Sunday, July 31, 2005

Houston Gamers wrap-up: July 30

From the party at the clubhouse:

Doug, Joe, and Chris B. showed up right around noon, and together we launched into Medici. It was Chris B.'s introduction to the game, with Doug providing the explanation/refresher for the rest of us. Chris' unorthodox bidding threw off Doug and I - Joe won, Chris came in a close second, and then about 30 points behind sat Doug and myself. Wow, I like Medici and am glad I bought it.

After that, lots of people showed up, and I lost hope of keeping track. Here's what I caught (corrections/clarifications are welcome and encouraged):

Mike Dew and Ray Mulford did some hex-and-counter wargaming with Empire of the Sun. In spite of how long they played, I didn't get more than a glance at it. Mike, Ray, got those reviews ready yet?

I started up Steph, Alan, Crystal (co-worker), Lin (new), and Jaime on Carcassonne: Hunters and Gatherers, and bowed out after explaining the game. No one had ever played before, although Steph and Alan had played the original.

Matt S. joined us for the first time, having seen the Houston Gamers calendar entry.

Kevin Nunn taught me how to play Blue Moon. I had previously bought the game on his recommendation, and hadn't mustered the gumption to work through the rulebook. I liked it, and completely understand the appeal.

Beth, Jimmy (new), and I played San Juan. I bowed out to haul my daughter Alexis around, and had Larry take my spot. He cruised to victory on my totally sweet setup.

Lewis, Raymund E. (almost new), Liz (new), and Amy played Saint Petersburg. I met Raymund a few years ago as part of the Rice crowd, and when he played in my ApolloCon events, I talked up the Houston Gamers meetings.

I taught Coloretto to Orlando (co-worker) and Beatrice (new), then we added Alan to the mix and played again.

I started, then bailed on, a game of Saint Petersburg with Stephanie and Chris B. (had to split to go haul the baby around). Liz graciously took over my position and went on to win a thrilling one-point victory!

Other tables: uh, Alexandros got played. Shadows over Camelot got played: no traitor, they all won. Also more St. Petersburg, I guess.

Somewhere in there, Traders of Genoa started.

At the same time, two Arkham Horror games fired up simultaneously. I think the table split was 5 and 7 players. My table of 5 (Kevin Nunn, Joel Garrick, James Spurny, Ed, and I) served the beats on the minions of Nyarlathotep, only getting one point on the terror track, and only up to about 7 on the Doom track. We sealed 6 gates handily, serving the forces of cosmic evil and delivering a victory for humanity.

Alison and Tim (my co-workers) dropped by. Not being huge gamers, they examined everything in the boxes, and ambled around nervously. Upon a request for Scrabble, I produced Fluxx, which they enjoyed. Lewis and Amy joined that table as Traders of Genoa finished up.

The other table beat the Mythos, eventually. While that was still going on, I played Sword and Sail twice (w/Kevin Nunn, James Spurny, Ed, and Joel Garrick). This is a freebie PDF game, which James had done a fine job of printing on backing-board, so the counters had a pleasant heft. It's a diceless game of area control, and is reasonably cool. The second game started to drag, and then continued to drag. To win, a player must occupy all provinces in a territory. It's easy to prevent that from happening, and Kevin Nunn finally permitted me to conquer Germania.

Bull Market hit one table, while Kevin Nunn, Joel Garrick, and I examined Inga, which is a Japanese game by Aeronauts. The cards looked cool and vampire-y, but turned out to have ability text in kanji at the bottom of every character card. Lots of cards, lots of kanji. No paste-ups available yet, which is a shame because, as I stress, it was really cool. With much regret, we put it away, and got out Oval Trick.

Kevin Nunn DID have English rules for Oval Trick, also a Japanese game by Aeronauts. It's a car-racing game of simultaneous card play, followed by movement that's affected by other cars' positions; the slip-streaming rules are forgiving, much more so than Formula De, for instance. We played a short sample game. Joel Garrick thought Oval Trick evoked a Formel Fun-type feeling: Racing, just slightly goofy. Interesting, would try again, probably needs more people for best results.

Final attendance around 25 or so, depending on who you want to count. This was a good mix between regulars and newbies.

