The year? 1987. The creator? Douglas Adams and Infocom. The genre? Frustrating interactive text adventure. The platform? Amiga or Commodore or Apple or MS-DOS. The title?


My dad bought a “family” PC in 1987. His company offset some portion of the $3,700 outlay for the machine, with its dual 360K floppy drives, 4 color display, and stack of manuals that almost weighed as much as the computer. There were two pieces of software Dad included: Lotus 1-2-3 (for work), and …


Imagine, if you will, taking all the fun parts involved in changing one’s mailing address (or, these days, email and cell phone number) and chucking those fun bits in the bin. The parts that are left, make those into an interactive fiction game. Also, make sure there are no images or music. One needs no joystick, for the obvious reason and because one types their actions into the game.

Take all of that and give it to the author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and see what happens. Which they did, except that Adams’ brought the game to Infocom after his inspiration from his own change-of-address misadventure.

The game is appropriate for all ages, though the more ennui through life experience one accumulates the better one appreciates the subtle nuances of Bureaucracy. Or, as Doctor Evil laid plain in Austin Powers, “The sort of general malaise that only the genius possess and the insane lament. ”

The game play is common with interactive fiction: navigate a finite space, collect certain things in a specific order, apply those things at a place, and arrive at a fruitful climax. Few, if any, interactive fiction games included a need to deal with a hungry llama. This game is brave enough to call attention to the llama problem in video games. But, I digress ….

There is no AI here other than the mind of Adams when he created the game. The best tools to get through it are a pencil and sheets of graph paper and the “feelies”, a set of extra items included in the game box. Mine are packed away in storage, but [[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bureaucracy_(video_game)#Feelies][Wikipedia says that the /Bureaucracy/ included]]:
– A pamphlet entitled You’re ready to move! from the fictional bank Fillmore Fiduciary Trust
– A flier advertising the fictional magazine Popular Paranoia
– A welcome letter from the player’s new employer, Happitec Corporation
– A Fillmore “Better Beezer” credit card application form (each sheet of the triplicate carbon copy form had different instructions and questions)
– A very skinny pencil (similar to those provided at banks)

The user interface was common when the game was released but would be neigh unrecognizable to today’s youths — a command line text interface.

All that said, it is still a funny frustrating fun game to play. I have it, and the other Infocom interactive fiction games, on my phone and tablet and laptop and eReader and … Every so often, especially when I travel where internet connectivity is anything but given, I will break out my dot grid notebook and a pencil and fire up my emulator.

To be clear, a divided country is nothing new, as presidential historian Jon Meacham explained on Wednesday’s “Today” show on NBC …

“… many people have set aside, it seems, their capacity to change their minds if circumstance suggests they should,” Meacham said. “And we all do this in our own lives. We all live lives, hopefully, where we learn and grow and change. Politically, interestingly, we tend to seem to have suspended that capacity. And it’s our team, right or wrong, come hell or high water. And hell and high water may be coming. My own view is that we should be calm, we should follow the law. Elections don’t end on the night that … when people want to go off the air and go to bed. This is not unusual in that sense. So let’s just follow the evidence of our eyes and use common sense.”

Via the Poynter Institute

Deep Breath

Here’s what anchor Lester Holt had to say on Wednesday’s “NBC Nightly News”:

“Remember that deep breath moment I spoke of on election eve? Maybe you can begin to let it out. No, this isn’t over yet. We don’t know who the winner is, and there may be plenty of twists and turns ahead. But we voted like we have rarely voted before. We defied predictions of mass chaos. The votes are being counted, not as fast as we want, but democracy is working. And we are proving once again that it is our voices that count. We are not statistical models. We are Americans. As we wait to hear who our next president will be, remember this: Bitterness and disappointment are not new to elections. We all know that losing is the worst. But our fight should be for a more perfect union, and not against each other.”

Via the Poynter Institute

And So It Begins …

As evening comes to eastern Tennessee the day after the U.S. presidential election, who won remains unresolved. Depending on the reputable source, Joe Biden has either 253 or 264 Electoral College votes. I’m delighted that Michigan, my former home state, went against D.J. Trump this time around. Tennessee, my current residence, as expected went for DJ.

It’s ok. I say this for me as much as you, Dear Friends. The last two nights I slept a combined 10-12 hours, my anxiety about the election outcome physically manifesting itself in me. I did not expect this. Yet there I was, trying to do deep breathing exercises at 02:00 while also trying to not grab my phone.

For those of you who voted for and support DJ, please try to understand that I fundamentally don’t understand your journey in supporting him. Maybe I don’t need to understand.

Know this: you are not my enemy and I am not yours.

Election Day Fuckery Afoot

Ah, but you see, voting isn’t enough. You’ve been told to vote a zillion times already, but you probably also know that there are massive attempts at fuckery afoot. You need to vote and you need to make sure your asshole state actually counted and certified that vote. That means, if you smell any voter suppression near you, NEVER shut the fuck up about it. Scream. Yell. Call your local leaders and tell any nearby journalist worth a shit. Donate to the ACLU and other legal aid collectives to help battle suppression in court. We’ve had to put up with a whole lot of shit for four miserable years, and we’re gonna have to put up with a lot worse if we don’t have our shit locked down. Don’t put up with Election Day fuckery, and don’t let anyone scare you. This country is run by fucking cowards right now. Force them to stand up for themselves and they’ll turn to dust.

Via Drew Magary on Defector’s Funbag

Our Town

When my daughter told me one of her friends had just shared a video of a Trump caravan blocking traffic in Marin City, a predominantly Black community one exit from my house, my first reaction was hatred for the intruders. But then I took a deep breath, which for many reasons can feel like an act of courage these days, and thought about John Lewis and the many other people who spent their lifetimes fighting the good fight for voting rights and democracy. They didn’t respond to hate and intimidation with more hate and intimidation. They responded to it with a stiffened resolved, more energy, and more determination to unify the nation. I thought of my friend Cory Booker who has suffered plenty of hate (including via the lies of the president), but who resolutely refuses to hate back. And I was reminded that you don’t beat hate with more hate. You don’t beat divisiveness with more divisiveness. Don’t get me wrong. This isn’t to suggest that I’m cool with militia-curious truckers trying to intimidate my friends and neighbors. I just signed up for a text message list and the next time the trucks show up, so will I. But not to hate. To lock arms with the people in my community who are on the right side of history and want to move the nation in the right direction. In the short term, that movement takes place in the form of voting. If anyone in Marin City was considering skipping election day this year, I’m pretty sure the caravan convinced them to hit their polling place tomorrow. And with 93 million votes already cast, they’ll be in good company. Yes, it’s endlessly sad and frustrating that we’re being led by someone so severely deranged that he supports the efforts of highway vigilantes trying to run his opponent’s campaign buses off the road. But we can’t let a handful of acts of intimidation scare us away from the polls. We need to use them as inspiration to make this a landslide. Donald Trump doesn’t get to define what these moments mean and he doesn’t get to decide who wins this race. It’s not his election. It’s ours.

Via NextDraft