Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
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Monday, January 24, 2021

are eye pee
The past week saw Regis Philbin and Keith Olbermann abruptly quit their TV shows. If you subscribe to the belief that these trends come in threes, you’re probably wondering when the third shoe will drop.

Well, you can stop wondering: It’s now, and it’s me. I’m quitting this blog.

All joking aside, this is the last post on Population Statistic — for now, and most likely, for good. I’d hinted at this back in August, and the reasons I set out then apply now. I’ve done all I care to do in this space. I’ve enjoyed using PopStat as a daily creative outlet for nearly seven years (and blogging as the format for nearly nine years). And now, it’s time to stop. When squeezing out one measly post per day becomes a chore — contrasting with the effortlessness I once had in cranking out four or five posts daily — it means that there’s nothing left to do but to end it.

In my typical fashion, I am hedging on this, slightly. The site will remain up for a while, with all content archives intact (although comments/pings will be disabled soon, to save me from daily spam maintenance). The domain is registered until this summer, so I plan on keeping the lights on until then. There’s always the possibility that I’ll recharge and restart the blogging sometime between now and then. But right now, I don’t see that happening, and basically, as soon as the domain registration expires, so too will this blog.

To the handful of regular readers that have haunted this space over the years, thanks. I’ll still be around online, and very probably will find another corner of the Web to express whatever communication talents I possess. For the time being, though, the plug is pulled.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 01/24/2011 09:17am
Category: Bloggin'
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Sunday, January 23, 2021

I can’t tell you how surprised I am to find out that ripple, that supposedly generic ghetto libation often referenced in “Sanford and Son” and other 1970s sitcoms, was actually real:

Quite the marketing angle, placing this wine (product) “in the same crowd” as beer, while simultaneously showing upscale consumers imbibing the recreational rotgut. All white people, I might add.

I assume this was the last-gasp attempt to push Ripple-with-a-capital-R, before putting it out of its snub-nose-bottle misery. I’m guessing the modern-day E.&J. Gallo Winery is denying and disowning any association with this bygone beverage.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 01/23/2011 07:19pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Comedy, Food, TV
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Saturday, January 22, 2021

underground scene
You see them more often than not when you commute via NYC’s underground: Subway musicians, both official and unofficial. (I believe Bedford Station subway harp lady, above, is/was in the latter camp.)

I wonder, how often does such exposure lead to a big-time musical career? Is it a steppingstone to the top, or a dead end? Or a desperate last-gasp for attention?

The cause for my pondering was a recent couple of tweets from an aspiring band. They announced their impromptu performances on the Union Square platform, basically as a way to drum up attention for their paying gigs. For some reason, to me, this came off as a sign that they’re not doing too hot — resorting to the subway just to get noticed.

Fact is, this metro-musicality has been around for years, and to my knowledge, has yet to produce a breakout pop star. Probably not the best route to a career in the recording studio.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 01/22/2011 06:05pm
Category: Celebrity, New Yorkin', Pop Culture
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Friday, January 21, 2021

drafting
There’s certainly some inverse energy in the champion of ESPN.com’s nationwide fantasy football competition being homeless:

Obviously, Nathan Harrington, 33, of Salem, Mass., knows something I don’t. Harrington ended up homeless after needing back surgery, going on medical leave from his job, and being forced to leave his home because it was condemned.

And still, he was better than over 3 million people at fantasy football.

He used computers at his father’s nursing home, his mother’s house, and the library. He knocked on neighbors’ doors and asked if he could use their computers.

When real life is falling apart, you might as well focus on Sunday’s stats.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 01/21/2011 08:00am
Category: Football, Internet
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Thursday, January 20, 2021

pay through the heart
Perhaps it’s a perverse joke that a notably heartless organization like the Internal Revenue Service should pick this Valentine’s Day as the official date for accepting 2010 itemized income tax returns.

