I immediately recognized the man as he walked to the front and then it dawned on me where I had seen him before. Sure enough it was the man who had fallen on me in the hotel lobby and it appeared to be the same man I had apparently seen do a back-flip at the Minnesota airport!
“My name is Martin Kasam,” he said with a clear but thick middle eastern accent. “I have been the lead special agent for the Federal Anti-Terrorism Division here in the Minnesota region.”
Martin talked fast but he seemed to have the unique ability of enunciating every syllable in every word as he spoke.
“I want to welcome you all here but we have much to cover so I won’t waste your valuable time.” he said.
We continued walking along side agent Da Voy as he led us to each of our rooms. We passed four elevator doors on both sides of us and then I noticed rows of doors lined one after another throughout the long hall. It looked as if we had arrived at another hotel but this time by helicopter. As we passed a few more doors I noticed each door had a curious white letter and number combination printed on the front. I was contemplating the meaning of the letters and numbers when agent Da Voy stopped in front of door 2COR 520-1249. He told us that this would be Natalie’s room and the room directly across from her was to be mine. Jacob would be in the room next to Natalie’s. The agent then handed us each an electronic room access card and told us we would find changes of clothes that may or may not fit among other amenities inside our room. My room number was 2COR 520-1250.
Once inside the helicopter, the sound of the rotors were still nearly deafening so I was thankful for the headset I was given. As the helicopter slowly lifted off the ground, I reflected back to my seeing the multiple helicopters circling the skies around the city as we arrived at the hotel. Who could have imagined this? I was now flying in a law enforcement helicopter headed to who knows where during what appeared to be the worst attacks this country had seen since September 11, 2001. I glanced out the right side window to see us now moving away from the Ritz hotel. The parking area below appeared to shrink in size as we continued to gain altitude. The chopper pilot banked the helicopter slightly to the left and then we leveled out momentarily. Suddenly it felt as if we were beginning to tip forward and then we began to speed briskly away from the hotel. What was this all about? I wondered again. Sure, it was exciting riding along as we were in a law enforcement helicopter no less, even though I had no idea where we were headed. Yet whatever it was we were part of, it seemed pretty important to involve special agents and undercover law enforcement.
Just then Jacob reached his arm over my head toward my chest. I saw his hand was open as if he wanted me to shake it again but then I realized he was trying to help me up. I grabbed Jacob’s hand.
“That was quite a fall,” Jacob said as he pulled me up. Jacob pointed toward the other man wearing the Fedora. “I think someone pushed him.” he said. “We should find Russell and see if we can get out of here before things get out of hand.”
Things might have been already out of hand. A large scale uproar was now beginning to erupt in the far side of the lobby. I heard a few of the people hollering and talking loudly. Some security officers rushed by us toward the commotion. Many of the hotel guests were growing increasingly agitated by the minute so I began to look around for our cab driver. Where was Russell? I had lost track of him after we had gone inside the hotel. He seemed to be on a mission.
Although Jacob didn’t verbally object to what I had just told them, I could see he was shaking his head. I was glad Russell had his eyes still plastered to the road during my mini sermon. We had been riding together on the same road for what seemed like more than only a few minutes and it had. Our car was one in a long line of cars on the Minnesota interstate, but at least we were creeping along albeit slowly and steadily.
As we continued driving in the direction of the Ritz hotel I was given the opportunity to mention how we can access God’s forgiveness. I told them how we must repent of our sin by turning away from it and by asking God’s forgiveness for breaking His commands. “We must make God’s sacrifice for our sin our own by putting complete trust in Jesus Christ alone.” I said.
I added by quoting a scripture from Romans 10:9. “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”
Jacob responded with an air of doubt in his voice. “Well since you brought it up, how do you know Jesus was actually God and not just another good prophet?” He asked. “Because He claims to be.” I said with assurance in my voice.
Jacob assured me he would be glad to help should the need arise.
“Thank you.” I told him feeling grateful for his help.
I still had questions I wanted to ask her. Did she have family in the area? Where was she headed to before we were forced to evacuate the airport? And none of us knew her name.
Jacob interrupted my thoughts. “So you’re a Christian?” he said directing his question to me. I sensed an air of disappointment in his voice.
“Yes I am,” I said. “But I need to clarify the word Christian because it means different things to different people.”
I wanted to clarify what I meant in detail but still wondered what he meant by saying he was more Jewish so I decided to ask. “I am curious about what you meant when you said you were more Jewish? More Jewish than what?”
Jacob seemed hesitant to answer. “Um, that’s a good question…..” he paused for a moment, then continued. “I believe in God from the Torah, but there are things in the Bible I don’t believe.” he said.
“Like what?” I quickly responded.
Traffic had been steadily crawling on the interstate for some time now, but at least we were moving—even if it was only about fifteen miles per hour.
