Saturday, September 30, 2006

Weekend Gaming

As promised, we got to play a game of Puerto Rico in the evening. The players were me, Rachel, Nadine, and Ben.

I introduced another special building which I had not yet tried:

You may take a marble quarry. For each two occupied marble quarries and one worker in your Marble works, you receive one Marble good during craftsman. Marble can be sold for 5 GP. During the captain phase, when you ship a type of good, you may add one marble good to The Hold for 2 VP. If you store one type of good in a warehouse, you may add marble. There are 6 marble goods available in the supply. Marble may not be chosen as your extra good as craftsman privilege.

It's sister building, Gold Mine, is a good building (cost 8, slightly different rules). Unfortunately, Marble Works didn't work quite as well. It just wasn't enough reward to make up for the lost plantations, building opportunity, and colonist cost.

I had to try it, since I was the one who suggested it. Meanwhile, the rest of the buildings also presented fewer money opportunities and increased shipping opportunities. As a result, Rachel took heavy shipping and won the game with 45 shipping points, and a total of 59. Nadine also managed heavy shipping and got one big building for a total of 55. I ended with 47 and Ben had 45.

I will note one more time: the best solution to solve the advantage of the corn players is to remove Small Market (replace with just about anything else), and add Small Fashion District (2/1, trade Indigo at +2). Indigo players and corn players will now be on even footing.

The next day, my brother and his wife played some Settlers of Catan while I took their kids out for a walk. Tal, Levana (age 6), and I threw a ball around, and on one throw, Tal bounced the ball to me with her forehead. Levana decided to try that as well, thus becoming the first person I have even met who repeatedly threw a ball at her own head and missed every time.

Link: Bernie DeKoven talks about "deeply played games", both in audio and a PDF of his keynote address for the North American Simulation and Games Association. NASAGA 2006 is Oct. 11 to 14 in Vancouver, BC.

NASGA links to:

The Game Group, a site about games in education

thiagi, games in professional training. thiagi links to a whole lot of other places which I will have to explore.

Serious Games UK

and SAGE, Simulation and Advanced Gaming Environments of Learning.

All look like interesting groups studying games for serious purposes.


Friday, September 29, 2006

Shabbat Shalom

Guests: my brother Ben's family for the whole shabbat. For dinner we also have Nadine, from the game club. For lunch we also have four of Rachel's students (last minute invites).

That means that we will probably get some gaming in tonight and tomorrow. My guess would be Bridge or Puerto Rico tonight, and something Euro-like tomorrow.

I just received a collection of stuff that I had ordered to family in the U.S. and has only now made it to Israel, including:

Theory of Games by Raph Koster
Wildlife: the Cardinal Collection by John Kovalic
Greatest Games of All Time by Matthew Costello

Colossal Arena
A set of replacement cards for Settlers of Catan (but they're small!)
A pack of Legends of the Five Rings cards

Joy, joy.

Peace out,

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Session Report, in Which Offense is Inadvertantly Given

The latest Jerusalem Strategy Gaming Club session report is here. Games
played: Quo Vadis, Santiago, Rheinländer*, Cosmic Encounter, Princes of Florence, Magic: the Gathering, Settlers of Catan, Capitol*, Bridge.

*games abandoned midway

Here's the story:

One of last night's players brought Rheinländer, another of your typical Euro-abstract games with a medieval theme thrown onto it. In fact, like many of these games, the artwork for the theme seems designed to make the game more confusing, rather than more interesting. The board winds back and forth, and it is sometimes hard to see when border areas touch and to which areas the castles and churches adjoin.

Anyhoo ...

The owner of the game felt uncomfortable with the Christian symbols that appear on some of the game's useless pieces. There's nothing unusual about this.

Some of you may recall that I felt uncomfortable about one of the phases in Amun-Re, the one that required me to say "now we all make sacrifices to Amun-Re". In order to get around this discomfort, I simply changed the phase to "now we all bribe the corrupt water official". If I had actually owned the game, I probably would have blackened out any references to the sacrifices on the game's pieces, but mine was a borrowed copy.

I don't particularly feel any discomfort with simply having Christian symbols on my game pieces. My wife is a PhD candidate in medieval literature, so I'm used to having the New Testament and the Koran in my house, books I would otherwise have no use for.

However, I perfectly understand those who would feel uncomfortable with symbols of other religions on their games. Such as the owner of this game. So it didn't surprise me that the owner had blackened out these particular pieces in order to cover over the crosses.

As we began to play the game, I had absolutely no idea about any of this, of course. I saw some little disks with black abstract squiggles on them and didn't look closely at them. Those pieces were wholly irrelevant to the game play, anyway. Nor did I notice when Brendan began to take notice of them.

Brendan is a lovely guy from Australia who is in Israel for the better part of a year, and has been a regular at the group. He is also a religious Anglican. We have become friends, even though we find ourselves quite divided over certain political issues with regards to Israel.

Brendan is very friendly, and usually smiling, even when he is upset by something. So I took no notice when he was closely examining these little pieces.

Somehow he figured out that the pieces originally had crosses on them that had been squiggled over. I looked at them later and still have no idea how he figured this out. They were covered very well.

Brendan then asked the owner why he had drawn on them; he appeared to be considering the possibility that the owner may have had some visual problems with the pieces and had drawn on them simply to up their contrast or something similar. I don't remember the owner's answer. But I remember what came next.

Brendan, still smiling, but obviously troubled, said that he could no longer play the game, as he felt uncomfortable playing a game where his religious symbol had been desecrated. This was my first indication that something was wrong, and only then did I begin to piece together what I have already explained up until now.

He left the room and came back. He magnanimously said that he understood why the owner had done this, but that he couldn't continue with the game. I got the feeling that he was struggling with a certain amount of anger with the owner despite knowing that the owner had a right to do as he wished with his own game.

Naturally, we put the game away. We suggested that either we avoid playing this game in the future, or simply replace the marked pieces with poker chips which would serve just as well. We left this up in the air.

It got me thinking about Judaism's own symbols. Jews couldn't care less about a drawn over Jewish star, assuming that it was not drawn over specifically as an insult, in which case it is the insult, not the star, that would bother us. This is because the star is a nationalistic symbol, not a religious one. We don't feel it's destruction as any real sort of desecration.

On the other hand, we would feel that way about holy books or scrolls that have God's name in them, or about certain spaces, such as synagogues or our temple, or certain times, such as Yom Kippur.

I apologized to Brendan on behalf of the group. And I put it to you: Has anything similar ever happened to you?


Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The world will end in ...


Games in the Time of the Bible

I found this little gem of a paper by Professor Meir Bar Ilan concerning games in, and at the time of, the Bible. Sorry, it's in Hebrew. An English abstract is here.

To make up for that, here is a paper on Talmudic game theory by Dr. Roman Ohrenstein, and an article about last year's Israeli Nobel prize winner in Economics (Game Theory), Dr. Robert Aumann, also discussing Biblical and Talmudic games.

OK, what else?

Time magazine will be telling us next week that many parents think that poker is good for kids. And they're not talking pretend poker, here; they mean real money poker. Nice going, Time.

The Philippines is looking to make Scrabble an official English language teaching tool in schools across the country.

And October 21 is the date for the attempt to break the world record for simultaneous Uno players.

Ah yes. Kiddley demonstrates how easy it is to make a simple board game.


Peace, Propaganda, and the Promised Land

More politics. Stay away if you want.

The Video

I watched the film Peace, Propaganda, and the Promised Land. The film is produced by the Media Education Foundation.

This video attempts to show that the U.S. media is particularly biased against the Palestinians, in favor of Israel. It is a pretty slick piece of propaganda. I recommend that anyone who reads my post against Palestinian and Hezbollah propaganda watch this for an opposing view.

