Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Anachronism and TransAmerica

For Christmas, I got two quality games. Anachromis was a gift, and TransAmerica was a gift to myself.

I have spent the last few weeks preparing and organizing my new Anachronism collection (my gift was a collection of boosters, and I had to print the rules, etc., off the appreciated Internet. I also have been playtesting my new set of TransAmerica, learning and considering the optional Vexation expansion.

TransAmerica is a very good "best of both worlds" type of game. The game appeals to strategy thinkers but it also extremely simple (when ignoring Vexation, as I have learned to do with beginners). And I am not especially good at explaining games, or rather I suspect I am but I am inevitably scapegoated by malcontents.

Anachronism is a very good game, and well thought out, and I suspect easy to explain but hard to master. I haven't enough experience to properly say. However, so far I have seen that the sheer number of variables is over-whelming at times. But the challenge of the game might merely make it especially rewarding. I think so, and plan to find out.

It is considered a colletible card game, but that pigeon hole is not a very accurate one. The collectibility comes from diversity, not randomness. And the cards themselves are often (but not always) used more like miniatures than cards, but have the ease of handling a card affords.


Discription via boardgamegeek.com:
A non-random collectible combat game presented by The History Channel and TriKing Games, Anachronism allows you to take control of some of the greatest warriors in history and pit them against each other in a one-on-one battle to the death.

Anachronism began with a 2-player starter set pitting Japanese warrior Musashi against the Norse legend Beowulf. The game now includes cards featuring such notables as Julius Caesar, Sun Tzu, Spartacus, Alexander the Great, Blackbeard and Genghis Khan, as well as weapons and armor from various eras.

Decks can be added-to with various booster packs, each of which include a set selection of cards initially focusing on Greek, Japanese, Norse, and Roman heroes, with other periods of history, including the eras of Genghis Khan and Richard the Lionheart,now in the mix. And of course, historical accuracy within the cards is sure to be high, as the game does bear the seal of approval from The History Channel.

Variant formats exist for more than 2 players, and some cards in the game are geared toward multi-player games.


and get an (up)load of this: http://www.zazzle.com/anachronism_playmat_tshirt-235993902721058498

What have you read about Taoism? Winnie-the-Pooh?

I was waiting for the computer at the library about a week ago, and wandered along some book aisles, and stumbled across The Te of Piglet. I was merely curious at first, and then amazed. It was very readable, very interesting, and moreover a subject matter that I knew very little about.

It turns out to be the sequel to The Tao of Pooh, which seems equally as good. And equal is a fitting description, as it is termed a "companion book" rather than a sequal, per se.

Taoism (pronounced, more or less, Dow-ism) is an ancient Chinese-originating religion-philosophy, while Te is a Taoist word meaning (sorta) Virtue in Action.

For an excerpt about the Three Vinegar Tasters go here
and I found this curious: http://dudespaper.com/careful-man-theres-vinegar-here.html/

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Internet Has Failed Me...

I've been searching for an image from James Careron's Avatar for parts of yesterday and today, and to be honest far too much time wasted.

I really enjoyed the movie, but my interests are on top of that. There is one shot in particular with one of the best...features I've seen in a movie, animated or otherwise. Bravo to movie's digital artists for creating such a life-like animation! It was of a female's perfectly contoured athletic Na'vi buttocks, to put it politely. It was when Jakesully was sent to capture a banshee-dragon. She was stalking the creatures, lying on her stomach, watching them before the dragons saw the party. She was an unnamed character, as far as I know. The image I attached will give you some idea, perhaps. I seem to have found all sorts of moments just before and right after.

The shot I am looking for should have been easy to find online, because of its sexy nature. But all my Google searches, safesearch on or off, came up suprisingly empty. And here I thought I had all the sexually-deprived Internet on my side.

John Carter of Mars update - trailer

The movie trailer for Disney's John Carter is out just recently: (looking good)


and here's an excited article from someone I don't think even read the books:

Monday, December 19, 2011

'Avatar' movie Na'vi reproduction

I didn't see Avatar for a long time, but I really enjoyed it when I did.

I saw something online recently that got me thinking:


Under the comments (and I hope this isn't offensive plagarism) one user writes:

"I could have sworn it was already clear in the film that they used the ponytail tendrils for sex - I'm sure I remember them showing the two make the connection, and there's certainly the "you'll go blind" joke if there was any doubt. In fact, just after watching the film I commented to someone that it make the Na'vi connections with the various animals decidedly disturbing - especially since the efforts to make these connections with the animals are forced on creatures that are trying to fight them off."

I don't recall any "going blind" joke in the version of the film I saw. Do you?

A commenter says:
"Uh, then what is Sigourney Weaver talking about when she says early in the movie to the folk trying out their Avatars: Don't play with that, you'll go blind."

Oo, this Colbert link is very cool.

And on that page I link to, among other comments, people have criticised the screenwriting and dialogue, especially the "It's cool, I'm there" line. I was shocked these people didn't seem to realize that this was good writing, in the sense of being true to their established characters. Jakesully is a self-described simpleton, and the woman has only a rudimentary understanding of English (although very good). And then, a screenplay -- even an award-winning one -- can't be judged by the standards of traditional literature. At its most effective, it is meant to convey storytelling to all the various creative minds involved during production.

And this article is informative, weather or not the link works (which I doubt)

Ooo, again. Lots of making-of details
And this one about some language building.

And a negative viewpoint

More 11th Century Persian Poetry

From the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam (my punctuation)

The worldy hope men set their hearts upon
turns ashes -- or it prospers; and anon
Like snow upon the desert's dusty face,
(lighting a little hour or two) is gone.

Also, while you are at it: Reginald's Peace Poem


Some laud a life of mild content:
Content may fall, as well as Pride.
The Frog who hugged his lowly Ditch
Was much disgruntled when it dried.

Not seeing the connection? H. H. Munro's columns, short stories, and poems were published under the pen name "Saki", who was the cupbearer in The Rubayat.

wow, what a cool NPR show

This past Sunday, I listened to an especially captivating Bob Edwards Weekend. It blew me away, but I was also really caffienated. I am trying to find a podcast or other manner of listening online, but coming up short. Apparently, it is unavailable.
Anyway, the show had two amazing interviews: a supporter of the Occupy Wall Street protests, and some freethinking medical experts (from the People's Pharmacy, also NPR). Hour 2 was had less of an immediate impact, being about art.

December 17 - 18, 2011

Last year, the conservative talk show host Glenn Beck regularly singled out an obscure academic calling her an enemy of the Constitution. Frances Fox Piven, Beck warned, was after a progressive take-down of America and was responsible for a plan to “intentionally collapse our economic system.” The newfound attention from Beck sent Piven’s books to bestseller lists, but she also received hundreds of death threats from Beck listeners. The interest in Piven was rooted in an article she wrote with her husband, Richard Cloward, in 1966, “The Weight of the Poor: A Strategy to End Poverty.” Now her research and writings have been collected in an updated book, Who’s Afraid of Frances Fox Piven? The Essential Writings of the Professor Glenn Beck Loves to Hate.

Husband and wife public radio hosts and syndicated columnists Joe and Terry Graedon are back with a new book called Top Screwups Doctors Make and How to Avoid Them. Each year, more than six million people are harmed by doctor errors, prescription mistakes and diagnostic disasters – and about a hundred thousand hospital patients die every year from preventable medical errors – including Joe Graedon’s own mother.

In this week’s installment of our series This I Believe, we hear the essay of Susan Hall. (omitted for brevity)


World-renowned ceramicist Edmund de Waal inherited a collection of 264 Japanese wood and ivory carvings called netsuke. (omitted for brevity)

It’s time for our annual visit with Rolling Stone contributing editor Anthony DeCurtis. He’ll share his list of the best CDs of 2011, just in time to include on your holiday shopping list.

Bob Edwards Weekend is heard on Sirius XM Public Radio (XM 121, Sirius 205) on Saturdays from 8-10 AM EST.

