Friday, April 29, 2005

Week's wrap-up

To summarize: This week was insanely stressful, with my position at work being altered slightly. I got rearranged to a different team. I'm still an authority on certain topics by virtue of my insatiable curiosity.

I'll spare everyone an analysis of what the rearranging does to the office dynamics. It was weird to be out sick for a week, then return and have everyone in my department acting crazier than usual. There are some good choices, and I'm optimistic about the potential for some people, including myself.

Tonight we ALMOST saw Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy down at the Alamo Drafthouse, but we went and had Italian food instead, then went to Borders Books, presumably for dessert. Lee browsed through more pregnancy books (she's a non-fiction fiend), whilst I found and read the third Courtney Crumrin graphic novel, because I am a comic-reading doofus. I also read How To NOT Draw Manga, which was a hilarious spoof of the Teach-Yourself-Crappy-Comic-Drawing style books. I flipped to the credits-it's published by Antarctic Press, which certainly should know a thing or two about capitalizing on the manga craze.

Bah, must sleep or baby birthday party will destroy me tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

True 'nuff facts about the baby!

We're only a few days away from the baby's first birthday party. I think there are going to be between 15 and 30 people there. Only about 5 or 6 will be under the age of three. So, there you have it, we're morons.

From there, it's just a few years until she's old enough to play boardgames. My copy of Hare & Tortoise probably only has a decade or so left to sit on the shelf.

Also, there's a new happiest place on earth: which I will not see, since Baby#2 (we have some joke names, but nothing solid yet) is slated to arrive a month prior.

Offbeat but true: Baby #3 is code-named "The Cuban." As in, "Oh, honey, those mattresses are cool now, but will they still be springy enough for 'The Cuban'?"

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Legomancer sums it up: Why I don't buy comics... or watch American Idol

Monday, April 25, 2005

One hour a day, I know true happiness...

Yep, it's the hour I'm listening to a trial version of MusicMatch Jukebox! Some thoughts:

1. I've heard enough U2 to last a lifetime. I don't ever, ever want to hear another song by U2. Also, Green Day. Ben Folds, you always sucked and I always hated you, and your Five.
2. If a song is longer than 4 minutes, I skip it. I only have 60 minutes with which to work. Time is short, gotta make the most of it.
3. Think of a band. Any band. As fast as you can, name 20 bands like that band. Hard, isn't it? Not surprising, then, that to MusicMatch, Soul Coughing is like Hootie and the Blowfish. Soul Coughing is like U2 (see #1). Soul Coughing is like Green Day.
4. My annual music purchases to date: $6. My 2004 purchases: $29 or so. I have enough music.
5. No matter how cool this is, I'm not paying money for it.

(To be fair, my wife did pay $20 for CD-burning features she likes a lot.)

How to configure a computer, Part One

I'll just say it right now. If you're writing a program, and it's not a virus-scanner, and your program launches on startup without asking me to do so, that's the equivalent of spray-painting "Todd eats boogers" on my car. It's unnecessary, it insults my intelligence, and makes me angry. If you want it one way, and I want it the other way, you, the computer programmer, are wrong. I, the consumer, am right. See how it works?

I'm talking to you, Real Networks, and even the people at Apple. Why would I want iTunes sucking down 20,000 kb of free memory? Oh, that's right, I might need to buy some digital music as soon as I start up my computer. Just like I NEVER EVER EVER do. Or have. Or have even suggested I would do.

Let's take a look at the Startup folder of a well-maintained computer. Oh, look, there's NOTHING in it, because maybe I'm booting up to check my email, maybe I'm going to play video games, maybe I'm going to open 18 instances of Internet Explorer, Outlook, 4 Bittorrent windows, maybe I'm going to, uh, compile source code or some other random geekity geek geekproject. I need all my computer mojo for my real-live computerin'.

Freenet, I'm uninstalling you, too. I understand Chinese dissidents think this is an awesome program. After a casual perusal of what unlimited freedom offers, I'm unimpressed. I hear this program works better after 2 or 3 days of being hooked up, plus I'm supposed to poke some holes in my firewall to make it work better, too. If I could automatically mark which files/sites I could refuse to transmit, no problem. Freenet appears to be a Libertarian Bittorrent, i.e. it runs incredibly slowly because they're paranoid about security, and a large percentage of the material looks like orn-pay. Maybe even ild-chay orn-pay. There's a diatribe on the website-if I really, really believed in really, really free speech, I should just install their program even though it's probably helping distribute ild-chay orn-pay.

