Jelly no Puzzle

I have less time for video gaming than I used to, as I have kids and all, so I’ve been really enjoying puzzle sorts of games. As much as I love sweeping RPGs with tens of hours of plot, it’s a lot easier for me to spend 10–30 minutes here and there on a puzzle or two. That’s part of why I liked Braid, which I recommended when I last posted a year ago (yipes!), and it’s the same way I’ve been really enjoying Jelly no Puzzle. I finally finished it today, and I think it’s taken me months of picking it up off and on for a few minutes at a time.

It is incredibly difficult to solve each puzzle, yet the game has very simple mechanics. Each and every level requires you to think in a new way. It’s a perfect way to unwind, if you like impossibly difficult puzzles, and I highly recommend it.


Braid is an awesome work of art and game. I know it’s a few years old at this point, but I don’t have the time for much gaming nowadays. But Braid has been on my radar basically since it came out. It made me want to buy a 360, though eventually it came out for PC, and I played the demo and loved it. A couple weeks ago, I finally bought it. It’s the perfect kind of game for me, since I can play for just a few minutes at a time, solve one puzzle, and put it on hold until I next get a few minutes.

I have now completed it (in the sense of getting all the puzzle pieces and getting through the ending), though I wouldn’t say that I’ve beaten it. The plot is… a fascinating statement that I haven’t completely worked though yet. The gameplay is astoundingly good.

Please, no spoilers here. Of any sort whatsoever. Thank you.

U.S. Senate Race

My wife and I last night finally looked into the candidates for the upcoming special U.S. Senate election. Our choice is Scott Brown. While we wish he were even more conservative, perhaps that means that he’s actually electable in this state. Perhaps thinking that someone even somewhat conservative is electable in this state is too much to hope for. My dad says that he was impressed when meeting him while working with the Chernisky campaign, which is an endorsement that means a lot to me.

Vote NO on Question #4/#5 (6th Worcester District for Mass. State Rep.)

Question #4 or #5, depending on where in the district you are, is a non-binding public policy question to give a suggestion to the state representative for our district, as follows:

“Shall the state representative from this district be instructed to vote in favor of legislation distributing $450 million from the state’s ‘rainy day’ stabilization fund to the cities and towns of the Commonwealth for residential property tax relief?”

There’s a lot more involved in this question than meets the eye at first. Part of Ron Chernisky‘s campaign against Rep. Geraldo Alicea is that Alicea voted against some amendments that would have taken money from the “rainy day” stabilization fund and distributed it to towns as unrestricted local aid. In fact, part of Chernisky’s campaign staff worked at getting this question on the ballot in this district. (It’s on the ballot in a few other districts as well, unrelated to the Chernisky campaign as far as I can tell.)

If I’m to understand what Chernisky said at the debate correctly, there was a bill to spend $450 million from the stabilization fund on various state projects. Rep. Frost from Auburn submitted an amendment to spend that money on direct local aid instead, and that’s what Alicea voted against. Alicea seemed to think that Chernisky was talking about a different vote at a different time.

However, the question on the ballot isn’t about when we spend from stabilization, do we do so on state programs or local programs. I think the question here is really about whether we should spend out of the stabilization fund at all. And I think that the state right now needs as much in there as they can get, to get through the economic downturn with as high a bond rating as possible. Last I heard, the state already isn’t getting as good a rate on their bonds as they’d like. Draining the state’s savings account for a one-time boost to cities and towns just doesn’t seem responsible to me. As Alicea says (maybe the only thing I agree with him on), it’s like raiding your 401(k) to pay for groceries.

I don’t know whether this measure will pass or not, or if it will really mean anything either way. The public policy questions never get a whole lot of media attention, although there was a front-page article in Friday’s Southbridge Evening News (PDF) about it. I’m interested to see what the result is, though.

Vote NO on Question #4 (Charlton), just in case it matters

“4. Shall the Town of Charlton be allowed to exempt from the provisions of proposition two and one-half, so-called, the amounts required to pay for the bond issued in order to design, construct, and equip a new highway operations facility?”

As a little background for those unfamiliar with Prop. 2½, it was a measure passed by ballot initiative in 1980. Each municipality in Massachusetts has a “levy limit”, which is the maximum that they can levy in property taxes each year. This limit gets increased each year by 2½% plus an adjustment for any new growth in the town. However, a town can pass a ballot question to increase their levy limit permanently (a “Prop 2½ Override”) or temporarily to pay for something (a “Prop 2½ Debt Exclusion” or “Prop 2½ Capital Outlay Exclusion”). (Although often colloquially the temporary form will be called an “override” as well.)

In order to borrow the money to pay for a new highway barn ($3,500,000), it needed to pass with a 2/3 majority at the Special Town Meeting on October 28. It was defeated, 78 in favor to 52 against. If that had passed, this debt exclusion ballot question would have allowed for the property taxes to be increased for the 20 year life of the bond to pay for it.

I had actually voted for the borrowing at town meeting, somewhat to my surprise. It seemed like a wise investment to protect the millions of dollars in highway equipment we have, and would have increased public safety and the lifetime of these very expensive vehicles. Also, the price wasn’t likely to get cheaper in the future. (Contractors are cheaper now than they used to be, but that won’t last.) But, the price was too high for some people (which I can understand).

So now, this ballot question is rather pointless. In fact, since it needed to be sent to the state to be put on the ballot before there was a dollar amount for the project, passing it now could be a blank check to have a debt exclusion for any highway operations facility of any cost in the future.

