Monday, January 29, 2007

Now If I Can Just Get His Royalties ....

I am:
William Gibson
The chief instigator of the "cyberpunk" wave of the 1980s, his razzle-dazzle futuristic intrigues were, for a while, the most imitated work in science fiction.

Which science fiction writer are you?

More later,

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Gaming On Bainbridge

So Martin Stever, late of Cap City and WizKids, has relocated across the Sound to Bainbridge Island, where he and his lovely wife and child have a nice house not too far from the ferry himself. And he has regularly, since moving out there a few years back, invited me out to one of his frequent gaming afternoons.

And most times I have not been available, whether from deadlines or other life-requirements (the most recent being when Steve Miller broke his ankle and I spent some time at the ER with him). But today I didn't have any commitments, so I headed across the water. Parked the Hybrid under the Viaduct (parking free on Sunday) and walked on the ferry. And the trip across was smooth as silk, a great way of getting across the Sound if you're just going to Bainbridge. It actually had a WoW vibe to it with the zeppelins - get on, get off, you're there.

The afternoon itself was pretty amusing - played two new games for a total of five times Vegas Showdown was an amusing game of casino building, where you're fitting slots, gaming rooms, eateries and even theaters on into your casino. It had a nice, breezy style to it, with a lot of things that reminded me of Vegas (twisty, turning passages, for example, or continual labor problems). It has a lot of nice little grace notes, and plays pretty well. Recommend it.

The other game was Blue Moon City, a Reiner Knizia game from Fantasy Flight. It is one of those cooperative/competitive games where you are trying to rebuilt a fantasy city, and want to make sure that the dragons see you do it so they will reward you, with the goal of turning in gems so you get the top billing on the obelisk in the center of the city. One of the group had played it a number of times before, but we promptly took it in some strange directions. In the first game, we were so competitive that we tied (the game was decided by a secondary victory condition), and in the second game we all sat on our resources that we outstripped the game's components (we had to keep track secondarily, and I would have won if I had but one more victory component. I would not say we broke the game, but we did sprain it.

But then the trip back (after a highspeed race to get to the docks before the ferry pulled out). It was near sunset, and the sun was behind us, cutting through a light red shroud of clouds. Seattle itself was illuminated like a gem against the hills and not-so-distant mountains, Rainier was out in full view, and you could even see the shadowy form of Adams to the north. The city was a jewelbox, and even the much-bemoaned viaduct along the edge gave it a toylike, train-set quality. It was a reminder why I live out here. That and when I got off, I walked two blocks to Elliot Bay bookstore, which was still open at 5:30 on a Sunday afternoon, and picked up The Omnivore's Dilemma.

Yeah, after all the snow and bad weather, I needed to be reminded why I'm out here.

More later,

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

A Little Promotion

So first off, fellow Alliterate Wolfgang, known to parts around here as the Monkey King, commands a large percentage of this month's Dragon Magazine with a series of articles on China Mieville's excellent world of Bas-Lag. Bas-Lag is the setting of his novels, including Perdido Street Station (reviewed here). Wolf revealed his work on the project to our Alliterates months ago, and I, for one, have been incredibly jealous ever since. If the magazine is not enough, he has a couple more monsters that did not make it into the mag here and here.

In other news, Guild Wars Nightfall has been nominated for Massively Multiplayer Game of the Year from the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences. I'm delighted on behalf of my co-workers, and it is a honor to be nominated.

More later,

Monday, January 22, 2007

The I-65 Superbowl

So this year, at least, I'm not at all conflicted. Last year, it was my home town (which bleeds black and gold) against my adopted city (which is proud of the fact that it is louder, and that part of the reason is engineering behind their stadium). This year, no prob. Da Bears over the Colts.

I was in Lake Geneva during the years of the Super Bowl Shuffle (the 'Hawks, by the way, never got a goofy themesong, which puts them behind Pittsburgh, where every freakin' radio station had its own "Go Steelers" song), so even though everything has changed (except the owner's family), there is still enough good will in my heart to root for them.

