tablesaw: Paul, who is a ghost, declares this to be "Booooring!" (Booooring)
At my birthday bar thing/dinner I was tipped off to the fact that there's a reasonably close movie theater in North Hollywood that shows second-run movies for three dollars, or a buck fifty on Sundays. So [personal profile] temptingcuriosity and I took a trip on Sunday to see Wreck-It Ralph. It was fun, and I'm glad I saw it because everyone else I know has seen it already. And I don't know if you've heard, but it's about videogames.

I wanted to review it here, because I'm committed to doing more reviewing of things, but I can barely bring myself to care enough to think of something to say. I enjoyed myself enough when I was watching it, but by the time I was home my enjoyment had all drained away.

There's no problem that can't be solved in the scope of a two-hour movie, as [profile] joshroby once pointed out, but that doesn't mean that all stories can be told in that scope. In the undoubtedly worked and reworked and re-reworked plot of Wreck-It Ralph, there isn't much room for the stories of characters outside of a precoded series of checkpoints, an inevitable grind until leveling up (but not changing classes).

Perhaps there's something to say here about Wreck-It Ralph's ultimate message that it's better to be happy with your crappy job than to fight the system: the heroes are rewarded for maintaining or restoring the status quo. But, hey, it's a Disney movie with Bowser and Q-Bert in it. It's too big to fail, right?

I did really like Alan Tudyk's amazing performance as King Candy, though. I'd say it was an ok use of two hours and $1.50.
tablesaw: An indigenous American crucified on a cross crowned by a bald eagle. In the background stands a Mesoamerican temple. (América Tropical)
Saturday: I went with [personal profile] temptingcuriosity to LACMA for the Drawing Surrealism exhibit. The raw imagination on display reminded me very strongly of the underground indie aesthetic championed by Anna Anthropy in "Rise of the Videogame Zinesters." There's a lot of interesting connections to be made there, with the Dadaists and surrealists using games to promote automatism in creation, the use of collage (reusing sprites), and even a possible connection to the Futurist obsession with machine art.

Sunday: Virtually attended the planning meeting for the MIT Mystery Hunt next weekend. It's always good to see everyone, even the camera was mostly on [personal profile] tahnan doing his one-knee-on-a-chair pose.

Monday: I said goodbye to the Xmas tree immediately after the Epiphany. That almost never happens.

Tuesday: Made it out to a boardgaming night for the first time in a while. Played Chaos in the Old World to completion for the first time, and actually eked out a win. I've had a hard time with this game before, because the extremely asymmetrical roles can make it hard to figure out how to do things, but I finally pushed through. Still not entirely my game, but I won't be so quick to avoid it, either. I also got to dazzle everyone with word knowledge when playing and generally refereeing Bananagrams.

Wednesday: My main glasses broke a little while ago, and my backups are threatening to quit too, so I scheduled a new eye exam. I also made a quick jump into Sherman Oaks to pick up last year's prescription, just in case I need to make an emergency run to Lens Crafters for a cheap replacement. Having two hours to kill, I went to one of my favorite restaurants, Toshi Sushi. It was a great evening, as I was joined at the sushi bar by three lovely women who over-ordered and were pleased to hear of my birthday so that they had an excuse to foist some of the food onto me.

A cameraphone picture of a plate of sushi, all slightly different, with an assortment of fish, rice, sauces and toppings. They all taste delicious.

Heading to bed now. More birthday stuff later.
tablesaw: A sketch of me talking and smiling. (Personable)
I avoid doing anything on Facebook, which includes letting people post on my wall, which has made some people angry at me on my birthday, when they want to leave birthday wishes. Consider this my birthday wall, or send a note on my Twitter [twitter.com profile] sawofthetable.
tablesaw: Two yellow roses against a bright blue sky. (Family Roses)
This past weekend was a lazy one, like the New Year weekend before. (The Xmas weekend was stressful, with most of my Christmas Day trivia written on Christmas Eve.) [personal profile] temptingcuriosity and I went to LACMA on Saturday, avoiding the bigger events (Kubrick and Caravaggio) and indulging our own personal preferences (Surrealist Drawings and Maya artifacts). On Sunday we stayed in, made bacon pancakes, and lounged around because it was cold outside.