And I recommend the following, in general:

Don't believe my post. Don't believe the Islamic media. Don't believe Israeli propaganda. Don't believe this video. Don't believe what was said, what was not said, video images, causal implications, spoken words, images, or anything else.

Media is propaganda, whether video, image, or text. You must see dozens of different perspectives and thoroughly research facts before coming to conclusions or arguing points. Whether the subject is violence in video games, or the Mideast conflict, you must hear multiple points of view.

Note: this doesn't mean that all people who have a point of view must be given a platform to speak it. Sometimes points of view, such as Holocaust denial, are incendiary by their very nature. But if you want to know something, after hearing one side of the story, you must deliberately go find the other side.

Now, on to the video.

What I Agree With

First of all, let me tell you the three things that the video says about which I agree:

1) Israel engages in a PR campaign.

Yes, Israel engages in a PR campaign. This is common knowledge, but the video presents this as shocking. So a few questions to ponder:

a) Does any other country engage in a PR campaign, such as, oh, the producers of this video?

The majority of the speakers in the video include: Noam Chomsky, members of pro-Palestinian lobbyists, Hanan Asrawi, an Israeli reservist (identified only at the end of the video as one who refused Israeli service in the territories), a Rabbi from Tikkun magazine, etc.

Do you know who these people are? For instance, Noam Chomsky is the first person listed in the Board of Advisors for the Media Education Foundation. How many others work for MEF? Do some research and find out about the rest of the people who speak in the video.

b) Do the Palestinians or other Arabs engage in PR?

c) Is the "fact" that Israel engages in PR a condemnation of Israel?

2) The American media sometimes presents the humanity of Israeli victims without presenting the humanity of civilian Palestinian victims.

Of course, the exact reverse is true for British and other media sources, so ask:

a) Is this really true? How can you tell from the selected clips in this video if there are not many other clips demonstrating the opposite of what is being presented? Do you trust these people to tell you the whole truth?

b) Is the video's version, or the British version, of portraying only the humanity of Palestinian victims without portraying the humanity of Israeli victims therefore ok?

3) People confuse anti-Israeli with anti-semitic.

This is true. It is absolutely possible to be critical of Israel and its policies without being anti-semitic, and calling all people who criticize Israel "anti-semites" dilutes the nature of the term.

The only things is, and I don't mean to deny the previous statement, is that there sure seems to be a great overlap between anti-Israel attitudes with anti-semitism. As well as anti-semitic slogans and hatred that gets aroused at anti-Israel rallies.

Don't believe me. Go research it.

What I Disagree With

Here are the remaining problems with the film. I'm not going to make many points. Mostly, I want to point out the questions you should be asking that get glossed over.

1) Throughout the video, the essential element is that all Palestinian acts of violence are justified, or at least understandable, by virtue of the fact that Israel is occupying Palestinian land.

So some questions:

a) What land is being occupied? Who owned the land? The video implies that the Palestinians owned the land, and then the Israelis came in out of nowhere to occupy it. When referring to "occupied lands", what lands are being referred to? The "west bank and Gaza", or the entire country?

b) Who are Palestinians? The video implies that the Palestinians were indigenous people living in this area of land before the Israelis came in to rule over it.

c) The video implies that the acts of violence are, for the most part, happening in the occupied land as "resistance". Is that true?

d) The video implies that desperate people commit suicide bombings. Who commits suicide bombings? Are they the poor, hungry and desperate?

e) The video implies that suicide bombings against civilian babies, children, men, and women is a natural result of occupation. In the history of occupations throughout history, say the last century, how many other nations have used this tactic? Jews were oppressed in Nazi Germany. They were desperate. Did they use suicide bombings against German babies and children? Is anything - land, dignity, hunger, anything - justification for purposely blowing up civilians? Ever?

f) Was there any violence towards Jews before the "occupation"? If so, what makes before and after the occupation different?

2) The Palestinian are referred to as "unarmed".

a) Are Molotov cocktails, fire, light guns, sniper weapons, grenades, bombs, and rockets considered arms?

b) The Palestinians are unarmed when they are just using rocks. Stand against a wall. Have your friend stand twenty feet away from you and throw a rock the size of an apple right at your head, or the head of your child from a slingshot with all of his might. What are your chances of survival if he scores a direct hit on your head?

3) The Palestinian victims are "young people", implying that they are innocents.

a) Who are throwing the rocks? Who is letting them? Who is encouraging them? How many Palestinian "young people" have been arrested carrying bombs and guns? What is "young", anyway?

b) How many of the Palestinian victims are actually young, as implied by the video?

4) The occupation is illegal.

a) What makes something illegal? U.N. resolution? Is there a national set of laws that all countries adhere to?

b) Some international laws do apply, depending on how you define the area. Is it disputed area, occupied area, or conquered area?

5) The American media is all one sided.

a) According to whom? How do you know that the video's portrayal on the American media is as it says? What percentage was included to demonstrate the point, or left out to demonstrate the point?

b) "The American media". Is that a monolithic thing? What media are we referring to? CNN, ABC, NBC, FOX, CBS, or thousands of other sources. Which ones were cherry-picked to support this notion?

6) Israel is the only country in the world occupying another with military presence.

a) Is that so? Any others, maybe?

7) The occupation is a dictatorship.

a) Is that so? How are affairs actually run in the Palestinian territories? How much direct control does Israel assert?

8) Various news clips with suffering people and battles.

a) How many of the clips in this movie are taken out of context, a result of direct fakery, have nothing to do with conflict and are juxtaposed to appear so, etc?

9) Israel wants to colonize the areas.

a) And what has prevented Israel from doing so?

b) Have Israeli governments ever talked about relinquishing control, in a gradual process to the Arabs?

10) The settlements are Jewish only. This implies racism.

a) Any Muslims want to live there?

b) Any Christians living there?

c) And Muslim areas where Jews are not permitted?

d) Any areas in Israel where Muslims are not permitted?

11) The settlers carry guns, and are aggressive.

a) Why do settlers carry guns?

b) Have the Arabs ever been aggressive?

No, I'm not excusing any Israelis who, without cause, are aggressive against Arabs.

c) Are any reports about violence against Arabs the result of Arabs attacking Arabs? What percent of violence against Palestinians is a result of Jewish aggression versus Arab aggression? How does that compare to general criminal violence throughout Israel and the rest of the world?

12) Israel demolishes Arab homes in order to colonize the area.

a) Name the reasons that Israel demolishes Arab homes.

13) It uses the pretext of illegal building, when in fact it doesn't let the Arabs get the licenses they need.

a) According to whom? Why don't Arabs get the licenses they need: because Israeli bureaucracy prevents them, or because they don't recognize Israel, or a combination, or something else?

b) How many houses are demolished, and how unusual is that?

c) How many houses demolished were homes of terrorists, or were operation bases for attacks? Yet their inclusion in the figures is not mentioned?

14) Suicide bombers are a result of oppression.

a) Examine all suicide bombers around the world: America, Spain, France, Japan, Britain, Cuba, India, Sri Lanka. How many are the result of oppression and desperation? How many are simply religious fanatics?

b) Is suicide bombing excusable ever, for any reason? For land? For food? For dignity? For honor? For poverty? For hopelessness?

c) Is suicide terrorism legitimate resistance? Then why does this video bring up the subject and then try to explain them?

15) Israel oppresses Palestinians under the cover of the war on terror.

a) Are the people being killed in Palestine different than the ones being killed as a result of any other attacks around the world?

b) Does the "occupation" excuse terror attacks against civilians?

16) Sabra and Shatilla massacres were carried out by Israel

a) Who carried them out? Who accepted responsibility, nonetheless?