Visit Bob Edwards Weekend on PRI’s website to find local stations that air the program.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Ruwon's Warbird - Star Trek CCG

This blog, like so many others I have written, is fairly unintelligible to those unfamiliar with my topic.

Ruwon finally is given his Warbird, the Kilhra. Well, almost to my satisfaction, anyway. Although I want to see a 1E version of the ship, it still excites me. You see, Ruwon was given short-shrift during the original game, and that never sat well with me. I hardly remember his appearance in the episode, but I do recall his unnammed Warbird and the threat it imposed. You see, in the original ST:CCG to be a 'matching commander' made a card especially useful and desireable. The name Kilhra is not canon, but that isn't a problem, but I do wonder where it originates. An internet search is unrevealing.


As you all know (ha ha), the Star Trek Customizable Card Game was lively mostly in the 90s, and was dead by the mid-Ohs. It began with Star Trek: The Next Generation only, but eventually expanding to include most canon, both series and movies. Decipher, Inc., the designers, tried to revitalize it with a "Second Edition" but that died, too. Like many CCGs (Customizable Card Games) it had fatal flaws. But unlike the long-lived Pokemon and Magic, it could not survive them. Biggest of all, these types of games are a endlessly awful money-pit. Almost as fatal, beginning players had a hard time getting on equal footing with established players, not only in experience and strategy, but also in the aquisition of rare or desirable cards. One reason it died while other other games lived, is that the Star Trek franchise itself went into decline, and especially its older series became less well-known. Nondescript medieval swords and sorcery adventures never seem to go out of style, is seems.

After the game physically "died", it began a virtual life, via the Continuing Committee. Now, I don't know many specifics about them, but they seem cool. And a great resource for anyone still interested in the original (1E or 2E) game.

Unlike my own 2-Player "repurposing" of the game, players using the virtual expansions from the Continuing Committee could play online, or with printed copies.

Hey, lookie here, the Continuing Committee has blogs: http://www.trekcc.org/articles/index.php?viewArticle=926

Also, some personal favorite Romulans:
Rhliailu vs Devoras

Thursday, December 8, 2011

What have you read by Murray Leinster?

I read something a bit ago, and I don't remember what caught my interest exactly, but I gathered I'd enjoy reading his story story "Proxima Centauri"

I found the file online, here:


He's (not suprisingly, considering my interests) a sci-fi writer of the old school. He wrote in say the 50s or thereabouts. He won a Hugo, as I recall. I remember reading his short stories and being impressed. Not simply impressed, but left with an lasting impression. I still remember Semper the trained eagle and the Sphex menace from the first story of his I read, and it dealt in part with animal psychology.

His science isn't spot-on, but it shows a flare that I am glad to see.

I recall a title of a story of his, "Runaway Skyscraper," which serves well to illustate his novelty of thought. Especially, that thought extends beyond mere science-fiction standbys to other settings and dynamics. Considering the era, that alone is impressive. In "Skyscraper" he deals with a pre-Columbian American setting, besides the SF elements such as the 4th dimension.

Another story also unconventional is his "The Swamp was Upside Down" in which the so-called Hard SF dealt largely with soil and geology and related physics.

I haven't read "Proxima" yet. I'll be in touch.

Monday, December 5, 2011

buying boardgames

I have had much success with eBay and Amazon over the years, but some other sites have come to my attention.


I heard that on Black Friday a game I like was being sold for $1 plus shipping on miniaturemarket.

Then, sometimes other gamers (especially at convention "swaps" or "flea markets") will offer you a great deal. I got Carcassone: Hunters and Gatherers that way for $3 and two sticks of beef jerky.

And, of course, with local sellers you support your local gaming community!

I will have to keep everyone updated.










What have you read by Stephen Crane?

Me, nothing. But let me tell you how I learned of this author, and moreover why I intend to read him ASAP.

I have picked up a book by Ernest Himingway which purports to be nearly-nonfiction. (My Hemingway is to round out the fact I haven't read him before, and especially to offset my recent sci-fi indulgences such as Opar and Gateway.)

In this book, Green Hills of Africa, Hemingway, speaking as himself, tells a guest his opinions on American literature, naming many authors and titles. At one point he explicitly says that the best American authors are... drum roll please...Mark Twain, Henry James, and Stephen Crane. Well, that took me a bit by suprise. I'm quite familiar with Twain, and have a passing familiarity with Henry James (although good, I hadn't expected him to be ranked as an "American best"). But Stephen Crane was a new one to me. Ichabod Crane, perhaps, but Stephen?

With a little internet research, I see he is the Red Badge of Courage guy. Ah, so I have heard of him, or rather his work. However, I am told by Hemingway his best two are The Blue Hotel and The Open Boat.

Hemingway also mentions Valéry as one of the best non-English authors. I assume he meant Paul Valéry from his Wikipedia fame. That's one of my next missions. Hey, I have made progress on my to-do list.

He also listed Huckleberry Finn as the best American book, or at least never surpassed. He suggests that the reader skip the ending of the book, though, putting it down once the slave Jim has been recaptured, as I recall. This isn't such a suprise, although it continues to impress me.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Do you know of the Genocide in Burma?

Burma aka Myanmar.

In 2008 or so, in Winston-Salem, NC, I met a man at a Bible study who had lived in Myanmar as an aid worker with Heroes Serving Humanity (IIRC). A guerilla sneak-across-the-border i-might-be-shot medicine-on-my-back kind of aid worker.

I found this link: http://eupan.blogspot.com/2010/03/burma-genocide-heroes-serving-humanity.html

The Burmese are exceptionally genocidal to many of their minorities, from what I understand.

It amazes me how people seem to think that humanity has become civilized (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-15736895) enough to grow out of this kind of mass-bloodshed. That's what they thought right before the Great War (aka WW I). And, judging by misnomer, you can see that "The War to end all Wars" was just one of the opening acts of modern warfare.

It is horrifying what is being done behind the closed doors of the Burmese borders. You see, most of the world isn't paying attention to what is atually going on, because (as I understand it) the Myanmar government won't let foreigners near enough to witness the genocide, forming elaborate demonstrations of acceptable human rights.


Be Not Deceived...

The title of this blog post comes from the Bible verse 1 Corinthians 15:33 (as I recall off the top of my head).

Today, being Sunday and making it to church, I was given much to think on. This time, anyway. It is always a treat when I accidentally receive a thought-problem, and this one is not the source of my blog, but is a reaction to wanting to blog about my conclusions, because I enjoy the blogging (writing) process.

When I began this blog, there were a few subjects I wanted to stay away from (such as religion), because they distracted from the basic "themes" of my blog, enthusiastic ideas (such as science fiction, zoology, ethics, gaming, books) applied to everyday life. My everyday life, anyways. However, that wasn't a easy choice to make, and this is somewhat a retraction. But not exactly.

There are many people who would consider my blog as it stands pretty eclectic and disordered. On the reverse side I have identified at least 5 major areas I chose to omit from my blogging previously: 1) religion 2) human sexuality and my preferences 3) my personal life and relationships 4) my job when I have one and 5) my health and related biological functions

I am very serious about my spirituality, and I think of my observations in that realm the most important blogging subject I could have. Thus, I haven't been very happy excusing myself from that discourse. Further, my attitude about human sexuality would be the most fun to blog about. It is grating that it so easily discredits a person, and so my sense of humor that I revel in privately I choose to hide. Likewise, my family and love life (and job, in some cases) mean an enormous amount to me, but is too susceptible to personal invasion, while my health is a vital subject, quite literally in many cases.

Did I forget any big area of self-censored blogging material?

Henceforth, I think it would be my uneasy policy to be more direct about some matters, such as my girlfriend (do you mind if I name you, lover baby?) and my job. Also, this website (blogspot) is really kind to allow one user to have multiple blogs, so I imagine I will begin a blog adjacent to this one focusing on religious matters. The reason for the schism is pretty obvious. In case I have readers of natural history matters they might not want to be immersed in highly controversial religious matters. My sexual humor and my health remain a bit more personal.

