Thursday, May 28, 2009

Jon & Kate Plus 8 - My thoughts

I must admit, this is a show I only watched sporadically. Being in the den with my wife while she watches her shows is when I'd usually catch it. I don't understand reality television, so this type of show generally isn't my forte.

But I did get acquainted with the show enough to understand the rub the current season is having on its fans. In four years, fans have essentially watched the Gosselin's young sextuplets go from infancy into almost their school years.

And I must concede, I think Aiden is an adorable child. You can see he is going to grow into a little geek, a title that used to be derogatory, but is now practically synonymous with fame and fortune.

This show did bear some redeeming characteristics from other reality television programs. For starters, the situations shown were not fake or manufactured. They depicted real life. Birthdays, trips to the doctor, trips to the dentist, vacations, picnics, and general domestic situations marked the average episode. No fake drama. No one to vote off the island (Now there's an unfortunate choice of words). No back-stabbing. It was all real.

Regarding the popular scandal associated with the show, in all honesty, I saw something like this coming. One doesn't put their entire family into the public eye without experiencing the cruel consequences of public life. And Jon obviously didn't have the constitution to deal with it. Jon's mistake is obvious, and has been exploited enough by the press. His deed is done. As of now, I can't really blame Jon. He messed up, but Kate is not helping matters. The question I now ask is why Kate is pushing so hard to keep this show on the air? Doesn't she realize her family is in a crisis and needs to deal with this privately? This is what I don't understand. What is she hoping to accomplish in leaving the show on for another season? Hopefully, SURELY, she doesn't regard the show, which was most likely the catalyst in destroying their marriage, as the very mechanism she needs to preserve it. Does she think that Jon will do the right thing on camera, where he might not otherwise? This tells me she does not take Jon's opinion seriously. He has voiced his objection to the show before. What in the world is she thinking by continuing the show through this ordeal?

Another issue I take is that the show has always went out of the way to propound the Gosselin's Christianity. This has become a reproach to the faith. A reproach that could easily be resolved by not continuing the series, and simply releasing a press-conference saying that the show is canceled until further notice. As long as the show is running, they will have paparazzi and tabloid articles to deal with. They need to purge themselves from this and deal with their domestic problems as a family. If they are indeed Christians, they do not need their dirty laundry aired in public. They need to deal with this like Christians, which certainly involves turning the cameras off.

Besides, once the public loses interest, which they will inevitably do after the show is off for a season, the pop-culture's press will too.

What about all the children, young girls with whom, perhaps, Kate was their only pattern for being a mother, or young boys, who was learning from Jon how to be a father? They have destroyed their confidence. Whether this family maintains cohesion, or explodes into a messy divorce, one thing is for certain, it needs to go off the air! We don't need this type of dysfunction perpetuated into subsequent generations, especially under the umbrella of Christianity.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Farm Town

Note: Facebook readers, click here to read this on my blog.

I have never been a fan of apps on social sites. I tried a few on MySpace, and found them to be more frustrating than helpful or entertaining. I tried YoVille on MySpace, but found that attaining any type of status was very difficult.

But recently, I have discovered a game on Facebook called FARMTOWN. It is a very addictive and very fun game.

You begin the game with a little money, and a little land. The premise is to plow fields and sow seeds, wait, and then harvest when your crop is ready. You gain experience points, which unlocks opportunities to more profitable crops and better structures.

Money is in the form of coins. Plowing costs 20 coins. Various seeds cost different amounts of coins. For example, you plow a field for 20 coins, and then sow grape seeds in that field for 20 coins. You have invested a total of 40 coins into a field of grapes. When they are ready for harvesting, you can direct harvest them and gain 50 coins, store them and gain 56 coins, or hire someone to harvest them and receive 67 coins.

