avram: (Mooninite)

The funniest thing about this afternoon’s Mooninite-induced panic is that the billboards don’t actually look like bombs. Real bombs are hidden away inside innocuous-looking containers. The blinky lights and LEDs counting down to zero are artifacts of Hollywood dramas, a modern-day symbol of “bomb”, the cinematic equivalent of the shiny black sphere with a fuse sticking out that you see in cartoons.

The city of Boston was shut down today not because of devices that looked like bombs, but because of devices that looked like Hollywood fake representations of bombs.

avram: (Mooninite)
Isn’t it nice to know our government is keeping us safe from cartoon ads?
avram: (Default)

I took off Friday and Monday from work to go up for [livejournal.com profile] cthulhia’s Snakes on a Plane party.

Actually, Friday was for laundry and sleeping late and making an iron-on t-shirt of my “Badger and Mushroom on a Plane” design. The party was Saturday night. I took Amtrak up, hoping for maybe a rhyming herpetological incident, but no, just 45 minutes worth of normal mysterious service delays. The party was lots of fun, especially with this special guest:

Snake in a suitcase!

That’s a nine-foot albino Burmese python. And yes, she was brought packed in that suitcase. And nobody managed to mix a binary explosive out of beverages. That I know of.

Then I spent Sunday and Monday up there, and I didn’t realize till I’d got home that I’d totally forgotten to even mention either of the two Boston places I’d been meaning to check out on my next trip up. So I’ll have to make a list for next time.

avram: (Default)
Whew, a fun yet exhausting weekend! I went up to Boston to hang with [livejournal.com profile] cthulhia, who I don’t see often enough. I met up with her and a friend whose LJ name I don’t know (there’s an application for RFID tags, or maybe Bluetooth) at one of the centers of South End Artists’ Open Studios, which had a high cool-stuff proportion.

The back to Cthulhia’s place, where I met the upstairs neighbors and saw Cthulhia in her drinking hat. Next stop for the night was going to be a superhero-themed party, with very lax costuming rules. Cthules wore the viking helmet, and I a pair of rabbit ears, and we figured if anyone gave us trouble we could launch into a rendition of “What’s Opera Doc?”, but it didn’t come up.

Sunday we joined [livejournal.com profile] dougo’s expedition to the Davis Mega Maze. (That idea I had, about using a Sidekick and the Google satellite maps to get maze plans from above? Wouldn’t work; it’s too faint, and not this year’s maze.) I’d never been in a corn maze before, much less one of this scale, but Cthules navigated like a pro, even compensating for us accidentally winding up at the exit after having only gone through a small fraction of the maze, thanks to some idiot moving one of the mobile barriers that allow the layout to be altered from day to day. We walked pretty much non-stop at a good pace for about two hours, probably five or six miles all told, more exercise than I’ve had in quite a while.

I took the Fung Wah buses both ways, and had really good trips. Fung Wah seems to be prospering enough to have upgraded their fleet. I took on-the-half-hour departures both ways, and got full-sized buses (not the mini-buses I’d gotten a couple of years earlier), and both times the buses were about half full so I got a pair of seats to myself to stretch out in. No movie either, so I could nap.


Jan. 24th, 2005 12:03 am
avram: (Default)
So how was Arisia?

Well, just OK. A let down from last year’s, which was fantastic. Though the travel was much better this time. I took Amtrak up, and I’d forgotten how comfortable train travel is compared to those cramped buses. A bunch of us wound up taking the train back because of the blizzard. So between travel and taking a day off work, this was more than I’ve spent on a non-Worldcon convention in a while, since I stopped buying lots of dealer’s stuff.

Part of that was the guest. Last year we had Tim Powers, an author whose work I’ve been following for years, and who is interesting and entertaining and hangs out at parties and chats with the fans. This year, Barbara Hambly, one of whose series I read a long time ago and I haven’t bothered with anything of hers since, and I hear she didn’t hang out so much.

Another was the con itself. Seemed like lots of the usual people didn’t show. I’ve heard that most of the NYC crowd skipped it this year. There were a total of three parties listed for Friday night, and I think they all closed down early. More parties Saturday, but still seemed like not as many as usual. Not many interesting panels, or maybe I’m just getting tired of all the usual panel topics.

