October 21, 2008

New Arrival

It's been more than a year without a post, but I thought I'd offer this one, despite the fuzzy picture it requires.


That's Storm (tentative name... was Cleo), my newly adopted cat. Not a great picture (my camera's died, and the phone is far from an adequate replacement), but it gets the point across.

More perhaps to follow.

Posted by ghoul at 08:58 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 13, 2007

Sad Day

I came home from work today to yowling. It was constant, loud, and immediately told me something was wrong. But when I looked for what, I couldn't see anything. Yes, the house is mostly empty (at least relative to its usual cluttered self). Yes, what is here is all in the wrong place. But nothing was seriously out of place. Nothing I could tell, at least.

So I set out some treats for the cats, and that let me see what was wrong. Because Lightning just nosed at them, then turned away. And he never does that. He picked one up, gummed at it, then dropped it again, drooling heavily. And he never does that.

I'd set out the cat-carriers a few days ago, preparing to move the cats to the new house. It was fairly easy to corral a listless Lightning into one, rush him out to the car.

He hates the vet, and that hadn't changed. He was a royal terror for the doctor to examine, but with a shot of valium to calm him, they were able to start to look at him. Nothing was obvious right away, though the doctor said his heartbeat sounded bad, so they wanted to try some blood tests and x-rays. I left him there, looking angry and confused, wrapped in a towel and wondering why.

They called just a bit ago. Apparently, his kidneys have or are in the process of completely shutting down. There were a few things they could try, but it would mean costs in the thousands of dollars and little real hope.

So, tonight, we've put Lightning to sleep.

I'd been setting up a place for the cats at the new house (yes, I'm still in the process of moving, which is a large part of why there have been no posts), with a large window looking out at a birdfeeder that's almost constantly in use. I just knew my cats would love it. Now, only one will ever get the chance.

Thunder is sitting in the floor near here, looking at me, looking around, clearly not sure what has happened.

The house is terribly quiet.

Posted by ghoul at 07:26 PM | Comments (2)

August 20, 2007

Speaking Of The Other Guys

I spoke kindly of Apple's customer service (eventually), now I need to mention the opposite.

Two weeks ago, I purchased two garage door openers for the two garage doors of my new house. I paid slightly more for installation than I did for the hardware.

The installers called 2 days later, said they'd come in 3 days and would call first.

Three days later, cell phone in hand all day, and nothing. Eventually, I got a call that claimed they'd called 3 times earlier in the day but gotten no answer and left no message. And also left no trace of a missed call on my phone, which means they probably didn't call. They re-scheduled for today, late (as they'll be an hour and a bit away on another job in Keene, NH, most of the day).

Today, they call at 8 AM and ask if morning is OK (what happened to the job in Keene, I don't know). I say it is. Two hours later, they show up, look at the garage for 5 minutes, and decide there's a problem. No place to anchor the header of the garage door opener. Or, rather, there is a place, but it would require cutting and attaching a heavy piece of wood where there's currently just a gap. Relatively easy carpentry, they agree.

But a call to their boss results in them saying they can't do it. The boss won't allow them to do carpentry as part of a simple install job, and claims its a liability risk (which it might well be).

They call back to the retailer who contracted them, who says they'll find another installer to take a look. But they also tell me there is no other installer in southern NH.

So they leave me their card, some fairly hollow apologies, and two garage door openers still in their boxes.

Not the happy experience dealing with Apple provided.

Posted by ghoul at 06:42 PM | Comments (0)

August 18, 2007

Apple Vs. Other Guys

OK, let's imagine something.

Let's imagine you bought something three years ago. And, just two week or so back, it went belly up.

Let's say it's a tower computer. A really nice dual processor beauty. And let's say the power supply gave out, to the point that it started leaking nasty, oily fluid all over the place.

Now, let's say you take it to the company's store, tell them it's under warranty, and they promise to fix it.

And let's say that, after two weeks' effort and 2-3 replacements of pretty much every part, they can't manage it.

So... what do they do?

Well, I can tell you what Apple Computer does. They say "Sorry, we can't fix your G5 tower. So, come in tomorrow and we'll swap it out for a new MacPro dual Intel processor tower with as similar features as we can (i.e., the same RAM, a slightly larger HD, 2 extra drive bays for future use, and about 2-3 times the speed). Oh, and we'll port over all your data first, so that's taken care of."

How many other guys are going to do that for you?

Lesson of the story: not all warranties are worth the cost, but AppleCare pretty much is. I stopped on the way out from picking up the new tower to purchase coverage on the new machine.

Posted by ghoul at 02:58 PM | Comments (2)

July 19, 2007

New Home Day

... is tomorrow. Closing is at 8 AM, after which I'll be able to say the house in Bow is mine.

It'll be a while before I'm living in it, and I'm still shopping around for the best shelving and other furniture options. Which should keep me distracted for a while longer.

Posted by ghoul at 05:39 PM | Comments (0)

June 16, 2007

And It's Official (and Scary)

After a bit more negotiation on price (they wanted more than I offered, but not more than I'm willing to pay, so we found an agreeable spot) and dates (they wanted a later date, which is fine by me so I took theirs), we've reached terms on the new house. I sign some final commitment papers tomorrow.

And, come August, I'll be moving to the nice house in Bow. Just for fun, let's see the picture again...


And, until then, I'll be arranging endless things to please realtors and mortgage brokers, packing up a lot of books and games, and looking into furniture options. Particularly bookcases. The best feature of the house I'm leaving (other than it having a price I could afford in early 1999) is its ~90' of built in shelving, almost 2/3rds of which is in one large room that quickly became my "library". The new house has no significant built-shelving except in the garage, so most of that 90' will need to be made up with new bookcases or other shelving units.

And that's not including the new shelving I'm planning to instal to put my boardgame collection in a more accessible place (I'm currently guessing that's at least 100' more shelving) or the fact that I've outgrown my DVD storage space by about 10 feet of shelving. And both grow rapidly enough that I'd be foolish to not give plenty of expansion space.

And to make that boardgame collection useful, I'll be looking for a nice table in the 7-8 foot range with sufficient (and comfy) chairs.

Oh, and I've got at least one whole new room to supply, as the current house has 4 rooms other than the kitchen and foyer while the new house has 6, and two of those are quite large. A rough mapping of everything I have (including all the shelving I already know I need and the gaming table) still leaves the whole living room empty!

And I own no outside furniture for the deck, though I do have a never-out-of-the-box grill I'm itching to put to use.

And I'll need lawn care equipment, and will want to plan ahead for snow removal as the new drive is significantly more than I'll want to shovel by hand.


What am I getting myself into?

Posted by ghoul at 10:13 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 15, 2007


Wrote a check today to officially start the process.

That is the process of moving from here...


...to here...


I expect it may be a somewhat longish process, with perhaps a bump or two along the way (like, say, a pre-approval letter with the wrong name on it, to mention something that has already happened and been addressed after many alarums, excursions, and phonecalls... mostly phonecalls). It's actually not a very long move distance-wise; Google Maps says 7.1 miles, just from the north-west side of Concord to the north-east part of Bow, which is the town just below Concord. But the new house is more than twice the size of the current house, and that's not including significant garage- and basement-based storage space. Also, there's a real yard (though not too much real yard; most of it is wooded and needs minimal care), a deck (less than 2 years old), and an absolutely huge family room (roughly 13x30 and just begging to have a huge board game collection put to use in it).

But yes... except for some minor oddities of corner cut-outs to fit the space, it is all but completely euclidian.

So... now I pretty much know what I'm doing this summer.

Posted by ghoul at 03:16 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 11, 2007

Catching Up

OK, it's been a while...

Comcast has been being a royal pain again, to the point that I've stopped using their email as anything but a back-up. For now, it's GMail as my primary (though it's all just who I forward thru anyway). If anyone sent me email last week expecting a reply and didn't get one, please re-send.

I've got 3 games to complete this month, one for a Stillpoint game day, two for The Black Road. All are in fairly good preliminary shape, but they need to get done in the next two or three weeks.

Work is work. Plenty getting done, but busy most of the time doing it. I haven't made a boardgame club meeting yet in 2007, and that may not turn around anytime soon despite tons of interest in several new games.

And, just to make my summer sufficiently crowded, I've spotted a house right in the size/location/features/price range I've been saying "if I spot one like this, I'll take it" for the best part of a year now. Because when you're plenty busy, nothing adds to the mix quite like moving to the other side of town. If the house has one serious flaw it's that, from what I've seen so far (and I'll actually be seeing the inside in person later today), none of its staircases or other features are even remotely non-euclidian.

Posted by ghoul at 11:33 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 30, 2007

Odd, Sad Coincidences

Last Saturday night, as part of John Schippers's Justice Legion Militia: Lengthening Shadows game at AmberCon, we were handed pictures of a semi-fictitious, bankrupt Christian amusement park that was the site of some suspicious and unpleasant activity. One of those pictures was familiar to me. In story, they were in South Carolina, but I was pretty sure immediately they were actually taken in Covington, KY, at the Garden of Hope (page down; it's the third item in the article... I can't find the nice color pictures John found for the game).

Why did I know this?

Well, because my grandfather was part of the churchgoing workmen who built the Garden of Hope, back in the late 1950s. He mixed the paints into the concrete to give the faux-stone the proper color and aged appearance, among other tasks. My mother was very proud of that, and told me about it regularly, particularly as the family made roughly-Easter-Sunday visits to the site. I've stood right where the picture used in the game was taken a dozen times, at least. And, even today, there aren't all that many replicas of the traditional Tomb of Christ in the USA. Until very recently, there was only this one, tucked away in its hard-to-find corner of West Covington, KY.

So it was a rather odd coincidence, to say the least.

And was near the top of my mind when, yesterday afternoon, I got the call that my grandfather had died, after a long battle with Parkinson's, a severe stroke, and several minor heart attacks, plus a recently-discovered large tumor in his throat that made swallowing difficult. It wasn't completely unexpected; there had been talk of transferring him to a hospice among the options under discussion for the better part of a month. None of which makes it any easier, really. As I mentioned in a quick post yesterday, I'm flying back to Cincinnati for the services, and to help out however I can.

And, if time allows, I may well even try to wiggle up the back streets in West Covington, refresh some memories. They'll be all decorated for Easter next Sunday. It seems right.

Posted by ghoul at 08:05 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 29, 2007

Barely Home Then Away

I'll be back in Cincinnati this weekend following a death in the family. I will post as possible, but wouldn't want to promise anything before the middle of next week.

Posted by ghoul at 03:11 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 16, 2007

Travel Woes Day 2

It looks like my flight to Philly will leave only around 10-20 minutes late.

But my flight from Philly to New Hampshire has already been cancelled and a replacement selected.

So at best I'll be home 25 hours after my original planned return.

At best.

The fun continues!

UPDATE: Made it to Philly. No news yet if the 3:55 departure time on my replacement flight to Manchester is valid or no, and it's way too soon to even guess given the cavalcade of delays that is USAir (and, likely, everyone else) today.

UPDATE 2: Still in Philly, still no news. The flight before mine in this gate is getting some chaos due to a lack of ground power, but that's not my issue at all. And, as my other post shows, there's actually some good going on as well. Certainly the best unexpected and undesired long delay I've had in some time!

I still want to get home, of course.

UPDATE 3: Still waiting, but the new so far is good. We'll see. 30 minutes remain for something bad to happen.

UPDATE 4: Made it home. Lots of digging necessary to have a parking place, but I am home. My checked bag actually made it home 2 hours before me, which I find interesting but was not worth staying in the airport one second longer.

Home is good.

Posted by ghoul at 08:14 PM | Comments (0)

Unexpected Travel Joys

OK, I'm still waiting and all, but I just had the most unexpectedly fun coincidental meeting.

I was sitting, typing away on some work email, and a nice gentleman came over, chatted for a bit, then asked if I like movies.

Turns out, he is Ken Wales, currently on his way to do a special showing of his new film Amazing Grace and, for some reason, he decided I seemed like the kind of person who would like to see his preview DVD (a 7 minute extended trailer). And it really does look quite good. A well-cast, solid-looking film of a major event in modern civilization, William Wilberforce's campaign to end the British slave trade.

Which, I think, gives me something to do next weekend, when the film comes out.

Posted by ghoul at 01:48 PM | Comments (0)

February 15, 2007

About Not Posting and Travel Woes

So, I haven't been posting much recently. But you could see that. I mean, three posts since Thanksgiving week? That's pretty much a dictionary definition of not posting much recently, isn't it?

Mostly, I've just been busy. The merger at work is in full swing, and my team was charged with re-pricing pretty much everything we offer on a timeframe barely possible for the four of us. And then, thanks to one departure and one maternity leave, it wasn't four of us, but rather two of us and anyone from other teams we could beg, borrow, or steal.

So I haven't been doing much that didn't involve just collapsing once getting home except for keeping up with my regular RPGs, which I'd go quite crazy without, and doing a few one-shots like the Spirit of the Century game, some AmberCon plans, and maybe a few other store event sort of things (currently a couple of those being sketched out for early March, along with another SotC game for whenever I can get the free time to organize it).

Today's break comes thanks to USAir and yesterday's snowstorm in the north-east. Oh, I called in advance, made plan changes to a non-delayed, non-cancelled flight, checked back later to make sure it was still that flight, and then got to the airport and checked AGAIN as I checked in that all was on-schedule.

And, once I was through security, they told me the flight was actually delayed, maybe an hour. It is now (4:05) a little over an hour after I should have taken off, and the plane isn't even here yet, nor is it expected for 20-30 more minutes (though they say it has taken off and so is on its way). Which means I might be leaving Greensboro about the time my flight from LaGuardia to Manchester is scheduled to take off (5:10). Which is still somewhat better than what's happened with two co-workers who were down for the same training... They left to return to Hartford, CT yesterday, and I just chatted with them here at the airport to learn that they're hoping to fly out at around 4:50. Maybe. (They did just now (4:16) announce that they were about to begin boarding for that flight.)

All of which means the odds are not good that I'll be sleeping in my own bed tonight. But I decided "why not?" and sprung for the airport's WiFi just to give me something to do, now that I've finished reading my planned books for during the flight.

I'd best make it home by tomorrow evening, though, because there's a session of my monthly RPG this Saturday and, like I said, there's the whole 'without those I'd go crazy' issue.

UPDATE: 4:35 now, and the rumor (and that's the best USAir can manage to announce) is that we will have a plane at 5, but won't have a crew before 7:30. Joy. I'm 90% of the way to deciding to just stay here in Greensboro another day. But the WiFi did come back in time to post this... Joy!

UPDATE 2: 5:12 now, and the rumor is true, so they've switched us all to another flight, leaving at ~5:40 and not delayed at all. No, I don't understand why they delay one flight to PAST another to the same place, but there it is. In theory, I could now be home before midnight, assuming no delays on my (now re-assigned, of course) 2nd flight. Travel is fun, right?

UPDATE 3: 5:40 now, and it's pretty clear that wasn't true. Current rumor (no announcement, of course) is 6:30 departure, which would JUST get me to my MHT connection. Assuming it's also delayed a little, which is pretty much a certainty. This really sucks.

FINAL UPDATE: 6:10 and I've officially given up after the flight dropped back to a 7:58 time. I'll be trying again tomorrow.

AFTER THE FINAL UPDATE: 7:00 and I'm happily ensconced in an airport hotel, waiting on tomorrow AM to start it all over again. 9:22 AM is the current departure time, so 18 hours behind schedule.

Posted by ghoul at 07:03 PM | Comments (0)

December 24, 2006

A (Not Quite) Christmas Story

So, yesterday morning I set out from Julia and Lou's (after the bi-weekly Friday session of Lou's game SBE and the nifty surprise of each player receiving a handful of custom "SBE" dice Lou had made as a gift to the players). From Fall River to Providence, then down I-95 along the coast. It was raining and miserable, but forecasts suggested that would fade as I went west and, indeed, as I got near to New Haven, CT (and past a massive pothole that had closed the interstate except for one lane), the sky was clear (albeit misty) and it was a comfortable (for December 23rd) 55 degrees. Along the way, the Prius's milage display had ticked down to 45.1, but I expected with consistent driving and warmish weather, I'd be back to 45.2 before I reached Cincinnati. I swung up to the Merritt Parkway, heading toward NY...

And then it happened.

Just after passing exit 38, the car started to vibrate violently, and didn't want to steer well. I slowed, put on my hazard flashers, and crept at half-speed into a roadside Mobile gas station/rest area (which the Merritt has in abundance). The cause was obvious... the driver's side rear tire was flat (and badly damaged from around 1/2 a mile of driving on it). I fought with the inadequate tire changing hardware Toyota provides (a short tire iron means a lack of lug-nut-turning leverage), but two holiday good samaritans, one with directions to a tire shop just 2 exits away and one with the upper body strength to start the lug-nuts loose, meant I was on my temp tire before AAA even hoped to be responding (in fact, they'd given themselves an hour more to arrive... and were openly relieved when I called to cancel the request for help; lots of cars on the road means a busy day for AAA).

But here the tale turns again. For the tires on a Prius, they are not the sort your average tire shop will carry. No, for that a Toyota dealer is needed. And I lacked the patience to fumble around trying to find an open, helpful, and marginally honest Toyota dealer on the Saturday before Christmas in the south-western corner of Connecticut. So I needed to make a choice. Drive the 9-10 hours on to Cincinnati on the temp tire or drive the 4 hours back to Concord.

That wasn't a very hard choice, really. Temp tires aren't made for the long haul, and I'm quite familiar with the route from there home, so I know where I can stop for breaks and such.

So, I type this at home the next morning. My family in Cincinnati will get their gifts once I ship them there, which won't be until the day after Christmas at the soonest, and I may end up actually going in to the office one of the days I was planning to be away, just because...

Oh... and the milage did tick back to 45.2, but I don't expect that to last too long into the new year.

Posted by ghoul at 06:15 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 01, 2006

TurkeyCon Days 6, 7, and Departure

Late morning Saturday was offered to the World of Warcraft cult, as the adults of T'Con went off on some virtual project or another. I remain at a safe distance, lest all my freetime (and much of my other hobby time) fall into the infinite sink of the WoW.

I do, however, set up a couple of board games while the instancing occurs, for future consumption, one of which got played today. Details below.

Saturday night is given over to Luc's Call of Cthulhu d20 game. Modern-day setting, so I generated a nifty just-back-from Afghanistan soldier scratching out a living as a mechanic and handyman at old Miscatonic U. One haunted theater later, and we were all suitably freaked out and looking at the smoldering remains before scattering before the cops arrived. Well, it was an out-of-the-box solution...

Sunday had the normal melancholy of the last day of TurkeyCon. Where did all the time go? As a pre-emptive measure, I set up a Command and Colors: Ancients scenario for play, and packed away most of my other games. It ended up being a fairly full gaming day, in fact... More below the cut.

And, as I type this early part (game summaries will be done later on), I'm on the train to Greensboro and the better (or at least longer) part of a week of home office time before finally returning home on Thursday.

Much fun was had, and it was over much too soon.

[Added note from later... the week at work was a week at work, and I'm home all in one piece. Cats are likely to forgive me soon if I can wait them out and keep with the treats.]

Saturday gaming:

Shear Panic is a game I brought as much to show off the pieces as to play, but we did get a game in. Lou, Grant, and Ryan joined me in pushing sheep around, and after a bit of fumbling with just how moves work, we were quickly into the spirit of the game, trying to optimize our own moves while pushing others into impossible situations. I took a slight early lead, but wasn't able to hold on (especially since it's easy for 3 players to block 1 from scoring if they really want to), so we ended up at 25/24/21/20, with Grant in the lead and me a point behind, with Ryan and Lou close behind.

Sunday gaming:

First was that C&C:A scenario, facing off against Grant. We'd both played Battle Cry and Memoir '44 before, so the learning part was just the unique rules for this version, which are few but very significant. We played the simple first scenario, the Battle of Akuagas, which lacks terrain and elephants, thus keeping the rules to a minimum, primarily just an overview of the units, evasion, and battling back. He took the weaker side (the historical loser), if only because that chair was closer to the side of the room he entered from, but the cards made it so his strong right flank and my weak left flank were the focus of the battle, with me trying to shift attention to my strong center line but managing this a turn or two too late to keep him from turning my flank before I could march my heavy infantry to victory. A close 5-to-3 win for the Carthaginians. Time wasn't available to re-play with opposite sides.

