Sunday, December 31, 2006

In the shadow of the year

Pleasant news! I do not work on Monday. Happy New Year to all!

Saturday, December 30, 2006


Saddam Hussein, Gerald Ford, even JAMES BROWN is dead. Soon the year will die, too.

Friday, December 29, 2006


This marks the first time I'm on broadband since I left Austin for California. I'm in a coffeeshop in oldtown Salinas, drinking an average hot chai and killing the ton of spam I've managed to collect.

I could rant about airports and the loss of privacy in the wake of false security, but the bile isn't fresh.

I could take about the first day of actual sunshine we've had on our trip since New Orleans. Rain in Houston, rain while flying, rain while driving, fog while flying. We wound up circling San Jose for an hour and forty-five minutes waiting for the weather to clear. For a while, we didn't know if the pilot would land us in San Fran, San Jose (where Cat's parents waited to pick us up) or Oakland (of fame).

I have a camera full of pictures, precious few of which are of Carl and Jackie's wedding- sadly, we left the camera in the car.

I would like to mention that I've played twenty-plus sessions of Wits and Wagers (BGG, BUY ME!) since Monday. Beyond passing the "Let's Play Again!" test, it has also passed the "Can we play without you?" and "Are we playing tonight?" tests. I'm a little floored- I suspected the mix of trivia and gambling would go over well, but How could I suspect I'd play so many games? I'm starting to need more question cards.

I have a new didgeridoo! A present to myself with courier servies courtesy of Cat's cousin, holidaying in Australia. Pix soon.

We will soon return to your irregularly scheduled game blogging, complete with a list of presents.

I've got some productivity and lifehackery things in store for the New Year, too.

I am not an Internet addict.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

In California, behind dialup. Via cell @ enroute to the Pacific. Pix Soon.

Friday, December 22, 2006



  • Drive from Austin to Houston
  • Fly from Houston to New Orleans
  • See friends and family, attend wedding
  • Fly from New Orleans to Houston
  • Drive from Houston to Austin
  • Less than twelve hours later, fly from Austin to San Jose, California (as opposed to San Jose, Costa Rica {that's another story})
  • Drive around to various towns in California
  • Fly from San Jose to Austin before the New Year

We made it in last night on a very late flight, originally scheduled to leave Houston at nearly eleven PM, arriving at two minutes after midnight in good ol' MSY. Due to inclement weather, our flight was delayed about an hour. I don't think I've ever flown on a more turbulent flight; the captain nixed drink services so the flight attendants and soda pop wouldn't fall about the cabin. This made me pretty cranky, especially since the fascist TSA busted Cat for an unopened bottle of water, destroying the backup beverage service that lives in her backpack. To make up for it, my ears didn't bother me at all for possibly the first flight ever- normally I go through a pack of gum per flight.

My good friend Judson got out of his Jury Duty (two months of nonsense, then an 11th hour settlement) and actually could make it in for the wedding. As luck would have it, our flights were scheduled to arrive within minutes of each other, so we arranged to give him a ride. I haven't seen him since before the storm, and this is his first time back to see the city. We drove around to the Quarter and had cafe au lait/hot chocolate/chocolate milk and beignets until 3AM. I also managed to not wear black and cover myself with powered sugar, another first.

Good times.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Honeypot now available!

Please allow me to direct your attention to Marc Majcher's Honeypot, a nifty new two-player abstract strategy game from Gizmet Gameworks.

I had a hand in the playtesting and rules editing, plus I suggested the title. You can see some of the ready-for-assembly game bits over on Marc's Flickr channel.

Shop New Orleans

I wish I would have found out about this earlier in the holiday season, but my mom just sent me a site that collects a bunch of New Orleans local businesses with an online presence. The basic idea is to help rebuild the city by helping revive the economy with an infusion of out-of-state cash that not donated or loaned, but actually going straight to the heart of the mom-and-pop places that make up the soul of the city.

A few suggestions from the list:

  • The Times-Picayune's store has a wealth of visual and newsworthy delights: Snow (really!) in 2004, the pope's visit, Katrina, Katrina, Katrina.
  • Scriptura, a great shop for readers and writers- paper, ink, and more. Classy but not pretentious.
  • The Michalopoulos gallery, a local artist with a distinct style of painting architecture- one day I'll own one of his actual paintings.
  • Perlis, the men's clothing line with crawfish-embroidered polos.
  • Emeril, Paul Prudhomme, and Cafe du Monde all have an online presence.

