March Upstate Board Game Day

Jesse and I went back to The Command Post for another Upstate Board Game Day. Jesse was especially looking forward to this since he missed last month’s game day. I wasn’t sure if I would go to the whole thing this month since I had stayed up really late last night playing sneaker hockey with a church group, but I decided to go ahead and get up in time to get there from the beginning, and I’m glad I did. I got to meet several people I hadn’t before: Melissa, Kevin, Charlie (who I’m almost certain I sat next to in chapel at BJ once). Hannah, and Lydia.

The first game we played was Ra. In this game, you are bidding on different kinds of tiles: artisans, monuments, Nile River tiles, and others. These elements are worth different amounts of points: For example, there are five different types of artisan. If you have no artisans when the points are scored, you lose five points; if you have three different types, you get a bonus of five points; if you have 4, you get ten, and if you have all 5, you get 15 (if I recall correctly). And so there are different strategies of things you might want to bid on.

The thing is, you only get three point tokens to buy these things with, with values that range from 1 to 16. Once you win an auction, you trade that token for the one in the center of the board and place the new token face down. Now you can only win two more auctions. Once you’ve spent all three of your tokens, you’re out for the round (aka “epoch.”). So, since you can’t break the points into smaller units, you can have a situation where you have two low-score tiles and one really high score tile, which means if you really want a particular lot of tiles, you might have to sacrifice a lot for it.

After we played Ra, Jesse and I learned how to play Puerto Rico. In this game, you play the part of a plantation owner in Puerto Rico. You are trying to ship goods–corn, coffee, indigo, sugar, and tobacco–from your farms to the mainland. Each turn, a player takes one “role,” such as a trader, a builder, or the mayor. This affects what all the players can do next. If he takes the builder, for example, everyone can build one building (if they have enough money). Each of these buildings have different effects that give the player that builds it a special bonus, such as additional victory points when they ship out goods or extra colonists when they build plantations. Players take turns playing these different roles until eventually there are either no colonists or no victory points in the pool or until one player’s building area is completely full of buildings. Whoever has the most victory points wins.

This game was fun because there are a ton of different strategies you can try to follow. I think I enjoyed last months Caylus slightly more, but this one was also very good. I might have to pick this one up online.

After that, Jesse and I went to lunch. When we came back, we played Mutiny!, a pirate themed bidding game. This game is not nearly as much fun as the other ones we played today. I won’t bother going into how to play; just avoid this one.

We then played Incan Gold. This game involves hunting treasure in an Incan temple. Each turn, all players decide at the same time whether or not they will leave or stay. If they leave, they keep all of the treasure they have already collected this round, but can’t collect any more until the next one. If they stay, they have to face the next card on the stack. This can be either more treasure (split evenly among the remaining party members) or a trap. If they face the same kind of trap twice in a round (say, two sets of large poisonous spiders or two huge snakes), then they are so scared that they run out of the temple without any of their treasure. So it’s really a “push your luck” game, as the review I linked to says. It’s a light, fun game without a lot of deep strategic thinking. Not a game I would buy, personally, but fun.

Then we played Poison. This is a pretty basic numbers-based card game. There are three pots, into which you play different-colored potion cards. Each of these cards has a point value; if the card you play brings the point total above 13, you have to take the cards in the pot. You can also play poison cards, which count as two cards in the final scoring. The goal is to have the lowest number of cards at the end of the round. This game is sort of fun, but, like Incan Gold, not one I would spend money on.

Finally, we played Wits and Wagers, a combination trivia and betting game. There are seven rounds, in which an obscure question that can be answered in numerical form is asked, such as how many paintings by Picasso were sold for more than one million dollars. Each person writes down their answer on a little dry-erase card. These guesses are arranged from smallest to largest; the one that is closest to the right answer without going over is the correct one (sort of like The Price is Right). But before the correct answer is revealed, all players get to bet on which one is most likely to be correct. Once you find out which one is correct, players who bet on that card are rewarded according to the amount listed on the board. The player with the correct answer also gets a ten point bonus. Whoever has the most points at the end, wins. (I ended up winning with 190 points). This was a lot of fun, and a great party game. It takes about fifteen minutes to play.