Then we decided to give in to another of FFG's re-designs, putting the new edition of Warrior Knights on the table. Luc and Grant were both experienced players of the original game, and Ryan joined us in our afternoon of hard-fought war. The rules are just a little on the extensive side, and we made some mistakes (we were too aggressive in removing troops when a battle was lost due to a margin of 2 or more Victories), but it was a hard fought game for most of its length. Unfortunately for me, I got hit with a "traitor to the crown" declaration, which made me a favorite target for Grant and Ryan to attack (as they got a reward for doing so). In the end, I lost my Stronghold two turns running, and Luc lost hers the last turn as well (likely in large part because of that troop elimination mistake, which advantaged aggressive play against a target that should have only been slightly bloodied rather than crippled), so the game was between Grant and Ryan, and Grant won by the narrowest of margins, 15/14/6/6. I was the tail end at 6, since you can't score any points on turns when you lose your Stronghold. Fun was had, but we all agreed there was a bit of a "hopeless position" problem and a bit more time needed than the fun value of the game really supported (though more players and/or less rule confusion might fix that). Still, not nearly as bad on this count as the painfully over-long Order of the Stick Adventure Game.

Fearsome Floors had been set up on the table from mid-day Saturday, a cue from me that I really wanted to get a game in, so Grant and Lou gave me the chance after dinner. The game is a delightful series of puzzles, trying to maneuver your pieces so they are not in the path of the hungry monster. Or, rather, so they are just slightly less in that path than are other players' pieces. There was a good bit of maneuvering, and we all got at least one character munched (mostly in the first round of the game, where it just means starting over rather than permanent death), but in the end Lou and I were racing for the exit, and I was enough in the lead that I took the win.

And, as a rule, it simply isn't TurkeyCon if we don't wrap up by playing Formula Motor Racing, complete with terrible accents and the traditional "Lou gets exactly the worst cards imaginable". This year was no exception, as the non-player Orange and Purple racing teams scored as well or better than the humans in the early races. A ton of luck (and this game is little more than luck) gave me two powerful cards in my color at race-end for both of the third and fourth rounds, so I managed a win. To which the others replied I must be cheating, since I was actually "trying to win". Bah! 25/16/13/10 in the final score, with the non-player colors scoring 23 and 17, since when we don't have cards of our own color, we traditionally pick sides between the Orange and Purple "Robot Masters" for who to help win. And it's all too common to not have cards of your own color. So, yes, the nonplayed racers beat all but one player... As always, this game can be a sad day for living humans, as fun as it is. BTW, thanks to a 10 point final race, Lou was not at the back of the game... he had the 13 to Ryan's 10.

And, sadly, with that game, everything had to be packed up for the return home.

Posted by ghoul at 07:36 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 25, 2006

TurkeyCon Days Five and Six

No gaming on T'Day proper, which was given over to friends and food. Yum! (The food... not the friends. Honest.)

On Friday (day Six), we made our trek to the last game shop, where I found Vampire: Dark Influences and a couple older RPG books. Then we got home and set up some gaming...

First was the Order of the Stick Adventure Game, with Grant (Durkon), Lou (Belkar), Ryan (V), Luc (Haley), and I (Roy), so only one NPC (Elan, in this case). Unfortunately, what happened was just what I had feared from reading the game and online session reports and reviews, which is that the game took too long and was too random for its own good. In the end, we called the game at dinnertime, just after entering level 3, when we realized there was a least 90 minutes of game left and we weren't really interested enough to play thru that. As Roy, I had a significant lead, though Belkar and V were close behind and quite able to catch up (Belkar by ambushing me, V by fireballing rooms full of monsters for extra XP). Not a success, however. Especially since Luc hadn't read the comic, so didn't get most of the jokes.

To "cleanse the palate", as it were, we returned to Trendy, with Ryan leaving after the first hand. This game was a good bit more aggressive than the first play, with lots of use of the "Out!" card to undermine trend attempts. In the end, Luc won a solid victory, with the rest of us clustered many points behind her, 160/137/137/140, with all scores a bit distorted by the 5-player first hand. Still, a fun game.

Lou and Grant then asked to try another short-duration game, and I offered King's Breakfast, a game of claiming cards, but making sure the king has at least as many cards of each sort as you. It takes a bit of getting used to, but we managed to play well enough, in fact ending with none of us out-consuming the King (which, perhaps, meant we weren't sufficiently aggressive). Grant managed a slight win, 101/96/94.

And then we called it a night, with plans to perhaps try another mid-to-long game or two on Saturday.

Posted by ghoul at 09:18 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 23, 2006

TurkeyCon Day Four

And the rains continue. It's been pouring down here for long enough we're considering what we'd need for an ark.

But, instead, we mostly settled in and played some games. Well, that an grocery runs. I think Grant ended up making four, thanks to the inevitable "oh, one more thing" of Thanksgiving pre-prep.

Luc, Ryan, and I took a crack at Transamerica. Not as strong at 3 players as it is a 5 or 6, but still enjoyable. And, while I won the first round, the next three went solidly against me, one by a whopping 8 links, and solidly for Ryan, who won all three. So it ended up 10/3/-1 in his favor.

Luc headed off to the grocery for the main prep run, Lou joined us and we switched over to Easy Come, Easy Go for two rounds, which Ryan and I split. Then Lou decided it must've been bad luck the night before and settled in for a couple more rounds of Pickomino, doing much better but still losing to me 9/7/6 and to Ryan 10/8/6.

After dinner, we had considered playing the Order of the Stick Adventure Game, but it was late enough we knew that wouldn't end before midnight, so instead Lou, Grant, Ryan, and I gave a go at Mission:Red Planet. This is a newer game (in English, at least), pitting the players against one another as late-1800s Robber Barons trying to industrialize Mars. Players choose each turn from 9 roles, manipulating rockets to Mars in an effort to control majorities in each sector. In the end, a bit of luck for me (I had just exactly the rocket I needed) and especially poor timing for Lou (he held no regional majorities at game's end) won this one 56/35/35/15.

Luc took Ryan's place as we turned to a few rounds of No Thanks!, and after a win for me 29/36/45/51, she got the hang of it and played Lou to a very close 15/16/27/73 round, with me at the ultra-high-scoring tail. Grant came back with a vengeance for the next game, 12/30/41/42, but Luc won the last round of the evening in a 12/18/30/76 trouncing of... yeah, me again.

To end the evening, Lou and Grant joined me in another round of Pickomino, and this time I was on the bad end of the luck curve while Lou and Grant traded the lead right up to the last roll, ending the game at 11/10/2.

Tomorrow... way too much very good food and perhaps OOTS.

Posted by ghoul at 08:06 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

November 22, 2006

TurkeyCon Day Three

Day Three was dominated by a mid-day game of Fury of Dracula and dinner at Ruth's Chris, either of which make for a good day. Together, it's hard to beat.

I was tasked to play Dracula and teach the game, with the good fortune that 3 of the 4 hunter players (Lou, Grant, and Luc) had played the original edition, so only Ryan was completely fresh. Then, when play started, it went immediately south for the Undead side. I managed to move one city before an event card let the players pick 2 cities to scout remotely and, by good luck, they picked my starting city. Two moves into the game, they were on my trail in northern Germany, consecrating the ground in Prague so I couldn't escape into Eastern Europe. A good railroad car later and Dr. Seward (Lou) was ambushing the Count in broad daylight. I took three vicious knife hits over a series of encounters, dropping from 15 to 3 Blood Points before I managed an escape just after nightfall. Things were looking very bad for Team Vampire (i.e., me).

Fortunately, by escaping as a bat, I was able to move 1 or 2 cities away, which let me slip pursuit for a bit, and by amazingly good fortune for me decided not to explore the city I'd left an encounter in, which a few turns later matured into a Vampire for 2 points for me! Two turns later, however, they were back on my trail, this time on the border of France and Spain. Again, I managed to arrange the encounter to after sunset and escaped as a bat to northern Italy. A fortunate event draw let me move to Venice and to see in one turn, and a slight miss-count by the players meant they had me in the wrong sea zone. It only have me one turn's lead, but it did mean they spent an event card that would've stopped me on the wrong target.

Back aground in the more friendly climes of Eastern Europe, I started to make my way toward Castle Dracula and a good chance to recover some Blood. That was when fortune really smiled on me. Van Helsing (Grant) went to sea from southern France to chase me, and I used storms to send him off to Ireland instead, well out of my hair. Then Mina, deciding that she had the event card support she needed to take a badly battered Dracula, moved herself to confront me. At night. With every advantage, including Garlic and Sister Agatha with me a 2 Blood Points, so my only way out was victory. It came down to one roll. If I won, I could Mesmerize her, turn her into a Vampire for 2 points, then on my turn the timer would tick past dawn and I'd score my 6th point on the clock for the win. Or, if we tied or she won, her stake would wound me, almost certainly enough to end the game.

I rolled a 4, she rolled a 2.

And, against all odds, a dark cloud settles over Europe.

A lesson in the ever-important "never give up" rule. I was on the ropes from the 3rd turn, but in the end a bit of luck in event draws met a couple overconfident opposition moves and one lucky die roll was enough for the win!

After cleaning up and dressing for dinner, Lou, Ryan, and I filled some time with a couple rounds of No Thanks! (without question the hit of the con so far), Ryan winning the first 33/49/56, and me taking an incredibly lucky second game 7/39/58. Yes, 7. I had the cards 23-30 and 16 chips at the end. I don't expect to manage many scores that low in the future.

After dinner, in the grip of near meat coma, Grant, Lou, and I tried some Pickomino. I initially got the rules confused in explaining them, but it was quickly obvious I was wrong, so we stopped and started over correctly. The game is one of rolling dice to match target numbers, with rewards if you get higher numbers but penalties if you push too far. And this game, we watched as Lou's luck went from bad to worse. Everything he captured, I took away. Sometimes by making the least likely of rolls (such as a roll of one die with only one possible good result... which I got). In the end, I edged past Grant 11/9/0. Much silliness ensued, and after laughing ourselves to the point of pain, we called it a night.

Posted by ghoul at 08:57 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 21, 2006

TurkeyCon Day Two

Day Two was primarily our game shop crawl, hitting three local gaming shops and purchasing much that is nifty and new.

For me, that means Gloria Mundi, Leonardo Da Vinci, Jungle Speed, Jericho, Blue Moon: Buka Invasion, Silk Road, Axis & Allies: Battle of the Bulge, Hollywood Blockbuster, Nottingham, Ave Caesar (new edition), Vampire: Prince of the City, and Monkey Arena.

And there's still one more store we didn't make it to, which specializes more in RPG books. That may be on the schedule for today.

With all the driving and shopping (and the watching of Heroes), there was less time for playing, though we still found a bit.

The only new game introduced was Trendy, with me introducing Grant, Luc, Lou, and Ryan to the joys of predicting the world of fashion (or is it just playing cards?). It was a well-fought game, with everyone catching on quickly to how it's done. But, in the end, everyone had one (or more) low-scoring (less than 25 point) hand except Grant, so we took a solid lead in a 161/139/132/129/114 game. I was dead in the middle there, because my one low-scoring hand was a painful 13 point collapse.

Then, to burn a bit of time while dinner finished, we zipped through another game of Easy Come, Easy Go, adding Luc so we had 5 players, nominally one too many, but we used the "recapture a trophy you have and it is protected from theft" rule, and that let Luc hold on for a win.

Then we taught Lou how to play No Thanks!, which took almost no time at all (the game being what it is). The first game didn't go well for him, landing him at the back of a close-fought match between Grant and Ryan, 41/44/64/74. But, after Heroes was watched, Ryan, Lou and I returned to the table for three more plays, which we split evenly. I took the first 35/50/85 (Ryan having no luck at all), Lou the second 26/38/54 (thanks to a late draw that connected two mid-20s card runs), and Ryan the third 47/83/84 (neither Lou nor I could connect anything, mostly because we sabotaged each other to our mutual destruction).

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November 20, 2006

TurkeyCon Day One

There is far too much World of Warcraft presence here. As the only non-player (which I will remain so I have time for other hobbies), I must protest!

Anyway, everyone else left their monitors for long enough to get in some other gaming. Actually, quite a bit...

We played Masons to get started, this being the sort of game Luc likes a lot (building and pattern-creation). The game is one of placing walls that eventually enclose cities and of placing towers and houses of random colors near your new wall. Scoring is by matching patterns or combinations on the board to those in your hand of cards when a city is enclosed. Luc spent much of the game in last place, but was just creating a false sense of security for the rest of us, as she rocketed to a late lead, bounding past Lou, Ryan and me to win 104/102/96/90. I was the 102, and so was the most surprised by her late surge.

Next, I got out Easy Come, Easy Go, which I think is best described as a fast, competitive version of Yatzee. You roll for certain combinations, claiming trophy cards if you get them, and the first player to acquire and hold 3 such cards wins. Grant, Ryan, Lou, and I raced through 4 plays in maybe 30 minutes, the last couple using a "protection" alternate rule I found here, which speeds up the endgame a bit and adds more options. In the end, we all won exactly one game, so we'll need to unpack this later to decide which of us is really the best.

Luc called for dinner, but I insisted No Thanks! could be taught and played in the "a couple of minutes" she said we had, and Grant and Ryan took up the challenge. And, of course, that was true. Ryan ended up chip-poor early, so was forced to eat some unpleasant cards, but Grant and I ended up VERY close, with him edging out a narrow win. 44/47/87.

After dinner, Luc and I played a quick game of King's Blood, which I'd actually gotten out just to show Bridget the card are (she's a big anime art style fan). I won the quick teaching game, then Bridget joined us for 3 more plays. I slightly mis-taught the rules for playing extra cards following a child's birth, but we fixed that for the last game. Of the three games, we each won one, but when it comes to points, Bridget only had 7 left over in her 2 "losses", while I had 26 and Luc 57, so there's no question who won.

We then considered a longer game, but decided we were all more in the mood for light and quick, so played two rounds of Cloud 9, one with Lou and one with Julia against me and the Gaineys. And, this time, it was solidly my night, as I won both rounds, even with the same score. 55/50/36/36/13/13 was the first round as I edged our Ryan and 55/51/49/37/33/30 the second, sneaking past Bridget on the last flight.

With that, we called it a night, with me assigned to review the more popular longer games for probable play the next evening. But first, there's the traditional game-store crawl, which will start around noon on T'Con Day Two (which, as I type this, is very soon).

Off to a good start in my book, with 5 different titles played on day one. At that rate, we could play almost everything I brought (around 40 titles) by the 8th day... though that assumes no slacking off and no "must play" new purchases, both of which are likely to occur, and it ignores that only one of the games played on Day One was of a longer-than-quick-filler play length.

Still... a good start!

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November 19, 2006

Turkeycon Travel Day

The drive down was nicely uneventful, exactly as it should be, barring a couple bits of traffic and one closed road segment with a seriously backroads detour. But a relatively simple one that cost us little time.

On the drive down, I spent most of my time reading Spirit of the Century, a wonderful FATE-based pulp RPG that nicely mixes traditional and modern NAR-style game mechanics. Also nifty is a "pick up" concept for the game, which allows play with minimal prep time, even most of character generation left to develop in-play. This is one I certainly want to get a chance to try out!

So, anyway, we're arrived, and with some work all connecting to wireless 'net and nicely up and running.

Also, the boardgames are unpacked and interest surveying begun. Play will start around noon on Day 1 (a little more than an hour away as I post this).

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November 18, 2006

TurkeyCon Travel Day (pre-departure)

And it's today!

The trip down to Fall River was uneventful (standard Friday traffic in Boston, made more bearable by my choice to take the bus down and leave my car closer to home). My two tubs of games (plus one oversized FFG box) were packed away a week ago, so it's just helping carry down Julia and Lou's things this AM and then we're on the road.

Breakfast (and coffee) cannot come soon enough...

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October 15, 2006

TurkeyCon Prep

I'm starting to pack games for T'Con this year.

I'll be doing my standard re-packing, replacing the air that fills all too many game boxes with other games as best I can manage. After all, I'm limited in volume I can bring along.

UPDATE: Well, the list below does manage to fit into my space. And I even managed to add a couple more titles (Palazzo and Caylus, with the later making it by sharing a box with Blue Moon City once the unnecessary insert is removed) and have some space left in case something captures my attention in the next four weeks (which is when I'll have to actually take the tubs to be packed into the van). My next step is to create some priorities...

Here's my early list of new (to T'Con) games going into the tubs. Small games are the easiest picks, as they will usually end up easily fitting inside other games!

Trendy (small)
Twilight Struggle (promised)
Command and Colors Ancients (must play!)
Shear Panic (too pretty, also fun)
World of Warcraft Boardgame (with expansion set; everyone else at T'Con plays the MMORPG)
Order of the Stick Adventure Game (long, but funny and OotS, so it comes along)
Great Wall of China (small)
Fairy Tale (small)
Thurn & Taxis (SdJ winner)
Easy Come, Easy Go (smallish)
Piccomino (small)
The End of the Triumvirate (how can I not?)

One advantage is that many of these games have rules available online, and with luck I'll manage to get someone to read them in advance (especially Twilight Struggle and C&C:A, both of which have rules at the GMT Games site). I'll also be trying to assemble teaching and play aids where I can (say, for WoW, as FFG games often become quicker with the addition of a decent play summary or turn flow aid).

Now, WoW doesn't actually fit into the tubs (too long by an inch or two), but I already asked for special dispensation to allow it to come along.

On the cusp are a few others, mostly a problem because of their box size, though sometimes it's length, number of players, or complexity to teach/learn that keeps games off the main list. Or are games I brought in the past but never got into the table (for various reasons).

Fury of Dracula (a bit long, but a classic)
Warrior Knights (another classic, surprisingly different this time, but maybe only appeals to 2-3 of us)
Masons (large, by just a bit)
Bolide (quite large for what it is, long)
Louis XIV (didn't make table last year, but now I know how to play and it's simpler than the rules look)
Pizza Box Football (didn't make table last year, two player only)
Blue Moon City (oversized box, but a very good game IMO)

And that's about where I stand. Old favorites and mandatory bring-alongs (like Formula Motor Racing and Cloud 9) will of course be in the boxes automatically. Though I'm hoping Incan Gold, the US version of Diamant, will be out by or at T'Con and it does a pretty good job of being better than Cloud 9 at almost everything Cloud 9 is good at (except the minimal bluffing element).

And that's where I stand. Advice or requests are welcome.

Posted by ghoul at 07:51 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 28, 2006

Not Quite An Update

There is a reason why there's no report here about my leg or about this week's boardgame club meeting or about GenCon prep or anything else.

That reason is

I may come up for air at some point this weekend, but don't bet on it.

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July 23, 2006

More Updating

My leg is rapidly progressing toward fine. Still bothersome on stairs or if over-used, so I'm keeping a crutch handy, but everything is going very well.

Also, during the drive home yesterday, around Boston, milage bumped up to 45.1 MPG, at around 50,240 miles. I'm hoping for one more bump up during the drive to or back from GenCon, and perhaps another as well (the drive to Indy was good for two steps last year). Of course, that's still two weeks and a bit out.

I'm hoping for a nice, quiet two weeks and a bit.

Posted by ghoul at 08:13 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 21, 2006

Leg Update

The good news is that it hurts less than yesterday and shows no signs of swelling ot discoloration. That strongly supports the "strained muscle" rather than "broken bone" theory.

The bad news is that it still hurts enough that I'm far better off with a crutch than without.

All in all, a positive report.

Posted by ghoul at 07:16 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 20, 2006

Not The Club Meeting Update

This is not the club meeting update.

You figured that out from the title, didn't you?

The reason it is not is that, rather than typing up my notes on the games played last night (that will come later... if memory serves, there were either 7 or 8, and most of them I quite enjoyed even if I didn't do too well at some), I think I'd better tell about something that happened just after.

Stepping out from E's house, I missed a step, landed hard on my left foot. I didn't drop any of the games I was carrying, but I definitely twisted something. Still, it all seemed quite minor, I didn't even bother calling anyone inside for help. Instead, I limped to my car (20 yards, maybe), drove home, limped in and up the infamous non-euclidian stairs (after taking a couple aspirin) and dropped off to sleep.

