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So some time Saturday morning on the ski trail, I took a spill and managed to munge my right thumb (caught the pole, twisted the strap, etc.). Definitely sprained. By dinner time I had temporarily left the ranks of Those With Functional Opposable Thumbs, at least on the right hand. This made handling silverware amusing. Opposable thumbs are also useful for things like handling zipper pulls and straps and buckles. Also tying book laces. They are not, however, essential for the actual act of cross-country skiing. In fact the thumb didn't particularly interfere with the sking at all for the rest of the weekend, even though by Sunday morning it was significantly swollen and unbending. Huh. (By Monday morning I had returned to the ranks of the functionally opposable, although it still aches and is still visibly swollen.)

Ski conditions were peculiarly Spring-like. Highs up in the 40s; a distinct slushiness to the non-shadowed parts of the trails by afternoon. Still, all in all, a good weekend. I even took a couple of trails marked "advanced". (The rating system seems to be base more on how much climbing is required, as there were "intermediate" downhill slopes that were much more daunting than anything on the "advanced" runs.) By Sunday afternoon I was quite exhausted, but in a "played hard" way. I could, however, have done without the additional excitement that [ profile] cryptocosm details in his entry about the weekend. So what with one thing and another and the detour to Sacramento on the way home, I didn't get to bed until midnight.

Saturday evening we initiated [ profile] scotica's friend R. into the mysteries of Settlers of Cataan (now becoming a ski-trip tradition). He promptly bid fair to trounce us until the usual dynamic kicked in and the other players all ganged up on the leader, allowing the just-barely-in-second player to win.

Now I plan to do as little as possible for the next week while recovering. (Won't succeed, but I can plan.)

BBQ review

Jul. 5th, 2008 09:58 am
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My 4th of July BBQ & games was a fun little party (and, as usual in my social circles, ended up with twice as much food as half the number of people could eat). We ended up with 8 people (although one retreated to his sick-bed with a cold), ran through Settlers of Cataan, a roll-the-alphabet-dice-and-form-words game whose name escapes me, and a couple rounds of Trans America, interspersed with grilling, ice cream, and a walk out to the Emeryville Marina to see fireworks.

Grill review: I need to work on pacing for my grilling (particularly if it's to be a primary social activity rather than a get-the-food-on-the-table activity). The corn took longer than I expected, and the grilled veggies needed to be being plated as they came off rather than being stacked in the warmer. The meat (of many varieties -- everybody brought enough to share) generally worked out well. I'm starting to get the hang of the temperature variation on various parts of the grill surface, and how to alternate open-hood and closed-hood temperature manipulation. Since I have a stack of ungrilled leftover ingredients, I figure I'll do some more practicing this weekend.

Fireworks review: The fog was fickle. We walked out along the south side of Powell St and could see both the Jack London Square show (except for the lowest stuff which was hidden by intervening buildings and port equipment) and an assortment of probably unauthorized items from the West Oakland trajectory. As we got out past the fire station (where a couple of enterprising fire crew were hawking refreshments in support of the Special Olympics) we could see occasional cloud-glows from the San Francisco show, but it was clear that there wasn't any point in trying to position ourselves for a better western view. So we crossed over to the boat harbor by Trader Vics, then wandered slightly south to avoid the actual harbor view to take in the Berkeley show. Alas, there was a fairly solid fog river flowing in right over the Berkeley Marina, so we saw the lower half of about the first half of the show, and then the fog thickened and all we were getting was cloud-glow. We actually got a much better view of something roughly up Richmond way. I don't know if it was in Richmond proper (I wondered if they might be doing a show at the racetrack in Albany, but it could have been all the way out to the Hercules/Pinole area. And, of course, there were a lot of random (if less ambitious) unauthorized items sprinkled across the horizon. So it was a good evening for getting a sense of the scope of Bay Area firesworks in all their forms, but not as good for seeing a single show in all its glory. I keep thinking that some year I should bike off to the Berkeley Marina proper to see that one up close. (You do not attempt to drive around the waterfront to try to view the shows. In fact they usually barricade most of the relevant streets just to forestall the issue.)
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The weather was unbelievably gorgeous up at Kirkwood this weekend. In fact, the only thing that would have made the skiing better would have been if it had been a bit colder. Let's just say that I've been colder in my office at work than I was on the slopes. Much ski-geeking )