I asked her what she was looking for from the new year, but I already knew what her year looked like, when I thought about it. Really, I wanted her to ask me the question. I know I want to get hired permanently at this new job, but past that I wasn't sure. Talking about it, I realized that I wanted to create more in 2013. Not a particular thing, or a big thing, just lots of things.

Recently, I say a lot that I'm too much in my head. I talk to folks a bit more on Twitter, and I'm talking to people in person, but I'm not getting things out in non-conversational settings anymore. As a true geek, I worry about the narrow bandwidth of talking to people one-on-one; I just don't have enough time to tell things to everyone I would like to. Blog posts allow you, my friends and readers, to time-shift the Tablesaw experience to fit your schedule (something I know I appreciate).

But while blog posts are always things I need to do more often, to get into the habit of writing long things (or just short things that aren't twitter), what I want to do is just create more things that I can share. And saying it the other day made me excited and happy. A good sign, I think.

This year I don't just want to do things I love, I want to make new things to send out into the world with them, so that my experiences can travel beyond the horizon of my personal bubble. I want to write about at least one thing a week, TV, movie, game, what have you. I want to make some more puzzles, definitely at least one thing I can bring to the NPL convention in Austin. I want to finally hide a geocache in LA. I want to make some games, eventually, somewhere. There's a pre-Companions DW/AW game knocking around in my head that mostly needs a lot of research (that TemptingCuriosity is eager to help with).

My birthday is on Thursday, and I turn 35, a number that is a multiple of the amount of fingers on one hand, which means that I'll probably freak out sometime this year, though I'm successfully blocking it out for now. It's a good time to have a plan, and it's a good time to have a plan that focuses so much on simple joys. Last year was not a good one, this one will be better.
tablesaw: Two women put the star on a Christmas tree. (Apocalyptic Christmas)
Once again, my gift list remains much the same as the years before:
  • Booze. Last year my cousin and his wife got me a bottle of Johnnie Walker Black which kept me company throughout the year. In fact, I depleted all of my scotches (Famous Grouse and Yamazaki) this year, and I'm almost out of my good bourbon. I would love some good replacements, along with other interesting liqueurs.
  • Wardrobe. My wardrobe still contains the following things:
    • Jeans worn casually
    • Chinos worn casually or at work
    • collared shirts worn at work or over
    • Nice T-shirts
    • and occasionally a casual sport jacket.
    New additions to any of those categories are welcome. For T-shirts, think along the lines of Threadless or sites like Threadless. I'm probably most in need of jeans, actually. Sizes can vary, but pants are usually 38/34, fitted shirts are 17.5x34/35, T shirts are XL.
  • Music. I still, still don't get enough of it on my own. Things from my high-school years (early alternative) are what I usually look for when I hit Amoeba. I prefer used CDs as a medium, over downloads.
  • Stuff to do. Movie passes, theatre tickets, nice restaurants. Things to go out and do. (I've already got an American Cinematheque subscription, but an extension beyond April might be nice.)
  • Techno Stuff
    • My old DVD player gave up the ghost recently, and I'd like to replace it with a BluRay player that can play DVDs, BluRay, and stream video.
    • On the other hand, I could also go with a barebones BluRay/DVD player and a separate Roku unit for Netflix and streaming.
    • My iPod nano is dying. Right now I'm using my new tablet to substitute, but I'd like something else that I can keep music on. I'm abandoning Apple, so any small little MP3 player is fine.
    • Speaking of my new tablet (a Nexus 7), I need a case for it so I can protect the screen and not be so tender with it always and forever.
  • Tea. I'm actually running low on tea, so it would be a good time for gifts of that. I usually drink at work, so I don't want anything too fancy. But I do like all types of loose-leaf tea. I usually buy in person from Bird Pick (Cloud and Fog is one of my favorites), but I'd be curious about the fanciful blends from Adagio Teas. I'm also interested in The Boston Tea Campaign.
  • Miscellaneous T[hings]
    • My old reliable Ikea floor lamp in the living room snapped in half, and I've been resting it on its side on a chair in the living room. This has been going on for quite a while now, and I haven't done anything about it. I probably should, at some point.
    • I could use a new dice bag. Don't know when I lost me old one, but right now I have them in a bowl at home, and a ziploc when traveling. Not so cool.
    As always, strongly avoid books (graphic novel TPBs are OK), videogames, and DVDs, which I already have too many of and not enough time for.
tablesaw: A man comes home frome work, his hat reads "Crossword Makers Inc" (Crossword Makers Inc)
It's day thirteen of Learned League Season 55. With 12 matches behind me, twelve before me, and one currently pending, I thought I'd take a look at what's been going on.