This AM, the leg (about 2-3 inches below the knee, so thankfully not the knee itself) is sore and very unpleasant to put weight on. I visited the company doctor in the clinic at the office and he suspects I may have broken my fibula (the smaller, thinner bone of the lower leg, which doesn't hold weight but does support the ankle and provide for flexibility), but also may have just stretched/strained the surrounding muscle. We can't be sure without an X-Ray, and that would be over-kill as long as it could just be a strain. At his advice, I'm taking ibuprofen, using a cold compress, and have acquired some crutches. If, in 48 hours (or more if I wait until Monday, which is likely), things aren't improving, I'll be either visiting an ER or finding an orthopedic specialist to visit.


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July 15, 2006

Return To Plan

And back on plan again, just a little behind. Apple called around 3:30 and the repairs are done (and covered by warranty). Rebuilding the drive's contents is now up to me, just not quite getting as early a start as I'd hoped for.

Also, just as a note, as I passed from Hooksett to Bow, my odometer rolled past 50,000 miles (as much as digital odometers roll at all). I'll be putting a good bit more on in 3 1/2 weeks for GenCon, but there's a milestone to proceed that.

Posted by ghoul at 05:54 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Or Not

Let's see now...

All those early steps get turned off because the Apple Store now says it takes 1-2 days to replace a hard drive rather than the 30-45 minutes they'd told me before (and which I know to be true, having done it myself in the past). Which meant I was leaving the Apple Store more than an hour before the game store opens and don't have the tower here to do any of the other steps with. Annoying. And if it does become available later today or tomorrow, I probably won't want to go get it because I-93 is going to become a parking lot because of the NASCAR race just outside of Concord tomorrow.

Well, I can still sort the board games. And I have plenty of TV time. I was just kinda hoping to actually get things done.

Posted by ghoul at 11:45 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Plan For The Weekend

Nominally, I'm actually home this weekend (after spending the last several traveling and/or gaming). But that just means lots of errands to catch up on. And, since it's going to be over 90 outside and humid, I'm doing my best to stick to indoor plans.

So not exactly a quiet weekend. But I hope it'll be productive!

Posted by ghoul at 08:38 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 02, 2006

Home... But Problems

I did get home Thursday just fine, but after a bit of unpacking and re-packing, I turned to my G5 tower to find an unexpected screen full of errors.

And rebooting did nothing.

So, it was off to the Apple Store on the drive to The Black Road (which made me later than I wanted to be, as the Apple Store didn't open until 10). And no joy there; they want to replace the main hard drive, but offered to let me time to try to rescue data on my own first. And somehow failed to recognize that I have AppleCare coverage when they quoted me an outrageously high price (more than twice what I paid for my additional drive added a few months back).

So, now that TBR is over, I'm going to be going to pick up a copy of DiskWarrior (recommended by about everyone I mentioned the problem to). But probably not from the Apple Store.

Posted by ghoul at 06:15 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 29, 2006

Airport Fun

No visible problems for me this time, as I was on time (even early) for my 8:35 flight. It's currently before 7 and I'm already at the gate. But I'm rather happy with the situation, as there's a decent breakfast option right near the gate, free wireless, and even a bit of entertainment. Okay, it's just a guy who left his bag behind to go to the Men's Room and somehow missed the last 4 years so was surprised and angry that his bag was confiscated.

Well, I thought it was fun.

Home tonight, with any luck.

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June 28, 2006

Meeting Sessions Completed

The various meeting sessions are done, discussions completed, and socializing pretty much past. I chose to fly home tomorrow rather than not arrive until midnight (Eastern Time) today, so I have another evening here in Vegas, which I plan to spend quietly.

Yeah, I know that's not the norm for here, but I've had about as much flash and loud as I need for a bit, and I want to be ready for The Black Road on Friday. I've already started jotting down some useful notes for my games, based on the characters I've gotten pre-con in email, and I expect to expand on that a bit more this evening and during the travel home tomorrow.

The meeting was not much different than I'd expected, a couple sessions somewhat disappointing in their depth and/or connection to their nominal topic, but in general, and especially for the tightly focused follow-up session yesterday afternoon and this AM, very useful.

Some interesting parallels between this and TBR... Like TBR relative to AmberCon, this smaller actuarial meeting has only a small number of breakout session choices per timeslot (3 or 4 rather than 10-12), and that means it's much easier to be stuck without a terribly appealing choice. So when one turns out to not be what it described itself as (as happened here twice out of the 6 sessions, in my opinion), disappointment is inevitable.

So, since I experienced that here, I'm expecting I'll be free of such at TBR. That's fair, right? (Though, to be honest, there's far less chance of disappointment at TBR, given the games I'm scheduled for... I can't see how fun will not be had in any of them, except maybe if I flub GMing one of mine. And then it'd be my fault anyway.)

Posted by ghoul at 07:36 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 25, 2006

Barely Managed Travel

I got a slightly late start today, but nothing terrible. I was on the road with plenty of time before my flight.

Or so I thought.

I failed to include the possibility that the Southwest booth would be mobbed with around 100 people all trying to check in the same time I did. Which meant, after waiting in line, I had 25 minutes between check-in and take-off. 15 of that went to the next line for security, so there was no time to stop for breakfast (though I was able to gaze longingly at the Dunkin Donuts beside the security check-in line).

And then, just for fun, I was directed to the wrong gate, and almost failed to notice the last call for the flight I was meant to be on, two gates away. I ran over just as they closed the doors, and they were nice enough to let me on, though since it was a Southwest flight (no reserved seats), I had the choice of a really bad seat or a couple of even worse seats because I was so late.

But, all that drama behind me, I'm safely in my Lake Las Vegas hotel room and going to take a break and catch my breath for a bit.

Posted by ghoul at 03:59 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 21, 2006

Briefly Busy, Then TBR

Of course, I chose to re-start postings here just in time to hit a rather busy patch.

This Friday evening is a bi-weekly game, which I'm much looking forward to because it's been a month since the last session. I'll have to write about that game and my character at some future date...

Then on Sunday I fly to Nevada (not exactly Las Vegas but pretty darn close) for an Actuarial Symposium, returning on Thursday. And, oddly enough, I'm actually looking forward to that, as dry as it might sound.

That gets me home just in time to The Black Road, Friday thru Sunday.

I'll be home on Monday July 3rd, but I expect I'll pretty much sleep through that day and well into the holiday on the 4th.

How much posting there'll be between now and then depends on how many gaps I manage during that relatively crowded ten day period. I certainly hope to be able to report on what happens at The Black Road reasonably as things happen.

Posted by ghoul at 06:10 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 18, 2006

Back From the Nearly-Dead

No, nothing's been wrong.

I just haven't been posting.

Call it laziness, because that's mostly what it's been.

I can't promise it will get much better, but I will make an effort to not go 5 months between posts too many more times this year.

(Let's see... at worst I could only do it once before December, so that's a pretty easy promise to keep...)

Posted by ghoul at 05:12 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 03, 2006

Nothing's Happening

Nope. All that worry and bother over the weekend and nothing to show for it.

Essentially, I was considering a job change and have now decided against it. And so, for the immediate future (and remember, my company is part of an announced but as yet unstarted merger that will actually happen later on this year), I'm staying where I am.

And I'm resigned to the fact that I'll never really know if this was the best decision.

Posted by ghoul at 10:54 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 30, 2005

Something's Happening

Not saying anything just now, but quite a bit is up here and I hope to have something to say early in the New Year about it...

Posted by ghoul at 06:47 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 13, 2005

New Responsibility

As has been announced elsewhere, I have taken on the role of treasurer for The Black Road, a Marlborogh, MA based AmberCon.

Or, rather, semi-AmberCon, particularly with the new Indie Games track being added this year.

Always great fun, and if you can make it this coming June/July, you should consider it!

Posted by ghoul at 08:20 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 07, 2005

Happy, Happy!

At 11:55 today, I walked into my bank's convenient office just off my drive home and asked the friendly associate at the window to please transfer from my checking account the amount necessary to pay off my home mortgage.

And so, as of noon, I have no remaining long-term debt.

It's a really nice feeling.

Of course, the fact that I'm doing this because I want to be as unencumbered as possible thanks to other uncertainties isn't fun... but I'm looking at the bright side today.

Posted by ghoul at 12:09 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 28, 2005

T'Con Plus One

Packed and gone.

Currently typing on the train from Cary to Greensboro, not really ready for four days working at company HQ before finally getting back to home (after 15 days away). My games (and non-work clothes) are all loaded into Julia and Lou's van (with a new, 3rd bin added by Grant; it'll be brought back empty at some future date) and off on their own trip, which will take an extra week or so.

Amtrak isn't providing connectivity on NC trains (no big shocker there), so this will likely be posted from the hotel this evening [and, indeed, it was]. But they do provide one free drink and one free snack as part of the ticket, so I'll be supplementing my coffee and yummy homemade cookie breakfast after the Durham stop.

And after that, back to work.

Posted by ghoul at 07:38 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 27, 2005

T'Con Day Eight

Game shopping happened at noon, finally getting to the shop closest. There, I found several products I was looking for, including Hansa, Technowitches, and Wings of War - Burning Drachens, plus Knizia's Pickomino and King Arthur.

Shadows Over Camelot was played, though to two losses. First time, we fell behind early and didn't quite make it back, then the second time we suffered from a traitor in the form of Lou, showing himself only at the last minute, just in time to place the 12th siege engine out and cause the lose.

Beowulf was the last of my major list we could get to (Descent had already fallen off the list for lack of time), but it was not to be as we made time for Formula Motor Racing, a regular fave. Of course, the game is highly random, more noise than anything else, and this game proved no exception. In the end, Ryan decided to maximize his score with his last play, putting me into a win over Lou, who would have managed a 2 point lead over me before Ryan's last play.

And now, it's all over... tomorrow morning, I have to get to a 7:15 train toward Greensboro and the working world...

Until then, I have to pack.

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November 26, 2005

T'Con Day Seven

Another game or two today...

Several games of Cloud 9 were played, as none of us are good at refusing this random brinksmanship play. Then Luc, Grant, and I sat down to try Caracasonne - The City, a stand-alone Carcasonne game with new rules for building a wall around the city starting around 1/3rd of the way through the city tiles. I took an early point lead, then Luc caught up. Grant was convinced he was all but out of it (at one point, he had barely half the score Luc and I had), but when we reached endgame and scored all the things that only score then, we ended up at 134 for Luc, 129 for me and 127 for Grant. It could barely have been any closer.

Then we went out to Ruth's Chris Steakhouse for the traditional "as if you aren't eating enough Thanksgiving week" steak dinner. Yum! Now, we're all going to succumb to meat coma and perhaps be awake for some games tomorrow.

Shadows Over Camelot and Beowulf remain atop the list to come next, with Descent slightly behind because it both will take longer and is more familiar in its nature (if still unique, pretty, and updated in its mechanics). We'll see what actually happens over the next 26 or so hours, before we have to give up and admit that T'Con 2005 is ending...

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T'Con Day Six

And, two of the big games get rolled out...

Battlestations was played to a very successful conclusion, an Outstanding Success by the crew on their Boot Camp mission, which everyone succeeding quite regularly (with a couple fumbles, since they were fresh from the academy, not experienced crew). Everyone was surprised how successful characters can be with proper planning, preparations, and assistance. Everyone seemed pretty happy with the results, though it was a bit dry on the RP side for for Luc (who was the pilot, which is one of the dryer roles, doing the same thing over and over).

Arkham Horror came out later, with printing of aids starting around 8 PM and actual rule training starting around 9 PM. We did know the game was long, and that proved true, with a long grinding "figure out what we're doing" phase, then a sudden rush to try to make up for lost time. In the end, we did a great job of monster management, keeping Arkham to only a Terror Level of 1 before the Doom Track filled, which meant Hastur was relatively easy to fight when he did arise (his combat strength is the Terror Level). In the end, it was almost a 5 hour game, ending just before 2 AM. And while everyone had fun, it's just too long. I really worry what this game will become when its expansion set (announced for next year) is added!

Descent still lurks in our plans, with Grant offering to play Overlord for us since I reffed Battlestations. Once he's read the rules through, that is.

Posted by ghoul at 09:18 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 24, 2005

T'Con Day Five

Yum. Turkey!

And, after turkey and digestion, we set up a game or two. Run For Your Life Candyman was a silly, highly random sort of lark, with Luc and I taking early leads, but quickly dragged back to the rear for Candy Cage Matches before Lou rocketed to a win by more than half the track.

So, looking for something still light but with a bit more meat on its bones, I pulled out Niagara. We got one rule wrong (we didn't charge a gem to buy a canoe back after going over the falls), but everyone still had a good time. Lou won again, but this time it was quite close, with Ryan just a move away from a VERY early win before I stopped him. The sliding disk "water" caught about one move in 10, which was annoying but seemed to become less so with use. And all of us are now sure we know how to "do it right next time". Which we probably won't manage this year, but we'd all like to.

Beowulf, Descent, Shadows Over Camelot, and Battlestations remain atop the "try to play these" list, with Descent and Battlestations probably needing to play tomorrow or not likely to get table time (both are fairly rules-heavy and longish). Of course, since we're not mad enough to venture out of doors on Black Friday (not after the "quick visit to Wal*Mart to snag a Zelda game" two years ago), there'll be more gaming density on the next couple of days.

Posted by ghoul at 11:19 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

T'Con Day Four

A couple of games of Street Illegal and a trip to see the new Harry Potter filled the day.

The list of main "want to play" titles remains untouched.

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November 22, 2005

T'Con Day Three

Another day of game shops and good food.

We did 3 more game shops, with me purchasing only a handful of things (mostly discounted RPG titles, though I also picked up Berserker Halflings From the Dungeon of Dragons and Let's Kill!), including one store where I bought nothing (only because I was tempted only by things too large to easily get home) while others did buy things... and I'm not sure that's ever happened before!

We did set up Santiago for a play, just Grant, Lou, and I, and had a great time. The end was fairly close to a casual glance, though Lou had a clear advantage and, indeed, won by more than a dozen escudo. I had worried that 3-player play would not have the delightful water shortages of the 5-player game, but that was unfounded, and also ignored the cutthroat bidding that you get at only 3 players. This is a very solid game, getting stronger with each play. It may just get pulled out again, though there's a lot of titles still on the stack to play.

My personal list for the near future... Beowulf, Run For Your Life Candyman, Descent, Shadows over Camelot, and Battlestations (which we already made characters for; I'm re-familiarizing myself with the rules before we try playing for real). Several other titles lurk in the next tier.

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November 21, 2005

T'Con Day Two

Quiet, rainy day.

We made a trip to Chapel Hill and Cerebral Hobbies for a quick game store stop, and I picked up Igles, Dungeonville, and Vegas Showdown. Then we came back and napped away the gloomy day. I also spent some time learning how this program works and how to get my character for Lou's new bi-weekly game coded in.

After dinner, we made characters for Battlestations (we have a full 4 person crew of pilot, engineer, scientist, and marine. We'll actually play the game tomorrow or Wednesday...

Other than that, not much to report. We'll be doing 2-3 more game stores tomorrow during the day to finish that part of the week, then probably playing a game or two in the evening (the first where no one has to be up for work or school the next day).

Posted by ghoul at 11:58 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 20, 2005

T'Con Day One

I was a late arrival this year, but my games mostly arrived before me with Julia and Lou...

Even though the first day is traditionally a slow, relaxed one, I made a push to get at least one game in, so Grant and I played Dungeon Twister. I lost 5 to 0, but it was fun.

We've also assembled a list of all the games, with everyone encouraged to sign on where they would. So now we know what to unpack from the tubs tomorrow...

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Leaving The Wedding

David and Melinda are now married (actually married again, because they'd done a civil ceremony for insurance purposes earlier), and I should have a link to photos before too terribly long (many were taken, and much of that digitally). I must complement the couple's taste in tux styles... I think the groomsmen looked quite snazzy despite having me as part of them. Thankfully, David was unable to burn down the church, though not for lack of trying.

The after-party consisted of games. Ahh, gamer weddings! While there were Jenga, Apples to Apples, and The Great Dalmuti games played, my role at the party was the bring and teach new games, so I focused on that.

(Details of gaming lurk under the fold.)

Then I spent some time re-packing, asking to ship some things home rather than bringing them along (including my copy of Web and Starship, an astonishing game David had borrowed from me around 8 years earlier, at last on its way home). However, I still failed to get under 50lbs on the main suitcase, so I paid extra again for the 2nd flight... But, as I type this at gate D4 of the Indy airport, I'm ready to head to Raleigh for TCon!

Santiago won first try, after many people had heard me rave about its elegant structure (and this Indy crowd are fans of that sort of game). And no one was disappointed. Subtle bidding and location strategy took the first 3 to 4 turns to settle in, but by the end of the game we were carefully calculating each move. I likely made a 2-4 pt mistake on the last turn, but it would only have made the difference between 3rd place and 2nd, as the Groom won with 102 (mostly from one huge banana plantation), followed by a 98 (who gained 2 by my mistake) and my 96. It's nice to have a game that tight (though the other 2 players were 75 and 64 pts). This game certainly lives up to the hype with which it was sold to me at GenCon and to my own hopes for the game after reading it. Don't miss this one!

Shadows Over Camelot came next, initially with 5 players but another needed to do some packing (he'd be leaving right after the game and driving homeward overnight) before joining in around the 4th turn. Fortunately, this game allows this! I took the Tristan role so I'd be able to jet off to quests cheaply, and was quickly on the Grail quest, but stymied by a very bad run of cards that hammered away all my progress then trapped me in the Black Forest, unable to progress. While other knights came to my rescue (Galahad and Palamides having fought off the Picts while Kay handily defeated the Black Knight in tourney), Gawain fought a losing battle of attrition trying to rescue Excalibur. We were able to save the Grail, and thought we'd have an easy time recovering Lancelot's armor, but a terrible turn of cards meant the armor slipped our grasp. With only one artifact collected and 5 black swords on display (the Black Knight had regrouped himself unchecked), hope was fading. Arthur had joined the quest (the late player), and he sent valuable cards around to allow us regroup. We focused on slaying the great dragon, realizing that success there would be just enough to edge out a victory. Arthur went to face the regrouping Picts, but they overwhelmed him and we were at 6 black swords and 9 siege engines (7 black swords and 12 engines would mean our end). Arthur and Galahad stood in Camelot fighting back the besieging forces while the rest of us marched to the dragon's lair. At game's end, we had 6 knights only one of whom had more than 1 life point left (Galahad had 2), we were at 11 siege engines, and we played the final card to slay the dragon. But even with an enhancer that made the Dragon worth 3 white swords rather than 2, we were just at an 8 to 6 score, so if there was a traitor, we would still lose (as the score would change to 6 to 8 when he was uncovered). But, to our amazement, the Traitor was one of the 2 unused loyalty cards, and the battered knights emerged with the honor of Camelot intact. Huzzah! I've heard tell of runaway games that are obviously wins or losses early, but this one was a perfect nailbiter.

We'd hoped to play more (I'd wanted to try Beowulf with this group, and Dave was interested in Formula Motor Racing based on how popular it is with the T'Con gaming crowd), but getting pizza, enjoying old jokes with new people (which is almost the same as new jokes), and the massive tension of the end of that Camelot game (we were all sure we were going to lose, and would have done so had we needed to take just one more player turn to slay the dragon; we turned over the next card to see and it would have completed the siege), we decided to call it a night.

Also a plus of the weekend... my groomsman gift is a copy of the new Knizia release Palazzo, a great looking game of bidding and building. A quick read of the rules during breaks suggest it's going to take a spot on my "let's try this" primary list for T'Con this week as another very elegant Knizia design.

Posted by ghoul at 10:38 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 16, 2005

Semi-Positive Flight Chaos

Manchester was sufficiently socked in with fog that all flights to Phily were delayed pretty much indefinitely. In fact, so far as I know, it still hasn't taken off.

But thanks to the delays and a clever ticket clerk, they were able to put me on a flight to La Guardia that actually got me to my final destination, Indianapolis, almost a full half-hour earlier than expected.


Almost makes up for being charged $50 extra for over-weight luggage. Too many books and games packed, I guess. I'll have to move a good bit (about 15 pounds!) over to a carry-on for the next legs Sunday. But I think I can manage that.

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November 14, 2005

Almost Packed And Gone

The tubs o' games are in Fall River now, with just a couple of additions from the prior posting (Boomtown and Street Illegal were added and the Mare Nostrum Mythology expansion set arrived and fit easily into the original's box). And yes, space was made for Descent even though it's too big for the tubs.