The Colts, on the other hand are not only from Indy. Indy is a city which has improved in the last twenty-five years remarkably, but alas, I have not lived near it for twenty-five years, so for the same reason I am positively disposed towards Chicago from great pizza, great museums, and a great lakefront, I am similarly disinclined to support Indy from the memories of a downtown closed at 8 PM Friday and a grimy, hostile environment. Even though Purdue, my Alma Mat, was poised between the two metropoli, my interests were always more northern than southern. But there is another reason from the past to root against the Colts.

It is a traitor team. Back in 1984, the Colt owners backed the truck up to the stadium in the dead of night, loaded everything up, and were across state lines before the loyal fans knew what hit them. That simple. They booked out. Cut and run. Now, I think Manning is a better quarterback than Grossman, but the taint of blue horseshoe remains. When I was growing up, there were old baseball fans who never forgave the Dodgers for moving to LA in '58, even if they weren't Brooklyn fans in the first place. It was the principle of the thing, and even with the passing years and changes of management, they would not forgive.

Yeah, I can understand that. Indy is a better place than it was 25 years ago, but I just can't let them off the hook. So I'll be rooting for Da Beloved Bears when the time comes.

More later,

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Play: Half an Oeuvre is Better than None

The Lady From Dubuque by Edward Albee, Directed by David Esbjornson, Seattle Repertory Theatre, though February 10, 2007

Some playwrights you steel yourself for, going in. If the work is by David Mamet, you expect the rapidfire profanity. If its August Wilson, there is often (though not always) a moment of rage that leaves you wondering if you had missed a clue earlier. Shaw? Class warfare and other big issues crowding characterization to the margins. And with Albee, you are resigned to casual cruelty among the players and ruminations of the "modern condition". It's his bag, his thing, his body of work.

And yes, you have all that in Lady from Dubuque, but for the first half of the play, he pulls it off and pulls it off brilliantly. A mixed bag of friends, by turns kind and cruel, spend an evening together primarily because they have always spent evenings together, such that their offensiveness no longer registers. All are a bundle of strengths and vulnerabilities. Jo is catty and nasty and dying and sympathetic and sweet. Her husband Sam is by turns supportive and enraged that he cannot feel her pain, that she is in a dimension that he cannot reach. Neighbor Edgar returns for regular abuse because it is one of the few places where he can stand up to his dominating domestic wife, Lucinda. Self-proclaimed redneck Fred has gone through three wives already and is introducing potential number four, Carol, self-proclaimed dumb brunette, to the civil little weekly war the group holds at Jo and Sam's.

And yes, they are all horrible and wonderful to each other in turns, both rejecting each other and needing each other for support. Carla Harting in particular is brilliant as Jo, her callow toughness and frightened vulnerability flipping past effortlessly. The group breaks up in several arguments and reconciliations. These people are struggling with each other and struggling with Jo's impending death - the elephant in the room. It is really, really good. The characters are well-rounded, and the actors bring their personalities across as real.

Then, in the closing moments of the first act, two strangers arrive, looking for Jo, and we go to the intermission with odd questions. And when we come back for the second act things go off the rails a bit.

The strangers, Elizabeth and Oscar are either angels of death or compassionate murderers, come to take Jo away. It is all a bit fuzzy, and from this point on no question is ever answered directly. Elizabeth claims to be Jo's mother, and all of the rest of the cast except Sam, accepts this without question, even to point of arguing with Sam (who knows the truth) and restraining him. Jo, who shines in the first act, is reduced to an deathly object in the second, and all the friends who moved off the stage at the end of Act I now come back, but now are even more brittle and hard edged. There is no support here from them, only hate. They begin to drift into Albee-esque caricatures - returning because it would be a shame to have them in the first act and not use them again.

