Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Last post (of the year)

2008 was a rough year for famous people. We lost:

Majel Barrett
Algis Budrys
George Carlin
Sir Arthur C. Clarke
Michael Crichton
Alan Dargin
Deep Throat
Bo Diddley
Bobby Fischer
George Francis
Estelle Getty
Gary Gygax
Isaac Hayes
Charlton Heston
Sir Edmund Hillary
Albert Hoffman
Eartha Kitt
Don LaFontaine
Heath Ledger
Bernie Mac
Dick Martin
Paul Newman
Bettie Page
Randy Pausch
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

..and others known, unknown, and forgotten. I'm not going to link to a handy explanation of anyone; I'll let you spend the time to type their names into your search engine of choice.

I know that a friend's father-in-law just died; I found out that another friend is pregnant.

When I do count the clock that tells the time,
And see the brave day sunk in hideous night;
When I behold the violet past prime,
And sable curls all silver'd o'er with white;
When lofty trees I see barren of leaves
Which erst from heat did canopy the herd,
And summer's green all girded up in sheaves
Borne on the bier with white and bristly beard,
Then of thy beauty do I question make,
That thou among the wastes of time must go,
Since sweets and beauties do themselves forsake
And die as fast as they see others grow;
And nothing 'gainst Time's scythe can make defence
Save breed, to brave him when he takes thee hence.
—Shakespeare, Sonnet 12

Less than six hours to go to the end of 2008. Happy New Year, and many more.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Books, I still miss

My in-laws have a fine library of books in their house. They divide their subjects up to different rooms: the front room ("den") is for nonfiction; their bedroom is mystery; the sitting room is other fiction; the guest room is sci-fi.

Thee itch to read is getting stronger. I want to re-read so many titles, I look forward to having a dedicated separate reading space in the house with good light and no television.

Right now, I'm in the middle of reading three books:

West of Eden, an alternate-history book supposing that dinosaurs did not suffer extinction and humans still evolved. I'm like one and a half-page past the prologue, so no opinions yet. It's part of a trilogy, I'm told.

The Omnivore's Dilemma, a non-food-porn book to answer the question "What shall we have for dinner?" Interestingly, it does not make me hungry; this is not an appetizing book. I do want to eat differently, though. I never want to eat fast food again, and I'm only about a third of the way through. Enjoying it so far.

Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue, a history of English grammar. I'm such a dork to laugh at jokes about syntax. Not only English is Tough Stuff, but "English doesn't borrow from other languages. It follows them down dark alleys, knocks them unconscious, then rummages through their pockets looking for loose grammar."

I want to re-read the Neanderthal Parallax, the Island in the Sea of Time books, Dune, some Greg Bear stories, my copy of Anathem that's taunting me, Cryptonomicon, not to mention all my RPG books and the other forgottens waiting for me to rediscover.

Communications convergence

Non-ironically, I want to opine about the various forms of communication I have at my fingertips, despite the fact that I've barely managed one blog post a week this month.

First, an examination of last month's NaBloPoMo experiment-slash-activity. Out of thirty days hath November, I wrote twenty-five posts. Not surprisingly, five of those days I went to BGG.Con and twittered my words. After con, I did up a Geeklist of the things I taught and played. I had thought that blogging once-a-day in November would have gotten me into the blogging habit; I think that BGG.Con and Twittering disrupted that nascent habit. Even though I cheated a little with some timestamps and missed a few days, I consider my November a blogging success.

Why the slowdown? Some of it is Twitter and my Google Phone. Right now, I get email, SMS messages, Google IM, Twitter, voice mail and phone calls on my telephone. I feel like I am communicating enough. Couple the tethering to my phone (sorry dear) with my sharing nifty RSS stuff, I know that I'm scratching my communications itch.

I still feel that blogging is/should be/is to me/feels like op-ed pieces; I want what I write to be interesting to everyone that I know reads it, plus the strangers who I don't know. Success is a variable here. Tweeting is the opposite of blogging.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

By the way: SNOW

I have failed my loyal readership by not mentioning the snow in New Orleans.

I woke up on Thursday, December 11, 2008 to freezing cold rain and the beginnings of hail. By the time I made it to the coffee shop for my morning au lait and a bagel, actual snow. By the time I had to leave for work, actual snow that I could no longer deny. Snow in the city, which only happens once or twice a decade. If memory serves, the last time we got snow was 2005 (we were in Austin) and before that, I last remember snow circa 1982... somewhere, I have a photograph of a very small snowman, perhaps a foot tall to be generous, in the yard of my childhood home. I have a dim memory of having to gather snow from the entire yard in order to have enough.

Here are a few pictures.

Only in New Orleans can you have summer, fall, winter and spring all in the same week.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Netscape, dead for almost a year

Well, the announcement by AOL has a dateline of December 2007, but evidently they stopped writing code for it as of February 2008.

Do I care? Should you? Probably not, since most of you fine folks are using Firefox (or if you're not, Safari or Chrome), except for those of you non-web designers who still for some reason use IE. Netscape survives as a branded portal, and also as a completely non-ironic Firefox extension. There's history, too- I don't think one could overstate the impact Netscape has had on the world of digital communications, the web (insert obligatory blink tag joke), the way millions of people do things on the tubes.

I'm grasping here to say something more of note about Netscape, and perhaps that's the notable thing; Given the current landscape of the web, Netscape itself doesn't matter. True, it forced Microsoft to look at the internet and arguably make IE suck less over time; true, without Netscape we would have no Firefox et al; true, Netscape used to be a household word for "going to look at the Internet." Netscape is a stepping stone, and we've moved on. What will next fall by the wayside?

All that aside, I do miss the ease of modding the Netscape throbber.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

A brief history of BoardGameGeek Con

I posted a Geeklist of everything I played and taught at BGG.Con 2008. Feel free to take a gander.

I played 39 times, 17 of which were new-to-me games. I taught games ten times. I bought, traded, or otherwise acquired [REDACTED] new games.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

'Tis the season to be shopping

Tomorrow is Black Friday, one of the busiest shopping days of the American retail year.

I don't want to go shopping tomorrow, if at all possible. I know that several groups out there on the tubes advocate less consumerism: Buy Nothing Day comes to mind.

Right now, I support not buying useless crap. I can't promise that I will not spend a dime tomorrow, but I do not plan on camping out at Best Buy the previous day (no lie, this is happening), but I may still need to go to the grocery or hardware store to get things done.

But: 'Tis also the season to get presents! How do I reconcile these two opposite desires? With compromise, of course. For my circle of friends, I want to do a Secret Santa/Kris Kringle/buy one present event. This gets people giving, which is allegedly the point of the season; prevents un- or intentional snubbery by not including someone in gifting; and is an excuse for a party.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Famous on the airwaves

Oh, by the way, I was interviewed by the local fox affiliate while at BGG.Con. You can see the segment online. Does anyone know a good way to rip the video from the flash stream?