Learned League is an online trivia contest that features head-to-head competition: everybody gets the same questions on a given day, but you are matched up with a single player, and your success is measured solely against theirs. To make it more interesting, you decide on what points your opponent will receive for correct answers (and vice versa), so even if you answer fewer questions, you might still win on points, if the ones you got right were the ones your opponent thought were the hardest.

(More info: Learned League FAQ)

Normally, players are grouped into "rundles" based on performance in previous seasons, so you can expect that the folks you are facing are at about your same level of triviality. Rookies, however, get lumped together in a big groups, resulting in battles of widely different levels. And this year, I'm a rookie.

Numbers Racket


Here are the stats for my rundle (and here are my stats, registration required). I'm currently in 11th place of 30 with a record of 7 wins, 4 losses, and 1 tie; but at my height a few days ago, I was in 4th. In the two matches since then, I've been really unlucky (on Friday, I could only get one answer right, and received zero points for it), but it looks like I'll be up against softer opponents for a little bit, so I should be able to make up more ground.

One thing that's been bugging me is that I've got a slightly-harder-than-average draw, especially in this first half. There are 25 matches, but 30 players in my rundle, leaving five people I won't face. And all five of those are currently ranked in the bottom half. And I've mostly been facing harder opponents thus far. (I am currently tied at #1 for "Correct Answers Allowed" which is a general indicator of how strong one's opponents have been.) You may notice I've been entranced by statistics, particular. Every day, I import the updated stats into an Excel sheet, so I can see my past and future matches color-coded against the median.

Similarly Erratic Results


After two days of competition, I tweeted:
My first [twitter.com profile] LearnedLeague 6 pack comes after a painful loss on day 1. I expect similarly erratic results from now on.
It's turned out to be a good prediction. A 6-pack is, of course, getting all the questions correct on a given day, a relatively rare occurrence in all but the higher echelons of the league. But beyond that, well, see above.

A lot of my success comes from managing to craft good guesses based on the context of clues, rather than being certain of particular knowledge. It can be frustrating, especially when a guess (or two! (or three!!)) goes slightly off. When I first played a live version of this game, it was against a group of pretty serious folks (the NPL), and I left feeling like nothing was in my control, which put me off of the league for a while. But the prospect of settling into a nice matched group is pretty appealing, so I'm eager to finish this season.

Play Along at Home


The LL website has been slowly developing, and now it's really well designed for playing along even if you're not registered. After the day's match is over, the website is updated with the questions and how well all the players did, with the answers concealed by a script. Here are the first day's questions (you can reach other days by using the "Match Day 2" arrow near the top of the page, or by choosing from the calendar on the main page). Individual questions have their own pages with detailed breakdowns of accuracy, the most common wrong answers, and the "best wrong answers." For example, here is Question 3 of Day 9:
The work of what 19th c. English engineer and mathematician on what he called a Difference Engine and Analytical Engine, which are considered today among the first mechanical computers, has earned him the moniker "Father of the Computer"?
Forty-eight percent of players answered correctly; the most common wrong answer was "Charles Turing" at 11%, and the best wrong answers were Charles Widmore, Dr. Emmett Brown, Sir William Computer, and Sir Nigel Speakandspell.

