Friday, September 29, 2006

Splashes across the net

A reporter reflects on Pearl Harbor and 9-11.

Mr. Spock sings "The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins" in a 1960s video.

The inimitable Yehuda reports on religion in gaming causing offense.

Chris Rose shares his personal response to the Saints' win at the Superdome.

Pepper Island Films posts their casting call.

Introversion releases DEFCON today.

The incomprable Vance Kelly showcases his new "Bride of Frankenstein" silk screen poster. (Probably NSFW.)

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Dome sweet dome

Mark your calendars, I'm blogging about football. The Saints played their first game today in the newly opened Superdome, and won.


The newswire reports a score of 23-3 over the other guys. This win is a shot in the arm to the city, and the season is already sold out; a record-breakingly early time to be sold out, I'm told.

For you non-natives, the T-P has some more about the shaky history of the losingest team in the league, and I direct you the Wikipedia for a bio of their owner, Tom Benson. There's a good photo on the Wikipedia, and some more details worth noting. It'll help set the tone. My official position? Texas does not need another football team, much less the New Orleans Saints in San Antonio.

I caught a glimpse of CNN mentioning the game over a roast beef hoagie/submarine sandwich (emphatically not a po boy) for lunch. Despite my regular passion for games, or perhaps because of it, I don't typically like spectator sports. Regardless, the news moves me in a way I can't describe.

Who dat say dey gonna beat dem Saints!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

New Orleans is Everywhere

One of the levels in the latest Hitman game takes place during "Mardi Gras." Of course, it's a weird interpretation of the event- in October. The level bears no real resemblance to the Quarter, though they clearly wish they did. Every character has an obnoxious deep southern drawl that sounds like it comes from Tennessee or Georgia or the land of bad television and movies. Unusually, they have two small details right: the cops and the police barriers are dead ringers for real live NOPD uniforms and metal barriers they use. They're eerily accurate and shockingly familiar amidst the over-the-top incredulity of the psuedo-rave scene of the level. It doesn't look like Mardi Gras, it just looks like spring break with glowsticks and purple, green, and gold.

Now that it's late November September, summer is over in Austin. The weather's been cooler and I've seen something like three or four days of rain in the last two weeks. Seeing rain again still prompts me to go out on my balcony and just look at the weather, feeling it, all but jumping in puddles. Look, it may seem like a little thing, but if I read this data correctly, I'm empirically used to seeing about twice the rainfall back home.

When Christian left, I sent him back with a few care packages for the gang back home- Cyberpunk for Germaine, 7th Sea for Bennett, and Mike's broken laptop. I spoke to B & G today, just catching up on things and shooting the breeze.

Over a cup of tea this morning, I told one of my coworkers the story of Cat and I getting ready to buy a house just before Katrina.

What I feel is nothing compared to so many others, but it's how I feel nonetheless.

Tooth update

All this last week, I've had images of Dean Stockwell as Dr. Yueh from Dune calling out "Remember the tooth! The TOOTH!"

In about twenty-four hours, I'm getting a root canal and a crown, I think. I'm not really nervous for my first major dental procedure, but I'm ready for this whole dental nonsense to be over. The pain is mostly gone, so I don't need to take pain pills. I'm still running through the course of antibiotics.

Rumor control has it that some humans grow three sets of teeth, not just two. Handy, no?

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

It be Talk Like A Pirate Day

Avast! Stop what ye be doin'! It be that time o' year again. You heard me, - it be International Talk Like A Pirate Day. So what be you goin' t' do about it, ye useless bilge rat?

Monday, September 18, 2006

Shameless Shilling

My brother's production company, Pepper Island Films, is seeking donations for their upcoming film project. If you're in the Austin area, they're holding a garage sale to raise money- feel free to donate items (they'll arrange for a pick up) or mark your calendars and buy something.

Saturday & Sunday
Oct 7-8, 8am-2pm
5210 Martin Ave 78751

Alternatively, if you have a few spare bucks and PayPal, do me a favor and drop something in their tin cup.

Also, Ellen Simonetti, the flight attendant fired for blogging, has her new book available over at Heck, she's the only person I personally know with a Wikipedia article, a mention on Slashdot, and a New York Times byline. (Where's my copy, Ellen?!)

