Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Literary Meme

Darn you Peter! Why'd you have to post this while I was at work?

The meme's rules are as follows:
Grab the book nearest you. Right now.
Turn to page 56. Find the fifth sentence.
Post that sentence along with these instructions.
Don't dig for your favorite book, the coolest, the most intellectual. Use the closest.

"Specifying Surname with the AS keyword tells the database system that you want the results to be known as the alias Surname."

Taken from Beginning SQL.

oh - and if you read this, consider yourself tagged.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


Whew! In what has become an annual tradition for me, I once again ventured north to Dallas and the 2008 BGG.Con, which is the BoardGameGeek Convention. It's a gathering of people who share a common interest in playing boardgames, and who share that hobby at the website

I am definitely a geek, boardgame-wise or otherwise. And although I absolutely enjoy playing games, an equally big draw for me is the chance to visit with friends from around the country, and often meet in person new friends who I had previously only known online.

Sadly, the full weekend started a little later for me because I opted to see Metallica on Thursday night. I don't regret that decision at all, but it did reduce the amount of time I was able to spend playing games with friends. A fair trade, but lamentable nonetheless. So, out of the two days I did spend there, here are some highlights:

Tigris & Euphrates -
This game was among the first "Euro" games I ever played, and I immediately fell in love with it. It's hard to describe exactly why. Through the simple action of drawing and placing tiles, players build competing kingdoms in the fertile valley of the title. You can grow your empire, develop an income stream, or attack your neighbors. In the span of about an hour, this game offers a full narrative of civilizations rising and falling and re-emerging. It's wonderful!

Anyway, I don't get to play it as often as I would like. Fortunately, a friend I met through BGG shares my enthusiasm for the game and makes sure he gets to play it every year at the convention. Last year, he even organized a tournament (in which I played some of my worst games ever), that he ended up winning. To show my appreciation for his effort last year, as well as to reward him for the win, I created a special trophy for him. It was a complete shock for him, but he was simultaneously thrilled and embarrassed, which is always great.

This year we only played one game, not a tournament, and I finished in second place by ONE POINT! Fantastic but frustrating.

Poker -
As I've mentioned from time to time on the blog, I enjoy playing Texas Hold 'Em when I get the chance. I'm not a great player. The last time I played at my local monthly tourney, I finished third (out of 50). Certainly respectable (I should have won, but the beer started to catch up with me!). Well, I thought I'd give it a shot at the con this year. No buy in, just a friendly tournament with 147 players.

I thought I'd probably be out in the first 30 minutes or so, then I could go back and play some boardgames. Well, nearly four hours later, I came out the winner. I WON! The WHOLE thing! I was stunned! I made some bad plays and some good ones. I was lucky several times, and I was unlucky several others. It's just one of those weird things, I guess. It felt really good, beyond the obvious winning. I was proud of myself just to hold my own with people who play poker much more often and more seriously than I do. I was thrilled when I made it to the final table.

Quick aside: During one break I was talking with a friend from L.A. who is a serious poker player. A friend of his (also in the tourney) came up and they started swapping stories. One of them said that they recently played in a tourney and sat next to Chris Hellmouth. I had no idea who that was, and I said so. Both of them looked at me as if I had just sprouted another head. Apparently, it was inconceivable that I didn't know who that was (I still don't, actually. Some poker champion, I gather). They literally didn't believe me when I said I didn't know who he was. I guess to me, the game of poker is more interesting than the lore of poker. Which is interesting, because when I was younger it was just the opposite in my love of chess. Okay, maybe not so quick an aside. Are you surprised?

So, for my troubles (and no buy-in), I was awarded a gorgeous mahogany box filled with hundreds of custom poker chips made for BGG.Con. It's incredibly nice. I also received a set of plastic playing cards for making the final table. Plastic playing cards may sound cheap, but they're quite the opposite. They glide across the table and last forever. So, when do we get to play poker next, guys?

Werewolf -
One of the unique things about the BGG website is the forums. Like other websites, these are just places for people to post messages and interact with other visitors to the site. They have topics for each specific game, general game interests, and then just general discussion topics. One enterprising person came up with the notion to simulate a game of Werewolf in these forums, and a whole addiction was born.

The Werewolf games played in these forums have morphed and mutated into wild adventures. They are often themed on popular movies, and they offer many nuances that aren't possible in a face to face game. For example, keeping track of who voted for whom, having permanent records of everything said, and allowing partner wolves to chat privately to discuss their plans. It is tremendous fun.

So, having all of these "Online Werewolf" players together at night at the convention is equally fun. Everybody taunts each other, tells tales from the games, drinks a lot and has a great time. Oh, and we play some werewolf as well. This year I was able to moderate a game as well, using my iPod speakers to play mood music during the night phases. We had a great time meeting new faces and re-connecting with old friends we hadn't seen since last year. Always a highlight.

The drive back to Houston was sad, as it seemed like I had just come up the other way. Now I have to wait a whole year before I see all these great people again. Exhausting but worth it, every time.

Friday, November 21, 2008


Yes! Simply awesome.

I've been a fan of Metallica for many years, and I finally got a chance to see them live. It was fantastic. They are amazing musicians, and they really give it all when they play. Thursday night was no exception.

