser: You'd be mad to turn it down.

Me: So I shouldn't apply. My logic is impeccable.

Stormtroopers

So, let's be honest. Tropical storm Fay was somewhat of a disappointment. I know, I know, you don't all agree. Especially those whose houses were flooded / trees smashed down on cars / general humiliation of being pounded by a woman who sounds like your great aunt. But for me, I felt short changed of the full Florida hurricane experience. Even my non-Florida friends were disgusted commenting "I thought at least your power would be out by now." Still, it appears mother nature heard my noises of discontent and responded by sending over not one but another four hurricane-promising storms.

New Orleans got all the fun of Gustav, but we have Hanna, Ike and Josephine still on the cards. Don't get me wrong, however, I don't want to be flooded out. What we're looking for here is a truck load of rain and wind that allows me to return home to the UK with tales to tell, but nothing that involves me being without power and air conditioning for more than a night. (Hear that, up there?! No loss of internet. I do *not* want to be sent back to the stone ages). So hold onto your waterproofs, Floridians, the stormtroopers are coming!

Gyms? Okay then.

Gyms? Oh please, I have a life! I do sports! Going to a sweaty, claustrophobic room to pound away at a machine with the only purpose being to keep your body in acceptable shape, not to have fun or contribute to a team or socialise or... No. This is an activity for people who do not have friends.

Then I realised something odd. Many of my friends go to gyms. And if they are all anti-social, uninteresting misfits then ... well... it doesn't say much for the people who choose to hang out with them. Determine to get to the bottom of this issue, I persuade a friend to take me along to her gym as a guest. There, finally, I see the attraction. Large airy rooms, swimming pool, classes in every exercise imaginable, large bouncy exercise balls, weights and lifting equipment, the latest contraptions for running, stepping, cycling ..... and the personal cable tv screen attached to each machine. Oh yes, cancel with cox cable, I can now justify hours of Futurama, Sex in the City and Friends while I pound my abs into shape.

I get it. I signed up. And now my heart rate will match Carrie's as she sleeps her way through a series of disastrous relationships.

I see you looking at me

Ever wanted to know who is looking at your public I-support-internet-freedom-and-am-not-even-curious website? No, of course you don't. Either way, check out sitemeter.com. A handful of lines in your .html file later and you can plot all visitors on a world map, see how often they viewed your page, how long they spent and look down their webcam to add their picture to your front page for next time the sneaky little dolls look you up. Well, ok, the last option is still on the "under development" section but wait until they team up with facebook.
Currently, I've added this little number to one of my work sites and am now speculating who on earth I know in Kentucky. So just so you know... I've seen you... and you've seen me. I guess that makes us even, hmm.

The terrible hand of justice

In the US, it is largely considered that homicide is a *bad thing to do*. As such, if you were to decide that your fellow passenger's music was just too loud to bear and respond by sawing off his head, you would expect... repercussions [*]. A follow-up to such a deed would probably involve a highly extended gaol sentence or, in some states, a ticket off this mortal coil so that your victim can deal with you personally. Largely, similar principals apply in the UK where many individuals enjoys Her Majesty's pleasure at select institutes around the country. In many cases, the long-term punishments dished out in the UK seems to be of shorter duration. For instance, we don't have the death penalty (the ultimate in permanency) and the number of lifers in the UK is 37, where as in the US it's over 30,000 (nope, I did not mis-type that, 37 : 30,000; http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/7268647.stm). Sometimes, however, the punishment is so severe in the island kingdom that it makes you go cold to think of it... In this particular incident, an elderly gentleman bumped off his wife for refusing to let him go to the pub. Quite a reasonable response in many areas of Scotland. His punishment? House arrest during pub opening hours. Does it really get any more nasty?!

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/glasgow_and_west/7540994.stm


[*] This particular crime was actually in Canada, but I find this an incidental detail compared to the actual event: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/7535840.stm

Chad's phone in Spain

"Hey, Chad's phone. Chad doesn't have AT&T which means no bars here in Spain. So, I guess we won't be getting your call warning us about the local beaches. How some are more ... naked .... than others."

Claims the TV commercial for AT&T wireless; a popular mobile phone company in the US. Personally though, I can't help thinking that Chad's choice in phone provider is really the least of the issue, since the majority of US handsets seem not to be tri-band and therefore wouldn't work in Europe anyway. But then, we all know Chad really wanted to end up at a nudist beach and no one would want their phone company getting in the way of holiday fun now, would they?

You moved! (& other questions)

Moved?

See, the problem with having a blog that contains your name in the url is that google slams it right at the top of every search on you. (As a side note, google also brings up a picture of me if you ask it for 'giant molecular clouds' so its choices are not always so transparent). This isn't a problem, per se, but as the job season approaches I would prefer it if my research page appeared first and my disregard for the lives of small children (see post 'On America's 10 most wanted') appeared somewhat lower down.