Late last year, the IRS said it would need extra time to reprogram its processing systems because Congress acted so late this year in cleaning up the tax code… As a result, the 50 million taxpayers who itemize their deductions will have to hold off until Feb. 14 to file.

Nothing stokes the romantic juices like filling out a 1040. By candlelight, of course.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 01/20/2011 10:26pm
Category: Business, Politics, Society
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doing the waive
St. Louis Blues president John Davidson sounds off on just why the NHL’s waiver process for in-season free-agent signings is ludicrous:

“It’s hard to understand how you can take a player who is finished somewhere else, becomes available, and you do all the work,” Davidson told NHL Home Ice. “You do a formula to finding a contract, you make late-night phone calls, you get lawyers involved. Then you try to get him here, when nobody else had thought of it and the other team says ‘Oh, I’m going to take that player.’”

That’s the heart of it: One team does all the legwork, then basically offers up a finished-up scouting/contract packaged player to the rest of the league for the taking. And the player ends up in a different city/team/situation than what he had agreed to. Incidentally, this is essentially the same dynamic behind the restricted free agent negotiating process, which explains why so few teams tender offers to those players in the offseason.

I don’t even know what purpose is served by exposing such a player to the other 29 teams. It’s not as though a team like the Blues, who have had two prospective signings claimed away from them in the past month, are stashing talent in Europe for future use. Why not just let teams sign whoever they want mid-season, with the existing salary cap restriction dictating what’s possible or not?

As it is, it seems the only way to sneak an emergency signing through is to overpay, or to agree to a multi-year contract — basically poison-pills to discourage other teams from making a waiver claim mostly as a strategic-defensive maneuver. Again, there doesn’t seem to be much sense to the rule.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 01/20/2011 09:09pm
Category: Hockey
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Wednesday, January 19, 2021

feed the kittyComic book and movie fandom was wetting itself over the news that Anne Hathaway has been cast as Catwoman in the next Batman flick, The Dark Knight Rises.

Or was she?

Pay close attention to the wording in the official press release:

Warner Bros. Pictures announced today that Anne Hathaway has been cast as Selina Kyle in Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight Rises.” She will be starring alongside Christian Bale, who returns in the title role of Bruce Wayne/Batman.

In fact, the name “Catwoman” is not mentioned at all in the entire (brief) release. Meanwhile, Christian Bale is pointedly referred to as “Bruce Wayne/Batman”.

So, you have to figure that Hathaway is slated to play only alter-ego Selina Kyle in this film. The set-up for her transformation into Catwoman will probably be part of the story, with the cat-suit being donned in the fourth, Nolan-less installment. Hathaway will be wearing that costume, unless somebody pulls a two-faced move on her:

Billy Dee Williams took the role of Harvey Dent [in 1989's Batman] with the expectation that he would be brought back to play Two-Face and reportedly had a contract clause added reserving the role for him. During casting for Batman Forever (1995) Warner Bros. decided they would prefer Tommy Lee Jones and bought out Williams’ contract.

Let’s hope cinematic history doesn’t repeat itself. It’d be a real shame to miss out on Hathaway kicking ass in feline-inspired spandex.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 01/19/2011 10:03pm
Category: Celebrity, Movies, Pop Culture
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For the shadow-government conspiracy theorist in you:

See how itanimulli.com automatically redirects you to the dot-gov home of the U.S. National Security Agency, i.e. our nation’s espionage-level cryptologists. Furthermore, notice how “itanimulli” is The Illuminati spelled backward.

My God, the Bilderbergers have been right all along!

Yes, this is a fun bit of webfoolery. Of course, all us grownups know how effortless it is to set a URL redirect script to any old where, including to official websites, thus crafting the illusion of something nefarious. Certainly, this dork in Utah knows how to turn that trick.