Cyborgs among us

Cat and I had company over the weekend. Our friend Christian came to visit us from New Orleans. Christian's a diabetic, and recently got into a car accident. I don't have the full story, as he had blacked out due to low blood sugar. The important thing is that he managed to total his car and doesn't know how. The first thing he remembers is being stopped by the cops, who pointed out that he was missing most of the passenger side of his car and driving on a rim instead of a tire. After that episode, he became a cyborg.

His new insulin pump is about the size of a late-90s cell phone (or a fat Blackberry) and connects to him via flexible tubing and a catheter; it is a semi-permanent port into his body through which a machine dispenses hormones. It's a small adhesive patch, sort of like the EEG electrodes you see on hospital drama shows or low/mid-budget scifi flicks. I didn't snap any photos, but Google Images will come to the rescue for the curious. Not quite the chainsaw-wielding menace you expect from a cyborg, but I'll take my cyberpunk where I can get it.

The practical upshot is that we're one step closer to mechanically replacing another failed organ, which is a good thing. We should be able to just grow what we need. Write your congressthing, will you?

Coincidentally, Judson and I were talking about other kinds of mechanical self improvement. He's gung ho to get some implanted headphones. Bone-conduction hearing aids are already a reality, and this non-hearing-impaired fellow from Hawaii is a bit more serious about it, as of last year. A gadget site picked up the story, so you might want to check out their cross-section illustration. For complete coverage, don't forget to take a peek at the Wikipedia article on the device itself, the Baha.

Be advised: These next links contain some graphic pictures of outpatient surgery. So if you don't like seeing blood, don't clicky.

If simply augmenting your existing senses aren't good enough, some body modification enthusiasts had implanted small rare earth magnets under their fingertips to extend their sensory perception. Then another person got magnets in their fingertips. Ultimately, this procedure is not without its problems and they needed to be removed.

I like the notion of becoming superhuman, but I'll wait for the over-the-counter version.

Games in the mail

As you know, I love Netflix. Now I have a new online service I plan to enjoy.

Thanks to the Long Tail, Netflix has many more titles than the corner monopolistic store. Since they have a distribution center in town, I have a pretty quick turnover for my DVDs. Thanks to lean-back, I don't have to do anything differently in my daily life to take advantage. There's a bit of mental overhead needed to add a movie to my queue, or to occasionally reshuffle a movie sooner or later, or to rate one, etc- but this isn't that different from what I'd do normally, albeit in an undirected and unfocused way.

I recently discovered that someone has applied the Netflix model to console games- this is GameFly, and I've just signed up. It's the same schtick as Netflix with a few twists: games cost more than movies, so the price is a bit higher; and you have the option to buy the game and keep it. All in all, I'm looking forward to playing more games. I typically have been behind the curve when it comes to console games, as many of them don't really appeal to me beyond the eye candy.

The first two games I got are Gun (a western revenge tale) and Beyond Good and Evil (a dystopic scifi adventure). I have a PlayStation 2- any suggestions for what I should play?

PS- if you sign up for GameFly using this link, I get rewarded.

(You may have suspected that someone has applied the Netflix model to pornography; Google can prove to you that it has happened. I leave that as an exercise for the reader.)

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Weekend Gaming

I played three new (to me) games at this last Friday's game night.

When I arrived, two new people (John and Nicolette) were setting up for a game of Wolfgang Kramer's Hacienda (BGG, BUY ME!). By the time I got in on the action and gotten an overview on gameplay, Tall Guy Jeff had also shown up. Jeff had played online, so he joined as well. Interestingly, Nicolette had showed up to GHG by posting for board game players on Craigslist. She had never been exposed to Euro or modern boardgames, so John came down from his regular group in Round Rock to show her a sampling of these games of ours. Hacienda's a medium weight Euro game using territory and routes to various locations; not something I'd choose to introduce someone to the hobby.

Hacienda is an economic game at its heart. Your three actions per turn can be used to buy cards, claim chains of land, place chains of animals to market, or buy features to garner you more points for your achievements- namely, waterholes and the eponymous haciendas. I've heard this game compared to Knizia's Through the Desert (BGG); I can see the relation. Both involve players making chains, getting points, and getting in each other's way, and neither game has a well-integrated theme. For what it's worth, the components are quite well made and you get a two-sided board for your nickel.

