The beginning of November marked this website's ninth anniversary. This newsbox began as a place to mention recent updates. There is a script that constructs it automatically from separate entries, but it requires manual intervention every year to maintain the archive.
I originally updated the newsbox everytime I made any change to the site, but I don't update so often anymore. Partly, this is because it has become more blog-like, and I feel odd posting an entry just to say that I fixed some broken links. But I don't update the site as often, either: the natural result of having a
21nov2007: Cristyn and I bought a plump Vermont chicken for Thanksgiving this year, but then got an invitation from a colleague to join them for Thanksgiving day itself. So we roasted the bird, mashed the potatoes, and had our private feast last night. In a few hours, we'll have a Thanksgiving day feast with a larger group. If someone invites us for Friday, this could continue indefinitely.
I am thankful for a great many things, among them good food.
1dec2007: Today, when I woke up, we had a first snow of the season on the ground. It was persistent enough to survive through breakfast and into the afternoon. This picture is taken from the cemetery near our house. We wandered around there a bit, had the obligatory snowball fight, and then drove to the hardware store to buy a snow shovel. (This snow was light enough that it could be swept off the front steps, but it is certainly a sign of things to come.)
I used another photo of today's snow to generate the image tile on the right. I liked it enough that I have used a variant of it as the background of the links page.
26dec2007: Christmas was white, at least in patches. We had unseasonable amounts of snow earlier in the month, but a full day of rain over the weekend. The result: an unpleasant icy crust.
So Cristyn and I spent the day indoors, playing games, watching movies, putting some of the leftover ham to service in split-pea soup, and so on. We got good use out of the new Robo Rally set. We found that the two-player game plays best with two robots each. That means programming ten moves ahead and the possibility of terrible chaos.
3jan2008: Cristyn and I were packing for our flight to San Diego when I got a call from the airline. A recorded message told me that our flight today had been cancelled, and that they had changed us to a torturous, multi-stopover route tomorrow. After talking on the phone with a pleasant man in India and another in Georgia, I had tomorrow's itinerary changed to exactly the same flight times we would have had today.
Now we have an extra 24 hours to kill. We had planned carefully so as not to leave any spoilable food behind, so it'll be takeout tonight.
28jan2008: There may be 346,000 hits for "black widow", but there are none if you call her an "octonocular gynocrat."
10mar2008: I was in the bookstore today and walked past a table piled high with various books in the ...for Dummies series. Choice among these was Grieving for Dummies. The nicely ambiguous title could have been a Hemingway story.
The books are written by some nominal expert in the field. Grieving, for example, is written by Greg Harvey, PhD. It says on the cover, in smaller type underneath his name, that he is a member of the American Academy of Bereavement&Association for Death Education and Counseling. (Death education? We teath them sign languath.)
Also on the table was Coin Collecting for Dummies, for which the editor was asleep at the wheel. Underneath the name of one of the coauthors, as evidence of his qualifications, it says "Author of Coin Collecting for Dummies."
23mar2008: Near the end of last year, I finally admitted that this newsbox on my homepage has all the marks of a personal blog: infrequent updates, incoherent musings on most updates, boring ramblings when coherent, and few actual readers. So I admitted to myself that it's a blog and tweaked the scripts so as to heave entry titles and permalinks.
Today I was noodling around in Photoshop and decided to replace the triptych image which had formed the masthead of this page. I realized, to my surprise, that it had been here as the primary image since at least the year 2000. A series of different triptych images preceded it, so the collapse to a single me in the sidebar is something like the end of an era. (Eras are cheap, of course, and they end all the time. It's just that some of them, like this one, kick me in the shins on their way out the door.)
Tomorrow... who knows?
28mar2008: This has been a mild winter, and weather as recently as yesterday was clear and pleasant. I had, in my hubris, put the snow boots away in the upstairs closet.
So we had planned a day trip to Ithaca today, for a visit with Christy "Revenge and Contraband" Mag Uidhir. It started raining last night, and sometime overnight that turned to snow. Road trip cancelled.
The picture here is the view out our bedroom window today, after the plow trucks had been through. This Spring Break, like every year I've lived in Albany, we got an accumulation of snow. In all those previous years, the Spring Break whitening was the last of the season. With any luck, that pattern too will hold.
(Yes, embracing the bloginess of this news box means that most of the word count is spent yammering about the weather and traffic delays. On-line journals, it is often noted, are interesting when written by people living difficult, variegated lives. Tragedy makes for good blogging. Domesticity, not so much.)
