Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Polite But Firm Refusal

You do not have to feel guilty about not giving beyond what is your obligation.

Everyone has the right to give or to not give at a level they feel comfortable with. Friends and strangers get used to habitually guilting you into giving, which just puts you into a position of feeling bad no matter what you do: bad if you say no, bad if you overextend yourself. They have no right to do that, but it is not they who must set your boundaries. You have to set them.

They may mean well; they have simply learned to keep asking until you say no. So you have to say it, firmly, politely and without guilt. These askers are always ready to try to overcome your explanations. They will tell you why should should want to, why it's great, why it's important, why it's your obligation, why it won't take much time, etc. All of these conversations are stopped in their tracks if you refuse to have the conversation.

"Can you?"

"I'm afraid I can't."

"But why not."

"I simply can't, I'm sorry."

"But it's for a great cause, surely it won't take much time ..."

"I'm afraid I simply cant."


"No. I simply can't."

Eventually they will give up.

This power is not just limited to getting out of externally set fictitious obligations. It is also useful for standing down salespeople. I once had an internet plan with a company that I wanted to cancel. Every time I tried to cancel, I was transferred to Retention who argued with me and gifted me until I gave in. Finally I decided to invoke the "no explanation" strategy. The conversation went something like this (I'm not making this up):

"But why do you want to cancel?"

"I just want to cancel."

"I need to know the reason."

"I just want to cancel."

"I can't cancel you unless you give me a reason."

"Yes you can. I just want to cancel."

"You HAVE to give me a reason."

"I want to cancel because I want to cancel. There is no reason."

"Is it cost? We can offer you 3 months free, blah blah blah."

"No, I want to cancel."

"Is there some other problem?"

"No, I just want to cancel."

This went on for another 30 backs and forths until finally:

"Look, if you don't tell me why you want to cancel, then there is nothing I can offer to you that will help your problem."


He then said he has to transfer me to his boss. The back and forth happened only 4 more times with the boss, and then I was canceled.

(Inspired by Miss Manners)

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Gaming with Steve and Co

My college roommate Steve visited Israel with his wife Miriam and their children. I played a few games with Steve and his boys. They are familiar with old style games, like Avalon Hill, etc, and I used to play a lot of Bridge with Steve.

On the first night I saw him, we played two games of Nefarious. They enjoyed it, but not overly much. Seeing my audience, I taught them Antike. I explained that the game is about points, not only about conquest and battle, but naturally old Risk players are going to start with iron and armies, and so they did. I accumulated a few Know-Hows early, but they caught on and took the rest of them. It was neck and neck for a while. I ultimately won by diversifying to take the low-hanging points, rather than by concentrating on one track, which is slow (though one of them was producing 17 marbles every two turns near the end of the game). Oh, and the game took us to 1:15 in the morning, which was an hour and a quarter more than I wanted to stay up.

Last shabbat we got together again. Since I had to carry games to them in the center of Jerusalem, I brought some light cards games, the usual assortment: No Thanks, Parade, and Tichu. No Thanks went over well and we played twice. One of the boys (my opponent) didn't enjoy Tichu because it required thought. My partner and I lost the first hand 100 to 0, but we won the second 300 to -100 and the third 200 to 0. They also enjoyed Parade and we also played that twice.

Steve and I then walked over to Nadine's, where we also found Emily and Eitan. We played one long game of Hawaii. I taught Steve, and simultaneously refreshed the rules for Eitan and Emily. And, as it turns out, corrected a few rule mistakes that Nadine had been playing with (update from Nadine: One rule wrong!).

I'm still not sure what the best strategy is, especially with five players. Of course, the strategies will vary depending on what is cheap and who else is going for the same things. I generally aim for two boats as soon as possible with some extra foot productions; in this game, I also got extra fruit production. Since only Nadine was competing with me for boats, and since she used them mostly for high victory point islands rather than for the utility tiles that the islands provide, there was little competition for my strategy. I also had three villages with kahunas, a few bonus points for fruits, hula dancers, and boats/surfers, and a bonus of 4 whenever I scored at the end of the round, which I did four times out of five. I was usually second to last place in turn order. I ended nearly 50 points ahead of the other players, who were all within ten points of each other.