So far, some of my favorite questions have been:
Hey girl, who is the only former MMC (Mickey Mouse Club) Mouseketeer to be nominated for an Academy Award for acting? (Match Day 2, Question 6)

Identify this musical group. [Image] (Match Day 10, Question 2; be sure to look at the best wrong answers)

In the mid to late 1960s, author Arthur Hailey published two simply named novels, which each explored the operation and politics of a single specific location/establishment (different in each novel), and both of which inspired film adaptations (and one a television series). Name both novels. (Match Day 12, Question 6)
Previous seasons are available for review, too, though as you go back further, the display interface gets rougher. There are also themed "minileagues" and one-day competitions that go on between main seasons. One of the things that really excited me about joining the League was kibitzing on [livejournal.com profile] thedan's hilarious collection of Before & After trivia, where each question contains two parts that merge together. (Ex: "Name the 1960s comedian who was famously convicted for obscenity based on live performances in which he demonstrated his original martial art, Jeet Kune Do." Answer: "Lenny Bruce Lee.") And if you know the answer to this question, you are officially an awesome person:
Name the fictional game show on which the host (played by Bill Murray) asked contestants to determine which of Lorenzo Lamas and Ricardo Montalban is more like WNYX station owner Jimmy James (as portrayed in his poorly translated autobiography).
tablesaw: A close-up of Dracula, from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The text reads "Dark Master" and in smaller text "bator". (Dark Master (Bator))
On Sunday, I went over to play long boardgames at Laz's. Because I was late in RSVPing, I ended up in an alternate spot for the game Laz really wanted to play: Republic of Rome. It's not one I'd've chosen. RoR is a complex, bureaucratic simulation of the Senate of Rome. Each player takes control of a faction or Roman Senators vying for influence in Rome while also working together to keep the state running and fighting wars. We played for about five hours, and the game ended with all of us losing when Carthage overwhelmed us.

It's from 1990, made by Avalon Hill, so a lot of its design feels terribly outdated now. There's lots and lots of chits, and lots and lots of rules, and it was never fully clear at a given time whether we were following the rules correctly. In representing the Senate, its gameplay is deliberately obfuscatory and bureaucratic. Like many diplomacy games of this era, game balance is not apparent, but instead relies on individual players knowing strategies not immediately clear in the rules or their interactions.

And in beyond the internal diplomacy, there's also a cooperative game going on, in which players have to keep Rome alive in multiple wars and quell state unrest. This aspect of the game also appeared to be brutally difficult, with the odds spiraling rapidly out of our favor. It feels like a strong influence on more modern cooperative games where everything is going wrong all the time, but for us, at least, the numbers just didn't work out to be winnable. And unlike a game of Pandemic I recently played where the deck was completely unwinnable, working through our unwinnable RoR game took hours not minutes.

I suppose it does what it's supposed to do very well. I just don't understand why anyone would want to do it.
tablesaw: A twenty-sided die glows with the power of the Great Old Ones. (Cthulhu Icosahedron)
As the players both stand foot to foot, face to face,
One should aim to go east while the other goes west,
Though they're out of the game if they step out of place.

Player one starts a volley by making the case
Why the other one budging would really be best,
As the players both stand foot to foot, face to face.

The opponent can then, if they choose to, embrace
This persuasive protreptic profoundly expressed,
Though they're out of the game if they step out of place.

So instead, they must fully expound the disgrace
That would fall upon them should they meet that request,
As the players both stand foot to foot, face to face.

Player two then returns a demand for the space
To move forward. The foe may choose not to protest,
Though they're out of the game if they step out of place.

Then repeat and repeat in a motionless chase
Where the mulish participants grow more obsessed1
As the players both stand foot to foot, face to face,
Though they're out of the game if they step out of place.
1For a more somber game, replace "obsessed" with "depressed."

Probably Much-Needed Context )
tablesaw: Two women put the star on a Christmas tree. (Apocalyptic Christmas)
Wow, so, stuff.

I'm at a new temp job, which could become permanent this week. The regularity of the situation has had my looking at this blog again, but scared to post. It's been a while, you see. But I want to post again; I like this blog; it's fun; I like you all (if you're still watching (even if you're not)). But the months of no posting have been daunting.

I've been posting on my twitter a bunch, my tumblr less so. In fact, I posted on Twitter to force my hands to restart my DW by seeing how extended writing works on my tablet.

Also, I have a new tablet, a Nexus 7, replacing the netbook I got from Google. It's lots of fun to play with!

Also, I was at LosCon this weekend, at [personal profile] trinker's behest. It was, well, it was LosCon, and, thus, disappointing, but I got some shopping done, I had fun in the tabletop gaming room, I saw 3D Mars pictures, and I backed up Trinker on a racism panel. The last is probably going to inspire another post this week.

