Thursday, June 28, 2007

Welcome to London, Eventually

The title is the exact quote from my pilot when we finally landed in Heathrow, more than 3 hours late. Plane scheduled to leave Glasgow at 12:45. Landed in Heathrow 4:45. Out of luggage at 5:30.

First they had an extra bag, then they miscounted the bags.Then they had an extra bag again. Then there was a gad leak at Heathrow and we landed at Stansted. Then they didn't know what to do. Then they refueled and we went back to Heathrow. And, of course, the luggage took its time.

My daughter flew for the first time, alone, from Israel. While she wasn't hysterical, she wasn't happy, either. Immigration refused to let her out until I arrived because she was too young to be let go, except to a parent. She's 14 years old.


Mistiming also killed all our plans for that day. The B&B I booked at wouldn't take credit cards (at all, not just mine), but luckily the one across the street did, and it was a kosher one, too. Not exactly a posh place, but I'm thankful nonetheless.

Today was sunnya dn better all around. Lots of walking and barging on the banks, changing of the guard, galleries, and so on. Now we're off to see Stomp.


Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Back in Glasgow

Scotland is a country that, in the summer, gets light during the night, and dark during the day.

I slept through a lot of Skye, but it was a lovely place. The area I stayed in was windswept with heather and flowers, and overlooked the Atlantic.

This morning we went out to see the westernmost point of Skye, a lighthouse. Below, on the rocky shore, there were numerous piles of rocks heaped upon each other in a deliberate fashion. I'm talking small rocks, obviously set up recently and to some purpose; small towers and bridges of rocks that probably need to be reset after each windstorm. Hundreds of them. I have no idea who did this or why.

I also snapped a shot of an amazing blue jellyfish on a rock at the Coral beach, about a foot wide, translucent, and pretty thick. As usual, to be uploded later.

Rachel continues on Skye for another day or two, crosses Scotland to Aberdeen, then down to Edinbugh and back to Glasgow, returning to Israel on Sunday.

Tomorrow, I fly down to Heathrow to meet Tal coming in from Israel. We're set up in B&Bs in Golders Green until Sat night, and in York until Wed. Hopefully, the entire country won't be flooded during our trip. Apparently it's been the wettest June ever, and widesprerad flooding has occurred.

I don't know if I'll get any gaming in in London, but I certainly will in York.

Respond or email if you want to meetup.


Monday, June 25, 2007

Last Minute Travel Arrangements

My Isle of Skye trip is going to end up being mostly staring out at the beautiful scenery from the window as I rest up from being sick. I bundled up and took a walk in the chilly wind this morning but decided not to repeat that.

In the meantime, I'm doing last minute accomodation juggling as previous plans have fallen by. And I'm hoping that all goes well for my 14 year old daughter who will be flying on her own and meeting me in the jungle they call Heathrow airport.

This computer doesn't have a USB connection which is why I still haven't uploaded my complete travellogues and pictures. I missed a pic of a ship in a Loch on the way up that was at a 45 degree angle to the surface; probably blown over from recent weather. Also another sign in a bar: "Prices vary according to customer attitude."

11 degrees in June. And it was supposedly 40 degrees a few weeks ago. Weird weather.

I beat Rachel at two games of Puerto Rico. The first was close, 51 to 50, and we were both competing in the same lines of strategy. In the second, I had to go full out building and won handily 58 to 46.

No more PR with Rachel until I'm back in Israel.


Sunday, June 24, 2007

Games in Hotels

I'm now at the Foxwood B&B in the Isle of Skye.

Like all the other places I've been, there is a stack of games available, including the usual Chess, Checkers, ... as well as Lexicon and some sort of puzzle game for one to two players.

I'm finding it not at all unusual to find stacks of games in B&B's self-catering places, and undoubtedly hotels around the world. It might be interesting to do a survey of what games are at what places.

Of course, the interesting ones are the ones that actually advertise that they have games in their literature.

I'll be in London Wed afternoon until Sat night, and in York from Sunday sometime until Wed morning.



Here are my notes from Dicecon:

Dicecon (East and West) is Scotland's yearly board game conference. I got there in the afternoon around 3:00 pm. There were about 40 people playing, although I believe 20 of them were there only for the Settlers of Catan tournament. After a little confusion I met up with Gordon Lamont (of the Lamont brothers) and a few other Geekers. Everyone was really nice, which I had expected.

My ego was a little deflated when no one had a copy of It's Alive, and in fact only a few had even heard of it. And I was hoping to sign copies surrounded by adoring, screaming fans. Sniff.

But I managed to play two games. With Gordon and his two sweet children I played Pompeii. This is by Wrede, designer of Carcassonne. The game is divided into two parts. We didn't know how the second part worked until we started it, so we had no idea what or why we were doing in the first part, sort of like the first time playing Dvonn. In the first part you put your people in the town. In the second you move them out as the lava flows.

While similar in theme and some ideas to the other Pompeii game I played (Last 37 Minutes, which I didn't like), this one offers you more control. I suspect that now that I know what I'm doing, the game will make some sense the next few times I try it. On the other hand, it also looks like the game is rather limited in depth and won't withstand more than ten or so plays, altogether. I will have to play it more times to confirm this.

After Pompeii, I saw some guy setting up Ra and looking at the rules. This game was played as part of a loosely defined Kniziathon that was going on. I was able to sit in the game and teach them, although since this was the first time I had played with the actual components, I got some of the pieces wrong once or twice. The game was quite fun. I went negative early on and was banking on a solid line of monuments. They ended up doing very well, indeed, but I was just a bit too far behind. Before counting out the suns, I was just shy of first place. But after adjusting for the suns, I sank to last. Still, as you can see, quite a close game.

My opponents were Andrew and ... erm. Peter? I'm terrible at names the first time I meet people. Sorry. And they were such nice blokes, too. I'm sure I'll meet them again. Some people even spoke a little Hebrew to me, having been to, or having friends in, Israel.

Gordon was the most pleased to meet me and gave me a copy of his game Shear Panic. He also showed off his latest prototype, which looked like a really good mid-weight Eurogame. It will be in Essen, and I hope a copy will make it to BGG.con so that I get a chance to try it out.


London and Scotland Photos 1

A rugged castle on a hillside loses something when it is turned into a tourist attraction. It's one thing to find a castle with no one about, even a small one. It's another to pay for parking, pay for entrance, and be kept to well-prescribed areas to see almost everything "reproduced" as how it might of looked, as opposed to how it was found.

Also: There is a lovely garden one can see at another castle. People actually live in the castle so you can only see the garden. It has meticulously shaped hedges, gravel, planted trees, and statues. Very pastoral and calm. You pay entrance to this garden and can walk around it.

Meanwhile, when you leave the garden and go back to the road, you encounter wild forest trees and moss, paths beside waterfalls and streams, deer, foxen, and rabbits, vines, rocks, and so on.

The garden would be amazing in any other context, say the middle of a city or somewhere in the midwest of America. Here, I just can't see the point.

Let's just say that I plan to spend less money on my next trip not visiting any more of these attractions.

A side-effect of all our expeditions is that I am sick. I made it to shul on Friday night and Sat morning (Rachel gave a well-received shiur), but otherwise I either ate or slept until shabbat went out ... at 11:40 pm. Hopefully I'll be up and about tomorrow.