The food worked out perfectly, with plenty of great snacks during the event, very few leftovers, and no messes created! Cleanup was easy, and the final posse's help in straightening and hauling was much appreciated.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Steve Jackson Games watch

Steve Jackson Games is telling us what they've sold.

Very interesting, especially combined with the stakeholder message.

Wednesday Night Magic (late post)

Tim did come over, and beat me like a rented mule.

Goblins beat me down game one, game 2 I cast something big and he stole it, game 3 I made him draw 38 cards. If I had made him draw 4 more, I would have won.

Oh, the humanity!

Thursday, July 28, 2005

So many RSVP's!

Awww, yeah! I got plenty of people coming on Saturday. A few new folks, some regulars, and quite a few of my favorite Houston Gamers.

I think I'm going to try to get in a game of Power Grid.

Tenchi Muyo: Too Little, Too Late

Tomorrow at work, I am going to pick up a few paper boxes to pack up some of my fansubbed anime collection to give to a friend. It's just gotta go.

In other news, the first volume of the new Tenchi Muyo series is out. Japan, can you please stop with the Tenchi Muyo? That series has been rebooted and re-arranged endlessly, in all possible combinations. I thought all the fans had spent their money on the parade of increasingly-horrible sequels, but evidently someone in Japan (and America) still can't get enough of a show about a bland, unassuming doofus with a bunch of wacky, spacy women. Also, the women are FROM space.

The DVD has three episodes on it. In Japan, you can put 2 episodes on a DVD and charge $35. In America, any DVD with four or less episodes is a rip-off unless it's $12 or less. I'll pay three bucks an episode, and that's my final offer. Based on that calculation, I'll buy the new Tenchi Muyo DVD if and only if I could get it for $9 or less. Fortunately, I plan to live a very long life.

Also, I don't care anymore. I have one baby, and another on the way. Anime is for people who can pay attention to the screen.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Busy day today

I ended up at work an extra half-hour to get a few more things squared away. It's been a busy week so far, and everyone's efforts are starting to make progress.

Hopefully, Tim will be over tomorrow to play cards, and then there's the games party this weekend.

Monday, July 25, 2005

I helped Mike Pope (a guy on the internet).

Mike Pope's a heck of a guy, with a great blog. It's visually readable, has interesting entries, is updated regularly, has forward/backward buttons (one of my pet peeves: not being able to figure out how to read someone's older posts), and has great taste in linking to well-written, informative sites.

He was having some issues with Windows Server 2003, and I pointed him at a Microsoft support page that appears to have cleared up some of the problem.

Sweet. I love being right!

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Another weekend closer to having the baby...

We went to our first birthing class this time around. We had already missed the first night of classes, today was class #2, and we have 7 more to go. Last time, Alexis was born early, so we missed the last classes.

The class is earlier in the day, isn't as long, has fewer people, and is closer to us. All of which are definitely complaints, or at least disadvantages, of the first class.

I am the videotape king! All hail me!

I have too many videotapes. Back in college, the Japanese Animation clubs, plural, had a number of mechanisms both elegant and ridiculous for loaning items out of their tape library.

Fan-subtitled, 4th to 8th generation tapes are still a huge storage issue. I have 8 shelves, each with 40 or 50 tapes, and two boxes full of tapes, plus a couple of tape storage drawers. Even rounding down, I own at least 250 tapes.

I haven't fired up any of these in at least a year, maybe two. It hurts, just interacting with the old VHS mentality. There's a reason why the format was abandoned - DVDs are awesome, VHS sucks.

On one hand, I could probably watch a few of them again. On the other hand, If I get rid of them, I free up tons of space.

Fansubs aren't legal to sell, so the best I could do is give them away en masse to someone. Problem is, I don't know who I would burden with this stuff. Again, I moved to DVD, and so did everyone else. The fansub community went to using Bittorrent to distribute their releases, which freed the normal fans from the tyranny of distributors and clubs. It also freed me from saying, "Well, if my life ever totally hits bottom, I can become a fansub distributor!"

Yay, Bittorrent!

Monday, July 18, 2005

More Excel wizardry, also thoughts about Evite

More playing at work with Excel. I am starting to get responses to my board game party Evite. I have mixed feelings about Evite. Some of my friends are not big on registration-required sites. Evite DOES want you to register to get more functionality, but overall, you can work without it.