It's also been a family week with holidays, and a looking forward to Xmastime. I forgot to inflate Jack Skellington for Halloween, so I may do that now for Xmas.

There, that's some stuff. A start. Good to see you all again.
tablesaw: Gaff, from <cite>Blade Runner</cite> (Gaff)
Psyche wanted to see the Perseid meteor shower last night. Her original plan was to see what was going on in the Griffith Park Observatory, but they aren't doing anything special for the showers, and the park closes at about 10:30, anyway. So instead we drove out to Antelope Valley to find a quiet spot in the desert to watch the stars.

We did the teenager-in-the-movies thing and lay down on the hood of her car to watch the sky. (It turns out that the engine can stay pretty hot for a while, so it's not always the best idea.) We got a pretty good showing of meteor, a number of small shooting stars, and a few big enough to leave afterimages. We talked about how we were into space as children.

We were far enough out of LA to get a real look at the sky, clear enough to remember again what the Milky Way looks like. And when we looked around, we could see the various "sunrises," where the light came up from places beyond the horizon and made the sky and clouds gray to the south.

In the starless sky of a city, it's easy to think about space what we now know it to be, an endless expanse of void. But under the bountiful sky, I saw so many things, and each one felt so close: a slightly vaulted ceiling, I might reach if I stretched just a bit more.

When we got back to Hollywood, Psyche asked if her eyes were all right, because the sky had a slightly purple tinge. No, I said, that's just what it looks like here. And when there are low clouds, it can get even pinker, like the sun is always just setting. I think that's amazing too, but I'm glad she asked me to go out, because it's been so long since I really saw the stars.

Spare Wheel

Aug. 1st, 2012 02:25 pm
tablesaw: A twenty-sided die glows with the power of the Great Old Ones. (Cthulhu Icosahedron)
I'm getting the itch to do more tabletop RPG right now, just as one member of my regular group is in the hospital helping his wife through labor, and another member is preparing to do the same in two weeks.

This is a little bit heightened by going over to my friend Laz's house. I was just there to pick up my headphones which I'd left the night before, but it turned out he was running his own game. Using "The Keep on the Borderlands on a "rules light" system. This turned out to be a fuzzy simulation system with some unusual implications during combat. It was a decent time playing, but it was disconcerting to go from a group dedicating to breaking down the rules of RPG systems in playtest to a DM with hidden information adding hidden bonuses to hidden rolls behind a screen (an unknown number of them fudged) who categorically refused to give details about the system or its implications. (If I write about that, I think I'll make it separate, since there's a lot of stuff I'm processing, much of which is not particularly groundbreaking.)

It did get me fired up about Dungeon World and World of Dungeons, the sparseness of the latter vaguely resembling Laz's simple game. It also got me thinking about Burning Wheel, which is a system I played once at con, but always wanted to learn more about. And I'd just come across my copy of the book, so I thought I'd actually read about how the system works.

Except that the book that I'd found was actually The Character Burner, one of the two books that describe the system. And the other one, the half that has most of the system rules, was missing. I searched on and off for a few days, becoming more forlorn. By the time I told Psyche about it, I was near certain that I'd left it somewhere foolish, like the DMV.

She found it in about seven minutes.
tablesaw: Gaff, from <cite>Blade Runner</cite> (Gaff)
I've joined Twitter as [twitter.com profile] sawofthetable.

I don't know how much I'll use it or check on it. But being unable to use either Google+ or Facebook under my pseudonym has left me frozen out of things. I was looking at friend's Google Plus page and discovered that last month, he had gotten into an involved discussion about a role-playing game inspired by the problems that I had when playing it. Of course, I hadn't known about it, and couldn't comment on it if I wanted, because I remain banned under Google Plus's naming policy, despite claims to have loosened the restrictions.