Please note that despite my terse notes, I am having a great time. Almost too good. I fear to come back from vacation. It's possible that a better vacation would be one where you don't enjoy yourself, which then makes the rest of your year seem nice in comparison.

My hosts have a wireless, so I am uploading a few pictures ... many more to come ...

Portobello Road

Some unusual sweets for sale in a London store (real ants and worms in there)

Upskirt on the bridge across the Thames

On the banks of the Thames

At Dicecon with Gordon Lamont (necklace), Peter, and Andrew

Gordon's new prototype; something about deer mating

Typical rural Scotland scenery

Also typical Scotland scenery; usually penned up, but not always

Kinloch Rannoch, the town near where we were staying

Post Taste in Kinloch Rannoch, the town's communally run eatery, post office, internet cafe, and a few dozen other things

Scotland flora

Scotland fauna

Rachel and me on a trail

No explanation needed


Friday, June 22, 2007

Scottish Music

These are more quick notes. Full details when I can get on a computer that's not in an Internet cafe.

Wed 20

After a quick check on the Internet at Kinloch Rannoch, we went to Aberfeldy. Skipped the Menzies castle. Walked the Birks of Aberfeldy and sat in the Robert Burns seat. A good steep hike up, but still just path, no pitons or ladders.

I had my first good root beer, but it turned out to be from Australia.

We stopped in at Dewar's but decided to skip the tour, since we would be touring a different distillery tomorrow.

Scotland is really unspoiled beuaty. No billboards, very few signs, no crass commercialization, unless one walks into a tourist center, all of whom look alike and all of whom sell the same stuff at higher prices than a supermarket in town. No McDonalds (fast food, anyway).

At one point, Rachel was driving and asked me what MOTS painted on the road meant. Heh. Took me about two seconds.

We tried Birnham (ala Macbeth), but everything closes so darn early in Scotland (open from 10 to 4:30 or so). The Cathedral was closed. We saw a tiny garden in honor of Beatrix Potter, surrealized by a group of 14 year old girls fascinated by the S word, which they repeated around 200 times.

Lots of places here serve venison.

Avoid "Perth Visitor Center". Nothing but more shopping.

But thank goodness for Walker's shortbreads (O-U).

Back to Aberfeldy in the evening for a singer in the local pub. Some of the locals were a little strange. One woman exclaimed "A Jew!" and patted my kippah. Others believed in the stereotype of tight-fisted Jews (this coming from Scots, no less). I was a little uncomfortable, as one of them was quite drunk.

We heard the singer Andrew Gordon. His first set was a little slow, but the second was quite lively. Apparently, you're required to sing songs like Loch Lamond and so on. This stuff is still accepted culture; kids in Soctland are not like kids in London.

I had a ginger beer and liked it.

Driving back at night, we saw an owl standing on the road, followed by a rabbit. Closer to our place, we kept having to honk the sheep off the road. You would think natural selection would be at work here.

Thur 21

We went rowing in the morning and then motoring back. Pleasant, but not worth the expense, I think. The water was like black plastic (a Hefty garbage bag I think was my description).

I went back to Blair castle to try to find a raincoat I had misplaced and I think I gave it short shrift last post. I must have been expecting something else. It's a bit nicer than I made it out to be. Also, we didn't get to the falls in the same location.

In Pitlochry, we toured Edradour distillery, which is not only the smallest distillery but also offers a free tour, unlike any of the others. Very nice. Then stopped for "the best beer in the world" at Moulin Inn: Old Remedial beer, brewed on the spot.

In the evening, Macnab's pub has Scottish folk music and dancing. Some quaint but nothing inspiring music by Benachally Ceilidh Band, and some tremendously bad attempts at dancing by the tourists.

Almost everyone in these parts are tourists, either from lower Scotland, England, or America, or Europe. But apparently, even if there were no tourists about, this is still what they would be doing, so I don't feel too pandered to.

In general, however, the more geared toward tourism something is, the less appealing it is.

Rachel went to a satirical play at the festival theater while I did the music. She said that, for what it was, it was very good. The Americans around her complained that they couldn't understand the Socttish dialect.

I'm now in the Crieff local library (free internet), and we're off to Stirling castle and then to Glasgow. I will be missing Edinburgh altogether, but I need to save something for next time, right?

If you want to meet in Glasgow, leave a text message at my Israeli cellphone, +972-545-987-034 . I may also get to check my email. I don't use the phone or computer on the sabbath, however.

Away wit ya,

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Making Games Portable

Rachel and I played Puerto Rico last evening, which I won by a bare 2 points.

In order to bring PR to England, I wanted it to be compact and waterproof. To do this, I took only the necessary pieces for two players and dispensed with the boards. The entire game fits into two thirds of a ziplock sandwich bag. When I lay out the buildings and stuff on the table at the beginning of the game, you can hardly tell that anything is missing.

Of course, a deck of cards is a portable and compact boatload of games. But other Euros could probably survive the same treatment. Which leads me to believe that publishers could make portable versions of these games WITHOUT sacrificing the game play, like they did for games like Blokus and Settlers.

El Grande would fit into a sandwich bag if you could take the provinces as seperate little puzzle pieces. Princes of Florence needs only squares for each player, which could be rolled up plastic sheets.

The compact versions of the games would cost about a fifth of their current cost to produce, would fit in much less space, and be portable.



Tuesday, June 19, 2007


We're staying in the Perthshire area (-shire means area, or something), near Pitlochry, near Kinloch Rannoch, at Lassintulich farms. And yes, I spelled all of these wrong, but I'm in an Internet cafe and so can't look these up.

Yesterday we hit Blair castle, Hercules garden, and the shopping area outside of it (eh - skip 'em), and Pitlochry (grocery shopping). Aside from the obvious stuff, we are basically assuming that anything vegan is also kosher (if it doesn't have grapes), although this may be a naive assumption.

Today we went hiking around Carie and Kinloch Rannoch. All beautiful, but amazingly enough, the walks were tamer than those you do in Israel.

Many pictures coming one day.

Until then,


Monday, June 18, 2007


I've been taking pictures and writing on our laptop with te expectation of uploading it all to the Internet at this Internet cafe only to find that theor computers have no USB ports!

Sorry, you'll have to wait. This is the most beautiful place in the world.

I went to Dicecon and played a few games on Sunday. Met some nice people, including Gordon Lamont and others. Played Pompeii and Ra. And Gordon was kind enough to send me off with a copy of Shear Panic. Thanks! He has a new prototype which will premier at Essen and it looks like a great mid-weight Euro. I hope someone brings a copy to BGG.con .

I might get to a more sensible computer on Friday. Until then, away wit' ya.


Friday, June 15, 2007


Everyone sounds like they're from Monty Python.[1]

Rachel and I went different ways. She went to the library and the Sacred expedition and so on with our friend (Aviva Deutch), and then shopping for food for shabbat.

I started in Notting Hill and the Portabello Market. Lovely. I stopped by numerous used books, records, and other items, including some wonderful old metal signs, aqnd bought some delicious blackberries for £1. I took pictures, but you'll have to wait.

Then I made my way to a large mall-like store near Bond station. I can never remember the name of the damn place, but it has some kosher product in the food court. But first I had to find it.

To do that, I asked in the Kabbalah center near Bond station. Interestingly, from outside the center, the only thing you can see in it is a line of books about sex. I guess kabbalah sex, or something. In any case, they were able to point me in the right direction, in any case.