It bugs your guests by sending emails. I dunno. Overall, I think it boosts attendance. I'm sure it irritates some people.

It looks like crap. Hmm, guilty as charged. It's got ads on it, so much so it's hard to tell at first glance whether submissions worked or not.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Board Game Party

Another game party upcoming on July 30.

I'd like to try a game of Arkham Horror. I know one of the Houston Gamers bought it. Also, Michael Denman's got three CCGs for which he's built lots of decks. Playing on someone else's dime rocks.

Freecycle discussion digest emails are physically painful to read

As many of you will recall, I signed up with the Houston Freecycle group in order to pawn off my ancient, broken washer.

This failed, and I had to pay a very nice person $20, after several weekends of failed attempts. I think I'm going to start a business where I GUARANTEE to haul your washer away, for $100 cash freakin' money. No upcharge for same-day haul. Note: Just talkin' out my butt here. Gotta admit, I'd do it if I had a truck, and a place to get rid of them, and wanted to hurt my back many times a day.

So the actual Freecycle group gets about 120 emails a day, no joke, no exaggeration. It's posts of items offered, items wanted, and update posts. I switched to reading it on the web, and it's fascinating. Lots of good stuff offered. However, they have a strict no-chat policy.

I got an email about a Freecycle discussion group. I signed up for it. Now I get a digest email that's about 25 regular emails put together. I mean, I signed up for it. It's sort-of interesting to read. Nevertheless, I'm already 3 days backed up. That's 75 emails, compressed into three gigantic emails that I can't read half of, then walk away.

I also found out a board game trade I was trying to get fell through. I know, there are plenty of other trades and traders out there.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Saturday Shopping Summary (Warning: Boring)

Alexis went down for a nap, and so did Lee and I. Lee went upstairs to lie down, and I sat on the couch, pretending to myself I wouldn't just lie down. The nap was ecstacy. I'm still about 6 or 8 hours behind on sleep this week.

After feeding Alex her lunch and waking up Lee, we went to Wal-Mart. It costs two dollars and fifty cents a minute for me to be in Wal-Mart, and we were in there a while. We bought:
  • 2 dressers for the baby's room - unassembled.
  • 2 small plastic bins for use as baby laundry hampers.
  • 3 Smoke detectors - batteries included.
  • 8 AAA batteries- one for kitchen timer, 5 for Alexis' toy phone, which would be a lot, if it weren't so rockin' a toy.
  • Digital clock-radio. Could have saved $.18 by skipping the radio option, decided to splurge.
  • 2 Sun-shades for car.
  • Bibs - we passed on the bib that said "Born To Shop."
  • Diapers, size 4 - We're cloth diapering, but still need a few to simplify travel
  • Box of Balance bars - Triple Chocolate Chaos flavor. Judging by the ingredients, Chaos means "Partially Hydrogenated Tropical Oil."
  • Trash bags - for our trash.

We also dropped off a box of stuff at the thrift store, which CLOSED right as we got there at 3 p.m. I was really looking forward to seeing if any new board games showed up there. I pulled a sweet copy of the 1986 Milton Bradley Cathedral last week.

We went to a busy McDonald's. The cashier was brand new, so she couldn't work the register, and it took her 3 tries to figure out how to give me $.72 change. First she got 3 quarters, and stared at her hands, as though she were a caveman discovering particle physics. Then she tossed all the quarters away, and started counting nickels out of the nickel compartment. That lasted a while. Finally, she gave up, and gave me 7 shiny dimes and 2 corroded pennies.

When my order arrived, she had rung up a Small fry, for 95 cents, instead of a Regular fry, for an even dollar. What's the difference? For a nickel more, you get twice as many fries. I pointed out the error, and a manager watching the transaction swapped me the fries and waved me off with a "don't worry about it!" McDonald's should just sell the two for the same amount of money, and be done with it. Lee had a double cheeseburger, plain and dry, and I had two Hot & Spicy Chicken sandwiches.

There were also big handwritten signs on the registers telling the customers which register accepted cash, and which accepted cash AND CREDIT. Go ahead, buy fake food with next month's money, I won't stop you.