It may seem distinctly odd for a churchgoing person to have an active sexual (dare I say kinky?) side. Oh, well. That's me.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

War rhinos and bio-terrorism speculation

While reading this blog article to distant xenomorphalogical interest (http://scienceblogs.com/tetrapodzoology/2007/03/war_rhinos.php) I got to thinking about kaiju used in war.

(I could explain what I am talking about, but I think it's kind of funny if I don't)

When I saw Jurassic Park III, I was really hoping that I was hearing hints of bio-warfare using dinosaurs. I was sad there hasn't been a JP 4, although eventually they did make Rush Hour 3 after all, so there is still hope.

Anyway, besides mad scientists (Mechani-Kong and Ebirah) and aliens (Monster Zero, etc) and lost civilizations (Megalon and Manda) are there many examples of kaiju-warfare? And I noticed all my examples are Japanese. What about American movies?

All I can think of that's American is Cyber-GINO. That's sad.

Ooh, ever hear of stegodon or sivatherium?

Indian tea

my girlfriend's coworker had friends over this weekend who are originally from India
You take loose tea (they say orange pekoe is the best), and you put it in boiling water and let it steep. then you pour in some milk, a pinch of cardamom, and a little bit of ginger powder. Then you use a strainer to pour it in your cup, and add sugar.

Zelda Biology text!


This is so cool!

"Theories" need a rating system

From my ongoing thought processes resultant from Stephen Hawking's book comes more blogging. But this one wasn't even inspired by my reading, but was a later thought! I have so many more to go!

This blog post is, in part, a result of my ponderings following my "Savannah theory" post of a few months ago.

Is seems to me that even scientists use the term "theory" in a few different ways depending on context but also forum and discipline. And if national economies can be applied with a AAA rating, and much lower, why can't scientific ideas? Surely national economics is at least as divisive and debatable as science.

Anyway, in a Brief History of Time, Hawking says:

"...you have to be clear about what a scientific theory is. I shall take the simple-minded view that a theory is just a model of the universe, or a restricted part of it, and a set of rules that relate quantaties in the model to observations that we make. It exists only in our minds, and does not have any other reality (whatever that might mean). A theory is a good theory if it satisfies two requirements: It must accurately describe a large class of observations on the basis of a model that contains only a few arbitrary elements, and it must make definate predictions about the results of future observations."


"Any physical theory is always provisional, in the sense that it is only a hypothesis: you can never prove it. No matter how many times the results of experiements agree with some theory, you can never be sure that the next time the result will not contradict the theory. On the other hand, you can disprove a theory by finding even a single observation that disagrees with the predictions of the theory"


"In practice, what often happens is that a new theory is devised that is really an extension of the previous theory. For example, very accurate observations of the planet Mercury revealed a small difference between its motion and the predictions of Newton's theory of gravity. Einstein's general theory of relativity predicted a slightly different motion from Newton's theory. The fact that Einstein's predictions matched what was seen, while Newton's did not, was one of the crucial confirmations of the new theory."

Monday, November 28, 2011

A Nod to Aristotle

Well, I spefically refer to Aristotle for reasons I will explain, but all the ancient thinkers need to be similarly appreciated.

Well, I've been reading Stephen Hawking's Brief History of Time and I have had so many blog ideas come of that book it just isn't funny. So, expect more to come. If I have time. Haha, time. Get it? Ah, nevermind.

Anyway, it is suprisingly rare that I see the ancient thinkers given their proper due. I often see them refrenced and their ideas explained. But what I mean is praise, and an acknowledgment of debt. In fact, I consider it amazing what the ancients acheived without the advanced instruments of the modern day. This isn't meant to downgrade any modern scientist, and I think all good scientists accept their endebtedness, but I don't see it in print enough. Galileo and Newton receive much more praise than the Greeks, and the Greeks much more than non-western philophers of the ancient world.

Well, Stephen Hawking isn't as humble as I would like, but he does offer Aristotle specifically a point of praise I had never come across before. Aristotle believed in 4 elements, Earth, Fire, Wind, Water, and 2 forces, gravity and levity. Hawking rightly dismisses this as early graspings at reality, but he adds that Aristotle began a tradition in science that has never faded: describing the universe as elements and forces.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The God of Albert, Issac, and Stephen

This is referring to Issac Newton and is a pun of the Bibilcal phrase "The God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob" used to identify.

Anyway, this follows my blog post on Stephen Hawking's A Breif History of Time, and it a short rumination on the attitudes towards God expressed.

Issac is the easiest. It's pretty well documented that he had some strong pro-religious thoughts. He incorporated ideas of religious purity in his scientific experiments, especially dealing with alchemy. He is reputed to have been very unhappy that his gravitational theories seemed to promote a relative understanding of space (distance between heavenly bodies), on the grouds that absolute space fit better with his Christian concepts.

I do not know much about Hawking's thoughts on the matter, other than his concillatory language in his book, Breif Time.

He goes so far to say: "One can imagine that God created the universe at literally any time in the past. On the other hand, if the universe is expanding, there may be physical reasons why there had to be a beginning...An expanding universe does not preclue a creator, but it does place limits on when he might have carried out his job!"

Albert Einstein is a bit of an enigma. He has some great pro-religion comments attributed to him, as well as some anti-religious ideas also attributed. I just don't know. At the least (or most), he might have beleived in "a" God, just not in the Judeo-Christian God. Again, I dunno.
The best has to be:
“Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.”

I chose to make no comments at this time. I need to go blow my nose.

what have you read by Stephen Hawking?

My tastes in literature vary a lot. In fact, I take pride in the scope of my study, whether fictional or non-fiction. I set down the Poe book of short stories I've been reading (because after dark is not a good time for me to be reading Poe, on the chance I stumbled across one of his more disturing moments) and took up an old used copy of A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking.

I am only a few chapters into it, but I think i can already make some general comments.

This books firstly is seriously outdated (printed in 1988) but I wouldn't know the difference. That's sad, in a way, but nothing that troubles me overmuch. What amazed me was being reminded how old Eistein and his General Theory of Relativity is, about equal with the invention airplanes. There have been many steps since then, but nothing nearly as monumental. I think that the concepts of multiple universes is an up-to-date idea.

This book, A Breif History, succeeds very well I think at popular readability. The author lost me a few times, but that happens. I couldn't help but notice (from it's novelty) the vague considerations made toward a God-centered universe, or at least an Intelligent Design universe. This books was directed towards a opinionated public, so I thought the nods appropriate and becoming. I personally like to see a scientist take a humble stance on his science, and that's not to dinegrate him or her, but simply because I think modesty is prerequisite for an honestly open-mind.

Speaking of modesty and humility, I was pleased I already had a vague understanding of much of what Hawking wrote of. I think it's due to my readings in sci-fi, most notably Asimov, especially his The Billiard Ball.

I'd love to hear some comments.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Hadon of Ancient Opar

I'm not as happy with Hadon now, because I dislike the inclusion of the Sahhindar character and all he implies. Still, I find the book much more fun than I am displeased. Oh, this blog entry is very disjoiunted and is mostly a collection of links.


Christopher Paul Carey got Farmer's permission to finally finish the novel. The title changed to The Song of Kwasin, and it was announced in July 2008 at Farmercon 90



saasares mountains (Ahaggar + Tibesti)

Flight To Opar by Phillip Jose Farmer
Those unacquainted with Hadon of Ancient Opar , volume one of the Ancient Opar series, should refer to the map following. This shows the two central African seas which existed circa 10,000 B.C. At that time the climate was much more humid (pluvial) than now. What are now the Chad Basin and the Congo Basin were covered with fresh water, bodies whose area equaled and perhaps surpassed that of the present-day Mediterranean. The Ice Age was dying, but large parts of the British Islands and northern Europe were covered with glaciers. The Mediterranean was from one to two hundred feet lower than its present level. The Sahara Desert of today was then vast grasslands, rivers and freshwater lakes, and was host to millions of elephants, antelopes, lions, crocodile and many other beasts, some now extinct. The map also shows the island of Khokarsa, which gave birth to the first civilization of Earth, and the largest cities which grew around the Great Water, the Kemu, and the Great Water of Opar, the Kemuwopar. The prehistory and history of the peoples of the two seas are outlined in the Chronology of Khokarsa in volume one. The map is a modification of the map in volume one. That, in turn, was a modification of a map presented by Frank Brueckel and John Harwood in their article: Heritage of the Flaming God, an Essay on the History of Opar and Its Relationship to Other Ancient Cultures . This appeared in The Burroughs Bulletin , Vernell Coriell, publisher, House of Greystoke, 6657 Locust, Kansas City, Missouri 64131.