Overall, I mostly liked Hacienda, but I didn't do too well at it; I came in tied for third with Nicolette, whereas the other two experienced players had significant leads. I do believe John won due to a too-late move on Jeff's part. After playing it, I wanted to play it again, but not immediately. After sleeping on it, I took this game off my "want" list, having decided that I don't need to own it. Ultimately, I think this one is a little too dry for my tastes. Clever, though. The game took about an hour, hour and a half.

John next pulled out Hey! That's my Fish! (BGG, BUY ME!), which I had heard of but never played. Jeff had to leave for the call of the databases, so we played a three-player game of penguins eating fishes. This one is staying on my want list, as it's effectively a nice abstract strategy game played on hexes- this reminded me of ZERTZ (BGG) with its shrinking board. I also have a huge soft spot in my heart for jumping around ice floes thanks to Activision's Frostbite from my Atari 2600 days. The hexes and nifty wooden penguins are a plus, too. Something about the emergent gameplay reminded me of an electronic/computerized game of some kind, but I couldn't put my finger on which one without further reflection.

I actually won this one, with Nicolette in second and John in last place. The game almost takes longer to set up than to play- This is maybe ten or fifteen minutes and unusually deep, given its overtly light presentation.

Just before leaving, John introduced us to Reiner Knizia's Ingenious (BGG, BUY ME!), a very colorful game. (Note New Dan showing up brightly against the green terrain.) Ingenious is played on a hexagonal board, with players laying down tiles. Each tile has two color/symbols on it: a green circle, a blue star, etc. You get points based on runs of identical symbols in five of the six directions on each hex. Placing a single tile might net you four yellow points and two purple points, for instance. Dr. Knizia's clever bit for this one is that your final score is your lowest-scoring color. Thus, players must balance their scores across all six color/symbols.

Not shocker here, hexes + spatial awareness = Mischa like. I also won in a distant first, which never hurts. w00t! I hear this game can be played with partners, sort of like dominoes. Either way, this is on my list to get.

That's real blood. (Hi, Andre!) There are no excuses in Jungle Speed (BGG, BUY ME!)! A slew of people enjoyed several rounds of Jungle Speed: Andre, Cody, Daniel, New Dan, Nick, Nick, Sean, Norman and Katlyn. All told, I think we played four-, six-, eight- and ten-player games. I keep forgeting the special rules for four players, though; most important is that Color Match is always on.

Sunday night roleplaying didn't come together, so I broke out some board games. We played five-player Wiz-War (BGG, STILL OOP), introducing Sean to it for the first time. Nick won, despite out best efforts. Poor Phil had an ADRENALINE + FIREBALL + SUDDEN DEATH combo he never got to use during play.

After that, I cracked the plastic on King Me! (BGG, BUY ME!), which saw two plays for the evening. Not bad for a new-to-everyone game, right? There's some good bluffing and voting going on here, and the art is just evocative enough, with nice components and cards. I'm looking forward to playing King Me! with six.

Sometimes I wonder why people at my FLGS pass up some deals on the discount table. Usually, I'm just glad I got the game before someone else did. Luckily, I'd had my eye on this one for a while.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Sex and violence in videogames and puzzles

This week's Escapist includes Corvus Elrod's article, "Screenshots and Boobies." Don't worry, that link is safe for work. The article, unsurprisingly, talks about marketing videogames, starting off with some interesting observations of women's behavior in stores that rent videogames.

Elrod also touches on the print ad campaign for the newest game in the Hitman series, Blood Money. Instead of focusing on the pervasive violence, the print ads push the thus-far barely existent sexuality in the game, to the point of pressing the "why glamorize violence against women" button. Perhaps more interestingly is that none of the trailers (NB, that I've seen) for the game include this sexualized violence.

At the same time that I picked up Hitman, I was hoping to snag SimCity 4, as well. Sadly, they were out of the second title; never fear, I shall find a copy yet. However, another game caught my eye, Safecracker; a pure puzzle game. You're the eponymous safecracker and you've got some thirty-five safes to crack. The box text seemed reminiscent of the 7th Guest. It was less than twenty bucks, so I wound up purchasing it.