Outside the center I also met a nice haredi man, who was pleased as punch to shake hands with a Jerusalemite and speak Hebrew.

The unnamed store is a horrid mall-like experience. At least in a mall, there is a wall between each shop; in this place, it's one huge department store, but all competing hawkers and contrasting music at loud levels. I found my food, lingered over some natural root beer, and left.

After that I heard that there were lovely things to see on Strand near Charing Cross, but I couldn't see anything from the top of the street, so I went into Trafalgar square, past the statues and pigeons, and into the National Gallery.

The gallery has four sections divided by time period. I made it through the most modern (Monet, Renoir, etc) at a reasonable pace. Then I went through the earlier period (Rembrant, etc.) at a quicker pace. Then I felt that I was running out of time, so I skipped the rest. Maybe I'll try to come back.

My sense from what I saw is that I have a lot more respect for the earlier painters than from the later ones. Yeah, there's something exciting and fresh about Monet and Renoir, but it doesn't really hold a candle, for me, to the awesome technique of the classic painters.

This is probably a long discussion about art, so I'll leave off for now.

Next I crossed to the Thames, over the bridge crossing the Thames, and over to the ferris wheel. Where I decided not to stand in line for a very long time to pay £14.50 for a ride, and also not to pay £16.50 for the Star Wars exhibit nearby. Shame. But London is very, very expensive, and I need to save my already dwindling supply of money.

Then north to Queens Gardens station around where I'm staying for shabbat. Then shopping for vegetables.

Now it's almost shabbat. The place where we're staying has an internet connection, as you can see. So I'll probably see you on the other side of shabbat, as well. I'm still hoping to get away from the Internet entirely next week. We shall see.


[1] I'm sure I'm not the first one to have said this.

Momentum Remundanity

Momentum Remundanity: The let down feeling you get when stepping off a moving walkway and begin moving at less than superhuman speed again.


Everything was fine until we landed. The plane then spent 35 minutes sitting on the tarmac - and I kid you not - looking for a parking space.

Another half an hour to walk through the airport to get to passport control (do you get frequent flier miles for distance travelled in the airport?)

Another quarter hour to get the suitcases.

Then an hour and fifteen for the cab to leave the airport parking lot and cross town to Streatham.

Along the way, we passed wholly uninteresting places. What we saw of London so far, at night, driving along one side, has quaint houses and some antique cars. But the entirety reminded me of Queens. I hope to see some nicer parts tomorrow.

Everything Right is Left

While just about everything I passed looked familiar, the car with the steering wheel on the right was jarring, as I expected it to be. I hope I can swing driving one once we get our rental car.

This computer in our friend's apartment displays the same old operating system you can find on any computer around the world (like a McDonalds), but the keyboard is funny: The " and the @ are in the wrong place, and there's a £ key where the # key should be.

Meetup in London Today (Friday)?

I have no plans tomorrow, still, so if anyone wants to meetup and go walking around central London with me, drop me an email by tomorrow morning.


Thursday, June 14, 2007

Smoking Kills, and So Does Overhype

Rachel brought her wireless laptop, which I suspect will severely degrade the quality of our "vacation". As a side effect, I can post from Ben Gurion airport.

The windows in the duty free shops are filled with cigarette boxes. They used to say "Just what the doctor ordered". Then they said nothing. Then they said that nicotine is addictive. Then that they might be "hazardous to your health". Then that they cause various health problems.

Now the labels simply say "SMOKING KILLS" or "SMOKING HARMS YOU AND OTHERS AROUND YOU" in big fat letters that take up the entire side of the box.

What next? "Smoking will rip your arms off and beat you about the head and body"? They keep upping the bar, but there comes a point where the warnings just begin to sound ridiculous. I see a guy smoking. He wasn't killed. Does that mean the warning is false?

Eve had this same problem with the apple, as I recall.

Overhype will kill your message as surely as underhype.


Session Report, in which I say goodbye for three weeks

The latest Jerusalem Strategy Gaming Club session report is up here. Games played: Thor, Toutankamon, El Grande, Backgammon, Taj Mahal, Medici, Tichu.

Game night will be at Nadine's for the next three weeks.

The Tyee covers modern board games.

Settlers of Catan appears to be the XBOX's most popular video game. It's still getting rave reviews. And it now has an expansion that add as opponents historical personalities, such as Joan of Arc, Hannibal, and Tokugawa.


Wednesday, June 13, 2007

When the Pieces Don't All Fit Together

And I so very much wanted to get my summary of the UK Copyright acts done before leaving for the UK, but it doesn't look like I'll have the time. And less than 200 verses to go, too.

So far, my impression is rather negative. Although I like the way the UK created a separate entity for "Design" rather than lumping it between copyright, patent, and trademark (as in the U.S.), UK's copyright laws are very heavy handed and intrusive, with very little rights for the public and an assumption of guilty in all cases.


Saarya and I played a game of Blokus in the last evening that I would be seeing him before I leave. Astoundingly, I won. I frankly don't ever expect to win any more abstract games against him. I would love to get him playing Go.

My copy of Blokus came missing a piece, which I am hopefully going to pick up today.

Games Arrived

A few games for the group have arrived: Atlantic Star, Industria, Lost Valley, and Mississippi Queen. I may have a chance to look at them at tonight's game night, but after that the game group will have the opportunity to play them before I do.

Now I'm off to pack to see what I still need to buy.

An Israeli in London

Oh, and I was toying with the idea of taking a big sign that says "I'm an Israeli: ask me questions about Israel" and planting myself somewhere in the middle of London for a day. But my mom thinks I would get stones thrown at me.


Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Upcoming Trip to England/Scotland

I'll be in England/Scotland on the following dates:
- June 15-16 (Fri/Sat) in London
- June 17 (Sun) Glasgow, Dicecon for a few hours
- June 18-21 (Mon-Thu) hiking the backwoods of Scotland
- June 22-23 (Fri/Sat) Glasgow
- June 24-26 (Sun-Tue) Isle of Skye
- June 28-July 4 (Thu-Wed) London area and other parts of England, TBD

If anyone wants to meet up in London, Glasgow, or parts unknown, please send me an email, phone number and location!


My Genealogy

I hate missing links ...

<- 000

An indeterminate number of generations before human consciousness.

001 - 010

011 - 020

021 - 030

031 - 040

041 - 050

051 - 060

061 - 070

071 - 080
Shimon Hanassi
Raban Gamliel
Rabbi Shimon Ben Gamliel
Rav Yohanan Hasandlar
Joshua Zimri

081 - 090
Aharon Harofeh

091 - 100

101 - 110

111 - 120
Miriam = Riban
Rabbeinu Yom Tov
Rabbeinu Yehuda MeParis
R Yochanan Ashkenazi
R Yosef Troish
R Mattisyahu Troish
bat = R Shmuel Spiro
R Shlomo Spiro
Miriam = R Shimson Luria

121 - 130
R Yechiel Luria
R Netanel Luria
R Aaron Lurie
R Yechiel Lurie, Brisk
Dresel = R Elasar Schrenzel
Malka = R Israel Isserles
R Moshe Isserles (Rama)
Dresel = R Simcha Bunem
bat = R Yitzchak Bunems
R Binyamin (Wolf) Wilner

131 - 140
Yenta = Shabtai Cohen (Shach)
Yocheved = R Aaron miGesza Zvi, Luntschitz
R Moshe miGesza Zvi, Glogau
R Aaron miGesza Zvi, Berlin
R Eliezer (Lazarus), Mainberheim
R Moshe Trier
Kelche Lazarus = R Naftali Berlinger
R Yaakov
Menachem (Eli)
Yehuda (c'est moi)

Each of the stars represents exactly one missing ancestor. Naturally, there are occasional disagreements on the exact validity of a specific name or parentage, but this is the general gist.

