jazzfish: five different colors of Icehouse pyramids (iCehouse)
I'm at the Gathering.

I'm doing better this year than last year. Partly that's due to having a room to myself. I like Scott R quite a bit but our schedules collided just enough that I never really felt comfortable there. (As opposed to Christine, who was asleep when I woke up and otherwise basically never in the room at the same time as me.) Partly it's just, you know not being horrifically depressed. Which I'm pretty sure I was last year. I'm also taking a bit better care of myself, both before and during.

Anyway. I've only been here since Wednesday night, because time off is a valued commodity and because Erin vanishes for the far north in a couple of weeks and squeezing in as much time with her as possible is important. It's been good. No super-duper new games this year, not really even anything on the order of last year's Ponzi Scheme. Some good 18xx games, some good shorter games.

The passage overnight through Toronto and training down still seems to be the best way to get here. I had a middle seat for the flight but they gave me some sort of nicer, roomier seat, so it wasn't bad at all. Redeyes are still the most reliable way to get me onto East Coast time.

I feel like this is the con of my heart, in the way that BGG.con isn't. A lot of it's the venue: the light's better, the noise level is lower. Some of it's just that I've clicked really well with a lot of people here. I could do that at BGG.con if I went back ... but it's loud, and glaringly bright, and super-busy, and just not really a thing that interests me, not if I've got the Gathering.

The people. My first year here Eric B started teaching me 18xx games about midway through the week, and my second year he and his gaming friends sort of took me under their wing, so I've pretty consistently been able to find people to game with and to talk to. And I'm gradually meeting other folks as well and recognising them from year to year. And vice versa, which will probably never fail to surprise me. People remember me! They even sometimes seem excited to see me! It's ... neat. Eric hasn't been here the last couple of years due to life stuff, and I miss him and hope he can make it next year, but Joe R and Jeroen and all have been fantastic as well. I really like the sense of ... community, I guess, that I have here.

In a few minutes I'm going downstairs to play what will probably be my last big game of the weekend, and then tomorrow I'll maybe play some lighter stuff and fly home through Newark, with another Vancouver local who got the same flight I did.

Home. That's a thing.
jazzfish: five different colors of Icehouse pyramids (iCehouse)
Not really up for wandering the gameroom, and I could probably do with some downtime anyhow.

The Gathering is a week-long smallish (400 people?) gaming convention in Niagara Falls (US). [personal profile] uilos and I were first invited two years ago; sadly she hasn't made it back. Maybe next year.

I'm rooming with Scott, a guy I met at random last year. He's a fine roommate but very much an extrovert. As with Christine last year, I've not had to be this sociable in the mornings in a very long time.

Eric B--'s absence this year is notable: he welcomed me into the morning 18xx games two years ago, sort of took me under his wing last year, and is generally one of the Good Ones. Hopefully he'll be back next year.

Two years ago Splendor was obviously the Big Hit; last year it was Codenames. I haven't seen anything this year that would really qualify. There's a lot of Codenames Pictures being played, which is exactly what you think it is.

Perhaps it's Ponzi Scheme, which Dave E-- described as "a party game for economic-gamers." Every round, everyone takes a scoring tile and a funding card, which provides an infusion of cash now in exchange for a payment in a few rounds. Then there's a flurry of 'clandestine dealing' where you're exchanging money and score tiles with the other players, and then the round increases. You can pay for your ruinous interest by ... taking more and larger funding cards, but those will come due sooner or later as well. You're hoping for "later:" the game ends as soon as one player can't make a payment, so if you're going to go bankrupt in two turns that's fine as long as someone else crashes out next turn. Ponzi Scheme is currently extremely unavailable; there's a new edition coming in a few months, I believe.

The weather's been horrendous: cold, rainy, I think there was unpleasantly wet snow a few days ago, and so very very windy. I have not left the hotel except to make a grocery run the day after I got here. I may go out to the falls on Friday or Saturday, I haven't quite decided yet.