After that, we went to a friend's house and dropped off a second box of stuff on their doorstep, because they weren't home.

As a last useful task, we stopped and got gas, which including a store discount, was $2.13 a gallon. We haven't had the Forester long enough to know what kind of mileage it gets.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Perdido Street Station: a review

Perdido Street Station is a novel by a guy named China. I imagine he got beat up a lot as a kid, both for having a girl's name, and for being weird. On the other hand, it clearly made him stronger. Strong enough to write one of the weirdest books I've ever read. It's Industrial Revolution fantasy or magical realism, can't tell which. It's much better than the last book I read that was fantastical commentary on the Industrial Revolution*.

See, in Perdido Street Station, there's about ten different subplots running around a bizarre fantastic city, with plenty of descriptions of freaky people/architecture/customs/monstrous subraces. High-falutin' language? Oh, ever so much, dear readers.

I honestly don't know if I liked reading this, or if I should recommend reading Perdido Street Station to anyone. After about 100 pages, I had to keep reading, so that was good. On the other hand, I'm not sure I liked the ending, so that's bad. Also, reading it was work. Chewing on the imagery was a workout, and it's not a happy fantastic setting. It's full of exploited proletarians, some of whom are hideous mutants.

* You thought I was going to say Cryptonomicon or Quicksilver, right? Ha! Haven't gotten there yet. It was The Difference Engine, which took me four tries to read because it SUCKS.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Work either rocks or sucks, and I can't tell

I had a performance review on Tuesday, and either did or did not get a raise. I would tell you now, but that would be against company policy. Of course, any type of disciplinary action for revealing pay is against federal law. I could tell you, and my employer would just have to suck it up. It's not really important what I do or don't do, as long as the paychecks and health insurance keep a-rolling.

I made an Excel formula that was awesome. It looks at a column of phone numbers that are mixed 7 and 10 digits, then adds the area code to the 7-digit numbers. Fun!

Also, Tim came over and we played Magic. Fun was had.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Birthday Party

Not for me. For my two-year-old niece. She got a ton of toys: Fisher-Price House that's bigger than my real house, Electronic Sit-n-Spin, clothes from us... ha ha ha, we are practical, not fun!

...and a party at Old McDonald's Farm, a park/petting zoo up on the north side. It was about one thousand degrees and the air never moved. We were there for a few hours, long enough to acknowledge that we're accustomed to the indoors, not the outdoors, and that the outdoors is hot, bug-infested, and dirty.

Alex had a great time, and enjoyed the deer, llama, peacocks, pot-bellied pigs, the calf, the cow, the wallaby, the prarie dogs, the baby ducks, etc.

I'm reasonably certain she thought the deer were extra-large bunnies. Kids are awesome.

Friday, July 08, 2005 rocks.

I repriced all my listed books another buck or so lower. Ah, the invisible hand of capitalism...

An Open Letter to MusicMatch Regarding an MIM.EXE error

MusicMatch Jukebox V.10 has bugs.

MusicMatch Jukebox version 10 is buggy.

Version 10 of Musicmatch Jukebox sucks like an Electrolux.

It's okay, guys. I know you didn't mean to thrash hard drives randomly, and have pop-up errors at almost any given moment.

I know, you needed the functionality of not asking us if we wanted your bug-ridden resource hog of a program to run on startup. I appreciate that.

However, when I see an error, and go search the internet, I better not find out that MusicMatch Jukebox version 10 is the problem. I tried to go to your website, but you made it impossible to send you feedback. I tried, but then discovered I'd have to recover my wife's product keys just to be able to read the FAQ.

Why isn't the fix to the MIM.EXE error in your knowledgebase? Is it because you don't have one yet? Or is it because the fix is to fall back two versions, as most people suggest?

Seriously, you can do better.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Bought a car; also, our financial theory

Today, Lee and I wrote a check for 6 large for a 1999 Subaru Forester. This is a sweet machine, as far as we and our trusted mechanic can tell.

Let's hear it for goatee-wearing demagogue Dave Ramsey, who inspired us to start a REAL emergency fund. We're also using the Freedom Account system described by Mary Hunt, whose books helped us a lot, too. Your Money Or Your Life helped us talk about many facets of how we think about money and spending.