I only have a few lines, but they interviewed me for at least five or ten minutes. Remember, the secret to TV interviews is short sound bites and to ruin the shot if you flub a line.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Peggy's book meme

Thanks, Peggy. I needed something to blog about today.

Their succession is punctuated and made a rhythm of intakings and outgivings. — John Dewey, Art as Experience
This book came from the NOCCA library collection, copyright 1934, published 1958, donated by the Ida Kohlmeyer family in 1999. My friend Terry referred it to me after our discussion of "What is art?" (I need to read chapter three, for the record)

This book on my desk in the office has aged faded brown caramel pages; each turned page smells of age, must, and old paper.

The meme's rules are as follows:
  • Grab the book nearest you. Right now.
  • Turn to page 56. Find the fifth sentence.
  • Post that sentence along with these instructions.
  • Don't dig for your favorite book, the coolest, the most intellectual. Use the closest.

I owe a few of those on my blogroll a few of these.


Sadly, it appears that I did lose my glasses during my vacation. Instead of paying $400 that I can't afford for a new pair in a brick-and-mortar store, I'm going to buy a pair online. My brother told me about the GlassyEyes blog some time ago, and now I need to make use of this information, stat.

I have bad vision. Not just "Oh, I can't read that small print" bad or "I can't drive at night" bad, but "Poor Mischa, pity about him being eaten by a saber-tooth tiger" bad. Seriously, I can not see the E on the large eye chart- and I mean I can't see it.

Quick-and-dirty Photoshop rendering, me on the right:

I do not believe I exaggerate.

Monday, November 24, 2008

BGG.Con 2008 Library

Several people asked me where I went out of town this last weekend, or why I went to Dallas. When I responded, "To a board game convention," most people express surprise and disbelief. I can't imagine why, honestly.

For posterity, here's a few glimpses at the library.

Party games, not under lock and key:

And now the library! 2000+ games!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Post-BGG Con

I'm back home. Got lots of pictures, lots of games. More details later.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Caving in to Twitter


On the other hand, I'll have a lower barrier to entry than the old way. I never finished expanding this from last year, so here's what I've got.

Games played at BGG.Con 2007:

  • 1001 Karawane
  • Army of Frogs
  • Axiom
  • Ca$h 'n Gun$ : Live
  • Chateau Roquefort
  • Cheeky Monkey
  • Circle, The
  • Crokinole
  • Die Kutschfahrt zur Teufelsburg
  • Fairy Tale
  • Felix: The Cat in the Sack
  • Fire
  • Garden Competition
  • Geistertreppe
  • Gheos
  • Glik
  • Jungle Speed
  • Kakerlakensalat
  • Kapitän Wackelpudding
  • Laborigines
  • Los Mampfos
  • Lumberjack
  • Master Thieves
  • Metromania
  • Passe-trappe
  • Piratenbillard
  • Piratenhändler
  • Quelf
  • RattleSnake
  • Rukshuk
  • Ruse & Bruise
  • Santorini
  • Saturn
  • Säulen von Venedig, Die
  • Shocking Roulette
  • Spinball
  • Time's Up!
  • Tumblin-Dice
  • Uptown
  • Vitrail
  • Viva Pamplona
  • Was Sticht?
  • WeyKick
  • Wicked Witches Way

Games acquired at BGG.Con 2007:

  • Adam & Eva *
  • All-Zeit *
  • Atlas & Zeus *
  • Buy Word *
  • Chains of Fenrir *
  • Conquest *
  • Corsari *
  • Covert Action
  • Employee of the Month *
  • Feurio *
  • Filthy Rich *
  • Flickwerk *
  • Fraud Squad *
  • Halli Galli
  • House of Whack *
  • Konig Laurin *
  • Kreta *
  • La Strada
  • Laboriginies *
  • Martinis & Men
  • Neuroshima Hex
  • Paris Paris *
  • Pick & Pack
  • Santiago
  • Scream Machine *
  • Siena *
  • Taktika

* means unplayed

Done is better than perfect, but it's a royal pain to fix and create links for these.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Holy crapper

The toilet in the house is older than we are. Time for change.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Minor Facebook Rant

Yes, Facebook. I know that more than one person I know knows a new person who knows me. So when Alice joins because Bob said so, please don't send me three different messages from Eve, Carol, and Dave.

Sure, there's a lot of different behavior you could expect here. Maybe the first message got lost, eaten by a spam filter, accidentally deleted, ignored, or overlooked. Maybe you know Bob only slightly, but once Eve vouches for them, you accept her cred instead of his and decide that you want to get to know Alice a little better.

I think I would rather Facebook wait perhaps all of two seconds before instantly sending messages of this nature, perhaps bundling all of the vouch/suggestion messages into one: "Alice just joined Web.20 [sic] Social Networking site. Bob, Eve, and Carol all say she's pretty cool. Do you want to know more?"

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Habitat Store

The Habitat for Humanity has a discount building material store, roughly the size of a small warehouse. It's across the street from the Homer Plessy site and around the corner from NOCCA, straight through the praline factory. The building itself contains a vast amount of donated material; doors, windows, furniture, books, miscellaneous hardware, sinks, tubs, scrap marble and granite, lighting fixtures, even a free-standing swimming pool. There's a certain smell familiar to those who frequent small hardware stores, a musty sense of use and need.

We specificially wanted a door for the bathroom to replace the crummy hollow semi-balsa ill-fitting existing door. Measuring is the easy part, but the paradox of choice is a factor- how do you match a contemporarily-built door (for the smallest room, no less) to a pair of fifty-year old doors in the same hallway?

Answer: buy an old door.

The Habitat store had several hundred for us to choose from. We found exactly the correct size and style door to use- it just needs paint and a knob. I also only paid forty-five bucks, less than half of the cost of a new solid wood door.

Score one for the home team, har de har har.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Full Weekend

Tons of plans this weekend, some of them house related and some of them fun related.


  • Sometime, the other floor guy shows
  • Possibly game day at Chez Radish
  • Priming and painting
  • Possibly furniture shop
  • Plan, plan, plan
I am forgetting things. Need caffeine. Need to decide on interior colors.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

I Watch the Watchmen

The powers that be have released a new trailer for Watchmen. Yahoo is kind enough to allow me to embed it for your viewing pleasure.

In the future, when that link breaks, try looking at the official site or on Apple's site.

This is a dark graphic novel; unquestionably one of the best of the medium. I dearly hope the movie does the source material justice.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008



Tom Jolly posted some great news for the future of Wiz-War, a game I dearly love. Briefly, he's had some sort of contract with Chessex (the dice manufacturer) for them to produce the game. As I understand it, they've held this contract for more than eight years- and still have not produced the eighth edition. He's finally in a position to cancel this contract, so the Wiz-War property is going to be snatched up by a currently-nameless company which is probably Fantasy Flight Games.

This means that the game will be back in print after a decade, the property will be in the hands of a game company that has a long-established relationship with the designer, and that it will be dripping with theme.


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Behold my economic prowess

Paid off my credit card today. Done.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Human animals

I spent a few hours this evening tearing out awful clown wallpaper from the back bedroom with my lovely wife.

