Saturday, May 31, 2008

Outrage Isn't

I ate over at a friend for lunch. Her kids have come to my group occasionally, and they have a few games of their own, two of which I hadn't played: Age of Mythology and Outrage.

Outrage is the game whose deluxe version is claimed to be the most expensive board game in the world (and to be listed in The Guinness Book of World Records a such). This is of course bunk. But no matter.

We started off with a game of Quarto. I've played this a few times, and it's a very simple game to learn and play. So simple, that I have yet to lose, and doubt that I ever will. It's one of those games that seem to be ultimately more enjoyable to solve than to play.

Still, it's enjoyable enough to play. You need to look forward a round or two or you can risk making a mistake. I believe that with basic prudence you should always be able to force a draw. Which is what I did; I either won or forced a draw a few games in a row.

Then, seeing as we probably didn't have time to play a game of Age of Mythology, I asked to play Outrage. It didn't look that intelligent: a simple roll and move game and do what the cards say, but it also offered a few choices, some attack opportunities, and I figured what the heck.

Unfortunately, no angels came flying through the window to show me the error of my basic beliefs about roll and move games. This one requires you, for no apparent reason, to roll your entire way around the board before you can start doing anything else. After ten minutes of interminable boredom, no attacks, and the occasional random "take that" moves, I gave up.

Cooperative Eurogaming

Seize Life! writes a nice article on how he took The Settlers of Catan and turned it into a tense cooperative game: The object is for four players to collect 36 points in 15 turns.

The principle he applies should be workable for any number of Eurogames, such as Puerto Rico, Princes of Florence, El Grande, and so on.


Thursday, May 29, 2008

Session Report, in which we again play Children of Fire RPG

The latest Jerusalem Strategy Gaming Club session report is up. Games played: It's Alive, Notre Dame, Zertz, Dungeon Twister, Geschenkt, Universalis, Children of Fire RPG, Princes of Florence, Race for the Galaxy, Magic: the Gathering, Puerto Rico.

The report is pretty light on details; I may spruce it up later.


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

First Look at Tabletop Games Sites and Categorization

I'm doing research on tabletop gaming sites and blogs other than board game sites and blogs. The research is very preliminary, but even now I'm beginning to see new patterns in the tabletop gaming world that I've hitherto only vaguely perceived.

As a general idea, here's what the online tabletop gaming world looks like (sorry for no examples, yet):

- A single classic game, such as Chess and Go. Backgammon and Dominoes are seen as gambling games like poker (see below). These sites cover detailed analysis of played games, online play, tournaments and top players, and sometimes sets and pieces. These sites cross-link only to other sites covering the exact same game.

- A single classic game, such as Mancala or Pachisi. These sites usually give historical information, product overviews and reviews, and occasional tournament information. These sites cross-link to other sites covering the same topic, as well as to general and academic sites regarding abstract games.

- Multiple classic games. These sites give historical and cultural analysis of the games. These sites link to similar sites, historical and academic sites, a few well-known single classic game sites, and a few sites of general board game interest, such as Board Game Geek or the (defunct) Game Cabinet.

- Abstract games, modern and classic. These sites review older and new games. They link to other abstract game sites, and some general sites.

- Multiple modern "Euro" games, such as Settlers of Catan. These sites cover sessions, reviews, analysis of game design, and game industry information. These sites link only to other Euro game sites. Very rarely, they link also to war game or miniature game sites. Very rarely, there is a single Euro game site.

- Multiple mainstream games, such as Monopoly. These sites are nearly all created to make advertising income, have little interesting content and link to no one. A few, even more pathetic single game sites also briefly exist.

- Multiple American style games, such as Axis and Allies. Very few of these exist, and they are similar to Euro game sites. They link to other sites of modern board gaming interest, including Euro game sites, and some war game and miniature sites.

- Single war game genre, such as WWII games; very rarely single war games. These sites detail game sessions, old and new products, conventions, and historical background information. They link to sites and publishers in the same genre, and occasional RPG and miniature sites in the same genre.

- Multiple war game genres. These sites review games and products, contain forums, and link to single game genre sites, other war game sites, and occasionally other board game or miniature sites.

- Single miniature games, such as Warhammer 40k. Miniature sites based around a game include news about the game and company, pictures of the minis, tournament info, and session reports. They link to other sites featuring the same game.

- Multiple miniature products grouped by size, such as 6mm, or 25mm. These sites feature pictures and painting examples, occasionally from the minis in play, but rarely ever about the play itself. They are more about history and artwork. They link to sites in the same size, and general miniature game sites, producers, painters, and distributors.

- Multiple miniature products grouped by genre, such as WWII, scifi, fantasy. The same as multiple miniatures grouped by size, except they link to their own genre.

- A single role playing game product or system, such as Dungeons and Dragons or d20. Posts about the company's products, news, variants, conventions, and session reports. They link to the main product line, and sites in the same space.

- Multiple RPGs grouped by genre, such as fantasy or science fiction. They post about new products, conventions, session reports, and occasional analysis. They link to others in the same space, and occasionally miniature or war games in the same genre.

- Multiple RPGs. They post about news, industry news, analysis, and computer equivalents. They link to other multiple RPG sites and occasionally board or CCG sites.

- Single collectible card game site, such as Magic: the Gathering. These sites pant for new releases and spoilers, analyze cards and deck types, report on conventions and top players, and give session reports. They link to sister and company sites, as well as other CCG sites. They also link to online versions of the game and other games by the same company. There are few multiple CCG sites.

- Single card game sites, such as Texas Hold'em or Bridge. Play analysis, tournaments and top players. They link to similar sites and online play.

- Multiple poker card games (also Backgammon, Dominoes, and dice games). They discuss online sites, tournaments and top players, as well as analysis. They link to online play sites.

- Multiple non-poker card games are few and far between. They discuss rules, variants, and history. They may link to each other.

Monday, May 26, 2008

How to Save a Life

I believe that everyone reading this is capable of saving at least one life before they die. In fact, I think everyone reading this could save one life within the next month.

The phrase "save a life" is bandied about with dramatics by many organizations with more or less meaning. I don't mean something murky, optimistic, or vague. I want you to know with certainty that you've actually helped someone in immanent danger to bypass that danger and live.

What opportunities do we have to save lives?


In certain contexts, saving a life means taking precautions:
  • seat belts
  • fire and carbon monoxide alarms
  • emergency lights
  • working fire escapes
  • emergency telephone numbers
  • locks on guns and cabinets
  • rails on roofs and around pools
  • childproof but operable windows
  • childproof drawers and toilets
  • cribs passing safety inspections
Proper precautions may save lives, although you may never know it. God willing, the situations for which you require precautions will not occur. You might not realize that they didn't occur as a result of your precautions. Even if some sort of disaster strikes, a precautionary item may come in more or less useful for that particular disaster.


Skill preparedness, such as first aid and CPR training, may save lives. Again, if you're lucky, the situations for which you've trained may never occur, please God. But if they do occur, you will be in a position to save a life on the spot, and you will know it.


Donating your organs after your death will probably save a life, or at least an eye or something, but you won't be there to know it.

On the other hand, blood, placenta, umbilical cord, and bone marrow donations save lives, and can all be done while you're alive.

Blood goes into a bank with many other people's blood; there's no telling when or where it will be used. Or indeed if it will be used. Blood is separated into three parts after donation, thus potentially saving up to three people's lives, but some parts spoil after six weeks. Different sites indicate that anywhere from 0% to up to 40% of blood donations may be thrown away, depending on circumstances and location. Typically, however, most accepted blood donations are used.

