Sunday, March 26, 2023

Reading March 2023

Monday, March 13, 2023

2023 US Sumo National Championship

On Sunday, we found out one of my friends was at the 2023 US Sumo National Championship in Florida, so we tuned into watch.  For over six hours.  At first I thought I'd only catch his rounds, but then Aeryn and I, and for a long while my wife, ended up watching the various weight classes, both men and women, as well as the mixed weight classes in the last quarter of the championship.  Made for a very entertaining Saturday, and I'm glad I didn't have other plans.

The photos aren't that good because I snapped them off the television, but still fun to grab.

Sumo 0 by:

My friend Justinian is on the right.  He noted that he was one of the lightest in his weight class and...unfortunately those of us his age know it can make a difference...the oldest.  I left out the picture where this guy hits him so hard he flies out of the circle and he mid-air and fuzzy and he looks like he's been knocked out of reality/the matrix.
Sumo 3 by:

You can see he's a bit smaller than his opponents in this photo.  But he said he was glad he went and had a great time meeting the other wrestlers and participants.
Sumo 9 by:

There's a full match here - don't worry about it taking six hours.  Each round is about 40 seconds of prep and less than 20 seconds of wrestling until you get to the finalists who can come to a standstill for ten or fifteen seconds a few time.
Full match

Sunday, March 12, 2023

Sarah at the Aster

Doh, gotta put the BR at the end.  I can cheat and use /sizes/z by default.  And the height/width has to be on the IMG not the A HREF because duh, links got no sizes, but images do.  Sigh.  Iteration on the code.  Go figure.

I found out almost last minute that Sarah Morris was going to be part of a Women's History Month lineup at the Aster.  I was dubious I'd get a table.  I knew I'd be leaving my wife behind as she already had a conflict.  But I rolled the dice and scored a table for two.  So my kid went with me.  Weirdly, despite all the Sarah events I've been to, Aeryn's never seen her live.  I really should have made it happen at Hell's Kitchen over breakfast, as that's a favorite venue of hers.  Hers as in Sarah.  Although it's a favorite venue of Aeryn as well.  Amusingly, Aeryn had no problem picking her out.  She's basically half the size of Aeryn.  At one point someone else singing noted that Sarah is the shortest, but has the tallest personality.

If you like local music, I suggest checking out the folks on this list.  The whole event was great.  They all did one cover and one original.  Almost more guitars in the audience than humans [I joke, the place was PACKED, but ten guitars / pianos / coulda-been-a-harp too take up a lot of space].

Sarah at the Aster Lineup by:
Sarah at the Aster 1 by:

That's Katy Tessman and her son. I believe she did a lot to coordinate this thing.  Gave up performing for a while, but now her son is old enough to perform with her so she's back on the circuit.  Nikki Lemire closed it out and she does piano and harp locally.  Hell of a performance.
Sarah at the Aster 3 by:

This is a Python test...

 I'd actually prefer to drop this into a browser add in, and maybe I will, but for the most part I'm testing whether I can hack some Python to grab an image [of mine] from Flickr and do what I usually do manually.

Well....that looks correct.  But it's one image at a time - it'd be nice to throw in an array of images and have it pick them all up and generate the HTML in an output file instead of one the command line....but, one thing at a time.  That DEFINITELY works better than what I was doing where I went to my photo, opened it in generic view, looked at all sizes, went to the appropriate size [usually 640x462], grabbed the url, grabbed the image src, and then cut and paste into a TEXT doc I keep on my desktop.

This has promise.  If I get a better version to work, I'll detail what I did.  Note that I STOLE this code from a public github user with the same need.  Props to her/him for doing all the heavy lifting that involves using the API/Key to grab all the sizes and craft the HTML.  I just wish it could pick the right orientation and size more easily.  But....that's what reading code is for.

Sarah at the Aster Lineup by:


Friday night we went to Eurydice over at Theatre in the Round.  I liked The Bookclub Play much better.  I was very familiar with this story, so it was going to be about the different take on a familiar tale.

The last time I heard the story of Eurydice and Orpheus I was in Mythology 101 at the University of Minnesota.  I was probably a Sophomore.  Couple years ago.  Anyway, I had my little sister with me who, at the time, was maybe 10 or 11?  She's quite a bit younger than me.  My mom liked to drop her off for the day to hang with me so she could get some things done, and I definitely didn't mind  It was fun to haul my sister along, particularly if it was a great big lecture hall class where no one even knew there was a stealth student.  However, on that particular day my sister asked if she could have a box of Lemonheads.

