Monday, August 28, 2006

Star Wars - Knights of the Old Republic is a space hog

Lordy. I'm taking my day off between jobs, and after hitting the bank, the gas station, and the grocery store, I sat down to do some maintenance tasks on my PC.

I'm just saying, back in my computer gaming heyday (1983-2001, RIP), games didn't have more than 15,000 individual files on my hard drive and occupy 2.74 gig of space.

Coincidentally, my previous work laptop, after I cleaned it up and ran defrag, was using about 28,000 files and 3.4 gig. That was for all of Windows XP Pro, the full Microsoft Office Professional Suite, a few other diagnostic tools and file viewers, etc.

Now, I'm not saying Star Wars KOTOR is a bad, short game. No, it's so fun and immersive I stopped playing because I knew I'd never get past scratching the surface of the rich, innovative gameplay and character development. I think I missed my window to enjoy the game by about 3 years. Uninstalled it and posted to Craigslist. If I don't get any local takers, I'll post it to and go from there.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

How I know I read too many comics...

I'm reading a life coach's guide to time management and priorities. There's a section where she talks about finding out her office has burned down.

I read the following sentence:

"The burning building was a meta-"

and my brain automatically filled in "-human," instead of "-phor."

I switched jobs, plus I got all introspective

Friday was my last day at a place I worked longer than any job I've ever had: nearly five years. I'm not going to talk about them or the specifics of my job; it's not important.

I went in making a certain amount of money that was more money than I ever made before and left making more money than I ever made before. It was my first job with health benefits, vacation days, and a 401-k match. I had a cubicle and a laptop, and I got to submit expense reports and everything.

I met a metric ton of people, most of whom were either good at their jobs, or awesome, or both. My wife and I rented a spare bedroom to a co-worker, and he's now one of my closest friends and boardgaming buddies. I had a group of cool people to hang out with and we had fun and got things done.

I was a department expert, and that was great. I was an old hand, was regularly solving crazy-hard questions, and generally had time to research and refine solutions.

However, recently I'd gotten a whiff of my own brain going stale in the cubicle. Maybe it's the kids waking up eleventy-hundred times a night and frying my circadian rhythms. Maybe it's paying the bills for said kids, or the fact that I flat-out couldn't put in the hours I used to. Maybe drinking less than the rest of my department was holding me back somehow. Maybe I'm getting older or wiser or more foolish. Definitely fatter and balder, which is encouraging.

A few days ago, after I really, really, really decided to go to another company, I had an experience I haven't had in over a year: I awakened refreshed under my own power. No kid, no alarm clock, no barking dog, whatever. A weight was dropped from my shoulders.

Let's try that again, in the active voice: I dropped a weight from my shoulders. I was lying to myself for the past year, pretending that I was still going to be a good worker most of the time, and that's not the way to be. There's a saying that goes something like, "If you're going to wait tables till your film script sells, be a good waiter 'til the world learns you're a good writer." I wasn't waiting tables, but the principle stands.

Doing your best work whenever you can is a rebellion against negativity. Doing your best work from 9 to 6 lets you hold your head high as you leave, so you can hold it high the rest of the time. If you have no regrets and don't hold back your strength at your day job, it teaches you how to go full-tilt. Also, if you hate your job a lot of the time, even when you're not actually there, please, dude/dudette, get another one - it's dragging down everyone and everything else you meet. That's the realization I had been fighting for the last year, and it was making me bitter AND stupid because I was fighting my brain about it.

Something was missing, but I couldn't figure out what.

There are a couple of books on my nightstand that have given me a lot to think about over the past few years, and both of them want you to put together a "Success Checklist" of the experiences you need to feel complete. After that, you figure out what's working and what's missing, and go from there.

Here's what I figured out about myself in the last year, and finally managed to put into words:

"I am happy when I help people with their problems by applying new information they didn't have before to the equation."

There you go. That's me. I'm a clever helper monkey. Could be anything...

Lend someone a book I like, teach them a board game, fix their computers for them or empower them with new computer skills, engage them in a dialogue about their current situation, talk finances, whatever.

Requests from someone else help focus and frame my research into a coherent product. Without an actual angle to work from, I'm content to just skim through and enjoy the easy parts. It comes with the speed-reading powers I got when I was bitten by a radioactive bookworm.

I'll start the new job soon.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Thursday night: small crowd

Crystal, R.J., and Chris showed up for some mid-week gaming. Lee put the girls to bed and then crashed, too. I was sick earlier in the week and took an anti-histamine that made me lose basically all of Tuesday in a stupor.