You can donate blood through Red Cross, as well as other local or national organizations.

Registering for readiness to donate bone marrow is simple and will directly save a life; in fact, your bone marrow may be the only possibility of life for a particular person who needs it. But it will only happen if a match is made and the donation is eventually required.


Governments can't afford to provide every service required for all citizens, even the critical ones. Without volunteers, programs fall by the wayside, people's standards of living decline, and people even die.

Wherever you live, you can volunteer your time, training, and skills to help directly save lives: fire brigades, neighborhood watches, suicide hotlines, crisis centers, food kitchens, shelters, emergency medical technicians, and so on, all save lives every day, and rely on civil volunteers. Some require no training at all; others will happily train you on the job.

To find volunteer opportunities near you, visit Volunteer Match or Do Something, check your local community centers, yellow pages, hospitals, and so on.

You can also volunteer for non-life saving projects that improve the quality of life of others, such as elderly assistance, tutoring, public gardening, building and restoration, you name it. The above organizations lead you to these opportunities, as do Tap Root Foundation, Cool People Care, Stuff Your Rucksack (if you're traveling), and many others.

Financial Assistance

If you can't provide life saving services directly, you can contribute money to help those who do, such as the Red Cross, the American Heart Association, the Save a Life Foundation, The Hunger Site Network (several sites), and others. To evaluate and pick a charity, try the Charity Navigator.

In addition to emergency medicine and so on, in some areas of the world people need specific items that we may take for granted, such as mosquito nets, water purifiers, and so on. Nothing But Nets and Blood Water Mission are two organizations among others saving lives by sending specific items. The people living in these area may need additional long term solutions to achieve a better life, however.

If well spent, your money could save lives. Some organizations that save lives efficiently use the money they've collected, while others have high overheads, as much as 90%. If you donate money, you need to check out how much of it is actually making it to people who need it.

Business Assistance

The Rambam listed eight levels of charity, the highest of which is to provide a loan or gift to someone that enables them to support themselves and no longer require charity.

Sometimes money sent to countries, organizations, or people doesn't get to the hands of those who need it. Even if it does, it may be enough to carry them for a short time, but then they're back in poverty.

Some organizations find people or communities who need loans to start businesses so that they can work themselves out of poverty, hunger, and poor health conditions. Kiva is one such organization. Whether or not you consider this saving a life depends on your point of view.


Campaigning to end wars and such, voting for politicians whose policies may have a direct or indirect effect on saving lives, and so on, can be helpful.

Unfortunately, the truth is murky with regards to whether politics or campaigns really save lives. You run up against the "path not taken" problem; you often can't really and truly know what would have happened if things went differently, you can only guess at what you think may be the best course of action.

Even if you can be sure, spending a lot of time and effort on politics doesn't generally yield a high life saved to effort spent ratio. But there are exceptions. If you choose to campaign, choose your battles wisely.


As long as we're in the business of saving lives, why not save your own? Cut down on trans fats, eat more vegetables, stop smoking, and start exercising. Find ways to reduce stress and add more enjoyment to your life (I have some suggestions).

You can only help others if you live long enough to do it.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Day I Disappeared From Google

If you search Google for "Yehuda", I'm third, after and . That puts me ahead of Yehuda Amichai, Yehuda Poliker, Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, and other far more illustrious Yehudas Google-wise, although certainly not in any real significance.

It took a long time after I began blogging before I received any sort of traffic from Google, and this really didn't bother me. I was, and still am, concentrated on providing a good reading experience to my regular readers. These are the people who bookmark my site or subscribe to my feed.

In fact, when I began to get Google visitors, I was rather annoyed at them half the time. They often came by mistake and left just as quickly. Some hit my site with ridiculous keywords. Others found one particular post of the week and then left. While the increase in traffic meant a slight increase in income from ad impressions (a penny here or there), it just made slogging through my site stats more difficult.

The Post

Last November I wrote a post regarding the history of sex in board games and a survey of the different types of ways sex is used in board games today. Nothing prurient.

The article was picked up by Brenda Brathwaite, who posted a link to it on the IGDA Sex blog. I got a swamp of traffic from the link. This has happened to me before after certain other posts, so I didn't think much about it and thanked Brenda for the link.

Something strange then happened.


After the initial swamp, my traffic didn't settle back to normal. It stayed about three times what it was before. And this traffic wasn't from clickthroughs via the IGDA link, it was from Google searches for "sex games" and similar. Brenda's link apparently shot my Google value through the roof for these search terms.

I was now getting more than 95% of my traffic via Google, the vast majority of it to that one post. While annoying to have to wade through this extra traffic to see what real traffic I was getting, it didn't significantly bother me, again.


I was standing in the street on Friday with someone who wanted my email and, smiling, I happily told them they could just Google "Yehuda" and click on the third link.

When I got home, I tried it myself on a lark, only to discover that my home page was no longer the third link on Google. In fact, you could not get to my home page via Google at all, on any search results page, using any search terms. Unless you literally typed in the URL of my site, mysite had effectively disappeared from Google.

Oh, you could find some of my pages that had strong links to them, such as my Monopoly listings and tabletop video game adaptations, but otherwise I was gone.

I began to feel like my very existence was in doubt. If Google didn't know me, did I really exist?

Just kidding. But it did seriously annoy me.

When I went to check on Google's tools to find out why I was gone, I discovered that they don't tell you why you have been booted, they only tell you good practices and how to petition for reinstatement. But I saw the records of searches to my site and could only suspect that this was the problem: I had been flagged as a spam site and automatically de-listed.

I sent in a request and shut my computer down for shabbat.

Tonight, I checked and found my site back on Google. It could be that they accepted my explanation that I'm not a spam site. Or it could be that my site was automatically re-added and the entire thing was just some sort of glitch. I don't know, because Google doesn't email you when they de-list you or when they re-list you. At least, I never got any email. Although I included my email in my petition, I don't know if they have it stored anywhere.

One Problem Remaining

A year of so ago my site was knocked down from Page Rank 6 to Page Rank 3. Many other sites experienced similar happenings around the same time. Net consensus was that this was because we sold text link ads.

According to Google, text link ads are often sold simply to boost the other sites' ratings, when they have no otherwise relevant reason for being linked to. But the three text links that I sell on my site are all to game related sites.

I don't know if this makes a difference. I mentioned this in my petition to Google, but my page rank is still down at PR3.


It was a bit disconcerting, especially since I noticed recently that my Technorati ranking has slowly been falling for several months from 10,000 to 60,000 (Technorati rank, like Google rank, is based on the quality and number of incoming links). But I'm back to recalling that I write for my regular readers, not for transient hits from Google.


(Update, June 08, 2008: I've decided to remove the page from Google, to see what happens.)

Friday, May 23, 2008

Roundup: Three Years of Twenty First Week Posts

My 16 year old son tried to play war games with me. I'm not sure why.

My favorite cartoon: Still Waiting. Available on a coffee mug.

A blogging T-shirt design. You can get this on a T-shirt.

Games about Mars

About dice, and why they earn disfavor

A bit about social dynamics

I was Geek of the Week on Board Game Geek.

The paradox of trying to do good deeds: part 1 and part 2

25 Technologies That Must Die


- Obviously technologies can't die, but our use of them can. I chose "technologies" rather than "inventions"; items developed via science or engineering rather than simply used or marketed. Cigarettes, for instance, would certainly hit a list of 25 inventions that need to die.