Part of the problem between the two acts is that Jo dominates the first act, but Elizabeth (Myra Carter), who confounds Sam, is a very different creature. Her performance is mannered and precise and theatrical, and undercuts the reality of the disease that is claiming Jo (that Ms. Harting sells so well). Similarly, the first act is peppered with fourth-wall breaking antics (where the other actors join in, calling on the audience to play referee to their private mindgames), but with the addition of a second strangeness (what is the power of these visitors, such that they can not be made to leave?), it suddenly vacates as well. It is two very different beasts, and the second is not a good as the first.

Yet I really enjoyed the play. The pain of not being able to share a loved one's pain comes through, the loneliness of death and the shallowness of live in the face of mortality comes through. Carla Harting as Jo and Chelsey Rives as Carol are wonderful, and indeed, Rives' character has to carry the play forward to its denouement because Jo is dying, Elizabeth is an enigma, and Sam is shattered. And she does it very, very well.

So it is a mixed bag. The first half is a great play. The second half, less so. Its worth seeing, but yes, it feels like an Albee play all over.

More later,

Friday, January 19, 2007

Meet the Flintstones

So I'm driving to work, single cartoon theme songs (What? Like you never did that?), when I had an illumination about the closing theme of the "Flintstones". The original ran -

Someday, maybe Fred will win that fight,
Then that cat will stay out overnight.

And the cartoon shows him taking the cat out, who then jumps back in and throws Fred out of the house. But the cat (a man-sized sabertooth) is never a real member of the family, appearing only irregularly, and the family pet is Dino (who in his first appearance could talk, but that's a story for another day).

But once you remove the pictures, the song means something else. The "fight" is not with the cat, but rather with Wilma, and "that cat" is not a real cat, but a hip reference to Fred himself. Fred suddenly becomes more domesticated and henpecked, hence a real cat was inserted into the setup to make Fred more of a family man.

Why yes, there was traffic on the way to work, and I had time to think about this a lot. Why do you ask?

More later,

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Warcraft: Full and Empty

So I was snowed in yesterday, so I didn't get a copy of the Burning Crusade expansion (as opposed to friends who stayed up until midnight Tuesday in order to get on as soon as possible). So I picked up a copy on the way to work, and the guy checking the receipts at the front door said "You're already behind".

I have friends and co-workers who were doing beta - I could have been the first official player and STILL have been behind.

But I WAS on WoW last night, playing my Tauren Hunter, Thunderchild, and finishing up some quests. There was a half-hour wait to get on, but after I got into the game, the zones I was running in were EMPTY. It was because all the high-levels were already in the new high-level territory, and all the low-level new races (Blood Elves and Blue Devils) were in the low-level racial home areas. As a result, I had most of Dustwallow Marsh to myself. It was strange, sort of like having Disneyland all to your lonesome, but I got a lot done.

And now I have joined up with the new hotness, like the rest of the cool kids.

More later,

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Good Grief, More Snow!

So there is snow again at Grubb Street, about an inch of big, fluffy flakes in time for the morning commute. Working out of the home office today, but I have to say that I'm pretty much sick all this Wisconsin weather without the benefit of Wisconsin snow plows.

More later,

Monday, January 15, 2007

Have you noticed?

That the same clowns who were supporting the administration's war two years ago because it was the will of the people now are supporting the war because they are "independent thinkers" who will not be pushed around by the will of the people?

Just asking,

Sunday, January 14, 2007

More Snow Madness

So this morning Steve Miller, who writes nifty reviews on unreviewable movies here, slipped on the ice outside his apartment complex and broke his ankle. While otherwise immobilized, he did manage to call us on his cell, and a good chunk of the day was taken up with helping out with the ER, rapidcare visit, prescriptions and other minor matters that occur when a friend fractures his fibula.

