Bad Buddhism Summary

This Simpsons episode is a great example of a bad summary of Buddhism:

A few things to point out:

  • The “buddha” statue there is not the Buddha, nor do Buddhists worship the fat Buddha.
  • The Dalai Lama is the 14th incarnation of the Bodhisattva (not Buddha) Avalokiteshvara, or so Tibetan tradition teaches.
  • The term “suffering is caused by desire” is a misnomer.  More details here.
  • Carl is such a nice guy.  He would never go psycho on anybody.  Lenny on the other hand…

On the other hand, the writers did nail the “all things are empty of an inherent existence” part.

Family Guy made similar blunders:

  • The fat Buddha.  (sigh)
  • Buddhism teaches “rebirth” not “reincarnation” and yes, while it is possible to be reborn as an animal, there’s a lot more background to that.
  • The “don’t believe in demonstrating emotions” comment is weird and makes no sense.  Buddhism doesn’t teach people to be Vulcans.  Well, maybe a little.

Sigh…

How to Play Trek on BSD

Klingons from Star Trek III

Note: This was an old post I wrote about 2 years ago that was lost. I was finally able to recover it and have decided to post it here. Today will be a double-post. Expect another one soon.

Since I got a virtual instance of NetBSD working on my Mac at home with Virtualbox, I’ve been playing with certain classic games. One of these games is the original text-based game trek, which comes by default in NetBSD (and other BSD flavors presumably).

Trek is a tough game, make no mistake. It’s an homage to the original series, and was written when graphical interfaces were not very feasible. However, the original designer managed to make it a game that is both engaging and challenging.

The only trouble is that it’s hard to figure out how to play it now because the documentation is kind of scarce and hard to read. In the case of NetBSD, it comes with instructions in the form of a .me file, but I haven’t yet figured out how to read that file apart from seeing the raw formatting with less.

So this page is a tribute to this classic game, and also helps share some of the basics on how to play. Because the game has been ported multiple times, there are slightly different versions out there, each with their own style of control. So, this post is focused on the BSD port of Trek. Since I am still new at the game, there are plenty of newb mistakes, but I’m trying to write things down as I learn them. Please be patient. 🙂

Starting the Game

The game begins with a humble screen like so:

Trek title NetBSD

According to the docs, the rule of thumb is that shorter games are harder, while longer games are somewhat easier. This is because you’re given a fixed period of time to destroy all the Klingon ships, and with a shorter window of time, this is pretty hard.

Next you can choose the difficulty level. Hitting ‘?’ here will give you several obvious choices.

Finally you’re taken to the main screen for Trek. The E is you, the Enterprise. The * are stars, and present obstacles. If a photon torpedo hits a star, you will cause the star to explode (go nova). The @ symbol is a planet which you can land on if required (after abandoning ship, for example). You’re also expected to defend them from Klingon (K) attacks, and if they are invaded or destroyed, you lose points, so take it seriously.

Finally, the Starbases, usually 3 per game, are represented by a # (hash). Here, you can dock if you are next to a starbase, and get fully repaired, refueled and so on. Don’t forget to undock though when done. You are expected to defend these just as you defend planets.

Navigation

This was the hardest part for me to figure out, and where the directions diverged most from other ports, I believe. The BSD port uses a 360-degree angle system:

  • 0 degrees is up (north).
  • 90 degrees is right (east).
  • 180 degrees is down (south).
  • 270 degrees is left (west).

Also, Federation Space is divided into sectors (a 7×7 grid) which are divided further into quadrants. One screen, like the one shown above, is a single sector, and contains a 10 rows and 10 columns of quadrants. Thus, if you want to move, everything has to be done in decimal units. If you go 0.1, that means you move one “dot” on the screen (one-tenth of a sector), while moving “1” means you’re moving one sector over. Keep that in mind as you navigate within a single sector.

Thus if you want to move 3 “dots” over, you move 0.3 sectors.

You can either move (i.e. use warp drive) or use impulse. Warp is faster but drains your ship’s energy faster. You can also specify which warp factor using the warp command. Higher warp is yet more faster, but uses that much more energy.

Here’s an example:

Navigating in BSD trek

I decided to do a long-range scan, or lrscan which shows 1 Klingon vessel in the sector to the right, and one below. I decide to attack the one on the right. I had already set warp factor to 5 earlier, so I just issue a move command, go 90 degrees (right) and .4 sectors which will put me just over into the next sector.

Combat

Combat in Trek isn’t easy, but very fun. Like the original Enterprise, you have two options:

  • Phasers (phasers) – use lots of energy, and shields must be down, but very accurate.
  • Photon torpedoes (torpedo) – use less energy, and shields can stay up, but less accurate, limited supply.

Speaking from limited experience, phasers are easier because you can use automatic targetting. Unfortunately, even with that, Klingons still manage to slip away into the next sector. If you do hit a Klingon vessel, it seems that 250-energy or so will usually work. However, if they slip away, some of that will be wasted.

BSD Trek phasers

Torpedoes are great because you can fire a “spread”, with a maximum of 10°, which likely hit your target, but waste torpedoes because only 1 is required to kill a Klingon vessel. If you’re at a right-angle to a Klingon ship, there’s a good chance you can hit it, but at odd angles, it gets more difficult. You can either move to a better angle, or try your luck with a torpedo spread. However, don’t hit stars! Spock gets annoyed.