- Some cause death and destruction, while others simply annoy me. Some are useful and beneficial, but have negative side effects that justify hoping for something better.

- Some are on their way out, others obviously doomed as we are working to replace them, while others strike me as replaceable, eventually.

Coal Fueled Power Plants

Why They Must Die: Coal is the most inefficient mass source of energy production, with nearly 65% of all energy lost in its burning process, not including the 10% lost on the way to your house. It causes hundreds of thousands illnesses and deaths to miners and citizens each year, including asthma, lung cancer, and mercury poisoning.

It causes environmental damage; from the mining, stripping and destroying the land, to the endlessly darkening smog from burning.

Why does American keep burning coal? It's cheaper than oil, and doesn't require sending money to the Arab states.

What Should Replace Them: With oil at 130 dollars a barrel and rising, the rush is on to produce clean technologies. As the costs of producing energy from clean technologies fall, this will not only allow America to lessen its need for oil but also break the romantic pictures we have of having to produce coal or be dependent on foreign energy supplies.

Gasoline Fueled Internal Combustion Engines

Why They Must Die: Not only do combustion engines produce air pollution, they are one of the primary contributing factors to noise pollution. Until you get out of the city you forget just how noisy day to day life is with a constant stream of motors, tire squeals, and honking horns.

What Should Replace Them: Alternative engine technology, including hybrid, hydrogen, and electric vehicles. More kick-ass public transport, telecommuting, and local shared multi-company office facilities.

Car Alarms

Why They Must Die: No one hears a car alarm and thinks that a car is being stolen; they think, "Dude! Shut off your damn car alarm!" What is the false positive ratio? 100 to 1? 1000 to 1? Surely we can find a way to protect our car (or house), without waking up a three block radius at 3 am blaring a siren that nobody pays attention to.

What Should Replace Them: Systems connected to central stations, lighting an interior light instead sounding an alarm, or playing a quiet recording that the car is protected, the owner has been notified, and the area around the car is being filmed? And a big sticker that warns about it?

Better locks, immobilizers, ignitions, radios that only work with RFID keys, and interior steel safes attached to the chassis, so that burglars require a tow truck to steal your car.

Traffic Lights

Why They Must Die: Traffic signs and signals are to drivers what red flags are to bulls. I understand that people like to control their own vehicles, but it's long past time we notice that the system isn't working. Too many young male drivers; millions of deaths and injuries every year would have condemned any other technology long ago.

What Should Replace Them: Anti-collision detectors in cars and intersections could make a difference without causing too much trouble during an emergency. Traffic circles, if done right, are annoying, but less prone to accidents.

Some places have a practice called "Sharing Space". They believe that drivers are dangerous exactly because they rely on traffic signs and signal, making them feel immune to danger when they have the right of way. Contrary to common sense, removing not only traffic lights, but sidewalks and crosswalks, reduces accidents. Drivers in these areas drive slowly and cautiously, all by themselves.

Power Windows

Why They Must Die: Power windows break more frequently than their manual counterparts, exert enough pressure to crush fingers and necks of little children, and prevent you from opening or closing the window unless the key is turned on.

The one saving grace of an electric car window is that stupid people are less likely to kill someone while reaching across the seat to close them while driving.

What Should Replace Them: Good old manual windows work for me. Failing that, power windows with manual overrides and strong pressure safety regulations.

Visible Power Lines

Why They Must Die: Power lines promise instant death if you climb them and slow death if you live under or near them.

I grudgingly accept that the landscape needs to be ripped up for roads, communities, and quarries. But only billboards - another invention that should die - wreck a landscape more than miles of high voltage wires and poles. The next time you're outside, imagine the same view without the power lines; they're really the primary item rendering the landscape ugly.

What Should Replace Them: Buried insulated tubes that protect us from high level emissions with protections to deactivate the power if the tubes are compromised. I recognize that this is something on the order of ten times as expensive as above ground power lines.

As an alternative, wireless transmission. Superconductivity needs to catch up to our current demand (pun intended).

Power Cords

Why They Must Die: They're ugly. I keep tripping on them. My dog chews them up, and I don't want my children electrocuted or strangled without my consent.

What Should Replace Them: Wireless electricity or static or solar electricity chargers.


Why It Must Die: How many gallons of caustic development fluids must we dump just to see pretty pictures? Before you say, "this is over, we're all digital now," 2/3 to 3/4 of professional photographers still use film cameras. Why? Because it's a tad better resolution than digital.

What Should Replace It: The resolution issue is shrinking at a thankfully fast pace. Within a few years, digital photography will compete professionally with film photography. But it really doesn't matter. There's just not enough reason to use buckets of deadly chemicals just to make a "slightly nicer" picture when it's blown up to six by six feet.

Just take a break for from art photography for the next few years until digital catches up. I certainly don't need film photography for my web or newspaper stories.

Incandescent Lights

Why They Must Die: Incandescents use far too much electricity for the light they output, wasting the rest as heat. They burn out too often and shatter too easily.

What Should Replace Them: Fluorescent and LED lights are finally able to take the place of incandescents. They're coming down in price, they fit standard sockets, they use a fraction of the energy and last long enough to be cheaper than incandescents, over time. Several states and countries have committed to phase out all incandescent bulbs within the next decade.

Landline Telephones

Why They Must Die: We used to call business to business or locality to locality. Then we called house to house. That made sense for a while.

The result of getting stuck in the need for a landline telephones is the worst consumer abusing companies existing, and we still can't use the phone when someone else in the house is on it. We not only pay for the calls, but a monthly service charge.

What Should Replace Them: Mobile phones. Kids need cheap, safe, waterproof cells with limited functionality or service.

I know that mobile phones are up there at the top of most people's lists of technologies that they hate: irritating rings, loud blathering, the feeling of constantly being tethered and available, and companions that would rather talk to someone far away from them than the person sitting in front of them.

But remember two things: One, it's not technology that makes people annoying, it's people that make people annoying. And two, cell phones are just too important: in scheduling, in personal freedom, and in emergencies, to lose altogether.

The bigger problem is that mobile calling companies are just as consumer abusing as landline companies. The calls are ridiculously expensive, you're locked into service companies, and you pay extra charges whenever the company feels like it. We need an Internet for mobile system that allows you to simply be online, all the time, for a monthly flat fee.

Another problem is the expense of the phone, and the environmental damage from burnt out batteries. But prices are coming down, and battery recycling should become more pervasive.

Lead Paint, Fuel, and Pipe Soldering

Why These Must Die: We've known for decades about the toxic effects of lead in our consumer products, yet it stubbornly remains. Lead paint remains in many older houses, and is still used in other countries. Lead fuel is still used for aircraft, racing cars, farm equipment, and marine engines. Lead solder is still used for house pipes.

What Should Replace Them: Lead paints can be replaced with titanium based paint. Unleaded fuels have been powering our cars, and there is no reason legislation shouldn't force their general use. Lead pipes are pretty much history, but lead soldering continues due to its lower melting point than some alternatives. For pipes, the solution is plastic (one of the better uses for plastic).

Media Packaging

Why It Must Die: Because the essential part of media is, well, media. The media distribution industry and all laws that deal with IP revolve around the scarcity and difficulty of producing and distributing packaging materials: magazines, cassettes, CDs, and so on. Packaging uses up vital resources that will eventually get junked, requires us to purchase new containers when the old ones no longer work or don't work on new media players, and protects an industry whose current business is based on replicating packaging in digital formats with DRM and region controls.