I'll probably republish this entire post some months hence with more information about each generation, as well as sources.


P.S. By the way, this is the genetic genealogy. If we count who taught Torah to whom, there are no missing links.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Gleemax: Avalon Hill Games Will Soon Have a New Site is (going to be) a new site by Wizards of the Coast, an "online destination for hard core strategy and hobby gamers". Read more. The upshot is that it's an attempt to breathe new life into the old Avalon Hill line of games.

In Portland, OR, you can rent board games at Le Happy creperie.

Don't play cards in public in the Philippines or you'll get arrested. (The game was tong-its.)

Women's chess in Yemen is getting a governmental boost.

Babylon Translation Tool

As I've written before, I'm doing the Hebrew versions of Apples to Apples, hampered by the fact that my Hebrew is not very good. My plan was to press gang my native Israeli children into supplying the needed cultural references and doing the editing (for pay).

This has proved trickier than I imagined. They are a little more scarce than I imagined, having assumed that the lure of money would be hard for them to resist. Nevertheless, my daughter Tal has made some good efforts on behalf of the project.

The red apples (nouns) fall into two types. The first are common items, for which no specific information is required and I need only come up with a clever quip. This is not so hard, although the Hebrew is still a challenge. The second are the proper names. These are easy to come up with, with the help of Tal and Hebrew Wikipedia, but very laborious to annotate with information, such as years and so on. As a result, the red apples are languishing a bit.

The green apples (adjectives) proved trickier than I had imagined, also, since I didn't have a Hebrew thesaurus lying around.

Babylon Translation Software

However, I just downloaded an awesome piece of software that made the job of creating the green apples a breeze: Babylon.

Essentially, Babylon is a pop up window which works in any application giving me not only Hebrew to English or English to Hebrew translation of whatever I'm selecting, it also includes a comprehensive Hebrew thesaurus. It is the exact tool I needed. I didn't even know about the thesaurus part when I downloaded it, but wow, is it helpful.

With Babylon's help, I created 250 green cards in just a few hours. Many of the Hebrew adjectives I could come up with myself. These I click and then select three appropriate synonyms (sometimes I came up with my own synonyms rather than the suggested ones, but rarely). When I had an English adjective that I wanted to use but didn't know the Hebrew, I entered it in English, found the Hebrew equivalent, and then found the synonyms for the Hebrew word.

Of course, I had Tal looking over my shoulder to ensure that I didn't make any stupid errors in forms or tenses that would make a Hebrew speaker laugh his or her head off. And of course, I will be passing the entire list through one or two more native Hebrew speakers before submitting the cards.

But what looked like many many hours of work turned into a breeze. I'm currently using the free trial version; I assume it will prompt me to buy it eventually.

Thanks, Babylon.


(I have no relation to the company, by the way. I'm just a happy user.)

Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Two Things You Should Never Argue About

There are two things you should never argue about: facts and opinions.

I took me nineteen years to learn not to argue about facts. I remember realizing it one day while riding in a car, having the usual argument with a person who shall remain nameless but loved to argue, when it occurred to me: why the heck are we arguing about this? Either I'm right, or he's right, or neither of us are right, and we'll find out when we go home and look it up.

Facts - facts that can be known or verified in some manner - are facts. What's the use of arguing about them? Now when I get into a disagreement about a fact, I meta the conversation: "We'll look that up when we can, but let us suppose that it is or isn't true for the moment. How does this affect what we're discussing?"

Of course, everyone basically understands that you can't win an argument about opinions: "This is better" or "That is better". No, "This is better to me", and "That is better to you". Better is in the eye of the beholder.

Even taking that conversation to meta level, you end up arguing "This is better because this has such and such properties, which are more important" vs "That is better because that has these other properties, which are more important". It's still in the realm of opinions.

For instance: Windows vs Unix. I think Unix is better. That's because I value X, Y, and Z about operating systems, which Unix is better at. If someone else values A, B, and C about operating systems, and Windows is better at these, then they think that Windows is better. So the real argument is whether X, Y, and Z are more important qualities in an operating system than A, B, and C.

Which is still a matter of opinion.

I'm sorely tempted to leave the post at this, because the statement:
There are two things you should never argue about: facts and opinions.
sounds like it encompasses all things, which would lead to the implied assertion: "You should never argue."

However, there is another thing, other than facts and opinions: ideas.

Ideas are when you argue about what it means that some people believe X, Y, and Z are more or less important than A, B, C in the design of an operating system. We're still arguing about whether ideas can be objectively worse or better, and which ones. Keep arguing about that.

One of my favorite quotes:
Great people talk about ideas.
Average people talk about things.
Small people talk about other people. - Anon
Variously attributed, in various forms, to Benjamin Franklin, Eleanor Roosevelt, and others.


Saturday, June 09, 2007

Weekend Gaming

In my post about how I became a professional blogger, I neglected a few other sources of income:

- Reviews: two reviews, for an average of $35 each.
- Donations: three donations, between $15 to $35.
- Selling copies of my game prototype and funneling people through to buy my game; another side-effect of blogging.

Apples to Apples

We had guests for dinner, including a single mom and her three children ages 15 to 22. They are not game players, but somehow I managed to convince the mom and her oldest to try out Apples to Apples a bit after dinner. Tal, Eitan, and Rachel joined us.

A2A has been known to melt pretty hard non-game-player hearts, but, although she did a fair amount of laughing, she blamed this more on the Chardonnay than the game itself.

We played with the party box sized regular edition of A2A; this is the first time I used this version, having only previously played with other versions or the original smaller regular edition. I recommend this one over the original edition which they no longer make anyway.

Like everyone else, mom and daughter weren't happy with any proper noun cards they drew into their hands and discarded them in favor of other cards. I'm beginning to think that these cards are simply uninteresting, no matter what edition.


After lunch I played Blokus with Tal. The last time I had a copy of this game I wasn't particularly thrilled with the two-player variant of two colors each, but this time I really warmed to it. Still, just as well play two-player with the travel edition.

Puerto Rico

Nadine invited Rachel and I over for our oft-afternoon game of Puerto Rico.

I was second player and Rachel was third. I deliberately wrecked the standard opening moves, picking Mayor on turn 1 and Settler on turn 2; the net result was short turn loss for me, and I figured that was the way it was going to end.

Rachel decided to try her own variant strategy of Hospice and University. Hospice is actually pretty good with our tweak of allowing you to move a colonist onto it when you buy it. But University still sucked, even at 7 and coming pre-manned. It's all the other buildings you give up when you buy it.

As a result, Nadine looked like she was heading towards victory. However, I made some huge surges in the last five rounds or so, aided by having a coffee monopoly, a strong Harbor and Discretionary Hold, and some good choices. I'm not sure where Nadine stumbled, but she must not have shipped enough, as even with a Harbor she ended with many fewer victory points than me.

I took the game 65 to 57 to 52.