If you can't visit New Orleans, try the next best thing.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Double-0 R2

I'm finding it hard to give this Star Wars interpretation a good intro.

In a nutshell, Episodes I, II, and III force us (if you'll pardon the pun) to reexamine our assumptions of the canon as presented in Episodes IV, V, VI. Was R2D2 the Rebellion's top agent? Was Chewbacca manipulating Han Solo? Just how kindly is ol' Ben Kenobi?

You'll have to read it for yourself- it's pretty compelling.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Apple versus Microsoft

Not quite a heavyweight battle for supremacy, more like a compare-and-contrast essay. Slashdot brought us the latest article in a series comparing the new Microsoft Vista and the newest incarnation of Apple's OS X, Leopard. I spent at least an hour reading the author's various articles- There's a lot of pro-Apple information to the point of evangelism, so be advised if you don't want to read some drum-beating.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Happy Hanukkah

If it's Friday and after sundown where you are, then Happy Hanukkah!

Pardon our dust

I'm on the new Blogger Beta, with bells and whistles and pizzazz. Right now, it looks like everything made it okay- I don't see any huge 402:Kidnapped By Elves errors, the posts are in place, the layout looks right, and the ads are working. I'll play with the features some time this weekend. Maybe even tag old articles for ease of reading.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Technology update

Yesterday I bought a modem for my MacBook at the Apple Store over in the mall. Wha-huh? A modem? Why? Well, we're traveling to California for the holidays and none of Cat's family has high-speed internet. I'll have to rough it for a few days and go back to dial-up. My awesome boss back at Tulane once told me that he used going back to dial-up as his standard threat to his wife and daughters. Last year, none of their neighbors were giving away wireless, but I'm hoping that this has changed. We'll see. After all, when McDonald's, Chick-Fil-A, and even the smegging Dairy Queen has free wireless, perhaps someone else in the city will jump on the bandwagon.

The gold and silver beamsplitters for Khet (née Deflexion, BGG, BUY ME!) are now available! Major kudos to the guys at Innovention Toys for supporting the early adopters of their game. Shop Louisiana! I had an opportunity to teach this to someone recently- even though I trounced him twice, I still had fun with the lasers and the mirrors.

In other news, my car is back from the shop after I skid on a puddle, hit a curb, and managed to really hose my suspension.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Tis the season for eggnog

Soon I shall continue with my annual tradition of buying some seasonal eggnog to save for a time when I can enjoy it and forget about in the fridge for a few months.

I love eggnog, but it wasn't until I was in my late twenties that I realized that most people A) make homemade eggnog and B) add liquor to it. Yet another perfectly decent consumable that doesn't need alcoholic improvement.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Firefox is awesome still

I recently downloaded the new Firefox 2.0, and so far it rocks. It's got built-in spellcheck in form fields, has built-in crash recovery, and they fixed an annoying Mac-only bug with Gmail. And it is a little faster, too.

If you install it on a Windows box, I get a dollar. Go click the big Firefox button on the right.

100 new games?

Stephanie, one of the cool people I met at BGGcon, makes mention of her gaming buddy Dave's goal to play 100 new games each year. I don't know Dave, but I like the idea.

She managed to play her one hundredth new game by October 1st, the 274th day of the year. For those of you following along at home that means playing a brand-new-to-you game about once every three days. Normally, I'd throw down the info about myself, but I've only been keeping track of played games for the last few months, so I'm working with incomplete data. I suppose I've played that many new games this year. I've certainly purchased at least that many post-Katrina. I've certainly played more than a hundred titles in this last year, too.

Playing one hundred new games might seem like a lot, but thinking about it- How much media does the average person intake over the course of a year? How much television soaks up time, or how many books get devoured? How many hours down the drain in front of teh internets, looking for teh funny?

Have you seen one hundred new television episodes? Learned one hundred new words in any language? Read one hundred books? Written one hundred new stories, or even one? Driven on one hundred streets?

Traditionally, folks make New Year's Resolutions in January. Why not spend some time in December examining the past year ahead of time?

Tuesday, December 05, 2006


Once again, Yehuda has it right, in talking about his Menorah Game: "I can't really be called a game designer unless I am regularly sitting down to the business. I may as well be living in LA and call myself an actor."

I've got a dozen or so game projects on and off the stove in various stages of completion. Am I a game designer?