What Should Replace It: Nothing. It's time to think of media as unpackageable: infinitely copyable and distributable. Rewrite our laws and businesses based on this fact. Don't work overtime trying to artificially wreck our copying and distributing capabilities.

If media is immediately available and accessible the moment it's recorded, what type of business models should exist based on this fact? Off the top of my head: live performance, searching, association, recommendation, summarizing, relevant and interesting facts about the media, personalization (personal media, such as songs recorded to your style and taste) and splice-ups, coaching, teaching, fact-checking, live coverage, better media players, ...

Web Sites and Web Browsers

Why They Must Die: Businesses want to be Game Masters and pretend that we're player characters. Each business tries to force us into its own world, telling us what we can and can't do.

We're beginning to question this. Why should I buy all the songs on a CD when I just want one? Why should I search through clothes sorted by brands in a store, instead of by sizes or styles that suit me? Why should I read text, watch video, find information, shop, travel, eat, or live the way a company wants me to, instead of the way I want to?

Web sites are modeled on storefronts. Sites bury their information in a way that suits the site owner or company.

What Should Replace Them: XML, RSS, and other technologies liberate us from this company-oriented methodology, if the company allows it. Luckily for us, the overwhelming force of these technologies are forcing companies to adapt, whether they like it or not.

Soon enough, the vast majority of relevant information will be accessible in chunks, tags, and feeds. We'll browse for what we want using tools that look and feel similar to file and email clients. The web as we know it will de-construct. All that will be left on the web are online applications and places to hang out.

For more detail, read Web 3.0.

Scheduled Broadcasting

Why It Must Die: When broadcast was the only game in town, the image of clicking through channel after channel with the TV remote became an icon for the dissatisfaction of broadcasting services. With rare exception, no one wants to have to sit through this to watch that. Or hear a lot of this in the hope of occasionally hearing that.

What Should Replace It: The Internet and our slow but steady move to digital on-demand broadcast services allow us to select our own schedules, start or stop content on a whim, or receive content selection that attempts to match our personal preference.

Closed Source Code

Why It Must Die: Because nearly all code sucks. The industry of closed source code is built around selling service and updates to itself. If you want a program to do something, you have to pay some guy to do it for you, the same guy whose interest is to keep you wanting more changes.

The reason we have malware, adware, spyware, file format hijacking, popups and pop-unders, and any sort of code doing things that we don't really want is because we can't just ask someone to change the code to disable it.

What Should Replace It: Open source code, with strict practices for modularization, security, and flexibility.

Invasive Surgery

Why It Must Die: Surgery has saved millions of lives, and restored the dignity of tens of millions more. But, just, ew. Taking a knife and cutting someone open in order to heal them just doesn't seem right to me. Aside from the scarring and hemorrhaging, huge recovery times, hospital expenses, and sanitation issues, only a select few people in the world can safely practice surgery, and only under specific conditions in specific places with specific instruments.

What Should Replace It: For the near future, better and more widespread micro- and laser surgery techniques and endoscopic tools. Eventually, something that can move, repair, and suture through skin without breaking it.

10 day Anti-biotic Series

Why They Must Die: Too many people can't, don't, or won't take a full course of anti-biotics, creating whole new generations of drug resistant pathogens. We are, in reality, proscribing ourselves to death.

What Should Replace Them: Eventually something besides anti-biotics. But for now, short course anti-biotics (three days seems more doable), as well as patch-applied and other slow release mechanisms.

Oil Hydrogenation

Why It Must Die: Despite the better consistency achieved in pie and strudel dough, trans fats produced by hydrogenating oil lead to obesity and heart disease.

What Should Replace It: Suffering for lack of specific types of great desserts, I guess. Everyone knows the problems by now, which is why they are gradually being phased out. We'll all just have to switch to better lifestyles.

Automatic Electric Doors

Why They Must Die: Electronic doors are slow and waste electricity (they save on heating/cooling, but hydraulic door closures do that just as well). Most of the electronic doors I know of annoyingly open and close seemingly at random, or are just plain broken.

What Should Replace It: Like everything else automatic that has ever been created, automatic doors need manual overrides, so you can push back that revolving door that has your pocketbook caught in the door frame. Simple push or sliding doors work fine for me.

On subways and buses, hydraulic closers should work just as well. The main point is electronic sensors to ensure that the vehicle doesn't move when the door is open, and that doesn't depend on automatic closure.

Door Hinges

Why They Must Die: One of our oldest and simplest technologies, and unfortunately the cause of hundreds of thousands of crushed fingers every year. The space between the door and the frame opposite the hinges also causes finger injuries, but this can be fixed with slow closing hydraulics.

What Should Replace It: You can install door guards in your house to cover the hinges, but they're ugly and need to be installed on both sides, really.

It would be nice to replace basic hinges with anything that can't trap fingers. A pivot system inside a recessed frame should do the trick.

Hand Dryers

Why They Must Die: They take too long, they make too much noise, they waste electricity, but most importantly they can't dry anything but your hands.

Hand dryers replaced the canonical usage of a hand towel, without considering that hand towels are useful for many other things, other than drying hands. This is highly symbolic of many of our technological "achievements"; the loss of a simple, generic tool in favor of a highly complex and specific one that works half as well and no longer offers the flexibility of the original tool. Hand dryers, for instance, can't mop up a wet surface.

What Should Replace They: Paper towels made from recycled paper.


Why It Should Die: Otherwise known as Styrofoam, foam peanuts, plastic and hot cups, fast food containers, and so on. Unrecyclable, landfill intensive, and littering our planet for the next million years.

What Should Replace It: Any number of green products, including biodegradable bubble wrap, cardboard, recycled paper peanuts, smart wrap, and so on.

Lethal Weapons

Why They Must Die: So that more people won't. Most of the time, lethal weapons are used because other technologies haven't yet been able to take their place.

What Should Replace Them: Less-lethal, non-crippling weapons, currently under development. In truth, there will always be some place for killing weapons, but the less, the better.

On the other hand, there is a growing tendency, as less-lethal weapons become available, for their wielders to use them with careless frequency, under the delusion that less-lethal means never-lethal, that force is easier than thinking, and that, since pain is transient, it's forgivable even when not appropriate.

The lesson here is that less-lethal weapons require just as much training and prudence as lethal weapons do.

Land mines and Cluster Bombs

Why They Must Die: Booby-trapping a place you don't want someone to go into makes the place unavailable not only to your opponent but to you. In the end, the people generally killed or maimed by these bombs are civilians such as farmers or curious children.

What Should Replace Them: Electronic sensors with sirens probably work just as well. Or, at least, smart mines and bombs that can be unequivocally dismantled by passing a radio beam over them with the correct pass code.


Why It Should Die: It makes a nice fire retardant, but many forms of asbestos are highly toxic through inhalation. 10,000 people a year die in the U.S. alone due to asbestos related illnesses. The litigation costs alone over asbestos are staggeringly expensive.

What Should Replace It: Most intelligent countries have already banned asbestos as a construction material, except, of course, the U.S. A number of alternative materials exist, including fiberglass and polybenzimidazole fiber.


Thursday, May 22, 2008

Session Report, in which our Robo Rally games are won on the third and second turns, respectively

The latest Jerusalem Strategy Gaming Club session report is up. Games played: Robo Rally x 2, El Grande, Saikoro, Santiago, Race for the Galaxy, It's Alive x 5, Bridge.

