The Unusual Passing Of April

In all the years I’ve played The Sims 2 and The Sims 4, I’d never seen a Sim death quite like this one.

It was a freezing Winter night in Willow Creek, and April, Zoey, Gena, Dakota, and Chuck were enjoying a cozy dinner at home. A beam of bright light appeared outside, accompanied by a strange, otherworldly sound.

Evening Meal

“Where did April go?”

April stood up, as if in a trance, and walked outside, still in her pajamas. The alien spacecraft, the source of the light and sound, beamed April into it, abducted her, and flew off.

Halfway through her alien abduction, a message appeared: April was freezing to death. The spacecraft was out of reach, so there was nothing I, or her family, could do.

April was already dead when the aliens returned her.

Frozen April

April Chisolm-Behr, who had retired from a successful career as an Astronaut, froze to death in space.

April Portrait

Later, in the Spring, Akito Tanaka returned home to Oasis Springs after another unsuccessful evening of trying to win Ulna Kost’s heart. His phone rang. It was the ghost of April Chisolm-Behr. I can’t get you out of my mind, she said. Would you like to go to dinner with me at The Seafarer?

Akito remembered that spontaneous kiss at Dakota and Chuck’s wedding. He immediately said yes, and rushed to Magnolia Promenade.

It was a talkative and flirtatious dinner. Akito didn’t want the night to end. He wanted April to come home with him.

Ghost Dinner

Dinner ended with a kiss. Then April vanished. Since Sims can’t contact ghosts, Akito will have to wait for April to call him again. Maybe he’ll find her by chance one day.

Ghost Kiss

Why I Probably Shouldn’t Take Naps

Lately, I can’t get enough sleep. I get plenty of sleep, but I still feel like I don’t get enough. Normally, I go to bed between ten and eleven at night. These days, it’s not unusual for me to go to bed at eight. Then I wake up in the morning feeling like I haven’t slept enough.

Yesterday, Phillip and I went to see the movie Maleficent: Mistress of Evil with Kelly and her mom. I enjoyed the movie, but I did nod off a few times. After the movie, the four of us went to lunch at Watershed Pub, where Kelly commented that I looked like I needed a nap.

When Phillip and I got home, Phillip took a nap, but I didn’t. It was around four o’clock, and I knew that taking a nap that late would mean I’d be unable to get to sleep that night.

At around 4:30, I was falling asleep on the couch, so I gave in and took a nap.

I woke up at 8:30, and I couldn’t get back to sleep until around three in the morning.

I set an alarm for 10:00 in the morning, since we were going to Everett today. I woke up a little before nine, feeling groggy but also feeling like I couldn’t go back to sleep. So I got up and turned off the alarm.

Gaming in Everett was at one o’clock, and it’s a half-hour drive from Seattle, but we wanted to stop into WinCo along the way, so we planned on leaving at noon. Somehow, we ended up leaving Seattle at 11:35. Traffic on I-5 was light.

Not wanting to show up too early for gaming, we took our time browsing through WinCo. Then we got into what we guessed would be the longest checkout line, in order to burn some more time.

We got out of WinCo with still too much time until gaming. I had an idea. As Phillip left the parking lot, I pulled up Google Maps and looked for a park nearby. I guided Phillip to Lions Park. We’d been by the park, but had never gone in.

Lions Park turned out to be a nice, well-maintained park with an inventive playground, a half basketball court, and lots of lawn. There wasn’t much for us to do on a damp October afternoon, but we both had fun just hanging out and burning some time. Phillip got some Pokémon Go playtime in.

It was a fun, but groggy weekend.

 

Chuck And Dakota

April Chisolm-Behr, who seems to be in the middle of everything these days, met Chuck Foster at the Flea Market in San Myshuno. The two became instant friends.

Chuck lived in the worst apartment in all of San Myshuno – the one with the broken pipes, loose wiring, rats, and the crime scene outline on the floor. April, of course, lived in that multi-generational house in Willow Creek.

Despite his terrible living conditions, Chuck Foster seemed like a nice guy. April decided that Chuck would be a good match for her sister, Dakota Downing-Chisolm. Chuck agreed to be set up on a blind date.

The Setup

Chuck Foster and Dakota Downing-Chisolm had a wonderful first date, at El Banana Azul. They had equally wonderful second and third dates. Dakota agreed that her sister had been right: Chuck was a nice guy, despite his terrible apartment. Chuck and Dakota became officially Boyfriend and Girlfriend.

First Date

Chuck Foster was a Geek with no Athletic ability. Dakota was an Athlete with no interest in Geek culture. Dakota refused to spend a night at Chuck’s apartment, afraid of being scalded, electrocuted, or bitten by a rat. Dakota shared a bedroom with her sister Gena, so Chuck spending a night in Willow Creek was out of the question. Despite all this, Chuck and Dakota made their romance work.