It is not that surprising that Steve was laid up, given that the snow we had early in the week hung around through surprisingly cold temperatures, and that the apartment complex management apparently thought that the polished ice surface they generated in the parking lot was some sort of benefit to their tennants. As a result of the running around, I had to be in and out of that parking lot three times, and each time I briefly lost control of the vehicle to a ice-bound skid (I learned to drive in Pittsburgh and spent a fair share of my life in Wisconsin, so I knew the drill about turning into the skid and generally heading for dry asphalt). And each time, at the entrance to the parking lot, there was some benighted fool from warmer climes (like California) who was struggling to get his minivan up the rise and out onto the main road. The surprise would be not that Steve was injured, but that there were not more such injuries from the complex's ice-bound negligence.

Once out of the parking lot, the main roads were fairly dry, with just enough ice in the shady parts to make it all an adventure. There have been two types of drivers this week - those driving way too fast for conditions, and those driving way too slow. As a result, it has been the ice capades combined with demo derby.

And through it all, I got the Seahawks game on a second audio channel while dealing with other matters. The game on in the background of the waiting room of the rapid care facility. The practitioner in the ER getting a phone call, saying "Yes!", then hanging up. (I had to ask "Seahawks score?" and she nodded). The Fred Meyers where I picked up the prescription had the game on in the electronics department, but only on the radio (they couldn't access the TV feed, apparently). In many ways, it felt like we were in the "B" plot of the episode while the Seahawks were the "A" plot. The upside was that the ER and rapid care units were pretty empty when we came in, since everyone else was watching the game. When I finally got home, I turned on the tube to hear words, "" ...and we'll be speaking with Coach Holgren about his disappointing loss."

But Steve is now resting comfortably (I hope), with his leg up and his bloodstream enhanced with an anti-inflammitory and a couple Limbaughs. And if he is reading this, we're rooting for him, and note that he should have his leg up, even if he's cruising the net. Now!

More later,

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Allez Cuisine!

Memories are made of this - The Monkey King was taking photos at the holiday party.
Left to right: Janna, Janice and Our Flounder, decked out in stylish Christmas Hawai'ian Shirt and kilt (mostly hidden by the counter). The implement of destruction in my right hand is a fork/meat thermometer which I think is real cool.

Yeah, this goes on the Christmas cards next year.

More later,

Friday, January 12, 2007

Da Bears

So, another football game where I am conflicted.

Part of it is that I don't shed football teams over time. I grew up in Pittsburgh, so I'm a Steeler fan. I lived in southern Wisconsin, in a town which precisely straddled the line between Bear country and Packer land, so I'm partial to those two teams. And now I'm in Seattle, so I am swept up in 12th Man Madness.

But the chances of one team I like fighting it out with another team I like has gone up over the years. Last year's Super Bowl was a mixed blessing, and I for one am glad that Pittsburgh won, particularly since they flushed away the season this year. I am also pleased that the Hawks have already defied expectations by surviving the wild card game and getting into the "real playoffs". I'm still going to watch the game -the 'hawks have been playing cardiac-attack football of the style that made the classic Bears seasons a combination of excitement and raw panic.

I don't know what it is about the NFL that inspires such brand loyalty. I don't root for the MLB teams the same way - Pirates and Brewers and Cubbies. Part of that may be that those teams I connected very strongly with their on-air radio personalities - Bob Prince and the Gunner for the Pirates, Bob Uecker, and Harry Cary. The voices stay with you, and were a source of continuity over the long seasons. Football, its more coaches and franchise players, with the bright spots appearing over the season.

I can say that I'll be happy no matter who wins, but I will really feel sorry for the losing side. So like I said, I'm conflicted.

More later,

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Snow Fun

So two days ago, Tuesday, we were supposed to get a big snowstorm, the fourth of the year in an area where it is unusual to see one. Everyone in the city left their offices early, jamming the roads but leaving them nearly empty by about seven. The Lovely Bride and I had no trouble getting downtown for our tai chi class.

So yesterday, same story, though they were talking about it hitting north of the city this time. People were less panicky, right up to the moment when it started to snow heavily in Bellevue. Big, lumpy snow, with the weight and texture of styrofoam. That was about 4:30.