Of the Big Three social-networking sites, having one I can use as Tablesaw may turn out to be useful for connecting with the folks who are wrapped up in Realnamia.
tablesaw: An indigenous American crucified on a cross crowned by a bald eagle. In the background stands a Mesoamerican temple. (América Tropical)
I'm back in LA, and recent evidence confirms that Portland may be quirky, but Southern California is weird, the kind of Capital-W Weird that encompasses Lovecraftian-level Weirdness.
  • There was an earthquake in Los Angeles last night. It wasn't big (magnatitude 3.7, below the 4.0 threshold for most Angelenos to care about), but it was centered in a populated area (I was playing board games less than a mile from there only three hours earlier). It also managed to move through most of the LA Basin without losing much strength; it woke me up sixteen miles away, wondering if this was the beginning of a large quake, tensing to leap out of bed and prepare for coming chaos. Instead I fell right back to sleep, and when I woke up, I couldn't remember why I was looking at the clock at 3:18.

  • The Los Angeles City Council voted to ban medical-marijuana dispensaries within city limits. This puts city law at odds with the state law which is at odds with federal law. (The LA law is also at odds with federal law since it affirms the right to "grow and share marijuana in groups of three people or fewer.") I love this quote:
    "The best course of action is to ban dispensaries, allow patients to have access under state law," [Councilperson Jose Huizar, who proposed the bill,] said. "Let's wait to see what the state Supreme Court decides and then we will be in a much better position to draft an ordinance that makes sense."
    Because when the law is unclear, the best thing to do is take the most drastic action possible while waiting for a final result.

  • I just recently learned about a wonderful blog series running on the KCET website: Laws that Shaped L.A. One was nominated by gaming buddy Mark Valliantos: "The Roots of Sprawl: Why We Don't Live Where We Work." It's about the 1908 zoning laws (the Residence District Ordinance and the Industrial District Ordinance) of Los Angeles, and how they were designed by the first Progressives who were trying to use the laws to create a more ordered and virtuous city.
    "People had a sense that when it came to land use of the city, we could spread out, we could avoid some of the problems of the East Coast industrial cities," he says. "But in the end, it's a shame. We went too far in the other direction, too much toward cars, too much toward sprawl. We're still repairing that today."
    My other favorite so far is on the Laws of the Indies enacted by King Philip II of Spain in 1573, which explains why Los Angeles isn't centered near the port (where Long Beach is) and why downtown LA's grid clashes with the areas around it (a story continued in an article on Thomas Jefferson's 1785 Land Ordinance.)

  • Occupy LA was an odd moment in our police history, when the LAPD (the L.A.P.D.!) was calmly letting Occupy do their thing. And yet, when folks take chalk to the streets, someone I know (don't know if I should reveal their identity) got caught in a MacArthur Park–like cleansing of the area, which resulted in getting beaten with a nightstick when trying to leave. It wasn't until after the police had begun firing rubber bullets into the crowd that a different officer let them through with the advice, "Run and hide."

  • And now there's Anaheim where the police seem to be going on a killing spree aimed at driving toward a 1965-style riot. Local radio station KPCC compared the situation to the one described in a 1963 report by the Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations. The local nickname "Klanaheim" was earned in the '20s when the Ku Klux Klan briefly (and ultimately unsuccessfully) took over the city government. But resident OC Mexican Gustavo Arellano
    Wonder why Orange County trembles whenever its Mexicans protest? Welcome to the Citrus War of 1936, the most important event in Orange County history you've never heard of.
    His article about the Citrus War of 1936 details an extended racialized labor struggle in which
    Orange County Sheriff Logan Jackson deputized citrus orchard guards and provided them with steel helmets, shotguns and ax handles. The newly minted cops began arresting [mostly Mexican] strikers en masse, more than 250 by strike's end. When that didn't stop the strike, they reported workers to federal immigration authorities. When that didn't work, out came the guns and clubs. Tear gas blossomed in the groves. Mobs of citrus farmers and their supporters attacked under cover of darkness.
tablesaw: -- (Default)
Tahnan: I don't see any sidewalk beaver!
tablesaw: A man comes home frome work, his hat reads "Crossword Makers Inc" (Crossword Makers Inc)
When I started this temp gig, I threw myself at it with abandon. I'd been feeling sad and anxious and worried about not having work and maybe never having work again and being unwanted by everyone, and then there was some work. Yay! Everything fixed.