Who doesn't love matching wallplate hardware?

Please note these matching, handmade (!) curtains.

Several people have told me that "it never ends" once you buy a house. Some have a honey-do list, some have a Ma & Pa Kettle list. Why do people feel compelled to remodel, redesign, rework, redecorate, or replace things in their home? We do not adapt to our environment. Humans are the animal that adapts their environment to themselves.

This is why Cat and I used an engineered enzyme in the form of a blue goo to remove the vestiges of a stranger's taste in wall covering.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

For the future!

With IT and wiring, you really need to document everything that you do for the idiot that will be there in five years. Especially if that idiot could be yourself.

What you need to pull off a medium-big wiring gig
You'll eventually build up a kit full of tools you like. This list is pretty off-the-cuff, and a decent start.

  • Ladders, fiberglass. I enjoy having one four-foot and at least one each of six- and eight-foot. You will move a ladder often, so don't get anything too heavy.
  • Electrician's tape, many many rolls of black, a few extra rolls of "other." White never hurts because you can easily write on it; day-glo whatever never hurts because you can see it in dark crawlspaces.
  • Sharpies.
  • Wire cutters, aka "dikes."
  • Good scissors, aka "snips."
  • Boxes of cable, probably category 5e and probably plenum.
  • Patch panels. Don't get crummy ones; these things will probably outlast you. Think six times before you mount them, since once you punch down, you will never want to move them.
  • Sharpies, fine tip.
  • RJ-45 heads, lots.
  • Crimping tools.
  • Wall plates, various sizes. I currently like the keystone-style blanks so you can pop in different colored jacks or blanks or coax or RJ-11 as needed.
  • A bucket of pull-string. Two colors is fun, but overkill. If you remotely intend to mark different things with different colored string, rethink everything.
  • At least one cheap toner and wand per person.
  • A fancy Fluke meter. If you can, get the fancier one.
  • A whole box of miscellaneous screws.
  • Cordless drills, non-sucky. Also get extra batteries and a charger.
  • Screwdrivers, various.
  • More sharpies, and pens. Write down as much as you can.
  • Fish tape. For some reason, this stuff is expensive. It also sucks.
  • Labelmaker, good. Label extensively.
  • A good knife. Maybe two.
  • Measuring tape. It never hurts.
  • Punchdown tools.
  • Fish sticks. Expect to lose or break at least one, so have extra. Bonus if you don't lose 'em.
  • Flashlights.
  • Batteries. Those Fluke meters, cable testers, radios, you name it will eventually need batteries. Have spare so you don't need to waste an hour on a battery run.
Did I forget anything? Yes. I have no doubt. The moral of this story is be prepared to improvise, and be prepared to make at least one mistake.

Always pull twice as much as you think you need, always, always. The cost of a wiring gig is virtually never the material, but the cost of labor and the calendar time. If they ask for one drop per room, make sure you do two drops. I say overpull unless physical space is a serious concern- for a one-person office, I'd do at least four terminations total. Maybe six. This gives you maximum flexibility in the future: Maybe you put in two people into the office, maybe a printer, maybe you go VOIP with your phone system, maybe you rearrange the furniture.

Wiring shouldn't be an afterthought. Do it when the walls are down.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Audio pleasure

For a few years now, I've taken opportunities to listen to the demos of Bose headphones whenever possible.

Realizing that we do not have a boom box, radio, or speakers of any sort for music while we work on the house, I snapped; I drove to Worst Buy to acquire a stereo dock for Cat's iPod. I looked over the various brands and models and colors, waffled... then said to hell with it, I'll buy the Bose.

I brought it home; to the new house. It's the first major purchase that doesn't count as a fix-up tool. It is shamelessly a luxury item for aural pleasure. It reminds me of the saying: “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”

The new Bose is useful as well as beautiful; a fine start.

Friday, November 07, 2008

My current promise

I've promised that after my current order comes in from Funagain, and after I go to BGG.Con, I will not buy any more games until I unpack the game room onto the shelves I need to build.

Thrift finds and trades do not count.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

I like my Gphone

I've seen a rfew reviews of the iPhone that basically acknowledge its coolness as a platform and a data window, but question its value as a phone. Many people come down on both sides of the fence, but the reviews I've seen generally fuss about dropped calls and the like, saying it's a great device, but an okay phone.

The Google phone (AKA HTC Dream, AKA the Android OS, AKA the Open Handset Alliance) is pretty nifty and generally succeeds as a phone.

Let me talk about the Dialer/contacts list app. It has four tabs at the top: Dialer, Call Log, Contacts, and Favorites. The actual phone dialer itself is straightforward: you press the button, you get the number Like virtually every cell phone, it's not a live dial pad in the sense that you can edit your number before you call in case you fat-finger it.

Call Log has all outgoing/incoming/missed together together, with handy icons in white and blue/green/red to catch the eye. If you're worried about not being able to ferret out your missed called amidst a sea of completed calls, worry not- missed calls are shunted to a "notification" section, so I an easily quickly check all new missed calls since the last time I checked.

Contacts sync with Gmail contacts pretty easily. I've had a few snags where I need to force a sync from my phone or touch a contact in Gmail so it would know to sync, but generally it's pretty good. I also had a huge kerfluffle when I accidentally imported hundreds of useless old contacts into Gmail, so be careful if you go that route. I'm also not happy with iSync's unwillingness to sync to Google unless I bought an iPhone.. but there are ways around everything.

The Favorites tab is particularly well-implemented. Star any contact, and it shows up in Favorites as well as in Gmail as "Starred in Android." It also is pretty smart about keeping frequently-contacted numbers automatically as part of favorites. I'll see how things change in the coming weeks as my dialing habits change.

Nutshell? I got a smart phone.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Done and done

There you go. We bought a house.

Now becomes time to juggle work and play and home improvement and contractors. Honestly, you think it would be easy to call someone up and say "I want you to do work. Here, look; this is money I will give you for your labor."

The Ma and Pa Kettle list has four priorities: "Gotta do to make it livable," "Do ASAP when we move in," "Would be nice," and "Pie in the sky." Tasks range from AC and floors to appliances and locks and bookshelves to stained glass and solar power.

I promise that I will post pictures, particularly as I do the game room.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Election day

I'm getting up early to vote. We don't get time off to do so. I hear that some people have the day off to vote.


Monday, November 03, 2008

Election eve

""I am a committed radical. I am against nearly everything." — Adrian Mole
I just ran through the Political Compass, reminding myself that we do not have a simple one-dimensional political spectrum. Where do you fall?

Fundamentally, I'm more for personal freedom and civil liberties, smaller government, and more technology to improve our life. I had a nice long laundry list of wishes hopes and dreams, many of them irrational and unrealistic, but I then remembered that I'm a state employee and have restrictions.