Game News

The United Methodist youth in Nashville are attempting to break the Operation board game world record of 1:02 minutes.

More merging in the game business, as University Games buys Upstarts.

The Lansing State Journal covers pirate games with some surprisingly good choices.


Friday, June 08, 2007

The Blog Post

Some days the rice is dry and burnt
The chicken is gummy
The soup is soupy
The house smells like smoke

Every errand I try to get done
I left something home
Or the bank was closed
Or it wasn't in stock

My shaver simply pulled at my beard
And I didn't cut straight
And I lost a shoe
And I didn't have lunch

And the dog wants to go out for
The fifth time today
And all I have left
Is this blog post


Games, Games, Everywhere You Turn

Everyone loves and plays games, even those who think they don't. They just don't call them games.

They're, uh, group activities. Competitions. Social events. Etcetera. Etcetera. The same people don't read science fiction or fantasy, but do read speculative fiction, 1984, and A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Sheva Brachot

Yesterday evening we went to a sheva brachot for Dylan and Genia, two of our occasional game groupies, and the hostess organized "an activity". To be fair, she told me explicitly that she likes games, but doesn't have time for them right now. I can't speak for the rest of the people there, but they certainly got into "the activity".

Our hostess had drawn pictures of objects onto posters and we had to guess what the phrase was (i.e. like a picture of a screw followed by a picture of a ball makes "screwball"). Each item had to do with happy couple, of course.

Since we all tried to guess at once, I suppose it really would be classified as "an activity" rather than a game. To be a game, you would have had to divide the guessers into two or more groups, or to time the group to see how long it took them to guess, or something else that required a number to affix as a score. Can't be a "game" without a score, right? *cough*

Alea Games Coming to Israel?

During the evening I fielded a call from some guy in Zichron Yaakov who was given my number by Gilad of the Modiin group. He wanted to know which Alea games would be worth bringing in to Israel for translation.

After getting assured that his business model wasn't going to rely on selling these games cold to the casual pedestrian on the street (he is targeting people who specifically want "something else" to play), I assured him that all Alea games are worth importing.

I put him in touch with John from Silver Stars who is importing Mayfair games, as well as other stuff. Either their business conflicts, in which case they should know about each other, or it doesn't, in which case they can help each other or join forces, if mutually beneficial. If I hear anything about the results of this, you'll be the first to know.

Music to Game By

The music group Pax Dei has created a musical interpretation of Settlers of Catan.

Calgary Game Nights points us to three articles on how gaming fights Alzheimer's.


Thursday, June 07, 2007

How I Became a Professional Blogger

(You can skip this post, ekted; I know you don't like it when I talk about blogging :-) )

I didn't really plan it, but I dreamed it.

1. First of all, when I started blogging I knew I had something to offer. One of my strengths is the ability to come up with new and creative ideas. Sometimes what I come up with falls flat, but I always have another three or four ideas waiting as a follow up.

Everyone has something to offer about something. Whatever you are good at or know about, other people will be interested in it. Worst comes to worst, by blogging you'll be practicing your writing and organizational skills. Even if you just do it for fun, like most people.

2. I picked a subject that I'm passionate about to begin with. I really do play games, and I really do evangelize about them. And I really believe the things I write about (at least at the time that I write them).

3. I wasn't afraid of failing, because I started from nothing: no audience, no readers, nothing to lose. When I got some readers, I thought: well, the worst that can happen is that I post something lame or offensive and I lose them all. In which case I'm no worse off then when I started.

4. I have lots of dreams, and only so much time to devote to them. In order to succeed with this one, it was necessary that I made blogging a daily priority. Especially at the beginning, when I didn't necessarily have anything to write, I wrote anyway. I scoured news and web sites. I made it a point of writing every day (at first, three times a week), regardless. Often, usually, about halfway through writing something, I realized that I finally had something to say. I then erased everything I had written and started over.

Sometimes the ideas only start flowing after the pen hits the paper; most people want it to be the other way around, but this doesn't work for me.

5. Since I wasn't getting paid for this, I had to justify the time spent to myself, to my wife and family. I had to fight adversity and answer questions like "why am I playing around on the computer?" Because I am laying the groundwork. I am spending the time now to get better at it, until one day I may be in a position that I will have enough experience and enough traffic, or be offered a blog position, so that I can quit my other jobs.

In the meantime, the time spent is no more wasteful than the time spent in school that you don't get paid for. It's education. It's experience. It's building habits and working through errors. Especially getting those errors out before I have a big readership, when failure becomes a bigger problem.

It was also a commitment; because even if only one other person is expecting me to write something, I feel a need to write for that person, money or no money.

6. I turned to the professionals: Problogger, Performancing, Gaping Void, Seth Godin, Copyblogger, Kathy Sierra, and so on. Some of these are specifically about blogging, while the others are about branding. Both are key. Professional blogging sites help you with the technical stuff: how to be a good blog citizen, how to network, how to optimize, how to write content in attractive ways. Branding/Marketing sites help you identify what you have to offer, how to connect to what people like to read, and how to tap into the creative process. There's an overlap between the two, of course.

7. Not only did I find myself in a good niche (board gaming), but I found things that weren't being covered in my niche and covered them. There are blogs with session reports and reviews about Eurogames, war games, Go and Chess, but basically none that cover all board gaming - which, by the way, is my interest. I collect and report on daily gaming news that nobody else reports. I cover game patents because nobody else does them. I write game poetry because, um, I'm crazy (but I like to do it, and few others do). I maintain an up-to-date blogroll like no one else does.

I also branched out into a few other subjects, when I found myself with something particularly unique or interesting to say (well, at least something that I found interesting, anyway).

8. Any person who has played a negotiation or trading game can tell you that you have to trade promiscuously to win. As such, I am promiscuous with my links. I link to all the hundreds of people that I love and read. If only 10% of them link back to me, thats still hundreds of people with one link (from me), and dozens of links back for me.

9. I maintained focus on my readers. I don't write for transient hits from Google or Digg. Not that I reject them, but I don't make that my focus. If my post isn't good enough for the regular readers, it's not good enough. On the other hand, my regular readers do get a wide range of topics covered.

I RSS full feed. Anyone who subscribes to my feed doesn't have to jump through hoops to get my content. I can count on them coming to my site a few times a year at the very least, which is a heck of a lot more than the other billion people on the internet. I'm not going to purposely annoy them.

I try not to annoy my readers with ads. I played around with ads and rejected most of them because they would annoy me if I went to read the site. I use only a small ad on the top. I use affiliate links to sites where I would also buy products, and which don't pop-up or interfere with the flow of text. I began writing reviews only of sites that I thought contained at least something that I would be interested in, anyway (and rejected many others).

Yes, it's a little extra work to tune ads properly and add all the affiliate links in my posts, but I got used to it. With little exception, I don't think I've annoyed my readers too much.

10. After I had experience in blogging - three years, now - I looked for the opportunities. There are blog positions advertised online, and there are companies that looked like they could use blogging help.

A. The direct results:

By post number 1000, I had made $75, which I gave back to my readers in the form of games. I'm now up to around $50 a month in Text Link Ads ($35), Google Ad-Sense ($12), and Amazon ($3).

Not very impressive, I admit. However ...

B. The indirect results:

I landed a professional blogging position at a company. I went in for a programming position and offered instead to be their company blogger. And they accepted.

I have had a game published by a publisher who is one my readers.