BSD Trek photon torpedos

Lastly, there is a cloak option which lets you hide from Klingons vessels. This is a great way to sneak up on them too, but it burns through energy pretty quick, so you may want to use it to slip into a sector, maneuver to the right spot, and de-cloak. Federation regulations prevent you from firing weapons while cloaked. But surprising your enemies by de-cloaking close by and firing torpedoes at them is pretty satisfying. 🙂

Final Bits of Advice

Like many classic games (think nethack), it has a pretty steep learning curve. No tutorials, just what you see is what you get. So, expect to fail many times until you get the hang of it. Once you do, you can then move onto tougher and tougher scenarios until you’re the next Capt. James T. Kirk.

Good luck! Qap’la!

RIP Spock

Spock and the Vulcan Salute in Star Trek IV

Today, I was surprised and saddened to hear the news that actor Leonard Nimoy has died. His character, Spock, was a role model for an impressionable teenage boy who didn’t have many role models. He taught the value of helping others, using logic and reason, not superstition, and the virtues of self-discipline.

But, as Spock would say:1

Change is the essential process of all existence.

Live Long And Prosper, Spock, wherever you are now.

1 Similar quotes here and here.

Spock and Me

Hello,

As some readers might know, I am a fan of classic Star Trek. I have been a fan since I was a boy when the Star Trek movies were popular.1 Recently, I made a small impulse-purchase and bought a bust of Mr Spock for my desk at work:

IMG_8908.JPG

I’ve always been a big fan of Mr. Spock, and when I was a young, impressionable teenager, I wanted to be as smart, calm and self-disciplined as him. I even practiced the eyebrow-move he sometimes does when he says “fascinating“, and the Vulcan-salute.

Anyhow, the bust is pretty small, as you can, but it looks nice (good detail), and has a small book of quotations by Mr Spock. Some of the better quotations I liked are:

After a time, you may find that having is not so pleasing a thing, after all, as wanting. It is not logical, but it is often true.

And:

[Being Vulcan] means to adopt a philosophy, a way of life, which is logical and beneficial. We cannot disregard that philosophy merely for personal gain, no matter how important that gain might be.

And:

Change is the essential process of all existence.

….and so on. For $8 I felt it was a good purchase.

Spock was just a TV and movie character, but I always liked what he embodied.

Have a Logical Christmas!

Merry, Logical Christmas everyone!

P.S. You might also notice the post-it note on my desk that says Festina Lente. This is Latin for “hurry slowly”, and is a famous phrase often used by Emperor Augustus. I work in a complex, technical environment, so it’s a reminder to not be lazy, but not to rush either. I guess in Japanese, it might be something like ゆっくり急いで (yukkuri isoide), but that’s just a guess. 🙂

P.P.S. The two soldiers were purchased during my business trip to Chattanooga, TN, and the dental floss is just something everyone should have. 🙂

1 Star Trek IV is still my personal favorite. Nuclear wessels! Hello computer.

Learning Klingon for Fun and For Profit

For the Language Nerd in all of us.

Hi all,

I’ve been super busy lately (always happens at this time of year), but thanks to a little credit I got recently on Amazon I decided to buy a little gift for myself. I purchased a used copy of the famous Klingon Dictionary.

I used to own this book as a teenager, maybe 20-25 years ago when I was a young, die-hard “Trekkie” (Star Trek fan). However, one time I remember bringing it to school one day and getting ridiculed by my schoolmates and after that I was so embarrassed I never brought it to school again. Eventually I lost that book, or sold it, I can’t recall.

But times have changed a lot. What was considered fringe and nerdy is now mainstream and popular. A lonely nerd like myself now works a respectable job and has started a family. So, recently I’ve been getting in touch with the nerdy side that I suppressed for so many years out of shame. It felt really good to buy this book again.

Also, I am a bibliophile so I like to buy used books anyway. This copy was definitely worn and the pages browned, but I’ll give it a good home. 🙂

But what about learning Klingon? Having learned Japanese, a little Korean, a little Latin, Mandarin and such, I am fascinated with languages in general. What makes Klingon so interesting is that it was made with great attention and care by Marc Okrand, a professional linguist. So it’s not just a few words and phrases thrown in a few TV episodes, but it represents a fascinating language and expression of Klingon culture. It’s not a very practical language, but it is interesting.

Unlike a real language though, there are little or no resources available by native speakers so learning it is more of a hobby. Still, it would be fun to show up at a Star Trek convention one day and strike up a little Klingon conversation like this scene from Star Trek VI:

Time will tell. 🙂

bortaS bIr jablu’DI’reH QaQqu’ nay’

P.S. This is a joke article by The Onion, but probably true in a way.

Learning A Language Isn’t Easy

This is one of my most favorite scenes from the movie Star Trek 6. In it, the Enterprise is sneaking into the Klingon Empire and has to pretend to be a Klingon ship:

You can see that Uhura makes many, many grammar mistakes, and doesn’t have a “Klingon” accent.

This happens to me all the time when I speak Japanese: I sound like an idiot, I use strange grammar and I have an accent. It doesn’t sound natural. I’m grateful though, because at least with Japanese, I have some speaking practice. With Korean, I have even less practice, so it sounds even worse.

As you can see in the scene above, books don’t really help. Language is fluid and unpredictable, so you have to be comfortable enough that you can adapt to the situation. Practice over study. 😉