So, thanks to everybody for bringing their board games! See you all next month!

Dave Barry’s Money Secrets

I was out at Barnes & Noble tonight, getting some coffee from in-house coffee shop, when I spotted a book I hadn’t seen before: Dave Barry’s Money Secrets. The first couple of chapters are hysterical. I quote from the introduction:

Well, no matter who you are, you need this book.

“Why?” you ask.

Because chances are that when it comes to your personal finances, you are, with all due respect, a complete moron. I do not mean that in a derogatory way. I mean it simply in the sense that, when it comes to handling money, you are a stupid idiot.

“But,” you say, “what if I follow the accepted principles of sound money management?”

Great. Except that your so-called “accepted principles of sound money management” are worthless.

“But,” you say, “what if OUCH!”

I apologize for slapping your face, but if you keep interrupting with your stupid questions, we’re never going to get through this introduction.

That was on the first page, and it was enough to get me to buy the book. You should too. It’s worth it for its discussion of the money supply alone.

I Miss Sugar

I haven’t had any refined sugar since Sunday. And I would love to have one of the Fudge Rounds in the basket upstairs.

But I’m trying to lose weight. And I want to see how long I can go without eating sugar. (Sugar substitutes don’t count, so I’ll keep drinking my Diet Pepsi, thank you very much.) So, no Fudge Round tonight. I miss you Fudge Round.

Next up: I need to get some decent tennis shoes and start running. Or, more ideally, find a nearby tennis court. We used to have one that we could use at a local high school, until the school was moved and replaced by a gigantic Wal-Mart. Thank you, Wal-Mart. Perhaps I should arrange a tennis game in the aisles in protest.

In any case, I need to find some way of exercising regularly. From what I’ve heard, fat people who exercise regularly are better-off, health wise, than skinny people who don’t.

The biggest problem with exercise around here is that it gets so freakin’ hot in the summer time. Combine the heat with humidity that regularly rises above 75%, and you have a recipe for a soul-draining, life-sapping environment that makes it thoroughly unpleasant to go outside to check the mail, much less to run for a half-hour.

Hopefully that kind of weather will hold off for a while this year. I’m just wishing right now for a bit of rain to wash the pollen cloud out of the air. You can almost feel the pollen dust as it coats your nose and throat. I can only imagine what it’s like for people who are allergic to the stuff.

This is why San Francisco appeals to me: From what I understand, the weather there is almost always mild. It might be humid, but when it’s seventy degrees, that’s OK. The thing that doesn’t appeal to me about San Francisco is the idea of a multi-thousand dollar rent.

Anyways, I’m rambling. See you tomorrow.

“Why We Banned Legos”

The National Review Online has an interesting article about why an after-school program (temporarily) banned Legos from their classroom:

“The children were building their assumptions about ownership and the social power it conveys — assumptions that mirrored those of a class-based, capitalist society — a society that we teachers believe to be unjust and oppressive.”
. . .
“As we watched the children build, we became increasingly concerned.”

Mm-hmm. As a result of this concern, the teachers banned Legos while they discussed with each other and the 5-9 year old children a new social order for their Legotown. (Seriously, they call it that throughout their article.)

When they re-introduced the Legos, they decided to combat the “unjust and oppressive” capitalist society that was being developed in their classroom the only way that Communists know how: State Controls.

  • All structures are public structures. Everyone can use all the Lego structures. But only the builder or people who have her or his permission are allowed to change a structure.
  • Lego people can be saved only by a “team” of kids, not by individuals.
  • All structures will be standard sizes.

That last line’s pretty sad. All structures will be standard sizes. You may not build a sky scraper, an airport, a space ship, or any other interesting project. You may only be one of the faceless horde, with your box that is exactly the same size as everyone else’s boxes. Also, anyone can use your box, whether you want them to or not.

Way to take all the fun out of playtime guys.

Capitalism is prevalent because it works. It works really well. Ask the Soviets and the Cubans. Ask the Chinese, who are experiencing economic revival as they embrace capitalism. It doesn’t matter that not everyone gets and equal piece of the pie; in fact, society breaks when everyone gets the same thing. Instead of progress–better healthcare, more food, more clothing, advanced technology–you end up with lots of boring boxes of standard size.

