After six months of hibernation, Koopa was more than a little bit groggy.
This has been a roller coaster of an emotional year for me. My girlfriend and her child moved in during the summer, and it's been great having a family of my own. But sadly, shortly after my new family came together, we lost a member of that family.My beloved little baby tortoise Koopa died in a tragic accident back in August. It's taken me a while to work up the courage to write about it, and it still haunts and saddens me to this day.
Koopa came out of hibernation in spring and seemed to be happy and healthy.
A summer at the vet
The year started out well for myself and Koopa. She came out of hibernation a little early and seemed happy and healthy. She had a full appetite and was very active after her 6-month slumber, which is always a good sign. However, in April I started noticing an odd black residue lining her mouth. I feared that this might be a symptom of something like mouth rot, and so after waiting a couple days to see if it cleared up on its own, I took her to a local veterinarian.
The vet suspected that the problem was likely a bacterial respiratory infection, which is a common condition for tortoises. If left untreated, it can develop into more serious illnesses such as pneumonia, which can be fatal. But it's fairly easy to treat if caught early, so the vet started Koopa on a regimen of antibiotics. She also took a blood sample and cultures from the mouth to try to identify the specific contagion.
We started with a series of antibiotic shots administered every three days for a few weeks. Koopa did not like those at all! I would place her in an old Amazon cardboard box in order to take her to the vet, and it was clear that she did not like being placed in those boxes. The shots also seemed to hurt or cause slight discomfort, as I would sometimes see her stretch or roll her leg after getting the shot. It was a motion similar to how a person might rotate your arm around to stretch out a sore shoulder. But since it was her front leg, it often resulted in her faceplanting into the ground. It was a little cute and funny, and I wish I had video of it.
You may see a similar residue after a tortoise eats (from the wetness of the food),
but if it persists and darkens, then it is indicative of a respiratory infection.
The vet also recommended that I keep Koopa indoors until the variable spring weather passed and the consistent heat of summer showed up. She wanted a stable temperature and environment for Koopa in order to help manage the infection. I didn't have a terrarium or anything, so I had to keep Koopa in a large cardboard box with a heat lamp mounted over it. Koopa didn't like the box very much, so I'd let her out in the back yard whenever it was warm enough.
The black residue eventually started clearing up, and Koopa seemed to be doing very well. She kept a healthy appetite all throughout the treatment. In fact, she ate way more than I had ever seen her eat. She grew considerably over the course of the summer, increasing her weight by a whole third.
But the culture returned positive for a particularly nasty reptillian infection called mycoplasma. This forced us to also have to give her a regimen of a liquid antibiotic over the course of several months. I'd have to mix the antibiotic into her food every few days. This was easy enough, as I'd usually just use the syringe to spread the medicine over a dandelion flower. Dandelions were her favorite food, and she would gobble the medicated flowers up in no time, leaving virtually no trace!
Again, she did not show any worrisome symptoms, and it seemed that we had the illness well under control. It was a huge relief, as I was very worried when she first became sick. The vets did an excellent job of taking care of her, and it seemed that she was going to make a full recovery. We expected that the worst case scenario was that she would remain a carrier for the disease, and could relapse or spread it to other tortoises. But it would be easy enough to control, and she didn't live with any other tortoises, so there was no risk of infection.
We had to keep Koopa inside during the spring in order to maintain a stable temperature and environment.
Preparing for indoor hibernation
Just to be safe, I resolved to hibernate Koopa indoors this winter. I wanted to keep her out of the elements so that I wouldn't have to worry about a severely cold or wet winter possibly aggravating her condition and resulting in a relapse during hibernation.
I had planned on buying a medium-size terrarium and lining it with a faux-dirt mat and maybe some real dirt from the backyard. I would place her little tortoise-shell shelter in the terrarium so that she would have a dark, secluded place to sleep, and I would cover the terrarium with a blanket or towels to help insulate it.
I would rest easy knowing that she was not exposed to the elements, and that I could easily check on her condition whenever I would want to.