"You'll drop them," I said.
"I will not," my sister replied.
"You will," I said.
"I won't," she replied.

I caved and bought her the Lemonheads.  I would have wanted them, and I'm a softy.

So we're in Mythology 101 and it's the day where we're talking about heroes visiting Hades/Hell.  The prof is going on for a while about Orpheus and how he made inanimate objects weep and the gates of hell opened for his music, it was simply that beautiful.  He's leading Eurydice out of Hades and he's nailing it; he's going to get his wife back. But then, what does Orpheus hear....what gives him pause... but the tumble of dozens of Lemonheads rolling down the floor of hell behind him.  Of course he looks back.  And loses Eurydice forever.

The timing was perfect.  It was the moment that Orpheus pauses, the whole auditorium was quiet for a moment, and then the sound of Lemonheads rolling for what seemed like a full minute as all the other students tried to figure out what was going on and potentially whether it was part of the story.

In the play, all I could think about when I saw the rocks [who were actors] and the rocks' shadows [also actors] was that they could have cast them as Lemonheads instead.

The play focused on forgetting and remembering and love and which parts of love last and which simply fade away.  Eurydice - Eva Gemlo - did a particularly good job. 

Wednesday, March 08, 2023

AHHHHH....Wingspan Part III

Ah, finally, a win.  Glad it wasn't based on the points of birds only, because that was the one thing I was completely ignoring.  Proof that winning all four end of round events won't necessarily win you the game.  It was close despite that victory. 

Tuesday, March 07, 2023

ARGHHH....Wingspan Part II

 What did I say in that last post?  This is the AI trying to humiliate me.  There's no call for this.



I've been playing Wingspan against the AI because my family doesn't volunteer to play.  I lose a lot. I lose so much.  It's embarrassing.  Usually I can figure out the AI methodology [I think Ascension cheats and throws your card killing cards to the bottom, btw.  They'll have to prove me wrong]. I thought for sure this game was going to be different. I had a great balance of birds played, food cached on cards, eggs everywhere, good goal numbers, and solid placements including wins on all the objectives.  Fuck you Wingspan.  How do I know your AI doesn't just say "Nod got 57; let's just add one point to that for the smarter AI players and win.  He won't be able to verify the points without more effort than he's willing to put in and does he really know when we played that egg or cached that food?"

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Reading February 2023

I'm shifting my reading to 30 pages a day.  I previously aimed at 50 pages or a literary podcast, or short story.  But truth is, my goal is about 1000 pages per month and 10-12,000 pages per year, so 30 makes way more sense.  I know theoretically it cuts a book or so out of my schedule, but it flexes pretty hard from 2 books to 5 books a month regardless of my goals.

Ah, see.  About 928 pages, or 33 pages/day. not including the podcasts.  Pretty spot on - about 100 pages every three days.

Thursday, February 23, 2023

Con of the North: Day 3 of 3

Sunday, our last day of gaming at Con of the North.  I have seldom, if ever, signed up to play a war game at a con.  So I don't know what compelled me to sign up for a four hour, twelve person, stint of Memoir 44.  Perhaps it was the n00bs welcome language in the listing.  Perhaps it was a desire to figure out what the Memoir 44 thing was all about as it's always at cons I'm at and I've never played it despite having once been an obsessive war gamer.  You can imagine my trepidation when I walked into the room and was confront with this....  Where the guy in the hat is sitting, that's where I ended up sitting.  I contemplated whether I had completely misread the listing - double checked it - but it assured me I was in the correct place for a casual learning game.

I played the Axis on Utah beach during D-Day.  It was not too difficult to learn, although we did get dumped in the deep end so it was difficult to find our own reinforcements and in a few places we didn't quite understand what our options were.  For instance.  It took me a while to realize I should use my big guns against the guy to my right rather than the guy right in front of me.  When I spilled over fire and a few tank and troop units to my ally [not the allies] over there, his whole game slightly turned and so did mine.  The allies had to pull their destroyer in to deal with me pummeling my right flank which gave me the opportunity to take out their destroyer.  My opponent still did better than me - he had access to a lot of free points by capturing the beaches and some close landmarks.  But for raw casualties, I was cleaning up and starting to turn the tide on both sides, grinding him to a halt on the left and pulling up a wave of nasty reinforcements on the left despite him pushing ahead past the beach.