Our Robo Rally games were each won in short order. I finally got to play Santiago again after a long break. A few new players showed up.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Monday, May 19, 2008

It's Alive! Is Now Officially Sold Out

My first game, It's Alive!, is now officially sold out. It was a small print run - only 300 - but they were beautifully made, hand cut, and assembled. Thanks to everyone who bought a copy, to the playtesters, and to Jack of Border Reivers for printing the game. Sorry to those of you who still wanted a copy; maybe ask Jack to do a reprint.

In other news, I see that the proposed next location of the Board Game Studies colloquium is Jerusalem! Woo hoo. That would be cool. If only the contact email address they give on their site actually worked.

In other news, Chris Farrell has restarted with a new game blog. This is bad news, because now my site won't be in the running anymore for best board game blog on the Internet. (Needless to say, get thee hence).


Saturday, May 17, 2008

PR with the usual

Nadine, Rachel, and I player PR on shabbat afternoon, and Nadine won for the Nth straight time.

Rachel started with a corn, rather than a quarry, which led to a series of difficult choices as the game continued. I took a sugar and Nadine took tobacco. I still chose Builder in second seat, followed by Nadine's Mayor.

Turn 2 I took Mayor instead of Trader, however. I now had a working sugar to their corns. (I should probably add here that Small Market was not in the game.) Trader/Craftsman.

Nadine took a long time to get her tobacco going, and in fact didn't trade it once during the game. She was making enough from Factory to not have to bother. Rachel didn't get her trade good until after midgame, by which time she also didn't get to make much use of it. A three good (C/I/S) board works only if your opponents cooperate, which we didn't by creating midgame coffee and tobacco boats.

Trader was stuck for most of the game, prompting me to get a Trading House, although a bit late to make good use of it (I use it two times).

I got an early sugar trade and later coffee trades, and had Harbor, so I thought I was doing ok. But there was so much crafting going on that Nadine's Factory and Wharf just ended up overwhelming us.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Rhymes With "Bermuda"

I've been looking for jobs and interviewing a lot. My ex-wife is in the hospital and needs a heart transplant[1]. I've been working on a few long posts. I'm keeping Purple Pawn up to date. That's why you've been getting mostly shorter posts from me, recently.

Shabbat is a'coming, and we're invited out for tonight and going on a picnic for lunch. Later in the afternoon we'll be going to Nadine's, so might get a game of Puerto Rico going.

Griddly Games is sending me a game or two to review. Their stuff looks neat, and I'm surprised not to see more reviews and information about them on BGG. They also didn't know much about BGG, so I sent them exploring.

I actually still have a few un-played games, including this one and this one. Must get to them someday, soon.


[1] Addendum

Roundup: Three Years of Twentieth Week Posts

All about The Game Cabinet

Power Cards for Rummy Games

All about Boggle

My most complex Havel Havalim: The Derezzing, in four parts.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Session Report, in which we finally play Children of Fire RPG

The latest Jerusalem Strategy Gaming Club session report is up. Games played: It's Alive, Robo Rally, R-Eco, Caylus, Universalis/Children of Fire RPG.

I win Robo Rally in three turns.

I came up with a neat and fun variant for R-Eco.

We play Universalis and Children of Fire RPG for the first time.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Ignore Invitations from

Having been burned by the spamming techniques of the social site Quechup last year, this year I was smart enough to ignore invitations that have begun showing up from relative strangers to sign up to another social site

You'd think they would learn. Tricking people into thinking that they're going to be given a chance to invite people they know only to have the system email every single person who ever sent or received email from them is Bad Business. See my comments on Quechup. See the Wikipedia entry for information as to further bad business practices Reunion has undertaken.



Monday, May 12, 2008

Why You Hate Games and What You Can Do About It

Some people hate all board games, by which they usually mean the board games or type of board games to which they've been exposed. Some people hate some types of games, hate some games, or just hate to lose. Even gamers hate to play sometimes, or certain games, or certain types of games.

Let's look at these hates, where they come from, and what you can do about them.

"Games Are Pointless"

You may believe that the entire endeavor of playing games is pointless, a waste of time. This feeling is often accompanied by the belief that games are for children, something to be discarded along with childish toys, and may also be accompanied by the belief that time is wasted if not used to "accomplish something".

This is a function of the games you've grown up with. You may already know that some games are beneficial to improving mental acuity, such as Chess or Go. If you find rolling dice pointless, you may not feel the same about the deep complexity of an abstract game. You may discover that a complex and interesting card game helps you with your language or math skills in a way you never noticed.

There are any number of articles about the benefits of playing games in education, as an elderly, with your children, or simply as a family or community. Time playing games is not wasted time. Great games can help you "accomplish something", but even games that are "only fun" are good for you, and certainly a better use of downtime than watching television, killing endless spaceships by yourself in front of a computer screen, or going out to a bar.

"I Become / My Partner Is Too Competitive"

You don't like what the game does to you or your partner. So you quit playing games. To you I say, "Good for you."

Games are meant to serve relationships and give us joy and mental stimulation, not to destroy relationships and make us angry. Avoiding an experience that will inevitably lead to conflict is a healthy choice.

If you're faced with playing a game that is going to inspire over-competitiveness, hurt feelings, or shouting, you should quickly learn Stoicism, bow out, or change the game.

It may be that the types of games you've been playing are simply not the right ones for you. For instance, if you quit playing Bridge and Chess, you may find party games enjoyable without any fear of over-competitiveness rearing its ugly head. If you find games with dice and luck to competitive, maybe games without luck or with little luck could be better suited for you. There are also many cooperative games where all players play against the board; assuming that the competition freak doesn't take over for the other players and try to control the game, it might be the answer.

There are many, many types of board games. Check out a few of the newer or more obscure ones rather than give up entirely on a worthwhile activity.

"It's No Fun Playing With Him / Her"

Your partner cheats. She's a baby. She's too aggressive. He whines when he doesn't get his way. He quits. She sulks. He won't shut up. She always tells me what to do. He makes fun of my mistakes. She takes forever to make her move. And so on.

If this type of behavior occurs outside of games, then games aren't your problem. But if it only occurs during games, your options depend on the following:
  • Your partner is your child and is still 18 years old or less. In this case, playing games is an opportunity to teach important lessons in manners. Take the opportunity to do so, since a failure in this area is only going to hurt him or her more severely in the real world.
  • All other cases. In this case, you can resign yourself to not playing games, but you'll be missing out on a great and worthwhile life activity. Find someone else to play with: a good friend or a local club.
"I Never Win"

You're not over-competitive, but you can't stand losing every. single. time. I know the feeling and I sympathize. I could say that winning isn't everything or the point of playing games, but it's no fun to lose all the time.

You may like other games where this is not a problem. Ensure that you get to play these games, too. If you have to play the dreaded game, there are several ways of dealing with it.

You can grin and bear it, if the game is not too long and it will make everyone else happy. You can get a handicap before the game starts, if this doesn't feel too condescending (of course, losing with a handicap will feel even more humiliating). You can also try changing a rule or two in the game before it starts. This can turn the game into something that is more suited to your set of competitive skills, or simply throw your opponent off in a way that gives you a better chance of winning. Even master Chess players may find it difficult to play when the pawns blow up all the pieces around them when they die.

You can set yourself alternate goals. For instance, just because the game says that the winner is the one with the most money or points, you can keep track of your own scores from game to game. Declare yourself a winner if you beat your previous score or beat the gap between your score and your next highest opponent's.

"The Game Is Dull"

You don't mean to brag, but you never lose - yes, it's a problem. Or, you just don't find the game challenging. The game is too long, or requires "too much thinking".

