Saturday, December 31, 2005

Cookies for My Feet

Good haul this year, mostly books and DVDs. (Watch the "Reading" and "Finished" sidebars as I work through them.) Books on robot programming, games, Sci Fi, etc. Monty Python and the Holy Grail and The Incredibles, as well as The Cadfael Collection, on DVD should keep me motivated on the treadmill well into Febuary.

I'm setting a reminder in Outlook for July 1st, to remind me to do my Christmas Shopping early next year. That would be so cool, wouldn't it? To have your shopping all wrapped up before going to watch the fireworks. It would also help smooth out our holiday-driven retail economy.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Christmas in New Hampster

Christmas in the Frozen North with my in-laws has become our tradition. So has snow. When I was little a White Christmas was a rare and wonderful thing. Then we moved to the mountains and for four or five years it was almost a given. After a dozen years without, it was nice to spend Christmas in a place where I can see snow through the window behind the Christmas tree. It just feels right.

It feels even better with the shopping done, presents wrapped, a fire in the fireplace, and a smug grin.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Merry Christmas 2000 and something

Finally got around to sending Christmas cards. Last year's, this year's, some from the previous melineum... They're all good. People should get more credit for sending a late Christmas card than for sending one on time. It's harder to bite the bullet and call attention to one's own slackness by actually sending the card late, than it is to stand meekly by and let the calendar roll on. If you want to wait until July or so to send me a Christmas card, that's cool. It can be for 2005 and 2006.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005


Some guys cheat on their wives. Some guys gamble. Some guys embezzle their company's retirement funds. Me? I drink Coke.


Monday, December 12, 2005

41 is a Prime Number

It's been a good 41 years. There are some things I would be tempted to do differently, but I probably wouldn't, for fear of risking my current outcome. Now, I've always been risk averse. The best thing that can happen while skydiving is that I won't wind up as street pizza, and I can accomplish that right here, thanks.

There are a few "educators" I wish I'd told to stick it, and a few "teachers" I wish I could thank again for actually teaching me something.

The older I get, the harder it is to remember to have fun. Energy and irresponsibility are the twin hallmarks of youth, the catalysts of fun, and are in increasingly short supply as life gets more complicated. Back before the Post Office started pushing Sacajawea one dollar coins we had the Susan B Anthony coins, minted in 1979, but nobody ever used them. I could go to the bank, get a roll for $20, and have all kinds of fun for free. The blankest look I've ever seen was on the face of the girl at Burger King when I paid for my whopper and large drink with 3 or 4 Susies. At first she thought they were quarters and was waiting for me to put down the rest of the money. Then she looked more closely and thought they were Canadian. Meanwhile, I'm struggling to keep a straight face and acting as if nothing out of the ordinary was happening. Then she reads "United States" and "One Dollar", and goes back to ask the manager if she can accept those coins. The poor, harried manager was older, and had obviously seen them before. So now she's managed to ring me up, give me my change, and I leave her to figure out where to put the Susies, since the register doesn't have a coin slot for them.

Maybe tomorrow I'll go to the bank.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Waxing Nostalgic

Last night I came across my treasured collection of The Space Gamer magazines from the ‘70s and ‘80s (issues 8-72). I flipped through the pages, waxing nostalgic about all the fun I had playing games with friends and all the new friends I met through the games. Each page brought back its own set of memories. Issue #34, my first, I bought at Fred's Hobby and Cycle shop only because I had an extra three bucks burning a hole in my pocket. "Hey, these games are *cool*" I said to myself. (I grew up with Avalon Hill games (thanks Mark!) but by high school they were either trivial or just too dry.) "This is the guy that did OGRE!" There was also a good piece of short fiction by an unknown writer named Timothy Zahn. Double-sweet, and I was hooked.

Back in the day TSG was my once a month connection to the gaming world. During the summer I'd hang out on the front porch, listening to tapes and reading, but really I was waiting for the mail man. He'd drive to the end of my block with a half dozen of the neighborhood dogs in tow. They loved to chase that white Jeep with the steering wheel on the wrong side, and then follow the mailman as he went from house to house, wagging and sniffing. This grand procession went from house to house down the other side of the street then back up mine. Most days, Glenn, as I came know him, would hand me a stack of bills, circulars, and things marked Resident or Occupant, two very popular folks. It’s strange that I never met them, since we lived at the same address. Maybe they were out all the time handing out business cards. Once in awhile though, I'd see that tell-tale white mailing cover with the bold black print and Glenn would flash a great big smile under his big bushy mustache and ask, "Is this what you're looking for?" as he handed me my forty or so pages of adventure, imagination and *fun*. Eventually he'd skip ahead and do my house first if it was Space Gamer Day. Small town mailmen are great.

I think I became a professional programmer in large part because well written game rules are fundamentally human-executed computer programs. Simulations, modeling the real world in simpler, well defined terms, are fun to create. Modeling an unreal world, a game world, is even more fun. When is comes to sociability though, computers and software can't compete with board games, RPGs and the like. We'd cook out, pig out, and play Illuminati until 3:00 am. The International Communist Conspiracy gets destroyed by the Boy Sprouts. There was the time a new “assassin” made his grenades with a double handful of flour, instead of the recommended two teaspoons. Once I got killed with a banana because my mom forgot we were playing "that game" and let Brian just waltz into our house with his lunch sack, point the banana at me and “Bang” I was a goner. Twenty years later when we all get together, these stories keep coming up.

Now I'm mostly grown up with a nuclear family of my own. I don't have much time for games these days, but I still play with my nephews when my extended family gets together at the beach. They always bring along a copy of whatever flavor of Munchkin they're into, and it’s a good way to connect as they grow older. It also solves the problem of what to give when holidays and birthdays come around.

To me, games are tools for having fun. New designs and game mechanics have raised the bar considerably over the last 25 or 30 years, but like any other tool, it’s all in how you use it. So I’d like to say “Thanks” to SJ and the SJG staff for many of the great games I’ve played over the years. You keep making them and I’ll keep playing them.