But it wasn't enough.  After about 2.5 hours we [the Axis, more specifically Germany] lost 73 to 74.  Yah, by a point, in what sort of amounted to real time.  You took turns, but not axis/allies/axis/allies for a whole side.  Each "pair" across from each other was barreling along at their own speed and as the guy across from me and I got more familiar with it we were really plowing along.  I suspect I actually helped the Allies win by giving him an efficient path to a lot of points that he could then spill over to friends who weren't doing as well on their beaches [I know that happened for both of us].

The game itself reminded me a lot of the Battlemasters game Kyle and I [and Dan'l] played back in the day.  Just slightly more complex and you had to take some things like terrain into account.  I had a blast.  And to top it off, at the end they gifted two boardgames randomly.  The guy across from me didn't win, but his son next to him did and dad told him which game to pick because he already had the other one.  So I got the other one.  But that means I got a game that he valued enough he had previously purchased it himself as a wargamer.  I picked up Warfighter: The Modern Special Forces Card Game.  It's 4tth edition so someone must really enjoy it beyond my opponent.  And it really does look like a lot of fun.  The box weighs a ton.  I'll queue it up for after a game of The Shores of Tripoli with my wife.

A few rounds of ad hoc Timeline: Events.  I stopped into Aeryn's room to say "hi" and got pulled in.  I'm glad I have this photo, because I totally forget to record my plays on Boardgamegeek. What I learned from Timeline is that I'm old enough I don't have to guess at the more modern events.  Sigh.  The guy in the yellow shirt was wonderful.  He uses board games to teach students history and when I mentioned I had Shores of Tripoli but was really after Votes for Women, he told me all about having Votes for Women and Marrying Mr. Darcy as games he used for teaching.  That's got to be a lot of fun.

Speaking of Marrying Mr. Darcy... I own this game but it's been a looooong time since I played it.  Aeryn and I both got in on the action.  With a table of eight, it's a little less fun imo.  The basic idea is there's a deck of events and you go through them randomly, all of them.  Each person gets an event and it keeps looping clockwise, so with eight people you can't really strategize because the randomness is going to mess you up.  I played Elizabeth and got the numbers I needed for my two best matches, but one of them disappeared in a surprise proposal and the other was someone else's second proposal when they failed to garner their proposal of choice.  I went old maid.  I still did really well as I had a lot of wit [yah, I did a good job of witting up the wittiest character in Pride and Prejudice] and other characteristics I'd managed to increase, but not a win.  And for both Aeryn and I there were a few extended loops where neither of us was doing much of anything.  Boardgamegeek says it's best with four [4] and I'd agree.  That would be much better.

I finished out the day with one of the oldest post Milton Bradley big box games in my own collection, Puerto Rico.  This one had been played so much the 'coins' had literally had their values rubbed off.  I had fun, but it took the full two hours, which is a LONG game of Puerto Rico.  A lot of decision paralysis going on.  I sped it up significantly by focusing on the collect and ship roles to literally run the victory point pool out early.  While I had a good time, it reminded me of why I don't play it anymore.  If you know the buildings well, there are some fairly straight forward tactics/choices based on what you have access to when.  You can "learn" the best strategy for PR, particularly if you know the buildings.  If you approach it more randomly....a bad building choice makes it very difficult to recover.  For me...I had a difficult time finding any cash throughout the game, although the harvest/trade strategy still garnered me a better end position than I probably should have had with no big point buildings.

Overall, a great con and I enjoyed hosting some games even if I wasn't playing them.  Definitely one I'd do again, particularly as it's still during the winter and doesn't interfere with cycling and the outdoors.

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Con of the North: Day 2 of 3

Saturday I hosted a few games at Con of the North.  This is Roam by Ryan Laukat.  He does Above and Below, Sleeping Gods, Near and Far, and a bunch of others.  All of them good.  But this is one of my favorites because it's easy to teach, uses the same nice art, and is more of a bar game at heart.  You're playing Tetris with your roster of characters who each have a unique pattern.  By using those patterns you fill up the cards which "wakes up" another character who had succumbed to a sleeping sickness plaguing the land.  They bring a new pattern. Mix in some artifacts that do particular things, a bidding mechanism for ties trying to control a card, and a coin mechanism/s, and you're pretty much ready to go.  One of the best parts is the way your patterns work depends entirely on where you sit and, unless you have an artifact that's good for a 90 degree turn [and only 90] your pattern is not the same as another player's pattern.  I warned the guy sitting near me that he had to be spatially acute to play from that angle.  With four players, it takes roughly an hour.

The first game they all sort of figured out WHY you'd want the various artifacts and how to force a bid in their favor.  The second game...much more cuthroat with the artifacts.  The guy on the right side of the photo used his to early flip his characters giving him a bit of a coin generation edge because character flipping flips the artifacts as well.  He actually did well both games and, in the first one really shafted the person to the south who was ready to win when he basically slid her off her landscape and put her in limbo for a few turns that let someone else grab an edge.