This was followed, of course, by panic. Our office complex has about a dozen buildings and only two entrances, and those entrances became parking lots as people tried to flee to get onto the roads which were also parking lots. The storm was mostly north of the city, and I figured when I could finally reach the mainroads, it would be a smooth commute home to the south.

What I did not expect was that there was a second wave of the storm which moved SOUTH of the city, between Bellevue and Renton. I found this out about seven, when I tried to get home, and spent an hour in traffic trying to get to the highway on jam-packed, ice-covered service roads.

I was almost to the highway when the Lovely Bride called. They were shutting down her tax office on the East Hill, near where we live, and she was walking home. She was putting two of her front desk staff up at the house overnight because they could not get home. And, worst of all, they had closed the roads up the hill (which were, of course, parking lots).

So I turned the car around and went back to the office, intent on sleeping there (the hotels were already all booked). Then I looked at the webpage for the road conditions and discovered that the roads north were now empty and green, while the roads south were as black as the intestine of a shrimp.

So I called the Monkey King and Shelly, and asked if I could crash at their place in Kirkland. It took only 15 minutes to reach their home along roads that five hours before were impassible. Crashed on their futon, slept like a rock, glad for a hot shower and that I always pack emergency underwear in my computer bag (yeah, I know, too much information).

And as a result, I am really the only person in the office at this (for our team) ungodly hour. Others, such as Mystical Forest, had a horrible time getting home (they're in the same neighborhood), and I count myself as fortunate.

More later,

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Fact Check at Register Three

So the whole gas price thing has become a bit of a motif here at Grubb Street, since there is always a new development or tweak to report. The media seems to have gone through a "gee, I don't know if there's something going on" phase, to a "well, MAYBE there is something going on, but we don't know" phase, and has settled into a "Yeah, it looks like something is going on, but whattaya going to do?" phase.

Meanwhile, one of our readers, Joe (Hi Joe!) dug up the information that I was unable to ratchet down. You can find it here, and indeed, it shows gas prices dropping steadily through the summer, bottoming out the last week of October/first week of November, and starting to rise again almost immediately thereafter (despite the fact that OIL prices have been dropping).

Funny how not a lot of folks have noticed this.

More later,

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Snowclones for Everyone!

I love finding a new word, and the new word (still a toddler at three years old) is snowclone.

You know them. You use them. You didn't know what they were. Here are a couple well-worn examples:

"I, for one, welcome our new X overlords"
"In space, no one can here you X"
"Men are from X, women are from Y"

Slip in your choice of X and Y (and sometimes N and Z) and you have an instant mini-quote, punchline, or bit of sloppy thinking, which sounds good only because your listener is familiar with format.

Snowclones have been around for a good long time ("If they can put a man on the moon, why can't they X"), but only were named recently. The name itself comes out a discussion about the Eskimo Snow Hoax - a snowclone which runs "If the Eskimos have N words for snow, then X have N words for Y", which has been debunked but remains part and parcel of our cultural lore.

Snowclones have already gotten their own page on the Wikipedia, which of course, is only a stepping stone to The American Heritage Dictionary, and then the big time of Webster's! So do your part and spread the meme. It is a celebration of both American Language and American Pop Culture. Because, are you know, in Soviet Russia, Snowclones overuse YOU.

X later,

Saturday, January 06, 2007

This Just In - Irony No Longer Dead

So let me get this straight -

The Administration says it's AOK to open my mail, but doesn't want anyone to know who is visiting the White House.

Just asking,

Friday, January 05, 2007

Hail, Hail

Yep, yesterday it hailed in Seattle - twice over the afternoon, leaving a thick, frozen crust on a lot of vehicles and proceeding to screw up the evening commute even more than usual. Add to that snow north of the city and a threat of freezing fog up on Cap Hill, and I think we've seen every except the TV-Minister-promised tidal wave.