Three more days of gaming, and then travel on Sunday. It's been good to not be at work.

lucky

Mar. 8th, 2016 10:43 pm
jazzfish: Jazz Fish: beret, sunglasses, saxophone (Default)
This is what I mean when I say I'm ridiculously lucky:

I have awful teeth, have had since pretty much forever. Orthodontia since third grade, a year and a half of braces, crowns and root canals on six or seven of my back molars, all that. In retrospect this all started when I mixed a hardwood floor, a blanket, and a running start at the age of four and had a root canal in one of my baby teeth. I'm used to dentists, is what I'm saying.

I'd been going to the same dentist since we got to Vancouver but I hadn't been totally happy with her. So when I got laid off and my insurance lapsed, it seemed like a fine time to just forget to go in for cleanings and such. And when I got a new job, insurance didn't kick in for three months, and then I just didn't feel like bothering. I didn't want to go back to my old dentist, and I didn't want to go through the hassle of finding a new one.

One of the crowns that I got in DC has been giving me a bit of trouble since I got it: it was painful to put in place, it didn't sit right on my bite, and there was a little lip at the base of it that caught when I flossed. On Satyrday night, while we were at a small local gaming convention (playing Die Steven Seagal[1]), I bit down on a lollipop stick and felt something give way.

The entire crown above the gumline had sheared off.

"How on earth," you ask, "is that lucky?"

It doesn't hurt, thanks to the root canal.

My insurance kicked in two months ago. (Emily's doesn't until next month, so it could have been better, but half covered is better than none.)

And when, spurred by the sudden need for a dentist, I complained about my lack of same, David recommended his. I went today for a cleaning and checkup and prepwork for tooth/crown replacement and he seems likely to be the best dentist I've had since I left Dr Ankrum in Blacksburg. And who had a last-minute cancellation, so that I could get my teeth cleaned during the prelim appointment.

Lucky.

[1] A German trick-taking/bidding card game that's really named Die Sieben Siegel, or The Seven Signs/Seals. It comes with a standup figure, the Traitor, that you can take as your bid if no one else has and you feel like just mucking with everyone else. Naturally we refer to the Traitor as Steven Seagal...

The convention was pretty good, too: played some heavier games, some lighter ones, a really good round of Tichu, and on Sunday wrangled thirteen people in three 18xx games.

And tonight we just got back from seeing The Big Short, which is very good and avoids being horrendously depressing by being extremely funny in a dark way. Relatedly, I am growing accustomed to the idea that I will sometimes be the only one laughing in smart movies. At least I had [personal profile] uilos there laughing with me tonight.

bgg.con

Nov. 28th, 2015 01:35 pm
jazzfish: five different colors of Icehouse pyramids (iCehouse)
Because it's been ages and ages since I did a proper con report.

Though this isn't exactly one )
jazzfish: a black-haired man with a big sword. blood stains the snow behind (Eddard Stark)
I've been out of DC for long enough that I'm starting to think of driving as fun again.

I've popped down to Seattle a couple of times in the past few months to play 1817, one of them honking long train games, with a group down there. It's about a 2.5-hour drive, so I've been leaving around 8-8:30 and arriving at elevenish. Then we play for eight hours, and I drive back, getting in well before midnight. Reasonable.

Traffic is light, the scenery's pretty, and I get to dig into some music I've forgotten I had. (Coming home last weekend I listened to Loreena McKennitt nonstop.)

Maybe this is bundled up with why I like traveling: if you're traveling, there's nothing you need to do other than travel. Nothing that needs worrying about, nothing that needs attention.

I read, much of the night, and go south in the winter.
jazzfish: Jazz Fish: beret, sunglasses, saxophone (Default)
At the beach with boardgamers, like I do. It's been good for the most part: good games, decent company, sunshine, conditioned air. Feeling a bit more disconnected than usual this year. Partly this is because [personal profile] uilos isn't here, because "end of the school year" is a terrible time for an assistant instructor to try and take a week-long vacation. Other likely culprits include a sharp lack of time to introvert (the wifi downstairs is sketchy at best), and the fact that vacations feel less like vacations when they're a vacation from an unstructured life.

(The lack of structure is starting to seriously get to me, I think. When I get back I will have to a) restructure my life a bit more cleanly and, well, usefully, and b) start looking for work. These things are at least more or less complementary.)