Sunday, August 04, 2013

23 Films in 2015 that Signify the Death of Cinema

Writers at Hitfix listed what they considered 23 films that may make 2015 the greatest movie year ever:

  • Avengers: Age of Ultron (sequel, comic adaptation)
  • Fantastic Four (reboot, comic adaptation)
  • Pirates of the Caribbean 5 (sequel)
  • Warcraft (video game adaptation)
  • Inside Out (Pixar)
  • Adventures of Tintin 2 (sequel, comic adaptation)
  • Pitch Perfect 2 (sequel, formula adaptation)
  • Assassin's Creed (video game adaptation)
  • Peanuts (comic adaptation after death of the cartoonist)
  • Inferno (sequel, Dan Brown adaptation)
  • Cinderella (remake, fairy tale adaptation)
  • Ant-Man (comic adaptation)
  • Star Wars episode VII (sequel)
  • Kung Fu Panda 3 (sequel)
  • The Hunger Games Mockingjay part 2 (sequel)
  • Mission Impossible 5 (sequel)
  • Avatar 2 (sequel)
  • Terminator 5 (reboot or sequel)
  • Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children
  • Bond 24 (sequel)
  • Finding Dory (sequel to Finding Nemo)
  • Independence Day 2 (sequel)
  • Superman vs Batman (comic adaptation)
14 sequels, 3 remakes/reboots, 2 video game adaptations, 5 comic adaptations. The only items that (may be) remotely original are Inside Out and Miss Peregine's, both of which are movies for children. Come to think of it, all of these movies are for children. Maybe the title of this post should be Films that Signify the Death of the Moviegoer's Brain.

I'm not saying that some of the above won't be passably entertaining. But I have to ask: is there anything here that might be remotely in the same category as The Seventh Seal? Gone With the Wind? Citizen Kane? To Kill a Mockingbird? Raging Bull? Wings of Desire? Will any of these movies make you think differently, challenge you, push the boundaries of art, or inspire a conversation beyond the size of an explosion, the sting of a sarcastic comment, or the pain of a fistfight?

I hear, all the time, "I don't want to have to think, I just want to have fun" about movies, games, and books. Is that really good enough for your life, for your achievements, for your world? If so, fine. You are in lock-step with what Hollywood wants to give you. Enjoy your $200 million+ cookie-cutter candy entertainments. I'm tired of them. If the Hollywood movie industry died right now, I wouldn't miss it.

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Shabbat Gaming

My brother Ben and kids came for shabbat. I played Antike with the younger two kids on Friday evening. I retaught the kids, but they remembered the rules if not any semblance of strategy. They did ok, but concentrated overly much on specific mechanics regardless of the amount of points that these mechanics achieved.

For instance, one of them was up to 17 marble production. That's not bad, but it took a while to get that, and by that time I was three points ahead and scoring nearly as quickly. The lights in my apt went out right before I was going to take my final turn and win by conquering one of his temples.

The next day I played Thunderstone with two of the kids. Similar story. I ended with 43 points, second place was 27.

In the afternoon David and Rosalynn from the game group dropped by. I taught them and Ben how to play Nefarious and everyone enjoyed it. Rosalynn had a quick start. Ben ultimately took the game. Our special rules were both for the Research phase: 1) no money, and b) "Draw 2 and keep 1".

Now that they knew the rules, we played again. This time Ben and I both hit 20 points exactly on the same turn. Ben was left with 3 coins and I had none, I had one card left and Ben had none. Fortunately for me (actually, it was planned), my one card cost 0 to play and gave me 2 points. Our special rules were a) 5 coins = 1 point, and b) a card without any special effects inherits the effects of the card you played prior to it (I like that one).

For our last game, I taught David (and refreshed Rosalynn) how to play Puerto Rico. I started with Settler/quarry, and there was no corn for Ben in second turn order. I grabbed the next corn, and we didn't see any more come out until the fourth Settler phase. I had a very early Factory (my second purchase), which I followed with Small Indigo, then Harbor, and then Small Sugar. No one had any tobacco until the end of the game.

Ben had an early coffee monopoly which David broke a turn or two later. This helped Ben keep up with me. Oddly enough, no one bought Small Market until turn five or six. Rosalynn picked one up because it was cheap, and David took the other a few rounds later because it was the only thing he could buy with a bunch of quarries but no cash. David had a Hacienda / Construction House / Hospice thing going. Ben shipped a lor (38 points) but had almost no buildings, ending with 50 points. I ended with two big buildings and 52 points. David took the only other big building and ended with 40something.