Over time, and as you gain experience, you unlock more profitable crops. Most crops requires waiting 1, 2, or 3 days before they are ready to harvest. And once they are ready for harvest, you have approximately the same amount of time to harvest them before they go bad. Days are based on 20 hours. So if strawberries take 1 day to be ready for harvest, then after they've been ready for 1 day, they will go bad if not harvested. Want to make a little money while you wait on your crops to mature? Simply go to the market (or any area people gather) and allow those who want to hire their crops out to hire you.

Onions are the most profitable, followed by peas and sunflowers. There is a well-maintained "cheat sheet" which can be found on Google Spreadsheets. Click here to see it.

The player can also plant trees, which has a very low profit margin, but once planted, never costs the player another dime. Also, they only bear fruit once every 4 days.

Buildings, animals, paths, and other items currently serve no purpose other than aesthetic, but there are rumors that soon they will benefit the player some way.

The game runs a little slow on older computers, but there are ways to speed things up. In the Preferences menu (the menu marked with a little crescent wrench), You can freeze animals, hide trees, and hide buildings. All three of these options will speed up the process. Also, the game runs in Adobe Flash, so right click on the play area, go to Quality, and go to Low. This helps. One last thing you can do to speed things up is play full-screen. I know this sounds like a contradiction in terms, but there is something about playing in the browser that seems to slow the game down. Going full screen removes the ability to chat with other players' avatars, but that generally isn't an issue. In preferences, there are other options to facilitate your personal taste. There are also plenty of instruction videos here.

Farm Town is not perfect. There are plenty of bugs. Below are some of my recommendations to Slashkey, the game's developers.
  1. At present time, it is pretty narrow. You simply plow, plant, harvest, sell, and then buy. You accumulate wealth and assets, and just continue to plant and harvest. They should look into adding other functions and activities.
  2. Make buildings like barns and houses into their own sub structures with rooms and furniture, like in YoVille or SmallWorlds. Make decorating the inside of your house and barns yet another incentive for players to accumulate wealth in the game. The larger the house, the more rooms to decorate. Make farm equipment (like tractors and plows) available to store in the barn. Make stables in the barn to store livestock when not grazing.
  3. Make a livestock market, where livestock must be maintained and marketed. Mandate that so much grazing space be given per head to maintain the value of livestock.
  4. The avatar makes harvesting an infuriating activity. It walks all over the place attempting to get where it wants to go. And when it gets there, it is usually blocking you from clicking on the next field you want to harvest. Make it where the player can harvest while the avatar stays put in a neutral position, somewhere out of the way. A more intuitive interface is needed.
  5. Harvesting trees that are close together can be tricky. Make an option where only trees that are ready to harvest are visible, and they go invisible once harvested.
  6. Server interruptions are rather frequent, especially if there is a lot going on. This needs to be resolved.
  7. Lots of slowdown on older computers when there is a lot happening. Toggle graphics quality to go even lower until better play control is achieved on older systems.
  8. Allow permanent hires. A list of friends who do not have to be dynamically hired every time, who can go to your farm and harvest your crops at their leisure.
  9. Allow plowing of blocks of fields along with the "1 field at a time" plowing. I am thinking a 2 x 2 plot with spaces between fields removed, that would cost 80 coins. It would cut down down on player time, server workload, and a gaggle of other issues. Also, bulk sewing would be a neat idea too.
Will all these issues, it is understood that this game is still in beta. They are working the kinks. Thus far, they have done a mighty fine job.

This is a screen capture of my farm as of June 7, 2009. The appearance of farms is constantly fluctuating, and I will update this graphic as the appearance of my farm changes. As of June 7, changes were made to FarmTown, with even more upgrades promised. We now have flowers, which must be planted and maintained. It is still unclear how the flowers function or their benefits, but I am sure we will soon be enlightened. We also have RIVERS, which is awesome, especially the water mill. Until structures have a function, there is really no reason to acquire them outside of decorating your farm, which is a blast all by itself, and is much of the reason the game is so addicting.

Happy farming!!! :)