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Sharing My Love For (Plus 9 Fun Facts About) The Sims

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If you read mental_floss with any regularity, you already know that I get easily addicted to certain types of video games. My husband can't get enough of FIFA Soccer '08 for the Wii. I'm so not interested in games like that. Or games like Call of Duty. But I'm scarily obsessed with Guitar Hero, Rock Band and World of Warcraft. And during my freshman year of college, long before any of those games came about, I was holed up in my dorm room playing The Sims.

Creator Will Wright says the game is like having a virtual dollhouse to play with. And he's absolutely right. But it's strange that I like The Sims so much, because I never liked playing with dolls. (In fact, I find them rather terrifying.) At first, it was just fun building houses and decorating them. Then I got into the positively addicting habit of making and naming Sims after people I knew. It was fun to see if the Sim versions of us would interact like we did in real life. Plus it was always fun to kill your friends off. "Hey, Courtney, I accidentally built a room with no door around your Sim and it starved to death. Sorry about that." This might mean I have psychotic tendencies. Whatever. Also, with my love of trivia, I liked finding Easter eggs and inside jokes scattered throughout the game, such as the "See Me, Feel Me" pinball machine.

Of course, just when the fun of the Sims was starting to wear off, Maxis started rolling out with the expansion packs. And you'd better believe I bought all of them.

Livin' Large was the first expansion pack and added more objects and careers.
dc

"¢ House Party added rave-like objects like a lighted dance floor, a mechanical bull, a go-go cage and a DJ booth. If you have a rockin' party (enough people, enough food, etc.), Drew Carey might show up. You can't talk to him or anything, though, you can only watch him work the crowd and talk on his cell phone. If you're having a boring party, a mime shows up and annoys your guests until they all leave.

Hot Date allowed your Sims to, well, go on Hot Dates. This was especially fun for messing with your real-life friends.

Vacation allowed Sims to take skiing holidays and camping trips (among other destinations).

Unleashed introduced the world of pets.

Superstar was one of my favorites. You could become an actor or singer and become celebrities, complete with groupies. If you are good enough to win a "Simmy", Marilyn Monroe hops out of a limo and presents you with an award.

"¢ I thought I would really like Makin' Magic, an expansion pack that capitalized on the Harry Potter trend by letting Sims cast spells and make potions and brews. But it was, eh, only OK.

More Sims trivia:
1) NPCs (non-player characters) included the Grim Reaper, Santa Claus, the Tragic Clown (ugh), strippers (yup), Avril Lavigne, Andy Warhol, Christina Aguilera, Cameron Diaz, Jon Bon Jovi, Sarah McLachlan and a Genie. vamp reaper

2) Sim teens get zits if their hygiene levels drop.

3) Social workers will come and take away babies if your Sim isn't caring for them properly.

4) The NPC character Mortimer Goth is most likely based on Vincent Price.

5) Depending on how many expansion packs you have, you can become a ghost, a vampire, a zombie or a werewolf. Oh, you can also be abducted by aliens.

6) In The Sims 2, Sims can get pregnant (prior to the Sims 2, if your Sim has a baby it just magically appears. Hmm). The action "Try for a Baby" is available when your Sim is in a changing booth, a car, a photo booth or cuddling in a bed or a hot tub. Male Sims can get pregnant if they are abducted by aliens.alien
7) The babble-language that all Sims speak is called "Simish".

8) In The Sims 2, your Sim could be randomly struck and killed by a satellite falling from the sky. This is pretty rare, but it does happen.

9) There is a Sims movie in the works, which I am kind of uncomfortable with.

Anyway, at some point my PC crashed and I ended up getting a Mac. Being a poor college student, I really wasn't up for buying everything over again for the Mac. So I fell out of my Sims habit. I did eventually get The Sims 2 for the Mac, but I guess my addiction just burned itself out. Until now.

A couple of weekends ago I got My Sims for the Wii. It's really similar to Animal Crossing, if you've ever played that. You're in charge of a town and everything that goes with it. When a new NPC moves in, instead of going to Target like every normal person would, the Sim comes to you and asks you to build them a bed. Well, after you build their house, that is. One Sim (Sir Vincent) asked me to build him a museum. I did, and then he said that UPS had lost all of his displays, so could I build him a sarcophagus?
vincent

I was more than happy to help, and when it was complete he said something like, "Wonderful! I can't even tell the difference between this and the real thing! ...and neither will my customers." Shady Sims. You just can't trust them.

Well, are there any other Sims addicts out there? Bella Goth fans? Am I hopelessly outdated?

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Space
Google Street View Now Lets You Explore the International Space Station

Google Street View covers some amazing locations (Antarctica, the Grand Canyon, and Stonehenge, to name a few), but it’s taken until now for the tool to venture into the final frontier. As TechCrunch reports, you can now use Street View to explore the inside of the International Space Station.

The scenes, photographed by astronauts living on the ISS, include all 15 modules of the massive satellite. Viewers will be treated to true 360-degree views of the rooms and equipment onboard. Through the windows, you can see Earth from an astronaut's perspective and a SpaceX Dragon craft delivering supplies to the crew.