After a few hours of gleefully working through the first some levels of Hitman, it occurred to me that I was playing a puzzle more than a game. (Greg Costikiyan's definitions, of course.) The game now rewards making the hit look like an accident, and players are punished for being sloppy: being caught on camera, killing innocents, leaving evidence, etc. Yes, each level has more than one solution or tactic (do I go on a rampage or can I pull the level off without getting caught?), but some are clearly more optimal than others, hence the larger in-game reward.

I'm struck by the intersection of these three games:

Hitman: Blood Money, the latest in a controversial game series about undetectable murder. SimCity, the latest in a critically acclaimed long-running game/toy series about creating and managing a city. Safecracker, a semi-obscure puzzle game that's a semi-sequel to a 1999 release.

What do these have in common? Why do they all appeal to me? There's an interesting rock-paper-scissors relation going on here: Hitman and SimCity have a high degree of simulation, SimCity and Safecracker are both abstracted to a certain degree, and Safecracker's safes and Hitman's levels are puzzles to solve.

Expect few posts this weekend; I'll likely be playing games.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

I'm officially old

Last night on a Wal-Mart run for videogames, the Muzak system was playing "Time Warp" from the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Cat and I could barely do anything beyond saying "Buh.. Wha?"

Culture shock in the midst of the flourescents.

Styles of roleplaying

A few weeks ago, after boardgames (and thus after midnight), I had one of those late-night Denny's conversations with a couple other guys. The topic? Roleplaying. We had a huge outlook clash, and I'm still convinced that I came away from that looking like the opposite sort of gamer than I actually am.

I remember them asking me if, in the last RPG I picked up, if I used every rule in the manual. As it happened, I did- and it's not because I'm a rules lawyer or a Mr. By-the-Book, but rather that these wacky indie hippy games I'm playing have so few rules, and the game mechanics are honed to a point where you generally don't need to drop rules and fiat is divided between the players.

Aside: Nick, Nick, Sean, Phil, and I recently played a two-hour session of Metal Ö–pera, which rocked beyond words. The game is perhaps three pages long; I have to confess that we tweaked it a tiny bit from as printed.

Two weeks ago, over on Deep in the Game, Bankuei talks about the difference between two kinds of players- basically "Let's see how this game plays!" versus "Let's use this game to play the way we like!" In the comments, he uses a good analogy I'll use here: Imagine saying to all your friends, "Let's go play sports! Meet me in the park tomorrow, and bring your equipment!" Some folks would bring a football helmet, some would bring their golf clubs, others might bring swimming gear, and still other folks might bring the volleyball net. Now imagine everyone trying to play at the same time. Chaos, arguments, and generally no fun.

This is why it's so hard to find a good roleplaying group- people have hugely different expectations. Even given games with not-nebulous rules, players can have disconnects as their play styles clash- Bowling with pals versus tournament bowlers, or hypercompetitive players of Risk. The vast potential of roleplaying games exacerbates these problems, like a giant lens.

I've got no solution beyond hashing out how you want to play to begin with.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Drugs part two, the revenge

Half-tab of Vicodin = Five and a half hours of sleep, no reported loopiness. And that was with food.

In other news, Blogger no longer thinks I have a spam blog. Somehow my blog triggered their automated checkers so I had to solve a captcha with each post. I had at first assumed that it was a new "feature," but after a week or so, I clicked the small question mark and learned that of the misdiagnosis. I was able to request a human to review and clear me of splogging.


So I have an abscess tooth. And a relatively large toothache, incidentally.

Last night, I woke around 2AM due to throbbing upper jaw pain. I took an ibuprofin and used some Orajel. Around 4AM, I finally settled down enough to nap.

First thing in the morning, about three hours ago, I went to my dentist and got some antibiotics and generic Vicodin, known for its ability to make people "loopy."

I don't normally take medication out of stubbornness, mostly. Because of/as a result of this, I'm generally pretty sensitive to medicine.

I've just taken a half-tab of my imitation pain pill, so we'll see what happens. Luckily, I can work from home for the day (Yay, VPN!), plus Cat is here to make sure I don't have a "bad trip," as the kids say.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Ten Best Science Fiction Movies That Never Existed

I don't like to do a drive-by blogging with a single link in it, but sometimes you gotta do it. I somehow stumbled across this list describing an alternate history of scifi movies- one I think we'd all rather live in. Better than half of those movies I would catch opening day, at non-matinee prices.


Sunday, September 10, 2006

Weekly gaming session

So I finally played Andreas Seyfarth's Puerto Rico (BGG, BUY ME!).