30mar2008: Several years ago, I remarked on an epic ludographic project that was the engine of my distraction during a long, dark Winter. The project was mostly completed and has been sleeping on my harddrive ever since. One of my goals for break was to put a little bit of shine on it and make it available here.
And so, here it is: The Decktet
On the gaming stuff page, I call it "a 36 card deck with six suits and a thousand uses." The documentation here only fully describes three uses, with several variants suggested. The other 990-some are left implicit.
2apr2008: I was drinking coffee and writing exam questions upstairs at Borders this evening. As it happens, this was open mic poetry night. There was only one poet signed up. Out of sympathy for the organizer, I signed up too. I had some poems from last time I read open mic poetry, so I opened up my laptop and read two of them.
26apr2008: I posted two new fonts this afternoon, over on my font site. Spelling Salt is a serif handwriting font, another member of the Font Monkey S-family. Belligerent Madness is a handwriting font, too, the kind of ragged letters a ritalin-addled activist might use in scribbling posters.
My fonts are all under free licenses, because I would rather see them used than hold out for the possibility of making a bit of money from one of them. Alas, anyone who is using them has no obligation to contact me. Other than one instance, I have not actually seen them in use anywhere. Given the slow but steady rates of downloading, however, at least some of them are probably used somewhere by somebody. Seeing them used does not mean actually seeing them used.
14may2008: Cristyn spent all Winter thinking about gardening, and so she had rather detailed plans once Spring arrived. She wanted a raised bed, with a brick path around it. She plotted it out carefully, so that we would know how many bricks to buy. Her plan looked like this:
We shopped for bricks and concluded that, although each brick is fairly inexpensive, these things can add up. I suggested the following, less brick intensive plan:
After some discussion, it was concluded that her plan was more practical. For one thing, we were not sure where to procure an eskimo. So we had three palettesful of brick delivered and went about laying them. Although some ad hoc revisions were made to the plan, the result is good:
The white things are row covers to keep the plants happy. The teepee is for long beans. In the picture below, the structure in the lefthand foreground is a modernist garden bench that we made out of our leftover bricks.
Now, things just need to grow.
20may2008: The semester is done, and I have different kinds of work to do. Several papers need to be written this summer. By way of procastination today, I listed some items on eBay.
Chris and John taught us a fun new game for the Decktet which Chris had devised. Someone suggested the name Quincunx, and that seems to have stuck. The rules are somewhat byzantine, and it calls for more playtesting. Of course, more playtesting is an excuse for more game playing.
12jun2008: We flew out to California last weekend for Cristyn's family reunion. A distant cousin rents a place in Monterey and hosted the festivities. Here are some snapshots from the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
Our trip was fortuitously timed to miss most of Albany's terrible heat wave. A thunderstorm rolled in last night, cooled things off, and flipped a birch tree into my front yard. The direction of the wind meant that the tree didn't fall on anything important, although the mailbox was a near thing. A goodly part of today was spent cutting up said tree, which is now bundled up at the street for disposal.
Cristyn and I played several games of Quincunx in the airport, plus a few games with my brother-in-law over the weekend. We have played it enough to have settled on a stable version of the rules, which I've posted.
18jun2008: I have posted a colour version of the Decktet, along with more uses for it. In the PDF of the colour deck, I suggest that it "is, perhaps, the kind of tarot deck they use in the alternate universe where Charlemagne was a badger." I am dubious about whether that is a coherent counterfactual at all, but I liked the phrase.
Someone (not me) has listed all of the Decktet games at BoardgameGeek. I hesitated to do it because of the hubris that would have been involved, but also because I couldn't figure out whether it should be one entry for the Decktet or separate entries for each game. The user who listed them opted for the latter, maximizing their payoff in geek gold.
26jun2008: If you google the phrase "search", the first result is Alta Vista.
19jul2008: Last night we had several people over for sushi and games. We were playtesting poker games with the Decktet. The games themselves, although playable, were awkward. They played more choppily than regular-deck poker, without exploiting any of the novel properties of the Decktet. I think it's a game dev dead end.
That's success for a playtest, though; played, tested, learned. And the food was yummy, and everyone had a good time. So success on all fronts.
In other Decktet related news: John made a game box, which I've posted with his permission. The cover of it is on the right. I've added the games Ransom Trump and Divers Weights (two successful games that were not among the ones playtested last night.) I've posted Fortune Letters and Fortune Widgets (the two custom fonts used in making the Decktet.)
