Railroad Tycoon 3: NA-90D

In my review of Railroad Tycoon 3, I said that the “NA-90D” looks suspiciously like a Dash 9. What I meant by that was that it was obviously a modern, high-horsepower diesel locomotive, but in point of fact it is not, actually a Dash 9 (although “NA-90” does include a “-9”). Amazon delivered Greg McDonnel’s Field Guide to Modern Diesel Locomotives today, and I applied its spotting tips to identify the locomotive:

  • The beveled wide nose with two-piece windshield and five-sided windows confirm an EMD comfort cab, produced between 1991 and 2004, give or take. There isn’t enough detail in the 3D model to tell whether it’s an isolated cab, but this is enough to narrow the field to some variant of SD60, SD70, SD75, SD80MAC or SD90MAC.
  • The flared radiators rule out all but the SD80MAC, SD90MAC series, and late-model SD70Ms.
  • The hood section behind visible behind the radiators (for the dynamic brake equipment) confirm either an SD80MAC, SD90MAC or SD90MAC-H. This is also borne out by the extreme length of the locomotive, although it’s hard to judge in a game.
  • The beveled engine hood distinguishes the SD90MAC-H.

The “NA-90D” appears to be an EMD SD90MAC-H, a 6000HP locomotive of which twenty-two were produced for Union Pacific between 1996 and 1999. On the other hand, there are also some quirks that do not match up:

  • RT3 makes the locomotive available in 1998, which is a year or two late. It would be consistent with the introduction of the SD90MAC-H II, which had higher production than the SD90MAC-H and carries the same engine, but the SD90MAC-H II has two radiator fans instead of three, a boxier nose, and rectangular windows, none of which are present on the NA-90D.
  • The SD90MAC and SD90MAC-H normally display the locomotive number on the nose, below each side of the windshield. The NA-90D has a single number plate on the nose, on the left only. It also has number places above the windshield, which the SD90MAC-H does not sport, but the SD80MAC and SD90MAC-H II do. The NA-90D also has a pair of headlights above the windshield, which no SD90 series locomotives have, but do appear on the SD80MAC.
  • The rear hood on the NA-90D is smooth and beveled, while the SD90MAC-H’s is square with boxy insets. The SD90MAC-H II does have a beveled rear.

The locomotive is definitely closest to an SD90MAC-H, but it appears that the game designers incorporated some elements from other SD80 and SD90 variants, and perhaps took some artistic license of their own. Certainly the paint scheme bears no resemblance to any used by a real railroad.

My brain is broken

Last Tuesday, I had been looking for a book to add to an Amazon.com order to qualify for free shipping, and couldn’t think of one I especially wanted. That same day, completely independently, I had gone to a bookstore to look for a particular book I wanted to buy, which they didn’t have. Strangely, these thoughts did not intersect until just now.

I’ve already placed the order, of course, and I also still want the other book. So now I need to come up with something else to buy for this order…

Myst V: End of Ages

I finished Myst V. Now I can finally read the strategy guide and watch the “Making Of” DVD. More thoughts later. For now, I just keep thinking of a quote from Babylon 5: “The future is all around us, waiting, in moments of transition, to be born in moments of revelation. No one knows the shape of that future or where it will take us. We know only that it is always born in pain.”

Update: More thoughts below. Beware spoilers for the whole game.
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The Old New Thing : The world’s worst celebrity recasting of the American version of Harry Potter

The Old New Thing : The world’s worst celebrity recasting of the American version of Harry Potter:

After the first Harry Potter movie came out,
I decided to come up with the
world’s worst celebrity recasting of the American version of Harry Potter.
(Because as we all know, foreign movies don’t do well in the States;
they have to be remade with an American cast.)

Myst V: More Progress

I am now about three-quarters of the way through Myst V: End of Ages. As I suspected when I was half done, the remaining parts are the ones that are harder for me. I made almost no progress in the last week and a half, until tonight when I noticed a detail I hadn’t noticed before—and I’ve been spending the last week looking for such details—and was able to finally complete correctly the part of the game that I had previously solved accidentally.

Unfortunately, the part of the game that remains is not only probably the most difficult (since I’ve left it for last), but also seems to be the most taxing on my computer; the interface is getting very sluggish and slow to respond, which makes the gameplay much less enjoyable.