I don't buy that. Deleted!

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Up and down, up and down...

For some reason, on Thursday, I had a spike in my visitors (and ad clicks, domo arigato).

The next day, back down again. Yes, I had a large post after a few days off. Still, very weird. I don't know if Blogger has referral-tracking tools, but I'm curious to know if anything in particular attracted people's attention.

I'm tuning a Magic deck. Our games these days follow two basic patterns:
1. We get out fast creatures and slug each other to death. I win maybe 60% of these.
2. We stall out. When that happens, either he gets the 10 or 12 mana he needs to cast a supremely-powerful creature, or I gradually work my card advantages until I've gotten the upper hand. I win most of this style. We're not going to any tournaments with these decks, that's for sure.

I went out this morning to scout out Dragon's Breath, which was closed at 12:20, in spite of the sign saying they opened at noon. I'm not bitter-I went to check out Larry's place instead. It is rockin', with vaulted ceilings, a balcony, and nice parking.

Coding Slave is free! It's just not very good.

Bob Reselman, author of the novel Coding Slave has released a free PDF version, in order to promote sales of the dead-tree version. My advice: don't bother.

Reselman's unlikeable characters stagger through a mundane existence, right up until the novel turns into science fiction. The main character Ajita Orhtihawamein is a contract programmer, driven by the sociopathic desire to give clients what they really want. This involves sex, in some cases. She's got a master plan of creating a independent programmer's guild, which magically succeeds on page 108, revolutionizing programming forever.

Reselman explains either too much, or too little, at any given moment. Characters' motivations are spelled out completely, to save the reader the trouble of working out WHY anyone does anything. Two characters in the novel commit suicide, presumably to save Reselman the trouble of actually resolving the plot elements. It all works as tidily as the Socratic dialogue included in the appendix.

All in all, this feels like a first novel. I didn't hate reading individual bits. A choice passage: Reselman explains in a witty way why giant computer programs to run businesses are viewed as necessary: corporations wish to eliminate the human elements, but the human elements are what the operators enjoy about doing business.

Unfortunately, the same can be said of novels.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Lose 10 pounds of ugly fat by cutting off your head!

Well, I stayed at home again today, so effectively, on Monday, I barfed away an entire week. On the bright side, I weighed 169 lbs. on January 4, and I weighed 158 in the doctor's office yesterday. Eeh, I also laid around Hurtin' For Certain and doing nothing, so that's bad, regardless of what a scale might say.

Tonight I got my wife's watch battery replaced, then went to Border's and picked up a copy of The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth. Her midwife loaned us a SIGNED copy temporarily, and Lee's sure she'll want one as a lending copy. I also read one of the depressing Powers graphic novels and an Ultimate Spider-Man collection. I like the series a lot, but my overall sense is that it is going downhill as the writer loses interest. Which is a shame, since he's freakin' brilliant most of the time.

It's been interesting to witness Lee's gradual shift of position. We had an about-average hospital birth experience the first time around. I know we did better than we could have, since we toured one hospital whose entire attitude sucked. They told us all about the great drugs they had available for her, and how they'd take the baby away for a bath, and bring it back nice and clean! [Note to guys: that's really crappy. Proper sequence: Mommy has baby, no drugs. Mommy warms Baby, no problem. Daddy drives Mommy and Baby home, Mom and Dad wash Baby themselves and apply two coats of wax to preserve finish. Two months pass, Dad gets an entire night's sleep.]

Anyway, I'm glad Lee did the research she did the first time, and I'm glad she has been continuing to read up on various issues.

The Houston Gamers are going to be meeting at a store called Dragon's Breath on May 7. It's in central Houston-inside the loop by several miles. I'm barely inside the Beltway, so that's not a fun drive. I haven't decided whether I'll go or not, but I hope it goes well. Hopefully everybody will keep it dialed back just a little, be on their best behavior, and freakin' buy something, anything at all to keep us from looking like vagrants wandering from store to store.

