unit routed

November 1st, 2006

When I was 12, my family went on vacation to England for four weeks. We drove across country to Bergen, hopped on the ferry to Newcastle, headed down south to London for two weeks, spent a week on the south coast by Durdle Door, then returned to Newcastle to catch the ferry home. It's the only time I've ever been to England and we had a very good time. What wasn't quite as thrilling was the ferry itself - 16 hours of waiting at daytime to cross the sea. This is where your attention turns to all kinds of little details you would never otherwise bother with. Like the ferry magazine they put out. Apparently, people go on these ferry rides for weekend shopping (if you live in Bergen I suppose why not, although 32 hours in the space of a weekend sounds pretty brutal), and in this magazine they advertised that Newcastle has the second biggest mall in Europe (I'm sure if you check the rankings things will have changed by now).

While I'm not one for malls nowadays, as a kid I found shopping very exciting. And indeed we spent a couple of hours at that mall, I think it was our idea of visiting the city of Newcastle. The highlight of that mall was certainly the computer store. Back then, I used to subscribe to PCFormat, a UK magazine that was heavily game oriented. And I recall seeing a review for a game in the mag that truly whet my appetite for it. The game was Sid Meier's Colonization, a strategy game revolving around, indeed, colonization. I didn't buy the game, games were very expensive and definitely out of my budget at the time. Walking into that computer store at the mall - which was more of a computer game store really - was something else. The collection of games on display was greater than I could ever imagine. Not that games weren't popular back home, but let's just say that with the UK being [probably] the second largest market for games, and many of the titles being produced there, it was quite a difference from anything I had seen back home. Much to my delight, Colonization, slightly outdated, was on sale for £12 (the average markup on a game, even a dated one, in Norway was about £30).

It's no overstatement to say that Colonization was the highlight of that summer. To this day I remember the game just as well as I remember the vacation. I still had a week off from school after getting home and I spent that week eating and breathing Colonization. I would wake up at 9, start playing and get so involved in the game that the clock would strike 3pm until I felt an incontrollable hunger for breakfast and simply had to pause. The point of Colonization was to select a European power, establish colonies in the New World and then wage a war of independence against the colonizing power. The plot was the same no matter who you played with - England, France, Spain or Holland - with some nation specific twists. The whole thing was loosely based on historical facts, where it suited the game. It was about a lot more than war, however, it also involved trade, diplomacy, emigration, historical figures etc. But ultimately, it was the military strategy which won or lost the game. And the strongest military unit was the cavalry - soldiers on horses with muskets in hand. In the war of independence, the king's troops would attack your colonies. A cavalry unit which lost a battle would lose the horses, so you were left with just soldiers on foot (infantry in modern military nomenclature). A message would inform you of this event, saying "cavalry routed to soldiers". They could still fight, they were just a weaker unit now. Losing another battle meant losing the muskets, which would reduce them to civilians. If you're still reading this, you must be as mesmerized with Colonization as I was.

Aaaand we're back in the present. Tuesday morning I walk out of the house, go round the back to where I park my bike, lost in my own thoughts, when I just stop and pause for a minute. Hang on, where is my bike? This is very odd, it *was* right here. I know I parked it here, I've been doing it for two months. Could someone have moved it? Impossible, it was locked. Huh. That's weird. I've been routed. Reduced to a pedestrian. I was just gonna get on my bike, but now I'm stuck walking. It took me 45 minutes to get to the tennis court rather than the 10 minutes I'm used to. I was definitely surprised. You just don't think it's going to happen to you. All my life I've heard of bikes being stolen, but it hadn't happened to me. When I moved to Holland I was hearing all about how stealing bikes is a national sport. But I had been religiously locking my bike for 20 years and nothing had ever happened to it. First time for everything, huh? I have to say I felt very at peace with the world right than and there. It's probably the mixed emotions of that bike's entire history, I so resented fixing it every time it would break down. But it was still a perfectly well functioning bike, that I had used quite a lot lately.