I don't think anyone other than a nominee from the two parties really has a chance of attaining office. I don't really think that my vote matters, given the electoral college. I'm still going to vote tomorrow.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Failing at NaBloPoMo; starting

I saw that Stephanie has started in on National Blog Posting Month. I'm already a day behind, but I'll keep on the effort. I'll even post a day behind in time to make up for it.

I knew about Nanowrimo, and I knew that between buying a house on Wednesday, fixing it up, trying to move in, going to BGG.Con 2008, running the Math Trade for this year, and attempting to perform some didj playing for the NOCCA faculty, I would never be able to make that fifty thousand word goal. And you know, I'm okay with that this year. Would I like to have a big complete project like that? Absolutely. But I've got too much on my plate that I can and will do this month.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Happy All Saint's Day

Brief Halloween report.

Cat was "A Hahcky Mahm from Minnesohtah, don'tcha know." She stayed in character the whole evening, freaking many people out.

I was fucking metal. (I later realized I went to work with a t-shirt that said "Metal Up your Ass.")

You can't see Cat's lovingly hand-painted vintage Danzig scene on the jacket. Best quote all day: "Mischa, a toasted bagel isn't very metal."

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Android update

My phone tells me this morning that it wants a software update.

One selling point for me wrt the Android platform is the fact that it is an open platform- anybody can develop for it, or improve it, or build upon the work. Open Source, me likey. I know, on a deep an instinctual level, that hardware is much less important than it used to be- atoms are more and more a commodity these days. You buy a $50 off-the-shelf Linksys router, drop in a free third-party custom firmware, and you have the power of a full-on expensive router that would probably cost you at least few hundred bucks.

I don't really expect this first update to change the world or my phone to suddenly bake bread, but I'm pleased with the fact more than the details. This "minor bugfix" of an update evidently patches a security vulnerability in the browser. Big surprise, it's a buffer overflow.

For posterity's sake, before the update, my phone thought the following:

Firmware version: 1.0
Kernel version: 2.6.25-01828-g18ac882 android-build@apa27 #1
Build number: kila-user 1.0 TC4-RC19 109652 ota-rel-keys,release-keys

The update took about four or five minutes to download, install, and reboot.

After the update, my phone thinks the following:

Firmware version: 1.0
Kernel version: 2.6.25-01843-gfea26b0 android-build@apa27 #6
Build number: kila-user 1.0 TC4-RC29 115247 ota-rel-keys,release-keys

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Neener, Neener, Neener

My Google Phone arrived today.

Monday, October 20, 2008

New household data mashup

The Greater New Orleans Community Data Center has fresh data on the number of households receiving mail in the city, and has mashed it up with pre-Katrina data and Google Maps to present a visual of how the city is coming back.

Data point:
147,157 households received mail in September 2008, in New Orleans, compared to 203,457 in June 2005.

That's about 72.3% of the pre-K households. There's an important distinction between households and people, so keep that in mind as you read.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

New-to-me games

Admittedly, I play a fair number of new new games; I also enjoy playing new-to-me games. They are both fun for different reasons, much like other forms of art and design- seeing the classics and experiencing the newest results of cutting-edge development.

Here's some mini-reviews of new and new-to-me games that happened across my table in the last month or so.

Breakthu (BGG, OOP PLAY TAFL) is an old 3M (yes, the tape company) bookshelf game in the Tafl family of games. Hneftafl is the classic big daddy of uneven forces and having the king escape. If you've ever played the classic English game Fox & Geese (Tiger and Goats, Fox and Hounds...), you'll recognize the play. Breakthru is lightly themed with a naval battle, and admittedly the pieces are a nice, satisfying metal in gold and silver. The gold fleet wants its commander to escape to any edge of the board; the silver fleet wants to prevent this from happening and capture the commander. Tafl games are always uneven, with a larger force surrounding a smaller force. As much as I love abstract strategy, I nearly always lose tafl games.

Euchre (BGG, WP) is a traditional trick-taking partnership card game usually played in the Midwest. At one recent game night, we had two Midwesterners teach us. I've only played one game, but it seems to be part Spades, part Pitch, part Sheepshead, and part Briscola. Ultimately, I felt it is a bit lacking when compared to Bridge, Sheepshead, and Njet (thinking of a few partnership games). Perhaps one day I will create a family tree of trick-taking games so we have a better grammar to use. I'd play Euchre again, though.

Formula Dé Mini (BGG, BUY ME!) is the little brother of Formula De and the soon-to-be-released in English Formula D. The fundamental schtick of this racing game is the utilization of differently-sized dice for different gears, and therefore the speed of the car- first gear is a d4 with only 1 and 2, second is a d6 with 2 through 4, then d8, d10, and finally a purple d20 with 11 through 20. Yes, they are nonstandard polyhedral dice with weird numbering. The next schtick is that players' cars have life points; more extreme maneuvers (taking corners too fast, bumping other cars, braking too hard) will cost you life and eventually explode your car. This leaves you out of the race. Evidently the bigger games have more details and easily a few tens of different racetracks to use. I liked it, but I didn't love it.

I actually played Glory to Rome (BGG, BUY ME!) in Murfreesboro during Gustav with Paul and two strangers. It's a medium-light and medium-silly building game set in ancient Rome (big shocker, there.) The game warmed on me during play, but it felt similar to Race for the Galaxy, in the sense that cards can represent people or buildings or resources or points. It oddly also felt a little like Texas Hold 'em in the sense that the game makes use of a central pool of cards, but the cards move around and change ownership quite a bit more than in poker. I'm not adverse to playing it again, and Paul really liked it.

Hanging Gardens (BGG, BUY ME!) hits a sweet spot for me with tile games. There's a hint of city-building like Alhambra or Carcassonne, and a fun hidden collection akin Coloretto. It got a nod in this year's Spiel Des Jahres, and I approve.

Kunst Stücke (BGG, OOP) is a game that I just quite don't know how it sits in my liver. It's an odd duck, this one. Players have oddly-shaped colored pentomino tiles (sort of like Blokus, but somehow seemingly more random) that they play onto the grid play area. During the course of the game, you secretly choose tiles that indicate your scoring conditions: getting exactly x number of red tiles touching, or exactly y number of green tiles touching. You can also spend some of your chips to slide pieces around the field, with some thin theme about artists disagreeing about the most artistic choice of art... We've played this twice now, and it's somehow not clicking. Maybe I'll ask someone to teach it to me at BGG.Con so I can see what I'm missing.

Metropolis (BGG, OOP) is a Sid Sackson building negotiation game that I had high hopes for. I think I need another re-read of the rules and a few more plays before I have my final opinion, but as of right now, I think I'm the Boss is the better (and also in print) choice.

Moods (BGG, OOP) is an acting and performance sort of party game. The basic idea is that the board has slots for ten cards of moods: perky, zany, snobbish, threatening, amazed, flirty, etc. You've got a second deck of cards with amusing, brief sentences. You roll a die secretly, then read your sentence in the chosen mood. The other players take one of their voting chips to try and guess what mood you're performing. People get points, amusement and merriment is had by all. The clever thing is that voting chips come in different denominations and therefore points. So you've got a bit of choice in how you vote when compared to your conviction. I suspect this will get more action in the future.