I've received dozens of free games to review.

My writing is getting better all the time.

I know hundreds of great people around the world.

I've had articles published in professional journals around the world. I've even been interviewed a few times on various subjects.

I know a lot about my field and interest.

I'm enjoying myself.

C. Will I ever run out of things to blog about?

Blogging is now easier than ever. Where I once scrounged for topics, I now have to hold back from writing too much every day.

- I have played 250 games and have only reviewed 50 of them.
- I can compare any two games
- I can review and compare game genres
- I can write about gaming in every country, city, religion, or culture
- I can pick any topic and write about the games that concern that topic (I did Zebra games, once, as an example)
- I can find thousands of unusual games any day on eBay
- I can write about other game blogs and websites
- I can respond to articles on these sites
- I have thousands of game books to read and review
- Each of them covering topics in intelligence, theory, culture, history, fun, tactics, and so on, all of which I can also write about
- And that's off the top of my head, and doesn't include keeping up with game news and patents and the games that I play and design
- And so on

And you can do it to, if you really want to.


P.S. You may also want to read my Ten Lesser Known Secrets of Blogging.

Session Report in which we say goodbye to Zack

The latest Jerusalem Strategy Gaming Club session report is up here. Games played: Crossword Dominoes, Settlers of Catan, Caylus, Bridge, Go, Tic Tac Toe, Blokus, Tichu, Puerto Rico.

Zack's family is going back to the U.S. Thanks for joining us!

Ooh. I only just noticed something called Through the Ages, a Civilization card game. And apparently BGGers like it. I wonder if it has any relation to this.


Update: I guess I should also mention that sometimes participants Dylan and Genia got married this week. Mazal Tov. We will hopefully be going to sheva brachot tonight.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Scrabble With Mom

My new job takes me to Beit Shemesh every day (for the moment), and since I get off at 1:00, I have been popping over to my parents house to check up on them.

I also asked my mother to play a game of Scrabble with me. In truth, I was kind of wondering how my Mom's game abilities were holding up now that she was nearing 70.

I needn't have worried. While I certainly knew more "Scrabble" words, being an active player, she is still a good player. Unfortunately for her, I picked every S and at least half of the other rich tiles, which allowed me to score two big words. Aside from those two, we were about even.

I'm glad. My father is doing his new course of chemotherapy. It's not giving him many ill effects like similar past treatments have, but then it's also not got much chance of success. Nevertheless, he is upbeat and happy, which is nice to see.

I had my parents pick up a copy of Blokus for me that someone was selling for $10. I also borrowed their old game Crossword Dominoes, curious to remember what it was about.

Game News

Poor Sydney got left off the final game board of the new Australian Monopoly. Boo Hoo. You can hear an interview with Monopoly's Marketing Manager about the new edition here.

Local Discovery Channel stores are shutting down. These games may be available at the stores at greatly reduced prices.

Perplex City also suddenly decided to shutter its follow up game until further notice.

Master of Maya is a new cellphone fantasy-themed trading card game.

Hasbro is trying to turn more of its board games into movies. Meanwhile, Brash Entertainment is trying to turn more movies into video games. Meanwhile, Fantasy Flight Games is trying to turn more video games into board games.


May Gaming at the JSGC

The following lists games played and reactions at the Jerusalem Strategy Gaming Club in May. It doesn't include my own gaming outside the club.

Arimaa - Many fans of abstracts like this game, which is designed to be hard for computers to play. I find it a bit tedious, like Abalone.

Bridge - Generally loved by the deeper gamers. My lack of proficiency due to rustiness is grating on me, however.

Caylus - I find this dull, but not insufferable (If I have something else to do). Others very much enjoy it, however, owing at least partially due to there being no "luck".

Children of Fire: the Board Game - A rough game, with a few rough edges, it's still fairly enjoyable. I believe it requires a 10 or 12 round limit.

Cosmic Encounter - A classic, but can be overplayed. Elijah wants to play every week.

For Sale - A good intro game, even if there's not too much to the game itself.

Hearts - Team Hearts is a good partnership game, although nothing spectacular.

Lo Ra - Nadine's Jewish themed version of Ra, it plays essentially the same. A bit dry, but a nice medium game.

Lord of the Rings: the Confrontation - Much better than it has a right to be, a very light themed war game for two player that plays in ten minutes. Tense and fun.

Lost Cities x 2 - Very popular in other groups, we find this incredibly banal.

Mau - I can't stand this silly induction game, but Adam and the younger players love it.

Netrunner - I love this. Of the other two players, David is frustrated with the luck of pulling cards blindly, while Binyamin enjoys it like I do.

Railroad Tycoon - Another big rough mess of a game, at its core it has very good game play, and I love train games.

Power Grid - The most requested game of the moment. Some of our players take a bit too much time calculating, so I get bored at the beginning and end of the game.

Puerto Rico x 3 - The game. Period.

San Juan x 2 - An easy filler, suffers mainly by comparison to its older brother. Desperately needs an expansion. I wish they sold blank cards for this.

Settlers of Catan - A classic introductory game, and still a lot of fun, although I play it on automatic.

The Menorah Game - An excellent medium game, if I do say so myself.

Tichu x 2 - Bridge-lite. Not really, but this is what the less cerebral prefer to play when the others play Bridge.

Tikal - Not played enough for my tastes, a lovely area control game with beautiful bits.

Yinsh - A simple and fun abstract game for two players.


May Board and Card Game Patents

Electronic video poker games: Apparently any program where you play a hand of poker, and after the first discard, the remaining cards are duplicated into several other hands and then new cards are drawn into each hand.

Electronic video poker games: Um, same thing, I think? Or perhaps, this is referring to the hardware?

Method for playing poker with additional card draws: A poker game where you can toss additional cards if they match a "nudge" card's value. E.g. if a 9 is the nudge card, you can toss a 9 in your hand for another card.

Poker blackjack game: This patent appears to be the straightforward idea that the two cards you are initially dealt in blackjack are also used for a poker game at the same time. In addition, you can bet on the color of the cards flipped up.

But some rather strange wording in the background caught my eye:
Blackjack is typically played on a table having a straight edge behind which a dealer stands and a semi-circular edge around which one or more players are positioned. The maximum number of players at a table may be, for example, six. The blackjack table may have a top surface covered with felt or another material which is imprinted with various indicia. These various indicia may include text describing basic and house rules of play and may indicate areas where players' cards are to be dealt and where players' bets are to be placed.
Which leads me to believe that it is not simply the game idea that is being claimed, but the felt surface, or perhaps both.

Modified blackjack game: Blackjack, with side bets on a) the value of the initial first two cards, and b) getting two initial cards of the same suit. Same comments as the previous patent.

Method and casino gaming table for playing three hand pinochle: 9 player pinochle in three groups of 3, with wagering on specific melds and overall totals.

Method, apparatus and article employing multiple machine-readable indicia on playing cards: Yet another device capable of reading and verifying cards as they are dealt, whether to duplicate the hand or combat fraud, I'm not sure. I could swear I saw similar ideas in one of my previous posts.

Games and game playing implements that include magnets: Some sort of game where you shoot a puck using repelling magnets.

Educational mathematics game: Cards with numbers, dice with operators, play a card in your hand that matches the math equation.

Spelling games: Match letter tiles to spell the word on your card.