I had already played San Juan, so I had an idea what to expect from PR in terms of theme and general play: Buildings have powers and are worth points, players choose the phase order, there's colonial goods, you sell 'em, etc etc. I'm greatly simplifying here.

We played a five-player game of Puerto Rico as an opener: Myself, Tim, Galen, Jeff, and another fellow. Everyone else but I had played already. While I played with guys I didn't know very well, more of the regular crew showed up and wound up playing their own first session of Puerto Rico at the next table over. Overall, their response was warmer than mine. I usually rate games fairly strictly according to the BGG rankings. I give Puerto Rico a 6: "Ok game, some fun or challenge at least, will play sporadically if in the right mood." I fully concede that I would change my rating after more plays. This session lasted about two hours. Scores were something like 40-50ish for players Galen, other guy, and Jeff (Galen won by the slimmest of margins a single point using the tie-breaker rules); I came in fourth at 33, and Tim came in last at 31.

Puerto Rico appears to be something of a litmus test across players; it ranks #1 on BGG, and has the potential to polarize players on the issue of slavery. Ultimately, I'm a little lukewarm on it, largely because of its hype. I know I will play it again; there's a lot going on. I really don't think I'd jump out and suggest playing this game. A good thread on BGG talks about how PR is almost a perfect information game, like chess, Diplomacy, or checkers, with virtually no luck and the largest unknown factor being the moves of other players. Like chess, there are right moves and wrong moves in Puerto Rico. I think this one is deeper than chess, but perhaps not as broad.

Definitely need to do some percolating on this one.

I next pulled out Jungle Speed (BGG, BUY ME!), as Lisa had heard about it from Steven, Marc had heard about it from others (mostly me and Story-Games), and a few people had played it last time. It's still awesome, and still available to buy. Buy it using that link so I can get a kick back and buy more games. Go on, you know you want to. Once we'd played a few rounds, folks were ready to play something different while the night was still young.

We had about eight people, and someone suggested Mao (BGG, WP), for which there was general consensus and two ordinary playing card decks were purchased. The first rule of Mao is that you do not talk about the rules of Mao. Note that the Wikipedia article there will spoil you if you choose. I'll maintain professional courtesy here in print and reiterate that Mao is a game where you are expressly forbidden to talk about, mention, or ask about the rules. The enjoyment of the game is primarily derived from deducing the game rules, observing those trying to do the same, or moderating the rules for new players. Mao is a meta-game, not a game.

More fascinating is the emerging evidence of the game's semi-oral tradition between the two players who had played Mao before, but never with each other. I got pretty frustrated and left mid-game. I'm not entirely proud of that. A contributing factor is the fact that Norman had gotten fed up, insane, or dead in their game of Arkham Horror and lured me away.

Pre-Katrina, my man Simon had recently picked up a copy of Klaus Teuber's Domaine (BGG, BUY ME!). I hadn't played in more than a year, and it turns out that Norman has a copy, which I'd been itching to play for a few weeks. The stars aligned correctly and a game commences between myself, Norman, Dan, and Kelly. I was looking forward to playing the game actually by the rules, as we had missed a few important ones in my first play.

I like this one. It's fundamentally an area control game, with players spending their money to use actions allowed by their cards. Actions include placing borders, expanding domaines, placing and converting knights, and causing treaties. Some of the appeal for me is the fun of building, but I know that I can get too caught up in that kind of amusement and not focus on winning.

Kelly didn't care for the game too much, coming in last, and Norman and Dan were neck-and-neck up until the end. I had a strong showing until the beginning of the endgame, when a clever move by Norman robbed me of some victory points. Play and teaching the game took a little over an hour.

Finally, to close the evening in the last few minutes, Norman had never played Fluxx (BGG, BUY ME!), and Steven and Lisa had just purchased a copy up at Gen Con. The seal was broken, and Marc hopped in, though Steven was planning on purchasing a game, so he stayed out.