Set Cubed (BGG, BUY ME!) is like Set on a Scrabble board, and that's pretty much all you need to know. I think it fell flat, but Jodi and Jenae found the lack of pressure to be somewhat of a relief when compared with regular Set. There's an article on the 'Geek that has some suggestions for improving play; I want to take a closer look.

Sticheln (BGG, BUY ME!) is a very weird trick-taking game that reminds me of Briscola and somehow Was Stich- I think there's somehow a "German" sense of trick-taking that doesn't translate well into our minds. The trick (ha ha) of this one is that you never need follow suit. Every color besides the led suit is trump. Yes, that's right- you don't need to follow suit and every other color is considered trumps. Finally, you have a public suit (your "pain" suit, or "misery") that you do not want to take. Your pain suit gives you negative face value points; every other card is worth plus one point. Points are good; you want points. I want to like it, but it's not clicking yet.

Solobridge (BGG, OOP) is Bridge for one person. It's fascinating to see how designers attempted to program a Bridge game in the bad old days before personal computers were pervasive, cheap, and powerful. I got it for two bucks, and hopefully some of the lessons are still valuable bridge lessons. Time will tell.

Tannhauser (BGG, BUY ME!) is a fun, tactical skirmish game that's got a lot of pulp atmosphere and a super clever line-of-sight mechanic involving colored circles. There's a lot of downloadable content to expand the game, which I've not really scratched the surface. I'd like to play more- trading spices in the ancient Mediterranean and negotiating the rise of your civilization is all fine and good, but sometimes you just want to kick some alternate-timeline Nazi ass.

Bennett picked up Vikings (BGG, BUY ME!) and we've gotten it to the table a few times- it's a neat little package of a tile-laying game; fun, but not spectacular. I'd call it a good appetizer.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Data is fragile

I pulled a few small rabbits out of small hats this week. Two of our users had partial hard drive failures, and it was a relatively simple matter to boot Ubuntu and salvage their data. Luckily, I didn't have to deal with total drive failure- just an amount of time to physically move the data from a suspect device to a known good device. Presto, happy and relieved users.

One kind of data loss: the physical media fails.

One of the two machines had some moderately old AppleWorks files, which poses another kind of data loss: obsolescence making your data impossible to read. AppleWorks is a productivity suite (think OpenOffice or MS Office) that Apple Computer end-of-lifed in 2007. As I understand it, the current software offering, iWork, does not import all AppleWorks formats. Windows users have seen this before with MS Word- MS Word 97 had particularly problems with earlier versions, and even now MS Office 2003 requires a compatibility pack to read MS Office 2007 files.

Another kind of data loss: Actually misplacing the data. You can forget what directory, machine, disk, or tape you stored your file.

NASA, too, has problems of all three kinds. The original moon landing tapes are missing. Nobody knows where they are, they may physically be rotting away due to age, and they only have one device that can read the tapes (which is in a facility slated to close). We may never see the raw footage of mankind's first moon landing.

Backup is part of a solution- you must test your backups, maintain your archives, and ensure that your data is in a current format or some form of open standard.

This makes me paranoid.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Books, I miss

Even as I read the Unclutterer blog and brainstorm ways of simply getting rid of stuff I don't need, I still long for space. For room and for rooms, and for the boxes and boxes of books that I can't simply pick up and read. I want to re-read. Our library lives in cardboard now, and I welcome the joy at finding old treasures. Honestly, discovering new ones is further down the list.

What did you read for banned books week?

I? Not enough.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Roleplaying versus Acting

I can't sleep just yet.

How is roleplaying different from acting? Is it motive? respect? performance for an audience? goal?

Do we, as humans, simply instinctively know that someone is roleplaying or acting?

Or is there a difference? I found this quote attributed to Robert de Niro:

One of the things about acting is it allows you to live other people's lives without having to pay the price.

Monday, September 08, 2008

New one from Neal

Neal Stephenson's got a new title due out tomorrow: Anathem, seemingly very much in the vein of Canticle for Leibowitz.

Props to Unshelved for their synopsis. I couldn't do it better, but click through for the full page spread. And truth be told, you had me at Neal Stephenson.

Buy it from Amazon through this link, and I get a kickback.

Better yet, buy it from a local bookstore.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Nine-day Weekend

We are back in the city with water, power, AC, sewage, and no damage.

Have I had a "Hurrication?" Sort of. We drove eighteen hours to Tennessee, stayed four days, drove nine hours to get back. Ate some bad-for-me-but-delicious food at Krystal Burger, ate some pig at a BBQ joint, had some spicy chicken with black bean sauce in Nashville. Murfreesboro is about five square miles, so we thought nothing of zipping around to check out thrift stores or pawn shops or comic stores or restaurants. Twice Paul and I drove a half-hour to Nashville for gaming with strangers and thrift store hopping. It's a pleasant enough little college town to spend a few days hacking around, but I don't know if I could live there.

Our cat, Zapruder, died on the way back. We don't know how, we don't know why; I just checked on him and he was cold and stiff. We're guessing sheer stress (even though he survived three weeks alone after Katrina) or respiratory failure, since he tended to wheeze. He was only 8. A little fat, but not sick. Driving back, we brought him out at rest stops to eat or drink or hit the litter box, and he seemed okay enough. He did fuss a little at being in the car, but that was normal (he fussed quite often). For hours, we all assumed he was just settled down and sleeping. I even heard him snoring a bit. Twenty minutes outside of our friend's place in Slidell, Cat asks me to check on him... and he wasn't moving. I even had a denial moment of "maybe he's just really tired" until I moved his paw and felt how cold he was, then saw that rigor had set in. Cat asked if he was okay, and I said "I don't think so. Pull over."

I am desperately trying to remember him as alive and a pain in the ass, or seeing him "sleeping" when I discovered he was dead, as opposed to Cat wailing and holding an obviously dead and stinking piece of meat with an awful grimacing expression in a Mississippi truck stop parking lot. It is not a pleasant image.

When Aphasia died six years ago, I lost it. Cat was strong for me then. I need to be strong for her, and I'll get my turn to grieve.

Here are a few pictures to amuse and edify. Somewhere down the line, I will blog about grief in the digital age.

Now Ike is on the way. We may stay with fellow evacuees in Memphis or with old friends in Austin. A friend blogged that Ike's gonna beat Mississippi like he did Tina, which is lightly amusing.

I need to return some emails and blog about gaming; also soon it is time to enjoy some lunch.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Posrep Slidell. Sitrep just buried our cat. Things could be better.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Planned Travel

Our "evacation" is coming to an end. Nagin has lifted all the checkpoints and restrictions on returning to the city, so we are planning to make the drive back tomorrow. I'm hoping it will be close to actual drive time instead of 16-18 hours. Murfreesboro has been pretty good to us, so far. It's tiny, so we can drive all round the place without worry. We hit a few thrift stores, ate barebecue, chicken and biscuits, and pizza.