23jul2008: Yesterday was our seventh wedding anniversary. We noticed this year that it coincides with Pi Approximation Day. OK, I confess we only just learned about Pi Approximation Day. But with the name in mind, it obviously ought to be 22/7.
The celebrations were something like our usual, although delayed by a day. We had dinner at My Linh, which was fantastic. Then we went down the block to Ultraviolet, where we drank coffee while playing Quincunx and Bharg.
11aug2008: Last weekend, Cristyn and I went out to Ithaca to visit friends of ours. It was our first vacation to go somewhere besides visiting family since Hungary, and much fun was had. We went bowling on Friday at a quaint bowling alley in Kings Ferry. Part of the old-school charm is that you actually keep your own score, rather than watching the automated tally on a monitor. On Saturday, we played a lot of video bowling on their Wii. The gestures are surprisingly like real bowling. Between the strenuous bowling, the stormy weather, and the three hours car drive each way, we are both still achy from the trip.
12sep2008: It's my birthday again, which has come to mean less as I've gotten older. This is not something to get wistful about, since it's really just mathematics. My 11th birthday marked having accrued 10% more time on the planet. My 21st birthday only marked 5% more time on the planet. Today, only about 3%.
Mathematically, the significance of birthdays asymptotically approaches zero. Practically, it diminishes until the mortal discontinuity reduces it to exactly zero. After that, more years don't accrue you any more time on the planet at all.
So, I am not scoffing at the extra 3%. Yay for another year of not being dead. In the long run, there are too few of those.
In a ludographic vein: I have been toying with additions to the Decktet for a while. The Pawns are a new rank of card, with three suits each instead of two. I thought about holding onto them as something proprietary that I could add if the game were published, but I have decided to release them under the same open license as the rest of the Decktet. They are an optional extra, adding to what I now call the extended deck.
I am not sure how many copies of the Decktet are in existence. In addition to those given to or made by friends of mine, a number of people at BoardGameGeek have made their own copies. There is even a group of Spaniards who have translated the rules for some of the games. That is the kind of thing that is only possible because of the internet, and it makes me glad to be living in the 21st century.
(The card above left is the Harvest, one of the Pawns. The picture on the right is from last month at Spielbany, a quarterly meet up of regional game designers. Carl and Dean are playing my game Jacynth.)
17oct2008: Over the summer, we had a bumper crop of greens, long beans, green tomatoes, and eggplant. Today we pulled out the two eggplant plants, which involved harvesting the last twenty or so eggplant fruits and filling an entire garden waste bag with eggplant leaves and branches.
Since I haven't posted garden pictures since May, when it was all concrete and row covers, here is what it looked like in early September, when it was overflowing with vegetative life:
My parents were in town a couple of weeks ago. We visited Howe Caverns, the Baseball Hall of Fame, and the Ommegang Brewery. (All fun.) I taught them Biscuit, and many games were played. Under the cover of filial bonhomie, I was able to playtest with three and four players. (All fun, although four players with partners was better than the four player free-for-all.)
30oct2008: I had work done on my car Monday. While sitting in the waiting room, I was in the middle of a political discussion between two old ladies. Both lamented that they couldn't vote for Hilary. Both also seemed to think that Obama (if elected) would not survive very long as president. Appealing to rumours and psychics, they predicted a KKK-koordinated assassination.
Craziest of all was the old lady who claimed to be undecided. She said that she was tempted to vote for Nader, but then said that she didn't like Obama because of his lack of government experience and his never having served in the military. She had an inexplicable hatred of Joe Biden, which combined with her confidence that Obama would die to make her not want to vote for them. It seems to me that she was just an uncomfortable racist, wanting to rationalize her vote for the crazy, crotchety white man and his moose-hunting fellow traveller.
I live in New York, where the dithering old biddies are sure to make no difference in the electoral outcome. The question is just how wide the margin here will be.
31oct2008: I am sitting on the porch, waiting for the costumed monsters, faeries, and superheroes to demand their candy bounty.
This year we have two jack-o-lanterns. One is fashioned from a pumpkin we grew in our yard that didn't quite ripen; it's like we put a candle in a giant zucchini. The other is this squat little guy with bugged out eyes. Both were carved on Tuesday at a group pumpkin carving. In the interim, the underripe one has made a serious effort to start rotting.