Stone of Remembrance

October 11, 2007

Between the Seconds

Filed under: Commentary — admin @ 12:42

These are pretty cool: images of stopped action.

October 9, 2007

Y2Kurse

Filed under: Baseball, Commentary — admin @ 07:53

This isn’t at all how it was supposed to happen.

First, the Yankees had a terrible start. This has happened before, but it was particularly bad this year, given the high payroll and the expectations – and then the addition of Roger Clemens, who had returned to “pitch them to the pennant.” The Red Sox had jumped far out in the lead, and there was talk of running away in the East – 14 1/2 games ahead at one point. But there was the ghost of 1978 to deal with. Only the most foolish made predictions.

Sometime after the All-Star Break the comeback began in earnest. Clemens arrived, pitched no better than adequately, and Mussina pitched horribly, and Rivera wasn’t himself. But despite horrible middle relief, the offense scored many, many, many runs. Torre kept calm; Steinbrenner kept quiet.

The lead shrank. The Red Sox played reasonably well. The Yankees were on fire. The Tigers and Mariners went in the tank, and all of a sudden the wild card looked possible. There was even talk of overtaking us. This would be the great comeback for the high-payroll team. (Nice to hear it, since they suffered the result of the greatest comeback ever in 2004.)

Manny went on a 24-game vacation. The Sox dropped two of three in Yankee Stadium, then got swept at Fenway. Jonathan Papelbon turned mortal. The Red Sox turned up a stellar rookie – Jacoby Ellsbury – and the Yankees had their own: Joba Chamberlain. Yankee broadcasts became more and more difficult to listen to (there’s nothing like the September arrogance on the Yankee Radio Network.)

Somehow they never quite caught up. No problem: wild card teams had consistently gone deep into the playoffs. The matchups were perfect: the Yankees had had trouble with the Angels all year, but “owned” the Indians and had “figured out” C.C. Sabathia. Yankees in 4. There was even no Met distraction: they’d given up a 7-game lead with 17 to go and finished one game behind the Phillies.

It was all set up for another “destiny and mystique” October.

Oops.

The Yankees didn’t own the Indians after all. There was the bug incident in Cleveland (the sort of twist of fate that always seemed to turn in New York’s favor in the past). And despite the fact that they came back big in Game 3, Roger Clemens left with an owie as expected. Steinbrenner even made his usual stupid comments. But Eric Wedge was made to look like a genius: he brought Paul Byrd out in Game 4 and he danced through six innings, turning it over to the bullpen, including the very scary Joe Borowski.

Now the big bucks payroll team will get shaken up, starting with the manager, and ending with the best player in baseball (who finally had a couple of hits, though I expect Steve Summers to continue to label him “A-Fraud” on WFAN. Sweet music.) Who knows who’ll write his $30M paycheck next year?


Sad A-Rod Face. Again.

Indians – Red Sox starts Friday. Each team has strengths and weaknesses; both deserve to be in the ALCS. As Curt Schilling famously said a few years ago, “Destiny and mystique sound like a couple of strippers.”

The Y2K curse continues.

October 6, 2007

Funny Money

Filed under: Commentary — admin @ 15:57

Okay, now this is funny. Apparently these are only parodies, though one can only wish that they actually turned up in change.

Enjoy.

October 5, 2007

Going to Philcon

Filed under: Commentary — admin @ 09:53

I’ve accepted an invitation to Philcon in Philadelphia, which I’ve missed for a couple of years.

Philcon will take place on the weekend prior to Thanksgiving, November 16-18. I’ll be there all weekend.

Winnowing the Game Collection: Round 3

Filed under: Games — admin @ 09:42

The game collection contraction effort has reached the third round. In the first go and second go we kept five full-sized games and one small card game, gave the thumbs-down to eight games, and have retained one for consideration.

Here are the games in Round 3. Again, please keep my objective in mind: to send games away that don’t get played, not to pass judgement on games that might be favorites (but not our favorites.)

Medieval Merchant

This game is a Christwart Conrad design, originally published in 1998. It didn’t get played during the second round, primarily because it’s not much of a two-player game and I think it’s a bit outside A.’s wheelhouse, and has been retained for this round.

UPDATE 14 September: After a long delay, we’ve gotten back to this list. Medieval Merchant doesn’t do anything for L., so it will go to our game club to be played, or go on the trade pile.

VERDICT: Looks like it goes.

Attika

A 2003 game from Marcel-André Cassasola-Merkle, this is a tile laying game with multiple paths to victory. His 2007 Taluva has a very similar feel, but Attika is a much more intricate game. Building tiles are placed on a player mat and then moved to the modular board; buildings are easier to place when they are part of a sequence, and so forth.


Game in Progress

UPDATE 16 September: L. and I played this a couple of times, and she found it more interesting than Capitol (already traded away), and more enjoyable than Medina.

VERDICT: It stays.

Goldland

This is an exploration game from Wolfgang Kramer – the quest for the secret temple in the lower right corner of the board. It’s a beautifully-produced game: nice components for the equipment and the treasures, wooden pieces for camps and explorers as well as thick gold disks.

