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We've replaced most of the light bulbs in the house with compact flourescent (CF) bulbs. They cost a bit more, but last a lot longer, and use less electricity in the mean time. They take a bit of getting used to, though.
For example, we have four globe bulbs in the bathroom. Incandescent is instant-on, full brightness. With four CF bulbs, the light comes on dimmer than incandescent, but ramps up over about 20 seconds to end up brighter than incandescent--and for about 110% of the electricty used by one of the incandescent bulbs we replaced; the four CF bulbs use 27% of the electricity that the four incandescent bulbs did.
The light is more blue than that from incandescent bulbs, too, which helps it seem brighter.
I've always been a fan of flourescent bulbs ever since I learned that flourescent is four times as efficient as incandescent. A 100w incandescent bulb turns 1% of that 100w into light. A 40w flourescent bulb turns 4% of that 40w into light; the 40w CF bulb uses 40% of the electricity to produce a bit more light than the 100w bulb.
The big problem with flourescent used to be that if you wanted flourescent lighting you had to have ugly rectangular fixtures with floruescent tubes. Anyone who took college physics--or has ever seen a neon sign!--will probably understand that a rarified, ionized gas will conduct electricity no matter what shape the container is; in the case of CF lights it's a double helix. Look at the Wikipedia entry on Geissler tubes: the gas ions don't care. Some bright person figured out how to cram the starter, ballast, and tubes into a space not much larger than a typical light bulb--and the result is the CF bulb, which makes flourescent a lot more practical and attractive for the home user.
* * *
In Neverwinter Nights, Dandi Lane, chaotic evil rogue/sorcerer/red dragon disciple, has made 16th level, and I've come to the conclusion that she has anger management issues.
Playing a chaotic evil character is something of a departure for me. In past paper-and-pencil campaigns I've always played good characters, and my first NwN character was a Paladin, which is--by definition--lawful good, which is diametrically opposed to chaotic evil.
So when I'm finished with an area, usually I'll go around and kill everyone I can. The experience points don't amount to very much, but they do add up over time. I take what I want and then decide whether or not to kill people; and the only thing which stops me from killing anyone is how useful they'll be in the future. (Some NPCs are utterly invulnerable, for reasons which vary between sensical and bewildering. Why are children utterly impossible to kill? It doesn't make sense.) But it is kind of fun to play Knights of the Dinner Table style, and kill everyone in a town after someone smarts off to you.
Back when Ultima III was state-of-the-art in computer role-playing games, the big goal for people in my circle of friends was always to get a party to the point that it could survive combat with the guards in towns. Guards were always very tough, but they were also worth a lot of experience points.
Due to a peculiarity of the game software, chests formed impassable barriers. You could hole up behind a wall of chests and the monsters (or guards) could not get at you. Play your cards right and you could kill everyone in town that you could reach, gather most of the treasure, and rake in the EPs. Exit the town, re-enter, and do it all over again.
As for NwN, most NPCs aren't worth much in terms of experience, but it is nice to be able to nail someone with your crossbow after he smarts off to you and not worry about how it affects your alignment.
* * *
Today is the 21st anniversary of the Challenger explosion. And, fancy that, the Chicago Bears are headed for the Super Bowl.
When the Bears won Super Bowl XX in 1986, a scant two days later their victory was erased from the front pages by the Challenger news. Now here we are again, and they're even doing an updated version of "The Super Bowl Shuffle", an awful rap song--its only redeeming virtue is that my friend Keith Jones used the "karaoke" version of the song as the backup music for his rap song, "The Vazales Rap".
Mr. Vazales was the guy who taught Humanities III (and other classes) at Crete-Monee High School. Keith made a song about him which used his catch-phrases and vocal style:
I don't like you, and you don't like me
But hey--I'm the teacher, that's the way it's gonna be.
When I teach the class, I get the students mad
My head is like a dandelion, I like to wear plaid.
DO the Vazales Rap
Just because you got an F on the test means nothing
You're still my friend, class, and I love you
The last verse was pretty good, pretty neatly encapsulating the character of Mr. Vazales:
I have no goals, I have no function
I have no skills, and no compunction
'bout pushing my trolley down the halls at school,
And let me enunciate that I'm a fool.
My students say to me, "hey, ya bore us"
I always shake my head, and open my thesaurus
They don't treat me as if I'm the best,
I say, "How ya doin', buddy? You just failed the test!
"You failed because you chose not to listen."
This rap song, by the way--a mere parody, produced for laughs--displays more talent and intellect than any twenty commercially-produced rap songs, combined.
* * *
Speaking of parody rap songs that display actual talent and intellect, how about Weird Al Yankovic's "White and Nerdy"?
Yankovic has demonstrated the ability, time and again, to generate his own music. He's written original songs like his "Slime Creatures from Outer Space", for example, or "Dare to be Stupid"; and a long-time favorite of mine, "One More Minute". These songs are parodies, but they are parodies of styles of music rather than individual songs.
And the parody is funny.