Right now, I know that the little house got no water. I know that there's no trees falling on our houses. I know that we also have no electricity. NOCCA has power and no damage, as far as I know. The new house also suffered no damage.

I am amazing glad that my city has survived- once again, the eyes of millions saw us take a beating, but this time we stayed on our feet. I hope that people will still evacuate the next time.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Industrial Canal

For the record, the scary footage of water coming over the Industrial Canal is a mile or three from NOCCA. This Google Map shows the area in question; I'm not 100% positive which bridge Geraldo televised from, but it's either the Claiborne bridge or the St Claude one.

The State Street Coffee facility in this image from CNN is here.

Quick Gustav update

Woke up this morning around 5:30, watched some news. Went back to sleep, woke up again around nine.

We've been watching Fox News and streaming WWL. So far, we are cautiously optimistic and hopeful. A little worried about the loose vessels in the Industrial Canal and for the cities of Houma and the rest of Louisiana.

So far, this looks like normal, pedestrian, everyday hurricane damage — a world of difference from outright devastation. I'm hoping that we're jsut going to have power outages and expected wind damage.

Currently, NOCCA still has power. I expect to hear more about the situation at work this evening.

I'll blog more about our journey later, but so far, I honestly feel like this is a regular hurricane. We're trying to do regular out-of-town vacation-style stuff- go to the grocery store, a coffee shop, check out the local food, gaming, and thrift scenes.


Sunday, August 31, 2008


POSREP Tuscaloosa

POSREP Tuscaloosa

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Mandatory Evac

Nagin is calling for a mandatory evac tomorrow. We are leaving in time to catch the contraflow around four am. Gustav looks to be twice the size of Katrina and will probably make landfall as a Category Four storm. For my out-of-state readers, WWL is a good source of facts.

It's a little harder to leave this time, since I know what we stand to lose. In the little house where we stay, all of the electrical was redone to be above the waterline, so there's a nice line around the room where you can look and say, "okay, everything below this line will be destroyed."

I sleep below sea level, but not this night.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Gustav sitrep

I don't know what we are doing yet. NOCCA is closing until Wednesday, PJ's is closed for about the same.

Depending on where the storm goes, we may stay here, we may have a mandatory evacuation, we may go to my mom's in Metairie, we may drive to Memphis or to Austin.

Life is uncertain. I don't want to leave my home again, just when we are about to rebuild our lives.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Pie and times

My lovely wife has made a pie of strawberries, blueberries, and either raspberries or blackberries or both. I have not eaten the whole pie; I am eating the last piece. It is tart, cool, and refreshing.

Big events in the last few days. Most notably, we're moving forward on buying a house. It's been just over a year since we came home after the storm and we are overdue to have a place of our own. On some level, I feel like we've reset to three (!) years ago. Yay, mortgages.

Some new games in the mix, most notably Agricola, which is proving rather popular in the local group.

I did not go to Gen Con, so I've had to live vicariously through my distant friends' posts about hip new RPGs and bleeding-edge boardgames that I've not heard of. I don't like being the guy not in the know, and it's hard to prep, schedule the time and assemble players on the same mental page.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Stranger than fiction

Two guys claim to have found a Bigfoot corpse... in Georgia. They have a picture of it.

So on the one hand, I can't seriously believe it's not a hoax of some kind. On the other, the coelacanth really does live. The fellows will have a press conference in about twelve hours, so either someone will prove it a hoax or an otherwise misidentified creature, or we get to rethink a few of our assumptions about science and nature.

It's still the Georgia aspect that troubles me. I mean, Bigfoot lives in Oregon or Washington state, right? I swear, you can't make this stuff up.

Saturday, August 02, 2008


Yes, I mean North Korea.

I came across this stealth documentary while checking up on a forthcoming expansion for a board game.

I am shamefully ignorant of history. The most exposure I have to the DPRK is via the National Security Decision-Making Game and the Team America: World Police movie.

Time to hit Wikipedia, I suppose.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Another Anniversary

End of July. I've been home for a year since the storm.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Awesomely good, Awesomely bad

I've wanted a Watchmen movie for more than half my life. The new trailer sends shivers up my spine. I've watched it three times today and seriously thought about going to see Batman again to see it on the big screen.

There's a bug in DNS, some of the major glue on the 'tubes that prevents you from having to remember a 32-bit number instead of just typing in "" ever day. We should expect an exploit in the wild in the near future. Good info here, video for the layperson here. Patch your shit, people.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Still in Shrink

So to speak.

Even though more than three-fourths of my game shelf is in storage, I've managed to not play some of the ones I have close at hand. A few of the titles on this list are cheats, in the sense that I've played the game but not my copy. Others I haven't played since moving home almost a year ago.

A mostly accurate list, at this point in time, to the best of my imperfect knowledge, while looking about in the dark and pulling from memory.

1960: The Making of the President (BGG, BUY ME!), never played, still in shrink. A well-respected two-player historical strategy game. Got to find a partner and the time to understand it.

Arkadia (BGG, BUY ME!), played before, my copy still in shrink. It's a clever timing and building game. I have an extra copy for trade, and someone else in the gang has a copy already.

Bauwerk (BGG, IMPORT), played before, my copy still in shrink. Super clever little building dexterity game for two. I've got to give props to D-Bomb for introducing this to me.

Conquest (BGG, OOP), unplayed by me, got in trade. I hear it's a good combat game that makes extensive use of action points. I believe I have the four-player version.

Cranium (BGG, BUY ME!), unplayed for quite some time. I think my party game tastes have changed. Got this one at a thrift store, though.

Escape from Colditz (BGG, OOP), unplayed, got in trade. Not sure why. I think as a reverse Scotland Yard, it holds intrigue. A little uncomfortable to have someone play the Nazi.

House of Whack (BGG, BUY DIRECT), played before, my copy unplayed. Also signed by the designer, my buddy Drey.

Khet Mezzanine (BGG, BUY ME!) Strictly speaking, this is the "Tower of Kadesh." I think I technically played once, but I was playing with my laser toy instead of competing.

La Strada (BGG, BUY ME!), unplayed by me. A middle weight euro about roads. I'm pretty sure I traded too aggressively for this, mistakenly appraising it as worth more.

Make 'n Break (BGG, BUY ME!)/Make 'n Break Extreme (BGG, BUY ME!), sort of unplayed. I was seduced by bright colors, wooden blocks, and a steep discount. I read the rules and was instantly let down- I was hoping for more interaction/competition. Honestly not sure if I care, and I love dexterity games.

Money (BGG, BUY ME!), still in shrink, unplayed. A Knizia card game I've heard good things about this little card game and succumbed to a promo for a copy before it came back into print.

More Cosmic Encounter (BGG, OOP NEENER NEENER), played before, my copy unplayed. Not quite sure which box has the base set.

Pandemic (BGG, BUY ME!), played before, my copy unplayed. w00t, played!

Pillars of the Earth expansion (BGG, BUY ME!), another expansion that hasn't made it out.

