Archive for October, 2006

#727

1:09 am, Tuesday, October 31st, 2006

I started reading The Gods Themselves. It’s pretty good for an Asimov book. That is, I love his short stories but most of his novels just don’t do it for me. The only one I’ve really enjoyed was The Positronic Man; the others I’ve tried (a couple from the Foundation series and Nemesis) have been overly dry. Anyway, so far Gods Themselves seems to be a fairly straightforward indictment of organizational apathy. Had the book been written more recently, I might have assumed Asimov was also commenting on global warming. But in 1972? Had anyone even thought of it back then?

Looker got fleas last week. They came on very suddenly –really bothered her. I got my parents to FedEx me some Advantix and I gave her a bath with flea shampoo which helped until the medication arrived. The Advantix is really effective. You just squeeze a few drops onto four points on the back and it kills all the fleas in less than 24 hours.

About that same time last week, Brett and I went and got haircuts from Min. I got mine a bit shorter than usual, but I like it.

Gas sure has gotten cheaper lately… when I filled up Saturday night it was only $2.27 per gallon.

Been playing a lot of Magic at Game-A-Lot with Charlie and the guys. I’ve made three new decks; a red, a blue, and a black. The red one works by putting out death-resistant creatures (e.g. Darksteel Gargoyle, Rukh’s Egg), then Jokulhaupsing the board. The blue one is all about redirectable color-hate, a la Distorting Lens + Blue Elemental Blast (usually imprinted on an Isochron Scepter). And the black one uses a Crypt Rats combo for massive life gain. They’re a lot of fun to play, but Charlie’s new decks are pretty tough to beat. He has one that uses a Quicksilver Amulet to put out huge, expensive creatures like Mindleech Mass. There are other terrible combos in that deck, but that’s the one that really hurts.

Speaking of Charlie, I went to his and Ashlee’s Halloween party on Saturday. Lots of fun. We watched 28 Days Later and The Count of Monte Cristo. The latter turned out to be surprisingly good. Normally I avoid those sorts of Napoleonic-era movies — they’re usually slow, boring, and feature a lot of dull sword fights. But this one was really great. My only complaint was that I think the story would’ve been better if Dant├Ęs had lost in the end. Charlie, Janelle, and I had an interesting discussion about it after the movie.

Um, what else… I found out the tailor on the corner will sew pant buttons on for only $1.50 each. Pretty good deal — I’ve gotten two pairs fixed.

A couple pictures before I take off here: The first is the board at the end of a Carcassone game between me, Charlie, Anthony, Garret, and Nolan. We used two games worth of tiles for that one. I think Anthony won with something like 230 points. The second picture is from the Halloween party. I think everyone was kind of caught off-guard by the flash.

Carcassone with 2 sets worht of tiles    Charlie & Ashlee's Halloween party

#726

11:06 am, Sunday, October 22nd, 2006

Been fighting off a cold the past few days; it started out as a little congestion and a mild fever, but got worse. Normally, I try to avoid bringing up indelicate things in my blog, but I just have to mention this sneeze I had in the shower this morning as the volume of mucus unleashed was truly staggering. There must have been at least 10 cubic centimeters of the stuff. Anyway, I think I’ve gotten through the worst of it–should be back to normal by Monday.

We’ve had some interesting Carcassone games lately; last week I bought a second copy of the game and mixed all the tiles together so we could create larger countrysides. It’s worked out pretty well, but now the game seems to focus on farms too much. I think the additional tiles require a new rule to keep the game from degenerating into “farm wars” — like, farms should be reduced to three points per completed city instead of four.

Not much else to report. I’ll have some more gaming pics later, but for now here’s a screenshot from an MTGO game I played last month where my mono-white Isochron-Soldiers deck made an impressive comeback.

MTGO - Isochron-Soldiers deck

#725

1:48 am, Saturday, October 21st, 2006

About an hour and a half ago I got back from Game-A-Lot. The booster draft failed to coalesce again, but I got to shoot the breeze with Anthony, Brandon, and Palmer a bit. The D&D game was supposed to be today, but no one can get ahold of Chris — it’s like he’s dropped off the face of the earth. Anyway, Palmer and I played several games of Magic with my decks. I made this new blue/green one that works pretty well and I found one of my old ones that I used to love; a mono-blue that revolves around an Illusions of Grandeur + Donate combo.