What actually happened is that instead of resolving the stress and anxiety of not being employed, it was transmuted into a laser-like focus on this new job (again, only a temp job) so that I wasn't paying attention to friends or anything else. It had a new commute long, which was new, but I still felt like at the end of the night I was tired and didn't have time to do or see much.

My friends have been waking me up out of that, and I'm talking with people again, but it’s a small circle of people on my chat, text, and social meetups. Going from talking to almost nobody to talking to a few people again is making me miss the nice broad sweep of broadcast information that a journal gives me. And though I keep reading DW and LJ and Tumblr, I don't interact even in comments, much.

But my schedule is really SNAFU, so I'm not going to make any promises about that. Last week, I only worked 2.8 days because of the U.S. holiday and an extra day I took to spend time with my family on the beach. This week, I'm getting prepared to go to Portland, Oregon for a week and a half for the National Puzzlers' League Convention, followed by a family wedding.

I mean, really; the Con is two days away. The pre-pre-con party is happening right now, I think. I am probably the least prepared for this con than I ever have been for any con ever. I am going to show up on Thursday and I probably still won't understand why all of these people I know happen to be at the hotel. The whole things just feels so weird.

More pressingly, I have no idea what I'm going to do for the three or four extra days that I'm in Portland. I may, in fact, spend them mostly in a hotel room reading actual books. Which will be okay too. But it's more vacation than I'm really used to ever taking in another city on my own.

Poll #11098 PORTLAND
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 5


What should I do with my free time in Portland, Oregon?



Rambly post is rambly. I defy editing.
tablesaw: -- (Default)
While doing dishes, I heard music coming through the open windows. I went to investigate, I discovered a giant street fair. Now I am getting a Coolhaus ice cream sandwich.

A small crowd of people in summer clothes enjoying a street fair in a large parking lot. In the background, a band plays covers and a line forms to buy gourmet ice-cream sandwiches.

Also, Andy Dick is selling poetry.

Andy Dick waves to a friend in the $1 Poetry Booth at the Hollywood Street Fair.
tablesaw: Futurama's Robot Devil, El Diablo Robotico (El Diablo Robotico)
Poll #10606 Would You Like to Take a Survey?
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 5


Do you like zombies?

View Answers

Yes
1 (20.0%)

No
3 (60.0%)

Um, it's not that we wouldn't like to take your survey; it's more like we'd rather have dental surgery.
1 (20.0%)

Would you like to see George Wendt in a new musical?

View Answers

Yes
2 (50.0%)

No
1 (25.0%)

Would you like to take a hike?
1 (25.0%)

Would you like to see George Wendt as a zombie in a new musical?

View Answers

Yes
1 (25.0%)

No
2 (50.0%)

Try using a better deodorant.
1 (25.0%)



This has been a week for musicals. On Sunday, I saw Reanimator: The Musical. I missed this in its initial run last year, but I am so glad I saw it now as it prepares for a tour to the New York Musical Theatre Festival and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. If you have the opportunity to see it in any of those places, you absolutely should. The staging is uniformly excellent, with Grand Guignol effects as horrific and cheesy one would expect. But I was constantly surprised by the show. The music was better than I expected, in writing and performance. I also didn't realize that the show was created by the same creative team responsible for the Reanimator movie. But mostly, I never thought I would get to see George Wendt as a lobotomized zombie slave on a small stage. That was pretty awesome.

Though it's generally comedic, there are only a few cheap jokes, which makes them stand out all the more. When a large bunch of zombies make their entrance, they do the Thriller dance, of course. And while most songs are original, one is a knock-off version of "My Way." But on the whole, it's an excellent show.

Tonight, I went to the last show of the East West Players' season, A Little Night Music. Though the text remained the same, the production took its design cues from 1910 Shanghai. I've never seen this musical in its entirety, and I really enjoyed it. I also recommend it, though sadly, unlike Reanimator, it does not have a Splash Zone in the audience.