Tired, but not too tired. (At least for me.) A good bit of exercise and truly magnificent vistas. (Which I would post pictures of except that getting them from my Treo to LJ is a two-step process, neither of which can be performed on my lunch hour at work.) We're plotting to do another weekend in March and have decided that we definitely need to bring more people along to share in the fun. The cabin is in a prime location -- right on the meadow and with easy access to both the downhill and cross-country areas -- and has plenty of room for seven or more people (the "more" depending on how many of the people are comfortable sharing the various double beds). So now the only problem is trying to identify which of our friends happen to enjoy skiing and might be available when we locate a possible weekend. Funny thing: I can know people in the SCA or fandom or whatever for years and years and have no idea whether they enjoy winter sports. (With a few exceptions.)
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It started snowing today somewhere around noon and laid down 2-3 inches of fluffy stuff by evening, so the skiing may be a little better over at Colby tomorrow, especially if (as the forecast claims) we get a little more overnight. We went up to the arboretum in Augusta to ski yesterday, which was scenic, if a trifle icy. (And got started too late in the afternoon, so we were only out for an hour.) Lobster for dinner (gotta do the Maine thing right) plus the usual round of card games, Settlers of Cataan, and Carcassone. I also fiddled around on my parents' computer to re-save the files for great-great-grandpa LaForge's diary in something less hostile to my computer. Three of the files are still a bit wonky (or got wonkified in the process of e-mailing them from their computer to mine), but I'll work on that some more. This will greatly speed up the process of getting the diaries on the web, since it eliminates the process of cleaning up all the garbage created by trying to read Windows-WordPerfect files on my Mac. Due to various automotive logistics the brothers and I ended up walking back from our parents house to the Maine Brother's house -- with the new snow lying all around and a few little flakes drifting down through the streetlights. Yeah, yeah, if I lived here I'd get tired of it pretty quick. But this Californian needs her snow fix.
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The overarching themes for familial gift-giving seem to have been model trains, bathrobes, and chocolate. I netted a fancy adjustable coffee grinder, chocolate, an assortment of books, a set of 1000-thread-per-inch sheets (mmmmmmmmmmm), Dante's Divine Comedy on audio CD (coming soon to an iPod near me), and various other items. (But no model train equipment -- not on my want list.) Oh, and the aforementioned cross-country skis.

There was more skiing goodness at Colby College yesterday, although a slight thaw/freeze cycle had made the snow rather crusty. I fell a bit more often, but got up a bit more speed as well. Tomorrow there are plans to try the course at the Augusta arboretum. I don't know if we're going to get far enough afield this week to find any still-fresh snow. The Weather Underground web site thinks there's at least some chance of fresh snow Thursday night, though. So far, no storms scheduled for Sunday when us Californians are planning to fly out, but of course that could change.

We continue to work our way through the entire checklist of holiday dinner fare, having completed turkey, ham, Chinese buffet, and still having barbeque and lobster yet to go. Despite it all, I'm having relatively little trouble sticking to the eating plan, which is gratifying.

Slowly working my way through getting caught up with transcribing the current writing project. (That is, the bits written longhand so far.) I'm almost sticking to my plan to transcribe the longhand draft as written so that I can do version tracking on all revisions just as an interesting experiment. Alas, the key scene of the initial chapters had drifted significantly enough by the time I transcribed it that I pretty much had to capture the modified version (but I did take notes on the differences from the original). I'm not entirely sure whether I'll do anything with my draft/revision notes on this project, but since I'm generally fascinated by Process (and since this whole story is an experiment in Process) it seems worth capturing.

I'm also thoroughly geeking out by tracking the distribution of dice rolls for our omnipresent games of Settlers of Cataan. Anecdotal observations so far: specific games do commonly show wildly improbable concentrations of specific numbers; there may be some evidence for die bias (although since I'm not tracking the two dice individually, this is harder to prove); the game-by-game perception of improbable number concentration is muted by the act of observation, although the perception is that observation makes the dice behave better. A full statistical analysis may follow. (Or I may have gotten bored with it by the time I get back to my statistics reference books.)

Gamed out

Jun. 9th, 2007 09:12 pm
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The Games Tourney is over and -- if I do say so myself -- was a blast. We had just a bit short of 50 people there (which was my dream number) and I think all the games that involved equipment got played (although not all the "people only" games did). I think the biggest success was reminding people that sometimes the simplest concepts are the most enjoyable. We had a nicely shady site, but it did get hot enough that the "whack people with a wet sponge" game was enjoyable. Rolling hoops turned out to be startlingly energetic. And I think my underlying plot to get people playing a wider variety of medieval games spontaneously at events is likely to have results. Tired now. (In this case, from running around in the park all day.)