For the first time in six years I'm not going to Wiscon. This is weird. I'm gonna miss the smart panels and conversations and the company, and downtown Madison. I am almost certainly going to stick my head in at Balticon, where I can at least get some of the smart conversations and good (if different) company.

Having writing thoughts, which is not at all the same as actually writing. Those ... may gel into a post later this week.
jazzfish: five different colors of Icehouse pyramids (iCehouse)
I'm at the Gathering again this year, spending a week-plus playing games and hanging out with people. Financially it was likely an unwise decision to go... but I found a roommate, and a cheapish flight to/from the vicinity, and darnit, it just seemed like fun.

It feels different this year. I went last year and had a blast, but it was all sort of overwhelming. It's a lot calmer-seeming now. I'm used to it, I guess, or maybe I'm just in a better place myself. [personal profile] uilos didn't make it due to some work shenanigans plus the general hazard of being on an academic schedule, that's a pretty big shift as well.

I'm rooming with Christine who I met once when we first moved out to Vancouver. She's an excellent roommate and a fine person, but she's very much an extrovert. I have not had this much conversation in the mornings in a very very long time.

Been getting up pretty much every morning to play 18xx games. I have consistently come in last or next-to-last in every one so far. No great surprise considering that a lot of these guys have been playing since well before I started doing any serious gaming at all. It's been really excellent regardless: I've learned a bit, and I've had a lot of fun.

Hard to believe it's nearly over. Not sure if I'm coming back next year; it's not easy to justify the expense when I'm not making a stupid amount of money. But it *is* a very very good trip. Eh. I don't know.
jazzfish: Jazz Fish: beret, sunglasses, saxophone (Default)
This A Softer World comic hits uncomfortably close to home, and would have reduced me to tears and speechlessness about five years ago.

Let's see.

Foot: still sore, still a little swollen. Going back to icing it today.

Viola: Went to pick it up on Monday. I am much less of a fan of the colour than I'd hoped: it's a lot flatter than anticipated, and it makes it look... cheap. More importantly, there was an inch-long crack next to the tailpiece. Looked like someone had dropped the package on its end and hit the tailpiece just right. So it's going back to the factory. I'll call the store today and see if I can talk to a human being and cancel the dye job, just get a glossy-black hybrid.

On the bright side, they loaned me the standard carbon-fibre viola they had in stock, and it sounds roughly a zillion times better than the $200 rental I had before. So there's that.

Writing: Been plinking away at this %&$ story. It looks like I'm going to have to do something I've never done before: write a scene or three from a different character's perspective so I can figure out what happens, even though I know for a fact I'm not going to use those scenes. Oh well. Going out to sit in a coffeeshop & write with Steph this evening, which will be pleasant.

Role-playing: reached a stopping point in the Lords of Gossamer & Shadow game last week. I made a rookie-GM mistake in the Big Fight Scene and had an NPC doing a lot of the actual fighting but apart from that it went reasonably well. We're now taking a break to play 13th Age, which appears to be "D&D with fewer rules and more cool storytelling tools."

There's also been some friction with the perennially difficult player, which might warrant its own post later. Or maybe not.

Boardgames: Forgot to mention that I spent much of last weekend at another boardgame convention thing. This one's run by a local wargame club, but they have a small contingent of 18xx players. It was decent: got in three games, and enjoyed the company alright. They have regular meetings one Friday a month, to which I may go.

I leave for the Gathering (ten-day gaming convention in Niagara) in eight and a half days. Based on the cost breakdown and the general state of finances this is probably a mild error in judgement, but it'll be fun.

Speaking of money, I'm also sorting through taxes, which are slightly complicated this year. That's why we pay Chris-the-accountant the small-to-medium bucks. On the "bright" side we're likely to get a small-to-medium refund depending on how some things get classified.

Cats: Are adorable. Chaos is a lot more mobile, and also a lot less steady on his feet than he wants to be, especially when jumping. But he *is* jumping, so that's a good sign. Mostly they both do a lot of sleeping, as is appropriate for elder kittens.