I played Final Strike which some folks are trying to get Kickstarted.  With four of us we played teams.  It's based on the idea that the last person to hit an RPG critter before it dies is the one who gets the experience.  Reminded me of my D and D days with Bob and folks in Monti and Chicago.  So you're timing your hits to make sure you get the glory for being the last strike....or, strike I guess.  The strategy is expanded because some baddies can only be hit by certain weapons or people unless it's peripheral [cleave] damage.  You can upgrade your weapons using other cards that allow you to pick an adjacent card from the tableau.  Might be left right/up down.  Might be diagonal.  Might be all directions.  Depends on the smithing you do.  Other cards trigger on play or reshuffle or let you discard and cycle faster.   It was a lot of fun with teams, but not a game I'm going to back.  It's similar to others I've played.  Although I could definitely see hauling it along to Arbeiter or something.

I bought a game.  Shores of Tripoli.  I would have preferred Votes for Women by the same company, but both were on my list as historical-based games and it was on sale at the Con.  My understanding is it's more of a learning event than a playing event in some respects.  Even reading the rules I learned all sorts of things I didn't know about that historical event/s.  Amusingly, I was reading the rules at the local bar between games and, when I left, the guy next to me who'd been giving me side eye for an hour asked if it was a book or a puzzle.  I said it was a board game about the events and he got truly excited and knew something about the time period and what happened.  I probably created a board gaming convert at the counter at Red Robin.

The other game I hosted was Obsession.  I set aside four hours because I wasn't sure how long four players would take including set up and teaching, including a bit of tactics I wanted to make sure they all had.  I'm glad I did, because it took the guys playing Space Hulk before us an extra 10-15 minutes to clear out.

That's Aeryn to the right helping me coordinate as there was time before their next game started.  They seemed to have a great time.  That guy to the north really got an engine going, cycling prestige for more prestige and gentry.  The guy to his right had an exceptional cycle going as well.  The guy to his left, not so much, but he did much better than he expected and made more goal points than the rest of them together.  The fourth player just couldn't quite catch a break/groove although she did just fine.  She just couldn't create an angle for herself.

Servants went quick.  I was expecting someone to steal someone else's at some point, but it never came to that.

I used my new coins for the first time.  They're from Viticulture.  Obsession comes with 100 pound and 500 pound coins [worth 7000 and 35000 USD given inflation].  These give me 1, 2, and 5 so they're a nice match, and even have the pound sign on them.

My last game of the day was Trans Europa.  It's a bit of a proto Ticket to Ride.  You get dealt a hand of cities and you try to attach them, trying to use other players' rails to do your heavy lifting  I won, although I will say my last hand of cities was pretty optimal and I knew I wouldn't have to play as much as the others and they'd hook up one end for me.

Aeryn and folks got a round of Blood on the Clocktower going ad hoc.  They had something like 16 people there to play, maybe more.  It was pretty raucous when I finally found them downstairs.

They're over there in the corner, although some of them are milling around. I have no idea how that near table managed to play/concentrate with a group of 16 engaged in a social deduction game.  Good on them for their ability to stay focused.

While Aeryn was finishing up, I hit the hotel bar for a drink and some fries.  A UPS Tech guy who traveled sat next to me and struck up a conversation with the waitress.  They were a fun pair.  I'd been explaining the convention to her [apparently no one else had] and him and talked local Minnesota beer.  He wanted to try one and I noted Furious was on tap but he wouldn't like it.  He had a pint and exclaimed, "This is what they drink in Minnesota?" I said I'd warned him - I find Furious isn't always for out of towners.  One of my favorite interactions was when he told the waitress she reminded him of his daughter, and she said she was older.  He nailed her age precisely and she sighed and said, "Yeah...old enough to start turning gray.  Like my mom says.  It's never your head first."  Good humor to close out a good day of gaming.

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Con of the North: Day 1 of 3

I had a long weekend.  I had Friday off as vacation and Monday off for Presidents' Day.  In retrospect, even if I hadn't had Monday off, I should have taken it off.  Aeryn and I spent three days gaming at Con of the North and I was exhausted by Monday.  I think I'm still exhausted.  That's simply a lot of sitting and mental activity to engage in for three full days.

We usually do Gameholecon in Madison, but we've never done a Minneapolis board gaming convention.  So this was the first.  And it was the first I've hosted a game/s at, although Aeryn hosted Carthage at Gameholecon before [with a rather problematic table of old dudes].