And when I got home, my federal tax refund was waiting in the mailbox. (Given the timing, this suggests that either they discovered that it had been returned to them, or discovered it hadn't been cashed and were able to cancell it. In any event, it's a relief to get it.)
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... for that getting to sleep before midnight thing. In fact, I think I can count on being asleep by 11pm. Everything's all packed for the event, clothes laid out, no last minute emergencies. (knock wood) All it needs now is for people to show up and have fun tomorrow. Tired now.
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Got the games event handouts/booklets done on my lunch hour, which involved another spate of power-biking since my favorite copy shop is up near campus. Tonight it's just a matter of double-checking all the check lists, making sure everything is packed and ready to go, and GETTING TO SLEEP BEFORE MIDNIGHT. (Something I have not yet managed this week.) It really isn't that there's all that much preparation to do -- it's just that it gets piled on top of all the regular stuff. I always feel guilty when I whine about being busy or overworked because, when it comes down to it, the lack of a spouse, kids, and significant commute mean I'm not even in the competition.
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Alas, tipcat has had to be scratched from the Games Tourney lineup. (This is the game I've been describing as "tiddly winks played with sticks".) When I got one stick roughed out enough to try out, it failed utterly to perform up to expectations. This annoys me not only because I thought it would be fun to include, but because normally I have a pretty good instinct for the physics of things. In my mind, I could see how it would work. I dislike having my instincts fail me. They've saved me an awful lot of trial and error over the years.
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Games Tourney preparations are at that point where I know everything I have control over is going to go smoothly and now -- despite my definite intention to enjoy the event to the fullest -- my next goal is to have it over with so I can relax again. I was supposed to be proofing the event booklet over lunch today but my printer at home's been wacky so I e-mailed myself a copy at work to print out ... and discovered I'd mailed the post-script file, not the pdf file. Well, no biggie. I still have a little carpentry to do this evening, do the booklet printing over lunch tomorrow, and double-check all the equipment against the games list. Lay out some clothes. That sort of stuff. Maybe even get to sleep on time tomorrow evening. My major unresolved anxiety is over how many people will show up for the event. The infrastructure is such that there are no drastic financial consequences for a low turnout, but I'd like enough people to show up and enjoy themselves to make it feel worthwhile. I was hoping that the game postings on the West list would create a bit more of an audible buzz so I could gauge interest. The event has such an irregular recent history that I can't make good estimates from past performance.

Random things that have slipped through the cracks: #1 The UPS package was, indeed, the books from Kalamazoo. I've only barely had a chance to drool over them at this point -- more details later when I have time to do reviews. #2 Yesterday I had one of those moments when I remember exactly why I do all that sweating at the gym. I spent my lunch hour bicycling up to and around downtown Berkeley doing another piece of prop-shopping and found myself powering up the hills and through the traffic like it was nothing at all in gears higher than I usually go up hills. Go me. Somehow it feels easier to get the power bicycling in when I have a practical goal like shopping as opposed to the lunchtime bayshore route. And I don't do any stationary bike work at the gym because it would kind of undermine the usefulness of the cross-training opportunity. #3 I've been meaning to start a semi-regular "odometer countdown update" for my car. You see, my goal is to turn over 200,000 miles on the Ford before I buy my new Prius next year. Given how little I drive under normal conditions, this is a tricker goal to make than one might think, however a few calculations based on my last couple years' driving records suggests it's quite doable. Currently the odometer stands a little over 197,400 miles. I meant to start the countdown when I turned over 197,000 coming home after March Crown but somehow it slipped my mind.
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So the package at the post office turns out to have been the whipping tops after all. I tried one out on the kitchen floor and found it a lot easier to work than I thought it would be. Cool. On the down side, I've tried several of the best butchers I know and haven't found a source of knucklebones yet. (They all say, "maybe in Chinatown", but we're upping the cost-benefit ratio at that point.) Between the one I picked up at the Beltane site and the two from The Sheep in the Attic, I could make do. But I'm not sure I want to risk something happening to bits and pieces of The Sheep in the Attic. (Hmm. It suddenly occurs to me that The Sheep in the Attic properly falls under the life-cleaning process. I really should find a good home for it.)
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I've been trying to adjust a few routines this week. Somehow, last summer, I got out of the habit of bicycling over to the park for lunch, and this year has taken quite a while to warm up to where it's an attractive idea. But this week I've gone out bicycling every lunchhour. Today's trip included a stop at the toystore on 4th Ave to look for the right sort of tops for the Games Tourney. No luck, but later on an online search turned up a maker of historic reproduction toys that even carries whipping tops, so that item is taken care of. (See here for a storefront.) The toy store did provide expansion sets of the magnetic ball-and-stick construction toy that I inherited for my work desk from a departing co-worker. Now I can go on beyond even icosohedrons. The second routine is a new one -- I've decided to start a food journal to keep track of what I'm eating. (Don't worry, I won't be subjecting LJ-readers to it.) With my super-powers of track-and-trend there will, no doubt, eventually be charts and graphs and figures with circles and arrows. This week I'm also back to the housework routine after being sick last week extended my two-week holiday to three weeks. The catch-up isn't too bad, at least, since I'd paused right before a light week.
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I spent most of the day yesterday at [ profile] thread_walker's games party. Cleaned up the map on a couple rounds of Settlers of Cataan, learned some new railroad games, and declined to enjoy "Munchkin Chthulhu", which ended up having more vociferous arguing over minute details of the escessively complicated rules than actual play time. (As I understand it, arguing over the rules is a design feature. I just don't find that fun.) Overall, much fun and I'm grateful for having been invited. (Oh, and yummy food, too.)