(Via @AaronRFernandes)

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 01/19/2011 08:24pm
Category: Comedy, Internet, Political
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Tuesday, January 18, 2021

If your suburban lineage precludes you from ever setting foot in Williamsburg, then you and your newly-minted college degree should be singing the praises of Murray Hill:

A good lyrical summation of the current state of this lower-Upper East Side ‘hood. Although this sums it up even better:

Adam Greenberg, 23, knew when he moved into Windsor Court a month ago that he was already acquainted with more than 100 people in the neighborhood, many from the same high school (Wheatley on Long Island), sleepaway camp (Equinunk) and college (Syracuse University) he attended.

“Everyone knows everyone,” he said. “If I don’t know them, I’m sure I have a friend who knows them.”

Joshua Schwadron, who lived until recently in another of Murray Hill’s postgraduate hives, where he could claim Facebook friendships with half of the residents, put it this way: “You leave college and you think you’ll be nostalgic for your community, and you realize that the community never goes away — if you live in the right place.”

Amusingly enough, that prospect — of the same high-school people surrounding you in college, and so on going forward — was my worst nightmare as I entered early adulthood. My instincts compelled me to dodge that destiny by decamping to Florida for my baccalaureate work. Today’s graduates obviously follow different impulses.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 01/18/2011 10:08pm
Category: College Years, New Yorkin'
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Monday, January 17, 2021

It’s a given that an ad’s purpose is to pry money out of your pocket. So where better for a marketer to place an ad but right in your online wallet?

As banks test new ways to make money and attract customers, they are tucking ads onto the list of recent purchases on consumers’ online bank statements. The charge for your breakfast at McDonald’s, for example, might be followed with an offer for 10 percent cash back on your next meal at the Golden Arches. There’s no need to print a coupon — just click the link, and the chain will recognize your debit card the next time it is swiped.

“The one thing these debit programs have is a significant amount of transaction and behavioral data,” said Mark Johnson, president and chief executive of Loyalty 360, a trade group for marketers. “You’re going to see a big push to make that insight more sellable.”

Behavioral datamining at the source. Might as well direct-deposit your paycheck straight into your favorite retailers’ coffers. Unless you’re laboring under the delusion that you’re making a conscious choice most of the time…

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 01/17/2011 09:19pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Business, Internet
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take a spinI’m pretty sure I’ve seen this sort of contraption before, but never sitting on the curb awaiting trash pickup. Which is where I cameraphoned this one, on 14th Street as I approached Union Square (which is just about right, all told).

Yes, this is a wheel of fortune, as the garbageman out-of-frame informed me. But a jury-rigged one, built from an old bicycle wheel (note the old foot pedal, now used as a hand crank) with a deck of playing cards stuck into the spokes. My favorite touch: The inclusion of a couple of MetroCards in the circle-spinning rotation. A New York-style wildcard!

Wish I had been in on the casino night connected to this sidewalk artifact. The picture is enough, short of hauling the junk away myself.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 01/17/2011 08:27pm
Category: Creative, New Yorkin', Photography
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Sunday, January 16, 2021

During my freshman year, one of my dormmates suggested we all get t-shirts made up to read: “Hubbard House: Where Men Are Men, and Sheep Are Scared”.

That idea didn’t exactly fly, even when the reference was recognized. But now, twenty years later and thousands of miles away, sheep in Britain have a legitimate reason to fear for their safety:

The ovine crime wave began, insurance company and farm union officials say, after global food prices started jumping again. With bouts of bad weather in major producers such as Russia, Argentina and Australia and increasing demand in Asia, the price for many grains is now busting through the record highs they set in 2008. But meat prices have also surged, particularly for lamb.

Because of escalating world demand and scaled-back production in such nations as New Zealand, a farmer’s price per pound for lamb here is now about 35 percent higher than in 2008. The 45 head of sheep stolen from [farmer Andrew] Allen in late September, for instance, were worth $6,400 - or twice the price they would have fetched five years ago.