Later on in May, it's back to Midnight Comics. It's WAY out on Westheimer. I almost drove out there tonight, but thought better of it.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Week's summary, including Houston Gamers wrap-up

My internet connection died Saturday, Sunday I was cleaning up baby barf, Monday my wife and I were absolutely hosing down the pediatrician's office with vomit. I was in the office for about 4 hours on Monday before everything went downhill.

No Wednesday night Magic, for fear of giving Tim the heaves, too.

Saturday night, before the craziness, I headed out to the Houston Gamers and got in my first 4-player games of Empyrean, Inc. with nice people (a couple named Patrick and Holly who are up near Spring), and some other folks rotating out of the 4th spot.

I played Guillotine, which I haven't done in a while. My copy's still in shrink, but I'll probably break that open any day now. It's an all-right filler.

We played Mogul, a fast and vicious little auction game. It's a nearly-closed system, where passing gets you other people's bids. Everyone starts with 6 chips, I think. At one point in the game, I was holding 15 of them, and at another point, I had none. If you're counting chips, you can run someone out of money quite deftly, and then keep them broke the rest of the game. Fortunately, I wasn't sitting next to a chip-counter, and I think I was bluffing well.

We finished up with a single hand of Money. I like it, and keep thinking I'll buy it one of these days. It's a good combination of set-collection and auctions. The only thing I do not like: scoring. Quick, what's 30+50+60+30+20+20+20+10+10+40+60? Now, imagine that all those numbers are in different colors and fonts. Now add 100 for all the 3-alike sets of 20's and 30's. I know, it's old hat after a dozen plays, but at midnight, more than half the table just laid down their cards and waited for the two people who had played before to add it up.

This was the last day of business for the store, so I hung around a little and watched it all wind down. I dunno. Some of the store's inventory is migrating to Midnight Comics. In the meantime, I have a week's worth of webcomics, Boardgamegeek, and Houston Gamers website to review.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Wednesday Night Games

Tim came over after work, and we played two games of Magic. In the first game, I gradually advanced my position until finally killing him. In the second game, I died quickly due to lack of creature removal, after having my teeny tiny creatures run out of steam.

I also broke the shrinkwrap off Empyrean, Inc., fresh from the mailbox, and taught Tim how to play. The dynamics of the 2-player game are different than the 3-player games I played at the Houston Gamers meetings. We both enjoyed the game, and I am interested to see what Lee will think of the game when she plays.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

I just FLU in, and boy, do I have random aches!

I was feeling good on Sunday, in that smug way of "Ha, you're sick and I'm not," since my wife picked up some sort of bug that made her miserable all Sunday.

Today, I had random joint and muscle aches, weird headache and stomach cramps, and the chills. I toughed it out at work... yesterday, I admitted to myself I have been wasting too much time. I spent Monday and today being really effective.

My secret: Every ten minutes or when you switch tasks, write down what you're doing. My company provides free DayTimers, because writing things down in a little spiral-bound book makes you look super cool. It also helps figure out what you did, and what you thought about doing, then couldn't manage to squeeze in. I feel so much better about Monday and today... I produced filled-out (okay, scrawled-on) DayTimer pages, over and above my productive time.

I'm splitting time between two projects, one of which has a concrete deadline, the other of which is more complicated. This is on top of my usual duties as GOD OF SECRET ROOM and GUY WHO KNOWS THE ANSWERS.

Also, tonight I assembled a couple of Magic decks for tomorrow's casual-play session. Neither are anything special.

Webcomic: is just weird. Eeh, a couple were actually funny, most are just okay. However, the archive's easy to browse, and it doesn't require any investment of time, unlike reading the Sluggy Freelance or CRFH! archives.

PS I'd like to thank patriotic cartoonist Ted Rall - his insights are always welcome. Sure, he's got hyperbole to spare. It's because Ted Rall loves America. He lives in America, he works in America, he spends his money there, and he writes about how to make America better, every week. See for details, and spread the word: Ted Rall, patriotic cartoonist is awesome.