Overall things are good, I think.
jazzfish: Jazz Fish: beret, sunglasses, saxophone (Default)
Two weekends ago, more or less, [personal profile] uilos and I went out to Harrison Hot Springs for a couple days of vacation. We soaked in a naturally heated pool and wandered around a small village and saw the source of the springs. We did not partake of the Spa Experience, as that costs ridiculous amounts of money, but we saw a bunch of people wandering around in white terrycloth robes. Also, it was spring break for the BC school system, and apparently people like to take their kids on spa vacations, so there were a ton of kids everywhere.

The rental company gave us a Big-Ass Truck instead of the compact we'd requested. Driving (and parking) that was an adventure in itself.

Overall it was alright. I don't know that I'd go back just-us but dragging a few other people along could be fun.



Last weekend saw the second annual Terminal City Tabletop Convention, a day-only Vancouver gaming con that an acquaintance of mine started up last year. That too was generally good. I played a number of games I'd been wanting to try for awhile, had some duds and some surprising hits (Red7 is sort of the lovechild of Fluxx and Uno, and fantastically chaotic fun).

Got in a game of 1889 with mostly-newish players on Sunday. I think I'm about done with 1889: it's 1830 with a different map and one less company, and the 'one less company' part makes a surprising difference in how aggressively the game runs. And the map isn't terribly exciting, either. Oh well, now I know.

Afterwards on Sunday we went out to a Thai place near Metrotown which makes a quite tasty pad thai. I keep thinking I ought to try other thai dishes, and I keep coming back to "but I really like the rice noodles in pad thai and can't get them anywhere else."



I also seem to have picked up an odd head-cold at TCTC. The last couple of days my nose has been stuffy & my throat sore (sinus drip), and I get out of breath and spacey in the mid-afternoon. This is making it difficult to get back up to speed after having E home for a week.

weekend+

Oct. 30th, 2014 08:31 am
jazzfish: Jazz Fish: beret, sunglasses, saxophone (Default)
Cripes, this has been sitting in Notepad half-finished for days now. *thumps self in head* Get it together, you.

Satyrday turned out well: we had a few people over to mutilate pumpkins. I made one that looks more or less like this Totoro face, although I didn't use toothpicks and could stand to have made the whiskers bigger. [personal profile] uilos carved a couple of crows on a tree. Other art included a mockingjay, Trogdor, Night Vale, and a ferret. Good times.

Afterwards there was going to be boardgames, but we had an unexpected allergic reaction instead, so we panicked for a bit and then watched The Court Jester. I had forgotten how slow the first twenty minutes of that movie are: opening-credits song, opening exposition, "You'll Never Outfox the Fox," more exposition and setup, Danny Kaye singing a lullaby. Thankfully it picks up quickly once the real Giacomo shows up. Also I should stop describing her as "Young Evil Angela Lansbury," she's spoiled and selfish, but she's also been dealt a terrible hand.

On Sunday a couple of guys came over and we played a short scenario of 18OE. This is a complex train game that encompasses the whole of European railway development. Because we played one of the 'short' scenarios (France/Spain) we were done in around seven hours (including setup and takedown). Good game. Looking forward to playing again at some point, and hopefully knocking a couple of hours off the playtime with familiarity.



Since then I've had a second viola lesson, and determined that my left arm hurts partly due to new muscle usage and partly because I was holding the viola wrong. This is good news: means I won't have to quit because my stupid muscles/tendons are too screwed up to bend properly. At least not yet: a couple of years ago I strained my wrist (lifting luggage) and it's been acting up lately. Not sure what if anything I can do for it. Will continue & see.
jazzfish: Jazz Fish: beret, sunglasses, saxophone (Default)
Spring in Vancouver is mostly like winter. It's still grey and rainy but there's a subtly different quality to the rain, and it's not so cold.

Except for days like today, when the sky clears and the sun's brighter than anyplace else I can think of. Days like this I just want to go out walking for hours.



We got a three-month extension on our lease, so we don't have to try to find a place to live while we're on the wrong coast for most of May. As a nice side benefit we'll also get to watch this year's rooftop crop of baby seagulls.

Although one of the regular nesting spots has been taken over by a grumpy Canada goose. Looks like geese lay a little earlier in the season than seagulls do. Not sure if the seagulls will attempt to share that particular tiny roof or just go elsewhere.