17) "War crimes" occurred in Jenin, and American media jumped on the bandwagon of saying that there was no evidence for them.

a) Was there evidence for war crimes?

b) What happens if you keep repeating a false story and call it "in dispute"?

18) The offer at Camp David to Arafat was for a veritable Palestinian prison.

a) What was the offer at camp David?

b) Was it a take-it-or-leave-it offer with no possibility of any future negotiations or changes in status?

19) There are three million Palestinian refugees.

a) According to whom? What is counted as a refugee?

b) Where are they living and why are they still living there?

c) Where are they refugees from?

20) Sharon sparked the Intifada by visiting the disputed Temple Mount.

a) Were there any clashes before Sharon's visit?

b) Was the confrontation spontaneous or planned?

c) Whose holy site is it?

d) Why shouldn't a Jew step on the area? Are there places that an Arab stepping would cause full scale riots by Jews against Arabs? Is it justifiable?

21) This is just an aside, but I love how one of the media sources quoted was:


Great news quote, there.

22) Palestinians want peace.

a) What is peace?

b) If you continue to fight because you don't get what you want, are you pursuing peace?

c) Under what circumstances will the Palestinians promise to never lift a weapon against an Israeli ever again?

d) What is the final status solution for the Palestinians that gives peace and security to all Israelis and Palestinians and ends all conflict in the region.

23) Palestinians deserve a state, like everyone else.

a) Everyone else deserves a state? Do I? What makes someone eligible to claim a state?


I know very well that some of these questions are themselves provocative. The questions carry implied assumptions. Some of them ridicule by their very nature. Some support an agenda.

I don't think that the answers to all of these questions support only one agenda. Some are damning to the Palestinian cause, some are probably damning to Israel. Some important questions may not have been asked.

I really have only one point: Every assumption, every image, every statement, every question, every point, every "because" in a piece of propaganda has to be challenged. Don't let yourself be swayed the first time you see a video or read a news report. Instead, lay out the article and start challenging the assumptions.

You may find that the assumptions are more insidious then they first appear. Which is exactly what this video was purporting to demonstrate.


Tuesday, September 26, 2006



New Blog: Topics from 192 Countries

I've been invited to post on a new blog: Topics from 192 Countries. My first entry is up today.

It is one blogger per country, talking about whatever. Could be interesting if it sustains. I wonder if any hard Arab countries will join now that an Israeli has.


And the world is silent - an article about suffering around the world today, and the inexplicable fact that Israel is being blamed for all of it. In three parts. (via Chayyei Sarah)

Monday, September 25, 2006

Run for the Hills: The Intellectuals are Coming

Through our shul, we ended up with a lovely man who was looking for a meal. His name is Avner Falk, and he is psychohistorian, political psychologist, and general psychologist. Among other titles, he has written books such as "A Psychoanalytic Biography of Theodor Herzl".

Now it is by startling coincidence that this man ended up at our house for a meal on Rosh Hashana; my wife is doing her PhD on an analysis of mythic narrative in midrash, particularly Pirkei D'Rabbi Eliezer, an eighth century text. They had several areas of interest that overlapped, in that they both studied historical figures through a psychological lens.

Now it is a further startling coincidence that at the same meal we had invited some friends of friends of ours, Daniel and Hava Boyarin. Daniel founded a large area of Jewish studies at Berkeley, and has written, among other works, "Intertextuality and the Reading of Midrash". Rachel invited him as he was in the country and was, as a favor, reviewing parts of Rachel's thesis. Hava also has a PhD in something.

By further startling coincidence, Avner had read some of Daniel's stuff, and Daniel had read some of Avner's stuff, and neither had met before.

It is not at all coincidental that our friends were also invited, Mel and Dina Kline. Mel has done literary analysis of many biblical texts, and so on. And his wife is also smart.

So there I was, little old me and my obsession with board games and blogging seated aside five intellectual biblical scholars.

And they talked about: movies, old jokes, cooking, and kids.

Games Played

I only managed to get in two games this holiday: Havoc and The Menorah Game. I taught them both to new players, my kid's cousins. Both are simple games, easy to teach new players, and work well with three players. And are fun.

And I won them both. Experience rules.

Some links

Israel has had a few fatal train crashes lately, so it was thankfully amusing to read about this one. Last line of the article: "The condition of the camel was unclear."

Three days of play in public happened last weekend in New York City, the Come Out and Play Festival. It looks like it was a lot of fun. Here's a report.


How to Write a Captivating "How to" Post

The Project

Darren, of, occasionally runs a "group writing" project. The idea of the project is to choose a post type and have all readers write a post of that type. Darren then links to all the posts and encourages the participants to comment on and link to each other.

The Bottom Line

Darren's Postblogger is a highly ranked blog; a link from him is nice in it's own right. It drives some traffic to your site. It also helps Darren, in that many people link back to Postblogger, and he builds a community and buzz around his blog; but that's a win-win situation for all involved.

Being part of the group also gains you a few cross links. And if the stars are aligned well, the alleged real goal of the project is to discover a few good other blogs or posts.

One problem with the project is that sometimes a good post can take more than a few days to write; forcing posts to be completed within a few days is a sure-fire way to get some less than ideal posts.

This Week's Project

This week's project was to write a "How to" post. Here are the entries.

Group Behavior

Some of the bloggers left comments on every single blog they visited pointing back to their own posts. This is a shaky practice; in a small group like this, a whole bunch of other people are also going to read every post, and they are bound to see the pattern. On the one hand, yeah, you'll probably get the visit. On the other hand, it begins looks a bit promiscuous.

Similarly, some blogs simply take Darren's list of posts and copy all of the links to a blog post without adding any particular value. Well, it's nice for the linkees to get the extra link in Technorati, but a little more than that would be nice.

So I won't link to every one of the 343 entries, only the ones that stood out for me.

What I found

First of all, the first time through the list I only clicked on about 20% of the posts. These were the ones that either had good headlines, or were seriously about topics that I was interested in. That's your first lesson: a good headline. And by the way, 20% is actually very high, which only goes to show you that "How to" posts in general make for a good headline.

I decided to click through to all of them, however, to see what would happen next. The second lesson: about 5% of them failed.

Then I gave each post a glance, which is all that I would give most sites in general. I pretty much trashed the ones that didn't capture me on first glance. First glance incorporated the following parameters:

- Overall blog presentation
- Font styles and paragraph readability
- Post topic and length
- Pictures
- Standout phrases

Some blogs were simply uninteresting looking. Some blogs were hard to read. Some were simply completely out of my topic interest, and the presentation or length didn't make up for it. Beautiful pictures almost always make up for it, which is sad commentary, but true. Lastly, a well placed phrase that a) makes me think, b) is something I agree with, or c) is short but funny, will capture my attention.

My Picks

Here are the ones that passed all the screening process. NOTE: Of course, some of the ones that didn't pass the screening process were simply not of interest to me; this doesn't imply that either the post or blog were not good.

  • How to Survive Your Young Husband's First (Unexpected) Heart Attack by Olivia

    Being the first response to the project is a first bonus. By the time people read through 343 entries, the last ones are beginning to get more blurry. The first entry in Darren's list is the one most likely to be seen.

    This site also had the following things going for it: lovely floral picture at the top, interesting and down-to-earth advice, and good readability. Further examination indicates that the blog itself doesn't interest me, but the post did.

  • Do Blackbirds Swoop? How to Deal with Aggressive Bird Behavior by Trevor

    The subject of this post didn't interest me at all, but the pictures first caught my attention. Then I saw the list of birds the blogger was describing, one by one, and I really felt that the blogger knew his stuff. In a word: expertise.

