Saturday, May 31, 2008

Anniversary

My wife and I were married 11 years ago today, and as I write this, she's getting Daria dressed for a pool party as Cori and Alex look at pictures on Lee's computer.

We've come a long way, folks.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Sunday Gaming at Kevin's

I took Alex to Kevin Nunn's birthday party on Saturday. I played (and won) a game of Formel Fun with John, Amy, Michael Westin, Debra, and Kevin. The house was basically full starting from about 2:30 pm till I left at 8:30. Alex had a great time - Kevin has a Wii, and Joy's girls Erin and Morgan were there quite a bit of the time playing Dance Dance Revolution.
Anye and Jason were there, so I finally delivered my copy of Iron Dragon to her and collected my $25, to be spent on future games. They started a game of Tatinhasu (sp?).
The food was excellent - Marty Hoff brought his famous chocolate pie, there were chocolate-covered sunflower seeds from Candylicious, and a bruschetta/pesto bar had been carefully arranged as well.
After Formel Fun wrapped up, I helped Alex down for her nap, then almost played another of Kevin's prototypes about monkeys, then Alex got up again. Kevin Brusky was there briefly, and I got an update on the Duck Duck Go printing numbers and status (answers: quite a few, and on track).
I eventually got Nick (a fellow oil guy and creative writing major at UH), Astro, and Mike Dew to join me in my newly-finished copy of 18AL. It took us a while to get started, and we held the fort while everyone else went to Los Cucos for dinner. Alex and Mike's wife Melissa played with some Haba games, which I really need to price seriously. Tier Auf Tier was a hit with Alex, for instance. The 18AL game ended with Astro in first with over $5,200 in stock and cash, me second at around $4500, and Mike and Nick at less than that.
We did discover I am missing two tiles of high importance, but I had some extras from a paper set to replace them, so it was only a minor inconvenience.
Kevin passed me a copy of Regatta for the girls to try, and he and I are going to strategize to get a playtest session together sometime soon - he knows I have a high pain tolerance and am willing to do stop/restarts to get rule tweaks tested.
Overall, an excellent day. Alex did very well with Kevin and Debra's dog, ate and drank enough to not starve or dehydrate, and in general was on her best behavior.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Thoughts on Amazon.com recommendations

I have been browsing over at Amazon.com and it's becoming more like work.

See, I have a mission: make everything on my Amazon-recommended list be something I might buy. Also, mark everything I own, and rate everything I can. Then, with ruthless abandon, I re-trim the recommendations and add stuff to my wish list.

This is difficult. I told Amazon I owned They Might Be Giants' albums. One of them, Miscellaneous T, is evidently a "wacky" album, because now all the Weird Al CDs are in my recommendations. I own Terry Pratchett's The Color of Magic, and so now all forty-odd other Discworld novels are in my recommendations. I told Amazon I like the set-collection game Coloretto, and now it's recommending every travel version of every game anywhere.

As for buying board games at Amazon, it's a rough row to hoe. Amazon discounts most games by about 5 to 10%, and shipping is crazy. Any real online game retailer is going to have a better shipping rate, a better selection, and better prices. Except, of course, that's not quite true. Amazon has had decent game sales in the past, and it also occasionally clearances out some good game. Bargains are available... and that's what keeps me pulling the handle of the slot machine; that, and the occasional Amazon.com gift certificate.

Still, it's handy to have a unified wishlist for everything. Amazon knows that. Of course, I also have a wantlist over at BGG, too.

In other news, I went to two craft stores this weekend and searched on Amazon, and eventually ended up ordering the half-inch circle punch I wanted from another online craft store. I'm planning to use it to chop out board game parts. I also priced out furniture plugs (to use for train station markers) online.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Progress bars

Current progress on outstanding projects, small and large:

Computer hardware rearranging:
  1. Move hard drives appropriately - 90% - removed father-in-law's old hard drives to swap for new one, finished formatting 2nd drive on media PC upstairs but still need to share out.
  2. Still haven't decided what to do about intermittent wireless connection from the media PC. Will either get another wireless card, get a USB hard drive for sneaker-netting files, or both.
  3. Window-shopped at refurbished computer dealer in the area, saw some excellent prices on nice Dell refurbs.
  4. considering upgrading digital camera, will have to see what's in the budget.
  5. considering buying larger flat-screen monitor, but don't want to have to upgrade video card to do it.
  6. vaguely considering buying a drawing tablet, but have no real use for one.
Burn backups of photos, etc.:
  1. Back up and delete archive from Lee's old computer from my computer. - 100% - Freed 2 gigs easily.
  2. Install DVD burner - 50% done, installed and burned CDs, haven't tested with DVD yet.
  3. Move files appropriately - 40% done. Still have to figure out what on Lee's computer should be moved over.
  4. Burn backup - 0% done.
  5. Use Ghost to make an image of my hard drive - 20% - have been cleaning it up. That partition used to be almost full, need to clean out another ~50 gig or so of miscellaneous.
  6. Get files from videocamera and make video CD - 100% - done.
  7. Get files from videocamera and make DVD - 25% - files are moved, still need to figure out DVD creation.