The game is fun to play and doesn’t take a long time. My concern is that the game plays essentially the same way each time, and the play might be mechanical making it uninteresting.


Lookin’ for that Temple of Doom

Muscat

This 2001 game was originally published by a small game company, and was described as “advanced rock-paper-scissors”, but there’s more to it than that. Tiles represent performers, and using a simple mechanism they are promoted upward toward the Sultan’s palace (the top of the board) or down into the street. The game was a limited edition and was rereleased by Winning Moves as Message to the Czar; we don’t own that version, and apparently the victory conditions were changed and broken.

I’m not sure if the game is interesting enough to keep, but it is unusual. I’d like to see this one stay, but it may depend on how it strikes the ladies.

VERDICT: We’ll keep it for now.

Torres

The 1999 SdJ winner is an abstract building game that has just been re-released with new graphic design. Still, at heart, it’s one of those games that people either like or don’t – Kramer/Kiesling seem to be good at designing games like that.

We have a copy of it because of a late prize table pick. I’ll be interested to see L.’s take on the game – maybe she’ll be one of the folks that like it.

Medina

Stefan Dorra doesn’t have a huge ludography – we have his Intrige and Kreta, as well as Heckmeck im Brautwurmeck, but there aren’t as many Dorra titles on our shelf as Kramer or Knizia. This game is essentially a tile-laying game with (as the box tells us) “beautiful wooden pieces”. As with some other similar games your success may depend too heavily on the inexperience of the person who plays before you; it’s been dismissed as a dud because of that. We’ll have to give it a try to see.


Beautiful wooden pieces

UPDATE 14 September: Beautiful wooden pieces or not, the game really didn’t work for L. As a multi-player, as noted above, it suffers from the problem of inexperienced players moving before experienced ones.

VERDICT: Looks like it goes.

Caesar & Cleopatra

A 1997 game, one of the first in the Kosmos 2-player line. The players attempt to influence members of the Roman Senate with card play. Our copy is in German; it’s rarely come out, and we’ll have to see if L. takes a liking to it.

UPDATE 14 September: We played this on vacation, and neither of us liked it very much.

VERDICT: It goes.

Blitz & Donner

Also called Hera & Zeus. This is a Borg game, in which two celestial competitors fight each other using legendary heroes and creatures. Again, it’s going to depend on whether L. takes a liking to it (or maybe A. – hard to tell whether she might like the mythological theme.)

UPDATE 14 September: L. really liked this game, and A. said that it looked like “War with special rules” L. wants to play it again.

VERDICT: It stays.

Kahuna

This game is another early Kosmos 2-player, originally published by Bambus; it involves area control on a series of Pacific islands. The strategy is based on creating cascades, where one play causes others to happen – very “Go” like. We bought it years ago and played it a great deal, but it remains to be seen if it still has a place in the collection.


Black is the Big Kahuna, by a nose

UPDATE 14 September: Now I remember why we don’t play this game anymore. My head hurts. Even if I drew the “right” cards, I’m not sure I can look ahead far enough to figure out what the hell to do.

VERDICT: Looks like it goes.

October 4, 2007

Philcon – Philadelphia

Filed under: Commentary, Walter\'s Schedule — admin @ 18:16

Philadelphia SF convention. Official website

The Space Race Begins

Filed under: Commentary — admin @ 07:37


Listen to the Sound

Fifty years ago today, October 4, 1957, the Soviet Union launched the first artificial satellite: Sputnik, a basketball-sized sphere that weighed 183 pounds. It shocked the American public, which perceived – probably with some degree of correctness – that it might be a step toward an orbital rocket platform, permitting the Soviets to put nuclear weapons in space.

This event began what is commonly called the “Space Race” – the United States Congress passed the ‘Space Act’, which created NASA and led to President Kennedy’s call for a manned landing on the moon. Ultimately, the desire for space exploration paled as costs and earthbound concerns grew, and Skylab fell to earth, and we stopped being as interested in science . . .

I would like to believe that we have lost the means, but not the will, to continue space exploration. The Cassini probe, the Mars Explorer robots, the International Space Station and the interest in manned expeditions to the moon and beyond are all in the public eye right now. It may not necessarily be a “race” anymore, but space is still out there – maybe as a target for private enterprise, maybe as a place that governments that are rivals on earth can be partners.

I was ten years old when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, and yes, I believe he actually did it. It pushed me toward science fiction and thus toward my current profession. And it all started a few years before I was born – half a century ago today.

October 2, 2007

Back Home

Filed under: Commentary, Travel, Writing — admin @ 12:33

I’ve returned from Context in Columbus, Ohio, where I was a special guest. I had a great time, though it was a tad rushed – I drove out, stopping in Harrisburg PA Thursday night and arriving in Columbus on Friday, then leaving on Sunday afternoon, stopping again in Harrisburg and then returning Monday afternoon.

The highlight of the weekend for me was the evening spent listening to and talking to Tim Powers, one of my all-time favorite authors. Along with a half-dozen other convention goers, we sat in the lobby and talked writing, publishing, editing and a whole lot of other things.

Go forth, then, and read Tim’s books. Meanwhile I’m back home, recovering from 1500 miles of driving, and getting back to work on writing projects.

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