On the positive side, I haven’t opened the strategy guide. Yet.

Cingular: Today’s Update

I went to the Cingular store this morning. They gave me new SIM cards, and both phones seem to be working so far. I’m keeping my fingers crossed. Mainly just to be ornery, I called Cingular customer service and asked them credit my account for the two days the phones were unusable. They told me they can’t give me a credit until my bill comes out, so I’ve made a note to call them again next month.

The Cingular store I went to was out of replacement Treo styli, and I couldn’t find any at Fry’s either, but I went to a different Cingular store, and they had some. For some reason, the replacement Treo 650 stylus that Palm makes is not the same as the one that comes with the device. I suppose it’s better; it’s got a metal body, and has a built-in ballpoint pen, but it’s not the same color or feel, and I liked the old one fine.

On the way home, I stopped at San Antonio Hobby, which is having a going out of business sale. The owner is retiring, and the store is closing December 10th. I haven’t been a huge fan of the store, but at 30% off, I figured maybe I’d buy something. Of course, most of what I’ve thought about buying there in the past had already been sold. I spent a few minutes looking through their collection of train books, but even at 30% off they were too expensive. Last week it was twenty percent, though, so maybe I’ll go back if they get to forty or fifty.

Cingular: Part Three

I had been all ready to post in a few days about how my Cingular woes had been resolved, but I’d been waiting for my October bill so as not to jinx it. But I seems to be jinxed anyway, so here goes:

Last time, I had been told that the paperwork for my credit had been filed, and I’d get a call back later that day. Of course, I didn’t, so two days later, I called back the customer service rep (who had given me her direct extension). Apparently her manager had gone on vacation, and no one had bothered to approve my request. She found another manager, though, and got the credit processed later that day, and I finally paid my corrected bill. I still haven’t seen a bill this month, so I don’t know if it will be for the correct amount, or if the paper bill will been sent to the correct address. I remain hopeful.

But just when I thought this had been sorted out… Last night, my phone stopped working. It was fine around seven, but by nine o’clock, my Treo was telling me to “check your SIM card to see if it is damaged or missing.” The SIM looked fine physically, but I assumed that somehow I damaged it somehow until this afternoon around two o’clock when Laura’s phone started displaying “SIM card rejected.” Both SIMs act exactly the same in both phones, and even my old AT&T Wireless phone can’t read them. It isn’t a network error; all three phones fail before searching for a network. The Treo and Sony-Ericsson act as if no SIM card is present; the Nokia is able to detect a card’s presence, but is unable to read it.

The odds that both our SIM cards would spontaneously fail within a day of each other seems incredibly unlikely. I called Cingular, of course, and they have no idea what’s going on, and claim everything looks fine from their end. My only guess is that they were reprogramming the phones over the air, and is sending something that fried the SIMs. I guess we’ll have go to the Cingular store and see if they have us new cards that solve the problem. Also to see if they sell Treo styli, since I seem to have lost mine today.

Cingular is starting to run out of ways to get me to annoyed at them. They’ve got almost twenty-one months left on my contract, though, so they’ll have to get creative.

Just like new

I got my bicycle back yesterday from its annual trip to the bike shop, which usually happens when a tire goes completely flat after about three months where I keep meaning to take it in for a tune-up, or at least buy a bike pump. It’s really nice having a bike where all the tires are fully inflated (it’s startling how much easier it is to bike this way), and both sets of gear shifters and brakes work correctly.

Everything you know is wrong

I had always assumed, given the name, that a fluid ounce was the volume occupied by an ounce of water. I had also assumed, since I had always been told it was true, that a liter of water weighed exactly a kilogram. So imagine my surprise when I discovered that while a fluid ounce is 29.6 mL, an ounce is 28.3 g.

A fluid ounce is exactly one eighth of a cup, aka one sixteenth of a pint, aka one thirty-second of a quart, aka one one-hundred-and-twenty-eighth of a gallon, which was originally defined as the volume of eight pounds of wheat (at least, if you trust Wikipedia) or possible eight pounds of wine (also according to Wikipedia). Eight pounds is, in fact, 128 oz, but not only do densities of different substances vary, today’s (U.S.) gallon is defined in terms of cubic inches (exactly 231), which bear no relation to weight or mass.