    The post is readable, nice looking, and informative.

  • How to Visit a Sick Friend by SB

    This post has a lovely water drawing at the top, and the font and layout used give a feeling of art, new age, and sensitivity. The topic doesn't say very much new, but I found myself agreeing with what it said. This created a sympathetic connection with me, as a reader.

    It also has a funny post card at the end.

  • 19 Ways to Annoy People by Brad

    Lots of people do funny posts, but they lack what this site has: a very clean page that starts with the comic. And it wasn't very funny, but it was funny enough; a light funny, not heavy handed, insulting, or simply trite.

  • How to Destroy the Earth With a Coffee Can by Tony

    Actually, the biggest thing going against this post is its popularity. I have less desire to link to posts or sites that everyone else has already linked to. Why bother, when it doesn't make me original? Therefore, indicating that your post is popular is a turn-off.

    On the other hand, it is funny, and original. It is well-written, and Angelina's breasts can do no wrong.

  • Top 10 tips to survive laptop disaster: what to do if your laptop is dropped, catches fire, gets ripped off, is smashed, or just plain won'’t boot by Mary

    This post has a nice title, a nice intro, and simply covers a great topic about which people need a constant reminder, and provides useful links, too.

  • Useful Windows XP Hacks (Part 1) by The Foo

    Another post with information about something particularly useful, not overly known, and has great headers.

  • The Myth of the Sleeping Baby and Other Fallacies for the Work at Home Parent by Tony

    This post started with a nice cartoon, promised and delivered well written information, and read like a good newspaper column. And the subject was universal.

  • Attempting to 'how too' - now with more pie! by Busy Mom

    First of all, excellent blog design, with the fifties image and the great subheader. And unlike all the other posts that wrote a "How to" about how to write a "How to" - this isn't really funny even the first time - the post told a great story, and used the right word (pie) to link to the blog's theme.

  • How to Have a Better Garden Than the Neighbors by Doug

    Beautiful garden picture. The list was pretty good, too. However, I almost stopped when I read the first tip: "Relax". If there is one overused entry on any "How to" list or "Top Ten" list, that's it. Please don't do it. Here are ten other things never to include in a top ten list.

  • How to Plant Fall Garlic by Kenny

    Another uninteresting topic for me, but a beautiful blog, and a clean well-written post which I may one day return to.

  • How to Save Your Money by Bee

    A universal subject, of course. Also, the bullets are bolded and indented nicely. Paragraphs are nicely spaced. The advice is simple and achievable.

That's it. And thanks again Darren, for a great blog.


Friday, September 22, 2006

Prayer of Breath

Stung by criticism that my legal poetry trilogy is not "good poetry" (jeez; they weren't meant to be), I decided to post this old poem of mine from ten years ago. Only you can say if it is "good poetry", but it's more serious, anyway.


O Lord! I sick and languid ask of Thee:
Let breath, that snorts and steams upon my face
Like rugged unending machinery
Not cease, but always, in its place,
Inwardly be drawn as needed; then,
Moist and warm be breathed back out again.

O Lord! They lie two heroes, still, but blessed,
Wild brown curls tangled round their heads,
But, oh! Sweet Lord! Not still in heaving breasts,
That measured, rise and fall upon their beds.
More common a request, if one could name,
I could not; though I ask it all the same.

Their bodies in repose are mere pretext;
Sleeping they make challenge toward the day
They have ended and crouch tautly toward the next.
From all they met they gleaned all that they may
And conquered some new step or some new task.
"What will morrow bring?" their bodies ask.

By day, they are an arrow shooting fast
From bow. The eye is blinded from the sight
As rising they arc through the sun and past,
And naught in such a glittering path but light
Though heavenwards you try to trace the shot
Where it travels, you ask, but may know not.

By night, when day is done, and quilts tucked in
And crooked pout lies soft on puckered lips,
One finger bent and crossed under the chin
And one fist clenched and firm upon the hips,
What remains of that heroic motion
But breath and sound and all a man's devotion.

O Lord! In gloaming dark I hover weakly,
Sick I cannot rid myself of mass
And melt into their tender forms completely
As if I made of light and they of glass.
O Lord! What I ask of Thee's not bold,
That I may yet live as they grow old.

© Copyright 1996, Yehuda Berlinger

Happy Rosh Hashana

Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year, starts tonight, and owing to some meddling Rabbis, goes until Sunday night. I may get in another post today, but otherwise my profound wish for everyone around the world is this:

Get off your fat butt, stop trying to convert everyone else, stop killing other people in the name of religion, pride, or dignity, and start growing food. Put your grudges behind you.

And oh yeah ... have a great year.


P.S. Yes, Lebanon, I'm also talking to you.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

ICON Israel and Games Day at the JSGC


This year's ICON, the annual celebration for science fiction, fantasy and role-playing fans, will be held in the Tel Aviv Cinematheque, October 9-14, Hol Hamoed Sukkot. Hours are 10:00 am to 3:00 am. The guest of honor will be Neil Gaiman (awesome). This year's subject topic is dreams.

I think the entrance fee is 60 NIS, and maybe 35 NIS for additional movies or RPG games. Discounts available under certain conditions, such as having membership at the Third Ear video store (which I have). Call +972-3-606-0800 for tickets, or Ticketnet Israel.


Games Day at the Jerusalem Strategy Gaming Club will be on Sunday, October 8, first day of Hol Hamoed Monday, October 9, second day of Hol Hamoed. Games Day will be from 10:00 am to around 10:00 pm. Bring your own food. Odds are that we will order out for dinner. I will provide some snacks and drinks, please bring more and/or bring some money to cover mine.

Games Day will be in my sukkah on the roof of 7 Hayarden St in Arnona, Jerusalem.

This is also a good time to contribute to the games club. A 100 NIS or so donation will allow me to order some new games along with my other Hannukah shopping. Aside from providing for a place to play games, the games club also lends games out to its members.

For more information, call me at +972-545-987-034 .


Bonus link: A while ago GAMA published a survey of tabletop gamers, and the results are in for the 3550 respondents.

Session Report Up - Linkbait Edition

The latest Jerusalem Strategy Game Club session report is up here. Games played: The Menorah Game, Yinsh, Arimaa, Cosmic Encounter, El Grande, Lord of the Rings: the Confrontation, Havoc, San Juan, Capitol.

The Menorah Game has held up well over time. You guys don't know what you're missing. Try the advanced version of the game.

According to the Sun, which means that it surely isn't true, Madonna and Guy Ritchie have been fighting over board games, especially Scrabble. According to an anonymous source:
The atmosphere was so intense and she was such a sore loser that he told her he wouldn't play her again.

They started playing Trivial Pursuit but it only made matters worse. Even Tiddlywinks could start World War III.
This would be perfect linkbait if Britney Spears had also been cat-fighting over a game of Monopoly with Angelina Jolie and Christina Aguilera. Nude.

Many people are condemning the new War on Terror game. I think the designers are idiots, but if they're really publishing it because they don't think there is an ideological difference between America's war on terror and Islam's war on the west, let them knock themselves out and don't dignify them with more press. You can find a link to the game in numerous other locations.

Six Generations, the card game that teaches children to procreate, in order to preserve their family heritage. According to it's inventor:
"I see my game as the opposite of a condom," said Fyodor Soloview.
"They are both cheap, but their purposes differ."
One of his points with the cards is to remove the aspect of royalty from the suits, so that all the cards, including the often ignored 2's through 10's, get treated with the respect they deserve.

And a new sex-education game, Gol Maal, is introduced in Mumbai, India.


Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Pallankuzhi, by any other name ...

There's an article in the Hindu about the game Pallankuzhi, a game popular in Southern India.

