Sunday, August 31, 2008

Going to Hungary on Friday

Going to Hungary this Friday, Sept 5 to Sept 14. I'm going with Rachel and with my parents (they're taking us).

The first Friday to Sunday morning we will walk around Budapest's Jewish and river areas. If anything cheap and interesting is happening in Budapest on Friday afternoon or Saturday evening in the way of concerts, dance, culture, gaming, or literature, I'm happy to hear about it. Sunday to Friday we'll be in the Lake Balaton region, driving around the lake or to see something interesting (ditto for requests). Friday to Sunday morning back in Budapest (maybe gaming on Saturday afternoon).

I'll take pictures, of course. Since I don't know if I will have internet access, I don't know if or when I'll be updating the blogs during that time.


Saturday, August 30, 2008

Weekend Gaming

Puerto Rico game with Nadine and Rachel. Standard replacement buildings.

I went third, but somehow Rachel pulled ahead in victory points early on. Nadine and I both were worried and got Factories before Rachel could. I also got a coffee monopoly, but fairly late (traded twice, shipped once near the end of the game).

Skip forward to the last round of the game, Rachel is shipping more than us, but Nadine and I are looking at getting our second big buildings each. Unfortunately, we can't prevent Rachel from getting one, too. But then we see that Nadine can end the game with one more building, preventing any more shipping.

I encourage her to do it, and she does. None of the last three big buildings bought get filled by Rachel's choice. Game ends with Nadine and I tied at 41 points each, both with two barrels on our board. Rachel has 37. Another game where slight changes in the play on the last two rounds would have swung the game. If Nadine hadn't filled in her last building spot, she and Rachel would have gotten more shipping points; Rachel would have gotten more than Nadine, but Nadine would have won anyway because she would have gotten more than me.

That's Puerto Rico for you.

An article in the Jerusalem Post about the guy who runs the Jerusalem Chess club.


Thursday, August 28, 2008

A Gamut of Video Games vs a Narrow Range of Board Games

Walk into a toy store like Toys-R-Us, or a general store like Walmart, and you'll find an entire gamut of video game genres but a narrow range of board games.

Board games, even "grown up games", are situated near the toys, the construction sets, and the paint kits. The available games are, for the most part, children's toys. The grown up games occupy a small shelf, and contain a few party games, some light conflict games like Risk and Stratego, maybe some Heroscape, and the old standbys such as Clue, Scrabble, and Monopoly.

Now walk over to the other side of the store where they sell the video games. It's cordoned off behind metal detectors and glass cases. They sell multi-hundred dollar consoles and twenty, forty, or sixty dollar CDs.

A huge wall of dark guns, swords, soldiers, blood, and horror are at eye-level, stretching in either direction. The peripheries reveal civ building titles such as Tycoons and Sims, empire builders, "girls" games, casual bundles, board and card games, sports games, racing games, dance and music games, and so on, just to name a few.

There are hundreds and hundreds of titles in dozens of genres. A great many contain themes and images that would render a board or card game unpresentable in the store. Imagine a board game filled with guns and bloody images, or scantily clad women and men! Shocking! Yet, these immersive and interactive video games have all this and worse, and are on display.

Video games with complicated pieces and rules are available; they require the most dedicated play and hours or days to learn the rules. Board games like this exist, but you won't find a game that takes more than three minutes to learn in the store. Or twenty minutes to play, if certain publishers get their way. Sports board games, racing board games, ecological board games, financial board games, and all sorts of other board games exist and are loved an played by those who know about them. You won't find them in these stores, either.

Why not?

I hear it's because parent buy games for their kids, and parents aren't going to buy games they don't know. Well, that's certainly not true for video games. Kids come in and buy them all by themselves. It's certainly not true that people aren't playing games about sports, horror, racing, dancing, and other themes. There they are in the video game aisles, and they sell, too. Wouldn't they sell in the board game aisles?