Sometimes you can shorten long games by taking out a few rounds at the beginning or end or speeding up game play. If the game is too easy for you, you can start with a disadvantage or change the rules of the game before playing.

"Too much thinking" is often a key word for "I don't like this type of game"; try other games. You may not enjoy these types of games, and that's perfectly fine. For everyone like you, there is someone else complaining that some other game doesn't have enough thinking or has "too much luck". To each his, or her, own.

"I'm Bored of This Game"

You can overplay even the best games, just like a pop radio station can overplay the best songs. Take a break from the game for a week or a month or six. See how you feel. To avoid overplaying a game, don't play it several times in succession at every opportunity. Play it once and then switch to other games.

You can also try expansions or variants for games to keep them fresh. Many games have published expansions and variants; for other games, you can make your own.

Or you might just need a break from gaming. Go outside and read a book.

Happy gaming,

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Shabbat Gaming

Lots of guests, including friends who stayed the weekend.

David, and his daughter who is friends with my daughter Tal, played It's Alive. They had previously played The Menorah Game.

We played two or three games. I lost the all badly. Later in the day, Tal and her friend played four more games two-player. Tal won one of them with 78 points, an all time high.

David said that, actually, the new theme makes more sense than the old one.

Tal also played a game of Mr Jack with her friend (Jack lost, as he usually does in their games), some games of cards, and SET. I slept.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

A Syzygy of Celebrations

On July 13, I have the following events to attend, all in the evening, all in different cities:

- Wedding of my first cousin's child
- Wedding of my downstairs neighbors' (and close friends') daughter
- Bar Mitzvah of son of other friends; the bar mitzvah boy, and occasionally his father, are game group attendees.

What to do? I was looking forward to all three of these events. Rachel probably won't even be in the country on that date.

Some other friends are also having a bar mitzvah for their son, but thank God it's in August.


Wednesday, May 07, 2008

1960 and Puerto Rico

1960 is ok

Nadine and I played 1960 on shabbat and I won at Nixon with 315 or so points. After my second game, I find the game to be ok, but not much more. Yeah, the decisions are fun, but there are too many mechanics around to pay attention to the theme, so we just end up pushing the same cubes back and forth.

I like the decision making on what to play and what to keep for the debates, but then the debates are just an ugly and boring mechanism.

And it's long, which subjectively means that the mechanics begin to repeat before I feel like the game has moved to the next stage. Despite the debates in round 6, the game has little story arc; it looks and plays the same at the beginning and at the end.

Still, it's not too too long, and the cards give you different cubes to push in different places, so it's not too too repetitive. Luck is not too too big a factor. And it's fun and tense. I wouldn't pick it over some other two player games unless I was an election or history buff.

Puerto Rico

Nadine, Rachel, and I played Puerto Rico, and I invited our friend Joan to join us. She is not a gamer and never expressed any interest in gaming, but she thought it would be fun to join us for a few hours.

Nadine explained the game to her in a way that boggled my head. It seemed to me to be the most convoluted method of teaching, more strategy information than rules information, and not in any order than made sense. When I told her this, she said that I have more experience in teaching gamers how to play while she has more experience in teaching non-gamers how to play. By round three, said Nadine, Joan would be up to speed. I was highly skeptical.

Nevertheless, by round three Joan was up to speed, which was even more head boggling. Of course she wasn't "up to speed" up to speed, playing against the three of us; it was still her first game. But Joan was smart enough and able to make a few of her own decisions. We helped here and there along the way.

Joan had a coffee monopoly during the early game, and then Factory, Harbor, and Wharf, and Custom's House to round it out. It wasn't a slaughter only because we're good players, but it was pretty obvious that she was going to win, although Nadine also looked to be in good shape mid-game. In the end, Joan had 60 points, one for each year of the State of Israel.

Nadine also had Factory, plus tobacco and a late Wharf, and ended with two big buildings netting 57 points. Rachel had a Harbor and a big building, but didn't think she was going to win fairly early on, and netted 55 points. I was first player and had a Large Market, the next coffee, an early quarry, and an early Small Warehouse. Not nearly enough, and I netted only 50 points.

It was fun. Joan said that she enjoyed the experience, but didn't sound like she'd be back to play on a regular basis.


Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Review: Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

I believe it was Robert Heinlein who wrote that one mediocre science-fiction novel is worth more to civilization than a shelf-full of well-written general fiction. By this yardstick, Little Brother, by Cory Doctorow of Boing Boing fame, is worth about one or two well-written general fiction books.

I like Cory, and I like Boing Boing, but Cory did not succeed in writing a mediocre science fiction book. Little Brother (download it for free here) is a really bad book with some good intentions, bad writing, very poor characterization, and a serviceable but ridiculous plot.


17 year old Marcus and friends live in San Francisco of the near future where surveillance is up and methods to avoid it are just as up. After a terrorist attack on the city, the powers that be clamp down even harder with a series of invasive and paranoid security measures, each one more ineffective than the last.

Early in the book, Marcus is picked up and released by Homeland Security for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, but not before being terrorized as he futilely attempts to assert his rights. The DHS threatens him to keep his mouth shut, which he tries to do while still wreaking havoc under alias on an underground network, but he eventually decides to take his story to a reporter.


Cory's book reads like the unskilled ranting of a paranoid conspiracy lunatic. I'm on Cory's side with regards to the erosion of civil rights, ridiculous security systems, and so on, but this book is filled with paranoia so deep and one sided that it's reminiscent of the very worst parts of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged (a comparison that I'm sure Cory will enjoy), without a semi-coherent philosophy to back it up. Cory's philosophy can neatly be summed up as "Surveillance and torture is bad! Fight the power! Don't trust anyone over 25!"

Marcus is the one-dimensional wet dream of every hacker wannabe; an infallible, unflappable super-libertarian with perfect technical skills who does everything right while everyone around him does everything wrong, unless they agree with him and fawn over him. Neither he, nor anyone else in the book has so much as a paint dollop of personality.

The author is so smug about his protagonist that it's actually painful to read. Marcus, and by so doing, the author himself, compares himself to the great revolutionaries of the sixties, the last stand between the overwhelming police state and the one shining star of freedom.

Cory's biggest mistake is treating his audience like they're idiots. Rather than present scenes where things happen, Cory spends more than half of the text in the first two-thirds of the book methodically pointing out very basic ideas about technology, ideology, and his version of liberty. Either his audience is smart enough to understand the gist, in which case these explanations are boring, or they aren't, in which case these explanations are boring. This is supposed to be a fiction novel, not a Wikipedia entry.

This is the cardinal sin of bad science fiction: you're supposed to tell a story, not describe technology. Technology is supposed to serve the story, not get in its way. Cory rattles on for paragraph after paragraph about how a particular piece of technology, software, or security system works without furthering the plot. All of these descriptions are unnecessary, and could have and should have been alluded to with a word or phrase, if or when required.

The story, as I said, is serviceable enough. It's pace picks up halfway through the book and might even keep you interested to see how the inevitable, highly predictable ending will come about. But calling the story one vast cliche is probably the understatement of the year.


If you want to read a highly unoriginal story with tedious asides about technology, polemics about Big Brother, and a smarmy, forgettable teenager who fights against the system using viral videos, be my guest. I dare you to get through the first chapter without shaking your head in disbelief.

If you want to be inspired, pick up books about real revolutionaries and heroes such as Nelson Madella, Mohandas Ghandi, or Natan Sharansky. If you want to know about hacker culture and security, there are any number of books that can supply your needs. Read websites, including Boing Boing nearly every week, about why torture is bad and government surveillance is useless and backwards.