Rising prices have fueled what authorities here describe as a thriving black market for lamb and mutton, with stolen animals butchered in makeshift slaughterhouses before their meat is illegally sold to small grocery stores, pubs and penny-wise consumers.

Hard to imagine a similar run on barnyard assets here in the States. Obviously you couldn’t fence the beasts (without barbed wire, anyway). And where would you set up an illegal slaughterhouse without neighbors getting wise? What’s the alternative — illegally peddling wool shearings? American criminals are more inclined toward Industrial Revolution-style larceny.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 01/16/2011 07:05pm
Category: Business, True Crime
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Saturday, January 15, 2021

doused
Well fuck me in half — my iPhone 3GS appears to be dead.

And I killed it, via a dunk into water. And by “water”, I mean “toilet”. Yup, among the more embarrassing ways to inflict mobile-phone damage upon yourself, and I committed it. I mostly blame the sweatshirt I was wearing, though — the stupid pouch-pocket in front is basically designed for calamities like this. (I took out my frustrations by ripping said pocket clean off.)

I retrieved the phone within 5 seconds of submergence. After a quick alcohol-wipe cleanup (the toilet and its water was, thankfully, clean) and removal of the SIM card, I dropped it into a big jar of uncooked rice. I’ll leave it there over the weekend to dry out, but I’m not too hopeful of a recovery. Some gingerly-applied testing shows the audio is mostly shot, and weird notifications are popping up onscreen.

So, I’m faced with two realistic options:

1. Head over to an Apple Store and pay $199 for an out-of-warranty replacement 3GS. (Lest you think I’m regretting not getting an extended warranty, in fact water damage is not covered; so I’m glad I didn’t pony up, as I’d really feel stupid right now.)

2. Head over to an AT&T Wireless Store and pay $399 for a new iPhone 4, along with a re-boot to my wireless contract that now would run through 2013.

The first option seems like it makes more sense. But, the replacement probably will be a refurbished 3GS instead of a factory-new one. And even if it is factory-fresh, it’s still a 3GS, i.e. last year’s model. Basically, I’ll be paying a premium for nothing better than what I had. Worse, it’ll just remind me of the dumb method by which I acquired it. And in a little over a year, when my AT&T contract is up, I’ll be that much more anxious to upgrade to the newest iPhone anyway, so that premium payment will go toward only a year’s use.

The second option? Obviously, the $200 price difference is a consideration. But, I’ll be getting a brand-new iPhone 4, and thus a bunch of new features that I didn’t enjoy with the 3GS. It’ll be a true upgrade, which assuages the cost (somewhat). The extension of the AT&T wireless contract isn’t that big a deal to me, so it’s not really factoring into my decision. If anything, having the more-new 4 now might compel me to hang onto it two years later, instead of upgrading to the latest iPhone in 2013; so in that sense, the $399 I spend now would be amortized further.

Sounds like I’ve already made my decision: A step-up to the iPhone 4. Pending results from the resuscitation efforts over this weekend, of course. But it looks like this Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday weekend will complete with me getting a shiny new Apple toy.

UPDATE - Turns out that there was a third option: Getting a replacement 3GS for nada. Which is what I got.

I hedged my bet by stopping at the Genius Bar first, just to cover all the bases. I was sure they’d detect the evidence of water damage right off the bat, and then present the $199 repair/refurbish plan, which I’d turn down in favor of an iPhone 4 re-boot.

They did recognize the water damage (I basically kept my mouth shut beyond “it doesn’t work”). But to my surprise, they granted me a replacement unit anyway, under warranty! Something to do with my clean customer record — apparently some people are serial iPhone killers and keep coming back for free substitutions.

In any case, I’ve got a 3GS again, and it cost me nothing. I’m pretty sure it’s a brand-new one too, and not a refurb: It was handed to me wrapped with that plastic film. The battery, in the early going, seems better too.