I've got one roleplaying game self-published and sort of selling. Am I a game designer?

I'm considering starting an imprint with a friend to put out games. Am I a game publisher?

I usually don't think of myself as a game designer. Right now, I think that would be a fine thing to do for a living.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Free press for the oppressed

Ellen "Queen of Sky" Simonetti, the flight attendant fired for blogging, is having a book signing event here in Austin.

    When: 6-9PM December 6, 2006 (reading starts at 7)
    Where: Mozart's (Google Map)
    How much: $24 for the book, coffee unknown, wireless free

I'll be there to show the colors. Maybe I'll get an EFF membership while I'm at it.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Hokey Smokes!

I woke up today to 321 pieces of spam in my Gmail.

MS Vista was released a few days ago.

Coincidence? I think not.

Friday, December 01, 2006

A more Modern Modern Art

Mike Doyle, a New Jersey design and game guy, has some extremely nice pictures and commentary on the new Portuguese edition of Knizia's Modern Art (BGG, BUY ME!). I'm almost glad I don't already own it so I can get this version. The aesthetics are almost tangible.

Oh Hell Indeed

Over the last month, I've played quite a few games. Be advised that this number of plays (129) is higher than average for me, due to BGG.con and a week of Thanksgiving vacation. What game have I played more than any other this month?

Oh Hell.

More than Category 5 (BGG, BUY ME!), more than Zendo (BGG, BUY RULE CARDS), and more than twice as often as my beloved Jungle Speed (BGG, BUY ME!). Oh Hell (BGG) is an addictive trick-taking card game you can play with a regular deck of playing cards. None of this fancy "new style" of game, mind you. Due to the age and popularity of the game, there are dozens of variations on how to play.

Here's the rules as played in the office:

Play consists of ten rounds. Each round, flip a card- this indicates the trump suit as well as the number of cards to be dealt out. Face cards are worth ten and Jokers are ten, no trump. For six players, face cards, tens, and nines count as eight cards maximum. Depending on mood, a Joker may get shuffled back in and a second card flipped to determine hand size and trump suit.

Everyone looks at their cards and holds their hands under the table. Put a number of cards indicating your bid into one hand, and with a count of "Ready, Steady, GO!" everyone puts their hands on the table and indicates their bid. Zero bids are allowed. The unlucky sod chosen as scorer records all bids. (This version of simultaneous blind bidding is taken from the English method called "knocking," where players use their hands alone. One hand makes it difficult to bid more than five, though.) If it happens that players have bid the exact number of tricks available, we let it ride.

The player left of the dealer leads. Trumps do not have to be "broken," so any card may be led at any time. Other players must follow suit, and may slough an off suit or play a trump if they have none of the led suit.

Make sure to play with the Jokers. As I was taught Oh Hell, the Jokers are used like the jesters from Tichu (BGG, BUY ME!)- that is to say, Jokers are Ultimate Fail and a guaranteed lose. A player who plays a Joker may do so without restriction- in other words, you can play a Joker to avoid having to play another card you might normally have to play when following suit. If a player leads a Joker, there is no led suit and control passes to the next player to determine suit. The same is true if the second player plays the other Joker.

Aces are high. High card of the led suit wins the trick. Cards of the trump suit beat all cards of the led suit. A Joker can't win the trick. The player who won the trick leads the next trick.

Once all tricks have been won, it's time to score. Right now, I have two scoring variants- the one I was taught originally, and the ruleset we play with in the office, affectionately known as "English Consolation Points." In both, if you make your non-zero bid, you get ten points plus your bid. So a successful bid of four is worth 14 points. A successful zero bid is either worth a flat ten points (English-style) or five points plus the number of cards in the round. If you miss your bid, you either score nothing or one point for each trick taken (English-style consolation prizes). I prefer the non-British scoring methods, but YMMV. Note that there are no partners, so your score is your own.

The shuffle and deal passes to the next player on the left.

Other common variants: Jokers are high. Bid openly, but the last player must not bid to make the tricks come out evenly. Trumps must be broken before they can be led. Play a round with 8 cards, then 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and finally 8. Trump suit rotates in an orderly known fashion: Spades, Hearts, Diamonds, Clubs.

And finally, no matter what shouted epithet you wish to hurl with vitriolic fury at the player who has smugly played an Ace over your King in a one-card hand, your line is always "Oh, Hell!"