Friday, March 05, 2010

It's a boy!

Viktor Sullivan Rhys Krilov, born 9:18 pm on 3/5/10, weighing 8 pounds and 3 ounces.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Making and Breaking Resolutions

I have already broken my three New Year's resolutions.

  1. Inbox Zero
  2. NaBloPoMo
  3. Decluttering

Inbox Zero advocates a philosophy towards email that seems antithetical to how many people treat their email. Using Gmail gets me part of the way there by archiving and keeping most every bit of mail I get. I only delete a few very specific items of mail, and part of my resolution this year means tweaking my filters to delete more unneeded mail. I have a much larger problem with actually answering/replying and acting on mail. I want to foster a better habit with email response.

NaBloPoMo riffs from NaNoWriMo, the National Novel Writing Month. Sub "Blog Posting" for "Novel Writing" and it's the same schtick. I only wrote EIGHTEEN blog posts in 2009. This is not acceptable. I need to get back into the writing habit. I'm not hiding behind writer's block; I have plenty to say (as evidenced by the volume of words I output via Twitter), I just need to work on my long-form writing.

Decluttering remains on my mind. With an infant on the way, I anticipate that we'll acquire a mountain of stuff, stuff, stuff. I don't want to live a spartan life with no material anythings, but I do need to get rid of old things I don't need. I'm imposing another game buying moratorium and adopting a one-in-one-out rule.

How have I broken these resolutions already on the second day of the new year? One, I still have months-old mail I haven't replied to. Two, I didn't write a blog post yesterday. Three, Cat and I bopped into a thrift store and I bought two new games today.

How does this not bother me?

I'm making the effort with email. I might re-read Getting Things Done when I find it, but the first system in my head from an old boss is TRAF: Trash, Refer, Act, File. My good buddy Marc also left me a thought: "[With too much email,] that's archive 'em all and let god sort 'em out territory." I'm not there yet, but I have less than thirty pieces of mail in my inbox. Last month, it was probably closer to sixty. Facebook is part of this problem.

I'm writing a blog post today and not post-dating it. Good enough for me right now- the more I write, the more I have other ideas that I want to write. It's just a habit to foster, which makes it easier than other kinds of writing problems. (I still agree with the notion that Twitter makes you a better writer.)

I'm looking forward to trying the one-in-one-out rule to at least break even with material items- mass will never factor in to the decision (I buy a battery and sell the car), but I'm going to try to at least remain in the same class of item. Right now, I need to get rid of one book, two games, and a calendar. I don't know how long I'll give myself to meet each goal; maybe a week's worth of Craigslist before trashing or donating. I'm also happy with my current "play unplayed games" strategy, and my game-buying moratorium will merit at least a whole 'nother post. Or four. But seriously, I spontaneously bought two games new-in-shrink that I wanted to play for two bucks per. Does not count as a planned MSRP purchase and triggers the one-in-one-out.

Overall, I feel confident that I have achievable, positive resolutions that I actually want to follow. Hope you do, too.

Life's to short to give up chocolate.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Midwife update

We went to see the midwives yesterday for a regular checkup. (At this point, we're scheduled to check in every two weeks.) All is normal, Cat's feeling fine, Peanut is growing right on schedule. I've even felt him move once. The rest of the time, he quits playing the maracas or tap-dancing or whatever whenever I try and feel.

Sixty-three days left until the due date, which seems like forever and right around the corner.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Unplayed games

I have too many games.

More accurately, I have too many unplayed games. I know this thanks to either Ian or Dan back in Austin, who convinced me to start logging my game plays on September 20th, 2006. I had scoffed at this notion for a while, thinking it too crazy anal about gaming, or the first step in the long road to obsessive stat-keeping about wins and losses. I don't want to become overly competitive and I don't want to juggle statistics over actual play.

After more than three years of logging plays, I've since changed my mind. I simply play too many games to remember them all, and sometimes I simply blonde out and forget. Most of the statistics stuff I look at has been calculated by someone else, so I don't need to do any heavy lifting. The actual work I do to keep track of this is pretty low- I used to keep a 99-cent notebook in my pocket and jot down the date and game title for later logging on BGG. Now that I have a magic Google phone (Android G1, for the record), I use the BGG App to simply log the play then and there. The time investment is much smaller- a few taps and it's done. I can get back to actual play and not mess with the grisly details.

On the other hand, the simple fact that I'm logging plays at all means that the grisly details exist for when I want to look at them. The incomparable Chris "Friendless" Farrell maintains a site of BGG Extended Stats, where he does all of the statistical heavy lifting. Some of these stats break down when considering game expansions and game books. I'm not log to log a "play" of a book, and I generally don't log plays of expansions.

The one critical stat that I want appears to be broken within BGG's SQL query, unless I just don't know how to do it. They have a search function for played games, and you can specify the maximum and minimum number of plays- but it appears to store zero plays as null instead of zero, so the query doesn't return what I expect.