Chess game playing array assembly: "The applicant recognized a need for a chess game playing assembly which would provide improved flexibility for arranging and/or designing various three dimensional chess game playing arrays."

Board games with player-wearable costume components: Hoo boy. Apparently, you can stick a piece onto someone's back and he or she has to guess what it is.

Hockey game: A variation on the hockey-foosball, where the table slopes a little.

Dominoes tile set with curved pieces: A design patent. Each domino is a quarter circular arc.

Card board game: Another design patent. I saw the pictures; I don't get it.

Resource point game mechanic: Something to do with the Lord of the Rings Trading Card Game. This patent protects the game mechanic "Resource points according to the resource point value are accumulatable by a player transitioning one of the game components from the 'out of play' state to the 'in play' state." Bite me.

Suits and ladders game: Betting on the suit of a card, where you can increase your rewards for the next card rather than take the payout. I think we saw this patent last month, too.

Word forming board game with lettered tiles: A board game called CHANGIT, which is just like Scrabble, except that the game starts with a word in the middle, and your object is to get rid of all your tiles by first changing a word and then placing a new one.

Card game: A design patent on a deck of cards.

Casino card game: Getting bored of poker patents? Me too.

2 through 6 main bet: The dealer's face-up card is used in determining how much a player's blackjack should be paid.


Tuesday, June 05, 2007

12 Reasons to Live in Israel

In honor of Parshat Sh'lach, here's a meme from Nefesh B'Nefesh, asking every Oleh to compose a list of 12 great things they appreciate and love about living in Israel.
  • Knowing the truth behind the fiction of 99% of what I hear on the radio or see on television.
  • Having dozens upon dozens of synagogues that I don't go to within walking distance (because I found one just right for me).
  • Being able to taunt everyone else who says they want to move to Israel but hasn't.
  • Being within driving distance. Of everything.
  • Having access to incredibly good, cheap, and plentiful kosher wine and food.
  • Being admired for being American. Being admired for moving away from "wealth" to move here. (Wealth? What wealth?)
  • Being admired for being religious.
  • Messing with people's minds when they find out that I'm a religious and right-wing Israeli and yet not a racist.
  • Hearing even the television wish me shabbat shalom.
  • Being able to post while a lot of my readers are still asleep.
  • Making history with every step.
  • A mitzvah every minute.
My wife, Rachel, adds her own reasons:
  • The people are great; high-bred and low-brow mix together; even teenagers have a sense of purpose outside of themselves; real, strong, non-Jappy women
  • The Hebrew language; aside from being beautiful, Torah quotes abound in the language; even the taxi driver will quote tanach to you; bus advertisements are biblical
  • There is no apologizing for being Jewish
  • You can buy anything you want in a grocery store
  • The davening is amazing; the best synagogue services in the world
  • There is a mikva in every city within walking distance
  • There is no Torah learning like Israel Torah learning
  • Yom Kippur; Jerusalem shuts down and people dressed in white meet everywhere in the streets, happy
  • Simchat Torah; dancing in the streets and between synagogues
  • Sukkot; the weather is pleasant, and the kids sukkah hop
  • Tisha'a Ba'av on the Haas Tayelet, with readings in all Jewish denominations, overlooking the Kotel, full of hope
  • Israel is my home; I am living around the corner from David's palace; everywhere I go I know people
Other entries: Muqata, Rafi, Ben-Yehuda, Zahava, Israluv.


A Guide to the Secret Wordpress options.php Sub Panel

On your Wordpress 2.1 admin screen, there is an additional sub panel of options other than the ones you can get to from the admin menus: options.php, otherwise known as All Options.

This sub panel is not documented elsewhere, as far as I know. The list of available options depends on the plugins you have installed, so you may see other options than the ones listed here.

When relevant, I point you to the equivalent field on the corresponding visible Options sub panel.

active_pluginsRead Only
admin_emailGeneral → E-mail address
advanced_editEnable (1) or disable (0) VRE editor
akismet_discard_monthAkismet Configuration → Automatically discard spam comments on posts older than a month (true, false)
archive_modemonthly or daily archives
blacklist_keysDiscussion → Comment Blacklist
blogdescriptionGeneral → Tagline
blognameGeneral → Weblog title
blog_charsetReading → Encoding for pages and feeds
blog_publicPrivacy → Blog visibility (1 everyone, 0 no search engines)
category_baseWriting → Default post category
comments_notifyDiscussion → E-mail me whenever anyone posts a comment (0, 1)
comment_max_linksDiscussion → Comment Moderation → Hold a comment on the queue if it contains this many or more links
comment_moderationDiscussion → Before a comment appears an administrator must always approve the comment (0, 1)
comment_registrationGeneral → Users must be registered (0, 1)
comment_whitelistDiscussion → Before a comment appears comment author must have a previously approved comment (0, 1)
cronRead Only
date_formatGeneral → Default date format
db_versionYour database version. Probably best not to touch.
default_categoryWriting → Default post category
default_comment_statusDiscussion → Allow people to post comments on the article (open, closed)
default_email_categoryWriting → Default mail category
default_link_categoryWriting → Default bookmark category
default_pingback_flagDiscussion → Attempt to notify any Weblogs linked to from the article (0, 1)
default_ping_statusDiscussion → Allow link notifications from other Weblogs (open, closed)
default_post_edit_rowsWriting → Size of the post box
default_roleGeneral → New user default role
doing_cronProbably should be Read Only
gmt_offsetGeneral → Times in the weblog should differ by
gzipcompressionReading → Wordpress should compress articles
hack_fileMiscellaneous → Use legacy my-hacks.php file support (0, 1)
homeGeneral → Blog address
html_typeThe content type for the posts
links_recently_updated_appendThe emphasis HTML tag to append to a recently updated link in the blogroll
links_recently_updated_prependThe emphasis HTML tag to prepend to a recently updated link in the blogroll
links_recently_updated_timeThe definition of recent for emphasizing new links in the blogroll - time in minutes
links_updated_date_formatThe date format for the updated tooltip for blogroll links
mailserver_loginWriting → Login name
mailserver_passWriting → Password
mailserver_portWriting → Port
mailserver_urlWriting → Mail server
moderation_keysDiscussion → Comment Moderation → Hold a comment on the queue if it contains any of these words
moderation_notifyDiscussion → E-mail me whenever a comment is held for moderation (0, 1)
page_for_postsReading → Posts Page
page_on_frontReading → Front Page
page_urisRead Only
permalink_structurePermalinks [all options]
ping_sitesWriting → Update Services
posts_per_pageReading → Blog pages show at most
posts_per_rssReading → Syndication feeds show the most recent
recently_editedRead Only
require_name_emailDiscussion → Before a comment appears comment author must fill out name and e-mail (0, 1)
rewrite_rulesRead Only
rss_excerpt_lengthThe length for rss summaries (lines? characters? words?)
rss_languageThe language for encoding rss feeds
rss_use_excerptReading → Syndication feeds for each article, show
secretI have no idea, but this field is editable and plain text. Must black hat wizardry here, I suspect.
show_on_frontReading → Front page displays (posts, page)
siteurlGeneral → Wordpress address
start_of_weekGeneral → Weeks in the calendar should start on
stylesheetdefault indicates the default stylesheet.
templatedefault indicates the default template.
time_differenceHours off from time zone of server
time_formatGeneral → Default time format
uploads_use_yearmonth_foldersMiscellaneous → Organize my uploads into month- and year-based folders (0, 1)
upload_pathMiscellaneous → Store uploads in this folder
users_can_registerGeneral → Anyone can register
use_balanceTagsWriting → WordPress should correct invalidly nested XHTML automatically
use_linksupdateMiscellaneous → Track Bookmarks’ Update Times (0, 1)
use_smiliesWriting → Convert emoticons
use_trackbackWhether to allow and send trackbacks (0, 1)
what_to_showMaximum number to display refers to posts or days
wordpress_api_keyFor Akismet
wp_user_rolesRead Only

After some scrounging around, I found some additional information about WP 1.0.2 options here.