Win-win all around. I do have a twinge of regret, though. I was prepared to drop the four hundred bucks for the new 4, and start digging into FaceTime, etc. But I guess I shouldn’t complain about spending zero to get back to zero.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 01/15/2011 07:21pm
Category: iPhone
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Friday, January 14, 2021

p-button
You’ve got nothing else to do while draining your weasel, so Sega and its play-urinals ask, why not make a game out of your flow?

According to Sega and Akihabara News, the four types of video games on the Toylets include:

- “Mannekin Pis”: a simple measurement of the urine produced.
- “Graffiti Eraser”: where you move your urine back and forth to remove paint
- “The North Wind and Her”: a game where you play the wind, trying to blow a girl’s skirt up. The stronger you pee, the stronger the wind blows.
- “Milk from Nose”: A variation on sumo wrestling, where you try to knock the other player out of the ring using the strength of your urine flow (shown as milk spraying from your nose). The record of your pee is saved and used as the opponent for the next player. So the game is sort of multiplayer. Toylets even lets you save information onto a USB drive! I fear the MMORPG that will arise from this.

In a way, the concept of actively standing up while videogaming evokes the old coin-op machines of arcades yore. Instead of being hunched over a plastic/wooden cabinet while manipulating the joystick, you’re now leaning into a porcelain basin while… well, manipulating your “joystick”.

This bathroom-breaking action is, as you might expect, in Japan only. For now.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 01/14/2011 08:52pm
Category: Society, Videogames
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Thursday, January 13, 2021

cooked
I miss having regularly-scheduled reruns of “The Odd Couple” on TV. For no other reason than the chance to re-experience this culinary exchange:

As Oscar serves up the mess, Felix asks in horror, “What do you call this mélange?”

Oscar says, “Well, I was going to call it Goop, but I like your name better. Goop Mélange.”

The recipe for Goop Melange died with the show, but I recall it contained some combination of sardines, pickles, sauce, and a potato-chip topping. And people kept asking Oscar if it was supposed to look the way it did. Bon appetit!

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 01/13/2011 10:38pm
Category: Comedy, Food, TV, Wordsmithing
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I have no use for non-standard top-level domains like .biz or .travel — and neither should you — but here’s one URL that I can get behind:

http://rim.jobs

Yes, pun intended.

Go ahead and click through. The pornish-sounding name actually redirects to something eminently banal: Research In Motion’s corporate job board. Just why the Blackberry folks felt the need to claim this corner of the help-wanted Web remains a back-door mystery. (Yes, I do believe I’ve exhausted all permutations of the ass/anal jokes.)

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 01/13/2011 09:25pm
Category: Business, Comedy, Internet
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Wednesday, January 12, 2021

As the old saying goes, everyone talks about the weather but nobody does anything about it.

Except that they do — they obsess about it. Especially when the inclement stuff hits. Or even threatens to hit. Perpetual panic is the result of our exaggerating the impact of the elements:

We barely have time to dry off from the assaulting rains of spring and the insurgent swelter of summer before we begin to fortify ourselves for another coming cold war — with its insidious sleet, lethal icicles and villainous black ice…

All of this hysteria over storm alerts and weather warnings, [author John] Balzar says, stems from “an impoverished sense of wonder about nature … and an exaggerated sense of self-pity.”

When we speak of weather “events,” Balzar says, “the jargon of sports, war, economics have all blended into one, and weather has been dragged into the fray.”

There’s definitely an element of titillation here as well. Who knew Mother Nature could impart such a thrill?

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 01/12/2021 10:01am
Category: Society, Weather
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Tuesday, January 11, 2021

Whenever I hear some twentysomething moaning about his/her quarterlife crisis, I point out that, based on current life expectancy, they’re being wildly optimistic.

Most of the time, I get back a blank stare. Occasionally, someone will figure out the quick math, and respond with a scowl. I’ve never asked if it was because they’d just realized that they were 5-10 years overdue on this post-adolescence marker, or if they resented my questioning their youthful immortality. Either way, a win for me!

