It Ain’t SimCity — Fortunately!

It's everything I ever wanted!
It’s everything I ever wanted!

About a year and a half ago I was dancing around the living room because EA finally was releasing a new edition of their famous SimCity franchise. I bought the thing, I I gave it my very best, and at no time did I feel I was playing the game that got me hooked on video games to begin with, back in the mythical nineties when your mum was young and cellphones weighed four kilos each. We walked twenty miles to and from work, uphill and against the raging blizzard winds both ways and damnit, we had the best game back then — and EA completely failed to deliver on their updated, online version.

Paradox Games to the rescue. This month saw the release of Cities: Skylines and frankly, it’s everything I ever wanted, with additional tools for modders and fiddlers. It’s not even half the price that SimCity was, either, and there is so much more content, so much better simulation, so much better everything. Eh, the teeny tiny detail on the graphics might be a slight step downwards, but it’s not something you really notice a lot. The ability to add policies such as a ban on heavy traffic or free public transit to individual city districts blew me away — and I haven’t even got my town over 5,000 inhabitants yet after thirty hours of game play.

It ain’t easy. Cities: Skylines does not have the intuitive, here-let-me-show-you-to-do-this interactivity that SimCity prides itself on. You can access the wiki and tutorials from in-game via the Steam interface, and you will need to, more so if you never played the older SimCity games. There are myriads of little fiddly details that will make you face palm when you figure them out — such as your coal power plant needing to import coal if you don’t produce your own, and that ain’t going to happen if the truck driver has to fight his way through heavily congested traffic — and trust me, your citizens aren’t going to be happy when the power plants begin operating at lower output to preserve what little coal reserves they have left.

The Steam interface makes it easy to add and remove user created content. Users and Paradox both provide mods (that affect how the game is played and how things operate behind the scenes) and assets (ploppable or buildable things such as houses, highway crossings, cloverleafs, entire skeleton city districts…) Three days after release there were eight thousand mods and assets available for free, rated by users. Nom nom nom.

My only real issue at this time is the lack of documentation early on that comes from the wiki manual being user generated and driven. It’s going to take a few weeks before players have properly tested, understood, and explained how some of the more fiddly things work. All things considered, and more so how quickly I threw EA’s version away, I can live with that.

Besties for Life

Horsemanship at its finest. Horse certainly has him trained.
Horsemanship at its finest. Horse certainly has him trained – the idea is to get the horse on the seesaw, not the horseman.

What is horsemanship? Almost every equestrian will have their own answer to that. Dictionary.com defines it as “the art, ability, skill, or manner of a horseman”, which really doesn’t make one a whole lot wiser. A horseman is somebody who works with horses, and makes it look good — and who makes the horses feel good about what they are doing.

I’m no expert trainer or clinician. I’m just an overweight housewife with an old draft horse and too much time on my hands, time that I spend a fair bit of following online debates about horsemanship and equestrian affairs in general. I don’t follow the high level sports; I’m not really interested in extremes and I don’t think that the high level riders and caretakers emphasize horse well-being nearly enough. In fact, a fair bit of the material that ends up circulated from higher level contests tends to get shipped around animal welfare groups, and that’s not a good thing.

To me, horsemanship is friendship. It is wanting to be where my horse wants to be, and my horse wanting to be where I am. It is expressed at its finest when I arrive at the barn and my horse leaves the little herd to trot over to the fence, ears and tail up, spring in his step, happy to see me. It does not matter all that much what we’re going to do on a particular day. What matters is that we are doing it together as partners, equals, and friends.

I don’t win competitions and I don’t have a wall full of plaques and diplomas. I just have a very good friend who happens to have four feet.

Burrito Achievement Unlocked!

Burrito Achievement Unlocked.
Burrito Achievement Unlocked.

Little Q is having a lazy day, and as all ferret owners will testify, there is no better way to spend one of those than being wrapped up like a hairy burrito in a soft shell of fleece blanket.

He’s not being cheeky, sticking his tongue out like that. That’s just how Q sleeps. He does it whenever he is comfortable, usually accompanied by a string of little smug whines and squeaks.

Stopping to Smell the Ponies

Yesterday was the first proper spring day of the year, the first day where the sun had power enough that you could feel its warmth through your clothing. You could even shed the outer layers of that clothing if you were doing something to keep you warm — such as, say, riding a horse. And that’s what we did.

Pausing to nibble the very first bits of grass of the season.
Pitstop in order to nibble the very first bits of grass of the season.

There is no sensation that compares to sitting on an energetic, happy horse that wants to walk faster, see everything, smell everything, and eat everything. Horses don’t walk on the first spring day — they poing like excited weasels. Even 26-year-old arthritic draft horses like Logan. Poing, poing, poing.

Simple pleasures in life: The clear blue sky overhead, little grey Cassie pawing at the water in excitement, and Logan walking briskly ahead with not the slightest trace of a limp.

Little grey Cassie really likes the water. The water is awesome. Love the water.
Little grey Cassie really likes the water. The water is awesome. Love the water.

Yo!

What is this? Why a blog, and why now? After two years of paying for the domain name without using it, what changed? What noble missives will be shared with the news-hungry world at large?

Eh, not much. I need to get back into writing. A blog is a good exercise to do so. And I got to use that absolutely fantastic header picture, depicting my own Logan and his good buddy Cassie, greeting each other after, shock gasp, two whole days of separation.