Finished The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress. I always find these old science fiction stories weirdly amusing, what with the strange assumptions the authors made about future technology — in TMIaHM, Heinlein puts a lot of focus on these gigantic computers and how taxing it is for them to calculate orbits and trajectories. Yet the same machines can generate photo-realistic video in real time. Today, the former task would be simple for even the cheapest modern PCs while the latter requires vast amounts of processing (and even then, people can often tell what’s CG and what’s real). The ending of the book was a little anticlimactic; Luna wins its sovereignity, but one of the most beloved protagonists dies and the self-aware supercomputer loses its sentience forever. Last night, I started reading Niven’s Crashlander.

The Monday d20 Modern game has been progressing well. Chris, Jay, and Ian didn’t show up for the last session, but Anthony and I played anyway. It’s pretty fun; reminds me of some of my past GURPS games. Strong paranoia, intrigue, and action themes so far. Likewise, the Wednesday night Seattle GURPS game is going well. We’ve constructed an impressive ship, gained an Ally Group, got some clues about the “why” of Riverworld, and just recently found a source of malleable metal (before this, the available building materials were limited to human hair and bone, fish hides, tough grass roots, wood, bamboo, rock, and whatever we brought in the parachronic conveyor). Now if we can keep the Zulu and Anasazi tribes off our backs for a while we might be able to build some sort of flying machine to get to one of the poles within our own lifetimes. Had we continued sailing down the river 24/7, we’d probably have died of old age long before we reached a significant area. (A generous estimate put travel time at around 300 years.)

Here’re some pictures from Game-A-Lot.

Charlie and Doug playing Settlers Josh and Full Metal Alchemist mural Matt and Vanessa

The first one is of Charlie and Doug playing Settlers of Catan. I think Anthony actually won that game. The second is Josh standing in front of a Full Metal Alchemist mural Anthony’s cousin is painting on the north wall. The last one is of Matt and Vanessa between games of Emperor Magic. They just started playing with us when they discovered Game-A-Lot about a week ago.

Charlie and Ashlee are having a Halloween costume party on the 28th. I bet it’ll be a lot of fun. Haven’t decided what I’ll go as yet. Brett’s put together a swell Radar O’Reilly costume though.

#724

9:24 pm, Friday, October 13th, 2006

Brett and I went to the Killers concert last night. It was packed. They held it in the Paramount Theatre in Seattle, same place where I saw Mamma Mia last year. The opening act was a band called Immigrant. I can’t really say how their music was, seeing as how the sound quality was so terrible. Though a little melody seeped through on their last song, Wrecking Ball; what little I was able to decipher sounded fairly nice.

Fortunately, the sound quality for the headliner was terrific. I can’t believe how loud it was! My hearing was significantly worse for a few hours following the performance. I wasn’t really prepared for that; prior to last night, the only concerts I’d attended were those of Riders in the Sky, Weird Al Yankovic, and Pink Martini. Anyway, lots of fun. They did all the songs I like — Somebody Told Me, Mr. Brightside, When You Were Young. The special effects were great too — it’s amazing how different the same stage can look with right combinations of lighting and smoke machines.

There’s another Magic tournament tonight. Same as last time — a Time Spiral booster draft. Hopefully I’ll do better this time.

Here are some pictures I took last Friday: The first is from our D&D game, the second is from the MTG tourney.

Friday Night D&D - Chris, Jay, and Palmer    Timespiral Release Booster Draft Tournament

#723

2:18 am, Wednesday, October 11th, 2006

Chris’s Friday night D&D game seemed to go pretty well. I was only present for the first couple hours or so, but we got to kill some duergar couriers. We have a new player this time — an older guy named Palmer. He’s pretty congenial; plays a sorcerer. As for the rest of us, Brandon’s playing a monk, Ian’s a scout, and I’m a paladin. I can’t quite remember what Jay and Anthony are playing ATM.

I missed out on the rest of the session so I could join the Magic tournament at 10:30. It was a slightly atypical booster draft; four boosters instead of three, an ever-decreasing time limit on draft picks, etc. But, for the most part, those deviations made it more fun IMO. I had to go home after the second round since it was so late and I was worried that Looker needed a walk quite badly. I wasn’t exactly in top form for the competition (having gotten up to install lighting fixtures in Renton at 4:30 AM — long story), but I don’t think it would have mattered too much; Charlie’s deck (which went on to tie for 1st place in the tourney) was extremely vicious. It was mainly a thallid deck, but also included some terrifically irksome creatures like Stronghold Overseer.