Ponte de Diavolo (BGG, BUY ME!), still in shrink. I love two-player abstracts, and this one looks like a game of connections.

Poser (BGG, BUY B&N B&M), unplayed, bought on a whim. It appears to be a party game with some promise.

Princes of Florence (BGG, BUY ME!), unplayed. Got in trade. Strong recommendations from a friend. Not to be confused with Traders of Genoa. Pesky Mediterranean peoples.

RoboRally Armed and Dangerous (BGG, OOP NEENER NEENER), unplayed since way before the storm. Got this copy in trade. I've also got an unplayed WotC edition. I do like the production values of the newer Avalon Hill edition, plus the rules cleaning-up. Call me a traitor.

San Marco (BGG, OOP NEENER NEENER), my copy unplayed. Got in trade. A keeper.

Shift (BGG, OOP), unplayed thrift store trade fodder. A simple vintage maze game.

St. Petersburg plus exansion (BGG, BUY ME!), played before, but not mine. w00t, played! Never played the expansion. Rio Grande has an English version due soon.

Stop Thief (BGG, LONG OOP), a vintage 80s electronic crime game. I hear that it's a solid deduction game if you tweak out some of the pure chance.

Ticket to Ride Swizterland (BGG, BUY ME!), an expansion that I don't own the base game for. Bought in California. Support your FLGS!

(BGG, BUY ME!), a game I need to play again- a solid building Euro with action points and cool plastic towers.

Traders of Genoa (BGG, POSSIBLY OOP), played before, just not my copy. Not to be confused with Princes of Florence. Pesky Mediterranean peoples.

TV Scene It! (BGG, BUY ME!), picked up at a thrift store. I think I've technically played this. I don't watch much broadcast television.

(BGG, BUY ME!), picked up in trade. I succumbed to the siren call of the mechanics- I want to draw lines around the shipping lanes of Europe while blindfolded!

So what does this say about me? Clearly, that I like to trade and I don't have enough time or participants to play everything I care to.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

If I could pull nearly seven miles

Yikes, what a long last several days. We're rolling out a new Nortel VOIP system at NOCCA that requires actually decent wiring spec, so that means putting a new wire wherever there exists a phone.

So yes, we've put in something on the order of thirty-five thousand feet worth of new cat 5 cable. Each cable has four pairs of twisted wire, so strictly speaking, I'm talking fifty miles of copper wire.

Ah, the march of progress.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Hooray Netflix!

This is pretty much the best news today. Netflix is keeping their much-utilized Profiles feature.

If you're behind the times, this is one of their killer features: the ability to split a rental queue between more than one person. Fantastic for couples or roommates. Parents can ratings-control for the offspring, if they so desire. Separate ratings and recommendations with merged billing. It's very convenient.

Cat has a hundred or so titles in her queue- a lot of television drama series I don't really care about. I've got a full queue (500) of random craziness.

Thank you, Netflix, for listening to your customer base.

Monday, June 23, 2008

George Carlin, dead today

It's a terrible thing, and an awful way to start the day.

I need something to make me laugh.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Tomorrow's the day

Today's the day, by the time you read this. I'm happy and relatively stress free wrt planning and orchestrating. The secret? Keep it simple, keep it low-key, and know that the wedding is for me and she.

I promise that pictures will follow, or you'll break both my legs.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Dogs and strangers

How do you apologize to someone you politely nod to on your way out the house and the dog goes crazy barking at the stranger?

You don't want to punish the dog for being a dog; you definitely don't want the dog to not protect your home. But you don't want to tacitly imply that you want the dog to attack a random person for merely walking on public land.

Do you get embarrassed on behalf of your animals?

Friday, June 13, 2008

Four buck gas

The Fool brings up a good point. Four buck gas means we'll finally see the economic pressure to look at different kinds of energy, at mass transit and at other transportation options.

Maybe no flying car in the near future, but some of the car companies are stopping or slowing down their production of less efficient vehicles. I'll bet we see more hybrid vehicles, more thought to engineering for efficiency.

Solar power, wind power, tidal power, geothermal power. We have energy falling out of the sky, we just need to pick it up and use it. You don't sound like a tree-hugging, flower-chewing, skyclad, hippy loon these days if you talk about "alternative energy."

We need to use our fossil fuels for plastics, not power.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

A Bee in your Bonnet

Or a cricket on your plate.

Since [the new Audubon Insectarium in downtown New Orleans] is in a city known for distinctive food, an adjoining eatery, Bug Appetit, has its own singular culinary offerings: cooked insects, chiefly crickets, waxworms and mealworms. Among the menu items are chocolate chirp cookies and red beans and yikes. When local chefs were asked to submit bug dishes, Leah Chase came up with roasted crickets.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Nickel Tour: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)

Here's the nickel tour:

I tried not to get my hopes up for this one, but reading some of the headlines can't help but slip few a spoiler or two or a hint as to the buzz and mood of the crowd.


Most of the adventure movies in the last two or three decades owe something to Indiana Jones. The fourth movie in the canon felt like it tried to reach for the bar that the first three had set; other movies since (The first National Treasure and The Mummy to name two) have surpassed it. The actual bits of the movie that felt like an Indiana Jones Movie were too far between. Too many of the set pieces were simply set pieces for no good reason and a total disregard for continuity. Several times, this one tired to pay homage to the previous films, but it felt more like a washed-up ex-beauty queen parading around with old trophies, trying to convince the viewer that it still had relevance: Compare the use of the Ark as well as CGI in movies three and four.

I give it a "See the other ones instead."

Anyone else finds this ironic?

Microsoft says that Apple's Safari web browser on Windows introduces severe security issues.

I read some news reports today that indicate XP SP3 comes with an insecure version of Adobe's Flash Player.

This isn't exactly apples to apples, nor is it apples to oranges. Apple needs to fix its bugs, and Microsoft needs to fix its bugs that allow Apple's bugs. Adobe says use the newest version.

Update your software and back up your data, people.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Dungeons and Dragons, 4th edition

For the record, I do not yet have an opinion on the forthcoming 4th edition of D&D. It's largely not relevant to me, since I'm not roleplaying enough and I'm not a big fan of straight Tolkien fantasy, but I'm curious as to what has changed over the years.

I know one of the design goals aims to incorporate more online experience, and I've heard that some of the rules aim to include more indie/narrativist/story-oriented/player-driven play that's at the bleeding edge of the definition of roleplaying game. Do I think D&D is going to be a hippy-love-fest game? I doubt it seriously. Do I want to have the option for more play, less single-player driven play, and severely reduced prep time for the GM? Hell, yes.

I don't think D&D can become the kind of game I want to play, and I'm okay with that.

UPDATE: Purple Pawn reports that the books have been leaked onto the net a week before release.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Ubuntu on a Mac

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the latest Ubuntu CD (8.04 Hardy Heron x86) will merrily boot a latest-and-greatest MacBook Pro with no hassle.

Of course, I'm not sure why I'd want to shell out two grand to do so, but it's nice to have the option and know that the Ubuntu team are on top of things.