List of print-and-play boardgame projects:

  1. 18AL - 95% - tiles, map, trains, and all certificates mounted and complete, rules printed and complete, have printed stock market and still need to mount it on heavy cardboard.
  2. 18GA - 60% - tiles and map mounted, certificates, stock market, and trains printed but not mounted, rules printed.
  3. Buy poker chips - 10% - researched but shipping was too high on the ones I liked. Will ask locally and see if anyone has any recommendations.
  4. Funkenschlag Atolla Modulis (a.k.a Power Grid Modular Atolls) - 20% - have it printed, still haven't mounted due to lack of heavy cardboard - I'm using cereal boxes and spray adhesive.

Board game design projects:

  1. 18IA - 25% - need to rework map to include off-board areas and reprint. Have a basic tile set chosen. Probably not going to have reworking done in time for Kevin's party on Sunday. Thinking of adding an auction mechanic similar to Atlantic Star/Showmanager for corporation special powers. Also considering making board even larger and adding more towns for better replayability. Right now, game is playable but fairly introductory/boring. Also need to re-write rules again.
  2. The farm game, a.k.a "Winter 1981" - 10% - have a theme and implementation, still hate how the numbers work, still have no clear idea of number of cards required. On hiatus. A hand management/action cards game.
  3. Hippie commune game - 10% - have a theme, have discarded two implementations. Central mechanic needs work. On hiatus. Quasi-realtime/programmed move game.
  4. Congress Fat Cats - 15% - have horrible first draft - still have no clear idea of number of action cards required. Know basic mechanism, perhaps needs to re-theme. Also "Fat Cats" is already an existing game. On hiatus. Sort of like a programmed-move game.
  5. Cyberpunk game - 0% - vaguely considering something, maybe the hippie game will get re-themed here. I liked watching Tim's game evolve but am considering something that evolves in a different direction. Hand management will be a factor.

Financial big-picture:

  1. Mortgage crossed $34,000 mark. Current estimated payoff is January 2016.
  2. Home equity loan crossed $10,000 mark. Current estimated payoff is December 2009. Not sure if we are going to cash out any of my Apache stock grant or options to make that come a little sooner. Short-term capital gains will overshadow any interest saved, if my mental math is correct.
  3. Started credit union savings account for Alex (age 4).
  4. Still need to start 529 plan for Daria (age 4.5 months).
  5. Have started researching tax issues of stock grants/options so I understand the implications of sales. Not fun but have to know how it works.
  6. When we get our tax rebate, we'll be buying Kroger gift cards, to get the 10% bonus. Planning on turning $1200 into $1320 of grocery money for the next few months. Boring but the right thing to do.

Personal fun-money:

  1. I posted to Houston Gamers a couple of games for sale/trade. Will probably expand that list further. Ray counter-offered that he's selling #3 and #4 on my wantlist - including the 1825 stuff that I'd otherwise order from England sometime in the next 12 months. Negotiations to follow, certainly.
  2. Agricola pre-order charge went through, so that will get printed soon. Moderately-excited, but trying to stay calm in case it gets delayed at the printer.
  3. Also selling off Iron Dragon, since I have played it once pre-kids, and never again after that. I can always pick up any of the Empire Builder games if I decide to revisit the crayon-rail genre.
  4. Made a couple of computer-fixit ads on Craigslist. No takers yet. Will re-post.
  5. Did half-hearted Craigslist trade attempt on old computer, got a couple of nibbles but nothing substantial. Will repost with pictures and firm price quote this time.
  6. Got several credit cards and made single minimum purchase for each. Still need to get reward programs back. Will get between $50 and $100 per card, then will cancel them.
  7. Sell off old RPGs - 0% - Bleah. Don't think I'll get more than $20 out of the giant stack of horrible crap. Might be better off seeing if Midnight Comics will take these in trade.
  8. Sell or trade off all unplayed games. Seems harsh, but if I've had it more than a year and it hasn't hit the table yet, seeya buh-bye. There's another math trade just starting on BGG right now, so I put 3 games in that.

Household improvements:

  1. Thinking about buying a dehumidifier - still have to figure out where to put it. House just isn't that big, after all. Really liking the look of a $229 one from Lowe's. Alan says theirs has reduced A/C running substantially by raising the comfortable temperature by 4 degrees. Texas has a tax-free weekend for Energy Star appliances coming up, so now would be the time...
  2. We priced putting aluminum reflective coating in the attic. Would love to do this now, probably will wait until the home equity loan is paid off. Any drop in the summer cooling bill would be welcome. Would probably take 2-5 years before it paid for itself, but after that, it's free money.
  3. Bought a folding table and love it. Old square folding table still serviceable but ugly. Also considering picking up another 4 folding chairs, but don't tell Lee that.
  4. Rearrange patio shed - 0% - Actually a negative percentage because the new folding table's going to go in there, too.
  5. Rearrange downstairs tool closet. - 0% - a source of constant irritation.
  6. Rearrange desk downstairs - 25% - bought and installed hanging file folders, have made some progress.
  7. Grow something edible outside - 10% - have four pots and some potting soil that I bought last fall, still haven't done anything with it.
  8. Replace all windows - waiting for home equity loan to be paid off.
  9. Replace kitchen counters - waiting for home equity loan to be paid off.