Sunday, April 10, 2005


Alexis has a new word: "uh oh." It means: 1. Alas, I appear to have dropped something. 2. a Cheerio, my favorite.

I have a big pack of cabinet locks I should install.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

The search continues...

The Houston Gamers are figuring out where to meet.

From what I remember:

The Games Browser: Partnered with the Book Browser, a conjoined twin store. Kinda dank, eventually abandoned when a leaky AC unit led to a tremendous mold outbreak that made the stores uninhabitable to anyone with allergies. The two stores' owners later broke their partnership, and the game side languished. It recently was reborn, and appears to be doing LOTS of Magic business. They also have some of Phoenix Comics old game inventory, still coated in the original dust.

Midnight Comics and Games: Run by two guys, John and Joe. Joe is the Comic Book Guy, once haranguing my wife for five or more minutes about the ret-conning of Donna Troy/Wonder Girl's origin story. John is the Gamer Guy and the more business-minded of the two, pursuing the conventions and doing a lot of promotional work (he's good people). It's a huge store, with a giant area on the second floor. Their main traffic was Magic players, and when a Prerelease tournament coincided with a Houston Gamers meeting, the Houston Gamers had no tables. This isn't a dig against Midnight-Magic is one of the major revenue streams, and tournaments help keep that stream steady. It always has the same four or five guys just hanging out and playing Magic. Their website is horrible.

Enigma's: Way the heck up 249, it's got an impressive inventory of new-release boardgames. The owner's still working on his staffing issues, which is to say: HE HAS NO STAFF AT ALL. D'oh. I like him, I like his store, I don't like paying $4 round trip to the Beltway to get there.

Buying from the little guy & gal: Empyrean, Inc. is on the way!

I went ahead and ordered Empyrean, Inc. direct from Studio Foglio. I'm sure the Foglios can use the extra buck or two for shipping. Even at $16, it's still cheaper than a full tank of gasoline.

They're also shifting Girl Genius from a print comic to a webcomic.

Don't go yet, there's a filler page up, and they re-launch for real on April 18.

That won't work...

Yep. 110 cards in a tuck box for $20. Nuclear War's a classic Beer & Pretzels game (i.e. about a 5 on a scale from 1 to 10, unless you're tipsy), but I don't see how this is much of an improvement or supplement.

The new Nuclear War reprint is $30. I guess this is a bargain. Sort of. If you like Nuclear War. I'm on the fence. It's okay, I guess, but if I didn't already own Nuclear War, I would see no reason to buy it, given the MANY better games out there.


Blogger's server isn't in my time zone. To make the time default to your time zone:

1. click on the Settings tab while posting, or the Change Settings button from the Blogger dashboard.

2. click on the FormattingTab.

3. adjust the drop-down box in the Time Zone window to your time zone.

4. click the big orange "Save Settings" button.

Now go create a post. Sweet! The time is correct.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

You got crazy on my Google search! No, YOU got Google search on my Crazy!

Okay, I'm just trying to find some sort of Teletubbies swag for my almost-one-year-old. Sooo, I happen to stumble across some crazy person deconstructing Teletubbies as Wiccan propaganda.

You know, because... CRAZY!!!

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Have mercy...

Okay, first he makes an awesome webcomic. Now his deconstructionism has gone too far:

(or has it?)

Monday, April 04, 2005

Monday night Magic

Tim came over and we played a game of Magic while Lee went to the store. We had to stop mid-game to get the baby changed into a nighttime diaper and p.j.'s. Then the game resumed, I drew my sixth land, put Godo, Bandit Warlord into play, hunted through my deck to find Tenza, Godo's Maul, and that was basically game. The combo's sick when it works. Tim's artifact recursion via Skeleton Shard was working okay until then.

Second game: I got Mind's Eye into play, along with Teferi's Puzzle Box. This combo can win stalled games. If both pieces get into play, I've never seen it fail. Every turn each player (i.e. your opponent) puts their hand on the bottom of their deck, and draws that many cards. As they do, you use Mind's Eye (When an opponent draws a card, pay 1 to draw a card). So, if your opponent's still got cards around, you draw lots of cards. Tim admitted his opening hand was four mountains, a Sakura-Tribe Elder, and two Myojins. He figured if he could draw a forest, he could drop Sakura-Tribe Elder, fetch another land, and then roll around in Myojin goodness.