Monday, June 04, 2007

As Long As We're Linking 22

As usual, this is my new list of worthy, or potentially worthy, new game blog feeds since the last list, which may be found on my sidebar.

Adelaide Gamer: Pleader, Australia.

All Board Gamers Everywhere: Another Livejournal community for board games.

Average Dave: David Ramsey, Hertfordshire, UK

Board Game Night(s) in Calgary: A game group in Calgary, Canada. Session reports and variants.

Boardgamewiki news: A new board game wiki that also has feeds. Started off slowly and seems to have stalled. Jason Breti, Alberta, Canada.

Classic Kid's Games and Party Games: Allen Mincus. No further info. Mostly kids and kinetic party games.

Digitally Disillusioned: Edward J. Pollard, Alberta, Canada.

IronWill Games: Will Knight, Mississippi. Aspiring game designer.

Meeples and Miniatures: Neil Shuck, Leicester, UK. A podcast and a webpage about war and Eurogames.

Miles of nothing Robin, Kentucky. Board game and other posts.

P4Wn3D: Ryan Walberg and Joe Belanger. Don't know why they started a new blog, yet.

Pitstop Board Games Cafe: Singapore gaming cafe, including forums and web site.

Shut Your Mouth and Open Your Eyes: Kevin Jurcik, Ontario, Canada.

The Wandering Settler: Creech Sonic, Singapore.

wood for sheep: Laura Henry, Oakland, CA.

I also dropped another bucket full of blogs. Look at my blogroll if you want to know which. If you don't see yourself, send me a line.


My Game Seems to be Doing OK *cough*

From Creation and Play:
We set up, and within minutes (before the convention officially opened) we had a bunch of players for It's Alive! The table was never empty after that - there were usually people queuing to play. It seemed to be going really well, I started to sell a few copies. Plus a Border Reivers or two. Then it went insane. There was an hour or two when I was struggling to sort out sales, I had a queue of receipts to write. Border Reivers sold out (the last copy was nearly fought for!), It's Alive! sold out. It just kept coming. We got rid of the last of our stock at 1:30pm on Saturday! Three and a half hours in. All we could do for the rest of the convention was demo the game and take orders (over twenty). An online game story pre-order twelve copies for stock. There was interest from the UK's largest games distributor. A publisher was interested in Border Reivers. It was a fantastic weekend...

Near the end of Sunday we heard a rumour that It's Alive! and Fagin's Gang were very close for the UK Game of the Year award, and we just missed out! We're awaiting official confirmation of that...
Order It's Alive here.


Sunday, June 03, 2007

Linkety Link

First of all, I feel I owe it to you to tell you my favorite feed right now: Flickr Interesting. Just wow, every day.

Legal Dept: I noted this patent as it went by, and now here comes Wizkids trying to get the recent patent about collectible figurine parts by Wizards of the Coast overturned, or to at least establish that they are not violating it. Click here for details.

Free Games Dept: Gnome points us to a number of free downloadable board and dice games from Cheapass games.

Also free are thousands of Flash games around the web, which you don't need me to tell you about. Nevertheless, people ask me to link to them. FreeGeekery posts a list of his favorites.

Hot Women Who Play Chess Dept: Here. Don't ask me why.

Sweaty Board Games Dept: Go will be a new competition in the 2010 Asian Games. Chess already is.

Points on the Compass Dept: The Northern Echo talks up Beyond Monopoly. The Southern talks up HeroClix.

Pay a Fortune to Play Sorry Dept: Omni Hotels is another chain carrying board games (for kids, they say). I've emailed them for the list of games.

Hippy Dippy Dept: "The Abounding River Board Game is an explorational board game that introduces people to an unfamiliar view of BEING ABUNDANCE. It encompasses both training people in a day to day practice as well as discovering a Spiritual foundation that opens up to a whole new way of looking at money and resources.

People experience themselves being at the source of unlimited supply."



Originally uploaded by FlorianOehrlein
Just testing Flickr's pic blogging feature ...

The Grand Experiment Begins Tomorrow Today

I know you missed me, because I missed you.

I also know that I really felt withdrawal from the Internet; mostly because I thought of the people who may have commented on my blog, and that the comments wouldn't show up due to the moderation. Next time I go away, I'll try to remember to unset the moderation and just delete the spam when I return.

I don't know how I'll survive an entire week away from the Internet in England/Scotland later this month.

Weekend Gaming

The shul weekend was very much like the last weekend, game-wise.

While on a hike, I occupied the kids with a word game: one player picks a single letter to start a series of letters, and each player must add a letter either to the end or front of this series that does not form a word, but is part of a larger word. You have to pass if you can't add a letter without forming a word, or if you can't think of a word containing the current series of letters. The previous player has to say the word they were thinking of, of course.

This is a bit of a challenging game to play with people who can't spell very well.

Over the weekend, we played For Sale. I guess I have to give that game a slight notch up, as it really is a very good intro game, even though I don't particularly care for it myself.

Next we played Apples to Apples Junior. I actually liked this version better than the original or Jewish editions, because there were no proper names, places, or dates, just plain old words, which are the most fun to play, anyway. I never felt like I had a hand full of trash that needed to be tossed, and the comparisons were just as amusing.

Now I'm not sure why the regular A2A editions have so many proper names.

Nadine, Rachel, and I played Puerto Rico. I was second player and did miserably. There was no corn available, so I started with a Hacienda and failed to pull anything useful from it the entire game. Blah. I fell way behind. I couldn't get cash or a good crop going.

Rachel build this incredible infrastructure, including a coffee monopoly and Harbor. Nadine had Factory and early shipping points and sugar. In the end, they tied, with Nadine taking the victory on the tie. I was well behind, just as I thought.


As far as the rest of the weekend went, it was a nice retreat with our shul. We hiked Mount Merom area for several hours and the weather was incredible all weekend.

I made some headway into Chris's Game Design book, but then lost the book for most of the day, and only found it again (behind the bed) shortly before shabbat ended.

The Great Experiment

It's very late now. No time to go through all the game news in my box, and all the usual beginning of the month posts waiting in the wings: patents, new blogs, and so on.

Tomorrow I start the great experiment as a professional blogger. The blog actually won't go live until I come back from England (makes sense, no?), but I will go in to work and start working out the particulars and building up a backlog of posts.

That gives me the afternoons free for finishing the Hebrew Apples to Apples, working on my game designs, my blogging here, and so on. But my plan for my first free afternoon is to goof off downtown in a book store.

So you'll have to wait until tomorrow evening for me to get back in gear.

In the meantime, there's an interesting discussion going on at Fortress: Ameritrash.


Friday, June 01, 2007

Internet ... Withdrawal ...

only ... connection ... is wireless ...
to ... blutooth ... through cell phone ...

need ... air ...