A reader sent me a link to this video of Spore by Will Wright—it’s the new simulation/god game/tinker toy by the maker of SimCity and the Sims. It looks very, very cool, and I think I’m going to want a copy when it’s available for my computer—but one thing has to be cleared up.

This is not a game about evolution.

It’s highly teleological, with a preset goal of achieving high intelligence—which is a painfully unrealistic and skewed perspective. Why shouldn’t we be able to play to become the very best squid we can be? I guess it’s necessary to constrain the advancement path of the game to something manageable, but I hope they’re crystal clear about the fact that they’re modeling something that does not resemble evolution much at all.

It still looks fun. It looks like they’ve overcome some of the limitations that made the old SimLife and SimEarth such bores, but there’s always the risk that every game here will also end up being the same, with just some more elaborate cosmetics.

Friday Random Ten…really

OK, I should balance my non-random ten with a random ten, so here they are:

Somewhere In Texas The Raveonettes
Strange Fruit Billy Holiday
Three Bikes in the Sky Tangerine Dream
Woman Of Heart And Mind Joni Mitchell
Us Regina Spektor
Black Milk Eighth From The Egg
Tanaka Sound Saian Supa
Truth is (featuring Robert Smith) Tweaker
O Skeewiff where art thou? (man of constant sorrow) Skeewiff
All Apologies Nirvana
Sacala Don Omar, Wisin Y Yandel & Hector
You Don’t Know What Love Is Chucho Valdez

Friday Semi-Non-Random Ten

These things have a way of snowballing…Luis kindly sends me a couple of Roy Zimmerman CDs, I make a comment about it, and next thing you know, the friendly people at Meta4Records send me the other albums he has made. I’ve got the complete collection now! So I created a Zimmerman playlist in iTunes, set it to shuffle, and present to you the first ten.

“Acid On Picture Day…” Roy Zimmerman Comic Sutra
You’re Pretty Roy Zimmerman Comic Sutra
Hula Yule Roy Zimmerman Peacenick
My TV Roy Zimmerman Homeland
Dick Cheney Roy Zimmerman Security
T.M.I. Roy Zimmerman Comic Sutra
Vergangenheitsbewaeltigung Roy Zimmerman Security
Saddam Shame Roy Zimmerman Security
Think Different Roy Zimmerman Homeland
Nothing But The Best Roy Zimmerman Peacenick

These CDs are incredibly healthy. You know how, when you read the news about the latest atrocities from the Republicans, and your blood pressure starts to rise, and you’re turning purple, and you’re starting to shred the newspaper or scream at the TV? That’s probably not good for you. What you can do instead is play a little Zimmerman, and he’ll make fun of the Bushites for you—you’ll still feel peevish and have a desire to do something about it, but the humor will take the edge off. It’s going to add years to my life.

As an added bonus, playing liberal folkie music like this around Republicans makes them turn a choleric purple and grind their teeth—if it doesn’t kill them slowly, at the least you’ll know they’re going to spend their declining years with inflamed gums and a diet they have to suck through a straw.

A grim start to Spring Break

Spring break starts…NOW. I’m done with classes for the day, and just have to make a trip out to St. Cloud to pick up my son for the weekend and my obligations are temporarily over, sort of.

Way back at the beginning of the term when spring break seemed far, far away, I scheduled an exam for my physiology course (75 students) and my introductory biology course (35 students) for this week; I also had my intro students turn in a writing assignment this week, and because they had done poorly on one rather important exercise, had also assigned an extra paper, also due now. There is a rather terrifyingly full box of papers sitting on my desk, growling softly to remind me of its existence now and then. I know that if I neglect it it will glare more ferociously and grow claws and fangs and get increasingly vicious; if I wait until the last weekend of the break to deal with it, it will try to kill me. So I’m going to take it out early. I swear, I will annihilate the contents of that evil box this weekend, splattering every page with red.

That box is evil. I hate it. I will gut it soon, one page at a time.

Swamps are lovely

Darksyde’s latest Science Friday is an interview with Michael Grunwald on the subject of the Florida Everglades. It’s a mostly bad news with threads of forlorn hope scattered throughout, like most environmental news.

The bad news is that the ecosystem is in a state of near-collapse. Lake Okeechobee is going to hell; it’s the color of espresso. The Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries are just gross. And CERP is already way over budget, behind schedule, and off track; Congress is losing interest in funding it. The good news is that there are signs that Floridians are beginning to recognize that their way of life is not sustainable. Posh towns like Fort Myers, Sanibel, Stuart and Jupiter are in revolt over the decline of the estuaries; retirees are having trouble breathing at the beach. Governor Bush shocked enviros by taking their side in a battle over sprawl in Miami-Dade County. A plan to build a massive biotech campus at the edge of the Everglades–maybe the biggest project in Florida since Disney–was blocked by an environmental lawsuit; now it looks like it’s going to move to a more sensible location. And remember: several million acres of the Everglades ecosystem is already in public ownership. So there’s hope.

Santorum flip-flop

Well, this isn’t a big surprise: Rick Santorum is writing a foreword to a bookthis book, Darwin’s Nemesis, a volume that praises Philip Johnson, father of the Intelligent Design movement. Santorum has a very confused history with ID: he was the author of the Santorum amendment, an attempt to couple ID to the No Child Left Behind bill. It was stripped from the bill, but that has never stopped the creationists from claiming it was a legally binding requirement.

The really funny thing is that the day after the Dover decision came down, Santorum backed down fast. And now he’s endorsing a pro-ID book?

Repeat after me: FLIP-FLOP.

(via Atrios)

Short takes

Never mind me, I’m running around with classes and meetings today…here are a few quick links.