After obtaining her sisters’ permission, Dakota asked Chuck to move in. Zoey moved in with Gena, in the basement. Chuck and Dakota moved into Zoey’s former bedroom, upstairs.

Ask to Move In

Chuck Forster got along well with Zoey and Gena. He even started wearing the family’s matching pajama bottoms.

Moved In

Chuck and Dakota scheduled their wedding for the following Sunday, in Myshuno Meadows. It was a day they both had off. They were both excited. It was going to be a long week for them both.

Picking the Date

A blizzard hit Willow Creek that week, and freezing temperatures were reported in San Myshuno. (Maybe scheduling an outdoor wedding in winter wasn’t the best idea.) Then Dakota got promoted to Team Mascot, and was scheduled to work during the big game on Sunday. Neither Chuck nor Dakota could stop worrying about the upcoming ceremony.

Blizzard

On Thursday evening, Chuck decided to relieve the anxiousness by taking his fiancée to Oasis Springs, to meet his best friend, Ingrid Jonsdottir, as well as Ingrid’s wife, Delilah, and their roommate, Akito. All three had been invited to the wedding, but Chuck wanted Dakota to meet them beforehand.

Something unusual was going on with Ingrid. She had a temper like Chuck had never seen before. She was critical of everything Dakota tried to say to her. It was a tense visit, not the relaxing one Chuck had wanted.

Meeting the Friends

Ingrid agreed to give Dakota an autographed photo, but refused to give Dakota her friendship.

Autograph

Ingrid had become a three-star, B-Lister celebrity, due to her scientific discoveries. Chuck was shocked to see that Ingrid’s fame had turned her into a snob.

First a blizzard, then a change in Dakota’s work schedule, and then the possibility they may have to exclude a guest. Everything was going wrong with Chuck and Dakota’s wedding plans.

Chuck Foster had known Ingrid Jonsdottir since before she’d gained her second star. He was one of her early key holders.

Friends Back Then

Chuck and Ingrid had a connection neither one could explain. Chuck had been the only Sim able to persuade Ingrid to get rid of that awful haircut.

Awful Haircut

On Saturday morning, Chuck took Ingrid out to breakfast in Newcrest. Chuck spoke with her with honesty and frankness. He told Ingrid that she was in trouble of losing not only a wedding invitation, but also a friend, if she didn’t mellow out and drop the three-star attitude.

Breakfast with Ingrid

The talk worked. Ingrid followed Chuck home to Willow Creek. She offered apologies and friendships to Dakota, April, Zoey, and Gina. Ingrid gained four new friends, and a key to the Willow Creek house.

Ingrid and Dakota spent the rest of the afternoon, just the two of them, in the Oasis Springs commercial district.

Saturday night, Ingrid treated Dakota and Chuck to a relaxing spa visit.

Pre Wedding Spa

The blizzard lessened in Willow Creek, and the weather warmed up in San Myschuno. One of Dakota’s coworkers agreed to take her shift at the big game.

The wedding was perfect.

Wedding Ceremony

Chuck Foster and Dakota Downing-Chisolm are now a married couple.

Wedding Cake

Paparazzi were on the grounds, hoping to snap a photo of Ingrid Jonsdottir, but didn’t disrupt either the ceremony or the reception that followed.

April Chisolm-Behr, who seems to be in the middle of everything these days, had a little too much juice at the reception and gave Akito Tanaka a big kiss. The paparazzi, unsure of who all the guests were, took lots of photos.

Wedding Kiss

 

 

I Read A Study In Emerald

A Study in Emerald, written by Neil Gaiman, was originally published as a short story in 2003.

I read the graphic novel adaptation, in eBook form, illustrated by Rafael Albuquerque, which was published in 2018.

A Study in EmeraldThe story is set in the Victorian era.

The unnamed narrator returns to England after being held as a prisoner of war, and tortured, in Afghanistan. As he tells his story of the war and his captivity, he mentions seeing an enormous, hideous, tentacled monster in a cave.

He tells this story to his new roommate, a man of amazing powers of deduction and observation. The narrator and his roommate share a flat on Baker Street, following an introduction by a mutual friend.

At first, the narrator doesn’t inquire into the roommate’s profession. He hides away in his bedroom whenever guests stop by to speak with the roommate.

But then, one morning over breakfast, when Inspector Lestrade of Scotland Yard pays an unannounced visit, the roommate invites the narrator to stay for the conversation. Before the inspector has a chance to explain the reason for his visit, the roommate deduces, correctly, that it is “a matter of national security”. The roommate agrees to assist the inspector.

Later, the roommate explains to the narrator that he is a consulting detective – the only one in London, or, possibly, the world. “I do not take cases. Instead, I consult,” he explains.