But the Sturm und Drang did relent last night for the Lovely Bride to celebrate her Legendary Birthday. We gathered at the Melrose Grill, a excellent little steak house in downtown Renton which the LB and enjoy. All told, there were 11 of us at the table, most of them regulars for the Lovely Bride's Thursday Evening games, and included a Microsoft researcher, a social security administrator, our resident Tolkien expert (who was hit up by the NYTimes for a quote the week before), a King County Deputy (who was the first on the scene at the Skyway Bowling Alley shooting on New Year's Eve), and a newly-minted Captain back from Iraq, several tax preparers and game designers. Needless to say, the conversation at the table was spirited and as good as steaks.

Afterwards some of the gang retired to the house, where they played classic D&D into the wee hours. A good time was had by all, and with the completion of the Lovely Bride's birthday and that of my mother's (Hi, Mom!), the holiday season for me finally comes to a close.

So I guess its time to take down the tree...

More later,

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Wet and Dry

So if I had hopes that things would improve in January, I hoped in vain.

It is not anything major, and Lord knows that there are those who have been kicked around by Mom Nature in this state much more than us here on Grubb Street, but the reign of petty frustrations continues. It is sort of like getting paper cuts all over your body, then streaking through a lemon juice shower.

The weather continues to be flaky for the Pacific Northwest, as in the rest of the country, including the Eastern Midwest (sunny and warm) and the Western Midwest (buried under snow). We had a dusting of snow after Christmas, which would normally have siezed up the area were it not for the horrible storms earlier in the month. Then rain. Lots and lots of rain. Not Seattle rain, either, but Chicago rain - big heavy drops, applied continually. Low areas were flooded out (Including the main drag in Auburn, trapping me there after my regular check-up), and standing water everywhere as the soil and drainage systems were overloaded. Five inches since the New Year and its only the 3rd.

And due to this (maybe), the water main serving our collection of buildings in the lowlying area south of Bellevue cut out, leaving all but two buildings without water. Or more importantly, bathrooms. So there have been several long hikes over the day to the not-too-adjacent buildings which HAD water. Nothing critical, but still a royal irritation.

This is the way the world ends, not with a bang, nor with a wimper, but by being pecked to death by baby ducks.

More later,

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Gassing Up (Again)

So a couple months ago I started keying in on gas prices, in particular on the fact that they were dropping nation-wide in the weeks leading up to an important election. Notable sage heads and magazines all noticed this phenomenon, but concluded it was due to regular market forces as opposed to any sinister market manipulation. Of course, a nail in the coffin to this theory would be if, say, after the election, prices started climbing back up again.

And sunovagun, if that didn't happen. The Seattle Times had a graphic in the Business section over the break (unfortunately not on its web site that I can find) that shows Seattle area gas prices hitting their lowest on about 9 November, and have been inching their way back up ever since. This price rise shouldn't be a surprise to drivers in the area, but it has been relatively quiet on the news front, as previous rises have been.

Well, its not really news, until someone brings it up on the radio and connects some of the dots. Oh, wait a minute, someone has. Conspiracy, anyone?

More later,

Monday, January 01, 2007

The Lost Week

So the company was closed down between Christmas and New Years, and I had intentions of making the week off count. Some writing that needed to be done, a short story that needed to be finished, and outline that begged to be completed, some entries to this blog that I've been mulling about for way too long, cleaning up my office, and cutting down on the clutter that is in the downstairs archive room.

In reality, I did none of those things. I did end up playing a lot of games, though, which was nice.

Part of it was the timing. Saturday and Sunday were primarily in prep work for the Holiday Dinner, Monday the dinner itself, and Tuesday the cleanup and a general collapse. Wednesday I ended up doing lunch with an old friend who was getting back into World of Warcraft, and much of Wed and Thur were taken up with grinding up my original Tauren Hunter, Thunderchild, to level 42 (Of sufficient level for a mount, but, unforturnately, not enough gold). Thursday night was gaming with friends, Friday and Saturday with other computer games I have been promising to check out, now that I have a new Dell 1710 Behemoth. Sunday we had an open house for gaming, and today I managed to accomplish one thing on my original list - get to the Dead Sea Scroll exhibit at the Pacific Science Center (an odd venue, since the center is an IMAX-and-hand's-on-demonstration kinda place).