What can I say about this? It's Fluxx. Draw one, play one and every card changes the rules: what you do, how to win, what you can do. You should play it once and see if you like it, but I'm tepid on it. It's good if you set a time limit: I've seen games that finish in less than a round and I've seen games that last an hour plus of tedium. I remember liking Fluxx back when I first played it, and I know that one can derive enjoyment from it. However, due to the inherent randomness of the game, you can eventually find yourself playing a game where the rules are not fun: Draw Five, First Play Random, Hand Limit 0, Goal: Ten Keepers. That's an extreme example, but it's possible. My ultimate assessment is that you can enjoy Fluxx until you've played one of those games, and suddenly don't want to play it ever again.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Modern Electronic Convenience

If not for DVD, I might have to schedule my social life around arbitrary media conglomerates. The pause and the Netflix empower me!

Remember the bad old days, before the VCR? People gathered around their radios or their communal fires to share in the daily tale-telling.

Occasionally, I meet a young person who grew up with widely available Internet access and can't imagine life without. I can't wait for a weekly show or a monthly comic; I only watch seasons of TV on DVD or purchase trade paperbacks of comics.

Not much else to do here beyond my further lauding of technology.

Jungle Speed and other games

If you want to buy Jungle Speed, click here.

Yeah, I played more than just Jungle Speed tonight- but it proved pretty popular. I'll do a complete write-up of tonight's games later on, including my first play of Puerto Rico (BGG, BUY ME!).

Friday, September 08, 2006

Human corpses

Did I mention the cadavers?

Yes, you heard me right. We had heard that a traveling exhibit known as Bodies the Exhibition would be in an Atlanta museum at the same time we were. Cat, her parents, and I all arranged to see the exhibit.

Our purchased tickets for the 1PM time slot coincided with a Sunday panel or two at Dragon*Con that I wanted to see- a "How not to get published" horror story panel and a "Bad Movies and Why We Love Them" panel. Both quickly got shunted for the prospect of seeing actual medical cadavers in an almost once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. On the other hand, Cat's dad wanted to see the 2006 Miss Klingon Empire Beauty Pageant at 4PM, and I wanted to see a panel on the RPG business also at 4, so we had to be done by then.

Happily, the Civic Center was only a short walk from our hotel. Who needs a rental car in a major urban center anyway?

Upon arriving, we discovered that roughly half of Atlanta decided that it would be a good idea to come and see this exhibit. I was amazed at how different the throng as compared to at con. I saw a wide range of ages, races, etc., but they definitely were mundanes.

Once in the exhibit, I was a little stunned by the change in environment. Inside, the lighting was tightly controlled, people talked in hushed voices (if at all), and each room focused on a different aspect of the human body. Examples were actual human tissue; the water is chemically removed and replaced with a polymer of some kind- this effectively preserves the specimen indefinitely.

They showcased the brain, the skeleton, muscles, reproduction and birth, the organs of digestion, everything. Most memorable to me included a full-body specimen consisting solely of the blood vessels: arteries and veins in red and blue, hit with a tight spot in the darkness. It all but glowed. Also notable was a full body reduced to approximately seventy or eighty translucent slices in plastic, spread out to twenty or thirty feet- much like the Visible Human project, itself an amazing undertaking. I can't go on and describe every detail, apart from trying to express how strange it felt to stare into a stranger's guts, to see one dead man contemplate his own brain, to sense the pride of a woman with her womb visible. A complete digestive tract hung on the wall, from top to bottom. Silvery nerves flayed back from the skin; healthy and diseased organs side-by-side.

Specimens I've seen before; the Tulane School of Medicine had an embryology museum as well as human parts preserved on display. I would have loved to take pictures, but touching and photography were expressly forbidden. More than a legal requirement, I suspect, but rather a means to force respect. This science approached art.

Leaving the exhibit, I kept thinking how we are just made out of meat (story, video). I feel humbled and mortal and amazed that superstition once prevented human dissection and study. What does the future hold?

Grudging respect

Very occasionally, Microsoft does something that's not evil.

I now learn that their gas prices site pulls data from OPIS, the Oil Price Information Service. Hence, the data is very fresh- updated at least daily from actual sources, as opposed to some of the word-of-mouth gas price sites.

As of this writing, the cheapest gas in the US is in Caddo, Oklahoma at $2.00 per gallon. No, that's not a typo. Two bucks per gallon. Contrariwise, the most expensive gas in the US is Kaunakakai, Hawaii at $3.92. No, that's not a typo either: Three dollars and ninety-two cents.