Hey, here’s a convention panel idea: What typical advice given at convention panels is bullshit? For example, what advice given about writing is actually some editor telling you her preferences, and doesn’t have anything to do with what actually sells once published?

And did the hotel’s key-maker malfunction, generating room keys which expired within a few hours, causing inconvenience for many people?

Why, yes, how ever did you guess?

OK, but did you at least see some episodes of a kick-ass anime series that you’d never heard of before?

Funny you should ask. I saw the first four episodes of Samurai Champloo, the latest work by Shinichiro Watanabe, director of Cowboy Bebop. Bebop was SF with a jazz score, Chaploo is Meiji-era samurai action with a hiphop sensibility. And I don’t just mean the music — one of the main characters has a wild fighting style that incorporates breakdance moves. Despite the first episode’s warning of historical inaccuracy, I found myself wondering: Breakdancing is descended from capoeira, a martial art developed by African slaves in Brazil in the 16th century; Brazil was a colony of Portugal; there was contact between Portugal and Japan in the 16th century....

Anyway, the fights scenes are amazing. The characters are mostly ciphers in these first four episodes. Mugen is the wild breakdancing vagrant who lives to fight. Jin is the calm, quiet ronin with formally perfect style. Each is the best fighter the other has ever met, and for Mugen, that’s reason enough to challenge Jin to a fight to the death. Their fight is interrupted when a burning building collapses on them, they’re arrested for having killed the local governor’s thugs, and Fuu, who at first seems a generic cute girl from anime central casting (complete with pet flying squirrel), shows up to break them loose if they’ll agree to help her hunt down a samurai who smells of sunflowers. We don’t find out anything about these character’s pasts in the first four episodes, but we probably will.

I see that Samurai Champloo will turn up on the Cartoon network’s Adult Swim this summer, probably with the profanity stripped out. The DVDs should all ship this year, so I’ll probably just wait for those.

How about insane crack anime? Any of that?

Oh yeah! We saw the end of Dead Leaves, a bit of bizarre hyper-violence with a Peter Max color scheme, and two episodes of Time Boken, which starts out with groups of villains from other anime competing to be the villains for this one, and moves on to an invasion of a land populated by heroes from another anime company. With a special guest appearance by the Gatchaman characters ordering noodles!

Did anybody remark upon your t-shirts?

Why, yes, they did! I got the usual grins, thumbs-ups, and other signs of approval for my “We’re not all jerks” shirt on Friday, but all Saturday I had people asking me what the idea was behind my “Consumable” shirt. Which I guess shows that SF fans just think too hard about some things. Eventually I took to telling people it was apple juice gone bad.

Do you have a favorite line from a Socratic dialog?

“That is what is wanted, Gorgias; exhibit the shorter method now, and the longer one at some other time.”
avram: (Liberties)
Adam Teiichi Yoshida, self-described “ultra-conservative political commentator”, looking forward to raping some blue-state women:
That’s the future of the Democratic Party: providing Republicans with a number of cute (but not that bright) comfort women.

Update: I see from Instapundit (who at least had the sense and decency to later recognize that Yoshida’s a ranting loon) that Yoshida is at Harvard. That explains things — he’s surrounded by gorgeous, brainy Cambridge women who won’t have anything to do with his repugnant ass. No wonder he’s preoccupied with impotent rape fantasies.

Re-update: In case it’s insufficiently obvious, what I’m trying to do here is move the LazyWeb concept into the realm of social engineering. I’m kinda hoping that one of you Harvard-area readers passes word around, and makes sure that everyone Yoshida is likely to encounter knows about his little rant. I’m hoping that if he wasn’t getting any before, he’ll soon be getting even less. LazyWeb II.0 — This time it’s personal!

Noreascon 4

Sep. 7th, 2004 08:19 pm
avram: (Default)
OK, convention, yeah. That was more fun than I’d ever had at a Worldcon, and less time spent in the filk room than ever at (maybe) any con. There’s probably a causal relationship there — the filk room has become the place I go when I’m bored.