This series basically derives from the Opar books of the Tarzan series, and the author wishes to thank Hulbert Burroughs again for the permission to write these tales. There is a rumor that this series is based on the translation of some of the gold tablets described by Edgar Rice Burroughs in The Return of Tarzan . That speculation will have to be dealt with in an addendum to a later volume of this series.

Feild Report: MACE 2011

I got to play my Havoc on Parade a few times, which i was trilled about, but also Abduction, Carcassone, and also a few new games.

My time was largely used up as a GM, and then having a cold all awhile, but I did manage to tap into a few other games.

One was playtesting a newly designed game, Rape Pillage and Burn. The artwork was not finished at all, but the gameplay went quite well. The title and thematic element of rape is the biggest difficulty facing the game designer, who I enjoyed meeting. Like slavery, or lynching, rape is just too taboo in our culture to really be an accepted game theme. It's sad for the game, because it works well and was fun to play. The artwork was viking-themed, and reminded me quite a bit of the old Obelisk and Asterix cartoons. Remember them?

go to time index 3:15


I also joined a game out of curiousity called Star Fleet Battles. It is an older game, from the 70s but re-published as late as the 90s. Apparently, it was officially licensced by the owners of the Star Trek franchise, with the odd exception of the words "Star Trek". But it had Klingons, Gorn, Tholians, Romulans, and even collaboration with the Star Trek Manuel.
Except for the lack of miniatures, it could be called a miniatures game. I beleive they called themselves a "simulation" game. It wasn't my style.

In other news, I finished up Gateway a few days ago, and started on Hadon of Ancient Opar. Hadon is by Farmer but based on certain Tarzan stories by Edgar Rice Burroughs, but taking place in 10,000 BC rather than modern day. One thing that makes it so much fun is that is really does feel like a long-lost ERB pulp-fiction type novel. He imitates and gives homage to ERB.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

"Good Ol' Mountain Dew"

It's not what you think it is, unless it is after all, in which case you guessed well and have a good scope of knowledge. I might not have figured it out, before today.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3XV7mxfIIr0 aka "Pretty Polly"
(this is a bit explicit and I think representative of unchurched original Old Time music)


Hmm... http://www.mustrad.org.uk/articles/appalach.htm

"TRADITIONAL Appalachian music is mostly based upon anglo-celtic folk ballads and instrumental dance tunes....most of the one hundred or so variations of the three hundred classic ballads found in American tradition are to do with sexual struggles from the female standpoint...A large percentage, perhaps almost half, of the American variations tend to be about pregnant women murdered by their boyfriends. ...

... But, even as content was changed to reflect American locations, contexts, and occupations, many nineteenth century versions of the Child Ballads still refer to Lords and Ladies, castles, and ghosts, and retain as their central theme love affairs and interpersonal relations. The churches of America were also very influential and usually more puritan in nature. Many fairly explicit lyrics were softened and cleaned up. British paganism was frowned upon, and this censorship resulted in ballads where repentance and doom supplanted sinful behavior....

...The length of recording time also shortened songs to a few verses. In the earliest days of commercial recording each band had its own regional sound; later there was a great deal of experimentation with crossovers...

...In 1922 the first recording of a rural performer, Eck Robertson, was made. Many followed. To the absolute amazement of the urban record companies, recordings made by groups from the mountains sold in huge numbers and an 'industry' was born...

...The Great Depression of the 1930s put an end to the commercial viability of old-time music...The old traditional music of the mountains gave way to the beginnings of modern commercial country-western music....

...BUT the traditional old-time Appalachian music never really died off; it just reverted back to being a participatory 'folk' music...Many old songs, originally written for commercial reasons, are now considered traditional, their composers gradually forgotten."

other seemingly random YouTube videos of the moment:

Its amazing how a innocent search for old time mountain music can lead to groping videos, isn't it?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Ongoing Pipeline Nausea

This Pipeline sounds to me like a Lose-Lose-Lose situation.
America loses out (in the long-run, through oil dependence), the Earth loses out (via climate change), and the ecosystems of British Columbia lose.

I am not wholly informed, I admit, but isn't hard to see.

Conquest of the Empire: board game

This game was brought to our local gaming meetup last week, and I was enthusiastic to give it a try. It looked a bit like Risk, which I have a childhood affinity for. It plays differently, though, and some aspects are decidedly improved upon the Risk model.

The most striking positive change (to me, anyways) was sea battles and invasions from over the sea. These sorties were not patterned upon dotted lines, like in Risk, but were limited only by how many turns a player wanted to invest in their roamings.

Another big change is that a player is not eliminated necessarily by having all armies beaten, but rather by having their "Ceasar" or King taken. That might involve fighting to to the last military unit, or it might not.

Further change: If any military units survive your assault on the opposing Ceasar, they are now your troops. This makes sense considering the Roman civil war theme of the game.

I did not have fun during this game, overall. It wasn't the game. It was another player with a bad attitude. Even when I was winning, I stopped enjoying the game. (I'd like to think I lost the game mostly because I didn't have my heart in it anymore) I hate it when things like that happen. I only finished the game (6 hours!) because I wanted to be a good sport to others still playing. I am willing to grant that the player may have been having a bad day. I have done some soul-searching about how to react in the future, and I am as uncertain as before.

Curiosity is (in part) my Stress-Relief


The above RadioLab/ NPR broadcast was unusually good, and got me thinking.

It's a long show, but toward the end it spoke of how (in rat studies) certain factors improved a rat's stress levels, and consequently imroved health.

I think there were four clear atlernatives that had been tested and shown effection. One was taking out your distress on another creature (i.e. kicking the dog). Another was taking out your stress on an inanimate object. I forget the 3rd, but it's on the radio show, just listen. The 4th was acheiving a feeling of control.

In the case of the rat, well, maybe you'd rather not hear what horrible things were done to that poor animal.

But I got to thinking: It like a safety blanket, or a teddy bear, or carrying a gun around with a conceal license...

or curioisty. For me, knowing things learning things, is relaxing, and I suppose it might be, at least in part, kinda what they are talking about. A feeling of better control over my situation through knowledge. Maybe.

Bioengineering: The World Will Never Be the Same

I listened to the above on NPR, and really enjoyed the show.
I've never really paid much attention to this show called RadioLabs, but after this and other broadcasts, I intend to catch it as much as I can.

This all sounds like science fiction of 30 years ago. Very frightening, I think, although the soothsayers on the program think GMOs will save the world facing our 7 billion population (another sci-fi dystopian horror) combined with climate change (and yet another one).

I have to wonder.

And oh, I am currently reading a sci-fi book from the 70s by Frederick Pohl, titled Gateway. This is the first book to introduce the fictional Heechee alien race. I am enjoying it, and spending far too much time in my apartment these past few days. Ha ha. I bought it, hardback and with the original cover, for really cheap at Goodwill. You have no assistance in your browsing, and no certainty of finding anything, but the price is right. Anyway, real quick, this book appeals to me a lot for a few reasons. The mode of space exploration reminds me of Stargate. The considerations of archeology (instead of tunnel-vision of the future) appeal to me. The description and exploration of human relationships, love, and sexuality is refreshing to some degree (especially among older sci-fi). Lastly, the realistic portrayal of a sparsely populated galaxy appeals to me, in part because it is something I don't see as often. Aliens are cool, and make a good story: I realize that.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

What science doesn't know

I read something recently that caught my attention.

I picked up a recent special edition of TIME magazine related to this year's discoveries in science. (AFAIK)

It had many articles in many subjects, but anthropolgy caught my eye.
It had to do with new finds of early homonids in Africa, and especially with the ecosystem and time period they were found to be contemporaries of.