The 9:00 a.m. alarm continues to be a good schedule making me more productive in terms of job search and general doing of things. I've gotten in touch with a staffing agency, and tomorrow I'll be doing a phone interview with a company that is looking to hire a legal word processor for four or five months. If that goes through, it will be a surprise. I was just getting used to the idea of having lots of free time. (I've only learned to cook one new thing!) Still, it'll give me a chance to keep the cash flow going while looking for something more steady.
tablesaw: Two yellow roses against a bright blue sky. (Family Roses)
I said I was going to post on Monday, but I didn't. I did, however, do productive things. Resumes have been tightened up and e-mailed. I also managed to finally drop my Mothers' Day gift at my parents' house. Today, I managed to wake up on time again and continue, doing laundry as well. There've been a few surprise social things that have come up, which is why DW keeps dropping down on the list, and why today's post is less than stellar. But I didn't want to slack off two days in a row.
tablesaw: One machete is raised, a host more rise to meet it. (From the "Machete" trailer in "Grindhouse".) (Brown Power)
I mentioned Quora in my last post. It's a weird site, and I'm going to post about my experiences with it.

It's not a site that I would have really gone to on my own, but a friend has been raving about it, so I've been trying it out. It has a "real names" policy (not clearly defined, but presumably on par with Google Plus, from which I am still banned). However they do allow one to make certain actions anonymously, so I am making anonymous actions, to which I sign my name Tablesaw. All this to say that if you are on, or go to Quora, you won't find me as a user (and please don't look for my "real name" profile, if you happen to know my government-ID name).

Anyway.

My friend Kat posted this in response to the question, "What are the most civilized things about civilization?" It reads in part:
The worst thing about civilization, then is the blind drive to preserve the civilization regardless of the cost. We're currently facing the possibility of the collapse of the oceanic ecosystem, and meanwhile, time is wasted squabbling over profit and political gain. We argue about precepts set down during a long bygone age, and about insults in the manner of address and commerce and privilege between our subdivisions. I am as guilty of this as any other.
It inspired this on chat:

Kat:
I think I just undermined myself: http://www.quora.com/Civilization/What-are-the-most-civilized-things-about-civilization/answer/Kat-Tanaka-Okopnik

Tablesaw:
Howso?

Kat:
I just declared that all Social Justice and discussion about food and anything else pales in importance compared to global ecological crisis.

Tablesaw:
The way you framed it, yes. But actually considering your opinion, no.

Tablesaw:
Your answer posits a thing that is most important for civilization, but your previous examples suggest pinnacles of civilization come from rigorously pursuing a single goal.

Tablesaw:
Your concern also stems from the assumption that reaching your posited end goal is a straight line that will not require steps like reducing the influence of racialized social structures.

Kat:
ahhh, nice.

Kat:
Pity you can't comment anonymously. :P

Kat:
(You'll have to post a separate answer and cross-reference mine if you want to remain anon)

Tablesaw:
I don't really care to for this, since I'm mostly responding to your private question about what you've said. Reframing for public consumption in Quora's framework is too tiresome.

Kat:
*nod*

Tablesaw:
If you'd like, I can link to the Quora answer, then share our brief chat transcript on DW.
tablesaw: Ration Hornblower, from the cast of Smile Time, peeks his horn nose out at you. (Ratio Hornblower)
So this week didn't work out so well.

After an initial flurry of activity filing for unemployment insurance and sending a few e-mails to staffing agencies, I fell into a funk of avoidance, leading to a mini freak out on Thursday. I talked with friends and family who reminded me that it's ok to be freaked out about being unemployed for the first time in over a decade, and that a few days of not doing anything productive is fine.

I'm going to try to set myself onto a daily working schedule come Monday. While it's nice to sleep in until 11 or noon, I'm not actually productive when I stay up late. Once it nears sunset, I start feeling like my work day is over, and I stop doing other things. I think that forcing myself to at least be awake by nine every morning will add a few hours to my "working" day, at the very least. More measures will probably be forthcoming.

I did manage to do a lot of nonproductive things, though. I entered a local crossword puzzle tournament and participated in a sudoku contest at Logic Masters India. boardgaming night (played Roll Through the Ages), role-playing-game night (beta-testing a game by Josh Robern), a party to read and mock Fifty Shades of Grey as a group, and an NPL party. And in addition to that, I saw a bunch of friends at different times. I joined the site Quora despite its "real names" policy, by hacking together a form of pseudonymity out of its nascent system. And I sauteed chicked without freaking out.

Starting Monday, I'm going to add DW to my list of daily things to do. For reals.

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