Meanwhile, I've added Pizza Box Football and Five-Dragon Ante to the case going to Indy, primarily because I didn't have them in time to find space for them in the tubs (since I picked them up on the drive down to Fall River last Friday). PBF looks to be a surpisingly fun and quick football game (I'm only somewhat a football fan, but I'm betting I'll get Alex to play this one) with a focus on a rock-paper-sissors play-calling mechanic to influence some rather random (but not too complicated) resolution.

Now I need to find a minute or two to create a priority list for these games, since that worked quite well last year, and to gew the last half-dozen tasks done before I can be absent from home for 15 days or so. You know, stuff like make sure the cats will be OK, mail won't stack up, etc.

As with last year, I expect I'll end up posting more when I'm away than I do when I'm home.

Posted by ghoul at 03:52 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 07, 2005

First November Trip Completed

And I'm back.

It was a crowded weekend, but great fun. I've never gone to U-Con before, though since it's in Ann Arbor, there's a lot of overlap with the AmberCon crowd. This year, I was lured out by the offer of ShadowWorld gaming, and in particular the chance to game face-to-face with the two characters mine is closely linked to (Gail and John), which had actually never happened before this weekend.

Friday, I was out of work early and on a (crowded) flight to Detroit. A quick drive in (thanks again, Malka!!) and one more phone call for directions than I really should have needed to make and I was dropping in late to my first ShadowWorld game. It wasn't really a mission that called for Starchild's skills overmuch, but there was some interesting interaction, particularly with a couple of major agents I hadn't previously met.

Friday night was time for a GURPS-based Firefly game, and I got to play Kaylee (and a bit of Wash later on). She was easy to drop into after Starchild, and had plenty of chances to be sweet, charming, and see the good in people. And, when it was over, I was tied with another player for the prize, so I ended up with another set of the DVDs. Shiny!!

As is only appropriate for a Gail-Stella ShadowWorld weekend, I was staying with Rain, so we headed to the apartment, I met Cynthia the roommate, and I took to a surprisingly comfy cot. Of course, it helps that I was really, really tired.

Didn't get up too early on Saturday, since I wasn't doing anything before 1 (and, as I said, I was tired). That was a chance to play some Formula De, this time with enough players we could actually get a good feel for the game (which really wants to be on a crowded field). I made a few mistakes, but had managed to break away to a lead toward the end of the first lap, only to fall victim to an ill-timed roll that blew out my engines, leaving me dead in the water just one player before I was going to shift down to 4th gear and out of risk for engine damage. Still, it was great fun.

And than, Saturday night, more ShadowWorld. In fact, this was the fateful Starchild, Gail, and John together for the first time game, though there were 5 other players, and none of the three of us were in charge. We were given missions, and we chose to all but ignore them and chase after one of John's personal goals (with permission), which meant a lot of what happened here was story-important for the three of us. Many secrets were uncovered, a couple seriously bad choices were made, and we just barely managed to hold things (including John) together. But we learned quite a bit (I think), both about John's background and about the potential (and dangers) of the powers and connections Gail, John, and Starchild share. Tons of interesting potential new actions were revealed!

Still very tired after, the cot still surprisingly welcoming.

A slightly earlier morning on Sunday because we had to get Cynthia to an early game. Rain and I puttered around the dealer's room. I didn't have the luggage space to take back too much, but I found two discounted board games I just couldn't pass up (Tom Jolly's Camelot and Vanished Planet for a total of $15). Rain picked up a light zombie footrace game that proved to be more fun than I'd expected, and we played a couple rounds while waiting for... you guessed it, yet more ShadowWorld!

Third ShadowWorld game (fourth for Rain, who had played in a non-Mainline ShadowWorld game while I was playing Firefly), and we still had the missions from the previous night on the table, as John's personal quest hadn't resolved them. The mission took us back to Australia, back to the place that, on her last visit three years earlier, had proven the seed for a very bad period of Starchild's life. She avoided any of the problems she'd have had then this time, but they managed some all new ones. And things got unexpectedly large-scale, when an investigation in a barren Australian desert ended up leading to the re-discovery of Atlantis, the final destruction of the same, and the sealing of the Bermuda Triangle. Oh, and a couple very interesting additional facts (or suggestions of the same) about the more personal issues as well, including some powerful new information that Starchild's Dreaming power is more complex than I'd though.

Rain and I had plenty to talk about for Gail and Stella that night and all day Monday, with a few breaks to talk about some cool indy RPGs (including my own concept-project, exposed to another player in detail for the first time there; no hints here as of yet, sorry). As usually proves true, no amount of ShadowWorld is enough, and there's a ton of new things we need to start investigating as a result of what we've now found.

A ton of new, interesting, and certainly dangerous things.

My gaming-heavy month is underway, and starting off strong!

Posted by ghoul at 11:33 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 23, 2005

Preliminary Packing

All right, I'm not getting those mini-reviews done on pace at all... And, given how busy the next six weeks are, I'm not sure just how it's going to happen...

And right now, I'm starting to pack for my active November... That's two overlapping trips, one to a wedding in Indy and another to the T-Con gathering in Raleigh.

Pass on by if you're not interested in my game packing. If you're going to be at either gathering, please look in to make suggestions!

To Indy, I'm hoping to manager room for Santiago, Beowulf, Shadows over Camelot, Louis XIV, Tutankhamen, and Dungeon Twister. Also a tightly packed blue "game saver" box that holds Axis and Allies D-Day, Paranoia Maximum Bonus Fun, Formula Motor Racing, Battleline, Relationship Tightrope, Kingdoms, and Citadel.

Meanwhile, to Raleigh, I can add the games I can fit in the back of my friend's van (which I'm not going to be in myself, this year, since I'm flying to Indy and from there to Raleigh, then taking a train to Greensboro for a week there before flying home)... Run For Your Life Candyman!, Niagara, Einfach Genial, Parthenon, Amazonas, Buy Low Sell High, Caribbean, Fist of Dragonstar, Queen's Necklace, Ticket to Ride Europe, Pirate's Cove, and Fearsome Floors fill one tub. Empyrean Inc, My Dwarves Fly, King's Breakfast, Saboteur. Carcasone the City, San Juan, Attika, Blue Moon (with expansions), Battlestations (with expansion), Arkham Horror (new edition), Kung Fu Fighting, En Garde!, Baloon Cup, Cloud 9, Cthulhu 5000, Coloretto, Wooly Bully, Cargo, Mare Nostrum, Flea Circus, Wheedle, and Magna Grecia fill the other. Descent is too large to fit into the tubs, but I can't see it being left behind. so it'll find its own way. And, yes, there's a fair bit of repackaging that goes into this process, since many games are more than 50% air thanks to attempts to fit product into similar box sizes even when it's far from necessary (for example, the first 4 games listed in the 2nd tub are all comfortably nestled within the box of the 5th).

How does a game make this list? Well, being a game I really want to play with the folk I'm visiting is a major part, but another is being small (or easily re-packaged; Axis and Allies D-Day looks huge but is actually quite compact when necessary), having been popular at previous gatherings (I'd be lynched if I arrived without Formula Motor Racing, for example), or simply being intriguing (I really want to try out Battlestations, for example, and the Raleigh crowd is a nice blend of board and RP gamers that should be perfect for it.)

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October 10, 2005

No News...

... would be a relief just now. As would a significant bit more news.

Yes, this news is concerning my employer.

No, I have no idea what it means personally.

Yes, I really, really wish I did.

Posted by ghoul at 07:44 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 24, 2005

Birthday Followup

This was the exceptionally cool cake brought to the ATD game session back on the 10th. Val would, of course, gladly have defended the castle (he does showy, kinda-heroic things like that), but it promised to be too yummy to only look at, so we shooed him away and had at it.

I've been pretty quiet since just before then, I know... Lots of reading, a bit of online gaming, but too much typing at work (we're catching up on several months of documentation) to really want to sit down and type out comments on new games during my off hours. I'm hoping the mood will strike this weekend and I'll get through the board games and on to the RPGs (since so many more people seem interested in those).

Posted by ghoul at 11:01 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 30, 2005

So, How Did They Know?

Another weird 40th birthday thing...

Both my parents and my friends Julia and Lou ended up selecting the same birthday card, a particularly funny card of a squirrel having a very squirrel-like mid-life crisis.

Which seems a bit odd to me, since while I do find squirrels very funny, and even have a half-formed squirrel-based RPG idea (kinda Bunnies and Burrows but with nuts and lots of tree-climbing), it really isn't something I often talk about. And while I did have a stuffed toy squirrel in my youth that was my favorite of favorite toys (named, naturally enough, Rocky, after the coolest squirrel ever), that was decades ago, and again not a regular topic of conversation. It's not like I'm much like the wanna-be super-hero from the last episode of the Tick animated ("The Tick vs. Education"), though it is true that I do like squirrels.

So just how is it I get squirrel-related birthday cards from two directions (who have never even met)?

Life's weird sometimes.

Posted by ghoul at 09:11 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 29, 2005

Corrections Completed

And, with no more effort than I expected (and some very helpful and friendly store staff), I've managed to exchange of the unusable 250GB UltraATA drive for a 300GB SATA drive, which is now happily soaking up my TV episodes, which will half-fill it all in one go.

But now I'll have around 280 usable GB of free space, so perhaps another year before I have to start worrying about cleaning up and deleting unnecessary things and such.

You know, if I didn't need more reminders of my age (yesterday being my 40th birthday and all), it's really odd to remember back to when getting an expansion pack to take my computer from 4k to 16k was a big deal. And I just spent less money to add over 20 million times as much storage with no more real effort.

Hmmm... gonna have to find a way to add an "uphill both ways" and maybe an "and we liked it" to that story.

Posted by ghoul at 07:19 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 28, 2005

The Universe Celebrates No Birthdays

I knew things were off to a shaky start when my D&D group ended up having to get a 2nd cake for me, because the first one was marbled with chocolate (to which I am allergic). But they'd handled that, and gotten me a perfectly yummy cake all to myself.

So, then, I get home today and find that FedEx has delivered my non-game present to myself early (yesterday rather than the expected Tuesday), so I'd actually have it on the day! And I didn't tell FedEx it was my birthday or anything.

I shut down my G5, pop open the side, examine the bay...

And find that the nifty, low-cost 250GB drive I'd bought was Ultra ATA while PowerMacs need Serial ATA. That is, not remotely compatible (without an interface card that would cost nearly as much as the drive or an adaptor plug of questionable merits).


Fortunately, it seems the local CompUSA (40 miles away, but that's local enough, since it's still within the state) will be able to do an exchange to a 300GB SATA drive for only about a 50% price increase. Plus drive times, of course. Probably be doing that tomorrow or Tuesday (because said drive is on sale this week and may go out of stock if I don't head down there soon).

Ahh, well, if it had all gone without at least a little hitch, it wouldn't've been MY birthday.

Posted by ghoul at 07:22 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 23, 2005

Further Aftermath

The drive home was actually quite nice. Very little traffic, good weather, and except that it takes 16 hours, very little by way of problems or difficulties.

And no, I didn't run out of gas this time. In fact, I passed 45.0 at 41332 miles, showing how nice that long-distance, fairly constant speed driving is to milage.

I'm recovering today, then I'm back to work tomorrow. That will probably be harder than the drive was.

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Sleep Now

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August 17, 2005


My drive up from Cincinnati is complete, and I'm positioned in my room near the Convention Center.

GenCon updates may follow, depending on the discovery of gaps to allow them to be created.

Posted by ghoul at 02:51 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 15, 2005

FLGS vs Con

This is a statement of principal. As such, it means fairly little, but I may as well make it.

I would rather make a purchase from a retail game store than from most game publishers. Because if there aren't stores, at least until online ordering and delivery scales up to a good bit better than it currently is, there won't be publishers anyway.

As such, I've done a fair number of gaming purchases prior to even getting to GenCon.

I have a feeling my total once this week is over will be scary-high. But that's pretty much why I'm going!

Posted by ghoul at 02:06 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 27, 2005

Back Home

Well, now I'm back from The Black Road. Fun was had. Details below the fold.

No surprises on the drive down, except for how little I miss driving the outer loop around Boston every other week. It's now been most of a year since I've done that, and 495 is still as crowded (albeit mostly moving at speed) as I remembered.

The hotel was less hockey-youth overwhelmed than it has been in the past, it being summer and, therefore, not really hockey season. Still, there are apparently summer "skill camps" and the like, so we weren't completely without pre- and barely- teens with big bags of gear. There were no noticeable problems this year, and that may be more than just reduced numbers... Apparently the hotel has taken to having hockey-youth parents sign promises to keep the kids under control as well.

First slot was my GM'ing, and "Nine Lives in Amber" went reasonably well. This set of cats managed to unite into an effective team rather quickly, with much of the credit for that going to Jenn's PC, who ignored a couple of provocations from other cats and focused on her (mostly self-assigned) "save the castle" mission. The image of Gerard with a 30+lbs Maine Coon on his head and a full boat of hot turkey gravy in his lap (all for his own good, mind you) won't vanish from my head anytime soon.

My second slot were unfortunately derailed by Bryant's last-minute absence, which prevented him from GMing his "Dogs in the Vineyard"/"Amber" crossover. I decided to take the slot off to try to catch up on some sleep and get onto a more con-friendly schedule (my own normal 5AM - 9 PM doesn't fit to a con that runs more like 9 AM to midnight). It was probably a good choice, because I was pretty tired by Sunday's slot even with this break!

Third slot was a challenging experiment by Michael Curry, "Mountain of the Sorcerer King", an Amber-flavored recasting of The Mountain Witch. We didn't quite have the time to develop the whole feel of the game (we only had 3 "chapters", and we over-ran our slot by 90 minutes even with just that), and all of us had trouble getting into the conflict-resolution mindset. Still, there was some very nice play, character Fates were well (if quickly) developed, and the final resolution was satisfying and appropriately bloody. The Trust mechanic (the revolutionary idea of the game) made for some very interesting dynamics in the group, though I'm not sure if it was the relatively small number of chapters (where Trust is re-set), the lack of a direct way to use Trust to hamper another PC, or our skittishness about using Trust to swipe narration and undercut other PCs (only done once or twice)... Still, the overall result was quite enjoyable.

Slot Four and I played in Meera Barry's Monsters! There were frights and funnies galore, and the most disturbingly right portrayal of Flora I've seen in a long time. Amber kept a ton of quotes from this one, which I expect will be up soon.

And last slot it was back to M. Curry's indie games crossovers, with a 2nd go at kill puppies for satan mixed with Amber, The Puppies of Tijuana. Having been run out of Akron last year, the ultimate pale shadows of the Amber Royal Family play their trashy, petty games south of the border. As Eric, I focused on a couple really crappy schemes, then on taking over when Dad was killed (for real, this time), and then on making others believe I really had taken over (since no matter how clearly I pointed at Dad's door, now painted "Eric's Room", few believed me). I ended up dead in a drug war crossfire, killed at the end of the 2nd chapter in an effort to defend the family. Well, okay, the parallel to the original story is thinner than that... Corwin used Eric for cover as he ran off, Eric having not exactly noticed what was going on yet.

Great fun! I didn't want it to end!

Posted by ghoul at 07:10 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 24, 2005

Heading Down the Road

I'm off the The Black Road for a weekend of Amber and related gaming.

Depending on where my room is in relation to the hotel's wireless network (last year, I was just out of range), I may be reporting in as things progress.

Posted by ghoul at 09:37 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 28, 2005

Not in New York

My original plans were to be away for the holiday weekend, but various events have combined to leave me home instead.

Which is good, because I have plenty of things to catch up on. There's the the new Lois McMaster Bujold novel, several new DVDs, and just time with my cats.

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May 25, 2005

Return Trip

16:45 (CDT) -- Louis Armstrong Airport, New Orleans. It's actually an hour before my flight, but I shared my cab with two co-workers who were ~40 minutes ahead of me for their flights back to Greensboro. I'm scheduled thru Philly, leaving there at 10:55, hopefully reaching New Hampshire just after midnight. What a fun schedule! And Philly, too! Here's hoping it stays on time...

The weekend plus in New Orleans was very enjoyable. The weather tried to make it crumble, with temperatures setting new records (in the low-to-mid 90s!). But I found enough air conditioning to make it, after a bit of a personal energy crisis on Saturday. I managed to get to four of the dining choices Jenn had listed for me, and didn't have a single bad experience with that. It turns out the World Poker Tour was mid-way through a tournament at the casino between the hotel where the Society of Actuaries spring meeting was held and the French Quarter, so I had several chances to wander through (the casino, after all, is air conditioned) and look for familiar faces from watching TV poker. Didn't see many.

The meeting itself was very interesting and informative, with numerous sessions on the current issues facing my profession. And yes, it is possible to be interesting and actuarial at the same time! I also had the chance to meet up with some former co-workers from my days in Cincinnati (including trading some suggestions for reading material with the man who introduced me to Lois McMaster Bujold, a favor well worth returning).

23:20 (EDT) -- Somewhere between Philly and Manchester. I don't know what I managed to do in order to get through Philly's airport with less than 10 total minutes in delays, but I sure wish I did know!

With any luck, I'll be home before 1 AM tomorrow, which will be proven by this having been posted.

Final note: Close... very, very close. If it hadn't been for rain-slicked roads on the drive from the airport, I'd've made it.

Posted by ghoul at 01:04 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

May 21, 2005

Travel Update

07:31 (EDT) -- Washington National Airport, near gate 43, with a 60 minute layover waiting on my connection to New Orleans. The first flight was quick and comfortable, marred only by my very late arrival at the airport. Or can anyone be said to be late when they're there at 5:45 AM? We did leave on time (6:00 AM), but one other passenger and I darted to the gate just as they reached for the mic to announce final boarding.

I forgot my nice magnetic sunglass clip-ons, which I'm sure I'll regret if the weather proves to be sunny, but if that's the only thing I forgot, I've done very well with my unexpectedly rushed packing (I was at work two hours later than I'd hoped to be yesterday, which really cut into my time).

More reports as time and 'net connectivity allows.

10:50 (CDT) -- Hilton New Orleans Riverside. Here with no significant delays. And it's about time to go looking for lunch (and thanks again, Jenn, for the list from which I can start that search!)...

Probably nothing more before Wednesday. Be seeing you!

Posted by ghoul at 01:57 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 15, 2005

Busy, Busy, Busy

Well, that pretty much describes the rest of the month.

By the end of this week, I should be in New Orleans, where I'm traveling on business. Almost as soon as I'm back from that, I'm off to NYC for Memorial Day weekend. I suspect the cats will start wondering if I still live here before May's over.

Expect limited posting until June (since it's not like I'm too prolific when I'm not unusually busy).

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April 28, 2005

Alternate Futures

So, there's really two things that could happen next Thursday. Okay, strictly speaking, millions of things, but only two big groups of things each with countless sub-variants.

1) I could go down to Boston after work, meet up with some friends, eat really good food, then drive home at a reasonable hour for getting to work on Friday.

2) I could go down to Boston after work, meet up with some friends, eat really good food, then I could get lucky, wrangle a reasonably priced ticket, and so go see a gotta-be-way-cool-movie with those friends, then drive home at a very unreasonable hour, at least as far as getting to work on Friday goes.

Right now, I'm not even going to be setting odds. The only good thing is that (1) isn't really all that bad. It's just that (2) would be much, much better. I suspect it may come down to how much I'm wiling to shell out. I've seen as much as $500 offered... I will not be matching anything like that.

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April 11, 2005

AmberCon Report

I'm back from Livonia and AmberCon 2005. There were no reports from on-site due to internet access problems (for the scant free time I'd scheduled myself, it wasn't worth the hotel's price), to said scant free time made scanter by illness/general discomfort which I now blame on the water (next year, bottled all the way), and to an unexpected expiration of this domain. All are better now.

Travel to and from the con the recurrent minor misery that is US Air, with an hour lost on ridiculous luggage issues on the way out and five hours wasted on the way back due to a complete inability to crew their planes (mine was among 10 delayed or canceled flights in the period at just my one gate, all due to one co-pilot calling in sick, if we can believe the excuse given).

But, the good news is I'm home, so I can do some AmberCon reporting!