The book has a lot of things going for it: It is being promoted strongly by Cory on one of the world's most popular blogs, it is being promoted by his friends who are great guys, too, some of whom are even great writers. It's a free download, and its release under Creative Commons is semi-noteworthy, and liable to generate some press just for that, maybe even viral press. Some of the ideas the book covers are important ideas, and well worth discussing in a more well-balanced forum.

But what it doesn't have is a well written book.

April Board and Card Game Patents

Welcome to another edition of board and card game patents. April's list is a long one, so let's get started.

Educational game - An educational math puzzle to teach the multiplication table. Tiles with the correct products go into the correct rows and columns of board containing the multiplication table, and each piece also has two colors representing the row and column so as to eliminate the need for actually learning any math.

Big money playing card game and method - A financial card game called "Big Money". Also includes a die. You must first play a Business License card and then play your lowest money cards in order. If you don't have a Business License card, you can trade money with someone who has a duplicate. The highest money card in your hand is deducted against you at the end of the hand.

There are hazard cards which you can play on other players, making the game looks nearly identical to Milles Bornes.

Poker-type card game method - By New Poker Championships, players are dealt three cards each and only four cards are turned up. Wow. What a patent. I feel heady. I think I need to lie down.

Card game - A game of seven card stud (aka Pai Gow Poker), with a joker in the deck. Supposedly the patent simplifies the betting somehow, but I didn't see how.

September 11, 2001 commemorative chess set - A design patent:

I assume that these are both white and black pieces, since only one set is shown. So you can sacrifice your black firefighter, for instance, to take down the white World Trade Center. For some reason, the patent also references Martin Luther King's 1964 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, although it doesn't say why.

Method of automatically and fairly playing a die game and machine for the same - By Jumbo Technology, a machine that shakes dice in an opaque cup and lets players bet on them before they are revealed. It also determines the dice results electronically.

Method for playing casino poker game - "Each player is dealt five cards, with an option to utilize a sixth card to improve the five-card hand. The players pay a percentage of their ante wager, e.g., 10% or 20%, for the right to use a sixth card, and the dealer pays a set fee, e.g., $0.50, $1.00, or $2.00 for the right to use a sixth card."

Poker style game and method - Players split their cards into multiple hands and bet against the dealer's hands after he did the same.

Apportionment of pay out of casino game with escrow - By Progressive Gaming, it's an attempt to provide a knowledge-based game (trivia) into a casino without losing the house advantage. It does this by stealing the losses of some players and using that money as the payout for correct answers.

Yangtze hold 'em and other poker games played with a chinese poker deck - Texas Hold'em with a "Chinese" deck of cards and a few rules about wild cards.

But man, does this guy go on and on about the Chinese, cards, and the state of the universe in his background information. Some samples:
As we, the "earth people" living in this planet, enter into the century, there have been profound changes in world affairs that severely impact the well-being of our society. One can list a number of such events that led to those changes. But among them three really stand out. The first event has to be the end of the cold war between the Soviet Union and the United States which led indirectly to the breakup of the Soviet Empire. This event has changed many lives, both within and without the former Soviet Union. Many people living formerly under the Soviet rule are today enjoying their political freedom for the first time after many decades. More importantly they have now become productive and free citizens once again in their new environments leading to significant economical gain because of their entrepreneurship and hard work.


It is well known that over centuries the Chinese love to play the games of chance or to put it simply, they love to gamble. Gambling is literally in their blood, so to say, just as the Irish love visiting their neighborhood pub for a drink of beer after work prior to going home.


It is difficult to imagine a Chinese who is indifferent to Feng Shui--the age old Chinese concept of associating harmony with luck and good fortune! Feng Shui in Chinese means wind and water. Its origin dates back several thousand years to ancient China. The geography of that vast land requires careful consideration when constructing a building since the mountain winds can be severe and the lower areas are prone to flooding. Thus for the ancient Chinese, Feng Shui literally means "luck engineering".

Die eye number determination method, die eye number determination apparatus, and electronic apparatus using same - An electronic doodad that can scan a box and determine the results of dice that have been thrown into it.

Board game - A design patent for the game board Chexagon. You can download rules for how to play four adapted classic games on the board.

System and method for playing a role-playing game - Yah, um, this is a patent on some sort of Keno betting variant by GameLogic, Inc. This has nothing to do with role-playing games. ???

Card making device, card making method and recording medium thereof - Unless I'm mistaken, I believe that this is a device that allows one to print out a game card using any characteristics stored in the system, so that CCGs don't have to be so collectible.

Book with rotating device - A trivia book with questions and answers, where you make guesses by rotating tabs around the circular edge of the book and then look at the answers on the page that is selected.

Mosaic playing-cards - This was the most promising looking patent I've seen all year. Just look at the abstract:
A new gaming tool and method of game play including an unconventional deck of playing-cards not employing symbolic relations, but rather employing actual relations between rectilinear geometric regions. The playing-cards preferably employ geometric interactions of reflection, complementarity, contrariety, and identity. Geometric card properties that further enhance game play include figure-ground reversibility, handedness, rotational transformation, and perpendicular association.
This sounds pretty cool. At this point, I was envisioning playing cards that weren't rectangular but made of weird shapes. I'm figuring: pick a card and try to place it like a puzzle piece, or something.

Further description made it sound even cooler (samples):
A multi-dimensional system of relations between cards, and various subsets of cards, is essential to the versatility of a successful deck of playing-cards. The success of a deck of playing-cards, as a gaming tool, is also due in no small way to its ergonomic physical attributes. Cards are portable and inexpensive. Opaque construction provides the security needed for competitive game play. The conventional rectangular shape facilitates shuffling the deck, a function that is essential in playing card games.

While many unique decks of playing-cards exist, the state of the art is overwhelmingly emblematic, employing symbolic marks on the card's playing face. The multiplicity of games that can be developed is based upon, and limited by, the relations of the various symbols.

The most popular deck of playing-cards is related as a simple matrix consisting of a hierarchical sequence with the addition of suit modifiers.

There are of course limits to the symbolic relations in this simple matrix. A deck of playing-cards having playing faces that are subdivided into geometric regions, or play-fields, would allow for geometric relations in a physical or non-symbolic manner. Thus, such a deck would provide the opportunity for new and unique games that are not possible with decks of emblematic playing-cards.

Cultural bias can be observed in many of the symbols employed in emblematic playing-cards. Corner indicia of the popular English playing-cards employ numeric symbols that are foreign to non-English speaking peoples. Symbols of the English Royalty and the superiority of King over Queen could be offensive to some and foreign to others. Similar cultural symbols can be observed in emblematic playing-cards around the world.

In today's highly communicative world, the cultural bias of conventional emblematic playing-cards limits the opportunity for cross-cultural play. By contrast, games that employ the more fundamental and universal concepts of geometric shapes and relations are trans-cultural and timeless. Geometric playing-cards provide the opportunity for truly global game play.
Unfortunately, I missed the part where it said "having playing faces that are subdivided into geometric regions", i.e. not the shapes of the cards themselves. If I hadn't missed that, I would not have been let down when I saw the result:

Which is still pretty cool, but not as cool as I was expecting.

The inventor actually goes on to give names to each of the possible orientations of cards with two divided boxes (pictured) or four divided boxes on each card.

So what can you do with cards like these? Play games where you try to form matching objects by collecting, swapping, or reorienting cards, not only by having them on the cards themselves, but by creating them by laying cards next to each other.