(Via the Liberty Belles)

I don’t feel like doing it today.

And now I’m screaming on the crowded streets
I’m telling everyone that I meet
But no matter what I try to say I’m only whispering.

Josh Woodward, Only Whispering

Well, my goal at the start of this month was to write at least one blog post every day during the month of March. As you can see from the calendar in the sidebar, that didn’t quite happen. Mostly, I just forgot on those days. Still, 27 days out of 31 ain’t bad. (87%, or a B +.)

But today, I just don’t feel like doing one. Is anyone even out there reading this? Or am I wasting my time here?

I Love My Tablet

I’ve been spending my day getting my new computer oriented with my life: connecting it to the network at my job, transferring files, installing programs, and just playing with the thing.

I love it. I keep discovering new things I can do with it. For example, I discovered I can write “ink notes” in Excel, so I can mark up a spreadsheet. I can do all kinds of neat stuff in OneNote, a program which deserves its own separate blog entry. It’s even pressure sensitive, so I can alternately write lightly and bear down hard on a picture in Paint.Net.

I also like Windows Vista. This thing came with Vista Business Edition. The handwriting recognition in Vista is really, really good. It can decipher my hand-writing, which is not an easy thing for most people I know to do. I like that I can do minor picture editing straight from an explorer window. I like the new eye-candy, the fading in and out of windows. I like how they changed the My Documents folder to be more like a “home” folder with a Documents folder inside of it, along with a Videos folder and a Music folder and all the other folders.

And I went ahead and upgraded to Office 2007. I’m on the cutting edge! And that cutting edge sliced right into my wallet! My bank account has been hemorrhaging cash this month. No more big purchases for a while, I think.

My New Toy

Today, a box arrived from FedEx.

A Box

A box containing this:

A Fujitsu T4215

I am very happy today. I’ve got a new toy to play with!

This is a Fujitsu T4215 convertible Tablet/Laptop running Windows Vista Business Edition. Gig of RAM, 2.0 Ghz Intel Core 2 Duo processor. It is really, really cool. More details to follow, no doubt.

Chris Sligh & Bob Jones

As you probably already know, former BJU student Chris Sligh is one of the front-runners to win this year’s American Idol competition. Today, someone at the AP finally asked the University what they thought. This quote came from an article with the somewhat unfair title of “‘Idol’ Contestant’s Faith Questioned.”

Jonathan Pait, a spokesman for fundamentalist Bob Jones University where Sligh attended for several years, said: “We really are somewhat disappointed with the direction he has gone musically.”

I’m genuinely surprised that it’s taken this long for the media to figure out that BJU, which bans jazz, rock, country and Contemporary Christian music, might not approve of a former student singing rock and pop songs on national television.

I can understand where the university is coming from here; a lot of the really popular music out there right now glorifies sex and violence with ever racier and bloodier lyrics. For a conservative Christian university, there’s really no way that they can put their stamp of approval on that.

I don’t agree, however, that this means that Christians need to expunge all rock, jazz, pop, and country music from their music libraries. There is good, acceptable music in all of these categories. The problem isn’t the genre, it’s the overall message of the individual songs and artists.

Anyways, best of luck to Chris! I’d love to see him win this thing.

Tumblr

With my blog, I generally want to have my own content, instead of just quoting things. Just quoting other people adds to that “echo chamber” effect that blogs have and means that I’m not contributing much to the conversation. But there’s still interesting stuff out there I’d like to quote with a minimum of commentary some times.

Thats why I’ve started a Tumblog. This is not, in fact, a blog about antacids. Instead, it’s a collection of whatever neat quotes and fun stuff I find around the internet.

Tumblr is great because it’s really, really simple. Just pick what kind of content you want to add–Regular Post, Photo, Quote, Link, Conversation, or Video–then paste or type the information into the form. No categories, comments, trackbacks, or any of the normal stuff you associate with blogging. And it displays the content in a nice big, clean format that’s really easy to read.

Find my tumblog at http://jdharper.tumblr.com/