Slot 1 was my go at playing a new non-Amber game at Ambercon as Tymen vanDyk ran Dust Devils with a bit of the old Amber cross-over spirit (the PCs were hired to step into a feud between easily-recognized Amber elders or near shadows of the same). We were interestingly short on gunmen (one of the players making their character on-site more than made up for that), but we had an interesting time arranging a nice little double-cross then trumping the attempt to turn it back onto us. Lots of violence, more than a bit of untrustworthiness, and several character's Devils coming out at both the right and wrong time. In fact, I ran out on the other PCs just before their moment of triumph thanks to the impact of mine. The players weren't quite shifted from "statement of intent" to "statement of objective" in setting up the conflicts, but Tymen did a good job making it all work out and the distributed power of narration caught on quite well.

Slots 2 and 3 were my GMing time. First, thanks to me getting them wrong when I submitted them, came Nine Lives in Amber, my Cats game which I'll not describe so I can keep it ready to run again at The Black Road in June. It went well, though I quickly learned that dice are needed with the way characters are set up in that game. A few "roll successes forward" concepts borrowed from Sorcerer on the fly and it went quite well. Nine Princes in High School had a low player count for the way I run Teenagers from Outer Space, but I made up for it by using a classic sort of plot, PCs versus slightly-improved duplicates. One of the characters let me pin the blame on him (I didn't care who was responsible), while the others all offered lots of chances to be silly and mimic their character in humorous ways. Fun was had.

Slot 4 was my ShadowWorld Mainline game for the con and my chance to find out just how messed up my PC, Stella Child (aka Starchild), had managed to become thanks to some things I'd been doing on the forums with two other players (doings that involve death, confrontation with countless horrific foes, merger into one body with three not-quite-distinct minds, more confrontation with unimaginably powerful beings, and a not very certain attempt to re-separate into three people). Turns out, quite a lot. My two original powers are now significantly more disadvantage-laden and I've picked up a long list of powers duplicated from the others (with specific quirks based on just how we answered some questions from the GM... sometimes quite literally). Their sheets were likewise affected. No time to wonder what it all meant, though, as we were given a chance to pick our own favored mission from a list of outstanding items and, being the high-firepower team (dunno exactly how Starchild ended up there, though it did feature several regular teammates), we went for a hard kill option on a very nasty subject (a buried god, which shows the sort of confidence we had in that firepower). Starchild managed to keep her head together despite another unexpected contact during a precog vision (this one asked her questions... she's really in no state to answer while viewing the future!) and some very unexpected manifestations of her new powers. For example, while still not a direct threat, she's certainly got some seriously combat-useful abilities now. As is par of the ShadowWorld set, the mission got far, far out of hand and some major-league powers had to be called on to save us when our target turned out to be two. I was among the few not seriously (or mortally... temporarily thanks to the high-powered Healer on the team) wounded during the knock-down-drag-out finale, and I managed to stand within shouting distance of the Queen of the Fey without her deciding to kill me, which I have to consider a win (given that she has good reason to want me dead, from what happened at AmberCon North last fall). Gail, John, and Stella now have a lot of issues to explain to one another, and I've got two or three things I want to deal with for other PCs in the near future as well, and pretty much none of the looming threats were dealt with. This went VERY late and I was already starting to feel sick (that had come upon me during dinner just before this slot), so the very late end and early morning the next day had me very wobbly. Still, I wouldn't miss a ShadowWorld game for any reason!

Slot 5 was worth getting up for as well. Simone Cooper followed up last year's amazing Undertow with just as good a game this time around! GMs again nearly outnumbered players as she recruited some great talent to offer us faces for most of the surviving Elders. My PC's father had a new player this year, but the tension of the relationship remained and, if anything, deepened. Especially when, unknowingly, I asked him if it was all right to have him killed in order to make my plan go forward. The fact that he agreed without explaining just what he'd been asked for shows something, but I'm not quite sure what. Anyway, I spent much of my extended flight home writing a diary for this game, which can be found here.

I skipped slot 6 in order to try to get back to reasonable health and get enough sleep. Rain (who plays Gail, part of the ShadowWorld character merging mentioned above) showed up and we compared notes of just how messed up our ShadowWorld characters now are, and just how complicated their not-quite-started relationship is now that they have an Empathic link that can reach all the way around the world. Wendi and Sean also showed up with Ian (I was sharing a room with Ian and JP) and we had a nice, quiet chat for a while. I did miss the game I was schedule for (though I understand my PC was run with great effect by another player, so the game did not suffer), but had a good time chatting with the three non-attendees who had slipped in and even got to sleep before midnight (far, far from the norm at AmberCon).

Sunday AM was the Guardians of Order ADRP Forum, which I report on here.

Slot 7 saw chapter two of Mike Manolakes's Nine Princes in Shadow series, this time on "Eric's Earth". In fact, the scenario was one he'd run at ACN under the name "The Zelazney Code". Fun was had trying to work out the clues, avoid the red herrings, and work out the puzzle before it crashed on top of us. We followed one wild goose and took a long time to work out one clue (harmed by my character's anti-cell-phone paranoia, which kept the GM from calling us with his "get back on track" NPC hints). Lots of interesting role-play and in-character puzzle solving. Plus how many RPG sessions are there where a character in the game decides they need to call on an expert and, out of the blue, picks one of my college roommates. who I didn't even realize he knew. I barely avoided becoming an NPC in the game myself!

Slot 8 and it's back to ShadowWorld, if the WWII version this time. Meyer is a lot less conflicted and messed up than Starchild, though if missions keep going like this one, that won't last. We dropped into Greece to disrupt Nazi shipments of archeological treasures to Austria, only to find these treasures had among them some items of unusual power. In the end, we brought a salt mine down on a huge pile of similarly odd treasures and the SS folk who were trying to use them. This is the second time Meyer has brought a cave down with himself inside it, and he's learning to not like it much, though it is a very good use of his power to control earth and water by whistling or humming big-band music (yeah, it's a very odd power). This mission was capped by an ugly intra-party conflict over the disposition of one of the PCs, who may just be the trigger for the end of the world. Meyer was unconvinced except that people who seemed to know were all very worried and he knew this PC wasn't exactly known for self-discipline. In the end, a compromise was reached so no one died, but a lot of anger was vented and nothing was necessarily solved. Meyer really, really wants to get the Germans dealt with so he can go back to farming, but it's only late 1941 so I know he's got a lot of work still to do.

There wasn't nearly enough time to talk to everyone, play in all the games, and just be with folks. Four days just isn't enough (particularly when you're feeling poorly). TBR won't come soon enough!

Posted by ghoul at 06:35 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

March 24, 2005

Traveling Again

3/22 AM -- Flew out of Manchester, NH in the early hours today, for three days at company HQ. With any luck, I'll have no interesting travel stories at all. But my layover times do look very short... The flight down, which had the shortest layover (next plane already boarding when first plane landed), went well enough...

While on this trip, I need to make characters and finalize notes for my AmberCon games. I have one character still to make, one to review from last year, and several submissions for Nine Lives in Amber to make sure I have personalized hooks ready to use. A great way to spend several hours in flight and evenings in a hotel room, I think.

3/22 PM -- Especially when there's no sign of a working 'net connection in the room...


3/24 3 PM -- But, other than that (and a failure to bring the PowerBook along due to not realizing my Wednesday dinner choice was a wireless hotspot), the work stuff went well, ending with a bit of entertaining evacuation nonsense due to a rumored bomb threat (I'll find out details Monday, I expect). I'm typing this note as I wait on my first flight back toward New Hampshire and a 3-day weekend. More to follow!

3/24 6 PM -- In LGA, there is wireless but it only lets you to a limited number of sites free, and I won't be here more than 30 minutes... so I'm just typing as I wait for them to prep my plane (currently 20 minutes late, but here and being readied) and then I'm for home.

23/24 8:30 PM -- Home. Tired. More later.

[date corrected thanks to someone more observant than I was last night]

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March 13, 2005

Where I've Been

where you've been:
bold the states you've been to, underline the states you've lived in and italicize the state you're in now...

Alabama / Alaska / Arizona / Arkansas / California / Colorado / Connecticut / Delaware / Florida / Georgia / Hawaii / Idaho / Illinois / Indiana / Iowa / Kansas / Kentucky / Louisiana / Maine / Maryland / Massachusetts / Michigan / Minnesota / Mississippi / Missouri / Montana / Nebraska / Nevada / New Hampshire / New Jersey / New Mexico / New York / North Carolina / North Dakota / Ohio / Oklahoma / Oregon / Pennsylvania / Rhode Island / South Carolina / South Dakota / Tennessee / Texas / Utah / Vermont / Virginia / Washington / West Virginia / Wisconsin / Wyoming / Washington D.C /

(And, barring a change in plans, I'll be in Louisiana for a few days before the end of May.)

Go HERE to have a form generate the HTML for you.

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March 05, 2005

Theory and Practice

Yesterday, I made a mistake. A fairly annoying one, too, because I should know better.

I wore my "practice" hat to a "theory" discussion, and then took forever (in discussion terms) to recognize this and (as best I could) change hats.

This is, of course, an issue I deal with all the time, not in my hobbies (where yesterday's mistake was, thankfully) but in my occupation. As an actuary, in particular as a product development actuary, I'm frequently challenged to take academic economic theory and re-cast it into a practical, executable plan, and in doing so I've had to recognize the limitations of both perspectives. My friend Grant often says (with no claim to have originated it) "In Theory, there is no difference between Theory and Practice. In Practice, there is no relationship between Theory and Practice." It's taken a bit too far, but it's essentially a correct observation.

The Theory world is ruled by the unforgiving taskmaster of logic. If Theory A is used as part of the justification/derivation/proof of Theory B, then if Theory A is proven wrong even just a little, then Theory B is immediately and totally discredited as well. That's why, in the Theory world, one must be very careful with words and what they mean, and why having a fundamental assumption questioned even in the slightest can cause an intense and forceful uproar, often resulting in statements that, on their face, seem totally out of proportion to the issue at hand (to a layman).

The Practice world is ruled by practicality. In the Practice world, Practice A may be used to justify Practice B, but it is recognized that a change to Practice A only might affect Practice B. One must review the implications on an individual basis. Changes are expected and the norm, review of assumptions and practices is continuous. Anything else is assured to fail.

So, in Mathematical Theory, 2+2=4. This is a hard, cold fact. But in Mathematical Practice, 2+2 can equal anything from just above 3 to just below 5, because 2 can be recognized as "anything from 1.5 to 2.5". There it is in simple terms... Theory and Practice are two different things.

This gets even hairier when you get to the advanced stuff. For example, the Black-Scholes Option Valuation Pricing Model (the basis of vast arrays of modern high-finance, usually in one of its successor forms) is proposed as a mathematical proof, fairly straightforwardly derived from a set of assumptions. The problem is that, in practice, each and every one of those assumptions is almost always false. Despite this, Black-Scholes works. This is because (as demonstrated in an excellent follow-up paper by one of the original creators of the theory, I believe Black) the sensitivity of the model to the inherent error in each of its assumptions is, in fact, quite small. It will fail now and then (there is one particularly large international hedge fund collapse that can be blamed on just such a failure at heart), but the vast majority of the time it will be as accurate as any of the other calculations used in financial work.

So, in Theory, Black-Scholes is wrong (based on several false assumptions) and cannot be used as a basis for further work (unless you carry forward all its questionable assumptions). In fact, it's right far, far more often than it's wrong, and when wrong it's usually wrong by a very small amount. It is flawed in that it's hard to see when it is very wrong until after the fact... In Practice, that means it can be used with appropriate care and understanding even if, in Theory, it must be thrown out.

One must recognize which realm the discussion is in and, thus, which set of reactions questioning a base assumption will create. In a Theory discussion, the reaction is sudden and forceful. In a Practice discussion, it's usually a quiet "hmm". From the exact same question.

Yesterday, I forgot to do this. As such, I wasted several good people's time and likely frayed a temper or two (temporarily, I hope). And that was completely and totally my mistake, not theirs.

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December 28, 2004

Home In One Piece

Yes, as the subject says...

Small hassle at airport as the luggage from from my flight was delayed (25 minute wait) and arrived snow-covered. We suspect a cart accident they didn't want to explain to us.

Good dinner with Julia and Lou, then a bit of time clearing snow from the car (Fall River, MA got a healthy snowfall). The drive home was easy and relatively quick, and Concord was all but spared in the snows. Less than 3 inches, I'd estimate. in fact, there were clear spots on my driveway and I expect a lot of clearing when the temperature cracks over 40 during daylight hours the rest of this week.

Lots of catching up on email and such to do tomorrow... Good thing I'm off work until the new year!

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Return Trip

Another holiday at home is a memory and I'm packed back in the Cincinnati airport waiting on my flight.

Of course, when I made allowances for the crowd, it wasn't there, so I ended up with 90 minutes to wait at the gate. The flight from Dallas just now pulled in, right on time (to the minute), so I have reasonable hope of a timely flight back to Providence, at which point I will put myself in the hands of Julia and Lou to pick a place for dinner.

Not much to report of the visit... mostly uneventful, with a few family matters I needn't talk about here. I managed to pick up a couple interesting game titles at my old comics/games shop and exclusively games store, which I'll probably talk more about in the future. I think I'll go get some overpriced airport food to fill the time.

I'm gonna go get some Gold Star Chili (unfortunately no Skyline in the airport... though I did get to Skyline last night). That's a taste I miss in NH (though there's a decent imitator near company HQ in Greensboro, NC). The "new" (since 2000) Chili Cheese Fries (a 3-way served on a bed of french fries rather than thin spaghetti) get an A+ from me (with Skyline's winning out, though much of that on quantity and the airport location may be the source of Gold Star's skimpy serving size).

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December 26, 2004

Panera Stopoff

Brief access to wireless gained at Panera Bread in Ft. Mitchell, KY.

I've posted my rants on my flight here, and there may be more from the trip before I'm done... but likely it'll all wait until I'm home on Tuesday night.

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December 24, 2004

Flying (Lucky Timing)

Okay, so it was pretty bad to be around 2 1/2 hours late... but at least I missed the airport's fire alarm, which currently has much of the terminal I was in evacuated (people standing in the sub-10 degree weather).

Icy, frozen snow is pretty much everywhere. It's bad enough that many of the local churches have canceled services! Of course, in New England, it was just wet and warm... Not at all the weather I was expecting!

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Flying (More Observations On...)

Ahhh, seems I typed too soon... Out of courtesy for the ~30 people who hadn't made it on time, we waited at the gate for 25 minutes. 3 of them actually showed up in that time. I suspect the others were consumed by the milling masses still gathering with no hint of direction.

And then, once we made it to Cincinnati (reasonably smooth flight, no issues of note), there was more fun to be had. Turns out that, because of the weather, no planes were leaving Cincinnati. Oh, planes could land there just fine, but none were leaving. So there were no available gates; they were all taken up with planes that weren't going anywhere. There was no place available for an arriving plane to let its passengers go. So we sat 25 minutes on the tarmac until they remembered there was a whole unused terminal off to the other side of us. We deplaned via the rear stairs (the reason that terminal, I suppose, being its lack of those retracting gate things to connect to the main door). Then a 15 minute wait for my bag (not bad at all, except that the carrousel it was being sent to changed twice while I waited and you had to watch the lists on the signs as no announcements were made).

Then I waited for my ride, which it turns out hadn't left home yet since they'd been plowed and iced in overnight. As I type this, I'm waiting in the airport for a call to tell me they've left.

The joys of traveling!

(Currently 120 minutes behind schedule, and counting... And, compared to last year, that's a glorious success.)

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Flying (Observations On...)

It's no secret that I dislike flying.

Or, rather, I quite like flying, but I dislike the accumulated junk that surrounds flying. Particularly flying on busy days like, say, Christmas Eve.

Lou and Julia were nice enough to let me come down last night, then Lou was up at 4 AM (thanks again, Lou!) to drive me to the Providence airport for my 6 AM flight. Inside it was... well, it was a perfect example of unthinking design. Upon entry, I met up with a mass of people, none of whom knew where to go (it is, after all, 4:30 in the AM, so most are also 3/4ths asleep). Pushing through them, I found the self-check-in kiosk (no line, no waiting, no one pointing people toward it) and printed my boarding pass. Then I had to go to the "self serve" baggage check-in, which meant waiting in line for the people checking their entire belongings (no, I'm not exaggerating by much... 4 huge bags apiece and 5 people in the party) with the two overwhelmed assistants (who were actually doing the check-in, belying the "self serve" label). Then came the clever part... I had to pick up my just-tagged bag, push back through the milling crowd by the entrance to get to the far side of them and the TSA bag scanner. There, I watched my bag clumsily tossed around by the TSA folk until they picked it up and pushed it through a door in the wall. No notice what to do next, but I asked and they told me once my bag was done, I was to head to my gate. Fortunately, I'd been watching so I knew it already was; several other folk were milling about wondering what they should be doing. Of course, because this was the worst designed flow of traffic possible, heading to my gate meant pushing through the ever-increasing mass of people by the entry door yet again, this time to emerge in the right place to join the line to the security check-in and the gates.

No, of course the flow of people hadn't been really considered... it was enter, figure out where to go on your own, go back through the mass of people still befuddled by the first challenge to get bags scanned, then once again back through the same crowd to get to the gates. Normally, the goal is to keep things flowing all in one direction and decidedly not to have the expected path cross itself several times. But apparently that sort of consideration was not given.

Well... at least the plane seems to be leaving on time.

Posted by ghoul at 05:21 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 02, 2004

On the Way Home

And the near-week at company HQ is done, so I'm on my way back to New England (this is typed as I sit in the Greensboro airport awaiting my boarding call, with plans to post it if I can sniff out a wireless connection during the DC layover, at Julia and Lou's if I linger there long enough, or at home if neither). Note added in DC: Pros and Cons of flying back via DC rather than Philadelphia are (Pro) flight leaves DC pretty much on time vs. (Con) small planes, crowded bus to and from plane/terminal, no wireless 'net in terminal, 30 minute "no getting out of your seat" rule on the way in and out of DC. I'm almost sure actually being on time (which I've never been flying thru Philly) outweighs all those negatives, though. Of course, the "no wireless 'net in terminal" means this was not posted from DC.

I'm flying to Providence, from where I'll be driven (after a yummy Legal Seafood dinner) to Fall River, MA, where I'll pick up my car where I left it almost two weeks back, drive to Concord, NH. Then I'll work a full day tomorrow, drive BACK to Fall River for Julia's bi-weekly D&D game, and then drive back home on Saturday morning. That's around 400-450 miles for the car and 7-8 hours in the driver's seat (depending on Traffic, for which only tomorrow afternoon's drive is likely to be significant) over a 36 hour period! Good thing I really love my Prius!

Here's hoping the cats aren't too upset that I come home just long enough to sleep and leave again!

Various work/personal ramblings after the fold for anyone who cares.

The week wasn't as productive as I'd hoped, as the descent into Chaos that was beginning when I left for my week off had deepened a fair bit, significantly undermining my main project and collapsing a big old sink-hole in the middle of my co-worker's. I think we've halted the bleeding and even started on the path toward more order, but over half the meetings I'd come down to attend were not even held and those that were held were simplified, reduced, or under-prepared-for (including the one I was facilitating... I hadn't even managed time to review the topic prior to the meeting!). I finally came out of the last meeting a minimal 5 minutes left before my shuttle to the airport, scrambling to have something to hand in for an expense report (I will need to mail one receipt, which will add 2-3 days lag before I get my check <sigh>), wrap up the "drop everything" project I was given late yesterday (but which no one I asked to provide inputs for considered of nearly so high a priority), finding that the computer run I'd done to support that had produced an unacceptable result (with no time to revise and retry), and I'd managed to spill (just a little, praise be!) my drinking water into my tote bag of papers and books. ARGH! On the plus side, that last meeting that ran somewhat later than I'd like was a quite positive (if vague on specifics) annual review (my first such in three years due to management shuffling and other similar excuses). It's nice to know I'm appreciated (which my boss has always been good about sharing regularly, actually), but it would be nicer to see what numbers get put behind the words. We'll see if those show up before the end of the month, as they're supposed to.

And the whole of my work output for the last three years remains threatened by a group of zealous but (IMO) misdirected state regulators who, in response to complaints from some companies who don't sell the type of products I specialize in designing, are attempting to change the law to massively increase the costs associated with such products, not just for future sales but retroactively to all such sales over the last two years (that is, since the last time they re-wrote the law in this area). Which means all the time we've spent planning the next generation(s) of products are cast into doubt, and I may well have far, far more work to do to try to repair/refit/revitalize pretty much everything in response to the new rules over a very short timeframe. I don't see much free time in the near future if the vote on the new regs passes.