I showed Tim the copy of Blue Moon, and we'll see how that goes. He got to our house later than usual-normally, we're able to squeeze in a 3-player game of San Juan.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Dilemma: Boot IE for Firefox, or mess with MusicMatch.

AVG Free Virus Scanner seems to cause web pages time out. Let's be clear: I'm on a home network hooked up to a router that's hooked to a cable modem that's hooked up to Earthlink. Yahoo, boardgamegeek, and indeed, every web page everywhere, should pop up in one second when I click a link... or heads will roll. The Emperor commands it!

Geez, it makes Musicmatch Jukebox work like crap, too. I emptied out my Temporary Internet Files, emptied my Recycling Bin, defragged, looked at my Internet Explorer settings, vaguely fiddled with IE controls, nothin'. Turn off the AVG scanner, pow, pages work correctly again. Most of the time. X Grrr...

I don't wanna switch to Firefox, but if my pages aren't loading properly 1/4 of the time, and I'm having to hit F5 about a thousand more times per day, sorry, IE, you get the boot. I gotta have a virus scanner, and I'm not paying for one.

My wife's computer is not shutting down correctly, with a modal window warning her about ShellIconBlahBlahSomethingSomething. It turns out it's because the newer versions of MusicMatch Jukebox have that happen. Solution: either manually kill the process, then shutdown every time, which is annoying, or re-install a non-retarded version of MusicMatch Jukebox. The problem doesn't happen on mine, because I'm not a registered user (yes, the cool features she got by giving them $20 are worth $20). That's bad, MusicMatch, so fix it.

Houston Gamers wrap-up

I caught the tail-end of the Houston Gamers meeting tonight, and learned Attika. After a mercifully-brief rules explanation, I lost a 4-player game. Someone wasn't paying attention, and didn't run defense-although I should have done some defending as well. Interesting, and I liked it better than Alexandros or Magna Grecia, just to name two other abstract games theoretically about Greece. There was a game of Manifest Destiny finishing up in the other room, and I also missed a game of Zepter Von Zavandor. I've heard 2 lukewarm reviews so far.

My FLGS (Friendly Local Gaming Store) is closing at the end of the month, so all the board games are 33% off. I caved and bought the Blue Moon basic set. I wish Empyrean, Inc. was available there; since it's not, I'll buy it directly from Studio Foglio. There are two copies of the new Cosmic Encounter, which I am iffy on, but my wife liked. I don't know how low the store owner's going to go. There are also two copies of the El Grande Expansions, which I was definitely NOT going to buy for full price. Although I love El Grande, I don't play it often enough to warrant buying the expansion, which I also haven't played.

Kevin Nunn bought a few games to put on the prize table at The Gathering. In addition to picking up Blue Moon, I also took someone's post-dated check and gave them cash so she could buy a game. She was buying Iron Dragon, which I own (I pointed this out). She's a big rail gamer, already owning Empire Builder, Euro Rails, and more. Iron Dragon's map is freakin' huge. I've tried playing once, and we called it more than 3 hours in. We were nowhere near halfway, and two of us had gotten burned horribly by random events.

I also saw Crime Lords. Dag, Steve Jackson Games wants $35 for a re-re-repackaged Illuminati? Huh. If I were them, I'd be churning out Munchkin expansions forever, not flogging a horse they've beaten too many times (INWO & Subgenius sets) already.

There was some discussion of finding a new meeting place. We've got a few options (other stores, people's houses, miscellaneous other free spaces) and it'll be interesting to see how it plays out.

If I chose, I could play host every other weekend, but 1. I'd have to deal with reserving our neighborhood's clubhouse repeatedly, and 2. the whole thing would suck. Even hosting every five or six weeks is draining. We use the weekend to catch up on housework, budgeting, etc.; removing one entire Saturday from a month puts pressure on us the rest of the time. Two is right out.

Friday, April 01, 2005

The Incredibles rocks.

I knew The Incredibles was going to be good, and after having seen it on DVD for the first time last night, I regret not seeing it in the theater.

Oh, well. There would've been kids, the bane of all movie theater experiences.