It's a vicious circle. People who want to play good games go to the video game aisles, because that's where the good games are. The store managers don't want to stock newer and better board games, because they think the kids nowadays are into video games. Kids don't play board games anymore. Well of course they don't, if you won't stock any good ones.

If they won't play board games, why are board game sales rising steadily for the last fifteen years, despite you? Why are there millions of visitors to Boardgamegeek every month? Why are so many fantastic games being produced every year, many of which sell thousands, or hundreds of thousands of copies around the world?


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Session Report, in which we finally play Industria

The latest Jerusalem Strategy Gaming Club session report is up. Games played: R-Eco, Notre Dame, Industria, Torres, Puerto Rico.

We finally got to play a full game of Industria, although we got lots of rules wrong the first time through.

Posting Session Reports

They're cracking down on session reports on BGG. I just submitted a few dozen session reports from the last few months and only two were accepted. And I don't even submit the really teeny ones. Still, they were all deemed to be too short.

Once upon a time the session reports were for recording your sessions. Now they're only accepted if they are worthy of being considered a contribution to the greater good. I guess the criteria is "what others will benefit from", and not "what you want to remember". That grew out of the geek gold reward which you get for submitting session reports. I don't submit them for the geek gold, but that's the system.

I played Scrabble with Rachel last night. It as fairly close, but I pulled ahead in mid-game and then the game dragged on. We both ended at around 300 points.

Here's an interesting article by Adrian Paul Morgan on his blog, The Outer Hoard, on how people relate to the complexities of new games.


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Curious Pictures From the Bar Mitzvah

As I mentioned, the bar mitzvah was fun. But give me a camera and suddenly mundane things look a little unusual.

Do you know what this is? I'm guessing some kind of air filtration device.

A bowl of spoons. Looks yummy.

Piles of plates.

Overhead lights. Unlit.

Inside the room was a half-circle of lights, and hanging down in the center is a large wind chime.

Here's the wind chime from five degrees looking up. Those aren't lights. That's the reflection of my flash.

The wind chimes, straight up.


Monday, August 25, 2008

On Failure and Success

Something fails or succeeds if it accomplishes its objective. An evaluation of success or failure is going to be off-base if you don't know the actual objectives.

You may say that a soccer team failed if every player on a team didn't have the opportunity to kick the ball. You would be off-base if the objective that mattered to the soccer players was only that some combination of their players scored more goals than their opponents.

In evaluating success or failure, you are arguing about objectives.

But explicit objectives may not be the end of the story.

Unintended Consequences

Regardless of what the objectives are, an event may be a success if the net result was positive. If you intend to create a bacteria, and you fail but end up creating an anti-biotic, you have achieved a success. It may be an accidental success, a serendipitous success, or a an anticipated, unspecified success which is the inevitable result of creating a good framework and expecting to yield some kind of fruit.

On Frameworks

Even a failure is not a failure when it is a necessary first step. The first layer of bricks that make a wall is not a failed wall. It's a necessary part on which to place the next layer.

Regardless of how well the objectives are met, lessons can be learned and used to create a better attempt the next time. If these lessons are learned, and the next attempt doesn't suffer from the same problems, then the attempt is a success on a certain level.

Who's Keeping Score?

Lastly, if you have access to details regarding the positive and negative aspects of an event, a label of "success" or "failure" is entirely superfluous.

Who cares whether you call something a failure or a success? Is there a medal? Are there investors sitting around waiting to invest money, but only if the event is "a success"?

An endeavor can be a success if you simply feel good about your efforts. Simple enjoyment isn't a measure of success. When I was a student, I enjoyed when a prankster hijacked a chemistry class and the teacher could no longer teach. That didn't make the class a success. But trying hard and getting better does.

Did the JBlogger conference fail or succeed? It really doesn't matter, does it? Let's do it again, even better.

NbN Posts Blogger Participants List

You can now see the list of participants at the 2008 JBloggers conference here. And NbN's own pictures are here.