Jacob continued. “Well, like the Messiah—Yeshua as mentioned in the New Testament. I don’t believe He has come yet despite what you probably believe.” he said. “The Jesus mentioned in the Bible makes outrageous claims about His deity which I just don’t see as possible. There are other things I don’t know but we can discuss them if we have time.”
Russell quickly spoke up. “Well to me all the religions are a load of bunk.” He said sounding irritated at the direction of the conversation. “Especially when they teach that if you’re not a follower of them you must be killed.”
The gruff sounding cab driver was the first to respond.
“Uh, no… They’re saying the whole area is down. Both cities too…and probably others in the state.”
The gentleman seated in front of me seemed to agree.
“This had to be a major attack if both Minneapolis and St. Paul are out.” he added.
Our cab got into a long line of cars already entering the interstate. It was as if we were part of a funeral procession and the whole state had been invited. Once on the interstate we crept along for about a mile for what seemed like an hour and then I saw it as I looked out my right-side window. Off in the nearby distance, smoke and flames were shooting up from a large building ahead. I turned my head back to glance out the cab’s rear window. I caught a glimpse of the airport we just left. There were flames with black and gray smoke billowing from what appeared to be the airport’s main terminal. I saw police and news choppers darting around the moonless night sky. I quickly turned my head forward again toward the building we were approaching. This time I caught what looked like red and orange flames coming from the front.
Holy mackerel, I thought, is that the Mall of America?
The man was tall with black bushy hair and a five o’clock shadow that appeared to cover the bottom portion of his face. He was wearing a midnight blue sweater, light gray pants and dark colored loafers. He was yelling to a man just ahead of him. Their attention seemed to have been focused on running. The second man was much shorter and faster. His bronze colored hair was partially concealed but he was wearing a little brown fedora with a pink feather. He had on long lightly colored khaki pants and a rainbow vertically striped shirt that appeared to be similar to a woman’s silk blouse.
The bushy-haired man repeated his call, “We can’t go that way, the doors are locked!”
Just then muted voices could be heard in the distance. Suddenly I watched the colorfully dressed man, who appeared to be of Middle Eastern decent, spin around 180 degrees and then proceed to do a back-flip in the middle of the room.
Clearly, something about this story wasn’t making sense and then it hit me, I must be having a dream. For me, dreams rarely seem to make sense especially after I try to put them together again after waking up. I concluded this definitely had to be a dream and one I was in. But was it happening now or had it already happened? Right now it was difficult to know what was real and what wasn’t. I wanted to yell to see if I was awake or not. I tried to yell something aloud but nothing—no sound. As if this situation couldn’t get any stranger it did.
Suddenly I began feeling cold……and wet, really wet. Rain? Yep, that must be it—it was raining and I was outside in the cold wet rain. But why couldn’t I make any sound? I didn’t know but what was apparent was that I was getting drenched. Were the other men getting wet? Where were we anyways? I couldn’t see or hear them anymore but I noticed the black pants I was wearing were now beginning to stick to my legs and the blue pullover I had on appeared to be glued to my back. Then I felt something wrapped around my neck. It must have been the strap from the bag I was intending to carry on the plane. Then I remembered! I was at the airport! Maybe things were starting to make sense again. My flight! I’m going to miss my flight!
I tried to run but I couldn’t. I seemed to be stuck. I desperately wanted out of whatever was going on. It felt like my pants were so soggy I was beginning to wonder if I was even wearing any. I tried to wake up but I must’ve been super tired because whatever was really happening wasn’t going away. Then I heard what sounded like someone yelling again.
“They keep going this way….” the voice trailed off……”they’re gonna end up in hell!”
I noticed the dark haired man approaching.
Then I heard him yell. “C’mon, we gotta hurry!”
Was he yelling at me or someone else? I wasn’t sure but wished someone would notice my predicament. I tried to scream hoping to get the men’s attention. I opened my mouth to utter the word, help! This time I was certain my lips were moving but I still didn’t hear any sound. Was I deaf? Couldn’t be, since I had just thought I had heard the men yelling about something. And there were other voices. Again I heard what sounded like men’s voices.
“There’s no way we’re going to hell if hell doesn’t exist!”
I wanted to respond and so I tried. “But what if it does?” I said but I heard nothing. Just great, I thought, feeling more frustrated than ever. Still, no sound!
I heard another man’s voice, “We got a fire here! There’s a fire!”
At that moment thoughts about what Jesus says about hell began to flood my mind. What if these people were not part of a dream at all? What if there was a fire and people were going to die?! I felt the need to warn them and tell them what God says.
Suddenly a surge of pain ran up my arm. It felt like my left arm was being pulled from its socket. Then I felt the surge of pain again—this time it was even stronger. The pain began to ricochet around my shoulder and back through my arm again. Just then my whole body felt like it had hit a concrete wall—and hard. I opened my eyes to see the leg of a chair next to my head. I seemed to be lying on the floor in a pool of water. Continue reading →
Cities Skylines is a city builder game similar in-game play to the popular SimCity building series. After having time to play Cities Skylines I wanted to share some aspects of the game that I have found disappointing and discuss some issues I have yet to find discussed elsewhere online. Of course there are great things to like about the game and I do.