The new finds debunked a science standard that I had long heard. Perhaps you've heard it, too. In the supposed evolution of Man, the theory goes, apes in Africa adapted to stand erect as a result of tall plains grasses which emerged when Africa became more of a savanna. This was so thuroughly accepted that I always heard it off-hand and in passing, as almost inconsequential and self-evident.

Well, from what I gleaned in the article, the new finds placed erect hominids (pre-humans, post-apes) BEFORE Africa became largely savanna, or at least in a jungle setting. Anyway, that served to basically railroad the whole idea.

It all comes back to blood-letting, doesn't it? For much of human history, blood-letting was a respected, medically-sound practice.

A good scientist would freely and easily admit that theories are just that ... working assumptions, only accepted with a large grain on salt. To learn something new that debunks a theory should be received with enthusiasm. And in many quarters I suspect it is. It's just that so often the preachers of science fail to treat a supposition as what it is, an idea maybe true maybe not.

I came across a quote in a book recently, by Timothy Keller "Again, we see lurking...[a foolish] faith in one's own cognitive functions." If one can't see any better reason besides one's pet theory, then it must be so. (I will look up and fill in the quote soon). It is hard for me to beleive how many people can't see past the end of their own nose, so to speak.

Kill Doctor Lucky rules observations

I have been "tweaking" my house rules for Kill Doctor Lucky for some time, in fact even before I owned the game. I have some new additions to my ongoing tweaking.

The original rules for Kill Doctor Lucky are very very good, but I simply realize that accomodation needs to be made for speed of understanding with new players AND for adjustments needed due to player numbers.
That was the original games' rules' short-coming: too few rules variations for larger numbers of players.

A game that can easily accomodate 7 players is a prize, and for good reason. It is difficult to manage a game with that many players that keeps everyone's interest. The original game designers did very well in that regard.

Specifically, allowing a "witness" to "see" through up to six rooms in a row makes the game last forever, unless players become extra crafty. Experienced players would possibly prefer the original rules, but even then I think my ideas have merit.

The game goes endlessly unless accomodations are made for large groups of players, but also for small groups. Each set needs their own rules variants.
So, I have begun to think of this, and my earlier experiments were actually too cautious.

Thus (besides my "free swipe" rules variation):
For 2 or 3 players, standard rules apply (unlimited sight-lines within doorways).
For 4 or 5 players, "witnesses" only see up to two rooms away
For 6 or 7 players, "witnesses" only see one room away, i.e. only rooms adjacent

My "pissed off" token explanation worked very well. Everyone "got it" rather easily. A character gets more and more pissed off each time they fail.

And my idea for the Good Doctor winning at the end on the draw stack was a nice twist, which timed the game, also. It releived anyone who wondered.

This time I tried to add a possibile free card draw to the "free swipe" action, triggered by Doctor Lucky moving into a player's room, but that was too confusing in this game. I have reconsidered the card draw, and revert again to merely a "free swipe at the old man". The original rules' "free turn" interrupting regular turn order took confusion a degree past my free draw experiment, so it was worth a try.

This whole blog is partially (if not wholly) for my benefit, and as a journal of my "tweaks" to the game.

Evil is Effective

People don't like to admit it, but evil is effective. I would need to research the matter more thuroughly (and it could take a lifetime) but it seems to me that Hitler was pretty damn effective in making Germany strong. I mean, yes, the Allies had a lot to do with the rise of a strong Germany, but is seems to me that Hitler was pretty effective.

What got me on this line of thought was today's broadcast of The Diane Rehm Show featuring guest villian and author, Pat Buchanan. Villian, as in "vile".

I have to applaud NPR and Ms. Rehm for having this man on the program, as a balance to certain liberal-minded guest such as Johnathan Stewart. This was one of the most powerful broadcasts I have ever heard on her show, mainly because it made my blood curl and boil at alternate times.

And it is a frightening reality that his opinion represents a large swath of America.

I am using strong words, and perhaps unfairly. Maybe his heart is in the right place, as I am wont to forgive many wrongheaded types. However, I don't think so. And even if that's so, is villany maked by what is intended or what is done?

I thought about calling in, or e-mailing, but I didn't know the number, and managed to keep missing it each time it aired. I have written in down, now.

Also, in calling in, I would have had a hard time keeping my anger at bay. If the man had his way, America wouldn't be very far removed from Nazi Germany. There was at least one caller who disgraced themselves (and discredited their anger) by allowing their vemon to show through.

He did have a few good points, however. Mostly, a simple truism that a polite orderly community is easier to live in. Duh. That's one of the few points I would agree with. I agree with his in unity over diversity, but I do NOT agree that diversity is the antithesis to unity. Yes, diversity can bring disorder, but unity WITH diversity IS possible, and is an ideal worth striving for. It isn't an easy road, that's for sure.

What I found most startling was his fairly clear hypocrisy in advocating an extreme patriotism that reproached even loyal criticism, while his own book was as "unpatriotic" as it gets, in the sense of saying the America is in decline. I forget his examples; I need to relisten to this.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Havoc on Parade: The Parade continues...

Three quick interjections: I received an e-mail rejection from Target following my (flawless) interview, I just placed an order on eBay for HADON OF ANCIENT OPAR, and my other seasonal job and volunteer position are both going swimmingly.

Now, back to gaming:

I have developed a better way of explaining Havoc on Parade (my adopted title for my own experimental modification of the poker-style game Havoc with the linear game Parade) which I would like to share. It has worked quite well in play-testing.

I am currently signed up to GM (teach and lead games) at MACE, a gaming convention. I plan to show off my modifications there.

To wit:

This is a thoughtful combination of the game Havoc and the game
Parade. Well, Havoc cards with Parade rules meshed with Rich game
logic (oh, dear). Anyone mildly familiar with either might be curious
to see this unique (as far as I know) modification. All welcome. Each
player represents a general for the advancing French army during the
Hundred Years War. Each player sends troops (card plays) to face the
English, and any troops (cards) beaten under your leadership are
counted as negative points.

Each player represents a general for the advancing French army during
the Hundred Years War. Each general (player) sends troops (card plays)
to face the English, and any troops (cards) beaten under your
leadership are counted as negative honor (points). Cards are
eliminated (score negative Honor points) if they are weaker (not a
higher number than card played) AND if any cards are in the same
regiment (same color). Usually "strong" troops "protect" weaker ones,
although troops of the same color all are eliminated regardless. Each
soldier (card) eliminated under your leadership (on your turn) is
counted as negative honor (points) equal to their rank (printed
number), unless their regiment (color) becomes heroes. Whichever
general (player) has the most of any regiment (color) eliminted under
his leadership (in his/her points area) converts those troops to
"Heroes," which are not as dishonorable (not as negative). Heroes are
counted negatively as follows: -1 for 4 or more players, -2 for 3
players, and -3 for 2 players. New troops (the one card played during
your turn) are fresh to battle (immune from elimination themselves)
and simply affect the course of the battle for existing troops
(provide the benchmark for what is elimated that turn). Once new
troops are unavailable (draw deck exhausted), there is one more sally
(one more round, which each player playing his/her last card to reach
a hand of 4). Now, we tally honor (points), with each player adding 2 out of 4 cards in hand to negative score pile, while the remaining two are removed from the game. This allows a final element of unpredicatability.

Each player is dealt 5 cards to begin the game. Their hand limit can
never be modified and should never change (except in the last round).
If it does (thru player forgettfulness) they may, at any time, simply
explain themselves and draw up to 5. The complete deck of all cards is
casually divided into a part to enter play and a half to set aside.
The size depends on the patience of the players, and game length
desired. At least half of the deck should be used, but never the full
deck (missing numbers/colors add to the unpredictability of the game).
Choose a player to go first. Their card is fresh to battle (immune
from elimination the turn played), battle losses are counted (none in
early play), current player draws a card to refresh to 5, and play
moves to the next player.

problems in American child education

I am not an expert by any means, but I just got through a troubling tutoring session and I feel the need to post this while the subject is fresh in my mind.