Easy enough: download my collection data as CSV, sort by number of plays, pop the title column into Google Docs, add a bit of whiz-bang-fu, and lo and behold I have a working poor man's database to help me find what I need to play. (I had to remove expansions and books and the like by hand, but it's not so bad.) I also added columns to track games that I know I've played before the two major events before my logging epoch: Katrina and moving home. I know there are games I've played in the ancient dim misty past (say, high school) just as I know I played games in Austin before I started logging plays in BGG.

When I first started this project at the end of the November (after BGG.Con, I know that my game-buying will be severely curtailed in the next year or so), my collection was almost 45% unplayed, very uncomfortably close to half. Over the last thirty days, I've given away a small handful of games and played a baker's dozen of new-to-me and previously unplayed games. This is awesome and gets me to about 40% unplayed.

I don't have a numerical goal in mind, but if I can get at least one unplayed game to the table, or sold, or traded, or given away every week, I'll be happy.

Also, this is my 700th post. Huzzah!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Happy anniversary

Four years since Katrina.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Nickel Tour: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)

Here's the nickel tour:

Man is born baby-sized, but as an old man. (Looks creepy.) As he moves forward in time, he grows appropriately mentally and size-wise, gets physically younger. Nobody seems to think this is worth mentioning to science. Eventually, he meets a girl or two, falls in love once or twice. Fathers a child around the time he "meets in the middle" he childhood sweetheart- both the same physical age at their point in time. Eventually, he's getting younger physically and starts to get smaller size-wise, as well as seemingly mentally senile. Finally, he dies as a baby-sized baby.

I know that it's meant to be a love tale, but I took it as a flawed an internally inconsistent sci-fi tale. Not easy to suspend disbelief due to Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett's well-known countenances. I found myself wondering what was makeup and was was CG.

For the record, I caught part of the filming of this movie a few times. Many of the New Orleans shots were comfortingly, albeit jarringly familiar. The accents weren't awful overall.

I give it a "Not worth the big screen."

Thursday, July 02, 2009

War never changes

I am glad I did not pick up Fallout 3 while trying to finish painting the house.

I beat the game in a little under sixty hours of gameplay, but I suspect I could spend another ten to twenty hours or more seeking out the rest of the quests and extras, and simply exploring the world.

I have a special (no pun intended) place in my heart for the Fallout series. Not only do I eat up the post-apocalyptic genre like candy, but I believe the story and choices offered to the player really add a level of verisimilitude often missing in most computer games. I think the current development studio did a fine job in keeping with the original two games, unlike the disowned, non-canon garbage that was FOBOS. I really am quite happy at a new generation of gamers experiencing the Fallout world, with promise of more games to come. As of this writing, there's a Fallout: Vegas game in the works for 2010 and at least three downloadable content packs for the console games.

Most people expect me to play a lot of video games, but Fallout is the first video game that I've played to completion in quite a long while. I'm quite satisfied and pleased.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

New-to-me games June 2009

Hello, world.

I had a light game month, relatively speaking- I played less than 30 games and less than a dozen titles. I directly attribute these numbers to my playing Fallout 3 on the PS3. But I managed to play five (really four) new games this month, three of which I own.

Alphabetically first and arguably the heaviest is Martin Wallace's new economic game Automobile (BGG, BUY ME!). Research car factories, build cars, sell cars, use different characters for a twist. Most money wins. I am terrible at this game, but I like it. There's a lot of tension in what you ca do versus what you want to do. One must do a bit of number-crunching and some cost-benefit analysis to inform your decisions. A solid design; if this sounds interesting to you, give it a shot, but it's a wee dry and mathy.

Neuroshima Hex! (BGG, BUY ME!) is like a knife fight in a phone booth. This skirmish game is totally up my alley. Each player has a different army "deck" of hex tiles, playing onto a Catan-shaped battlefield. You can force battles (where the whole board resolves and ther is much carnage), and you can generally not move your troops once deployed. The game has at least two expansions and the source RPG is Polish, if you need more. I hope there are army play aids on BGG to help, otherwise players don't know their units strengths and weaknesses. Worth playing.

The cooperative Red November (BGG, BUY ME!) fell a little flat for me. Russian Gnomes on a steampunk sub disaster movie? Bring it! But in play with five, it drug on past when I was ready for it to be over. I am glad I played it before buying it, otherwise I fear I would have traded it away after one play. I might give it one more shot, but you'd need to love it or convince me.

Space Alert (BGG, BUY ME!) is another cooperative game from the same madmen who brought you Galaxy Trucker. The gimmick here uses a CD with audio tracks that govern when and where threats (alien ships, space pirates, meteors, etc.) appear on the ship. Players must quickly negotiate and coordinate their actions, which are programmed similarly to RoboRally. The game is fast fast- ten minutes for the audio track and actual play, maybe another ten or fifteen minutes to resolve. There's definitely the feeling of setting up dominoes to watch them fall down. I can't say that this is for everyone, though. It took me three plays before the game clicked and I liked it; not shocking when you remember that the play is absolutely driven forward by the audio track.