Apparently the game was the subject of some research at a "three-day festival of games at La Tour de-Pielz near Lausanne". Three day festival of games? News to me. Anyone? Update: Info on the Mancala conference is here. And here are some links to a lot of academic papers on Mancala games (scroll down).

Pallankuzhi is one of a group of similar games that includes Mancala and Oware. It is probably the most ancient game that still exists and is actually "good". Obviously, Go is another candidate.

Interestingly enough, another recent article in the Hindu suggested the link between the two games Pallankuzhi and Warri as a possible means of enhancing an India/Antigua alliance, akin to the "Ping Pong Diplomacy" that enhanced U.S. and Chinese relations in the 1970s.

Speaking of Go, Wired is back on the subject of AI and games, this time taking on Go (thanks, Mischa).

I've been having some back burner chat with Dominic from North Star Games. They produce the games Wits and Wagers and Cluzzle, both well received by my fellow gamers. Dominic is sending me copies of each game to evaluate.

They suffered some collateral damage owing to their relationship with the former Eagle Games and are trying to get back to profitability, so check them out.


Tuesday, September 19, 2006

How to Stop Wasting Your Life and Start Playing Games

"I Don't Play Games!"

"I don't play games. I'm a grown up. Besides, who has time to play games? I've got important things to do!"

Is this you? Do you think games are for kids and nerds, while grown ups do important things like read newspapers, watch Survivor, and talk about politics?

Well, ask yourself the questions you stopped asking yourself after you left school:

- Are you enjoying your life?
- Are you creating a meaningful life?
- Do you remember what you do all that work for?

Maybe you've forgotten what life is for. You feed your family, you give to the poor, you work for peace, you make or raise money to buy a house. You try to make a better world. You try to live a better life, or give a better life to your family and children.

Hey, wait a minute! Better life? What's a better life? Did you forget about that? Where does the better life start? How do you get there? What does living a better life mean?

The better life is what you do all those other things for.

There's no single way to live a better life, but it must include more than just working to make a better life for other people, so that they can go make a better life for other people in turn. Somewhere along the line, someone has to live it.

Living the better life doesn't mean retreating from all of that other work. Work you do is a cumulative investment. It has to grow and constantly be maintained. With care, even while you tend to your labors, you can enjoy the fruit.

A Better Life

But what constitutes a better life?

- Art: Whether you experience art, or you create art, the better life is one that tackles great themes, great emotions, great humor, and great love.

- Play: You play to connect to other people, to connect to the mechanisms of the world, to engage your brain, to stay young, and to build yourself and your community.

- Kinship: There is no love like family love, parent to child, spouse to spouse, sibling to sibling. Not all of us have a chance at all of these experiences, but most of us have access to some. Even if you don't, real friendship and kinship count, too.

- Rest: Just letting go of responsibility for a moment, an hour, a day, or a week, is to connect to a world that exists, but goes largely unrecognized. If you're too busy moving and creating, you never realize what you're moving and creating for. It's not enough to say it; stop and go do it.

Stand and look out at the world. You crawl the surface of a thin layer of crust on a vast solid object in space, miles of nothing beneath your feet, and light-years of nothing over your head. You're as busy as a beaver ; take time to think about the rest of the world. Are you really satisfied working half your time and wasting the rest on television and beer?

You are one step in the great story of mankind; make your step worthwhile. To do that you need to stop once in a while and refocus.

- Travel: That little layer of crust is all we have, but it behooves you to take out some time and get to know your fellow humans. In the grand scheme of things, we are all one family in a great garden. Get to know it.

- Thought: Read. Discuss. Create. Humans have come this far, but we've got a long way to go. Not everything has been thought of. Get yourself immersed in something important and start brainstorming humanity towards a new idea. Make your free time quality time.

- Divinity: Somewhere inside of us we all feel a need to have some meaning. It just doesn't feel right that humanity only exists to create more humanity. If it did, then why would we have these questions?

Wherever your spirituality takes you, get in touch with it. So long as it doesn't involve forcing others to believe in it too, it will be a positive thing for you and for the world.


This blog is about games (and occasionally about other things). So that's what I'll talk about.

If you think I'm going to tell you to spend time rolling dice and hoping your pawn crosses the finish line first, I can understand your reluctance to read any further. I'm not going to talk about gambling, which is the thrill you get when something beyond your control benefits you. That's not what I mean by games; although if you enjoy that sort of thing, and you do it responsibly, go for it.

I'm also not here to talk about investing your life in games that take up a lot of time or take years to play well.

And I don't want you to excuse yourself to a little corner of the room to play electronic games by yourself for hours on end.

I'm talking games that get you in contact with other people, that require attention to play well yet are easy enough for most people to learn, that are beautiful, constantly engaging, always give you a chance, and are tons of fun to boot.

How do you get started?

1. Decide to do more with your life.

2. Know why playing games is good for you. Here is a good start. There are many more articles like this one.

3. Know that you are not alone. Board Game Geek has more than a 100,000 registered users, and that is only a small percentage of the people who visit the site. The largest game convention in Germany gets more than 300,000 visitors each year.

4. Know what games to play. Take a look at Board Game Geek's top hundred games. Take a look at some of the Geek lists listing great games for all occasions. Good starting games include Settlers of Catan and Ticket to Ride.

5. Know where to get these games. Buy them online at places like TimeWellSpent or Funagain Games.

6. Learn the games. The rules for these games come with the games, and they are usually well written and illustrated. Even better is to find someone who knows how to play and have him or her teach you.

7. Find people to play with. Start with your family and friends. If that doesn't work, there may be a game group in your area, or gamers who live in your area. Ask about game groups on Board Game Geek, or search for registered users using their Find Users tool. Post notices in a local community center, or start your own game group.

And enjoy your life.


Written for ProBlogger's latest writing project.

Gaming Culture

I taught Tal how to play Cribbage. Included in teaching the game of Cribbage is teaching the culture of Cribbage.

Games coexist within a game culture. This is obvious for single games, such as Bridge, Chess, and Go.

The number of special terms used within the game of Go could fill a dictionary. And along with that comes the game styles, board and piece construction, polite methods of play, and even polite and impolite moves.

Bridge has its directors, under and over the line scoring, methods of how to deal with mistakes and infractions.

And so on.

Cribbage is a simple card game, but it has its own cultural style. There's the way you deal, who cuts or taps the card, how you "call" certain points ("two points for his heels", "fifteen-two", "fifteen-four", ...) The culture evokes a certain degree of class and style from the game's origins. Or, you could say, the game's origins have infused the game with culture and style.

It's not enough to say that a game has "theme" and "mechanics" (or "rules"). The game culture plays its part, too. You discard a game's culture at the peril of turning a treasured game into a boring exercise in card shuffling or dice rolling. A game without culture is like a dry analysis of a joke.

Anyway, it was hard enough to teach a thirteen year old Avril-wannabee the convoluted rules of Cribbage, let alone try to get her to count cumulative total played, count in the correct style, and so on. By the end of the game we were making some headway.

I won to her 108 points, which was fairly close; only, this being her first game, she thought it was a large loss on her part. We will have to play again. I'll make a Brit out of her, yet.

This month's Vision magazine has a short quote from me from a follow up interview to my Web 3.0 article. It's all in Italian, however (I spoke in English, it was translated to Italian ... hopefully not using Google translate).

Wiggity Bang Games has created a MySpace page to stay in touch with their Quelf board game customers. Neat. (via eMediaWire)


Monday, September 18, 2006

Linkety Link

Last May I mentioned the game Peacemaker, a "serious" computer game dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Wired talks about both this game and another one, Global Conflicts: Palestine.