Sunday, August 24, 2008

Haveil Havalim #179

Hey oh. I just got back from a frielich wedding, and it's pretty late. But I didn't get many submissions this week. I was thinking it might be because of my infamous last stint as HH chair, but it turns out to be because blogcarnival was down a lot of the week.

This week's main event was the Jewish Blogger Conference in Jerusalem. Undoubtedly everyone on this list has already read numerous posts about the conference, but here is a rundown:

Daled Amos
Mere Rhetoric
Dov Bear
Mystical Paths
Eva's Notes
Hochma and Musar
Reb Barry's Blog
Israel Plug
Rachel Mauro
A Soldier's Mother
Rabbi Sedley
West Bank Mama
Radical Moderate
Debi'Z Blog
Every Day
My Urban Kvetch
Emes V'Emunah
Sense of Events
Humwitz Family
Baka Diary
About Chayim Tzvi Ariel
Israel Matzav
Kosher Computing
Frum Satire
eJewish Philanthropy
Eye of the Storm
Israel Fix
Ki Yachol Nuchal
Seraphic Secret
Sabra at Heart
Soccer Dad
Israel and the Sin of Expulsion
A Mahjer Makes Aliyah
Hebrew Online Blog
What War Zone
Jerusalem Diaries
My Right Word
Elms in the Yard
Jacob Richman

and probably many others that I missed.

Now for the submissions ...

Esser Agorot tells us why he isn't going to attend the conference before it happened. Many bloggers responded to this post.

me-ander feels undiplomatic

Shiloh Musings responds to a NY Time article.

The Israel Situation writes about the history of Jerusalem

One Frum Skeptic attempts some satire: Rabbis Ban Dating!

Leora at Here in HP writes about her favorite soccer coach

Areh Zelasko guest posts on Esser Arogot with a radical plan to empty the banks of money

What War Zone muses on an embarrassing moment in the office, and a funny video on Tu B'Av

Writes Like She Talks writes about an anti-semitism-ridden primary in Memphis

Jack on his daughter dating and why Haveil Havalim is not a replacement for the blogger conference

Seraphic Secret recounts the trip to the conference with the Bogners

The Rebbtzin's Husband complains about complaints about noise in shul

NY's Funniest Rabbi reflects on blogging and Eikev encounters in Jerusalem


Saturday, August 23, 2008

Shabbat PR Game (I Lose Again)

Rachel, Nadine, and I played our shabbat afternoon Puerto Rico game with the usual substitute buildings.

Rachel opened with Settler/corn, I took sugar, and Nadine took tobacco. As Rachel didn't have a quarry, and we don't play with Small Market, I decided to use this opportunity to try Mayor instead of the usual Builder. This prompted Nadine to take a round 1 Craftsman. And already I was losing.

I decided to continue the trend with a turn two Builder/Hospice. We play that you can immediately move one of your colonists onto Hospice when you buy it, which didn't make much difference in this game, but can help, sometimes. Throughout the game, I used Hospice rigorously, taking several corns and quarries, and preparing myself for coffee.

Let me tell you a little bit about coffee in this game. By round five, we had seen no coffee plantations. No one else was preparing to buy coffee, and in fact both of them appeared to be committing to tobacco, so I took a plunge and decided to buy a Coffee Roaster, even though I had a tobacco plantation already. With my Hospice, I figured on being able to use a coffee plantation the minute it appeared.

There are 9 coffee plantations in the game. There are some 55 plantation tiles. Not a single coffee plantation appeared until there were only 15 remaining plantation tiles. By the time I actually got coffee going, I was able to trade it once or twice, but by then I had lost so much in the waiting that I was too far behind to catch up. Sometimes, that's just how it goes.

Nadine was the only one who bought Factory, and she ended up buying three large buildings. She ended with 63 points. Rachel had Discretionary Hold, and good production, and ended with 53 points. I had good production and a Small Warehouse. At one point, I had every single corn barrel, preventing Nadine from fully utilizing her Factory. But I couldn't get them all shipped. I ended the game with seven corn barrels on my board, and 47 points.