To be honest, I have actually seen them one time before. It was about 10 years ago, and for some crazy reason we spent the entire show walking around the venue. I was very unhappy about it, and have instead decided to pretend I never even went to that show. I don't even remember a single song they played.

When my friend Flynn told me they were coming, my first reaction was, "Let's spend whatever it takes to get the best seats we can!" Sadly, I later found out that the show was on the same night that I was planning a trip to Dallas. Dilemma! I thought about it briefly, but it really was no contest; the trip would have to wait. We were doubly lucky in that we were able to get amazing seats for an amazing price.

The concert was held at the Toyota Center, where the Rockets and Aeros play. It's a great arena, because it feels much smaller than it is. The stage was in the middle, and the band played in the round, walking all around to give each side a good view. The drummer, Lars Ulrich, had a platform that rotated after every 5-6 songs. Our seats were on one side, nice and low, with a phenomenal view.

You can click here for the Chronicle's review, so I won't bother listing the songs or any of that. Suffice it to say that it was incredible. Did it break into my Top Five Concerts ever? Probably not, but it's definitely in the Top Ten. They really put their all into the show. The vitality and talent that pours from the stage just has to be experienced.

One thing I found amusing, however. Towards the end of the concert, they brought the house lights up and played in full view. No spotlights, no lasers, no smoke, just a group of guys rocking out. Then for fun, they dropped over a hundred giant black beach balls from the ceiling into the crowd. It was great! Just silly, really, but it looked cool and it was fun to bounce the balls around. For about a minute. Then people started holding them. What's the point of that? I mean, these things are pretty huge, about four or five feet in diameter. What in the world are they gonna do with a souvenir like that? Can they even get it in their car? But typical of people these days, rather than continuing to bounce them around for everyone to enjoy, they had to grab it for themselves. I'm sure the next morning they think to themselves, "What the hell am I gonna do with this thing now?"

And no, I didn't get one.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A New Top Three!

I have a firm belief that the type of car you drive reflects your skills as a driver. I don't apply this theory to people I know, only to random strangers I see on the road.

In general, it seems as though the more expensive the car, the more likely the driver is terrible. There is some logic behind this. If you have a more expensive car, you probably make more money than most people. If you make more money, you probably believe yourself to be more important than others. If you believe yourself more important, of course you're not going to be courteous or even observant of other people on the road. This doesn't even factor in the likelihood of a cell phone.

Here's my ranking of the top three worst drivers by car. I've added my suggested exclamations for situations involving them as well.

#3: Lexus
Always a favorite on the list, although it is down from the number two spot last year. I'm also seeing a lot more older Lexi on the road these days. Has this become the used car of choice?
Exclamation: "Son of a Lexus!"

#2: Nissan
This one came out of nowhere. Not even on last year's list, these drivers are rapidly shooting for the number one spot. And surprisingly, they aren't all that expensive a car. Way to go, up and comers! Update: I meant to write this originally, but it took my friend Pete's comment to remind me: The assholery of Nissan drivers seems to be unique in that it's pretty well confined to the SUV and Crossover models. Sorry, Pete!
Exclamation: "Nissan!" but said with a hiss through clenched teeth, much like Seinfeld's "Neuman!"

#1: Mercedes Benz
No surprise here. Consistently whether I'm being cut off on the freeway, nearly sideswiped from a parking lot, or just generally encountering jerky driving, I look forward to seeing that damned tri-sected circle.
Exclamation: "Mercedeeeeees!" screamed to the heavens while shaking your fist angrily at the sky.

I'm very surprised that BMW didn't make the cut this year. It has been a pretty constant performer for the past five years. Perhaps the market has diluted the BMW driver pool too much.

Friday, November 14, 2008

What is this?

Click here to find out.

Here Comes the Flood

Yeah, it's been a really, really, really long time since I posted to the blog. Sorry about that.

I've been a little busy in the interim, what with getting married and all. And that's partly what's led me to finally picking up this digital pen and scribbling online once again.

I'm in the (very painful) process of clearing out my apartment in a weak attempt to cram my sizable fortune of doodads and junk into my tiny new home. It's a difficult activity in many ways. I've always been a pack-rat, holding on to the silliest things for far too long. Is it sentiment, or materialism, or what? I don't know, and it doesn't really matter. But as I sort these things into the various piles (garage sale, trash, keep, store), I'm reminded of why I have them. They all have their own stories, and I could conceivably start another blog telling the tale of a different item each week (note to self: start another blog telling the tale of a different item each week).

But what I'm really reminded of, beyond the mountain of things, is the mountain of ideas. The same thing has happened here on this silly blog. I have all these things I want to write about, but for some reason I never do. Partly, it's because I want to refine the idea in my head before "committing" it to the blog. That's just silly.

I've whined several times about how I promise to do better about contributing to this thing, but this time I mean it! ;) I've got a backload of ideas to spew forth (some of them already half written drafts waiting to be published), so I'm not going to hold back anymore.

The next entries over the next week or so will probably seem totally out of order (especially the next one), but that's the price. My new goal is a quantifiable one: at least two posts a week. That should be pretty easy for the next couple of weeks, but the trick will be how I continue after that. Anyway, that's my thought for the moment. More to come.

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