Card game suitable for casino play - An additional bet made before any game of poker that the common cards will be all black or red, or above or below a certain value.

Game and system for nostalgically replicating baseball and a method for playing a baseball game - "A need ... exists for a game and a system for nostalgically replicating baseball." Which means, not simply representing it, but representing it nostalgically. Which means I don't know what, but it comes with little craft items that look like old baseball bats, dugouts, and score flippers.

The game, whose mechanics are buried in the patent, looks comparable to War.

Royal game and method of playing - An additional bet made before any game of poker that your hand will contain four cards valued 10 or higher.

Card game and method of playing the same - A three-card poker game of some kind using three sets of card numbered 0 to 14. Various payouts for different types of hands.

Cheerleader action-figure board game - A roll-and-move board game, where, after drawing a card, you take your movable cheerleader action figure and physically fling her through the air hoping she will land upright. Uses Velcro for catching the dolls, somehow. It's supposed to teach about competitive cheerleading.

Interactive educational game - A toy called "Match 'N Trace", where you draw a disk and then trace or draw what's on the disk.


Monday, May 05, 2008

My interview status

The patent office is taking it's time getting up to date this month, which is why you haven't seen this month's list of patents, yet.

Re my interviews from last week:

One of the jobs was really nice: good work, nice people, good salary, decent perks, good company, a good team, and I was the highest quality applicant they had had in months. I interviewed well three times, did my tests well, and got along with everyone. For reasons completely unknown to me, they passed (via the job agency). I'm bummed out about that.

At the other job, they had tedious but copious work, you would have to extract the information from the programmers while they fought you, nearly no one spoke English and I would be the lone tech writer. One of the primary people I would be working with was rigid, unhelpful, and unfriendly, had no idea what a tech writer does or how to test his skills [1] but was prepared to tell me how to do my job. The offices were run down, there was no place to park, and they offered a low salary with few perks. I passed.

Back to the drawing board. I don't have any interviews scheduled at the moment, but I've got a few people who are working on setting me up a few more in the near future.


[1] When assessing a programmer, would you ask: How do you compile in such-and-such graphical compiler? Under which menu is the option to insert a debug block? Can you edit this file name so that it matches the name of the program?

Of course not. You see if they can program and debug, not if they've memorized how to use a particular interface; items that would take about a minute to learn.

That's what they tried to test me on vis a vis tech writing: Under which menu is the option to insert a picture? Where is the command to convert to PDF? What is the code for an index element?

Not: Do you know how to write? Can you edit? Can you take a complex subject and explain it in simple, understandable English?

Halfway through this ridiculous grilling I told them I had had enough. When I offered to explain what I thought would be more sensible questions, I didn't even get to start. He said (to the effect of) "I'm not interested in hearing what you have to say on the subject. This is the way I do it; I know my job. You just do what you're told." That's the guy I would have to be working with.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

God on the Interstate

I feel the presence of God most strongly when I'm in my car.

From the moment the door clicks closed until it is opened at the end of my journey, God's hand is evident to me with perfect clarity.

The cars, trees, and dogs blocking me when I need to take to pull out. The slow car I'm following for a mile that turns left, only to be suddenly replaced by a slow truck that pulls in from the right. The synchronization of the traffic lights, or lack thereof. The sudden need to pull over for fuel or a call.

Every event is God controlling my speed. He clears the way, or He slows me down.

I don't know why. Maybe it's to avoid an accident that would have occurred if I had reached a certain intersection a few minutes earlier. Maybe it's because I'm needed somewhere a few minutes later. All I know is that I'm not in control. I can push the speed limit as much as I want, efficiently start and stop my vehicle, drive faster or slower. It doesn't seem to matter much. I'm not in control of when I get there. God is.

Funny I can't feel that throughout the rest of my day, when I'm walking, or working, or cooking. I feel my decisions count for so much more at these times.

Why I Spent 70 NIS Too Much on Gas Today

1. The gas station I usually go into was full of cars. I headed to the next one, which was relatively empty.

2. The gas station I headed into immediately filled up with cars as soon as I headed into it.

3. At this station, you press the intercom and tell the worker inside which station to turn on, how much gas you want, ("fill-up") and which type ("95" = standard Israeli unleaded). I did so. I've never seen a station like this anywhere else in Israel (I've seen it in the U.S.). At most Israeli self-service stations, you just swipe your card and pump your gas.

4. As I was talking on the intercom, the car that pulled up to the pump behind me honked, causing me to jump out of my skin. It was a friend from Beit Shemesh that I don't see that often. She struck up a conversation.

5. As she struck up a conversation, my cellphone rang. I had left it in the car, so I had to turn and lean in and pick it up and acknowledge the caller.

6. As I did so, I tripped over one of the (four) gas hoses, causing it to fall off the pump.

7. As I put it back on, I picked up the pump sitting in the "95" dock and put it in my car, while on the phone, while fending off a conversation with my friend from Beit Shemesh.

8. The pump that I put into my car, even though it had been parked in the "95" dock was the "99 special" gas pump; the two pumps had been switched around and parked in the wrong docks. The 99 special costs 8.80 NIS a liter, while the standard 95 costs 6.35 a liter.

9. The 99 special pump shouldn't have worked, because only the 95 pump should have been turned on. The worker inside had just switched on all of my pumps (instead of only the 95) because the sudden influx of cars into the station caused her to cut corners. In any case, I was supposed to be paying attention to what I pumped, right?

I blame the person who filled up before me, the gas station worker, the person on the phone, my friend behind me, all the people who pulled into the station, all the people who pulled into my usual station which I skipped, my wife for a conversation we had this morning, and basically everyone except for myself.

No scratch that; I blame God.


Saturday, May 03, 2008

Board Game Blog World Roundup

I maintain the world's best up to date listing of board and card game blogs that actually update and contain postings of general interest. See my sidebar for the complete listing.

The following blogs are new to me since my last posting. In addition, two blogs were dropped.

The Dice Hate Me - J. Neil Edge, Gainesville, Fl. A rant and blog on board games (self-rated R). Not a frequent poster and last post was in February.

Basement Boardgamer - Farid Widjaya, Marietta, PA. A new video game review site.

Beware the Gazebo - Mike Betzel, Madison, WI. Reviews.

Board Games Blog - Yanick Mimee, whereabouts unknown. Reviews, strategy, and commentaries on mainstream games (Clue, Risk, etc).

Boardgame Development - Ema, Padova, Italy. Some game development thoughts.

Drake's Flames - Matt Drake, Dallas, TX. Video and board game reviews, associated with Vixentor Games.

Felbrigg's Gaming Blog - "FNH1", Northampton, UK. A game designer for Book Ranger. Also has a podcast Print And Play.

Ford's Certified Gaming Journal - Unknown, New Albany, IN. Started with a few posts.

Lodestone - David A. Miller., Silver Spring, MD. Another game design blog, may have stopped after a few posts.

Making a Game out of Game Design - aka The Gamer Dome. "Propagandoid", UT. I don't know more about him. Gamer news.

Old Board Gamers Blog - Dan Spezzano, Geneva, IL. General board gaming.

Out of the Toy Box - Richard Gottleib. This is a column in Playthings magazine discussing toys and games.

Pawnderings - Seth Owen, Norwich, CT. General gaming.

Reflections Across the Board - Mike Compton, Salt Lake City, UT. Low volume gaming thoughts.

Starting a Revolution - Philip duBarry, OH. Another game designer blog, associated with a game called Revolution.

The Game's The Thing - Ron and Veronica. A gaming podcast.