Because the imagery was captured in zero gravity, it’s easy to lose sense of your bearings. Get a taste of what ISS residents experience on a daily basis here.

[h/t TechCrunch]

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travel
6 East Coast Castles to Visit for a Fairy Tale Road Trip
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Lucy Quintanilla/iStock

Once the stuff of fairy tales and legends, a variety of former castles have been repurposed today as museums and event spaces. Enough of them dot the East Coast that you can plan a summer road trip to visit half a dozen in a week or two, starting in or near New York City. See our turrent-rich itinerary below.

STOP 1: BANNERMAN CASTLE // BEACON, NEW YORK

59 miles from New York City

The crumbling exterior of Bannerman Castle
Garrett Ziegler, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Bannerman Castle can be found on its very own island in the Hudson River. Although the castle has fallen into ruins, the crumbling shell adds visual interest to the stunning Hudson Highlands views, and can be visited via walking or boat tours from May to October. The man who built the castle, Scottish immigrant Frank Bannerman, accumulated a fortune shortly after the Civil War in his Brooklyn store known as Bannerman’s. He eventually built the Scottish-style castle as both a residence and a military weapons storehouse starting in 1901. The island remained in his family until 1967, when it was given to the Taconic Park Commission; two years later it was partially destroyed by a mysterious fire, which led to its ruined appearance.

STOP 2. GILLETTE CASTLE STATE PARK // EAST HADDAM, CONNECTICUT

116 miles from Beacon, New York

William Gillette was an actor best known for playing Sherlock Holmes, which may have something to do with where he got the idea to install a series of hidden mirrors in his castle, using them to watch guests coming and going. The unusual-looking stone structure was built starting in 1914 on a chain of hills known as the Seven Sisters. Gillette designed many of the castle’s interior features (which feature a secret room), and also installed a railroad on the property so he could take his guests for rides. When he died in 1937 without designating any heirs, his will forbade the possession of his home by any "blithering sap-head who has no conception of where he is or with what surrounded.” The castle is now managed by the State of Connecticut as Gillette Castle State Park.

STOP 3. BELCOURT CASTLE // NEWPORT, RHODE ISLAND

74 miles from East Haddam, Connecticut

The exterior of Belcourt castle
Jenna Rose Robbins, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

Prominent architect Richard Morris Hunt designed Belcourt Castle for congressman and socialite Oliver Belmont in 1891. Hunt was known for his ornate style, having designed the facade of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Breakers in Newport, Rhode Island, but Belmont had some unusual requests. He was less interested in a building that would entertain people and more in one that would allow him to spend time with his horses—the entire first floor was designed around a carriage room and stables. Despite its grand scale, there was only one bedroom. Construction cost $3.2 million in 1894, a figure of approximately $80 million today. But around the time it was finished, Belmont was hospitalized following a mugging. It took an entire year before he saw his completed mansion.

STOP 4. HAMMOND CASTLE MUSEUM // GLOUCESTER, MASSACHUSETTS

111 miles from Newport, Rhode Island

Part of the exterior of Hammond castle
Robert Linsdell, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0

Inventor John Hays Hammond Jr. built his medieval-style castle between 1926 and 1929 as both his home and a showcase for his historical artifacts. But Hammond was not only interested in recreating visions of the past; he also helped shape the future. The castle was home to the Hammond Research Corporation, from which Hammond produced over 400 patents and came up with the ideas for over 800 inventions, including remote control via radio waves—which earned him the title "the Father of Remote Control." Visitors can take a self-guided tour of many of the castle’s rooms, including the great hall, indoor courtyard, Renaissance dining room, guest bedrooms, inventions exhibit room, library, and kitchens.

STOP 5. BOLDT CASTLE // ALEXANDRIA BAY, THOUSAND ISLANDS, NEW YORK

430 miles from Gloucester, Massachusetts

It's a long drive from Gloucester and only accessible by water, but it's worth it. The German-style castle on Heart Island was built in 1900 by millionaire hotel magnate George C. Boldt, who created the extravagant structure as a summer dream home for his wife Louise. Sadly, she passed away just months before the place was completed. The heartbroken Boldt stopped construction, leaving the property empty for over 70 years. It's now in the midst of an extensive renovation, but the ballroom, library, and several bedrooms have been recreated, and the gardens feature thousands of plants.

STOP 6. FONTHILL CASTLE // DOYLESTOWN, PENNSYLVANIA

327 miles from Alexandria Bay, New York

Part of the exterior of Fonthill castle

In the mood for more castles? Head south to Doylestown, Pennsylvania, where Fonthill Castle was the home of the early 20th century American archeologist, anthropologist, and antiquarian Henry Chapman Mercer. Mercer was a man of many interests, including paleontology, tile-making, and architecture, and his interest in the latter led him to design Fonthill Castle as a place to display his colorful tile and print collection. The inspired home is notable for its Medieval, Gothic, and Byzantine architectural styles, and with 44 rooms, there's plenty of well-decorated nooks and crannies to explore.

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