Archive for April, 2010

Something Humans Do

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

Patch says,

Between a recent trip to a museum, some casual re-reading of Lewis Hyde’s Trickster Makes This World, and a rather striking portrait Red painted of me recently (from a photograph — it’s been hard to pin me down long enough for a sitting), I’ve had art noodling around in my brain.

So here’s a bit about art.

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Review: Galaxy Trucker

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

Red says:

Patch and I have some very dear, gamer friends.  These friends are in possession of, or perhaps possessed by, a very active eleven year old boy.

We adore the whole family, spawn included, but the mixed generations make game selection difficult.  Most of the time, game nights are a series of compromises, and we try to fit in something for everyone, and the kid is very good at wandering off when the grown ups decide to play something truely boring.

Just for a change, Patch and I decided to go searching for something that would be perfect for the entire group.  Our list of needs was so specific, we knew we would never find something that would hit every point, but there had to be some game which came a little closer.

The list:
No direct conflict between players (when families are involved, this can be key, trust me).
Layers of strategy, with just enough elements of chance that players of all levels can still win.
Aliens, but not as bad guys unless the game can be tweaked and played from the alien’s perspective. (This one was quite important for keeping the kid enthralled.)
Rounds that move quickly (no eight hour games).
Art that doesn’t turn Red off.

Amazingly, we found something that fit every criteria.  Galaxy Trucker caught my eye first because of the space theme, which I hoped would include aliens, and second because it was put out by Rio Grande Games, who I trust to put out interesting, quality products.  (The box art showing a galactic hauler with pudgy pink cannons and batteries strapped on every which way didn’t hurt either — the art carries through to the game with a cute aesthetic which somehow doesn’t take away the sensation of being a tough, inter-space trader one bit.)

The game play is broken up into three (four for experienced players) rounds, each one lasting half an hour or so.  The first half of each round is spent building the player’s ships.  For those of you familiar with Carcasonne, this section of the game is rather like a mutual solitaire version of that — mutual solitaire because all the players are building their own ships at the same time, with very little interaction, other than chatter and a non-intrusive bit of competition introduced by way of an incentive to finish first and/or tidiest.

The second half of each round involves all the ships flying through space and meeting up with various obstacles and bonuses.  There is no direct competition, but you are trying to get the most bonuses and come home with the most cargo aboard your ship.

Because you are privy to some of the challanges that will come up on the flight (pay attention to those radio broadcasts as you outfit your ship, Captain) there is strategy to how you build your ship — will guns or engines be more important this flight?  Will there be lots of cargo to stow, or am I better off putting in shields?  On the flight its self there is also strategy, whoever is in the lead at the end of the round gets a bonus, but if you are in the lead when pirates hit, watch out!  Yet bad luck can make even the most careful of planning go awry, and that clunker that didn’t look like it would make it out of dock can swoop in and make ridiculous amounts of space credits, winning the round.

And of course, there are aliens.  Friendly, helpful aliens that you can build life support systems for, and who use their mad technical skills to get more power out of your guns and engines.

All in all, it was the perfect game for that little group, and I suspect it will play well with most of our gaming friends.  It even plays well two player, so Patch and I can get a game in before bed.  Absolutely delightful, and highly recommended.

You have time. Really.

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

Patch says:

There is one thing I wish that every businessperson with whom I cross paths would learn.  It comes in three parts:

1)  It’s going to take you longer than you think.

2)  It’s not going to be as much of a disaster as you think when it takes you longer than you think.

3)  You have time to do it right.

Emphasis here: you have time to do it right.  Because once today’s deadline has been pushed, faced, completed, there will be another deadline.  And you’re really going to start regretting the shortcuts you took this time around …

No Pain(killers)

Monday, April 26th, 2010

Red says:

I’ve been sick for a long time, but this week has been particularly bad.  Six months ago, I would have reached for the painkillers and mustered through at full speed.  At the time, it seemed like the only way to get everything done that I had to.

Now, I’m living life at a different pace, and trying to listen better to my body.  Days like today, it’s frustrating, and my body and I don’t seem to share a common language, but at least I can get through without chemical aids.