Anyway, we played Wyatt Earp and I won by about a hundred million billion zillion dollars, and then Crystal headed out, citing early alarm-clock due to her husband's new job teaching science. R.J., Chris, and I agreed to play Ra, and then R.J. totally destroyed us. I have been beaten worse at Ra than that, but only once.

Nothing earth-shattering.

Gamecount: Individual game sessions played for the year = 139, New game titles played for the year = 25.

Sunday at Larry's: Attika!

Er, yes. Sunday, at Larry's. His roommate Tom is cool, and we chatted some about the Economist - evidently there are big discounts to be had if you buy subscriptions in bulk, which his dad does as Christmas presents. Interesting, as I know at least one person who wants one.

Anyway, we taught Tom how to play Attika, and got in two games before I had to head back and pick up the girls.

Gamecount: Individual game sessions played for the year = 137, New game titles played for the year = 25.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Houston Gamers: I learn two new games

I made it to the Houston Gamers on Saturday out at Enigmas. The owner threw an anniversary party for the store, and gave away more than $200 of games, plus put out a lot of snacks.

I ended up learning Beowulf, a game about following Beowulf around and waiting for him to die. Uh, no, really, that's the deal. It has a lot of physical similarity to Reiner Knizia's Lord of the Rings game, but that game is cooperative, and Beowulf isn't. Basically, you have a series of auctions in a variety of suits of cards, where winning early auctions can give you one-shot special powers in later auctions.

Eeh, it was okay, and I can see how it might be nice to play as a change from all the other auction games in my collection.

Len, other Todd, and Crystal also got a little ways into one of Kevin's prototypes about competing TV stations, but we had to call it a night before we finished. We were about 3 auctions in when I realized that it was past 11:30 p.m. and I just didn't want to do 17 more auctions, then take part in working out the complicated scoring. I felt dumb, but it was the right call.

Crystal and Len ended up playing Blue Moon as I did a terrible job of explaining the rules. I have GOT to practice teaching games to people. I used to have at least a half-dozen where I could keep people's attention. I think it comes from not being able to use my showman's voice at home on the regular game night... too much huddling around a table, unlike my convention performances where I'm free to strut about and ham it up.

I used up the last of some spending cash I had to pick up another Blue Moon deck for myself. There are 7 more decks I hypothetically could buy, but eeh, I expect to live another 60 or 70 years, so that should do me for a decade or so.

Gamecount: Individual game sessions played for the year = 135, New game titles played for the year = 25.

Last Thursday: Kevin Nunn rocks with Zong Shi

Kevin Nunn and his wife Debra came over to hang out. Kevin also brought Zong Shi, his recently-finished prototype. I playtested an earlier version, and Kevin's tweaks have definitely helped it a little. The scoring is cleaner and setup involves a drafting mechanism that makes it the beginning rounds more equitable.

The group thought it was cool.

Kevin's got a publisher for this, from the sound of it. I'll buy it when it comes out... it's a good hour and a half or two hour game, with a good mix of luck and strategy.

Gamecount: Individual game sessions played for the year = 133, New game titles played for the year = 23.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Thursday night: New Games

Tim, R.J., and Chris made it for gaming. Alex decided to get out of bed a lot, so I soothed her to sleep with my renditions of "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot," and "The Sun Is A Mass of Incandescent Gas."

New stuff played: Villa Paletti, the 2002 Game of the Year, and Early American Chrononauts, a sequel to the Looney Labs folks' Chrononauts. Villa Paletti actually resembles a colorful, larger version of Jenga, and the new Chrononauts game felt a little tighter than the old one. There are more labels and reminders on the cards, which will probably make it easier to explain.

I also got my copy of Hacienda today, from a Canadian BGG'er named Dan. It arrived in pretty good shape, with one corner a little mashed. Eeh, it's not like there was fine china inside.

Lee actually got me 3 copies of Villa Paletti at the Tuesday Morning sale. I read about it on the BoardgameGeek, but sadly, they had a massive server crash just after that due to being linked from noted mega-site Slashdot. The last time this happened, we had a server drive and everyone pitched in a few bucks to get it back up and running even better than before. It'll be interesting to see the results...

Gamecount: Individual game sessions played for the year = 132, New game titles played for the year = 23.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Busy weekend

I had a busy weekend and didn't manage to make it out to the Houston Gamers. Shucks.

If I were to get one easy (able to do in a single week) project done, it would be this: sleep until I wake up naturally, without an external source interrupting me. Hasn't happened yet, though.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Wednesday Magic with Tim

Tim came over and we played some Magic. It's nice to get back to the basics every once in a while. Tim played aggressively and won most of tonight's games.

Nothing particularly earth-shattering to report - I definitely needed to play after a hard day of obstacles at work.

Gamecount: Individual game sessions played for the year = 130, New game titles played for the year = 21.