Spent my evenings party-hopping, and managed to get into many more interesting conversations than I usually do, including some with people I hadn’t previously known. It’s almost like I’m developing social skills.

A lesson I ought’ve learned long ago: When picking which panels to attend, ignore the topics and pay attention to the panelists. Any panel with Patrick and/or Teresa Nielsen Hayden on it will probably be fun. Same goes for Cory Doctorow, Neil Gaiman, Gavin Grant, and others I should have made note of.

I checked out the art show, something I often forget to do. I went around with Teresa and Ctein’s guided tour, and that’s just about the best way to see an art show I can think of. Afterwards I looked up the Frank Kelly Freas art in the Retro-Art section. There’s stuff that guy does that you’re just not supposed to be able to pull off. I picked up his book As He Sees It later in the dealer’s room.

The con had wireless Ethernet (802.11g), but for some reason it didn’t jibe with the WiFi card (802.11b) in my Clié. This isn’t the first such trouble I’ve had; the Clié seems wonky on this score. I was able to connect with the free WiFi in the Marché Mövenpick in the big Habitrail, so they wound up getting a lot of my eating business, helped along by the food being really good and varied. The free dessert they gave [livejournal.com profile] bugsybanana and me when we first had dinner there was also an encouragement. That first Worldcon post I made? I typed it up at the panels (with a folding keyboard) and posted it while waiting on line for some pasta. So cutting-edge you could slash your wrists!

Oh, another lesson: I should spend more time in the hotel bar. Even if I can’t always manage to do it with [livejournal.com profile] papersky, John M Ford, Elise Matheson, and Jordin and [livejournal.com profile] marykaykare.
avram: (Default)
Woof. Great con. Tired now.

The cab ride from NYC-Chinatown to Jersey City cost more than the bus ride down from Boston.

Hey, [livejournal.com profile] bugsybanana, when did you cut out?
avram: (Default)
As I think I’ve mentioned before, when I was a kid, one of the things they told us about the USSR to demonstrate what an oppressive place it was, was that Soviet citizens couldn’t travel within their own country without showing ID papers. The America of my birth is receding ever more pastward, as transit police will soon begin random ID checks on the Boston subways:
Although officials would release few details about the initiative, the identity checks will mark the first time local rail and subway passengers will be asked to produce identification and be questioned about their activities.

And it may not just be Boston:
Concerns about threats to the nation's rail system have risen since ABC News reported a pattern of suspicious activities along the rail corridor between Washington, D.C., and New York. The report said New Jersey's attorney general is investigating at least seven instances in the last week of suspected surveillance along the New Jersey Transit commuter lines leading into Philadelphia, Trenton, and New York.

Not that we’ll get to hear about all the details:
"About a year ago they admitted they were using training based on an Israeli security model of behavioral profiling or selection which they declined to either explain or to otherwise amplify what it means," said John Reinstein, legal director for the ACLU of Massachusetts. "We asked for the records and they said that's no longer a public record because anything that has to do with security is no longer a public record."
avram: (Default)
When we were up in Somerville, [livejournal.com profile] mamishka asked me to describe Puerto Rico, and I didn’t give a very good answer. I figure I ought to have a better idea of what makes a game I’ve been playing almost every week for the past year or more interesting, so here goes:

Puerto Rico uses a mechanic that may have a formal name that I don’t know about, but I call “role-taking”. There are a bunch of games that use this. Verräter is the first I can remember running into; others include Mueterer and Citadels. In role-taking games there are a bunch of roles, each associated with some action or ability. Each round, each player chooses one role.

In Puerto Rico, the role-taking is the main decision that you’ll be making each turn, your primary action. (Other decisions all deal with the consequences of what role you or other players take.) The game’s major innovative development of the role-taking mechanic is that the role you choose gives all players the ability to take some action, though your own action is superior in some way. If you take the Builder, for instance, everyone gets to buy one building, but you build first (giving you first shot at a building that’s in short supply) and you get a discount on your purchase. So each time you choose an action, you’re giving an opportunity to the other players. This means that the tactically-savvy player spends much of the game thinking about relative advantage: “What can I do that helps me while helping other players the least?” Also “How do I position myself so that I can benefit at least a bit from anything other players do?”