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 01/11/2021 10:16am
Category: College Years, Society
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Monday, January 10, 2021

What’s your sign? If you’re going by the age-old Zodiac calendar, then you’re off by a planetary wiggle-wag:

The ancient Babylonians based zodiac signs on the constellation the sun was “in” on the day a person was born. During the ensuing millenniums, the moon’s gravitational pull has made the Earth “wobble” around its axis, creating about a one-month bump in the stars’ alignment.

The result?

“When [astrologers] say that the sun is in Pisces, it’s really not in Pisces,” said Parke Kunkle, a board member of the Minnesota Planetarium Society.

Basically, a presumed Pisces is really an Aquarius — the traditionally preceding sign. You take a step back to get to your “true” astrological essence. Or something.

So then, I’m not really a Gemini? This revelation would shake me to my self-identifying core, except that it’s not 1977 and I’m not hitting any discotheques tonight.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 01/10/2021 10:38pm
Category: Pop Culture, Science, Society
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This week, the people of southern Sudan are voting on a referendum that is fully expected to call for secession from the government in northern Khartoum, resulting in an eventual declaration of independence in July. By then, the Texas-sized (not to mention oil-rich) country hopefully will have decided on a new nation-name:

Some of the other names that have been discussed are Nilotia or Nilotland, which are names derived from the Nile river. Others prefer the Nile Republic, arguing that this name would put the country on the map and build an attractive image around a world-famous asset, the Nile river. The White branch of the river runs through the region and is considered to be the country’s most important geographic feature…

But one problem is that Southern Sudaneses are not the only Nilotic people in Africa (the Nile river waters crosses territories in Egypt, Ethiopia, Uganda and Kenya down to Tanzania). Additionally, not all Southern Sudanese peoples are of Nilotic origin, as there are many ethnic groups in the region with no relationship with the Nile or its ancient civilization whatsoever.

Finally, some express preference for Cushitia or Azania, which are two ethnic and geographic names that have been applied to various parts of sub-Saharan Africa, even if they are in disuse today.

Other contenders retain the parent country name with a qualifier: South or Southern Sudan, or New Sudan. The etymological argument is that “Sudan” means “land of black people” in Arabic — an imported term from the Arab-populated north, implying that the remnant Khartoum-controlled state ought to change its name, and bequeath the more accurate descriptor to the new kid on the African block. (The disadvantage is that, regardless of historical origin, “Sudan” is currently associated with a pariah regime, and so might not be so desirable for a proto-state.) A more distant option is extending the name of the capital city, Juba, to the entire territory.

Corporate naming rights, ala sports stadiums and such, are obviously out of the question. Although considering how poor the country will be, despite the petroleum resources, it wouldn’t be the worst idea. If, say, Archer Daniels Midland got to brand-christen this chunk of the global map, its payment should be in the form of generous food subsidies. Similar for a Nikeland and the resultant oasis of free footwear for all citizens. We can always dream.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 01/10/2021 09:16pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Business, Political
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Sunday, January 09, 2021

in spirit
I’ve already latched onto a new iPhone-borne time-waster for the new year: “Spirits”.

This little low-impact game app will look familiar to anyone acquainted with “Lemmings”. The premise is pretty much the same as that old PC-era classic: You shepherd to safety groups of little beasties who have one-track minds. Notably, the “dig” command is in the modern game, attesting to the “Lemmings” heritage. (Maybe these “spirits” are the ghosts of departed lemmings, with their hive-mind mentality carrying over to the afterworld?)

I’m not generally a fan of puzzle-type mobile games, but this one works for me. The nice graphics and animation help with that, along with the music (although half the time I play it while listening to my own iPod playlist). I’ve already killed off big chunks of dead time between appointments with this gamelet, and happily so. It’s almost worth the battery drain that leaves the iPhone almost fully discharged by the end of the day…

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 01/09/2021 11:10pm
Category: Videogames, iPhone
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