But I won't get to put that plan into practice... [More]
There's one civilization that I have not yet covered in my Brave New World strategies series that did receive an explicit rewrite of its unique national ability. I haven't covered them yet because that rewrite isn't so much a change to their ability, as it is really just a clarification that the ability applies to the new rules. The Iorquois civilization led by Chief Hiawatha has an ability that explicitly utilizes the expansion's trade route mechanics. The Iroquois are another civilization (like India) that receives a lot of hate from the Civ V gaming community due to some supposedly lackluster, highly-situational uniques. This strategy will focus on utilizing those uniques when they are beneficial, and on compensating for their downfalls and limitations.
Very little is known about the early history of Iroquoian people prior to the arrival of Europeans in the Americas. The Native American tribes had no written language, and their histories were passed down through oral tradition. According to that tradition, a great Peacemaker united the eastern Great Lakes tribes of the Mohawk, Oneida, Onandaga, Cayauga, and Seneca sometime between the 12th and 15th centuries. Other tribes would later join the confederacy, including some that were displaced from their native lands by European settlers. Iroquois culture was matrilineal, meaning that children were born into the mother's family, and women had a great deal of influence in the politics of the tribes. The Iroquois Confederacy utilized a representative system in which each tribe appointed a number of chiefs (based on relative population of the respective tribes) to serve on a council. There was both a council of male chiefs, and also a council of clan mothers that both had roughly equal authority.
Hiawatha is a near-mythical figure in Iroquois history. He was a follower of the Great Peacemaker, who traveled between the various tribes of the region preaching a prophecy of a strong alliance uniting all the tribes of the Great Lakes region in peace. Hiawatha, along with the Peacemaker, effectively founded the Iroquois Confederacy using his skills as an orator (and, in some traditions, magic) to convince the various tribes to join. According to oral tradition, the Seneca resisted the alliance, leading to a confrontation that was stopped when the sun miraculously went dark, turning day into night. This supposed solar eclipse lead the Seneca to put down their arms and commit themselves to the alliance. [More]
I treated myself to a double-feature at the cinema this weekend. On Sunday, I finally got out to see The Martian, which I've been wanting to see for a whole month. But on Saturday, I also went to see a newer release: the latest 007 James Bond film Spectre. Casino Royale still stands proud and tall as my favorite Bond film. Spectre did little to change that. The movie is entertaining, but its attempts to retroactively tie together the previous Daniel Craig films felt very forced and unnatural. Christopher Waltz worked fine as a re-imagined Blofeld, but the ham-fisted half-brother back story seemed silly and unnecessary. I was tolerant of the Bond backstory from Skyfall (which I very much enjoyed), but Spectre goes a bit too far.
I admit that I found the first half of the movie a bit hard to follow. I didn't think to re-watch the other Bond movies prior to going into this one, so when names and references from the past movies start getting dropped left and right, I had trouble remembering who was who, what was what, and why I should care. Was the guy in the white suit in Mexico a recurring character? How did old M know about him, and why did she think Bond should bother attending his funeral? Heck, I wasn't even sure it was his funeral, as I half thought it was supposed to be M's funeral. Who were the Spectre leaders trying to replace? Was it the guy killed at the beginning of the film, or somebody from one of the previous movies? Who was Mr. White, again, and why does Bond meet up with him? I'm almost ashamed to admit that I had so much trouble following this movie's script. The first half just moves so fast, glances over certain important details, and pushes forward.
Spectre is basically just another version of Quantum of Solace, with a similar "Bond gone rogue for revenge" kind of set-up. The writers just replaced Quantum with the original Spectre, and made Spectre a parent organization of Quantum. The film's attempts to tie the villains of all the previous films to this single Spectre organization just completely fell flat for me, and in hindsight Quantum of Solace might even have been a better movie (but don't quote me on that until I've had a chance to re-watch it).
Spectre plays up many references to old Bond films and their primary antagonist.
The highlights of this film were probably the encounters with Mr. Hinx (Blofeld's henchman played by Dave Bautista). In a movie that leaned very heavily on the classic Bond films, Mr. Hinx worked very well as an amalgam of classic Bond villains Jaws and Oddball...
I dropped the ball on this one. I often criticize Hollywood for not being willing to make genuine, hard science fiction movies anymore, and I begroan the continued bastardization of my beloved Star Trek and the dumbed down action flicks that Hollywood dared to put the "Star Trek" title on. The studios say that science fiction don't make enough money. Apologists say that casual audiences are too dumb and impatient to sit through any kind of slow-developing, cerebral movie. Ironically enough (despite my own frequent cynicism) I think both these apologetics are too cynical and don't give audiences enough credit. I firmly believe that if the studios make a good movie, the audiences will go see it, especially if it's properly marketed.