Lewis Pulshipher, designer of Britannia, will be teaching a game design course at Central Carolina Community College, Oct 3 to Nov 16, Tuesday and Thursday evenings.

And Time magazine does its duty with some lackluster reporting on the new Monopoly edition.


A Clear Message of Peace Unto the World

OK, the time had come to take the bull by its horns, so to speak. I was determined to get a clear renunciation of violence from the major nations of the world. All I had to do was get each nation to agree on the language in the declaration.

In order to get out a concerted message, I knew that I would have to translate the message into various other languages to ensure that the message was unambiguous and clear for each country. Luckily for me, I had access to a godsend, Google's translation tool, which allowed me to translate to and from each of the following languages: German, Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, Arabic, Japanese, Korean, and Chinese. Even luckier, that was the exact order of nations that I would be visiting.

My mission: send a translated version of an English peace statement to each nation in turn, wait for changes, receive the message translated back into English, and then move on to the next nation. The end result: a clear, unambiguous message of peace for the whole world to see.

I started with an English message that I thought would be acceptable for most countries:
Today, together, all nations and all peoples of the world stand strong in the face of terror and violence. We say unequivocally, "Let all nations lay down their weapons, their intolerance, and their hate, and begin now to speak with one another and to negotiate a fair and just peace." Let us no more make war for the sake of ideology or religion.
I translated it into German, sent it off to the Germans, and waited to see what I would get back. The Germans considered my text and sent it back with only a few amendments:
Today together all nations and all peoples of the world stand in view of the terror and the act of violence strongly. We say unmistakably, „all nations their weapons, its intolerance and its hate to lay down let, and begin now to speak and a fair and about a fair peace negotiate with one another. “Us to NO more mark war around sake the ideology or the religion leave.
The Germans dropped "stand strong" and replaced this with "in view", but I liked the emphasis on the word "NO". A strong statement from the Germans. It was going well so far.

So I translated this into Spanish and sent it off. This is what I got back:
Today together all the nations and all the people of the world are stopped due to the terror and to the act of the violence strongly. We say unmistakably, „all the nations its arms, its intolerancia and its hatred to place we left, and now we began to speak and a fair and on a right peace negotiates with one another. “We to not more military of the mark around the reason the ideology or the license of the religion.
Apparently, the Spanish had decided that "in view" was less impressive than "are stopped". They seemed to insist on keeping this unknown Spanish word "intolerancia", but I could live with that. I wasn't too sure about "place we left", nor about licensing religion, but I didn't want to quibble. I had to move on.

Next stop: the French. What would they do to my text?
Today together all nations and all people of the world are due decree to the terror and of the act of violence strongly. We say unmistakably, „all nations its arms, its intolerancia and its hatred at the place us on the left, and now we started to speak and a fair and on a good peace negotiates between them. “Us with more military of the mark around the reason the ideology or the licence of the religion.
It seems that the French were trying to say that our societies were built on terror and violence, somehow. It was also trying to add partisanship by moving away from the left. They also thought the best way forward was to run a fair.

On to Italy:
Today with all the nations and all people of the world are strongly decree had to the terror and of the action of the violence. We say unmistakably, „all the nations the relative crews, relative intolerancia and relative hatred to the place we on the left and hour have begun to speak and a fair and on a good peace negotiates between they. “We with more soldier of the mark around to the reason ideology or the patent of the religion.
That Spanish word is still around. I'm not sure who the Italians meant by "crews", but maybe they were talking about the media. They also had something against their relatives. I also note that they brought up their old claim to having patented religion. Those Italians.

I had to move on. Off to Portugal:
Today with all the nations and all the peoples of the world are strong decree had that the terror and of the action of the violence. We say unmistakably, „all the nations the relative groups, intolerancia relative and hatred relative to the place we in the left and the hour started to speak and a fair and in a good peace negotiates them in the way. “We with more soldier of the mark around to ideology of the reason or the patent of the religion.
Somehow our message now seemed to be condoning violence, and condemning relatives. They also wanted to add reasonable ideologies to patented religions.

Now we hit the big guys. I had to sell this to the Arabs. Here's the text I got in return:
Today, with all nations and all peoples in the world that the forces of terrorism and acts of violence. And I say in clear, that "all countries and groups with intolerancia. With hatred for the place and left in an hour and just started talking in a good negotiating peace in this way. "With more than marking soldiers to the ideology about the reason or innocence of religion.
Apparently, the Arabs pretty much claimed that all nations in the world joined with the forces of terrorism. They started talking about peace, but they left after an hour. They also tried to claim that religion was innocent.

On to Japan:
All nations and all people of today and the world and power and use of violence of terrorism. And I all countries and the group of intolerancia say “with the elbowroom. Hatred being left, for the place and in 1 hours and in peace in of good negotiation this way it was begun exactly, speak. From the soldier of sign to ideology “the reason of religion or concerning the innocence many.
Japan was growing jaded with the language here, and claimed that all nations use violence and terrorism. Mostly, Japan is concerned about "elbowroom"; that must be because of their crowded living conditions. And then something about soldiers learning the reason for religion.

Next stop: Korea:
All nation and all people and the world and force and use of today of violence of terrorism. And all nation and the group of intolerancia somethings to say which have I elbowroom “. When with 1 hour from peace of good negotiation, because the hatred which lets to put in place and inside it did like this and it accurately it talks was started. From the military personnel of indication “religion it worries purely in idealism, reason be many.
I got the feeling that the Koreans were trying to avoid saying very much at all. They just listed the topics of discussion. Something Eastern and mystical, I guess, talking about what's inside, and then wrapping it up with a discussion about idealism.

Last stop was China:
And the people of various ethnic groups in the world all forces, and with today's terrorist violence. Intolerancia all countries and groups, I elbowroom head. In one well-hour talks, which allow it to create hatred and so accurate, but the talks started. From the soldiers expressed "concern purely religious ideals, The reasons are many.
China's additions to the statement of peace: 1) Intolerance for all countries and groups. 2) I elbowroom head. 3) Talks create hatred.

So there you have it. A clear message of peace and tolerance to the world in a joint statement from ten major powers in the world. Here it is again:

And the people of various ethnic groups in the world all forces, and with today's terrorist violence. Intolerancia all countries and groups, I elbowroom head. In one well-hour talks, which allow it to create hatred and so accurate, but the talks started. From the soldiers expressed "concern purely religious ideals, The reasons are many.

I recommend putting it on a poster.


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Sunday, September 17, 2006

How Talking More Equals Saying Less

The Narrowing Nature of Words

Language is used to communicate. Words are used to describe. The more words, the more you are telling. Or so common sense would tell us. I would like to look at speaking and writing from a slightly different angle.

From my perspective, the more words you use, the less you actually tell.

Consider the following story:
That's a pretty short story. And it doesn't tell very much, does it? It doesn't even have a verb. However, this story tells us the entire idea of bird without anything more specific than that. Every part of bird, past, present, and future, is contained within this story.

Here's the next story:
Brown bird
From one perspective, this story tells more than the previous one. In the previous story you spoke only about bird, but you now tell more about this bird, i.e. you are talking about a brown bird. Isn't that more information?

From one perspective, yes. But from another perspective, we now have less story; a story dealing with less information. Before, the story being told encompassed all birds of all types. By adding the word brown to the story, our story has shrunk to being only about brown birds.

The next story:
I saw a brown bird
The story space is shrinking rapidly. While it is true that more information about this particular story is being revealed, the story is now encompassing a narrower and narrower experience. The story was once about birds. Now it is about a particular time that I saw a particular type of bird. The story perforce now includes both birds and me; all other instances of birds and time are excluded from this story.

The more I say, the less possibility of information I actually convey.

