The Unluckiest Game of Oregon Trail

The Oregon Trail: simultaneously enticing and frustrating schoolchildren since 1971

Sometime during my undergrad years, I discovered that you could download The Oregon Trail for PC and play it at your leisure. No more waiting excitedly for the Thursday computer lab session, where you could maybe shoot a bear and then you’d die of dysentery and then you’d have to let your classmate have a go as you looked on frustrated. This was altogether perfect and wonderful. After all, due to the nature of Thursday computer lab sessions, The Oregon Trail was both desired and unobtainable. Urban legends of people “winning The Oregon Trail” were obvious fabrications, that shit was unwinnable – a simple fact of programming.

One of the first things I discovered upon playing The Oregon Trail in college was that: kids are stupid. Continue reading “The Unluckiest Game of Oregon Trail”

Blow a Kiss to Mommy

Blow a kiss.

I sat near a young family on a BART train this weekend, as I rode from 24th street to West Oakland. The parents were in their mid 30s, the first child was perhaps 7 years old, and the second child was perhaps 2. Every family member had some form of assorted luggage with them, even the children. However, as the train approached Embarcadero, the mother began saying goodbye to her family, and kissed her youngest daughter several times as the train pulled up to the stop. The youngest seemed to enjoy her mother’s kisses, but was also calm and mildly disinterested; content to gaze out the window.

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Whale Fall

Following the discovery of a new, natural whale fall in Antarctica (announced Wednesday), I entertained a brief obsession with marine snow and the communities that build up around whale falls. It is amazing how a whale carcass can support such a totally unique and vibrant community for 70 years or more. Of course it makes sense; since the sea floor is such a low-energy zone and there is a lot of food to be had on a whale.

This 7 million year old grey whale rib probably never contributed to a whale fall community, because it got fossilized instead of getting eaten (found at Point Reyes, Northern California)

Whale falls are incredibly difficult to find, because you must stumble upon the site of a whale carcass on the ocean floor entirely by chance.  The deep sea floor is incredibly difficult to explore, and so the chances of finding a felled whale carcass get lower and lower the deeper it sinks. This is why most of what we know about whale fall communities come from “artificial” whale falls, or whale carcasses which scientists sink and then study the progression of the community which arises.

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