Meanwhile, on the plus side, I was finally able to coordinate times with my step-brother, for the first time of my nearly a dozen trips to NC. We were able to do dinner and conversation, which is always a welcome change for another night in the hotel.

Posted by ghoul at 10:41 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

November 29, 2004

T'Con Day Eight (Supplemental) and Day Plus One

We closed off day eight with a handful more games of the highly-successful Cloud 9, teaching Luc and Julia to play as well (Julia isn't a big board-game player, but the Out of the Box games (or at least this and Apples to Apples) seems to be to her taste. The dynamics of the game change in interesting ways as you go to 5 or 6 players, since there's more card-gathering when your turn to pilot comes around less often. I should have expected this from watching tournament poker, but I underestimated the effect dramatically. I know there were at least two 25 point flights (though one made with me piloting was nearly useless, as Luc had already passed 50 and was more than 25 points ahead of me... I did jump from last to third, however), which hadn't happened even once when we were playing with four. This game gets high ratings from me for simplicity, speed of play, minimal downtime, and a nice strategy-to-luck ratio (just a bit to the "luck" side). Not a deep game, but a very fun pastime and well worth its (remarkably low for how pretty the game is) price.

Almost all of my "must play" games got onto the table (no Bang! or Axis and Allies D-Day, the former because I forgot to put it on the priority stack and the latter for pure time), and all were fairly well received. In fact, Luc (whose initial response was tepid) was asking about another Runebound game on Sunday evening, using our new understanding of the rules and the errata, but time just didn't allow for it. We also didn't get to any D&D (Gevrok was more than just ready for a good fight) thanks to the time War of the Ring took and to Grant's pulled nerve (no head turning or quick gestures... and a GM in pain is not a GM I want running me). Ahh, well... much, much fun was had, and more got done than I had any cause to expect, mostly due to aggressive "Well, why don't we do <fill in the blank>" promotion by Luc and Grant to prevent the "I dunno, what do you wanna do" that was common at past T'Cons due to simple vacation intertia. Of course, it also helps that Ryan and Bridget are now both to the age of mostly self-maintenance, so if they weren't in the game, there wasn't a need for someone else to sit out to keep an eye on 'em (or else the game needed to wait until after bedtime). One or both were usually in the game themselves, of course.

Thanks again to Luc and Grant for their fine hosting, to Ryan for giving up his room for a week, and to Bridget for improvising those yummy white chocolate and cinnamon chip cookies so I could enjoy her baking, too. Eight days pass way, way too quickly every year.

Now it's the next day and I'm on the train away from T'Con, heading from Cary to Greensboro. I'll be working in the company home office thru Thursday, when I'll fly to Providence, catching up with my games and more casual clothes. They are making their own way north in Julia and Lou's minivan (thanks again for the accommodation!). Then we (me, my games, and my more casual clothes) will then make the drive back to Concord. I hope to have 'net access once I check into the hotel this evening, but it might be Thursday (in the airport or perhaps even back home) before I'm online again.

[NOTE: Turns out it was this evening! Good thing, too, because I have a PBEM RPG post I also typed on the train and wanted to get posted before the game moved too far beyond that scene. In fact, that reminds me... (see next post).]

Posted by ghoul at 04:42 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 28, 2004

T'Con Days Seven and Eight

Saturday we held back on gaming. John and Carol (and kids) visited and we chatted about RPGs, Grant worked on a D&D scenario that didn't end up being done (time ran out), we watched 2 more Firefly eps (which means there only 2 broadcasted eps and the 3 unbroadcasted they haven't seen).

Then I enlisted Ryan to help me set up War of the Ring. This took a good amount of time, and I also cleaned up and printed a couple of rules summaries from that link to help us get through the game.

On Sunday (the last day <sigh>), I invited everyone to a yummy pasta brunch, then Grant and I took to Middle Earth. An hour to survey the rules, then 3 hours of play later... The Shadow (me) managed to catch Aragorn and Pippin trying to rally Gondor after we'd laid siege to Minas Tirith. Rohan and the men (and hobbits) of the North were kept out of the war by well-made Threats and Promises (an event card), but I took too long to bring my armies to activity and rolled too poorly in the hunt for the Fellowship, so while I had initiated the attacks that would eventually give me my 10 VP, Frodo, Sam, and Gollum managed to sneak to Mt. Doom at 10 corruption (two points under losing the game). It was great fun, albeit most of the game was actually spent doing maneuvering that ended up mattering very little (which, as Grant pointed out, is much like the books).

And now, it's time to pack things up so Julia and Lou can drive it home and I can head to company HQ as well.

Posted by ghoul at 07:03 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 27, 2004

T'Con Days Five and Six

Thursday was, of course, centered around the Turkey Dinner. Yum!

Also snuck in during the festivities was a first play of Betrayal at House on the Hill. Luc ended up turning on the kids and I, but the Witch was no match for Ox's book-enhanced smarts and super-punchy fists, especially since the Traitor ended up many, many rooms away from the Witch's starting place and so unable to get in to help. A bit of rules and errata weirdness, but a good game in spite of that.

Later in the evening, we did lots of gluing of PitchCar tracks for future use, then setting up a game of Runebound. Numerous mistakes were made, and the game went a bit longer than we'd hoped. We actually finished (with a few rules fixes in place) on Friday AM. Lou and I raced thru the red encounters, with him requiring a very lucky movement roll to make the last... and he didn't! Victory for me! Unfortunately, we then found some errata that would have changed several more things. The game is a bit too solo for Luc's taste, though looking at the first expansion set and the Advanced Rules shows that the publishers are already working on that. I like the game.

Julia, Lou, Ryan, Bridget, and I got to play PitchCar now that the glue had set. Somehow, despite adding new narrow curves and choke points from the expansion set and a "play in order of age" house rule that started me off in the tail, I was able to blow far ahead of the pack, lapping most of them before winning the three-lap race. Go me! Two in a row! Bridget set up a few more tracks, and other games were played but I sat out lest I ruin my streak (and Bridget has a cruel streak when it comes to track-building!).

Ryan and I played a quick Blue Moon game, and he got some horrible card luck that frequently left him one point behind in fighting me. Still, I only won when he was forced to retire for lack of character cards, so it wasn't a complete blowout. Still... three wins for me!

We watched more Firefly (finishing disk 2, which puts the amazing Out of Gas next up on the queue!), then set up another game of Betrayal, this time with Lou and Grant playing in Bridget's place. We ended up placing every ground floor room we could, having a collapsed-room blocked second floor, and all being gathered in the basement to explore when Grant turned into a gateway for the Worm Ouroboros and tried to encircle first us, then the house, then the world! Unfortunately for the big, hungry snake, the other four characters were all only a room or two away, so we set upon the serpent with all we had, splitting up into two teams of two to each take one of the heads and smash it. The rules were unclear if you needed to cast the vulnerability spell on each head separately, but we did just in case. And so I was on the wining team there as well. That pretty much never happens at T'Con (I have a tradition of teaching people how to whup on me in games), but looks like it did this year!

War of the Ring is still just scheduled (I may set it up this evening so Grant and I can play Sunday AM). I think we're also considering hitting another game store or two today, depending on how friends' availability comes out.

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November 25, 2004

T'Con Days Three and Four (Games Played and Miscellaneous)

And now, some reports on games played.

We decided Man Bites Dog looked simple enough to try after Alex's much-delayed plane landed and we watched the surprisingly long (but still funny) Definite Article. This was a mistake, as the game isn't nearly as good as its promise. Official dog game of T'Con, though fun was had once the rules were tossed out and a better game ad-libbed into being with the cards.

HeroScape was as good as we'd hoped looking at it. Very random and sometimes arbitrary in its rules, but a nice "run at the enemy and bust 'em up" sort of fun. Ryan and I teamed up against Luc and Alex, with me taking over the whole side when Ryan had to head out for his FluMist vaccine. Knock-down, drag-out fight ended up with my last figure and Luc's last toe-to-toe for the win. Unfortunately, hers was the biggest, toughest fig in the game (the dragon Mimring) and mine was the highly-random, potential-rich mind-controlling boney freak guy (Ne-Gok-Sa). But the '20' didn't come up on the d20 for me to successfully switch the dragon to our side prior to it biting me in half. An army fighting game that ends with the last two heroes battling for victory on the smoking remains of the battlefield is a successful game! And the bits are just SO pretty!

Cloud 9 is a game of brinksmanship, bluffing, and luck. Players take turns piloting a hot air balloon (by rolling dice and playing cards to match the result). At any point, you can show a lack of confidence in the pilot and jump from the balloon. But the longer you stay, the more points you get. Unless, that is, you stay until the pilot cannot match the roll; then you crash for no points. This is a quick, light game that can be taught in minutes and yet offers just enough strategy and decision-making to bring the fun. We played this in the afternoon and then, after the late-night Formula Motor Racing (Ryan snuck thru a bare win in the FMR -- he's evil that way -- and Lou managed -- as is his wont -- to lose to the unplayed color) and Apples to Apples (Grant ran to a lead early, then stalled with 1 to go, but still won out in the end) games, we pulled it out again for a couple more plays.

Ruth's Chris Steakhouse is still pretty amazing, though I think I preferred their previous Raleigh-area location. We ate quite well, and came home in a state of quality carnivorous satisfaction.

Three very well received games so far (Ticket to Ride, HeroScape, and Cloud 9), and we have Betrayal at House on the Hill promised for the next time Luc and Ryan are both available to play (might be tomorrow, depending on how severe the post-turkey-feasting comas are).

Plus Grant and I must do War of the Ring. On this issue there is no compromise!

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T'Con Day Three (RPG Purchases)

Initial note... I just stumbled upon this RPG Database. It gives me someplace nice to link to when I mention games, so it may become a regular haunt!

Wyrd is Bond - Okay, I know less than nothing about rap and hip-hop, but this game is very appealing. Gangstas with magic. Very clever die scheme. Wonder what I'll do with it?

Land of Og - 2nd edition game and expansion bought in a mega-discounted bundle (net cost, $1 each). I liked this one in the first edition at least $1 worth. Cavemen with limited skills and even more limited vocabulary (players are limited to around a dozen words in dialog). Silly but fun.

Ork! and Orkworld - another discounted bundle, this time of two unrelated but similarly themed game. Both are purchased mostly for light RPG reading not expected use.

Sorcerer (and the three expansions) - (Not listed on the database for some reason) I've been putting this off too long with all the good press it gets. Wasn't about to pass it up when the whole bundle (not significantly discounted) was sitting on the shelf waiting for a purchase.

Hearts, Swords and Flowers - Magnum Opus (creator-owned sub-license program) product for Big Eyes, Small Mouth designed to focus on shoujo ("girl's manga"). Nothing wrong with relationship-heavy play in my opinion!

Meddling Kids - Solve mysteries, unmask bad guys, scarf pizza, and avoid copyright infringement! Looks to be a fun game focusing on the classic "offbeat youth crimefighter" genre.

Trojan War - I love me some trojan wars! d20 versions are OK by me, and I was very pleased with the earlier Testament product in this line, which focuses on events of the Old Testament. I haven't read this yet (too many purchases, too little time), but I did scan the book and particularly the character write-ups, and none of them jumped out as "wrong, wrong, wrong!". Maybe Helen is a bit low on the CHR; she's barely even prettier than Valentin, and Val hasn't launched any ships at all. Though he is almost as constant in his affections as the beautiful Queen of Sparta Troy Sparta.

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T'Con Day Three (Board Game Purchases)

Here's the game store results...

Man Bites Dog - as written, a dull game (we played it that night) and clearly written with point values to encourage people to use words in headlines we'd all use happily ("Naked" and "Priest" are both worth the max 50 points, as if it is hard to encourage someone to use both). Paste in some Apples to Apples-style voting for the "best headline" and it's an OK game, but no great shakes. Too bad there were three copies purchased on the promise it offered...

Cargo - Looks like a nice re-styling of Abalone onto a square board with a "Boston Tea Party gone competitive" theme and non-identical pieces (tea crates, normal dockworkers, big strong dockworkers, donkeys and the rarely-mentioned-in-history Boston Elephants).

Reiner Knizia's Relationship Tightrope - despite the gender stereotyping of the cards, this looks to be a very fun bidding/trick taking game. The object is to take as close to an equal number of blue ("guy stuff") and pink ("gal stuff") in each hand so as to keep things in balance. Oddest thing... it looks like the only card game I know where never winning a single hand is a winning strategy!

Succession: Intrigue in the Royal Court - purchased on the promise of Foglio art and no disappointment there at all. Play sheets are big, thick, and well-illustrated. No minimal, recycled sketches here! Haven't read the rules yet, but the look of the pieces is enough to make me happy.

Wings of War: Famous Aces - looks to be a nice abstract WWI dogfighting game, but hasn't been well examined yet.

Geek Wars: Battle for the Con Deck 1: RPG Gamer - This might be a good game once more decks are out (to add variety), but it's not yet really mature, IMO. In fact, it's only minimally playable with just one deck. Some great ideas are in evidence, so I'll be watching for the next deck.

Igor: The Mad Scientist's Lament - Funny, funny warnings all over the box ("Warning, this is a 100% matter product. Contact with antimatter will cause a catastrophic explosion.") and a company who did something great fun and creative in the past (no, I actually don't own it... I let Grant buy the copy for Luc) got the sale. I'll find out how the game plays once the rules bubble up to the top.

Also picked up for free...

Mystery Train - Small but clever expansion for the amazing Ticket to Ride that promises to add a few new twists. Maybe we can add these in and prevent another dominant performance by Ryan!

RPG purchases and games played on nights three thru five will come up later.

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The power cord for my Powerbook stretched across a walkway.

This was not smart.

Now the plug is not quite the same shape as the socket for it.

Here's hoping I can borrow one until I can find an Apple store... (which I think I can).

Many game reports and such will follow if I can regain power.

UPDATE: deformation is older than I thought (just not noticed until now... I had noted that sometimes plugging it in didn't "take" but not why). But a little needle-nose plier work (thanks, Grant!) and all is well for now. I'll have that visit to an Apple Store deferred until I'm back in NH in a week and a couple.

Posted by ghoul at 08:35 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 23, 2004

T'Con Days One and Two

Relaxed days so far...

Sunday was quiet. We chatted and read, then we watched the Firefly pilot from the DVD set.

Monday was also quiet. More chatting, then some grocery shopping (I was making my smoked sausage chowder for dinner), then we went to see Luc's student's play, then back home for 2 more episodes Firefly and a game of Ticket to Ride. Grant, Lou, and I were taken out back and whipped soundly by Grant's just-teen son Ryan, who scored 119 points with a route all the way up the west coast then across Canada to Montreal. I had just barely passed 80 for second place.

Today there was game shopping (3 stores... 2 more still remain), the results of which I will detail later.

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November 20, 2004

We're Here! (T'Con Day Zero)

The drive went well, though it's a long way (14 hours). Of course, I didn't drive... I sat in the back seat and read graphic novels. It's a hard, hard life.

And now that the Gifting is done, I can add Heroscape to the high-priority games we'll be sure to play.

Gaming will start tomorrow (and DVD watching and other fun stuff).

Posted by ghoul at 11:10 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 15, 2004

T'Con Game Priorities

Following up on yesterday, here's my personal priorities among those games I've packed...

Sure to be played (returning faves)

My Priorities

If Time Allows and/or By Request...

I think there'll be fun had!

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November 14, 2004

Preparing for TurkeyCon

With the middle of November passed, Thanksgiving is coming, and so it's time to prepare for another TurkeyCon.

Okay, it's only kinda a Con, more an annual gathering of friends to socialize, game, watch, and eat. By this time next week, it'll already be started. I, for one, can't wait! And yes, barring any unexpected developments, there is full connectivity from T'Con, to there will probably be daily updates like there were last year.

This year, I'm going to be following T'Con with a week at my company's HQ, which means 13 days away from my home and cats, but it also means two fewer vacation days used up by the trip (usually the following Monday and Tuesday are consumed by the drive home). Yeah, it means a train trip from Cary to Greensboro on Monday morning and a flight back to New England on Thursday, but I think I can make that work. Connectivity is a maybe, though... The Marriott in downtown Greensboro was adding broadband last time I was there (and not yet charging for it), but it wasn't yet in all rooms. We'll see how things have progressed.

I have every hope of continuing to post in all the PBEM games I'm currently active in.

I'm mostly packed for the trip already (this was my laundry and packing weekend)... Those who know me are probably not surprised that my major bring-along to T'Con is as many board and card games as I can fit into the (strictly limited) space granted to me in Julia and Lou's minivan. Two big tubs are currently packed as tightly as I can manage to maximize choices...

Details are below the fold.

Tub 1

Blue Moon
Grave Robbers from Outer Space (with 3 expansions)
San Juan
Cthulhu 500
Bang! (with both expansions)
Formula Motor Racing (a T'Con favorite)
Flea Circus
Queen's Necklace
Betrayal At House on the Hill
Greed Quest
Balloon Cup
Runebound (with first expansion)
Axis and Allies D-Day
James Earnest's Totally Renamed Spy Game

Tub 2

Master and Commander
Duell (the new edition of En Garde, a personal favorite)

Apples to Apples (with expansions)
Memoir '44 (for BIG GAME PLAY, as there's already one copy there)
Arkham Horror
King's Breakfast
Ticket to Ride
Wooly Bully
War of the Rings
Mare Nostrum
Magna Grecia
Pirate's Cove
Cloud 9

Not in tubs, but coming anyway

Pitchcar & Pitchcar Action Set

I'm still fiddling with a few tricks to squeeze in a couple more space-efficient games as well.

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November 05, 2004

It Keeps Growing And Growing...

Thanks to a shipment that arrived today, my BoardGameGeek collection has reached 700 titles.

The 700th is one of these three... Early American Chrononauts, Cloud 9, or Pirate's Cove.

I'm leaning toward saying it's Pirate's Cove, as that looks like the best of the three, but Cloud 9 gets points for its simple yet (from a quick reading) appealing approach to brinksmanship gaming.

Hmmm... and in two weeks, the annual week of fun, friends, and gaming that is TurkeyCon begins! I need to find a little more room in my game tubs...

Posted by ghoul at 05:19 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 01, 2004

Weekend Plans

What was going to be a free Saturday to recover from ACN, relax a bit, and perhaps get moving on some PBEM gaming I've agreed to participate in but haven't started moving on yet has been replaced with joining Julia and Lou at this.

I wasn't all that hard to convince. Of course, Lou is one of the GMs I own a PBEM gaming post to, but also the one I'm least behind with.

Sunday still may be given to recovering, relaxing, and PBEM gaming.

Posted by ghoul at 08:39 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 29, 2004

ACN After Action Summary

Well, it wasn't easy, but I think it was worth it.

The hotel issues summarized in the daily entries made for a lot higher stress on the con chair and treasurer (I'm the later... Craig Sparling is the former), and despite the good results in the games may well have burned bridges with the location that has been ACN's home for more than half its life. Even now, alternatives are being identified for evaluation over the next few months.

AmberCon North will most definitely continue. I'd considered stepping down prior to this year's con, but now I'm in "I refuse to let THAT make me quit" mode, so I'm around for at least one more year. And, in fact, relocating (or at least reviewing relocation options) will likely make us get organized sooner, which may help us reverse our slowly declining numbers. I think it's time to see ACN back into the 50+ attendance range (though I remember how tricky making game schedules can be when the con is larger... maybe I should re-think that wish!).

The GM Guest of Honor program was well received, with Chris Kindred's games very well attended and enjoyed. As such, I expect that idea to be carried forward.

Thanks to everyone who attended, especially those who put up with their own hotel hell. Many were even nice enough to come commiserate with the staff in our darker hotel moments. Believe me, it helped! We'll be back in touch soon to gather opinions on how to best improve the con.

Posted by ghoul at 06:58 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

September 26, 2004

ACN Day Four

So far, so much less than bad...

I got plenty of rest (around 10 hours sleep-of-the-dead) and now I'm awake and, so far, seeming to deal with Hotel Hell fairly well. The Con is checked out of the Hotel of Which We Do Not Speak and has claimed one room in the Hotel Whose Name Is Cursed Forever (yes, those are the names we're using at the con). Final-slot games are going on as I type this. I'm not gaming this slot, per schedule, as one of the staff was reserved to deal with anticipated hotel issues. Little did we know.