Keith’s Monday night d20 Modern game started this week. The first session went really well. We had some minor goof-ups, but no one died or got arrested. I’m particularly pleased with the character I managed to create in record time — a Smart Hero with the Technician occupation named Nihar Huyderman. It’s kind of weird to see Chris as a player after only ever knowing him as a GM.

I finished Schild’s Ladder a few days ago. I never did fully grok the quantum mechanics stuff, but it was still enjoyable. The technobabble in this one didn’t confuse me as much as it did in Diaspora. I’m proud to say I actually completely understood the Schild’s Ladder section, which turned out to be a complicated geometry metaphor for how an individual can “stay themself” while continuing to adapt. (Well, it’s a little more in-depth than that, but the existential bits are hard to sum up concisely.) Anyway, I’m now reading Heinlein’s The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress. After I finish it, I think I’ll move on to either Niven’s Crashlander or some more Discworld stuff.

Beefy and Jones got me hooked on Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, this TV show on NBC. I like the stories and the actors, but there’s a lot of little things about it that annoy me. It just feels so fake. Everyone talks fast, has tons of confidence, is constantly busy, and delivers nauseatingly witty lines at just the right moment. It’s sort of the opposite of The Office. Hopefully it’ll become more realistic (in terms of dialogue and pacing, I mean) as the season wears on.

Peter Parker: Prenatal Avenger

#722

9:11 am, Thursday, October 5th, 2006

Alright, I’m back from the Tri-Cities. Not a whole lot happened whilst I was down there; replaced a hard drive on a network terminal, played some board games with Jones and Beefy, podcasted with the aforementioned parties, had dinner with my parents at Anthony’s (fancy seafood place — I had the crabcakes).

On the drive down there I listened to Eats, Shoots & Leaves (probably the best audiobook I’ve heard since Stossel’s last one). Far more entertaining than you’d expect for a collection of essays on punctuation. I also made quite a bit of headway on Schild’s Ladder, which is basically about an ever-expanding sphere of annihilating otherworldly-physics and the people who study it (who are all digital intelligences running on computers in semi-human bodies). I have pretty much the same feelings about it as I had with Diaspora (the last Egan novel I read): Dislike the hyper-technical physics (in this case, quantum mechanics), love the transhumanist themes.

Lots of stuff going on at GameALot lately. I finally got my blue control deck assembled, so we’ve been playing a lot of Magic. Tonight we played a couple games in Emperor format and it performed extremely well. The only thing that really messed me up was when my Memnarch died and I lost any chance I had of stealing some 4/4 angels with protection from all colors. I’m thinking about restructuring the deck to really spotlight Memnarch, then adding some stuff to protect him, like Lightning Greaves and Disappear. But then I’d also need to boost my mana acceleration and draw power, so I dunno… maybe I’ll just make a new deck for that entirely.

The big event this week will be the Time Spiral release on Friday. Anthony’s having a big booster draft tournament that night at 10:30 pm. Pretty excited about that. And the prize sounds like it’ll be pretty boss — the winner gets one booster pack per participant.

Anyway, we played some Carcassone and a lot of Munchkin (plus Star Munchkin). Charlie and Garret were only recently introduced to it and they seem pretty hooked. Here’re some pictures I took (hover over them for descriptions)…

GameALot - Anthony eating pizza and Garret giving a Bronx cheer GameALot - Charlie et al. GameALot - Anthony and Logan

And here’s a picture I meant to post a long time ago of the apartment building I live in (we’re in the second floor unit on the right side of the last stairwell):

Pinewood Village, H building

Oh yeah, and the Seattle GURPS game has really been picking up — Michael dropped out (no big loss, IMHO) and was replaced by Torsten (a friend of Martin’s from Montreal who’s played in a bunch of his past campaigns). We managed to assassinate the second Centrum agent on the 1890s parallel, filed our report, and were immediately sent to a new world. Long story short, it’s basically Riverworld. After a lot of work, we managed to build an empire of the various peoples who spawned in the local strip of river: Slovanians from the 1940s, 15th century Koreans, and ancient Aztecs. Our last session culminated in a war with the ancient Greeks (controlled by the Centrum team) and the lengthy construction of a 15-man sailing ship (with motorized paddlewheels that double as dynamos for powercells). Since slugthrower ammo is very limited, we’re relying primarily on our rechargeable electrolasers.

Christian’s going to be absent next week, but it seems play will continue without him. It should be an interesting session; hopefully we’ll find out what’s at the headwaters of The River.