A note about outside reviews and opinions of the game
Even though Cities Skylines is over a year old now it seems like a great game to play based on YouTube videos and online reviews. And all the reviews and opinions I have found online about Cities Skylines paint the game in a purely positive light while many criticize SimCity 2013 (aka SimCity 5) mostly for its once needed persistent online connection. It is important to note up front I have do not have much experience playing the latest SimCity 5 (aside from a free 2 hour trial) but have purchased Cities Skylines and have played it many hours. (Read my updated SimCity 5 experience here) My comments will be made mostly about the gameplay of Cities Skylines based on personal experience and opinion.
First, I will start by saying I have quite enjoyed Cities Skylines and believe it to be well worth what it costs (around $30) for the base or vanilla version of the game. However, it is also important to note I am using a graphics card below the game’s recommended specs so my comments will be strictly content related in nature rather than performance based. (Additional note: despite using a gpu and older computer below the recommended game specs I have gotten surprisingly decent game playing experiences along with a few crashes due to modding.)
Now as I have already mentioned, the game is worth buying for its price but user-created content and mods make it even better. My problems with Cities Skylines come from the fact it is a European based game and it shows. Being an American and living in the United States there are game oddities in the vanilla version of the game that have been somewhat hard to overcome without a mod. In fact, the Cities Skylines I play today includes quite a bit of user-created content such as Mods and Assets that vastly improve the game where it is lacking mechanically or visually or both.
American User Created Content and Mods
However, if one is looking for the game to be American in style without mods it can be lacking. Even when searching for user-created content to Americanize the game, I have found styles and content to be overwhelming foreign or European based. Don’t get me wrong I have found some American style created content such as American Roads or American sirens for emergency vehicles and even American style buildings, trains, planes, and other vehicles–but just a few. Although the European based styles are ok as options I would love to see more American variety besides New York City. What about rural Humboldt California, USA?
As already mentioned, the vanilla game in my opinion is not very visually American (besides the default option of having vehicles driving on the right-side of streets) but the default building styles are no different. The included European looking buildings appear old and outdated lacking color and I didn’t much American style included without adding some user-created content found on Steam.
I don’t believe overhead electric cables are the norm for many American rail systems across this great country unless we’re talking about a tram, cable or light rail system. The rail system in the heartland is open track (without overhead electrical lines) with diesel-powered locomotives rolling on them such as BNSF, Southern Pacific or Amtrak.
Before you jump on me for mentioning the games lack of American style train tracks without an overhead electrical line, I use a Mod that removes the overhead cable on train tracks and it works great. However, I have yet to find an American style passenger station asset without the overhead electrical cables!
The include trucks, buses and other included vehicles overall also have a distinct European look many of us in the United States will find foreign looking. However, this foreign “look” can be somewhat remedied (like the overhead cabled train tracks) by adding some user-created American style vehicle assets which have been a welcome addition to my game experience. But keep an eye open for me as I am still looking for an American semi-truck trailer without 3 wheels on the back axle!
If you are seeking realism in a city builder Cities Skylines has some. I say some because it’s a game. Now I don’t expect the game to be real to life in every possible way imaginable because after all it’s a simulation and it’s suppose to be fun. Yet, I do think some mechanics tweaks could be achieved to make it a little more fun. For me, one in particular is the simulation speed when the game is running at its lowest setting.
To clarify, by speed I am not referring to performance or frame-rate but the simulation game-play speed. The vanilla game includes three simulation speed modes, slow, medium and fast. This is the rate at which the cars and people move on the street and buildings are erected within the simulation. Having a high-speed is a great option when you want buildings to grow fast or simulation time increased to build the city’s income. However, in my opinion the slowest speed is still too fast. Cars and people buzz around as if they have been put on fast forward and are little bees buzzing about on speed juice. At times, it can be almost hard to watch when I just want things to slow down to a more realistic pace. Yes, once again there is a mod for this. Introducing a slow game mod to the vanilla game does wonders for more realism. My question is, why didn’t the game creators include a slower mode with the base (vanilla) game?
Final Assessment of Cities Skylines
Even with my minor frustrations for Cities Skylines vanilla not being more American looking by default, or an overly speedy simulation even on slow, I do think Cities Skylines is an excellent city building game worth purchasing–even if you live in the United States. The game is fun to play and challenging especially with mods and other user-created content. In fact, I think finding great user-created buildings, models and mods is all part of the fun. So if you are still on the fence about whether to purchase Cities Skylines and you have a computer with at least 8 gigs of ram and 1 gig included on the graphics card (GPU) (recommended 16 gigs ram and 2 gigs graphics) then I think Cities Skylines is a great buy. See full specs on this game here