Magnasanti: The Largest and Most Terrifying SimCity

Here is an interesting story for all the fans of SimCity and similar games, as well as for anyone who still thinks that computer games are a useless time waste.  I’d like to see you try doing something even remotely close to this:

This story reminds me of all the time I spent playing Transport Tycoon Deluxe and OpenTTD.  The game is fun and I learned a lot about transportation.  But no matter how hard I tried, I never came close to the real pros (there are many actual professionals from the transportation industry playing the game and trying things out).  Have a look at this monster train station, for example (found in this forum thread):

Just stop and think for a moment.  How much do you really know about transportation? Trucks, buses, trains, ships, airplanes and helicopters?  Roads, maintenance, history and technology change?  Road planning, bridges, tunnels, semaphores, roundabouts, ports, loading stations, warehouse? I can go on …

These games teach you a great deal about the complex world around you.

Why the World Only Has Two Words For Tea

Slashdot has an interesting story of why there are only two variations of the word tea in the majority of languages:

With a few minor exceptions, there are really only two ways to say “tea” in the world. One is like the English term — te in Spanish and tee in Afrikaans are two examples. The other is some variation of cha, like chay in Hindi. Both versions come from China. How they spread around the world offers a clear picture of how globalization worked before “globalization” was a term anybody used. The words that sound like “cha” spread across land, along the Silk Road. The “tea”-like phrasings spread over water, by Dutch traders bringing the novel leaves back to Europe.

The term cha is “Sinitic,” meaning it is common to many varieties of Chinese. It began in China and made its way through central Asia, eventually becoming “chay” in Persian. That is no doubt due to the trade routes of the Silk Road, along which, according to a recent discovery, tea was traded over 2,000 years ago. This form spread beyond Persia, becoming chay in Urdu, shay in Arabic, and chay in Russian, among others. It even it made its way to sub-Saharan Africa, where it became chai in Swahili. The Japanese and Korean terms for tea are also based on the Chinese cha, though those languages likely adopted the word even before its westward spread into Persian. But that doesn’t account for “tea.” The te form used in coastal-Chinese languages spread to Europe via the Dutch, who became the primary traders of tea between Europe and Asia in the 17th century, as explained in the World Atlas of Language Structures. The main Dutch ports in east Asia were in Fujian and Taiwan, both places where people used the te pronunciation. The Dutch East India Company’s expansive tea importation into Europe gave us the French the, the German Tee, and the English tea.

This reminds me of this old post about how most languages, apart from English, use “ananas” as a word for pineapple.

Gay marriage: the database engineering perspective

Gay marriage: the database engineering perspective is a rather old article on how gay marriage (and other types of marriages) can affect technology, but somehow I missed it for all these years.

It’s interesting from a variety of perspectives – technical, social, and cultural.  It’s also somewhat tongue in cheek, yet insightful and thought-provoking.  Irrelevant of your views on the subject, I recommend this read.  Where else will you find 14 database schema designs trying to solve the same problem.

The legal ramifications of what I’m about to describe are unguessable. I have no idea what rights a civil union like the ones which would be possible below would have, nor do I have any idea what kind of transhuman universe would require so complex a system. This is the marriage database schema to take us up to the thirty-first century, people.

If databases are that difficult to adjust, I can’t even imagine the effort needed for humans…