- 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.
- 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.
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.
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 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)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 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:
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)
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).
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.
As the players both stand foot to foot, face to face,1For a more somber game, replace "obsessed" with "depressed."
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.
( Probably Much-Needed Context )
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
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.
What should I do with my free time in Portland, Oregon?
Rambly post is rambly. I defy editing.
Do you like zombies?
Um, it's not that we wouldn't like to take your survey; it's more like we'd rather have dental surgery.
Would you like to see George Wendt in a new musical?
Would you like to take a hike?
Would you like to see George Wendt as a zombie in a new musical?
Try using a better deodorant.
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.
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).
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:
- I think I just undermined myself: http://www.quora.com/Civilization/W
- I just declared that all Social Justice and discussion about food and anything else pales in importance compared to global ecological crisis.
- The way you framed it, yes. But actually considering your opinion, no.
- 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.
- 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.
- ahhh, nice.
- Pity you can't comment anonymously. :P
- (You'll have to post a separate answer and cross-reference mine if you want to remain anon)
- 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.
- If you'd like, I can link to the Quora answer, then share our brief chat transcript on DW.
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.
The Egyptian had a double feature for these two films, and it was a lot of fun. As many people are already aware, Labyrinth continues to hold up well as a film. The Dark Crystal does not. It's very steeped in late '70s/early '80s fantasy, and the movie often pauses to watch the puppets do strange things. But while I'll always have a place in my heart for this movie, I'll never be able to watch it at home again. Once you've seen the swamps and the Skeksis and everything in big bright colors, the film just doesn't have a point on the small screen.
April 12: The Cabin in the Woods
I went with a long-time Whedon fan to see this in an advance showing at the Arclight on Thursday. The movie really was amazing, and you should go see it. I do think it's a film that benefits from watching without knowing much about it, so no spoilers from me, but it's a movie that I recommend to pretty much everyone.
I don't generally consider myself a horror fan, but I love listening to the podcast Psuedopod (though I'm eternally backlogged a year behind. But in listening, I get a sense of a wider scope of horror stories than one generally expects from what are classified as horror movies. The Cabin in the Woods fits more comfortably in that wider view than what's typically presented in movies.
Again, I recommend it to everyone, and I am especially hoping to see what yendi thnks of it.
April 13: That Dog Reunion Show
From my Tumblr:
Last night, I went to see the reunion show for That Dog. It's been 20 years since they released their first EP, which is about the same time (probably later in the year), that I listend to them do a live set on KCRW on Brave New World.It was really a great show. Either Anna Waronker's voice has gotten a bit lower and coarser over time or she just wasn't trying as hard to get the higher pop sound. Either way, a lot of the songs sounded even better than I remembered. I've loaded all the songs onto my iPod, which is kind of redundant, since they've been stuck in my head all day.
The show was billed as having songs that were rarely or never played live. I’m glad it was because That Dog has always been better in the deep cuts than the singles. Listening to them perform "Paid Programming" took me back to that time, lying on the floor of my bedroom listening to the radio, falling in love.
What incredibly geeky thing should I do on Saturday?
Attend OrcCon, a local gaming convention.
Attend a screening of all five original Planet of the Apes films.
Defend your position:
I'm working on the Monday holiday, so I'm going to take Saturday off, and there are two competing amazingly geeky things to do, and I'm having a hard time deciding, so I'm polling opinions.
Things to consider (ETA: These are all things that people have asked me to help make a decision):
- Links: Planet of the Apes | OrcCon
- Distance: The Egyptian Theatre is in walking distance from my house, while OrcCon is a bit of a drive to the LAX area.
- Cost: Between registration and parking, a day at OrcCon will cost about $40. A ticket to all of the Apes movies is $15.
- Friends: Although the Apes marathon will undoubtedly be packed with Apes enthusiasts, I will probably not be attending with any previously known friends. On the other hand, a number of friends and acquaintances will be attending OrcCon either for boardgaming or role-playing. In fact, several of my friends are organizing a Houses of the Blooded LARP.
- Uniqueness: Strategicon is held three times a year, while Planet of the Apes marathons are . . . somewhat more rare. On the other hand, I have all of the movies on DVD and could organize a showing in my house (with booze, even), while gaming is often ephemeral.
- PKD: In A Scanner Darkly, the characters plan to attend a marthon of all of the Planet of the Apes movies. They do not plan to attend a LARP.