The metric version does better; these days, the liter (aka the cubic decimeter) is defined in terms of the speed of the light, and the while the kilogram is no longer defined as the mass of a liter of water at a specific temperature and pressure, it’s still pretty darned close (to within a tenth of a percent, anyway).

As an aside, the modern British imperial fluid ounce does a lot better: it is 28.4 mL, extremely close to the ounce’s 28.3 grams. While these days defined in terms of liters, the original 1824 definition apparently (that’s me trusting Wikipedia again) defined an imperial gallon as ten pounds of water at 62° F. Perhaps the error is due to the difference in temperature; the kilogram was originally defined by water at 3.98° C, or about 40° F.

Star Trek: The Next Generation: Season One

Just finished watching season one of Star Trek: The Next Generation. As I previously wrote, the first bunch of episodes were impressively bad, but by the second half of the season, it had gotten quite good. I’m looking forward to season two, once Netflix sends it to me.

It has got me wondering whether the show’s growing pains might be tolerated in today’s TV market. The other day, I was thinking about the American version of Coupling, which was canceled after only four episodes. I think, generally, television series were given more of a chance to find an audience in 1987, although it helped that TNG was syndicated rather than sold to a network, and that it had a large built-in audience of Star Trek fans.

The Missing Sync for Palm OS 5.0

I bought The Missing Sync for Palm OS 5.0 on Thursday. When I got my Treo, I had assumed I would be buying the Missing Sync right away. It turned out that the included Palm Desktop worked okay, and none of the features that Missing Sync provided seemed compelling. I was excited to hear about the release of 5.0, though, since it includes a new Mark/Space-written conduit that does a much better job of syncing the Treo’s contact and calendar programs with Mac OS X’s Address Book and iCal apps in Tiger. In my particular case, I was thrilled to see that it properly synchronizes the “Location” field between the Treo and iCal, that iCal’s calendars are synced with Palm OS categories, and it even syncs up my Address Book photos. Definitely worth the $39.95.

There is still one major annoyance I had with the iSync/Palm Desktop solution that is not fixed by the Missing Sync: events spanning multiple days in iCal are still only transferred to the Treo as single-day events. This is noted in a Missing Sync support article, but it would have been nice if there could be some sort of solution. The Treo doesn’t support multi-day events, but maybe turn the single multi-day event into a repeating single-day event?

Proposition Seventy-something

Yesterday in the mail, we got at least five glossy multi-page color mailings instructing us how to vote in next Tuesday’s election. This has not been an unusual day this week. I haven’t worked out the details, but it seems to me that if we took all the money that’s being spent on these campaigns, we could use it to pay for something useful.

Fun at grade crossings

I’ve written before about the sometimes-illogical behavior of crossing gates near Caltrain stations. On the way home from work today, I witnessed a series of events of which I am still amazed no one was injured.

As a northbound train was at the Mountain View station loading passengers, a southbound train approached the Castro Street crossing. As the crossing arms dropped, the train slowed and stopped, maybe a hundred feet north of the street. The gate remained closed for maybe five minutes, the train not moving. Finally, the crossing gate gave up on the train, and the arms began to lift. This is the exact moment the train began to move. By the time the arms began to lower again, the locomotive was already half way through the intersection. The train moved slowly across the street, blaring its horn. As it finally cleared the intersection, of course, the northbound train had just begun to leave the station, and the crossing gates remained down, no train present, for another minute as that train approached the intersection, until finally it passed by and the gates opened, allowing the traffic to flow again.

This was just before six o’clock, and cars were backing up in at least five directions on Castro, Evelyn, Central and Moffett. And, of course, on the first workday after ending daylight savings time, it was an hour darker than usual, which I’m sure didn’t help. I kept expecting a car, pedestrian, or both to dash across the street and be struck by one of the trains. Luckily, that didn’t happen, but witnessing the scene made me acutely aware of how dangerous these sorts of things are.

Remember: Look, Listen…Live!

Happy Halloween

Biking home this evening in the pitch black at six o’clock, it occurred to me that it’s rather convenient to have daylight savings time end just before Halloween: I can’t imagine trick-or-treating before it’s dark out, and being able to start an hour earlier means the kids aren’t out as late.