Just to be clear, the troubling part was mostly not the student (my 4th grade cousin), but rather his academic (and thus mental, and physical) suffering due to a public education and popular culture that has failed him.

I have three (3) observations in the matter:

1) His education being public is at the whim of politics, so I cannot quite hold the public educators themselves responsible for this debacle. I have long heard the phrase "No Child Left Behind" has turned into "Every Child Left Behind" and I am beginning to think they are correct in saying that.

It has become clearer and clearer to me that his teachers aren't teaching him what he needs to know (and more particularly aren't giving proper explainations). I am making a broad generalization here assuming that his experience is commonplace and widespread. I may be wrong about that.

2) Low standards are the rule of the game, sad to say. When I was in college (yes, college) my half-baked efforts on some assignments still garnered an "A" grade, even while I myself knew I deserved a "C". Except for certain "hard" classes, where I felt I was more honestly tested. I actually had to work for a good grade.

In high school, I had the same experience.

Now this was at a public university. My above observations have been true in my experience in all public schools, but are quite possibly not universally true.

Part of this is due to popular culture, partly due to political correctness. Which is also popular culture, in a fashion.

But I think it is a tragedy, simply put.

3) Popular culture (in America, at least) has convinced children that learning stops when the school bell sounds. This is one area that I feel qualified to speak in. A precious minority of children (and their families) do not beleive that particular lie, and populate extracurricular academics.

Academic obesity, if you will.

I'm not sure that a child's laziness is really a culprit.

This is an even worse tragedy, as I see it.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

College isn't designed to find jobs

I'm one of the lucky ones. I saw through college long before most other people I know. But, even though in my head I knew college wasn't the answer to my chronic job-dissatisfaction, in my heart I always hoped I was wrong (kinda like I hope I am wrong about WWIII).

I guess I am in a sour mood. Chronic unemployment is my excuse, fair or otherwise.
I have deep-seated frustration/anger at anything to do with the Ivory Tower of academia, and really it isn't completely justified. But not completely unjustified, either. University education was falsely advertised to me (and many thousands of others) as a direct means to emploment. That, in turn, was mostly a response to the popular (and equally false) misunderstanding of colleges. Colleges were never quite intended to do anything more that self-actualization, and any employment benefits derived are a matter of personal talent.

There are a few exceptions, I suppose. But for the most part, if college prepares someone for the employment arena, that is because a student prepares him or herself. In my case, university education gave me tools, tools I used to make myself quite prepared...but it didn't help. Much.

The interesting point here (to me, anyway) is that except for the marketing people (and their masters) we (meaning: I) should hold no grudge against academia. It's not at all their fault they teach self-actualization. That's what they've been doing since the time of Chaucer. It's largely society that has placed foolish faith in them. But it's also a failure on their part to modernize and cater to the actual needs of students, rather than simply lip-service to job-preparedness.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Why do snakes have a forked tongue?

The answer: tropotaxis, or a "surround sound" tongue


Tropotaxis simply refers to the targeted following of chemical cues by an organism, I think.
I was asked a few days ago why snakes have forked tongues. It was asked by a kid, and was probably an idle question, unimportant to the person, and quickly forgotten. At least, to them. I puzzled and fumed and googled.

So, here it is. Science really isn't sure, but the accepted proposed idea is that a forked tongue gives snakes (and other reptiles, like Komodo dragons) a larger surface area to the tounge, allowing their sense receptors greater comprehension, and especially a better ability to sense direction of chemical traces in the air.

The principle to surround sound applies to the "tasting" of the air, too, soundwaves notwithstanding.

Well, I found it fascinating.

Oh, incidinetly, snakes and monitor lizards (such as the Komodo) are closer cousins than other lizards. I found that interesting, when considering their similar oral qualitities.

And oh, again, I misspelled "tounge" all throughout this blog, and had to keep correcting myself.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

JHW: Horrendous online application as usual

I just finished another horrible online job application for Target. I originally didn't plan on naming names, but I think it's worth naming if company's are going this outlandish with their drug screenings.

What concerns me most is the "or other specimens" clause. What? You want a finger or a toe? Well, I can't complain, I've signed my life away, whenever, wherever you find convenient. I realize that realistically it wouldn't be an issue -- at a minimum, the threat of civil law suits would make an employer restrain themselves. But this is crazy!

Drug Free Workplace Policy and Drug Test Consent form. I AGREE to
follow Target's Drug Free Workplace Policy and Drug Test Consent form
and understand failure to follow it may result in disciplinary action,
up to and including termination.

2. I UNDERSTAND that I must pass a drug screen/test to be hired by
Target.I ALSO UNDERSTAND that I may have to take a drug and/or alcohol
test, including an on-site screen where lawful, as outlined in the
Drug Free Workplace Policy and Drug Test Consent form.

3. I AGREE to provide my urine, breath, blood or other specimen(s) for
screening/testing for drugs and/or alcohol whenever deemed necessary
by Target, a collection site or a medical provider.

4. I CONSENT to the specimen(s) being collected at the assigned
collection site(s) or on-site screening facility and further consent
to have my specimen(s) analyzed by the on-site screening facility ( if
applicable) and/or tested at a U.S. Department of Health and Human
Services/Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
(HHS/SAMHSA)-certified laboratory.

5. I CONSENT to the release of screen and/or test results to Target,
to the company's third-party administrator (including its agents,
affiliates, or other related entities involved in the
screening/testing process) and its Medical Review Officer (MRO) or as
otherwise allowed or required by applicable federal, state, or local

6. I UNDERSTAND I will be given the opportunity to discuss a positive
drug test result with the MRO, a licensed physician who will consider
any offered legitimate medical explanation for the test result. I
AGREE to cooperate with the MRO. I UNDERSTAND that the MRO is not
acting as my physician or health care provider in performing this
service and that no physician-patient relationship is formed between
us. I UNDERSTAND the MRO may contact my health care provider(s) or
others to verify any information I have supplied about why the test
was positive (such as being on a prescription medication). I AUTHORIZE
my health care provider or others to give the MRO this information.

7. I RELEASE Target or any of its operating companies, the MRO, the
laboratory, the collection site, my health care provider(s), or others
who verify information I have supplied, and their respective
employees, agents, and affiliates from any and all liability in
connection with a specimen collection and/or test, or any employment
action taken as a result of a specimen collection and/or test.

8. I AGREE that information relating to a test (including its results)
may be disclosed by Target, the MRO, the laboratory, the collection
site, my health care provider(s), or others who verify information I
have supplied, and their respective employees, agents, and affiliates,
if I challenge this test or results, or if I take any action as a
result of a test in any kind of administrative, judicial, legal or
other proceedings relating to my employment or potential employment,
including but not limited to worker's compensation, unemployment
compensation or other proceedings.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Absolute Friends by John LeCarre

The reason I tagged this book as "U.S. politics" will be clear to anyone who has read the final quarter of this book. Principally, it is not very kind to the American neoconservatives and the Iraq War initiative by the Bush Adminstration. It is also quite critical of conservative media, such as Fox News. With it's British interests, it also says unflattering things of Blair and the Coalition of the Willing and British media.

As such, I realized that may have been why I found the recent LeCarre tome on Goodwill shelves...twice in one week! It may have been distasteful to many conservative American readers, and thus more likely to be discarded. Sad, but to my benefit. LeCarre fans may have been used to the authors' pro-Western stance during his many Cold War novels, and many thus caught off guard. I only speculate.

This is a very very powerful book and I thuroughly enjoyed the experience. I intend to recommend it to friends of discernment.

The only negative I saw is that the book followed very closely the story arch I have seen in other LeCarre books, specifically The Constant Gardener. The ending is different, for sure, but too similar to escape my notice.

Ooh: http://kidicarus222.blogspot.com/2011/08/legend-of-zeldas-considerably-less.html

JHW: After the recent Adventure

Since my last post I won a job, worked 4 long long weeks, then lost said job, and am positioned to deposit my last paycheck tomorrow.

That's a long story, and a bit of a roller-coaster, because it rarely failed that I was happy with my job on my lunch-break but frustrated to anger at night after work.