Another way to look at this: the more I increase the specifics in the story, the more I decrease the general nature of the story. Each word narrows my story from a generic tale to a specific event.

Cutting Down to the Elephant

I am comparing the idea of telling a story to the idea of cutting an elephant out of a block of wood. After all, from one perspective, the elephant was already in the wood; the sculptor is merely removing all parts of the wood that don't match a particular elephant. From another perspective, however, the wood contains all elephants until it is cut into a single elephant.

There is a contrary take to my view of this, however. You could say that the elephant is not contained in the block of wood. It is not the wood that makes the elephant, but the boundary imposed on the material. The elephant was in the mind, and only imposed on the wood. The wood never contained the elephant, because it never contained the boundary.

From this perspective, the story "Bird" does not contain all birdness in it. For that to be the case, all possible stories must be floating about in some sort of ether. Creating the words doesn't "unleash" a story that is already there; it imposes a story from within a mind onto formless words.

From this perspective, the story is created by the boundary, i.e. the words that are imposed.

Bidding in Bridge

Consider the rules of bidding in the game of Bridge. In Bridge, each player makes a bid of a rank (from 1 to 7) and a suit, or passes. The bid must be on the same rank or higher than the previous bid. If on the same rank, the bid must be a suit ranked higher, from clubs to spades, or no trump. There are only 35 possible bids, along with a few other possible declarations, such as "double" or "redouble". The bids must be in sequence, lowest to highest. If you skip a bid, you can't go back to it.

Bridge players have been working for a century to communicate as much as possible within this limited and terminating language. The language takes full advantage of not only what is said, but also what is not said.

For instance, if a player opens "1 spade", not only does the player declare that he or she wishes to win the auction at "1 spade" (the player may not, actually), but also declares certain ranks of cards in hand, and certain card distribution, as well. In addition, by not bidding any other opening bid, the player declares absence of all of the other possible holdings that weren't declared.

The bid imposes quite a lot of structure onto the initial formless unknown of a hand. Subsequent bids, by their statements, or by their absence of statement, further refine the hand to a high clarity.

The possibility space of what the hand could have contained (any combination of thirteen cards out of fifty-two) shrinks with each bid. In fact, it shrinks even with your opponent's bids. And in parallel, the possibility of specific holdings increases with each bid.

In this case, more specific means more information, because all information is no information. This is conveyed as much by indicating what does not exist, as by what does exist.

Abstractness in Games

War games and RPGs often contain thousands of pages of rules. In contrast, generic mainstream board games may have a single page of rules, or even just a paragraph or two.

Longer rules equates to a more specific game. The more words describing a game, the less abstract the game is (that's a rough observation, not an absolute rule). But is it more rules that create less abstraction, or more rule description?

If I describe the Go board as China on the fields of Ying Yung, on the snowy morning of December 12th, in the year 956, at 6:50 am, is my game less abstract? Or just the rules description? If I add a rule to the Go game such that any five stones in a row of one color are removed from the game, does that make for a less abstract game? If I say it's because of scarce supplies and starvation, does that?

Either a game tells all stories that it's mechanics can contain. Or, if you hold the opposing point of view, the game mechanics are only a language imposed by the designer, and stand unique. In the former view, the mechanics are the words, and the more mechanics, the more specific your theme. In the latter view, the mechanics come into existence to support the theme, and cannot be separated.

It seems to me that the two camps of game players - those who look at a game as a tool for creating fun, and those who need to play by the rules - parallel these two camps. The former believe that the game is an instance of ether, a representation of numerous similar games. The latter believe that the game was created out of the mind of the designer, and has no form other than of that imposed by the designer.

Unwritten Rules

The less rules in the game, the more people say "the rules don't say that you can't!"

The reason game rules can feel incomplete is because designers instinctively know that they are working in the former model - a game is etched out of ether. It does not come from the mind, complete, in want of a substance out of which to carve it.

You don't need to specify that players shouldn't cheat, that each player should take turns as starting player, that holdings should be open or closed, etc, unless you want to impose a particular vision onto the game space. All of these rules exist; players can decide how or whether to implement them as they best like.

Imposing on this space turns a generic game into a specific one, one that not everyone shares. You run the risk of someone not liking the game just because he or she doesn't like the method for choosing the starting player. On the other hand, it also provides concreteness for those who can't deal with finishing the work themselves.


Edited for cohesion ...

Saturday, September 16, 2006

OT: Book Meme

Regarding the book meme: more than a year ago I wrote my own book "meme" without actually tagging anyone else into doing so. It was the "Transformation through books" meme. You can find it here. It is certainly a worthwhile subject to consider.

Anyway, I was tagged by Maksim:

1. Book that changed your life.

Please see the list of ten books on the post that I mentioned above.

2. Book read more than once.

Bible, prayer book, etc. of course. Otherwise, any of thousands of children's books and comic books. For serious stuff, dozens of sci-fi and fantasy literature. I'll pick The Lord of the Rings.

3. Book on a Desert Island.

Surely not original, but "The Dummies Guide on How to Survive on a Desert Island: new edition with material on how to build a radio and raft with nothing but sand and water". Seriously, the collected works of Shakespeare. Or maybe, "10,000 puzzles in Go".

4. Book that made you laugh.

The Road to Bliss by Stephen Hersh.

5. Book that made you cry.

Night by Elie Wiesel.

6. Book you wish you'd written.

Pattern Recognition by William Gibson.

7. Book you wish had never been written.

Owner's Guide to using Zyklon B in a Gas Chamber, by Degesch.

8. Book currently reading.

Castleview, Gene Wolff.

9. Book meaning to read.

Igrot Moshe by Rav Moshe Feinstein. Otherwise, Neal Stephenson's fat trilogy and Raph Koster's A Theory of Fun, both on their way, hopefully.

10 Tags ...

Mikko, Alfred, Iain, Matthew, and Peter.

Weekend Gaming

Tal, my 13 yo daughter, likes to play with me, when her friends aren't around. Usually, she likes to play the same simple games that she can play with her friends at school.

For instance, Fri night we played Oh Hell. I suggested that, as we were playing two player, we dispense with the rule about the dealer not being able to bid an amount that would make the total bid equal to the number of the cards for the last two rounds. She said that that was the fun part. We stayed even until round four or so, after which she fell behind and never recovered.

On Saturday morning, however, while waiting for lunch to start, she came to me with Torres. Torres is a lovely abstract game about building towers and moving knights, but usually I would play it with adults. Usually, one player gets the idea of the game very well, and the other struggles to keep up.

In our game, it played out very differently. Tal and I matched moves and strategies throughout the whole game. It's not that we shared the exact same level in each tower, but for every tower that I was on third level and she was on fourth, there was another one with the reverse happening. I let Tal get a slight lead for round 1, and I wasn't able to catch her after that. We scored identically for each of rounds 2 and 3. She won by 6 points. And it was only her 2nd game, and only her first one in about a year.

Later in the afternoon she played cards with her friends, something involving flipping over four cards, collecting sets, and slapping the table. Afterwards, they played The Menorah Game.


Maksim has tagged me with a meme. I'll get to that shortly.

Craig Perko explains how looking at the rules of a game might make you miss the point.

No one knows what Tanga is yet, but prior to their launch, they are giving away board games to people who participate in a month long series of puzzles on their web site. (Wikipedia says that Tanga is a type of G-string.)


The board game Dragon Strike from TSR originally came with a hokey video. See it on Google video.

And Hugh of Gaping Void draws about anti-semitism:


Friday, September 15, 2006

Ready for Cosmic Encounter

The four old Avalon Hill games I received together with Cosmic Encounter have now been passed on to an acquaintance and former JSGC attendee, Ephraim.