As a geek, it's hard for me to not respect hard data.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

New Rube Goldberg device

I saw this on a Scandanavian page showcasing a Japanese video. It runs about six minutes and uses the Back to the Future music, in case you can't name that tune.

Yet another anniversary

A year ago today, I arrived in Austin. By the 9th, we had found an apartment and were not living out of hotels and suitcases.

I'm not really loving the whole Austin experience. I don't drive a truck, like live music, or drink alcohol. The weather doesn't suit my temperament and I remain not acclimated to the geography. My office lunch buddy today told me that I'm the first person he's met who doesn't love Austin and want to stay here forever.

My official position remains "Austin is okay."

But how much of that is the cross product of "I didn't come here willingly" and "Cat hates it here?"

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


I hate to fly, I hate to fly, I hate to fly.

More accurately, I feel imposed-upon and dehumanized and presumed guilty. Also inconvenienced. I hate the new regime's idea of "security."

Bruce Schneier, who is much smarter about security than virtually anyone I have even heard of, argues that terrorists are getting what they want, since Asian men in leather jackets who look at their watches can now delay planes for three hours because of scared white people.

Are you scared? I'm not, and neither should you. Be aggravated and get angry! Keep your civil rights and your pens (I swear I am not making this up)!

After banning liquids, what's next? Banning food?

It's the belt and shoes for me. We are still (mostly) free citizens, not prisoners. I saw a joke somewhere: "Nudist Airlines. Take it off, or we're not taking off."

300-ish posts

I suspect that Blogger is counting my drafts, hence the "ish."

Tomorrow makes one year in Austin.

I have nineteen days to write sixty-five posts to make a ratio of one post per day.

Soon I go to Indian buffet with my brother.

I pretty much feel like this right now.

Post-Katrina quickies

At long long last, the Camellia Grill is due to reopen! Camellia is a 60-plus-year-old nearly 24-hour diner back in New Orleans; it's been closed since the storm. Famous for the straw-serving, chocolate Freezes ("Make it loose"), french-fry omelets, with both burgers and breakfast grilled next to each other, the storefront has since spawned dozens, if not hundreds of notes begging for it to reopen. The T-P nods to the rumor that Emeril Lagasse may be a silent partner. BAM!

My man Clinton and his wife, Crystal, got a Post-K newspaper write-up in their now-local newspaper in South Carolina. Crystal was en route back to New Orleans from Saigon when the storm hit. Clinton, I know, left with even less than we did, taking computer and a few game books and clothes. He might've had one bag and evacuated with four other people to Houston.

Crystal's blog pointed me to two paramedics' experiences of working in New Orleans during the hurricane. Just reading this brings it all to the forefront again, and I realize just how lucky we were and still are.

I re-read this prior to posting, and now I can't write any more just yet.

The Mundane Perspective

First day at work back from con, had lunch with two coworkers at Flores Mexican Restaurant. I had a crispy beef taco, a cheese enchilada, and rice and beans.

They asked me about my convention weekend and seemed faintly surprised that I had fun, enjoyed it, and wanted to go. I talked about the usual explanations of a con to mundanes: it's movies and comics and film and Star Wars and gaming and Japanese Animation and Star Trek and sci-fi and comics and miniatures and fantasy and Lord of the Rings and such like. I find that the large pop culture references help, but most people next ask if I dress up. (No, I don't.)

My two lunch buddies looked faintly surprised at my enthusiasm, and when pressed, revealed a fact that made me a little sad inside. They explained that they had never before gone to a convention for pleasure, only business. I found it hard to believe that people could be so... passionless about something in their lives to not share it with others, or to fail to pursue the interest in much regard.

I didn't have much of a response. How low has the modern American worker sunk?

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Back to life, Back to reality

Yeah, yeah.

I slept for about thirteen hours last night, more sleep than I'd gotten for all of convention weekend, I believe.

I have a little bit of work to catch up on, but a fair amount of writing, email, and reading that I really need to get done. Expect some blog entries on the whole Dragon*Con experience soon: gaming, race/demographics, Katrina, security. Not as many pictures as you might expect, though.

Did I mention that I sold two copies of my game?

Sunday, September 03, 2006


I'm in Atlanta, attending Dragon*Con, and running on about twelve hours of sleep since Friday. Life is good.

To entertain yourself, you can look at last year's official photographs, or see pictures that fans have taken.

I haven't been in much of a photographic mood this con.