We had a great time and I'd drop it all here, but it's a little much for a single post - and rough on my typing implements - to string it all together.

The white board welcoming people to the convention  A handy place to find some ad hoc games, although there were several rooms where people were kicking up non-scheduled games. A semi-official at the event told me this year they had 1300 people register.  Fewer were there on Friday and Sunday, but Saturday was definitely packed.


Aeryn and I both started on Lifeboats.  I joked that this game needs a lot more alcohol.  It's a voting/positioning game.  Basically you want to get as many of your survivors to the islands as possible.  Islands are worth varying points.  Your survivors come in two flavors, one vote and two.  Each turn you vote for a boat that leaks.  You vote someone off the boat if there's no space for everyone plus the leaks.  You vote for a boat to move.  You all hop out of one boat each and have to enter a different boat. There's a trumping mechanism with the cards if you think everyone is out to get you.  So not so exciting with a group of strangers.  Likely much better with a group of people where you have an inkling about their decisions.

I played 5 Tribes while Aeryn went off to run some games [probably Wingspan].  I love this game.  It's got a mancala style of play where you pick up all the meeples on one square and then drop them one by one and the last one you play has to match a meeple in the target square and you take all of the meeples of that color and the color then determines a specific action, as does the square itself.  Some genii with special powers and set collection round out the point grabs.  A great group which made it that much more fun.

Arkham Horror 3rd Ed.  We played from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. and pretty much used up the whole time.  Your characters are trying to power up with skills and implements and find clues and stomp "doom".  Too much doom, bad things happen.  Find the clues, good things happen in the story line.  We failed hard at getting the clues earlier, although they just dumped on us later.

This is me, roaming the hood cleaning up doom and not doing much clue finding or monster ass kicking.

I loved this guys' character.  I joked that he looked like Joshua Jackson from Fringe running around shirtless.  One of the cards I read out loud for his encounter noted that it had rained on him and water and light were glistening off him.  Much funnier when he's shirtless.
Eventually this giant toad demon starting eating all our neighborhoods.  Not adventurers IN the neighborhoods.  But the hoods themselves.  As well as anyone in them.  At the end, almost everyone was et and I was down on that far end in an orgy of monsters, but not toad food.  It took us a long time to lose.  I liked one of the players noting, "We are a feast for someone's horrid master."

Ark Nova.  I'm not playing this one.  Klund tells me it's great.  I'm of the opinion I will never, ever play something with this many pieces and this wide of a layout.  Ironic when you see the Memoir 44 game in tomorrow's post.  But I didn't set that up and didn't have to worry too much about the other 10/12 of the board.

There was a Con of the North room specifically for gamemasters.  There was a ring to lock a chain to and disinfectant.  I don't know how the other gamemasters prep, but it seems scary.

There was role playing and Space Hulk and various mini games going on all over and several of the groups sponsored rooms and events.  This guy was upstairs.

 A nice closeup of him.

The vendor area wasn't too exciting, although I did get a game and Aeryn bought Pollo our cat a catnip infused 20-sider.  This was for sale.  I can't imagine owning this game.  When I was in high school and went on a bicycle trip, Joe came out of an outhouse laughing and laughing and muttering "Here Kitty Kitty".  The outhouse was papered in risque images, including a well-endowed mouse looking for cat love.  I wouldn't get two minutes into this without thinking about that.

The Medical Games room sponsored by one of the groups.  I like the baby.

I don't know what they're playing here, but it's very reminiscent of Circus Maximus.  I probably should have asked, although the difference wasn't likely enough that it really mattered.  Cool setup and they were having a great time.

The Con was kid friendly and there were a lot of families and teenagers there, including a bunch dropped off for the day by parents.  The whiteboard was proof of that.

I don't know who Ishmall is, but the minds of teenager gamers [and teenagers in general] are weird places to see translated to a whiteboard.

Another case in point.

Overall we gamed from about noon to ten p.m. the first day with a short break for dinner and a pre-con brunch at the Original Pancake House.  5 Tribes and Arkham were a lot of fun, even with the Arkham loss [although that really seemed to throw the game organizer, at least the magnitude of our loss seemed to], and Aeryn met someone who had been involved in planning an aborted Blood on the Clocktower event at my Arkham table, so they talked and made plans to get it going the next day.

More subdued than Gameholecon which was nice.  I think it may have been that there were about a tenth as many [or less] role players at Con of the North.  Solid family crowd and a lot of women playing at most of my tables.