Boiled down, the boss threw temper-tantrums and was furthermore impossible to please.

It didn't take me long to realize the character of the boss (chef-owner), so I wasn't suprised or upset when he finally dismissed me. It was sad, but inevitable, following another employee he had terminated the week before. With the previous target gone, I became the new one.

The fact I didn't consider my job worth fighting for doesn't mean that I slacked off. I did an honest and hard-working job until the end, keeping a professional attitude. I actually liked the boss as a person, but he was unreasonably stressful to work for.

Okay, enough prelude, I was a waiter at an Indian restaurant, working for a Hindu man from South India. Tamil, I beleive he said. The city of Che'Nai, however it is spelled.
I feel extremely priveledged to have gotten to work for a restaurant like that. After working in hum-drum American restaurants, it was a treat to be excited about the food I served and atmosphere I worked in. I learned quite a bit, and experienced more Indian cuisine than I ever would have in 30 years otherwise.

Okay, my rambling continues with a book post in just a moment, on Absolute Friends by John LeCarre.

Monday, August 15, 2011

hahahaha I needed a good laugh after Perry

Reposted from: http://jenanistonsite.blogspot.com/2011/08/ben-stiller-promises-naked-jennifer.html



oh, no, not again

(p.s. I know nothing about "Young Turks")

I have to say watching Glenn Beck and Gov. Rick Perry confront each other aggressively is rather fun to see, especially since they are two extensions of one organ. Which organ? Haha


Monday, August 8, 2011

"Won't stand my ground, and must back down"

First I really apoligize to anyone reading this blog who is not from America: welcome, and forgive me.
If you are from America, please forgive me for almost assuming that America and the United States are interchangable words.

But, anyone in the Americas is likely affected by what is going on in the U.S. Actually, all the world's nations are probably affected, but to a lesser degree.

Anyway, listening to President Obama's speech today (8/8/11) I heard one item that suprised me, and bothered me. For all his downplay of critical comments (such as "far from constructive, to say the least" rather than a straight-forward criticism).

What he said is that the problem is that "some" people in Washington are "drawing a line in the sand."
Generally, I am not a fan of the way the Tea Party pushes things. But I *am* a stong supporter of standing for your opinions, holding onto your values and your sense of self. I mean, I want people to be open-minded about such things and especially to not be a dick about it all. And I am very unhappy the Tea Party pushed it this close, but the unthinkingly pluralistic view that everyone should conform I cannot condone. And how ironic that pluralism would seek to smother divergent opinions.

I thought this online artcile was interesting (albeit from a partisan website):

Ecology Today! and Renaissance Explorers, too.

This was a fun story I heard on NPR today:
click to play

The author's point, in a circuitous fashion, seems to be one I whole-heartedly agree with, merely from a different understanding. I have added his insights to my own. Basically, he has said that Columbus began a world-wide monumental casscade of changes, perhaps unrivaled since the extiction of the dinosaurs (it has been proposed -- not in this interview -- that global climate change might have similar consequences for the natural world). He says up to 1/5 of the world's human population may have died within the 100 years following, and along with the American/African slave trade and other changes, the worldwide distribution of humanity was altered astonishingly rapidly -- unheardof rapidity in historical terms.
And humanity was a very visible but small part of the whole change in the Earth's lifeforms. He talks about earthworms, potatoes, malaria, and horses.

Anyway, real quick, in my own study of history, this period, loosely termed 'The Renaissance Explorers' is what I have long identified as my personal favorite interest. This term is broader that simply Columbus, and includes the likes of Prince Henry the Navigator, Vasco de Game, Cadamosto, Magellan, and many others.

and for more information on past US malaria:

and for some cool Emu drumming sounds, 0:25 seconds into the video (unrelated to the post, otherwise)
(please note: the audio here does not catch the bass sounds well, and maybe a person must hear an emu in person to appreciate the full sensation)

Monday, August 1, 2011

Reaganomics is still with us

I, speaking for myself, had thought that Reaganomics had gone the way of the Cold War. Meaning, gone.
However, I have heard recently (and correct me if I am wrong) that before Reagan, the American government taxed the rich and the corporations pretty heavily, and that Reaganomics did away with that. I have further been given to understand that our current tax system has nowhere near approached the pre-Reagan balance (I am sure "balance" is a debatable term to use here); that the top income earners in the U.S. have a relatively weak tax burden, a heritage of the Reagan administration.

Well, I thought it was interesting.

Another thought: I can't see how the massive bailouts of the banks and such went through. I have heard a few people blame all the foreign interventions (wars) for the massive expenditures this country has had. Well, I'd be curious to know what was more expensive, the Iraq war or the idiotic "to big to fail" bailouts.

zoology: "oh, where'd you come from?"

I consider myself pretty knowledgable about zoological matters, and for good reason, but I am thrown offguard regularly with the immense diversity of our third jewel from the sun.

Recently, I met my first tamandua. Basically, a tree anteater.


I had no idea such an animal existed. Well, it makes sense (in a way I will describe later). I had always heard (well, read) that xenarthra was made up of armadillos, sloths, and anteaters. Well, I guess that was over-simplified.

This is the most recent (and the most spectacular) of my suprise visitors. The tamandua follows the triops, the solfugids, the chinese paddlefish, and amphiuma.

Perhaps I have been too casual with my terminilogy. Xenarthra is a zoological taxonomic grouping within the larger grouping of mammailia. It is equivalent in heirarchy to cetacea (whales and dolphins, etc.) or to carnivora (tigers and wolves and such). Xenarthans are exclusively South American (plus some Mesoamerica), and one of the older classifications.

The whole reason the tamanduas are especially fascinating is that they represent, to me anyway, a "missing link" between sloths and the rest of xenathra. I never really saw how sloths were closely related to armadillos, but now the tamandua makes things fall into place taxonomically. You see, their hooked claws remind me strikingly of the sloths, even though their body is wholly anteater.

Another cool thing about them is that they are apparantly quite common within their natural range. Which makes it even more suprising they never got on my radar.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

"Let's play Chicken," said the Congressman

I really hardly have time to blog today, but jeez, this is incredible.
These people (in the national government) are playing with this country's life.
I am not at all shocked, just ultra dismayed.

I remember hearing stolid people over and over assert that "America is the greatest country on Earth" and moreoever that same faith in democracy.

Such gridlock as we are experiencing now should be a wake up call for that kind of thinking, that what we've got is great and wonderful and flawless.

I'm not anacrchist here, not a hater of the tea party or of liberals or of any group, really, except, well, people my ideals of tolerance fail with. It happens. Generally, hateful people are hard to get along with.

On a happier note, I started the post-Iraqi-Freedom book by John LeCarre, Absolute Friends, and I am appaled at how good it is.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Mee-Shee movie zeuglodon



Basically, a zeuglodon is an ancestor of the whale, a pre-whale, and can be thought of in the same sense as a mammoth or sabre-toothed tiger.

Unlike Water Horse and other similar movies, this one made a strong effort to present the "lake monster" as a mammal. I would *love* to read about the thought processes of the movie-makers in the design of the Mee-Shee creature effect, but I have yet to find that information.

I would have said "zeuglodonoid" but I thought adding yet another uncommon word to this mix would only confuse the issue horribly. Case in point, the fossil creature is formally named basilosaurus, a reptile/saurian name, and although the term zeuglodon is more appropriatly mammalian, it failed to be accepted into official taxonomic use. I, however, prefer the mammalian name, and so did Herman Melville.

The Mee-Shee movie creature is most certainly NOT an accurate rendering of the fossil record, and thus my interest in the "-oid" form of the word zeuglodon. From my cursory research thus far, and according to this website, the moviemakers patterned the Mee-Shee story on the Ogopogo, a "lake monster" said to live in Okanagan Lake in British Columbia, Canada. Due to the protestation of some American Indian leaders to whom the Ogopogo represents a spiritual and cultural icon, the creature's name was changed from the original title. Nowhere in the movie is either zeuglodon or basilosaurus mentioned, or even hinted at, but I found it difficult not to draw some fun "romantic zoology" conclusions.