Puerto Rico also manages to avoid many of the common pitfalls of game design. It’s difficult to wind up unable to take constructive action for more than a turn or two. You generally don’t know for sure who’s going to win till very near the end of the game, even though the game has almost no random elements. (I spent most of the last game I played convinced I was going to lose, and then several turns worth of work paid off and I managed to pull off a couple of really good shipping phases that put me into the lead.) The various game elements are well balanced against each other.

(Hm, I still haven‘t given a good description of the game in general. But I’ve probably already gone on too long.)

San Juan (which I played twice at Games Club on Friday, and then again at [livejournal.com profile] mnemex’s and [livejournal.com profile] drcpunk’s place yesterday) is a card game based on Puerto Rico. It keeps the central role-taking mechanic, and therefore the relative-advantage mindset, but simplifies the rest of the game. There’s a much bigger random element; you can get screwed by drawing badly, while drawing well can give you a tremendous advantage if you know enough to make use of it. It goes very quickly — a constant refrain in the game is “Oh, is the round over already?” Not as complex as Puerto Rico, not as easy (though still possible) to deliberately screw over other players, but still quite addictive.

Bang! was disappointing. First strike against it: The Jail card, which can cause a player to lose a turn. Haven’t game designers figured out yet that having to spend game time doing nothing reduces enjoyment of a game? Second strike: The hidden goal mechanic means that half the players start the game with no idea of who their allies and enemies are, which provides a disincentive to take action, and makes the game less exciting. Once we started shooting at each other thing livened up a bit. I was disappointed that there wasn’t much role-play chatter; I think the game lends itself to that sort of thing. I also didn’t get to see if any duels happened, since I got blown up by dynamite fairly early. But at least I got to kill that goldurned thief what stole my horse!
avram: (Default)
Y’know, you hear all the time about inchoate longing but nobody ever talks about the choate kind. Probably because not many people yearn to defeat Tammany Hall nowadays. Me, I’d be happy just to see Bat Boy there again.

The relationship of any of the above to my just having returned from Boston is left as an exercise for the reader, ’cause the lot of you are getting kinda flabby. Me, I think I’m gonna see if I can start dragging my lazy ass out of bed an hour earlier and rejoin the gym. But not tomorrow. (I seem to always come home from Boston with renewed enthusiasm for fitness. Must be the beans.)

Stayed at [livejournal.com profile] lyonesse’s, met [livejournal.com profile] ceo and [livejournal.com profile] coraline and, um, other people whose LJ names I can’t recall, dammit. Spent less time than I ought with [livejournal.com profile] cthulhia, ’cause I’m a doofus. Spent less time than I’d have liked with [livejournal.com profile] mamishka, but that’s always so. Found a couple of Jim’s Big Ego CDs at Harvard Square; failed to find the fourth Kane TPB in four different comics shops. (I’m running out of places to look. What’d be an appropriate sacrifice to the god of comics?)

I must remember to look up the Chinatown bus schedules before blithely assuming that they run hourly at night. I got to Fung Wah at 9 PM, and discovered that the next bus after 8 was at 11:30.
avram: (Default)
Can anyone in the Sommerville, MA area (Sommervillians?) — within walking distance of [livejournal.com profile] lyonesse’s, preferably — put me up this Friday night?


Jan. 19th, 2004 01:24 am
avram: (Default)
We just got back from Arisia a little bit ago. I had the two worst Chinatown bus trips ever. On the way up, I just missed the 3 PM bus (the guy in front of me got the last ticket), so wound up on the 3:30 overflow bus, which was a short bus, with seats for 25 people. I‘d gone off to buy food for the trip, and wound up the 25th person on line, stuck in the back with four other guys in that supposedly-five-person-wide-but-actually-more-like-four-and-a-half seat in the back. And no reading lights, so I couldn’t read once it got dark. And then on the way back we also got a short bus (7 PM), and this one actually had a broken seat and a cracked windshield.