When the consulting detective travels across London to investigate the inspector’s story, he insists that the narrator accompany him. “I have a feeling that we were meant to be together,” explains the consulting detective. “For the first time since Afghanistan, I felt that I had worth in the world,” thinks the narrator.

The narrator does his best to document the investigation, despite admitting that he is not a writer by profession.

The body of a man has been found, brutally murdered, in Shoreditch. The murder scene is splattered with a green substance. The word “Rache” is written on a wall.

Because of “the color of his blood, the number of limbs, the eyes, the position of the face“, the consulting detective deduces that the victim was royalty – specifically, Prince Franz Drago of Bohemia. Inspector Lestrade confirms that the deduction is correct.

A Study in Emerald seems, at first, to be Neil Gaiman’s take on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – a nearly exact scene-by-scene retelling of A Study in Scarlet, with some H. P. Lovecraft mythos mixed in.

Things are not what they seemed in the beginning.

This was a quick read. It was, after all, a short story turned into a graphic novel (a graphic short story?). Still, it was full of subtlety. I took my time on each page, savoring the whole experience.

Some knowledge of the history of Sherlock Holmes is helpful, but not necessary, when reading this story. (I understood it better, especially the enigmatic ending, after I went back and read the “A Study in Emerald” Wikipedia article after I finished this story.)

The artwork is gorgeous.

A Study in Emerald Panel

I was in need of something to read on my commutes, so I browsed through the library selections on Libby by Overdrive. I decided to see what reading a graphic novel on my phone is like. I picked A Study in Emerald because it’s by Neil Gaiman, it looked interesting, and it was available immediately. I knew nothing about it.

Reading a graphic novel on my phone was no problem. Libby has a nice zoom feature, apparently specifically for graphic novels, in case the text gets too small. The zoom feature also has a nice, one-click return to full screen.

I loved this book a lot.

 

I Read Stand On Zanzibar

Stand on Zanzibar, by John Brunner, was first published in 1968.

This book had been on my TBR list for a while. I’d heard great things about it. I’d heard that it was one of the best science fiction novels ever. I’d also heard that it contains some amazing coincidences and predictions.

Stand on Zanzibar

The story takes place in the future, in the year 2010.

The novel is presented in an unconventional style, more interested in worldbuilding than in a direct narrative. There are vignettes, Twitter-style news feeds, books within books, and a dictionary.

The book is divided into four sections: “context”, “the happening world”, “tracking with closeups”, and “continuity”. The book switches between the sections at the start of every chapter.

The population of Earth is 7 billion. It’s overpopulated. The wealth of the planet is inconceivably large, and, in Africa, the former British colony of Beninia is starving.

The Right Honourable Zadkiel F. Obomi is the first president of Beninia. He’s a popular and charismatic leader.

In the Southeast Asian country of Yatakang, Dr. Sugaiguntung is making breakthroughs in human genetic engineering. Yatakang is a political enemy of the United States of America.

The Soviet Union is no longer a world superpower. China and the USA are in direct competition, politically and economically.

The countries of Europe have joined together to form Common Europe.

Puerto Rico becomes the latest state to ratify the United States eugenic legislation. Nevada and Louisiana are now the only states that allow the birth of disadvantaged children.

In California, having more than two children results in higher taxes.

In America, tobacco is illegal. Marijuana is legal. Homosexuality is accepted, or at least tolerated, for now. Homelessness without a permit is illegal, but you won’t get arrested for sleeping rough – there isn’t enough room in the jails.

The genetic engineering of marijuana is a major industry.

In larger cities, stores are lowering operating cost by installing automated pay-out clerks.

Norman Niblock House is a twenty-six-year-old Afram (African-American). He’s one of twenty VPs at General Technics. He got his job through the Equal Opportunity Act, which mandates that the percentage of whites to Aframs at General Technics has to closely match that of the United States.

General Technics is a global corporation, selling a wide variety of consumer goods through many subsidiaries, covering every aspect of a person’s life, and holds strong political power in the USA. It has mining operations on the Moon and on the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. It also owns the world’s most powerful computer, named Shalmaneser, although some claim the Chinese government has a more powerful one, named K’ung-futse. Shalmaneser holds and controls news and information. GT claims that Shalmaneser is on the verge of attaining sentience.

The contents of the New York Public Library are held at a classified location. The New York Public Library now contains over a thousand Shalmaneser access terminals.

An encyclopedia can be accessed from your videophone.

Television broadcasts can be programmed for the individual user, and, for a higher fee, a viewer can have their own image inserted into the television image.

Donald Hogan is a spy. He works undercover as a university student. He’s Norman House’s roommate. Donald and Norman are both heterosexual. Donald is a WASP, and there is some racial tension between Norman and Donald. There is a high degree of racial tension between paleasses and Aframs in America.