I have the PowerPC build of the distro, but I haven't tested it.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Greek Festival!

No, it's not a fraternity/sorority thing. It's the 35th annual Greek Festival here in the city, celebrating food and dancing and Greek culture and carnival and shopping and food and the whole everything! I haven't been in years, but I hear they have several whole roast lambs. Maybe I'll remember the camera. My mouth is watering, just thinking of the possibilities.

I don't know of any actual Greek games off the top of my head expect for those that are merely Greek-themed. No, the Olympics don't count.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

This week's played games

No time like the present! Twenty-one plays of ten titles this week.

I've played Khet (BGG, BUY ME!) the most this week, with five total plays. I used to own the green-box Deflexxion edition with the limited gold-and-silver beamsplitter pieces (Eye of Horus; BGG, BUY ME!), but I traded it for a copy of Mayfair Cosmic Encounter. When we moved back, Margaret had her copy of Khet, so I got my hot laser action fix via someone else. But the boys have finally put out the new mezzanine expansion, the Tower of Kadesh (BGG, BUY ME!). This pushed me over the edge and I bought myself a present. Three presents, if you count the expansions. I have a special love in my heart for two-player abstract strategy games, and Khet is definitely in my top ten. Not bad for a game that made the 2006 Mensa list.

Khet ultimately reminds me of a competitive version of the vintage Black Box (BGG, WP, OOP), and is most accurately described as "Laser chess." Half your pieces have mirrors, and you must press a laser button after each move. If your laser strikes any piece where there's no mirror, it's dead. All pieces move like kings in chess, or you can rotate a piece a quarter-turn. Winner is the one who hits the other's pharaoh. The first expansion adds beamsplitters, the second expansion adds a second level, with a periscope-style tower. (CAUTION: Do not point laser into remaining eye.) The game designers, who invented the game while at Tulane University, have plans for more expansion pieces.

It's hard to argue with lasers.

A friend of mine went by a game store on the northshore and reported they had a 50% off table. I got two new games by proxy: Bamboleo (BGG, BUY ME!) and my very own copy of Set (BGG, BUY ME!), hooray! I've never played Bamboleo, but I've seen it and coveted it due to pictures alone. It is another high-quality wooden dexterity/balance game from Zoch, the sort of game that retails for $75 due to wood and weight. One could probably make a copy for oneself with twenty bucks at a hardware store, or cheaper if you have bits lying round the workshop.

Bamboleo looks a bitlike a pizza topped with wooden blocks, balanced precariously on a spire. Take turns removing a block. If it falls, you lose points. The magic comes from balancing a top a sizable cork ball with enough friction to make things interesting. Words don't do enough justice. It's a visceral delight to play this one.

I'm sad that Margaret has moved to Chi-town, but this means that I have less competition in Set.

The next most popular game I've played this week is Race for the Galaxy (BGG, BUY ME!), just like everyone and their step-ex-wife. I like it more than Puerto Rico, but maybe it's just the space theme. It's also getting popular enough in the group that I don't need to reteach it every time we play, and it is an overwhelming game to teach. Simon and I tag-teamed Allison with our explanation, which I normally don't like to do- too often when multiple people teach a game, you'll get conflicting answers or rules or reasons. It worked out this time, though.

Each time I explain this one, I'm reminded of a quotation: "When one teaches, two learn." I first heard it quoted by a character in a novel talking about martial arts and spellcasting, but it definitely applies to crazy European strategy games.

I also cracked the shrink on a game that I've had on the shelf for a while: Nexus Ops (BGG, BUY ME!). A near-stranger and newbie to BGG gave me a copy after last year's Math Trade as a thank you. I brought it along as an emergency "if more than two people show up" game, but my boy Simon expressed an interest and Germaine never showed, so bam, we played a two played game of fighting and killing and throwing dice and mining for Rubium- and who doesn't want more Rubium in their life?

Overall, I wasn't blown away and instantly in love with the game, but I did have a good time. I will admit that the dozens of fun sculpted beasties and my third-party plastic red gemstones helped a lot of the tactile and visual appeal. Mechanically, the dicefest has a few clever angles on initiative, which is worth remembering and stealing. I would definitely like to play it again with three or four, and I can really see the appeal in a light and simple wargame dicefest.

A few more of the usual suspects hit the table in the last week, too:

Bohnanza (BGG, BUY ME!), which I won and taught the lesson that it's vital to not be stingy
Category 5 (BGG, BACK IN PRINT AS SLIDE 5 BUY ME!), which I got to introduce to two new players
Carrousel (BGG, IMPORT FROM FRANCE), which I got to introduce to new players and discovered that a five-second handicap on my part is not enough
Sheepshead (BGG, WP, USE A DECK OF CARDS), which we played twice and only two people needed the cheatsheet
Die Sieben Seagal (BGG, BUY ME!), which is really starting to show its wear in the humidity
Oh Hell (BGG, WP, USE A DECK OF CARDS AND THE RULES WE USE), which will break your brain for a and or two if you play it right after DSS

Game on!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Non-traditional clothing

We now have almost all of our wedding clothes, in the old style, from an electro-ethereal merchant of renown.

I need a hat, perhaps (a non-trivial task on the best of days); also shoes to match my spats. I could stand to obtain a pocketwatch and chain, but I fear it will see little practical use.

Yes, dear readers, I now possess brass goggles. Contact lenses are now a higher priority.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Cell phone headsets

Executive summary: If you drive with a cell phone, you should use a headset. I bought the first generation Aliph Jawbone and like it.

Right, moving on.

Two months ago, my loyal readers may recall that I started using a Bluetooth headset with my cell phone. Of course I find out yesterday that the company is soon releasing a second version of their product that's sexier, sleeker, newer- hell, it's literally got leather upholstery. At least the price point hasn't changed. This doesn't bug me so much, but I do wish they had a loyalty program.

I don't constantly wear my headset like some folks. You see these people walking and talking, and at first you think they're either talking to you or outright crazy and conversing with their dog. I got problems enough without strangers thinking I'm talking to invisible people across the ether. I most commonly see people who spend a long time working alone wearing headsets- delivery personnel, usually. They may have a business case to wear one, too. Maybe taxi drivers will soon start wearing them for dispatch.

I very specifically wear mine in two cases: driving or if I plan to have a long phone conversation. I've even gotten into the habit of wearing it no matter how long the drive unless I have someone in the car with me. This may change in the future, but for now, it's a solo tool.

Let's compare driving without a headset versus driving with a headset. Without, you must hold your cell (and ergo the hand) up to your head. Regardless of squandered attention, my hand cuts of a bit of my peripheral vision, but also makes me less inclined to turn my head. This is the crucial argument for using a headset- not that you're more or less focused when you jibber-jabber, but that your sense of kinesthetics inhibits you from the maximum range of freedom if you've got your meathook by your mug.

Upshot? It took a few days to a week to get used to handsfree talking. Now it's second nature. Oh, and it works with my Mac. Bonus.

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