The con itself was wonderful. Tim Powers gave a very entertaining GoH speech, and I got to chat with him a bit later in the day, but I forgot to ask him what he’s working on now. I got some gaming in (The Great Brain Robbery, Agora, and giant Ice Towers), and the party-hopping was some of the most fun I’d had at a con in years. I wound up inadvertently crashing not one, but two parties I oughtn’t have been at, and I got to hang out in the Park Plaza’s presidential suite. I asked Eric Raymond if he knew of any open-source handgun designs, which has to be the ultimate Eric Raymond question. (He didn’t.)

(Oh, in the photo of people playing Ice Towers with the giant cardboard pieces, taken at Worldcon in 2001, I’m the guy at the far left in the shorts, and [livejournal.com profile] mnemex is the one at the far right in the white t-shirt.)

There was a whole lot of cleavage on display at this con. Serious amounts of major industrial cantilevered cleavage, cleavage you could serve snacks on, sometimes with inclusions. I don’t mind at all, I’m just sayin’.

And a thousand thanks to [livejournal.com profile] drcpunk and [livejournal.com profile] mnemex for putting me up!
avram: (Default)
Temperature on Mars, according to the Spirit rover: high of 41°F, low of 5°F.

Temperature in Jersey City right now: 17°F.

Temperature in Boston right now: 3°F.

Update: Top Ten Reasons Why Bush Wants to Go to Mars!
avram: (Default)
Damnit, I’m going to Arisia. Hell with the expense. (Actually, it won’t cost all that much.) So no GC-in-E for me this Friday.
avram: (Default)
I’m back! I spent the weekend with [livejournal.com profile] cthulhia in Massachusetts, seeing movies, party-going, and hanging out.

I caught the 6 PM Fung Wah bus on Friday. These buses used to cost between $10 and $25 per trip, but competition has brought them down to $10 all day. They’re really popular; all the seats were filled on my trip up, mostly with college students, looked like. We got to Boston around 10:30 or 11, and I hopped on the T and reached the party at [livejournal.com profile] dancingdeer’s place before midnight, I think. Cthulhia and I had to head back at a reasonable hour, to be up in time for art on Saturday.

Saturday we went to see open studios at Brickbottom. I don’t know whether I was more impressed by the art or by the studios themselves; lots of these were live-in studios, and as a New Yorker I’m easily subject to apartment lust. The art was really good too, though I don’t think there were as many artists displaying as there were at 111 First Street.

Back at Cthulhia’s place, she whipped up a tasty dinner out of pho noodles, sausages, and veggies. I whupped her butt at Lost Cities, then she smacked me back down not just once but twice at Volcano.

The Volcano games went on a bit longer than expected (I’m new to the game, and a very cogitatey player), so we just barely missed the champagne toast (in honor of the recent Mass. supreme court ruling in favor of freedom-to-marry) at a party at, um, damn, I’ve forgotten where. But I had a great time chatting with folks and noshing and I met [livejournal.com profile] srakkt and various other people.

We ducked out early again, to catch The Animation Show at midnight. This is a touring collection of animation shorts (only two or three of which I’d seen before) that I’d missed when it was in NYC. Don Hertzfeld’s hilarious work (“Sweet Jesus!”) was entirely new to me. Back in college I’d gotten into the habit of hunting down annual touring animation collctions, and somehow lost that habit in the past decade or so. I should start doing it again, though I’ve heard Spike & Mike’s isn’t what it used to be.

Sunday we braved the crowds at Johnny D’s for The Oatmeal, saw School of Rock, and then had Indian food before I hopped the T and caught the 8 PM bus back home. It didn’t occur to me till after I’d already taken the Grand St shuttle to West 4th and gotten on the PATH that I could’ve walked west and tried out the newly-reopened-that-day World Trade Center PATH station. [livejournal.com profile] jayspec462 has rushed in where I was too lazy and forgetful to tread.

Update: And I almost forgot this sketch:

Sketch of Cthulhia )


Nov. 19th, 2003 10:52 pm
avram: (Default)
Could anyone in the Somerville, MA area put me up for Friday night? Preferably someone who lives close to [livejournal.com profile] cthulhia? It would simplify my Saturday tremendously.

Update: Never mind, it's taken care of.

April 2017



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