There are frequent terrorist attacks occurring all over the world, from many different extremist groups, including the Right Catholics. Sometimes, the person behind a random act of violence is simply a mucker (a person run amuck). The fuzzy-wuzzies (police) in New York City patrol in prowlies (armored vehicles equipped with crowd-control weapons).

There are excerpts from books by a former sociologist named Chad C. Mulligan. The books are: The Hipcrime Vocab, Better ? Than ?, You: Beast, and You’re an Ignorant Idiot.

The Hipcrime Vocab defines “Hipcrime” as: “You committed one when you opened this book. Keep it up. It’s our only hope.

The Hipcrime Vocab defines “Logic” as: “The principle governing human interaction. Its nature may be deduced from the two following propositions, both of which are held by human beings to be true and often by the same people: ‘I can’t so you mustn’t,’ and ‘I can but you mustn’t.’

In the “tracking with closeups” section, we’re introduced to a diversity of minor characters, whose stories are both self-contained and tied into the larger story.

A central story forms in the “continuity” section, involving Norman House, Donald Hogan, General Technics, the nation of Yatakang, the nation of Beninia, and President Obomi. It’s a story of power, economics, and espionage.

The book explains its title, but I think Wikipedia explains it better: “The title refers to an early twentieth-century claim that the world’s population could fit onto the Isle of Wight—which has an area of 381 square kilometres (147 sq mi)—if they were all standing upright. Brunner remarked that the growing world population now required a larger island; the 3.5 billion people living in 1968 could stand together on the Isle of Man (area 572 square kilometres (221 sq mi)), while the 7 billion people who he (correctly) projected would be alive in 2010 would need to stand on Zanzibar (area 1,554 square kilometres (600 sq mi)).

Stand on Zanzibar packs a lot into 550 pages. It tells its story on personal and global levels simultaneously, and it’s amazing.

This book is fascinating and clever. It’s unpredictable. The characters are believable, and, with so many people moving in and out of the story, I never knew who would live, die, or become important.

The details the book got right for 2010 (fashionable young women with their hair dyed unnatural colors) are as interesting as the things it didn’t get quite right (TV sets with knobs).

Stand on Zanzibar lived up to its reputation, I thought.

I loved this book.

The New Brunette

April Chisolm-Behr was in the active household, so she was the first to receive the call: Pepperjack Murphy, the Pirate Conservationist of Sulani – the Sim that Phillip and I co-created – had died of old age.

The Call

April

Pepperjack Murphy had lived a long and happy life.

April transferred control over to Ingrid Jonsdottir.

Ingrid and Pepperjack had remained girlfriends, fiancées, and friends to the end. But their differences in geography had kept them apart. Pepperjack loved the ocean, and Ingrid loves the desert. They had spent many nights together, but neither one wanted to move into the other’s environment. Their relationship remained strong, despite it all.

Ingrid and Pepperjack

Ingrid and Pepperjack

Pepperjack Murphy was buried at sea, in shark-infested waters. Only Ingrid knows why that location was chosen.

Burial

Ingrid plans to have Pepperjack’s house bulldozed. It’s such a unique home, built specifically for Pepperjack, and such a part of her personality, that Ingrid can’t bear the thought of any other Sim living there.

Empty House

Ingrid Jonsdottir went through a normal period of mourning. She took a few days off from work, and indulged her Loner trait.

Mourning

Eventually, Ingrid decided that it was time to get back into life. It was time to take a vacation, like she and Pepperjack used to do. Fall had started, and it was probably too cold in Granite Falls. So Ingrid booked a three-day vacation in Selvadorada, and brought along three friends: Chuck Foster, Delilah Curry, and Iosafina Misipeka.

Camping

Things took an unexpected turn.

Ingrid Jonsdottir and Delilah Curry spent the majority of the vacation focusing their attention on each other.

Delilah and Ingrid

And they pretty much ignored Chuck and Iosafina.

Chuck and Iosefina

Ingrid and Delilah work together at FutureSim Labs. They had a small amount of romantic attraction. It was no more than a mutual workplace crush, they thought. Those three days in Selvadorada changed everything. They bared their feelings. Their romance bars filled.

Delilah Curry

Delilah

In the winter, Delilah moved in with Ingrid. A short time later, Ingrid proposed, Delilah said yes, and they eloped in a private ceremony.

I had created Ingrid Jonsdottir to be a lone, quiet Sim. I never anticipated her to be so impulsive.

Married

Akito Tanaka gets along well enough with the new roommate. He keeps to himself, studies his magic, and keeps the hope that, one day, he and Ulna Kost can be more than friends. If it can happen to Ingrid twice, why can’t it happen to him once?

Akito

Akito