And tonight... spicy fried baby octopus! (It's a traditional post-ACN dinner, the perpetual special at a nearby Chinese restaurant).

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September 25, 2004

ACN Day Three

The distractions of the hotel issues fade as good gaming takes the fore.

ShadowWorld WWII featured another trip into the depths of Nazi supernatural insanity. Edwin raided history (again) for another hard-to-imagine fact (SS sponsored breeding programs requiring sex in selected cemeteries). But even the ickiest of behavior can be made less offensive by dropping a 1000 lbs rock onto it.

And now, to make up for last night's lack of sleep, I head back to my distant hotel (OK, hotel issues not 100% faded) for one real night's sleep.

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ACN Day Two Point Five

When I left at 3:20 AM, I was pretty sure I'd just put my character through her worst possible period.

Edwin had a mission briefing that hinted that the worst was coming. We were being sent back to England, with only two of us actually connected to past actions involving the Druids. Whatever was about to happen, Starchild knew it wouldn't be good. Nothing good happens in England; it's becoming her "Chinatown". This time, the one part of England she did actually still like was what they were being sent for, and afterwards she's not sure that was a good thing.

By the end of the session, my character with complete control over dreams is afraid to go to sleep. That complete control may not be enough. Or, worse, may be far too much.

Bad days are coming with the autumn.

For those who haven't read in the past, Stella Child or "Starchild" is my character in Edwin Voskamp's ShadowWorld , a psychic agent of the Circle, an underground conspiracy of psychics and other strange people and near-people. She can walk through dreams and see the future in a static-filled television screen. She's also one of the Circle's more successful mission team leaders (much of that because I play ShadowWorld every chance I get and seniority is a factor in rank) and is slowly learning that being nice to everyone doesn't guarantee they'll be nice to you. Her personal battles with her growingly-uncertain moral code are among my favorite ongoing RP experiences.

Day Three starts with a 9 AM ShadowWorld WWII game (same system, a different place and time, and so a much less troubled character; it's much harder to have moral issues with fighting Nazis). With a 6-block walk on both sides of my con experience, the one thing I know I'll be lacking is sleep. But I have tomorrow's evening slot and Sunday's slot open, so I can nap through both. Or is it that, like Starchild, I know now is not the time to sleep?

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September 24, 2004

ACN Day Two

Morning was a mixed bag. I was up too early to catch coffee and breakfast at my favorite corner place, and then got brief online access (dunno from who... just found an unsecured wireless connection and hooked up). Then I set up my TFOS/Amber game ("Nine Princes in High School") in the "Lounge" basement space (as opposed to the "Library" space).

Characters were completed, the first round thru the characters was done to establish where people were... and the seminar that had moved us from the space last night came back and wanted the space again. So we moved up to the 19th floor while Craig dealt with the hotel staff (hopefully, the Lounge space is now ours!). The game went well, much unpredictable messiness ensued, players' plans crossed each other nicely, and I think fun was had (I certainly enjoyed it!).

I took the afternoon slot off, slipping down to the Hairy Tarantula for some boardgame shopping. Tonight, it's ShadowWorld mainline and a chance for Starchild to find out if she's made a BIG mess, a little mess, or if it's all just coincidence.

More tomorrow!

Posted by ghoul at 04:25 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 23, 2004

ACN Day One

I no longer fear death, for I have been part of Day One of ACN 2004.

I arrived at 11:30 after a wonderful drive (again, no traffic except at construction sites, and even that minimal and quickly-passed, and this time I'd predicted to drive length and set up the iPod to within minutes of the actual drive time) and when I asked if I could park even though my room wasn't ready yet, I was told I was staying at a different hotel.

"How is it that the Con HQ, which is where I'm staying, can be in a different hotel from the Con?" I wanted to ask, but I knew better than to ask that of the man at the desk. I would check my email and see what my co-organizers had to say.

But the settings I had worked out laboriously last year to get my Mac to connect out of this hotel's Windows-instructions-only business center didn't work, so 45 minutes later I'd managed to read URLs off my laptop and type them into a spare windows box, finding only unclear and uncertain email that didn't really suggest anything like I had been told.

Then Craig arrived and told me. Yes, it was actually true... At least 6 of the con's rooms (the 3 rooms the con itself had and 3 attendee's rooms) had been moved to another hotel, 5 blocks away. Oh, and those aren't suites there, but rather closets with beds in them. And the hotel compensated us for this inconvenience by 1) making these arrangements for closet-sized replacement rooms 5 blocks away at the new hotel's standard rate (no discount) and 2) giving us the hotel basement as gaming space.

Which could actually be pretty nice, except that at 6 PM, just before the 6:30 game slot began, we found out that half of that basement space had been promised to another group at the hotel as well. We moved out as they set up the overhead projector and screen (which we had taken down earlier, as we didn't need them). Con members were arriving with confused looks on their faces. No one seemed to know what was going on.

It's now 8 PM. No one knows now. No one know what tomorrow will bring. In fact, we have less information that we usually would.

Tonight, after the events end around midnight, I will walk 5 blocks to get to my bed. Then tomorrow around 7 I will come back to GM my Teenagers from Outer Space/Amber cross-over (which starts around 9). I may well just have the poor PCs try to negotiate space for a school dance rather than my original plot. I'm feeling inspired with things to make that task fiendishly difficult.

Posted by ghoul at 08:11 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

September 22, 2004

ACN Day Zero

It's AmberCon North ("ACN") weekend! 4 days of Amber and other diceless gaming, all in downtown Toronto. One of my favorite events every year, even with the work it is since I've been part of managing the con (5 years now).

I almost got hung up at work. As can be expected whenever vacations loom, two or three things will suddenly demand attention. This time, add in the joy of a co-worker (part of the boss-and-two-person-staff team I'm in) calling in sick and no one really wanted me to leave. But, thanks to a bit of luck and some quick approximations, I was able to get things reasonably into shape (though one major issue was still resolved only in the "here's three ideas, one of them might work" sort of incomplete fashion) and myself away.

Then, just to keep the chaos flowing, I got home to emails telling me we aren't going to have the two-bedroom suites we'd reserved for ACN, and some (or *cringe* maybe all) member rooms may be of the smaller one-bedroom size rather than the larger. AmberCons run their games in member's rooms or, for larger games, the convention's rooms. So suddenly finding ourselves without our large convention rooms and perhaps with smaller member rooms leaves us wondering just where the games will be held. But I had to head out-of-contact for 24 hours as I drove to the con, so I have to hope that issue is being handled somehow. I'll find out when I get there.

I got away from home, on the road... and realized I'd forgotten my laptop. You know, the one with all the "who's paid, who still owes what, resources the con still has, etc." info on it (plus the DVD player so I can watch the Angel season 4 eps I'd packed during quiet spots in my "man the con suite" slots). Fortunately, I was only 10 minutes out, so I doubled back, retrieved the laptop, and got back on the road only 30 minutes or so late.

Concord, NH to Cornwall, ON went as well as I've ever managed, with only minimal traffic and all of that just road construction backup. Even the border crossing was completely hitchless. I didn't even finish the iPod playlist I'd made for stage one of the drive! I actually considered driving on another 45 minutes or so, but I wasn't sure just what sort of hotels I'd find and I really wanted to be in a room in time to watch eps 1 of Lost (which I did and it was well worth it, even if they did cut the intended two-hour pilot in half, leaving us with a good but not perfect cliffhanger, originally intended to be no more than a sharp pre-commercial sting), so I stopped for the night where I'd originally planned. Tomorrow, it's on the road to Toronto early, hopefully managing time to hit a game store or two before ACN.

And, hopefully, a few less outstanding problems than there were when I left home. But I'm not really counting on it.

Posted by ghoul at 09:07 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 30, 2004

A Fan Remembers

This article reminded me of something I'd wanted to talk about here... Go read it first, then come back...

When they say Doohan was something special and went out of his way for the fans, I can only agree.

It happened several years ago, before I could drive, and since I just turned 39 last weekend, that means something nearly 2/3rds of my life in the past. A friend and I had managed to convince our parents to allow us to attend an evening Star Trek fan gathering at nearby Northern Kentucky University. It wasn't anything big, really. They showed the Blooper Reel on a movie screen, showed us an episode (I'm pretty sure it was Trouble with Tribbles), then James Doohan stepped out to talk for a bit and answer questions. Something I'm sure he's done hundreds of times, before and since.

Afterwards, my friend and I waited in the foyer for our ride, which didn't arrive. It was about 20 minutes after the event ended, and still no sign of my step-father for our ride home. It was then that James Doohan stepped out, ready to head to his hotel room. But he saw two teenaged boys standing over by the exit and decided to make sure nothing was wrong. That's how it happened that, for the next fifteen minutes or so until our ride arrived, Scotty entertained two star-struck fans rather than leave us to get into trouble on our own. It didn't add a penny to what he was paid for the evening and it didn't save our lives or anything (neither of us were really ambitious enough to create any real trouble at that age). But it did make a couple of fans-for-life.

I've done a lot of conventions since then, met a lot of stars whose work I admired, some even in similarly informal situations. But never had one go out of their way to make sure they hadn't let even a single fan go ignored.

Fandom is poorer in his absence.

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Return to the Staircase

I've been neglecting this blog for too long... time to start posting again.

This last weekend was my birthday, and this year my regular "whale watching trip" happened on the day. The weather was great, we happened upon another semi-sleeping finback, and a good time was had by all. We even seem to have avoided sunburn except in hints.

Prior to that, I've been dealing with the car issues detailed in the last posts before this one... This whole mess had a happy ending because the good folks at PriusOnline pointed out that all Prius come with free road hazard coverage, as compensation for the need for not-exactly-cheap tires. And, after some paperwork, I was reimbursed 100% for the replacement. The fender-bender mentioned here did no real damage at all.

Work issues have kept me grinding and made me look for pretty much anything to do that didn't involve looking at a computer screen once I was home. I hope I'm past that because, if FedEx tracking can be believed, I have my birthday present to me (a dual 2.5GHz Power Mac G5 with a 23" cinema flatscreen) that will be arriving tomorrow. I do tend to over-spend on me...

I've also been making slow but steady progress through my backlog of DVDs, anchored by watching pretty much all of The X-Files in fairly rapid succession. I'm not quite done yet (there's two seasons to go, most of which I've never seen before), but I'm well reminded why I liked this show when it was on. And that while its best is very good, it had some real stinkers as well, mostly when they tried to tie into recent headlines too much or went for laughs rather than scares. None of which is to say that Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose and Jose Chung's 'From Outer Space' are anything but gems, but most of the other funny episodes run out of steam with at least one act still to go. And rarely, if ever, does good seem to come of them letting the actors write or direct.

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July 15, 2004

Not My Month For Cars

So, today it took me an hour to get home from work.

I know many people for whom that isn't at all unusual, but I live close enough to almost be able to walk, barely 3 1/2 miles. And while there was some traffic due to the construction mentioned here, that was only the secondary cause of my delay. While stopped waiting on construction traffic, however, I heard an all-too-familiar crunch and felt my car jerk forward.

Yeah. I'd been rear-ended.

Turns out the nice girl in the Taurus wasn't really at fault, though. She'd been hit herself, and rather hard, by the teen boys in the Voyager. Their front end was completely crunched im, her front and rear bumper had collapsed... and I have a small nick in my rear bumper, barely more than a cut through the white coating over the metal.

The rest of the delay was 30 minutes waiting for the police to take down all the details.

Of course, I have no idea how much fixing the tiny nick will cost (and I will need to, if only to prevent it becoming a bridgehead for rust), but I think I had a lucky end to an unlucky event. Though I'd much rather have just made it straight home.

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July 06, 2004


If you're not in the North-Eastern part of the US, this entry will likely not be of any interest to you. Sorry.

As I did last year and the years preceeding it since moving to New Hampshire, I'm going to be celebrating my birthday by inviting folks to join in on a Saturday afternoon whale watching cruise. It's a great way to spend a Saturday, a chance to see one of the more impressive animals on earth up close, and just a lot of fun. This year, my birthday's actually on a Saturday, so it's not even an approximate date!

Info on the cruise itself can be found here, and I see no reason not to just open up and let readers of this blog who might be close enough to make it to Rye, NH on August 28th are welcome to join us. Tradition has us follow the whale watching with yummy seafood dinner here.

Yes, it's more than a month and a half away, but I'm going to be making reservations toward the end of this month, so I'd like to know who to expect!

(The "WhaleCon" name is mostly just a joke, based on the fact that I only see many friends at gaming conventions. This isn't really a convention at all, just a fun summer activity.)

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June 29, 2004

Not A Welcome Home

So I was pulling out of my driveway one the way to work on yesterday...

No, I should back up a bit. In order to understand this story, you have to know that Concord, NH is in the final steps of a lengthy process to replace a decades-old water system due to the amount of lead in the pipes. This is a good thing (though the amount of lead is small, any amount is too much). You also have to know that I live fairly near the source of the city's water, so that the line carrying water from the lake to the city passes under the road just in front of my house. This is also a good thing (especially since it means that little of the lead-tainted line has yet been passed through prior to my home).

However, this summer, there's a twist. As they are digging up and replacing the old line, they are temporarily using surface level pipes to carry water to the houses along the road. This is not, in itself, a bad thing, but it does lead to a bad thing when the final fact is added. That fact is that these surface level pipes are currently blocking my driveway, with a bit of sand, rock, and such intended to act as a ramp over them so I can drive by. And this is a bad thing.

You see, there wasn't really enough sand, rock, and such to actually do the job, so yesterday morning I was pulling out of my driveway when the steering wheel jerked just a little. I was forcing my way over the pipe as I've been used to for about a week and a half, so I ignored it. But as I drove the handful of minutes to work, I noticed that the car was not handling well. As I parked, I was pretty sure what had happened, and a quick glance once I was stopped confirmed it.

I had torn the sidewall out on my front driver's-side tire thanks to the big metal bracket that connects two segments of the surface water pipes, which was covered by too little sand, rock, and such and sits right in the line of my tires as I back out of my driveway every AM.

And now, I learn the first significant disadvantage of owning a Prius. As the tires are specially designed to optimize the hybrid's performance, I had no choice but to pay dealer prices for the not-exactly-cheap replacement. No fun. Also, since I have every plan to be in NYC this weekend and to drive there, I couldn't really wait.

The city has added more sand, rock, and such, so now the metal bolt isn't immediately visible. There has been no mention of any assistance dealing with the not-exactly-cheap new tire.

Not the way to start a work-week every, particularly not after something as fun but tiring as an AmberCon.

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May 18, 2004

Still Overwhelmed

Well, actually, almost caught up, but drained from the effort, which is just as bad.

You couldn't prove I'm caught up by the overgrown mess in front of my house, by my lack-of-progress in the games I ought to be running already, or by the lack of posts here, but behind the scenes I've almost got several distractions completely dealt with.

Of course, a few are still looming... but that's life.

Posted by ghoul at 07:12 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 30, 2004


Home (albeit hours late) and got nothing of note done on the personal side.

As work trips go, it was very productive, but long office hours (I like my 7.5 hour work day, and dislike it stretching to 12 as it did during this trip) meant no time at all to work on things like my gaming projects.

So now I'm more behind than before I left.

As the title says... Ugh.

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April 22, 2004

More Travel Time

Not quite gone yet, but I'll be spending more time over the next seven days far from home than at it. Expect limited posting.

More info below for those who simply must know the details.

Saturday to Sunday, I'm off for a game-shop pass thru Boston, d20 gaming, and perhaps the SF book club meeting (depends if I find time to re-read the book, since I barely remember it from a dozen years ago (or so) when I last read it).

Then Monday thru next Thursday, I'll be off at company HQ in Greensboro, NC. No connectivity from the hotel, unless things have changed since my last HQ visit, which puts a cramp in most everything. Also, if memory serves, they don't have a WB affiliate on their TV, so I will have to make sure Angel gets properly taped.

But maybe it will give me time to buckle down and do that review of submitted ATP characters I keep not starting. Everything I need is on my PowerBook, which I will be bringing.

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April 12, 2004

Offhand Request

So, I was wondering if there might be someone out there who has all the CompuServe RPGames "Crossroads Gazette" issues I wrote reviews for?

I recently discovered that, if I have them, I don't know where they are (perhaps on floppy... but I no longer own a Mac with a floppy drive!). And that's not a good thing.

[Added barely an hour later - Looks like someone does have all these handy, so it looks like I'll have them again soon myself! Gotta love a quick response!]

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February 26, 2004

All's Quiet On the Staircase

Too quiet, really.

The silence from this blog of late is, for the most part, due to a rather hectic job situation. I'm in the midst of a change-in-management which seems to be much for the good. But, as it is happening, I've gone from one boss to three, each attempting to get the lion's share (and, by that I mean the traditional sense, which is "all") of my time.

In the gaps, I've picked up some nifty new board games and, when time allows, will try to post some mini-reviews.

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February 11, 2004

Chimney Story

And now, for those who want to see it, the photographic record of the Gulick Chimney Saga 2004...

First of all, here's the initial "problem", the cap that, thanks to deteriorated mortar, the wind was able to tear from my chimney.

Next, the chimney. From this angle, you can see the mortar that once held the cap in place, but not that the other 2 edges of the chimney actually lack this rim of mortar. And you can also see the lack of mortar between most of the bricks... it's all but just a stack of individual bricks.

And now, here comes the big basket truck of Crown Chimney!

They brought with them the new chimney liner, which you could see coiled above or here, all stretched out.

They lifted it up, tried to drop it down the chimney (all the while dodging the power or phone line that runs right in front of the house).

But, in the time since they cleaned out the chimney two weeks ago, enough brickwork inside had shifted to block their way, so they had to hoist a man up to inspect more closely than the basket allowed.

From that inspection, they were able to determine what they needed to clear up top, and proceeded to insert long rods from the basement up to the top, with which they knocked the obstructions clear (no photos of that, as it was quite dark in the chimney while blocked and uninteresting once unblocked). Then it was back up again.

This time, the insertion worked almost without a hitch!

All that was left was trimming the excess length and putting on a temporary cap.

And now, until it is warm enough so mortar will set properly, we wait. Bricks may fall loose in high winds, but the chimney itself is now safe. Come spring, the exposed portion will be torn down and re-built.

And then I can start looking for someone to reshingle the roof.

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February 06, 2004

Improvements in the Chaos

Well, actually, work is pretty much completely crazy just now, so maybe it's just a transfer of chaos.

Still, the whole chimney thing is turning out OK... Homeowners insurance looked at it, decided they wouldn't cover anything but the cosmetic damage -- costing about 1/3rd as much to fix as the real problem... and, of course, both need fixing.

Then they delivered their estimate for the cosmetic repairs, which came in at slightly over 70% of the total repair... including the 75% of it that they "aren't covering".

Happy, happy me!

Now I just need to get the repairs done (scheduled for next Wednesday if parts arrive and weather cooperates) and maybe get work calmed down enough to let me finish my first RPG setting document (which I'll work on some this weekend, but mostly I'll watch DVDs to de-tox from very stressful times in the office).

Not much blogging while I do that.

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January 28, 2004

Slightly Less Minor Domestic Chaos

Remember this?

Well, it turns out the reason the mortar is so crumbly isn't just the freeze/thaw cycle of New England. No, the real reason is that the unlined chimney is not up to the acidity of the smoke from my quite new oil burner, which means the smoke is eating away my chimney from the inside even as I type.

This also means I need to get a liner added to my chimney STAT. Which will take about 2 weeks to schedule and achieve, and a fair bit of cash to make happen.

All of which means there's a bit more strain on my (somewhat fat, thankfully... I'm a conservative budget-maker) re-roofing budget a few months before I really wanted to start the project.

Of course, this sort of thing is never fun.

(Also, you really don't want to see the pictures of the yuck that had built up in my chimney... 3 feet of bat-bones, bird crap, crumbled mortar, etc. was vacuumed out and carted off today. Yuck!)

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January 21, 2004

Minor Domestic Chaos

While watching those DVDs last night, I noticed the wind really kicking up outside. But it's winter in New England, wind is hardly unusual.

Then there was a loud thump, a clattering, some more thumps. My cats bolted from the room, just as there was a crash outside my window.

I paused the movie, put on my coat and went outside, to find the cap from my chimney and several bricks lying in my driveway (and, in the case of the cap, against my neighbor's wall), a dozen feet or so in front of my car. I'd known the mortar on the brick chimney was about done in, but I was hoping it would last until the spring, when I'm also replacing my roof. No such luck.