So when a thoughtful, science fiction movie like The Martian comes out, I try to make a point of spending my money to see it in order to show my support for the continued development of the genre. I made a point of seeing Gravity, despite that movie appearing to be little more than space destruction porn and iMax eye candy. I also made sure that I saw last year's Interstellar. And both of the Planet of the Apes reboots have been surprisingly excellent. Unfortunately, I lost track of the release date of The Martian and missed seeing it on opening weekend (one of Hollywood's biggest metrics of a movie's success). I also wasn't able to see it the week after, or the week after that due to my weekends being consistently busy. It was over a month before I finally put my foot down and said "I'm seeing this movie now! No more delay!".
Fortunately, the rest of the country vindicated me by heaping dump trucks full of praise on the movie and putting their butts in the theater seats to keep The Martian at the number 1 spot in the box office for almost the entire month of October (only briefly falling to number 2 for one week behind Goosebumps - really?). It finally took an upteenth sequel to a beloved franchise to topple The Martian when Spectre (which I also saw this weekend) held the top spot for two weeks in a row. The movie itself is earning Oscar buzz, and Matt Damon seems to be the current favorite for "Best Actor". So there you have it, Hollywood: make a good sci-fi movie, and they will come, and they will love it.
Matt Damon's character is charming and easily has the audience rooting for him against all odds.
And the movie is absolutely fantastic! It's ambitions are closer to Apollo 13 than to 2001: A Space Odyssey. It's a very believable, down-to-earth, science fiction film, the events of which feel like they could happen tomorrow. Matt Damon's performance is absolutely charming as a NASA astronaut stranded on Mars and presumed dead when his team is forced to evac due to a violent sandstorm... [More]
I haven't reviewed many board games. I like to play board games, and there's quite a few that I'd like to review. Sadly, it's been difficult to organize regular board game meetings over the past few years due to the ever-changing work schedules of my social circle and other adult responsibilities. Stupid jobs and chores, always getting in the way of the stuff I want to do! Most of the board games that I play only get played once or twice (and sessions are often months or years apart), which is certainly not enough play-time to justify writing a review, since it's barely enough time to get a really good feel for how the mechanics and strategies of the game work.
But one game that really piqued my interest was Sails of Glory: Napoleonic Wars, a game about naval combat in the age of sail. It is made by Ares Games, the same company that created the WWI and WWII dogfighting game Wings of Glory. If you've ever played the more popular Fantasy Flight games Star Wars: X-Wing or its sister game Star Wars: Armada (both being games that I'd like to review), then you should feel pretty comfortable with Sails of Glory. X-Wing was based off of Ares' Wings of Glory game, and both Armada and Sails of Glory use similar mechanics and rules. Sails of Glory certainly shares more in common with Armada though, since both games involve slow-paced battles between large capital ships, rather than the faster dogfighting mechanics of their predecessors. And both Sails of Glory and Armada simulate the lumbering nature of their respective ships with mechanics that require players to pre-plan their movements ahead of time, which adds a whole new element of strategy and challenge.
Sails of Glory includes 4 pre-assembled French and British ship miniatures.
Sails of Glory isn't a traditional board game, in that it doesn't include an actual board to play on. Instead, the game requires the players to move their ship miniatures across a playing surface (the size of which is determined by the specific scenario being played) by using a deck of maneuver cards. Movement isn't restrained to a grid of squares or hexes, so lots of careful measurement and manipulation of the models is necessary. Players must maneuver their ships in order to get the enemy ships into the firing arc of their cannons in order to attack, and the winner of the game is usually the one who destroys all the enemy ships; though, some scenarios have other winning conditions.
Another key difference between X-Wing / Armada versus Sails of Glory is that all of Sails of Glory's actions are treated as simultaneous. This helps to keep the game flowing a bit more quickly by allowing the player to move their ships and determine combat damage at the same time, rather than having to take turns moving one ship at a time. It also alters the strategy a little bit by permitting "mutual destruction". Since all ships are considered to fire at the same time, there is the possibility that ships may destroy each other in the same turn. It is only in the case of collisions (or possible collisions) that the game requires ships to be moved in a specific order. [More]
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