Well, anyway, I saw a movie in the cheapo bin rack at a Rose's, and it caught my eye hugely. Mostly because of the startling zeuglodonoid on the cover, but also Jim Henson muppetry (rather than computer graphics) and Bruce Greenwood, an actor I am familiar with from Thirteen Days. It was a straight to DVD release in the U.S, and thus a surprise to me.

As far as the movie goes, I didn't think it was very well-done, personnally. It comes off remarkably overwrought and slow, the villians are killed vindictively, and the Mee-Shee creature effect is pretty un-loveable at its best. As a kids' movie, it falls flat, and as an adult movie it is too kiddish. Perhaps if Whoopi Goldbreg had been involved, as once planned, things might've been different, haha.


Games: Expedition ***must see***


This game plays for FREE online, and it really suprisingly fun!

It's a dice game, basically, but played on the computer with fun graphics. There is quite a story element to this, which is an improvement over most dice games I know.

The story is set in colonial Africa. Another way in which this game excels is the fun "flavor text" included along the way. "I am plagued with worry" "I can't find my sewing needle."

This would actually make quite a good "stone-and-mortar" dice game (aside from the fact some of the apparently 6-sided dice have 7 faces! haha!)

It reminds me a lot of my Catan Dice Game, but like I said the "immersion" and story factor are greatly improved upon.

I HIGHLY recommend you try it. No downloading involved. I don't know how long this game will be on the website, but I hope it lasts awhile! Beware: addiction.

Thursday, June 30, 2011


This is a game I played a few months ago, but I just got a copy recently. (Thanks, John!)

I liked the way it played enough that John decided to find a cheap used copy for me.

This morning, I realized Havoc could ALSO be played very effectively and themeatically true with the rules from another game I liked, Parade. The original rules are fun, but getting a second game out of the same deck? Awesome!

To modify my Havoc deck, all I really needed to do was remove the cards that were not approriate, espeially the named-battle cards and tokens and most high numbers.

You see, I originally thought about using regular playing cards (I have a GI Joe poker deck) but archery seems to fit better. Moreover, these are great cards with a theme I rarely see (the 100 Years' War). Even more moreover, it just didn't work as well. A Parade deck has 6 suits, while poker decks have only the four. However, I realized Havoc has 6, and also the numbered cards that are needed.

Parade uses the numbers 0-10. For the Havoc adaptation, I used the number 0-12. Twelve being the archer just made it make thematic sense to me. But 18 (Havoc's Battle King) was just overkill (pun for a wargame! haha)

I feel badly for the makers of Parade. I suppose this is poor behavior on my part, but I just didn't feel the Alice and Wonderland theme!


A New Zealand merchant who explains it in only one page: (recommended printable)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

house rules for Kill Doctor Lucky, etc

I taught my copy of Kill Doctor Lucky for only the second or third time yesterday, and I am pleased to say it went VERY well. I am learning better how to explain the rules, but also which rules I should ruthlessly rip from the game design.

First, a few of the game items (cards, tokens) need a better description for visualization and understanding of game logic. One, "Spite tokens" should be described as "Pissed-Off Tokens" (or for PG audiences maybe Frustration Tokens). The idea is that after each failure you accumulate frustration, becoming more and more pissed off. Second, the Failure cards can be described as "Trip" cards, or used to trip up your opponent.


Most importantly, the by-the-rules game mechanic of auto extra terms if the Doctor moves into a character's space is just way too confusing. I simply it to merely "you get an extra swipe at the old man". No cards, except weapons, and no moves. Just murder attempt, or not. The game proceeds pretty smoothly without this. I tried taking out the "extra" event upon Doctor Lucky walking in on you, but that made the game drag on forever and was much more irritating. That was an error I fixed for further games.

Further, in the by-the-rules version, when the draw deck (which is large) is exhausted, you re-shuffle most of the cards and keep going. The concensus yesterday was that when we run out of cards, the Doctor wins, and we all lose. The night is over, so to speak. I was pleased with this suggestion.

Another suggestion which I liked was that the various character images on the Failure cards be used, somehow, via a house rule. It seems reasonable that if the character matches the one attempting, the Failure is +1 or perhaps even doubled. All characters are represented, I think.

On another gaming topic, I played "Parade" a month ago or so, and I loved the gameplay itself but the theme bothered me a lot. I also realized the game could be played fairly easily using regular poker playing cards. A military "Cover Me!" theme seemed to me a very good idea. Whether archers or machine guns. I have a deck of GI Joe poker cards, and maybe I will adapt it. Face cards do need to be removed before play, but otherwise I think it works.

This is interesting.


A New Zealand merchant who explains it in only one page: (recommended printable)

Monday, June 27, 2011

JHW: This world stinks.

in my ongoing Job Hunt Woes series (and existance) I have a new post:

Well, I was listening to NPR a day or so ago and there were two very interesting interviews discussing job hunting skills. One was a former Mobster who had gone clean while in prison and written a book comparing Mobster business practices with "legitimate" business ones. I loved how his comments rang so true, especially about modern business being more ruthless than the mob, more dishonest, more lazy, less responsible, and less proactive.

Disheartening, but nowhere near as disheartening as having to live through the realities of society.

The second interview touched on that, sort of. It was a job coach fellow who was giving "tips." What I have learned is that even good advice, sometimes the most honest and effective advice, is to sacrifice your principles. You need to pretend to like every job you've ever had, every job you are applying for. If the job is asking for a red-haired Martain, well, by golly, you are one and just need to fix your hair. I am disgusted.

This fellow was talking further about branding yourself on facebook, and how you can basically have no life in order to conform. He didn't exactly say that outright.

It reminds me of this scene from a movie I saw recently:

I just want to hear on of these job coach "experts" admit that the job hunting arena is a horrible dishonest dirty unethical mess.

Martian nipples


It's CORAL...chill


But, while I'm speaking of things Martian, I have realized it'd be good to add a "house rule" to my Martian Fluxx card game. Well, two. I am adding these mostly for my own reference, lest we forget. The Mothership should be able to destroy, once per turn, either a City or a Pyramid. I mean, it just makes sense. The other Martian Tech Keepers usually have special abilities. And perhaps the Space Modulator should allow the owner to "modulate" their hand at some point, but I haven't decided. Okay, #2, the Traitor (fully compatable but from a convention giveaway, not this game) should be considered a human and also wearing a hat (for all intents and purposes).

is this what you were expecting?

Captain Kirk is climbing a mountain. Why is he climbing a mountain?

This is great! Oh, wow, I can't get it out of my head! It almost redeems Star Trek V. Well, almost.


The above appears based on an actual interview (shown below) given prior to Star Trek V.


Since I am labeling this as "moment of zen" I had to also include the Axolotl Song. And if you don't see the humor in this, forgive me, but I thought it was hilarious.


Some more Axolotl fun: You get the humor in the Leopard soundtrack, right?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Enable your bliss.

My blog title is a take on the phrase: "Follow your bliss"
Well, I love love love the new television show 'River Monsters' on Animal Planet. It tickles me for a various reasons. It's intense, unlike many 'nature' shows, even so far as described as "Action/Adventure." Further, it plainly shows the anthropolical and cultural distinctness in the areas he goes. I realize it is entertainment, and take it all with a grain of salt, but regardless is it very cool.


But that isn't what this blog is about. I want to let others know what I have discovered, and to further encourage others to find ways to enjoy what they enjoy. There are entertainment forms I want nothing to do with, and even consider with revulsion, and yet I like to see people happy.

Well, I do not find cable affordable, and even if I did I might not get Animal Planet. My uncle has the same problem. I told him what I am telling you.

I went and found a pizza restaurant that, for the price of a burger dinner, can enjoy my one of my favorite past-times. I used to use a laundramat for similar purposes, although it was far less...comfortable, but also cheaper. So, think about it.

I have a friend how loves UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championships) but only sees them when he makes it out to a sports bar. This really isn't hardly any different.


(ah, and don't ask me why: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HU2ftCitvyQ)