On my way to the games, I swung by the "electronic waste collection day" (an Earth Day event) being held in the IKEA parking lot. This enabled me to get rid of an old intermittently-malfunctioning tv, two old printers (which might or might not be convinced to function again), a wireless phone whose battery would no longer hold a charge, and a flat-bed scanner that made horrible gear-slipping noises when you tried to run it. I'd been planning to offer up several of the items on Freecycle, but my tendency to write excessively honest descriptions ("25-year-old TV set, reception is lousy except when I'm testing it to verify that it needs to be thrown out, at which point it will work reasonably well.") tends to undermine people's interest in my more marginal cast-offs. So the opportunity to get the stuff out of the house was not to be missed. Further progress on the life-cleaning!

I sent off the requisite form to the IRS inquiring about the fate of my refund check, but I've developed a suspicioun about it ever since I noticed that somehow my tax accountants had filled out the forms with my residence being on "X Avenue" rather than "X Street". That just might have been enough for the Post Office to have sent it back as "no such address". If so, getting it redelivered should be a lot simpler than it would be if the check had been stolen out of my mailbox.

Today is another work-party day at Ed Levine Park which may or may not get rained on. (It was bright and almost clear when I got out of bed, but now it's clouded up again and it was raining fairly constantly yesterday afternoon and evening.)

I also need to do some website work since I've decided to post a short story in honor of the recently-proclaimed International Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Day. (For those who don't want to follow links and untangle the backstory: one of the officers of SFWA, the sf writers' association, made some incendiary comparisons between authors who post their works for free on the net and scab laborers. There immediately emerged a grassroots movement in support of a contrary position -- that posting material for free reading is a reasonable part of a comprehensive career-buildling program by an author and doesn't undermine either one's individual potential financial gains nor the overall economic basis of professional writing. International Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Day is planned as an implementation of this position, celebrated by individuals making selected items of their own professional-quality writing available for free reading online.) I can see points on both sides, but from a purely pragmatic point of view, you deal with new technologies by making them work for you -- not by railing against the ways in which they change the old paradigms.
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Lest those of use departing for the west coast this afternoon leave an undue burden of pie on those remaining, I shoulder my share of the burden by having pumpkin and apple pie for breakfast.

By nebulous mutual agreement, gifts were somewhat more restrained than last year (with the exception of the nephew, who seems to double his store of video games with each holiday). I received a nice big coffee-table book on the notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci, some candle-making equipment, a Paul McCartney CD, the usual assortment of calendar and magazine subscription and edibles, and a bookstore gift certificate.

New games that needed to be play tested included "Apples to Apples", some complex historic game involving building things in Saint Petersburg, and Fluxx. This last is a game I was introduced to at the dead dog party at Darkovercon and within five minutes I had decided that someone in my family needed to own a copy of this game -- it didn't matter much who. I ended up giving it to the nephew because the Youngest Brother turned out not to own his own expansion set for Settlers of Catan and that needed to be remedied. My prediction of wild success for Fluxx was accurate. I understand that the nephew woke his father up at some ungodly hour this morning to play a few more hands.

We fly out at mid-afternoon from Bangor and so far it looks like the weather will hold. Rain, but not cold enough to freeze. (This, after yesterday morning's forecast involved an ice storm for last night that fortunately failed to materialize.)


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