(For facebook readers, my blog is now at 'www.girlandkat.blogspot.com', you should totally check out the silhouette; I'm disproportionately proud of it!)

You're applying for jobs again?

Indeed. As a postdoc, I am perpetually on the brink of unemployment. Although I am looking forward to it, somewhere new is always exciting and all my friends here are leaving ... largely for Chile.

um, 'kat' ?!

girlandcat was taken. As was catandgirl. Some questions have friendly simply answers :)

"You're much heavier than you look!"

Is not an example of a comment that one is automatically flattered by. However, when given after a battle in the crease (the area of ice directly in front of the goal) during a hockey game it can make you feel highly self-satisfied. Hockey; it's a strange sport.

On America's 10 most wanted

Living in a foreign country, you'd think I'd be a seasoned traveller. Well... I am, only my organisational skills seem to improve at a rate far slower to the number of trips I take. Okay, I'm a basket case when it comes to preparing. This trip was for 10 days and had the added excitement of putting the cat into kennels for the first time. So the day before I dropped her off bright and early and headed back to my apartment thinking through what was still to be done; pack camera and charge battery (probably ought to do that next)...., wash smart trousers for conference presentation (no, I should do that first, camera battery can always wait)...., buy travel-sized shampoo that is non-threatening enough to be taken on the plane in hand luggage...., back up laptop in case it gets dropped out of plane (could take a while, maybe set this up before I pack)..... stop for police car that is flashing its lights at me (... Ah).

"No officer, I can honestly say I have no explanation for going 40 mph in a school zone."

So it wasn't exactly "10 most wanted" but it was traumatic enough for me. For the uninitiated non-American, school zones operate only at certain times of the day over stretches of road close to schools. They are marked by yellow flashing lights and reduce the speed limit from 35 mph (yes, ok, I was speeding anyway) to 20 mph (meaning I was now quiet seriously speeding). Since I don't normally drive at times when they're operable, I'm pretty shoddy at looking out for them.

By looking remorseful, female and foreign I managed to escape with a standard speeding offense (school zone speeding normally triples everything) of a $120 fine and a 4 hour on-line driver course (or points on my license which I wanted to avoid). Today, I went into the court house in Gainesville to pay it all off. I'd like to say I walked in proudly, dealt efficiently and, head held high, strode from the building. It wouldn't be entirely true. The process was painless and the people very nice but, as foreigner on a highly-revocable visa, walking into a court house seems a little to close to disaster for my peace of mind.

As for the cat, she survived kennels but also seemed to think the car ride was the most traumatic part. I can only be thankful that she wasn't in the car when I was pulled over; the bad language would certainly have driven up the fine.

Toys

This sinister tale begins in the most dark of places, the "My Little Pony" aisle in "Toys R Us". I was admiring the special release of the original 1983 My Little Ponies to celebrate 25 years of plastic equine love. These rubber numbers were the ones I played with as a small child (and which were not "skinny and boney" Ashley Stewart! We may have been only 6, but I've not forgotten the taunts from you and your little friends) and clearly looked far more like real ponies that these modern imposters. Once you get over the bright pink plastic, that is. Anyway, while innocently reminiscing about more carefree times, a doll on the far end of the aisle slowly turned its head towards me and said ... "hello". I left. If the toys are going to turn on us, Toys R Us is not the best place to barricade inside.

Friendship is ...

... telling you your cake was fantastic even when it disintegrated to the state that you packed the pieces into a tuber-ware container and presented it with a spoon.

Things that go bump....

.... in the kitchen. Or, more accurately, 'bang'. Whatever noise best represents the lid flying of a liquidizer (I've discovered that's 'blender' to my American audience) and spraying hot soup over apartment, myself and cat. Cat not impressed. Apartment didn't say much, but I doubt it thought the look suited its previously white walls.

Maybe this was a case of 'pride before blender-blast'. Since moving to Florida, I've actually starting cooking stuff. Like, not just pasta in a pot (the height of my NYC culinary achievement) but pies and cakes and real food. This is probably because people here all have kitchens. Proper ones designed to be there, rather than a stove shoved in a closet from when the apartment block used to be a giant house for NY billionaires. Hence, people really cook and make things and, being the sheep that I am, I've taken up the task too. This new interest culminated in asking for a cookery book for Christmas which was gladly provided by parents hoping to avoid desperate requests of 'Mum, can I have the recipe for your [insert favourite dish here] ' at 10 pm at night.

Prior to the soup blasting experience, the whole cooking-stuff-idea has been a success. I enjoy cooking it, the cat enjoys me cooking it and we both enjoy eating it. (One of us rarely waits until all the ingredients are compiled before tasting ... though actually, the cat doesn't have much patience either). The whole sharing thing is fun too.

But as with all new adventures, things need to be learnt. Like, holding the lid down on the blender, for instance. Oh yes...