So, I’m voting against it just to be sure we don’t end up in an odd situation like that. It’s not clear that this question would have passed even if the vote at the town meeting had passed, but now I’m pretty sure that this question won’t pass, and I’m going to be a part of helping make that the case. (It wouldn’t surprise me if the newspapers didn’t report on the result of the question at all on Wednesday morning.)

Vote NO on #2 (Massachusetts)

Question #2 this year would replace the criminal penalties for possession of one ounce or less of marijuana with a new system of civil penalties.

I understand and appreciate the arguments in favor of it, but I think the arguments against it are more compelling. An ounce of marijuana is actually a good amount (56 individual sales according to the District Attorneys Association), first-time offenders get probation and don’t get a publicly-available criminal record, and it’s just not a good public image for the government to say that “minor” drug use is “okay”, and we’ll just charge you a $100 tax when you get caught. I don’t believe that it will save $30 million in police costs, and I think that it’s a good use of police time to try to get drugs off the streets, and get the drug users into the probation and rehabilitation programs.

It will be interesting to see if this will pass. This state is sometimes socially liberal and sometimes socially conservative, in ways that seem contradictory at times. There have been non-binding questions in some areas of the state in years past, and I think that many of those passed. But I wouldn’t bet on the outcome of this question either way. I think it’ll be close.

Vote YES on #1 (Massachusetts)

I think I’ll do a blog series on my thoughts on the five ballot questions that I’ll be voting on this coming Tuesday. (If you want to see if your town has added questions to the three statewide ones, plug your address into the Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’s Election Division Voting Info site.)

Question #1 is about repealing the state income tax. I’m wholeheartedly for voting for this question. I think the main goal of getting it to pass is to force the Legislature to take a hard look at its programs, and cut those that it really doesn’t need. I think that the 40% reduction in their budget is possible, but I’m expecting that they won’t actually reduce things that much. I mean, there was a ballot initiative that passed in 2000 to lower the income tax from 5.85% to 5.0%, and the Legislature basically ignored it, although they did eventually slowly lower it to the current 5.3%. (Although, you can still voluntarily pay 5.85% if you want. I always get a chuckle out of that check box on the state tax form.) So, it seems unlikely that they’ll actually just keep all other taxes the same and cut the 40% of the budget. But I bet they’ll cut some things, overall taxes will be somewhat lower than they are now, and it at least sends a message that we’re tired of paying for expensive government programs that don’t work. I hope that this will increase transparency of our state government, as they publicly demonstrate what is and isn’t important to them.

I’m really not sure what the question’s actual chance of passage is. In 2002, this was on the ballot and got 45% of the vote, which was more than I think most observers were expecting. We just need 5 more percentage points. But there’s been a lot more publicized opposition to it this time, especially from the teacher’s union. (Like the politicians are actually going to cut school funding? They’ll threaten it to get you to vote against it, but I don’t think they’ll actually do it.) So, I tend to doubt it will pass this time. But, I was pleasantly surprised last time when it got 45%, so I hope I’m pleasantly surprised this time and it’s higher than that. (And even if it doesn’t pass, if more than 45% of people vote for it, it will hopefully send some sort of message to the Legislature.)

Bad Memory

A few weeks ago, I placed an order with MCM Electronics for several things, mainly related to upgrading my wife’s computer as our DVR setup, including a 500GB hard drive, a cable distribution amplifier, a gigabit network card for my computer (which had an on-board gigabit NIC that broke), some cables to wire everything together, and 2 GB of memory for my wife’s computer (to add to the 1GB it came with). (They were having a 20% off sale at the time, so they seemed like pretty decent deals.)

Everything worked great, except for the memory. The computer wouldn’t start up if it was installed. This make me think I was doing something wrong at first, but installing memory is one of the simplest things you can do inside of a computer, and I thought I was doing everything right. Eventually, I tried it with just one of the new 1GB modules, and it would start up, and with just the other module, it wouldn’t. So, it looks like I got a bad memory module.

Well, that’s unfortunate, but the people at MCM were great, and had me send back the bad kit to send out a new one. When the new memory kit arrived, I installed it, and the system booted up. The system reported 3GB installed. Then things seemed to freeze a bit (things like Task Manager), but I thought that maybe I just hit too many buttons right when the computer started up, so I rebooted, and things seemed to work well. We watched a TV show, and that worked, so I figured that everything must be hunky-dory. Although, commercial detection on something it recorded crashed, but that could be unrelated. And in the morning, the DVR software had crashed. Hmm. The next day, while I was at work, Jessi dealt with a variety of crashing programs, blue screens of death, and basically couldn’t run anything more complicated than Spider Solitaire, and even that didn’t always work. So when I got home, I ran the Dell memory diagnostics (which I really should have thought to run previously).

There’s nothing quite like getting messages saying something to the effect of “I put FFFFFFFF into that memory address, and I got FFFF3CFF back out.”

So that memory’s going back as well, and I don’t think I’ll be buying memory from PNY for a while. The 1GB seems to meet our needs reasonably well as it is.

But, I do have to give MCM credit for answering the phone immediately when I call, giving me an RA number right away, and just generally dealing with the problems very well.

My vote today

Senator in Congress: Kenneth Chase
Governor: Michael Carl (Constitution Party)
Attorney General: Larry Frisoli
Secretary of State: None of the above
Treasurer: None of the above
Auditor: Joseph DeNucci
Representative in Congress: None of the above
Councillor: None of the above
Senator in General Court: None of the above
Representative in General Court: David Singer
District Attorney: Joseph Early
Clerk of Courts: (blank)
Register of Deeds: (blank)
Question 1: No
Question 2: No
Question 3: No

(Yes, I’m a big fan of voting for None of the Above. I think it’d be a much better voting reform than Question 2.)

Further commentary available upon request.