Garden Of …

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

Patch says:

Flash Fiction — approx 590 words

It was the Slow Time, and some millennia after she had laid down to rest, Kristen woke up.

There was a hot cup of coffee waiting for her, and she sipped it gratefully.  It was so very cold, here, and the coffee warmed her bones.

Here was her bed, and here her desk, with the coffee maker, and the computer, whispering to life.  And there was her book collection, the spines of the books straight, the pages crisp, though they smelled of time.

And all around her was the garden.

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Gaga for Stardom

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

Red says:

Lady Gaga seems to be on all the cool kids’ minds at the moment.  “She’s a performance artist,” they say, explaining why they love her, even if her music is cheesy.

So, I go on-line, and watch a few of her music videos, and just don’t get it.  There isn’t anything that makes her stand out from any of a hundred other over-produced music videos.  Puzzled, I let it drop.

And then someone sends me an article, and I finally understand what she’s trying to do.  She wants to be the Andy Warhol of music.  And perhaps she is succeeding.  I must admit that I have never been taken with Warhol either, though now in both I can appreciate that there is thought behind the art.

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Timing

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

Patch says:

I am currently limited in mobility due to throwing out my back performing activities far too trivial to warrant the days of pain afterward.  (Someday, I am going to throw out my back Rescuing Orphans From Doom or something and then I will be happier, right?)

It seemed like a perfect opportunity to spend some time with my DS, a console I have neglected recently.  So I popped in a recently purchased copy of Spirit Tracks, wriggled carefully into a comfortable position …

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Recipe for Disaster

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

Red says:

I am not known for following recipes.  This means that my cooking, baking, crafts, etc. have a tendency to be… irregular.  (Sometimes I hit genius, but never twice in a row and rarely twice with the same dish.)  Patch is forever encouraging me to just try [any] recipe as written.  It works well for him.  There is a reason he is the cookie master of the household.

I decided to try making my own gluten-free bread — in a bread machine, because I am lazy.  There are so many factors to consider with making gluten-free bread at all palatable, I actually followed Patch’s advice, and stuck to the recipe exactly.  It wanted two and a half teaspoons of powdered yeast, or follow the manual for bread machines.  Hello, Manual, what’s that you say?  Two and a half teaspoons?  How very reasonable that you should match the recipe, I don’t know why I bothered to  check, I am supposed to be Following The Recipe.

Of course, the bread over-rose, making  a huge, burnt mess in my lovely machine.  Sigh.

On the advice of Patch’s aunt, I reduced the yeast to one and a half teaspoons, and finally got a perfect loaf.

I think I’ll go back to my slap-dash, albeit research-heavy way of baking. My results may not be consistently genius, but they are usually edible.

For any of you wanting to make gluten-free bread in a bread maching, try reducing the yeast.

Flattery Will Get You …

Monday, April 19th, 2010

Patch says:

Some time ago, the comment spam on this blog primarily comprised impressive walls of links, interspersed with text (usually in Russian, for whatever reason).  Obvious and easy to moderate — the sheer volume was the main headache — the strategy probably worked just fine for sneaking spammy links into blogs without basic filters in place.

More recently, the spam comments have changed in tone, tenor, and language.  Nowadays, I get brief messages, in my native tongue, along the lines of “I really like your writing, you should do this professionally.”  Such comments always make me pause for a fraction of a moment, as the flattery appreciating gears in my brain get tickled, before more rational centers say “nah, it’s just a spammer, see the spammy links next to their name?  (Also, your writing sucks).”  And I click “spam”, and the comment is gone from my sight.

Automated empty flattery.  It’s actually kind of awesome, kind of beautiful.  What other little bits of humanity can we chop up and feed through a computer in this way?

Super

Friday, April 16th, 2010

Red says:

flash fiction — about 780 words.

The problem with being a super-hero is the number of gadgets that get lost, or broken beyond repair.  Oh sure, it sounds good: save the world, play with the latest tech.  but the truth is, it’s dangerous out there; and when things go wrong, you have to act fast and count up the damages afterwards.

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