I was about to post a list of all the games that $6,200-odd would get you. Then I realized I don't even want that many games. Seriously.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Board Game web pages that suck

Here's one!

  • Black background.
  • Highlighted text that's not links.
  • Links are non-standard images, and tiny.
  • Built in Microsoft Word, so the source is bloated and is totally unreadable.
  • Links to PDFs without first warning the reader.
  • The overview's too long, and linked off the main page, so it's impossible to tell what's going on or where to go, except by clicking randomly. Most links don't explain what's going on, either.
  • Flavor text and tiny images tell us nothing.
  • No way to tell when the page was last updated.
  • No consolidated PDF or zip file to download.
  • Black background-so irritating I mention it twice.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Wizard People, Dear Readers - Re-visiting the Harry Potter world, possibly while drunk

A performance artist parodies and re-interprets the first Harry Potter movie, narrating it with some editing. You have to hear it to believe it. Contains swearing and drug references, also made me giggle uncontrollably.

This is going to get more copies of the DVD rented/sold, as hipsters download the file, then need the DVD to check out the whole thing.

Car shopping and Houston Gamers meeting

I watched Alexis in the morning so Lee could go get a massage and test-drive a Subaru Forester she saw on the Auto Trader website. She liked it, so when she came back, I went for a spin, too. The Forester drives and handles well... I hope our mechanic likes it.

After that, I got Lee's car appraised at CarMax. I think it's worth about two grand more than they do. Oh, well.

Once I was done with the dealerships, I went down to the Houston Gamers meeting. I am getting pretty sick of this location, because it just doesn't do it for me. I have to drive on the beltway, then a long way down Westheimer, then park in a dilapidated lot in a shopping center being renovated. The game store's restroom, usually fairly awful, was totally out of order today. I can only guess how many gamers today went to the restaurant next door, took a whiz, and left. Admittedly, several gamers did end up eating dinner at that restaurant. I didn't, though.

The homeless guy with poor impulse control was there, too. I didn't end up at a table with him, somehow.

I had packed Jacob Marley, Esq., along with the necessary bits (a die, ~150 pennies, about 10 tokens in 6 colors, etc.), as well as a copy of Stocks & Bonds, an old stock market game purchased at a thrift shop. I gave this away to the first person who showed interest, just to get it out of my life. I have had it marked for trade on Boardgamegeek for a long time, and never heard anyone express any interest at all, plus it's worth about $5 on Ebay, thus not worth the effort.

I played Jump! with Kevin H. , Kevin N., and James Spurny, then learned Shadows Over Camelot with Maura, Michael D., Kevin B., and Doug (California Doug, not Big Bearded Doug). I didn't get a chance to play with Amy or Kevin's wife Debra, although I did say hi.

This is my third time to learn how to play Jump! over the last decade. I first played it way way back in the day, back at Helmut's place down in the center of Montrose.

Shadows Over Camelot I had been avoiding, but Maura convinced me to join the table. It's a co-operative game, sort of. All the players are knights trying to save Camelot from many, many impending dooms. Also, potentially one of them is a traitor, who can secretly jack things up. One, I hate the Lord of the Rings co-operative boardgame. Lord of the Rings plays you, not vice-versa. I hear if you spend another $80 on supplements, suddenly the $50 base game is good. I also hear that after about the 10th time you get kicked in the stomach, it starts feeling great.

Naturally, I ended up drawing the traitor card, and almost, almost, almost won the game by betraying the rest of the group. I'm still not sure what to think. Every turn, you either draw an Evil card, put out a siege engine to beseige Camelot, or take a point of damage. Then you get to do something Good, like drawing cards, or playing cards.

It took about two hours to learn and play, so once we were done, I handed off the copy of Stocks & Bonds. Since, you know, I needed to go find a bathroom.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Game night

Two old friends came over and we ate roast with potatoes and played Jacob Marley, Esq. and Can't Stop.

I lost Can't Stop, due to not being able to stop. Not sure why I lost Jacob Marley, Esq., since there's a lot going on. Did I pick the wrong loans? Did I pick the right loans at the wrong time? I dunno.