Ah, well. It's always fun to try something new, even if it doesn't quite end up working.


Friday, August 22, 2008

Roundup: Three Years of Thirty Fourth Week Posts

Retheming a game can change it's apparent mechanics, example: the game No Thanks!

My dog ran away at Ben Gurion airport, part 1

The BBC, live in Lebanon

Contra Dancing in Jerusalem

Rachel and I went Contra Dancing this evening. The dancing is usually held at Kehillat Yedidiyah, but this evening it was held on a rooftop in the industrial section of Talpiot.

Contra dancing is an older form of square dancing, where you dance with your partner, your neighbor('s partner), in two couples, and in two lines, working your way up and down the line and dancing with each other's partner in turn. Each step isn't that hard, but it can get complicated, especially if one person gets out of rhythm; then you find yourself lost on a dance floor without a partner and facing the wrong way.

Contra dancing is not something I would normally do, being a religious Jew. My idea of being shomer negiah is fairly liberal: it's not "no touching under any circumstances", but "not touching when tensions could arise". The German tradition of my father, for instance, was to shake hands in business, because that's what Germans do. It used to include dancing with women.

But you know what? I'm 39 now, and I've been married for over 11 years to Rachel. While pleasant enough to hold hands and waists while dancing with other women, I no longer react to it the way I would have were I still 25 or if I were dancing with a woman alone (in the privacy of a crowd, for instance). It's just no longer negiah, for me.

Anyhoo, it was fun and challenging, more tiring than it would appear. There was a live band, and the view on top of the roof was pretty. The caller and organizer was not very good - she didn't explain steps well, messed up calls, wasn't organized - but she was sweet. And most of us were pretty uncoordinated.

The band sets up.

There's a swing on the roof.

A circle dance.

A contra dance, mid-mess.

If you want to learn Contra dancing, there is a series of videos on Youtube, starting here.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

2008 Jewish Bloggers Conference Pictures 2/2

Again, help with identifying the people would be appreciated.

Stephen Leavitt of WebAds

My Urban Kvetch


ck of Jewlicious

David Bogner of Treppenwitz

Bibi Netanyahu

Zavi Apfelbaum of the Foreign Ministry


Soldierette holding up mic for Galgalatz to hear Bibi speak.

Someone associated with Bibi

Someone else associated with Bibi (Danny Ayalon)

Israel Matzav

Frum Satire

Frum Satire and the winner of the waffle maker (Yisrael Medad of My Right Word)

Zavi Apfelbaum

The second panel of speakers: What War Zone?, Treppenwitz, Oleh Girl, My Right Word, My Shrapnel


My Shrapnel

Yael of Oleh Girl

David Bogner of Treppenwitz

Yisrael Medad of My Right Word

What War Zone?

Seraphic Secret - on the left. His wife, Karen - middle - helps edit. Chayyei Sarah on the right.

Danny Oberman, Nefesh B'Nefesh

2008 Jewish Bloggers Conference Pictures 1/2

Someone will have to help me id the people in these pictures.

Check in

me-ander, trying to get people to sign up to host the Kosher Food and Jewish Picture blog carnivals.

Baruch Gorden and ?

Rivka, of Coffee and Chemo

A press photographer

QuietusLeo on the right

The infamous Haaretz journalist who wrote that the conference was mostly featuring right-wing religious bloggers (he wasn't actually wrong).

Jacob Richman, of CJI

Israel Matzav

Gideon Ariel

The food

Yael of Oleh Girl in the back. Zemer from tzipiyah on the right.

ck of Jewlicious, anon, ?

Rafi Goldmeier

Ehav Ever of Hochmah and Musar

Rahel of Elms in the Yard. And the back of Gavi Zeitlin of Israelfix.

Mincha at the conference

David Bogner of Treppenwitz

First panelists: Israel Matzav, Treppenwitz, Jewlicious, Hirhurim, My Urban Kvetch