My insurance should cover the financial loss, but the bike being about 4-5 years old was worth far more to me in terms of transportation than monetary value. In a throwback to Colonization, I find myself strategizing now. Okay, my bike was stolen. So there's no reason it couldn't happen again. And again. And again. Rinse, repeat. So what kind of long term strategy could I adopt here? Well, in the first place - a bigger lock. My lock was fine for Norway use, apparently it was no match for the enterprising Dutchmen (and/or Dutchwomen). If I buy a new bike, which seems inevitable, I'll need a top-of-the-line lock. But that doesn't help much if they steal it again, if I'm going to be embroidered in a never ending cycle of replacing my bike, I'm going to need extra insurance to cover the full cost of the subsequent bikes.

Of course, the other option is to buy a total piece of trash that noone will want to steal, and then bang it up some more so it looks even more worn down, that's one form of insurance in itself. But then again, biking is a form of recreation to me, it's not merely mundane logistics. I'd like to be able to use it on some rides around the city or outside of it, as I've already been doing. So the idea of getting something so crappy noone would want to steal it doesn't really work for me.

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13 Responses to "unit routed"

  1. erik says:

    When she lived in Utrecht, my sister had the world's worst bike and put one of those huge motorcycle locks around it. I think at some point she would even use two. Her bike still got stolen once or twice. It came to a point where she would cycle some piece of crap worth less than the locks on it. The locks, of course, would be cut or otherwise destroyed everytime her bike got stolen.

    Biggest lesson she learned was that you should always try to put it inside overnight. My sister would usually block the hallway of her house lol

  2. numerodix says:

    I could put it inside, but that would take me like 10 minutes every time, to get it in or out. It's a total hassle to get it up the tiny stairs.

  3. ash says:

    That sucks about your bike.
    Not related to that, but if you like Colonization then you should try Sid Meier's Civilisation series. I loved the first one, even though it was already outdated when I started playing it 12 years ago. We're talking 16 colours displayed, that kind of thing. Anyway, I still played it for years and aside from the military battles the other draw was the sheer variety as time passed - founding your cities in ancient times and building them up into a modern metropolis, replacing musketeers with riflemen once you had the right technology...
    Later versions don't appeal as much to me but I think Civ II probably was the best.

  4. Jack says:

    Sorry about the bike. I thought that those huge motorcycle chains that are so much popular in Amsterdam are unbreakable and now I see Erik saying otherwise.

    About Civilization, Civ II definitely took a lot of time of my life and it is indeed the best game I played.

  5. numerodix says:

    ash: Of course I played civ, to death more or less. Like Jack said, civ2 was the best of them. I tried civ4 a couple of years ago and it was an unbelievable memory hog. The first civ-like game I played was colonization, so by that time civ already looked very old to me. I've also tried freeciv, which is a bit weird and not as fun. There's also some other open source civ/col variants coming up, none really promising to my knowledge.

  6. Nawaf says:

    Ah, ouch.. Put some sort of guard dog on duty 'round your bike.. Might help a bit

    Oh, and you wine-ing civ by any chance?

  7. erik says:

    You'd have to take it upstairs? Didn't realise that. I kinda assumed the little hallway behind the front door was long enough to hold a bike (like in my ex-student place). I kinda forgot what it looked like, been a while since I was there.

  8. numerodix says:

    If I did that, I would make it impossible for anyone to get in or out. The width of the handlebars of the bike would leave about 20-30cm of space, if not less. The landing is probably long enough to hold a bike, definitely isn't wide enough.

  9. erik says:

    Twist the steering wheel, my flatmate did. Of course that's a hassle if you wanna use it. To make it easier you'd need that bolt to be slightly loose all the time which is a little dangerous

  10. numerodix says:

    Or I could rig a pulley system to bring the bike up to my room through the window on the outside, the possibilities are endless

  11. Jack says:

    Why pull it through the window, leave it hanging outside

  12. erik says:

    Oh I actually like that idea. In the morning you could climb out your window onto your bike, cut the cable and go to uni with a flying start. Awesome

  13. [...] down three bikes so far, in two years. Starting with this one. I also had another bike vandalized once. [...]