Books/Magazines/Movies/Music:

  1. Thursday Next series - enjoyed the first one, less so the second, still working up the nerve to tackle the other two.
  2. Various collections from McSweeney's - have been sniffing around, trying to find a point of entry. Tough to find time to read at night, and have been studying 18AL maps instead.
  3. Strongly considering re-subscribing to Esquire.
  4. Huge pile of Isaac Asimov Science Fiction magazine back-issues I got from a friend. Hopeless, not making any progress. Have verbally committed to give these to my young friend Chris, who is as avid a consumer of the stuff as I was at his age, but still need to drop them off or get him to pick them up.
  5. Amazon has a They Might Be Giants new "Here Comes The 1-2-3's" combination CD/DVD pack for $13.99. The girls love the first DVD, so this is a must-buy.
  6. Everything else: meh, no time.

Boardgames on the wishlist:

  1. Mogul - a vicious auction game. I love it, just haven't managed to get it ordered before.
  2. Hamsterrolle - Lee likes it, only it's an import and the exchange rate sucks these days. A dexterity game, so it's hard to justify the cost.
  3. 1825 Units 1, 2, or 3 - supposedly good as 2-player 18XX train games.
  4. Goa - Lee has played and enjoyed this.
  5. Factory Fun - just sounds cool.
  6. 1889 - supposedly a good 2-player 18xx train game, also available from Deep Thought Games in the U.S.
  7. Ubongo - a speed game, vaguely like head-to-head Tetris. Recently reprinted in the U.S., so probably available for $25 rather than the original $45+.

My websites:

  1. This one. Fun to update, have been enjoying it a lot.
  2. Squidoo sites. Huh, not so hot on these, they need love.
  3. Other personal/family sites. Meh, on hiatus. Shaky situation with laptop being used as web host makes me uneasy about putting a lot of data on there.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

May update

  • mailed package to sister, had to go back to post office to correct address after mailing it.
  • jabbed self in hand with packing tape dispenser.
  • bread machine died.
  • moved piles of papers on desk around, threw some away, including article printed from "Grant's Interest Rate Observer".
  • bought a used video camera and videotaped Alex's 4th birthday party.
  • defragmented hard drive.
  • deleted old horrible useless junk from hard drive.
  • installed Windows XP Pro on father-in-law's computer
  • installed Windows XP Pro service packs and driver updates on father-in-law's computer, including rolling back a video driver after it caused problems.
  • used several old cereal boxes and spray adhesive to almost complete my copy of 18AL.
  • made mental note to buy rubber cement.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Debian weak SSL key vulnerability - if you're on Debian, upgrade NOW

My webserver for my non-Blogger sites is an ancient Dell laptop running Debian. I learned of a vulnerability in Debian's SSH keys that could result in my server getting hacked easily, and just updated the packages in question.

For more details, see the SSLkeys page over at the Debian wiki.

The upgraded packages DID detect that my server was vulnerable, so I'm very happy to have done this upgrade. It took about 2 minutes to run, and so far, no operations seem to have been affected. Basically, your SSH keys are checked against a list of known-bad ones, and regenerated if they're easily broken.

(As a side note, this shuts off your apache and apache2 modules, which you will need to reactivate with a quick edit to /etc/default/apache2).

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Shot at The P.O., also, first Daria video


Mom came to visit and we played with the memory card of her new camera. Her neighbor is 80-something and has a Canon A560, so mom decided to buy the same.

We used it to record Daria turning over:


video

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Ad-supported collectible card game

This is novel: some guy's making a collectible card game that's ad-supported (reminds me a lot of Hugh MacLeod's awesome doodles-on-business-cards idea).

I hate the "Geek Fight" subject chosen as the first block, so that'll be hard to get over.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Kids

Here are a few pictures of the girls, just to tide you over.
Cori with "schoolwork"
Cori's shark
Nursing baby.

New playset


Daria, with drool.

Bleah - Windows 2000

Went to La Grange to hang out with the in-laws. Worked on father-in-law's computer, managed to "fix" it to the point where it was unbootable. I had previously known that system was pretty hinky, so I half expected it to do exactly what it did, which was crap out on a Windows system file and refuse to boot, even in safe mode.

Even as we speak, I'm running some heavy-duty computer-fu on it back at home. If I can get it running again, I'll either haul it back to them tomorrow, or just let them pick it up on Sunday.

Spent most of the time there trying and failing to fix it.

Daria rolled from her back to her tummy for the first time today. We are buying a video camera from my friend Alan, so hopefully we can catch these developmental milestones on film.