He also says that he may return this week or otherwise soon in order to re-try to play Origins of World War II with us. Last time he tried, the people didn't want to play because it was a) not a Eurogame, and b) had a picture of Hitler on the box. This time we have some more wargame friendly people around.

I was debating on whether to auction off my near mint copy of Cosmic Encounter, but absent any real knowledge of how much I can get for it (more than $200, but less than $500), I think I will simply open it and play it. I wouldn't pay $200 for a copy, but as long as I have it, I don't want to go through the bother of selling it.

Guests and kids for shabbat, so who knows what games we'll play?


If you're in Brooklyn, New York tomorrow (and you aren't a shabbat observing Jew or a Quaker, I suppose), you can join in a game of Urban Othello, using humans and cellphones for pieces. And next Saturday, if you're in Alexandria, Alabama, you can attend a garden party and play card and party games straight out of Jane Austen novels.

And remember the 1,500 newly available jobs in Parrsboro, Nova Scotia due to a board game company that decided to move offices there? It seems to be driving up real estate prices.

Foxmind now has a Hebrew site. (via anonymous tip)


P.S. What happened to BlogSpot for a half an hour today?

P.P.S. I found out that you can work on two blog posts at the same time, but don't try to post the both at the same time. It makes BlogSpot go into an infinite loop trying to re-index.

Order of the Stick Game

What do you get when you cross Talisman and Munchkin? A new board game by the creator of the hilarious Order of the Stick comic. (via Board Game Madness)


Thursday, September 14, 2006

The U.S. Trademark code, in verse

Copyright code in verse is here
Patent code in verse is here

This verse is just some
Of United States Code
Fifteen, part twenty-two,
Written down as an ode

This part only deals
With the laws of trade-mark
I write them in poetry
To be less in the dark

It's not cause I'm bored
Or I want to be nice
My transcribing works as
A mnemonic device

You see, I read laws
And I put them to verse
And it helps me remember
For better or worse

My summaries are simplified
As you might well expect
Relying on my poetry would
Be most incorrect

Go read the original
If you want to know more
And have your whole legal
Protection assured

(By the way, if you've time
The rest of fifteen
Is a wild bunch of laws
It's really quite keen)


If you own a mark that's
Really used in commerce
Pay heed to directions
Written down in this verse

You must "own" the trade-mark
(Though it doesn't say how)
And you must promise to use it
Or be using it now


The mark may be neither
Immoral nor deceptive
It must be unique and
Not simply descriptive


Service marks are marks
But do not be nervous
They only imply branding
They don't imply service


And then there are marks -
Like certification -
That serve to mark only
An organization


This section lets you license
Your mark to some company
And let's you control it
Both branding and quality


When registering marks
You may have to forgo
Some part of it, if the
Director says so


You fill out the forms
In duplicate and triplicate
And then you receive
A nice legal certificate


It's good for ten years
Or it's good for six, maybe
Either way, pay the fees
Or goodbye to your baby


An identifying trade-mark's
Life can be extended
Although after ten years, it
Should probably be ended


Trademarks can be transferred
If it's all done in writing
It's nice when done pleasantly
Without any fighting


If swearing is needed
To affirm an acknowledgment
My kids can teach you; they
Swear that they're innocent


Just when your rights are
Secured, it gets better -
Your marks are all published
In many newsletters


If you object to a trade-mark
As many people do
The office is happy to
Take your money, too


A worker may cancel it
If he's had a bad day
A hangover, for instance,
Or his spouse is away


But if no one objects
In the space of five years
Your trade-mark's assured
You can break out the beers


If they made a mistake
And your mark's not unique
The director may apologize
In a manner most meek


In all of these cases
When people have problems
An appeal board gets formed
In order to solve them


In the end, the Director
Simply does what he feels
So invite him to dinner
And cook a nice meal


This section is short but
Here's what the catch is:
It uses strange words like
"Estoppel" and "laches"


You pay registration and
You pay if you fight
So the fact that you pay to
Appeal seems 'bout right


The Federal Circuit then
Handles the appeal
And then the fed judges
Can do what they feel


Remember you register
If you "own" the mark?
Ownership is established
By registering; that's a lark


A supplemental register
May also exist
You don't register supplements
(I checked up on this)


It's a book just for trade-marks
And it's pretty amusing
It's published, but it isn't, which
Can get quite confusing


The certificate for these types of
Listings is different
It's painted on noodles
With twenty-two pigments


Apparently, these marks are
Mostly like real ones
They follow the same rules
With minor exceptions


They aren't unique enough
For all practicality -
If they are, upgrade them to
Full-fledged legality


These marks don't stop imports
But to be quite concise,
I don't get this chapter and
I've read through it twice


To mark something's registered
Put an "R" in a ring
If you fail to, and then sue,
You won't get a thing


The Director establishes a
In which to file all types
Of mark registration


They charge you for everything
Bring money in jerry-cans
You're only exempt if you're
Native American


You're told you must stop for
Innocent violation
Whether using it in print
Or domain registration


Numerous defenses against
Infringement are granted
None of those listed cover
"Because I wanted"


The court then make noises
It shuffles and snorts
And it tries to make sense
Of a case of this sort


The damages you pay are
Exceedingly high
You can kiss that new Rolls Royce
You wanted goodbye


You may then be forced to
Destroy every item
They'll soak them in gasoline
And then they will light 'em


The court may correct, if
It feels there's an error,
Any trade-mark mistakes in the
Trade-mark book ledger


If you fraudulently trade-marked,
You naughty girl or boy,
You're subject to lawsuits from
Those you've annoyed


The states can make judgments
On cases like this
But they can't force new markings
Or get them dismissed


Federal and state workers
In all types of governments
Are subject to these laws
Regardless of consequence


As usual, the Director can
Make up more laws
Whenever he wants to,
No "if"s or "because"


Don't import goods bearing
Trade-mark violations
They have to stay inside
Their origin nations


Don't misrepresent any
Product or service
Or pretend that you're famous -
Famous people get nervous


We register trade-marks from
All types of nations
But only from those with which
We have relations


For some reason, definitions
Are only placed here
Instead of the beginning
Which would be more clear


A fancy falutin'
Council is formed
To discuss IP issues
And stay well informed


Don't use famous people for
Your internet domain
They've more money than you
And they're often insane


This says that we work with
Other nations, too
And pretty much doesn't say
Anything else new


You can register trade-marks
In more than one nation
And you only need fill our
A single application


When checking your claim
The Director is thorough
If it's good, it goes to
The international bureau


If a trade-mark's abandoned,
Canceled, or expired,
The bureau is notified if
The Director's not tired


Requests for extensions
Can be made here or there
As long as you've paid up
They really don't care


Extensions are based on the
Laws of this section
Other laws you read
May just be misdirection


This whole chapter simply
Just says what we do:
Whatever the international
Court tells us to


Really, it just goes on
About dates and priority
A pretty dull subject within
Intellectual Property


When refusing a local mark
We don't have to be nice
When dealing with foreign ones
We tend to think twice


We'll send the certificates
Any place you're alive
Even to "Under the stairs,
Nine Privet Drive"


Oh brother, some more boring
Rules are now made
Whomever wrote this section
Was grossly overpaid


An affidavit is needed
To prove any marking
Is really being used,
There is no Free Parking


We only will deal with
A person from nations
Who like us and say so -
We need affirmation


Your five years of usage
Begins with your signing
After which it's incontestable
No tantrums, no whining


Any rights to a trade-mark
Continue with extensions;
Register with the same name
To avoid all contention

There are other subsections
That may also apply
But this is all the current
Section supplies

The others are references
And simply point here
So I'll just say good night, and
Have sweet dreams, my dear

Yehuda Berlinger

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