Leftover bits from the Gathering:

The secondary highway in Niagara Falls is the Robert Moses Parkway. I suppose that's appropriate enough. If you're going to run a road through a park you may as well name it after the guy who destroyed NYC and screwed up North American city planning for a century with his love of running expressways through poorer neighborhoods.

I came home with a copy of 1862 from the prize table. This is one of those overly complex 18xx train/stock games I seem to have become fond of. Not sure when I'll get a chance to actually *play* one around here, but hey. I look forward to trying to explain to new players that "In this game trains can only change direction at cities, no matter what tiles you want to place or upgrade: eventually you will need to yell that THERE IS NO FORKING TRACK."

Other games of note: Coal Baron, a fast (45 minutes), reasonably deep worker-placement-y game with less annoying blocking than it might have. Splendor, light and fast, with tough decisions; reminds me of Piece Of Cake in that "argh what now" feeling. Roll For the Galaxy, which is not Race but looks suspiciously familiar: I think it's lighter than Race but I could be wrong, and it's worth more plays (whenever it finally comes out) regardless.

gathering

Apr. 19th, 2014 10:16 am
jazzfish: five different colors of Icehouse pyramids (iCehouse)
I am currently ensconced in a hotel room on the morning of my last full day at Alan Moon's Gathering of Friends, a smallish (400 people total, spread over a week and a half) boardgaming convention in Niagara Falls.

Let me first say that I am a big fan of having conventions right on the Canada border. Means I get cell service and data without having to prepay an arm and a leg.

[personal profile] uilos and I went out to see the falls, which are as impressive as advertised, and met up with [personal profile] culfinriel for lunch, which was neat. Other than that it's been all Gathering all the time.

The Gathering... I feel more consistently like myself here than I have in ages, since Farthing Party I think. I've played an awful lot of games with an awful lot of people, and nearly all of them have been good experiences. Even teaching games have for the most part gone smoothly.

I think I've played more games, and more good games, in the last week than in the previous six months combined (excluding Netrunner). I've missed this, and I don't know how to get it at home. Slowly, I guess. Building up a group one gamer at a time.

The last two mornings I've gotten up early to play an 18xx game. These are long (short ones are three hours) games of railroad building and stock market shenanigans. I came in unsure whether I actually like the games or just respect them. After these two I am pretty sure I like them, at least when they're focused on the building-good-railroads aspects. Now to find players at home. *sigh*

Tomorrow back home, to fighting with work and other fun things.
jazzfish: Jazz Fish: beret, sunglasses, saxophone (Default)
The Dark Room: a Flash-based puzzle. "The finest TRON game ever created," according to Zarf. I solved most of it in 2-3 hours on Satyrday; one puzzle was designed solely to irritate me, so I resorted to a walkthrough for that one. (If I hadn't lucked out fairly quickly with another, I would have gone to the walkthrough for it as well.) There's a sequel; I played with it for about ten minutes but couldn't get anywhere.

Skynet meets the Swarm: how the Berkeley Overmind won the 2010 StarCraft AI competition: as advertised, and very cool.

A publication that's solved the problem of submissions waiting in limbo until they can be evaluated: The Journal of Universal Rejection.

Train magic.



Experiences that will never be anything less than awesome : watching a snowfall from an eleventh-story window.

I've played two games of Navegador so far. It reminds me a lot of Puerto Rico the first few times I played that: there are an awful lot of options, there's no immediately obvious "right thing" to do, and your turn can depend an awful lot on what the person immediately before you does. I think it'll take a little less time to learn to play well than PR did, mostly because I've more experience with this kind of game.

[personal profile] rbandrews and [livejournal.com profile] diadelphous got in yesterday, and are supposedly wandering around the District today, doing the Smithsonian thing. I may or not be meeting them for dinner, which may or not be at Zengo. We shall see what the weather holds.

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Adventures in Mamboland

"Jazz Fish, a saxophone playing wanderer, finds himself in Mamboland at a critical phase in his life." --Howie Green, on his book Jazz Fish Zen

Yeah. That sounds about right.

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