My cheat is Taktika (BGG, BUY ME!), a game I haven't played since leaving Austin (or maybe at last year's BGG Con?) and had a hand in playtesting. The game bills itself as "strategy meets dexterity" and is a two-player wargame of flicking discs about a table, much like Crokinole. I have two sets so we can play partnership battles, which add a lot of set-up-and-protect your partner decisions. A solid game that a bigger publisher needs to pick up. It's been a hit with my group, who have repeatedly asked me why I haven't brought it out sooner.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Lifting the game-buying moratorium

Six months ago, I made a deal with myself to not purchase any board game for a while.

I did this because of space reasons (still living in 340 square feet at the time); time reasons (needed to work on house); and uncluttering reasons (I have a lot of games that I've never played). My first self-made deal was "no new games until we unpack." This didn't last minutes as I realized that we will keep unpacking in the house for months, at least. Next deal included the ability to buy games at BGG.Con last November- I have no realistic way to avoid buying games at a con. I further revised the deal that I could still trade games or go treasure-hunting in thrift stores. Now that I finally unpacked the game room, I let myself buy new things. I've had a gift certificate from my Secret Santa that's been burning a hole in my pocketses for five (!) months.

So what did I buy and why?

My man Judson has sung the praises of a rondel game for some time, advocating that I get one. Antike (BGG, BUY ME!) reminds me a bit of Vinci, rather popular with my game group and personal  favorite. Antike is the same way- it's hit the table twice in a week, with requests for it again tonight. A solid buy.

I had to get El Grande (Decennial edition) (BGG, BUY ME! ) because none of my local friends own it and I haven't played it since Austin. Amun-Re got the table recently, so I've had this classic area control on my next-buy short list. Also, it was on sale.

Hamburgum (BGG, BUY ME! ) is another rondel game. I figured if the theme of Antike failed, this one would fly. Haven't played it yet.

Indonesia (BGG, BUY ME! ) is one of those games I see people pining for in Math Trades. A bit of research shows this one to be a nice meaty economic game which ought to play well with my crew. (Also on sale.)

Kontor (BGG, BUY ME! ) is a two-player tile-laying game that's been in the back of my mind for a while. I liek two-player games, and I'm still seeking a good tile game. Played this twice so far- it is interesting and comes with a ton of variants.

I remember enjoying My Dwarves Fly (BGG, BUY ME! ). Curiously, I last played this with the same guy who taught El Grande back in Austin. It was a silly little backstabby game, and cheap. We shall see if I still like it.

I played one game with Simon Hunt at last year's BGG Con: Owner's Choice (BGG, BUY ME! ), a light, quick, manage-your-luck stock control game. I liked it enough to throw it in to get me free shipping.

I don't own Power Grid. But I continually buy expansions for the guy that does. This time, it's the Power Grid: China/North & South Korea (BGG, BUY ME! ) with the crazy markets. Looking forward to seeing the rules.

I have three separate people tell me that Shadow Hunters (BGG, BUY ME! ) is like Coachride to Devil's Castle only moreso. Three recommendations is enough for me to pick this up.

Here's a no-brainer: Small World (BGG, BUY ME! ). I like Vinci, this is the new hotness.

I saw the designer playtesting Supernova (BGG, BUY ME! ) a few cons ago, but never got a chance to play it. I played Owner's Choice with him (qv) and talked a bit about the game. Also, I'm a sucker for slick scifi design thanks to Mike Doyle.

I've had my eye on Suitors (BGG, BUY ME FROM IPR! ) for a while; it's a trick-taking game with a twist. I've got to pick it up to at least try it out with the crew.

I hear Techno Witches (BGG, BUY ME! ) described as a lighter, faster Robo Rally. I had reservations on buying this without playing it first. I don't want it to be a kid's game, but it was finally on sale enough to overcome doubts.

Other things I bought: Pink Icehouse pieces for my Zendo set when I unpack it, and three different sizes of four-way rubber bands.

That's a baker's dozen of new-ish games. Do I need to implement a one-in-one-out rule? There's a Math Trade going on right now...

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Why they do it

If you got a computer virus ten or fifteen years ago, you probably experienced the digital equivalent of a mean and nasty practical joke: ink poured on important papers, stink bombs, bags of dog poop on fire, insults spray-painted on your house, your car keyed. Generally, virus/worm authors wanted notoriety, a rush of power, or just to stick it to someone who wronged them.

Now, it's all about cash money.

The Conficker worm recently woke up, as you may have heard. No, it's not the end of the world, but we are starting to see some of what it's designed to do- make money fast. Infected Windows machines are starting to present notices along the lines of "Hello. Your computer is infected. For $49.95, you can be cleaned!"

Malware authors are not maladjusted teens living in their parents' basement; they are professional criminals trying to make money.