So I've been playing a lot of games.

WoW felt like going back to your own highschool, and now that I have been part of creation of these, I can see a lot of seams and rivets holding the thing together that I didn't notice before. A highpoint was finding Landro Luckshot in Booty Bay, a character I created for Upper Deck for their promotion for the licensed card game (If you run into him, he'll offer a bunch of stuff, but only if you can give him the secret code from the cards). But I am looking at story more, now, since its the sort of thing I've been involved in, and I am very aware of the huge amount of "Go Here Kill This" sort of quests that exist as jumbled chapters in a larger tome.

I also waded through most of the tutorial of Oblivion: Elder Scrolls IV, which is interesting, though off-putting in a number of small ways. The looks for most of the characters look like cavemen from those insurance company commercials, with ruddy looks and heavy jaws. The character animation looks a bit off a well, parts of it too animated (the facial muscles look like they are in continual spasm) while others not nearly enough (one of the guards talking to me in first person reminded me of a South Park character for its animation). The background visuals are stunning. Weirdly enough, the use of recognizable name talent (Patrick Stewart as the king who just happens to need your jail cell to escape the palace) actually is more off-putting than inclusive. The fact you immediately recognize the voice pulls you out of the fantasy. I'm not far enough along in the story to give more comments than that.

The voice talent was also an irritation on Civilization IV, though in this case it was another actor I liked, Leonard Nimoy. Civilization has the same "plot" in each version - you start with a settler in the stone age and you are supposed to get to Alpha Centauri. And Civ II did probably the coolest Wonder cinematics ever put together, which the versions since then - III, VI, and Call to Power, have not managed to pull off. In IV, when you get a new tech, you get a quote, which Nimoy reads aloud. I'm not certain on this, but I think it is going to be a feature I am disengaging. Still getting the hang of the differences in the new version, so I can't really comment much beyond look and feel (the stylized battle animations are nice, and the city construction that makes every city on the board look individual looks good).

In non-computer games I ended up playing Clue Mysteries, Betrayal in the House on Horror Hill, Carcasonne, Ticket to Ride, and kibutzed on Settlers of Catan. Clue Mysteries is an attempt to fix some of the challenges of the original game by providing more plot and characterizations and get it away from that murder-thing (in the mystery we we working on, the "crime" was the discharging of an antique pistol, which didn't even graze anybody). Betrayal is an excellent game in the tradition of Pacesetter's old Black Mourn Manor, and breaks the game into two parts - the explore the house phase, followed by the discover the nameless evil phase, where things go horribly, horribly wrong. As an entertainment, it is better than most of the programming on the SciFi channel, but given the huge number of random variables in the game, one side or the other can be overpowering when the nameless evil is revealed.

Ticket to Ride I got for the Lovely Bride, as we both love train games, but this one may be just a bit TOO competitive, as it is easy to keep an opponent out of particular cities through overbuilding (I ran afoul of her when I took the direct route into Dallas - she has since forgiven me - she says). We did, however, addict The Monkey King to the game, though we understand that there is a kinder, gentler European edition that may be better for our needs. Similar in addictive experiences was teaching Ellie, the wife of one of the Lovely Bride's gaming gang regulars, how to play Settlers. She got into it quickly and deeply. It is a nice reminder of how a well-designed game can just suck you in.

Other than all that gaming, not a lot has been accomplished over the past week. The only other thing that has pulled me away from social and computer gaming has been Thomas Pynchon's latest bugsmasher of a tome, Against the Day. I had finally escaped from the wieghty tomes of Stephenson's Baroque Cycle and this monster lands, and it pulls me in immediately (opening sections involve airships, and I'm a sucker for them). So something else is demanding my time.

And all the stuff I needed to do? I will have to get done, but now within the course of my daily life. I just want to warn all those people who are making the New Years Resolution to "Play More Games" that they may be cursed by their desires.

More later,