I've already made an appointment, so a week from now it'll all be cared for. And, as a bonus, I'll know how much the full chimney repair will cost this spring.

Posted by ghoul at 10:07 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 14, 2004

Movie Meme

100 movies... bold the ones you've seen.

1. Godfather, The (1972)
2. Shawshank Redemption, The (1994)
3. Godfather: Part II, The (1974)
4. Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, The (2003)
5. Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, The (2002)
6. Casablanca (1942)
7. Schindler's List (1993)
8. Shichinin no samurai (1954)
9. Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, The (2001)
10. Citizen Kane (1941)
11. Star Wars (1977)

12. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975)
13. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)
14. Rear Window (1954)
15. Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
16. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
17. Memento (2000)
18. Usual Suspects, The (1995)
19. Pulp Fiction (1994)
20. North by Northwest (1959)

21. Fabuleux destin d'Amelie Poulain, Le (2001)
22. Psycho (1960)
23. 12 Angry Men (1957)
24. Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
25. Silence of the Lambs, The (1991)
26. Buono, il brutto, il cattivo, Il (1966)

27. It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
28. Goodfellas (1990)
29. American Beauty (1999)

30. Vertigo (1958)
31. Sunset Blvd. (1950)
32. Pianist, The (2002)
33. Matrix, The (1999)
34. Apocalypse Now (1979)
35. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
36. Some Like It Hot (1959)
37. Taxi Driver (1976)
38. Paths of Glory (1957)
39. Third Man, The (1949)

40. C'era una volta il West (1968)
41. Fight Club (1999)
42. Boot, Das (1981)
43. Sen to Chihiro no kamikakushi (2001) (Spirited Away)
44. Double Indemnity (1944)
45. L.A. Confidential (1997)
46. Chinatown (1974)

47. Singin' in the Rain (1952)
48. Requiem for a Dream (2000)
49. Maltese Falcon, The (1941)

50. M (1931)
51. All About Eve (1950)
52. Bridge on the River Kwai, The (1957)
53. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
54. Se7en (1995)
55. Saving Private Ryan (1998)

56. Cidade de Deus (2002)
57. Raging Bull (1980)
58. Wizard of Oz, The (1939)
59. Rashemon (1950)

60. Sting, The (1973)
61. American History X (1998)
62. Alien (1979)
63. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)
64. Leon (The Professional) (1994)
65. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

66. Vita bella, La (1997) (Life Is Beautiful)
67. Touch of Evil (1958)
68. Manchurian Candidate, The (1962)
69. Wo hu cang long (2000) (Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon)
70. Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The (1948)
71. Great Escape, The (1963)
72. Clockwork Orange, A (1971)
73. Reservoir Dogs (1992)

74. Annie Hall (1977)
75. Amadeus (1984)
76. Jaws (1975)
77. Ran (1985)

78. On the Waterfront (1954)
79. Modern Times (1936)
80. High Noon (1952)
81. Braveheart (1995)
82. Apartment, The (1960)
83. Sixth Sense, The (1999)
84. Fargo (1996)
85. Aliens (1986)
86. Shining, The (1980)
87. Blade Runner (1982)

88. Strangers on a Train (1951)
89. Duck Soup (1933)
90. Metropolis (1927)
91. Finding Nemo (2003)

92. Donnie Darko (2001)
93. Toy Story 2 (1999)
94. Princess Bride, The (1987)

95. General, The (1927)
96. City Lights (1931)
97. Lola rennt (1998) (Run Lola Run)
98. Full Metal Jacket (1987)
99. Notorious (1946)

100. Sjunde inseglet, Det (1957)

Now, some of these I've seen partially and a few (#21, #40, #67, and #92) I have on DVD but haven't actually watched yet (I've seen bits of all 4 and for two I purchased them based on that and their generally great reviews... the other two were gifts). In fact, given that I own most of the ones I list as seen on Laserdisc or DVD, I may well own as many or more than I've seen!

There are some significant "classics" I have to admit to not seeing (I'm being strict... I've seen all of, say, #2 in bits, but never all in one sitting). And some of the films here are high on my "I want to see that one, I just haven't" list (#14, #50, #52, #57, #78, #80, for examples). But I don't find time to watch the films I have, so I'm not chasing these too quickly.

(Taken from Scott)

Posted by ghoul at 09:29 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 09, 2004

My Mac History

I was a fairly late arrival at the Mac world relative to some, inspired in that direction when I realized my main computer use was for online (play by email or CompuServe based) RPGs and was shown just how cleanly Macs did lots of the things that called for (which included falling in love with QUED/M as the perfect text editor to replace nice but less-than-perfect XYWrite). And I really disliked Windows. So when my IBM PS/2 (yeah, I owned one of those) gave out, I made the jump.

LC (the first one sold in the Cincinnati area)
PowerMac 7500/100 (currently in a classroom in Brooklyn)
G4/400 Tower (still sitting upstairs, used as a file server and backup-holder)
17" Powerbook (current primary computer)

(picked up as a 20th anniversary meme from Population One)

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December 29, 2003

Return Travel

So far, so good. Morning went well (everyone got up in time, no significant airport traffic, Cosmo didn't try to hide in my suitcase, etc.). I'm typing this from the USAir terminal at the Cincinnati airport, where I don't have net access but I do, at least, have power at a place I can also sit in a chair (which I didn't have in Pittsburgh). And, of course, being 2 hours early proves completely unnecessary...

Managed most everything I'd hoped to do during this short visit back home. I saw the family, plus some old family friends. My nephew and I visited my sister's gravesite briefly, to add some flowers and memories. And, on the lighter side, I was able to get a nice Skyline Chili lunch and to visit both my old game store haunts and raid end-of-year sales a bit, which also means I'll have reading material on the return flight after exhausting what little I brought with my cancelled flight in.

I'll add notes from Philly in my layover and, with any luck, will get to PVD in time for dinner!


And now in Philly, even a little early, with my flight on to PVD on-schedule and a convenient plug to recharge (in fact, were I willing to spend $10 for it, I could even have a net connection... but it's not worth that for just an hour). All is (at the moment) good, which makes dinner at Legal Seafood with Julia and Lou all the more likely!


15 minutes of random "sitting at the gate waiting for someone to remember how to withdraw the walkway" later (sadly a standard Philly departure), I'm now in the air and, with any luck, won't be all that late in FR. Certainly in time for dinner...


In fact, ended up only 5 minutes late, and in plenty of time to enjoy an excellent tuna steak, a big dish of bananas foster, and then a drive home.

Holiday vacation over... back to work today.

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December 25, 2003

Travel Travails

Going home for christmas should be easy.

I took a break from deadline fever to get out of the office around 9:30 (it was a half-day anyway), zipped by the UPS location to pick up a couple of packages they didn't want to deliver without signatures, then drove down to Fall River. As has become my normal practice, I fly using the Providence, RI airport rather than the closer Manchester, NH airport, as that lets me leave my car with Julia and Lou (and provides an excuse for us to hit the Legal Seafood near the airport, as we plan to do upon my return).

I drove through the new I-93 southbound tunnel in Boston, which is open but seriously unfinished (one lane is still blocked until they can complete the expansion of the older tunnel and the exits, some of the roof is still unfinished, and there's a brief open space between old and new tunnels). Still, the drive through Boston went from a stop-and-start crawl to a nice, regular speed (even if that was 30-40 mph), and that's an improvement. One can only hope it will be even better with a 4th lane.

Julia zipped me to PVD quickly, check-in was a complete non-event (no lines anywhere), so being 2 1/2 hours early somewhat worked against me. I picked up a bit of lunch, then found a plug for the Powerbook and did some editing on my game world notes to pass time. Of course, having forgotten the HeroQuest rulebook, I'll have at least one more editorial pass still to do, but the nomadic stuff is very nearly complete and the cityfolk are only a day or two's work behind. I think my February date to actually start seeking players remains intact.

The flight from PVD to Pittsburgh was uneventful (I happened to be seated behind two people who had also been at Trilogy Tuesday, so we traded some praise of the mighty Peter Jackson to pass the time when I wasn't writing myths), but after a quick jog from terminal to terminal (stopping only to snag some overpriced sour cherry candies), I found my flight to Cincinnati delayed by 1 hour. Then by 90 minutes. Then by 2 hours. And, at last, after 2 1/2 hours of delays, worried looks at the maintenance folk swarming over our plane, and carefully-caveated promises, canceled. Of course, by this time (8 PM on Christmas Eve), the airport had all but shut down around us. US Air set me up at a nearby Embassy Suites for the night, gave me a $10 voucher to turn into either dinner or breakfast, and a boarding pass for an 9:15 flight on Christmas Day. And, since it would have taken nearly an hour to retrieve my suitcase from the airport, I was sent off with just my carry-on (Powerbook, iPod, a wad of cables, and cellphone). Thankfully, the Embassy was able to provide toothbrush, toothpaste, razor, and other such necessities.

So, as it looks now (I'm typing this at 6:40 on Christmas Day), I'll be getting to Cincinnati around 16 hours late, and badly needing a change of clothes.

Merry Christmas to all!


Following up from the airport an hour later... Security was again quick, the food voucher turned into a nice spread from Au Bon Pain, now it's just to wait on today's plane (and whatever quirks it might show). So now it's just a 2 hour wait, then into the air.

Oh, and no plugs anywhere near any seats. For some reason (likely this airport's reading of security requirements), they're all blocked off if there are chairs nearby, so there's no way to keep laptops charged. And so this is all I'll write just now.


And now I'm all hooked up to the 'rent's cable modem and working A-OK (after a bit of fiddling). The replacement flight went perfectly, landing early despite time spent de-icing.

And now, it is down to gifts and such... And to keeping Cosmo the kitten away from my iPod's headphone cable.

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December 16, 2003

Today's the Day!!!

First it's to this, then it's into the theater to see the Lord of the Rings start to finish (well, excepting anything PJ and crew will be giving us for the RotK SE in a few more months).

The quality of the first two parts and a bit of browsing of online reviews suggest I have quite a good thing in store.

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November 23, 2003

All Arrived and Even Online

We managed the drive last night in excellent time. (No, I'm quite sure Julia and Lou never once sped. They're good people and would never do such a thing.)

And now, after a bit of wrestling with wireless hubs, I'm even online!

And so, the relaxing vacation week begins. We'll probably get to the first new boardgame sometime soon.

Posted by ghoul at 09:29 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 21, 2003

Off To TurkeyCon

As of a few hours from now (hours that will be spent trying to close off open issues at work, running to bank and post office for last-minute stuff, setting up the cats for my absence, and doing the last bit of packing), I'll be heading to my week+ in Raleigh, NC.

Actually, as I'm taking my PowerBook along and the big tubs o' games, some of which I will be playing for the first time, I may well still post one or two things from there. But in case I don't, consider this 'fair warning'.

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November 12, 2003

Packing, Packing, Packing

All right, it's almost time for the annual trek south, and that means I need to pack up a tub or two of board games...

So, this is more a post for those who will also be with us in Raleigh come T-day. But I'm open for kibitzing from almost anyone.

No, these aren't necessarily "favorite games"... I have to pack for what I know others want to play, and I tend to bias toward interesting new games that I hope for a chance to try out.

So, here's the current list...

Already in NC...

Currently being packed...

So... anyone who'll be there want to make comments or requests? This all doesn't even fill my two tubs, really... barely one and a half! So there's room to request some old favorites or what have you.

Posted by ghoul at 06:33 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 01, 2003

October is Eddie Month

Having decided to take a brief break from actuarial exams (a year, or at most two), I think I can safely say the main events of this month focus on the very funny Eddie Izzard.

I have his new DVD, the CD is on the way, and, as mentioned earlier (when the October exam was still looming), I have tickets to two different performances of his current tour, in NYC and in Boston.

All of which will likely result in even more very cryptic quips that will cause some people to giggle uncontrollably and others to wonder what is wrong with the first bunch.

To which I say "spider gravy".

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August 28, 2003

A Birthday Blast from the Past

That's my old "Face File" from my CompuServe days (there was a color version later, but this is the original in all its badly cartooned, eyeball-dangling glory)... Today, I found a copy of it in my email inbox thanks to a college roommate who thought it'd be a nice little gift.

And he's right... In fact, just a week or so ago I'd decided I needed to search the old thing out, to consider adding it here or starting to use it on AIM.

I think he's probably been hiding these psychic powers all along.

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August 17, 2003

Whale Watching Time

And all went reasonably well...

One member of our party was stuck in NYC thanks to the blackouts, but the rest of us managed our trek out 25 miles from the NH seacoast to where the whales spend their summer.

The first whale was a shy and unpredictable mienke, pretty much what I'd come to expect in August whale-watches (this being my fourth). Pat didn't even manage to catch a glimpse, looking over just too late every time. We expected this to be repeated for the rest of the time watching (around 90 minutes), but were very surprised.

The naturalist was amazed at our luck, and all of us regretted that prior experience had led us to leave our cameras behind, because this time, rather than occasional and unpredictable whales, we were able to follow a half-sleeping finback for a good 20 minutes. The white stretches of the whale's body were visible just under the surface the whole time, and as he (or she, as it's difficult to tell without getting a good bit closer than we were willing to) surfaced to breath, the patch of greenish-white became notably larger, so plenty of warning was to be had. Those with cameras no doubt got some great shots. Apparently, whales sleep with only part of their brain at a time, leaving just enough active so they can float just under the water and surface to breath regularly, behavior our naturalist called "logging" (behaving like a floating log). She said it was rare to catch this.

After our slumbering finback, we followed a smallish pod of playful dolphins for a dozen minutes or so. Lots of jumping and play was observed, and they clearly outpaced our boat, swimming circles around us quite literally. Finding dolphins is just a matter of luck, as they move so quickly, so again, our naturalist was telling us how fortunate we were this cruise.

Our last whale was a rather energetic finback who all but lept clear of the surface with each breath, and then offered us a brief but memorable glimpse of tail-fins as it dove deep after the last pass.

Julia was picked to do a before-and-after survey by the student-naturalist on the cruise, I'm thinking to show if people listen to the facts given over the speakers and retain any new information. Of course, she had most of the answers right in the "before" quiz (with some help from Lou and I).

Plus, thunderstorms held off until the drive from the harbor to dinner, so we had a perfect watch and perfect weather... If we hadn't been Jeanne-less and hadn't gotten stuck for 20 minutes on the drive back due to an accident that blocked the whole road, I'd say it was a perfect day. Even as it was, it has to score quite high marks.

I'll catch up on RP-memes tonight or tomorrow... right now, I'm going to nap for a bit.

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August 14, 2003

Ars Gratia Pecuniae

This article promises several things I hope can actually come to pass... Particularly the "An Evening With Stan Freberg" stage show, which I would gladly travel rather far to get a chance to see.

(My step-father had no idea what he was unleashing when he first played the albums that excerpted skits from Stan's radio show for me... I've been nuts for this man's uniquely dry satire ever since.)

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July 24, 2003

ReFi Fo Fum V

And it is done... the check is deposited, the payments to prior creditors are authorized, and all is well with the world (or, at least, my little bit of it).

Thanks, all, for the good wishes and reassurances!

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July 18, 2003

ReFi Fo Fum IV

Closing done (signed my name way too many times), last-minute confusion on the rate solved (the bank never told the closing company I had locked in a lower rate about a month ago), and now it's just waiting for the check (3 business days).

So it seems to have all happened as hoped for!

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July 07, 2003

Look What I Found

I was digging around on an old disk and found this... At one point, I had a web page of cute kitten pictures, but I lost most of them. This one seems to have survived.

So, here's a chance to meet Lightning and Thunder (as of four years ago...). This picture was taken about 2 days after I got them to my house (from their birthplace in Brooklyn, NY). I came to their room (they were still limited in range in the house... to the pantry/utility room) and there they weren't. I panicked for a bit, looked around, moved a couple semi-heavy boxes, looked around a bit more, then decided to get rid of the pair of socks I had carried downstairs and look around some more.

I heard a small mewling sound as the socks hit the laundry basket...

Kittens In Laundry

Posted by ghoul at 05:46 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

July 02, 2003

ReFi Fo Fum III

Well, the call came.

Appraisal came to a sufficient result (there was very little reason to doubt that it would). Thanks to my earlier obsessiveness, all paperwork is in place. I've even been assigned a time and day on the busy schedule of the closing company.

So, I just have to wait until the 18th, go to the right place downtown (about 1 mile from here, and on the main drag so easy to find), sign my name one hell of a lot of times, and this is all behind me.

(unless something goes wrong... can't help but stay a little tense about that...)

Posted by ghoul at 12:30 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

June 18, 2003

ReFi Fo Fum II

Paperwork continues. Rate slipped down another 1/8th of a percent, to a number I never in my wildest dreams expected to see on a mortgage with my name attached (4.0%!!). Getting worried about screwing something up, but so far fairly sure I haven't.

The Appraiser arrives tomorrow AM at 7:30, which means some clutter-reduction is on tap for tonight. Which will cause the next Favorite Games pair to not appear before Saturday (because Friday is The Hulk)... Sorry, all!.

Posted by ghoul at 03:43 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

June 11, 2003

ReFi Fo Fum

Just scheduled time with the appraiser and started reading through a nice thick set of new documents I need to understand and sign (or at least sign) as I attempt to cut my mortgage interest rate almost in half and roll some equity out to consolidate debt and even repair the roof this year, before I absolutely need to. That is, before it starts leaking in on my game collection!

Plus I get to move it all to the same local bank where my checking account is, which at least offers the hope I'll have a person I can talk to if things go weird, as they inevitably do.

Now if only I could really convince myself I understand all these forms and options... I do complex financial arrangements (including writing/reviewing insurance contract language) for a living, these should be something I can work through.

Should be...

Posted by ghoul at 11:15 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 03, 2003

And Again, Ugh

Well, the meeting was actually enjoyable, or at least as close to such as all-day business meetings can get. And the flights down and then back from Greensboro to Philly went well. Despite the storms that had many NC flights being cancelled or delayed, we arrived in Philly 5 minutes early. But then...

(angry anti-airline grousing to follow... read on only if you don't mind a bit of aggravated bile.)

45 minutes (5 minutes longer than the expected flight time!) waiting in a line to take off from Philly, complete with the pilot apologizing for the delay (30 minutes after telling us there would be a 20 minute wait... thus 15 minutes before we actually took off). And all the while acknowledging that this is a common problem. If so, why hasn't it been solved yet? I realize it's crowded with NYC's airports to the north and DC's airports to the south, but if the schedule is so crowded that they can't keep it, they need to stop lying to themselves (and us) and make a schedule they can actually stick to.

And then there was no snack/beverage service outside of first class because, briefly, there was some turbulence (which lasted less than the length of the pilot's announcement). Of course, that makes perfect sense, right? We're 60 minutes into our 45 minute flight, so what better time to announce that there won't actually be the usual tiny offering of pretzels and liquid-of-choice? And all made worse by them then re-starting service 15 minutes later... to the first class passengers who wanted seconds.

I'll admit, my last trip on Amtrack was worse. Apparently, the line from Cleveland, OH to Albany, NY is Amtrack's notoriously late line... My experience then featured a full 6 hours of delays, including the train running short of fuel (thanks to earlier delays) and needing another engine to be run back to assist us. The concession made by the line for this... Free ham sandwiches, chips, and soft drinks from the dining car. Ahh, we were stunned by their generosity.

And my coworkers and family wonder why I'm usually happier to drive... I love my little white Prius!

Posted by ghoul at 10:53 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

June 02, 2003

Away for a Day

Work is sending me on a busy day (plus a bit), of which half-again as much will be spent traveling as attending the HQ meeting I'm traveling for.


Usually work travel to and from the HQ is via the minimum-overhead 8-seat company jet directly from the tiny airport here in town, sitting in comfortably padded real-person-sized seats and snacking at will from the well-stocked chips, candy, and soda drawers. But, thanks to a busy week of meetings company-wide, I got pushed off to commercial from the crowded airport 45 minutes away, plus all the security overhead, plus a coach seat that likely won't fit my nice new powerbook well at all (let alone me... coach is not sized for anyone over 6 foot!), and a lay-over in Philly each way.

Again, ugh.

I'll to get the third set of Favorite Games posted from the hotel or from the office tomorrow, if I can get it finished and transfered, but don't expect much else.

Posted by ghoul at 12:27 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack