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News from Year Eleven

The latest webiversary [permalink]

8nov2008: The beginning of November marks the tenth anniversary of my having a homepage. I'll spare you the spiel about what the passage of time feels like, but I will link to my recent rumination about birthdays which applies mutatis mutandis to webpage annuation.

You only see one side of me [permalink]

12dec2008: My old computer has shown signs of nearing catastrophic meltdown, and so I got a new one for the holidays. It was a gift, either from my wife (if I gave her a computer) or from myself (if she gave hers to herself). The migration is more difficult than just moving all the files from the old computer to the new one, because I've decided to change from Apple Mail for e-mail to Mozilla Thunderbird.

One new whistle on the new computer is a built-in camera, which I used to take this picture of myself.

Looking through the window [permalink]

14jan2009: I'm popping my head up, but just to post this drawing.

Fiddling with the script [permalink]

30jan2009: When I write long rambling posts here, I wish I could just put an abstract of it here on the homepage. To use an idiom held over from the last century, I'd like to put the rest below the fold. Since the script that I wrote to assemble this page was originally just updating a newsbox, it copies all the content of each entry onto the front page, into the news feed, and onto a unified archive page. I have tweaked it a bit now, so that for longer entries I can have abridged versions appear in those places and let the full version hang out on the entry's permalink page.

In short: procrastination.

[read the rest of Fiddling with the script]

Icehouse and the Geek [permalink]

7mar2009: I don't know when Spring officially starts, but I count it as having started once I have to do yard work. By that criterion, Spring in Albany began yesterday. The weather was warm enough to melt the last berms of ice. So I was out with a shovel and a saw, clearing a strip of lawn that is destined to be a rhubarb patch and cutting back the dogwoods.

I have not posted much here lately. Although I could say that I've been unproductive and under the weather, that'd just be kvetching. I have been posting things elsewhere on the web, the kinds of things that I would have posted here a few years ago.

Here's a rambling post about one of these other outlets.

[read the rest of Icehouse and the Geek]

Full Court pressing [permalink]

16mar2009: The Decktet basic deck has ten ranks: Ace,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,Crown

This was part of the inspiration for the name; a dectet is a set of ten things. Last year I was inspired to add several cards, creating the extended deck. Among the new cards was a new rank (Pawns) which is above 9 and below Crown. Jens Alfke sarcastically commented that I could keep making additions and turn the Decktet into a collectible card game.

When I devised the Pawn symbol, however, I had a a half-formed idea for a rank in the progression from Pawns (with one dot) to Crowns (with three). I considered making this a rank different than any other, trying out ideas like four suits per card or a new wild suit.

[read the rest of Full Court pressing]

Or was it playing possum? [permalink]

16mar2009: As I have noted, diagnostic criteria point to it now being springtime. When I was an undergraduate in Fort Worth, a notable mark of the new season was the first dead squirrel. Today on my walk home I encountered Albany's one-up to the mere squirrel: The first dead possum of spring.


Zen Flower Showdown [permalink]


You are arranging flowers because your master says it will lead to enlightenment, but all of the other students want enlightenment too. You need to arrange flowers quickly and with greater harmony, so that you can be first to become enlightened!

19mar2009: Over at BoardGameGeek, someone laid down the challenge of designing a game that consists of just four cards or tiles. Thinking about my previous work with cardstock dice, I decided that three of the cards could assemble to form a trio of dice. The fourth card is a target.

Because I could give the dice any values I wanted, I made them nontransitive. This means that the first one rolls higher than the second one more than half the time, the second one rolls higher than the third more than half the time, and the third rolls higher than the first more than half the time.

The game is nominally about furious but harmonious flower arranging, with the dice as flowers and the target as the vase.

Zen Flower Showdown is available here as a PDF.

Update: Although the game did not win the contest, it was entered into the game database: ZFS at BGG

Bastardizations [permalink]

9apr2009: In high school, circa 1990, EF, KK, and I made up a family of trick-taking cardgames for three players. In each of the games, some number of cards are set aside. We started calling the extra hand of cards the bastard, and so we called the original game Bastard. The wackier variants got names like Mega Bastard and Nuisance Bastard. (I've left EF and KK as initials in case they don't want internet searches for them leading to this anecdote.)

At some point in this century, I began writing down the rules for Bastard. I didn't finish, so the file sat on my harddrive, migrating with other documents to new computers. Recently I stumbled across the mostly finished rules and posted them.

Here it is: Bastard, an illegitimate child of Whist.

On a related note, it's been a little over a year since I first released the Decktet. My thought then was that it could do no worse on the web than it did slumbering on my harddrive. Since then, it has become a modest success. There are eighteen Decktet games in the BGG database. There are more at the Decktet wiki, including some written or translated into Spanish.

Changing fortunes [permalink]

10apr2009: Since rights to my game Fortune's Colony have reverted to me, I've decided to make it available here.

Spring rituals [permalink]

19apr2009: My parents are in town this weekend. Yesterday, I was violently ill and so stayed at home while they galavanted up and down the Hudson River valley. Today, we took a drive up to Cohoes Falls. You might say it was almost Erie, but let's not settle for the cheap joke.

At the park overlooking the falls, there was a circle of pagans chanting Earth Mother this and Earth Mother that. In the center of the circle was a plastic grocery bag containing convenience store items like pastel M&Ms and Cheetos. Once these items were consecrated, the pagans scattered M&Ms and Cheetos around the base of a nearby tree.

This is the sort of thing that, if I read it in a story, I would think was just slightly too wacky to have actually happened.

The standard approach [permalink]

20apr2009: On my parent's last night in town, we went to the the Standard. As a group, we offer the following one sentence restaurant review without further comment:

Food was excellent, despite heavy handed griller and ambiguous photo of (perhaps) Kathleen Freeman.

A game about mazes [permalink]

27apr2009: I designed the game Ambagibus almost ten years ago. It was sufficiently enjoyable that I gave copies to lots of people I know and even used it as a stocking stuffer one Christmas. I forget what I called it originally, but it was called The Philosopher's Maze for a while (too self indulgent), then Ambages Philosophorum (bleah), and later Ambages (too hard to pronounce). The current name is Latin for 'about mazes.'

I submitted it to a game company or two, but it was declined. Submitting games to publishers, waiting for their reply, sending follow up letters, and that whole rigamarole is too much like submitting philosophy papers to journals, following up with them, and the scholarly rigamarole - in short, too much like work I have to do as part of my day job. So the game spent several years sitting idle in the back of a drawer and on my hard drive.

This is a bit of a copout, perhaps, because it is not clear that this game is worth publishing. The proof of the pudding is in the eating, and the proof of the game is in the playing - but the proof of the publishable product is in the publishing. Regardless, I am skipping the whole pudding submission process and making the solitaire version of the game available. It (like many of my games) is available here as an electronic document under an open license.

Also NEW: I've changed the image in the upper left corner of this page. It started as a photo of me at a workshop in Pittsburgh, and I hammered on it some in Photoshop.

Captain's log [permalink]

Stardate 22may2009: Cristyn and I went to see the new Star Trek movie at a matinee today. It was a good time.* It was (I think) among the best Trek movies ever. The script gave every character a chance to shine, and the actors managed to establish a lot with just a little screen time. I'd love to see the cast return for a regular series, preferably a TV series.

There are elements of Star Trek tradition throughout the movie. It's done well, giving a shout out to fans, without wallowing in nostalgia or distracting viewers who aren't already steeped in decades of Trek. I surmise the last part, because I got many of the references; I resisted the temptation to keep score.

However, I think I earn serious geek cred for seeing the name Deep Roy in the credits, leaning over to Cristyn, and saying, "That's the guy who played in the Peking homunculus in Talons of Wang-Chieng." Cross-pollinating Trek to Doctor Who geekery for the win!

Extra cross pollinating geek points if you can name the sci-fi series in which Deep Roy appeared as the Klute.

Get the lead out [permalink]

5jun2009: I have written before about the raised bed that we built for growing vegetables last year. This year, we expanded the garden. We put the beds in at ground level. This allowed us to put beds along the side of the house, since we can't build raised beds up against the foundation. It was also less work and cheaper.

[new beds]

In the course of digging, weeding, and planting, Cristyn sent off a soil sample for analysis. The initial report indicated shortages in some nutrients, but nothing major. Last Friday, however, we got the long-delayed report on heavy metals. The dirt in our yard has unsafe levels of lead. Not Superman-can't-see-through-it levels, but still don't-eat-the-foliage levels.

So we adjusted our plans, had bricks and dirt delivered, and got to work. In two days, we replaced the ground-level bed that we'd made for the gooseberries with a raised bed. (It's the one in the background of the photo.) The gooseberry bushes are young, and they'll be in the new, safe soil a long time before we get any berries off of them. Since it's a big bed, Cristyn also moved a bunch of other plants in with the sapling bushes.

Since mint plants spread aggressively, you can't put mint in a bed with other plants. The usual solution is to grow mint in pots. Our solution was to give mint its own little bed. Today we made it a raised bed. (Foreground of the photo.)

Next week, we put in the final raised bed around the corner in the back yard.

Also NEW: I've changed the image in the upper left corner of this page again.

Miscellaneous [permalink]

[muscles upon muscles]

14jul2009: About a month ago I spent the weekend with my old friend Christy. On the left, he poses with a hand-crafted Ghanian movie poster. It's part of his private collection of cool art.

[yon statue]

Last week, some friends and I went for a hike at Yaddo, an enormous garden near Saratoga Springs. On the right, there's a picture of a statue there. 'Christalan' (identified on the pedastal) stands in a grove on one side of the rose garden. Prowling around the internet, I learn that Christalan was a character from a poem written by one of Yaddo's original owners. The source does not explain why he has the letters GRVE engraved on his shirt. Regardless, neither his name nor his mysterious emblem are visible in this grainy photograph.

Last night, the same friends and I gathered together for a cult movie night. We watched Clue, Real Genius, and Harold&Maud - none of which I had seen previously. Good times.

One may wonder whether these movies are legitimately cult movies. Having thought about it a bit, I think that the concept amounts to this: A cult movie is one which one must be able to quote, or at least make allusions to, in order to be a member of a subculture or social circle. A cult film need not be an obscure, arthouse pictures that only it's subculture knows about. But it can't be so mainstream that everyone can quote it; Casablanca, for example. The real puzzle is whether Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom counts as a cult movie.

The state of my e-mpire [permalink]

25jul2009: I am trying to avoid accumulating too many domain names, and I own fewer than I once did. Yet I recently purchased decktet.com. I bought it so as to avoid the regret I would feel if, were I not to have bought it, it were bought by some domain-squatting jerkwads.

I have no intention of moving the Decktet homepage, so the new domain just sports a drawing and some links to Decktetiana hosted elsewhere.

This acquisition brings my e-state to four: fecundity, fontmonkey, ninjaverses, and decktet.

A post relating to brevity and other curious tendencies exhibited by life on-line [permalink]

14aug2009: I have accepted the fact that I actually write a blog, now that this kind of long form macro-blogging is passé. My forward-looking friends have moved on to Twitter.

Again, silly locution is involved. When the word was introduced, blogging sounded unpleasant - perhaps the sort of thing one would need to change one's pants after doing. The verb for Twitter is to tweet - after which one ought to open a window.

In a recent conversation, I said something which was suggested to be the kind of thing I would tweet if I had a Twitter account. This is what I said:

Sunscreen and the Poopdeck Oblivion: heavy metal Jimmy Buffet cover band

Make of that what you will.

Of course, the popularity of Twitter comes down to two factors. First, most people are tweeting from their cell phones. For someone using a tiny keyboard while standing in line, 140 characters may already be too much. lol. Second, long form blogging was often a matter of whingeing about pop culture and the weather. Boring rants are easier to endure if shorter.

Typed on my comfortable laptop keyboard, at the end of much verbiage, is a second peek into the alternate universe in which I tweet:

Twitter, the crucible for whingeing, is what a blog would look like if it were a series of fortune cookies written by Ezra Pound.

Give a hoot, don't mahout [permalink]

17aug2009: Summer heat turns my attention in curious directions. Two curios that have resulted recently: a drawing of an elephant (right) and a fragment of prose (below the fold).

[read the rest of Give a hoot, don't mahout]

Plundering Victorian treasures [permalink]

21sep2009: In designing the Decktet, I was strongly influenced by 19th-century illustrators such as John Tenniel and Howard Pyle. If I have drawn farther, it is because I have drawn on the shoulders of giants. Some of my images or compositions are shamelessly stolen from them.

I recently encountered this curious drawing Pyle. I tracked down the book it was drawn for, the Wonder Clock, because I wanted to know what was supposed to be going on in the picture.

The caption is almost quotidian and wonderfully deadpan: "The Grey Goose goes out into the wide world, where she and a discontented Sausage meet the Cock and the Fox." Alas, the rest of the story is a disappointment. Although the Sausage and the Cock are friends briefly, there are no Freudian overtones whatsoever. It ends with a heavy-handed moral about knowing your place in the world.

Counterparts of speech [permalink]

7nov2009: As the saying goes, "Verbing weirds language."

It's good for a laugh if you haven't heard it before, but there are people who utter this bon mot anytime someone does some verbing. It can be a conversation stopper. What can I say in reply - other than perhaps, lamely, "Yes. Yes it does."

I now have a countersign. Next time someone says that verbing weirds language, I am prepared to reply: "And gerunding nouns verbs. What of it?"

Perhaps my interlocutor will reply that "gerund" isn't a verb and that, even if it were, you couldn't gerund "gerund." That will have kept the conversation alive for another volley, giving someone time to introduce a new topic.

"Look, a monkey!"

(Hat tip to David Morgan Mar.)