Glenn and I took his x-wing and tie-fighter to the air at dusk this Sunday in Portland for a nice, old-fashioned dogfight. There was much mayhem:
Glenn and I took his x-wing and tie-fighter to the air at dusk this Sunday in Portland for a nice, old-fashioned dogfight. There was much mayhem:
Darlene and I returned to Vancouver, British Columbia last week to enjoy three days of board gaming at Shut Up and Sit Down’s third annual board gaming convention (SHUX ’19) after enjoying ourselves so much last year at SHUX’18. Once again we got to meet a bunch of new people (as well as bumped into a friend local to the Santa Cruz area) while learning and trying out many different games. As always, there’s also lots of other gaming-related stuff going on all around the convention hall but we pretty much stuck to the game library and play area for the whole convention this time.
We dove in deep starting with the viking-themed, “worker placement”-style game A Feast for Odin. It’s good but I’m not sure I really want to play it again, and it’s also really time-consuming to teach to new players. (Luckily we found someone who already knew the game to teach us.) We moved on to try the tableau-building Valeria: Card Kingdoms (not great), before getting transformed into mice trying to battle and escape our rat guards in the story-based adventure game Mice and Mystics (very cute!). Then we tried playing classic Disney villains in Disney’s Villainous with just the two of us – and then tried it again when the first game ended rather abruptly. I give it a pass – you’re pretty much at the mercy of your card draw, with little decision making to do each turn. The card decks do wonderfully capture the spirit of the feature films though.
We both loved playing the soon-to-be-released Ecos: First Continent and I immediately put in a preorder for it. Next up was trying Lowlands, a classic euro-style game with the added twist of having to decide whether to give up some of your precious turn actions to work on the community dike holding back the rising seas. We liked it… but not as much as Istanbul that we tried later in the day. I’ve had that in my wish list to try for a while and playing it with a group of five turned into an immediate purchase.
Richard joined us for the bizarrely themed and misrepresented Lords of Waterdeep after somebody we met earlier in the day insisted we try it. It was okay, but it was really just a totally abstract cube-exchanging affair. However, from there we moved on to finding a group to try laying out a suburban neighborhood together in the puzzle-y “roll and write” game Welcome to… – and yes, the third purchase as a result of SHUX this year!
We joined up on the last day with another couple to figure out how to play the intriguing time travel-based cooperative mystery adventure game T.I.M.E. Stories – which turned out to both not be so straight-forward without giving ourselves any story spoilers and reminded me why it got some less than stellar reviews. The problem is that the game intentionally sets up the story to play out in such a way that you’re going to run out of your allotted actions and fail multiple times and then “get” to experience going back in time again to try again with your new knowledge. However, unlike a well-scripted time travel movie, it’s not that fun to have to go back and repeat previous sections to gather needed equipment again. We ended up cheating a bit on the second go-around only to be forced into a second failure anyway where we decided to quit without seeing the first story through to its end.
We didn’t get to finish the last game of the weekend, The Ancient World, with yet another couple before the convention closed down. This one started out rough and afterwards I discovered that there’s a newer edition of the rules which would have avoided much of the confusion and outright invalid actions we were taking. Maybe we’ll try it again sometime somewhere.
Darlene had to take off super early Monday morning to teach a class by noon, but I hung out for the day in Vancouver and ended up going for a walk to Stanley Park and spending the afternoon at the Vancouver Aquarium. Click through for the full gallery:
Over a few summer weekends, Apple is allowing employees to bring friends and family to visit the new Apple Park campus and Stan invited several of us to get a little tour of this beautiful and amazing environment. Thanks, Stan!!
Lots of wildfires in California lately and over 100 in the Santa Cruz area this year so they’ve closed many of the county parks to try to reduce the risk. This one a couple of weeks ago (the Rincon fire) was quite visible from my place but happily they were able to get it under control in a couple of days:
After seeing someone test the air filtration of Tesla’s Model X and its “biodefense mode” against the heavy smoke we’re getting from our wildfires this month, I decided to pick up an inexpensive air quality sensor to test my home’s air as well as my Model 3’s more mundane filtration system. (The Model 3 doesn’t have the Model X’s fancy “biodefense mode” or huge HEPA filters.)
With the PM2.5 sensor reading 150 μg/m3 (unhealthy) in the San Jose area (due to smoke from the Camp Fire that burned through Paradise, CA), I found that the Tesla Model 3’s air filter would bring things down to the 20’s in the cabin in just a few minutes when recycle air was turned on. Later, I stopped and made a video to record it falling from 135 to 5 μg/m3 in less than 10 minutes. It climbed back up to the 80’s pretty quickly though when I turned off recycle air and let it bring in fresh air:
With recycle air turned off (fresh air intake on), the PM2.5 reading in both cars climbed up again. The Tesla was able to hold it around the low to mid 30’s but the RAV4 went up to essentially the outside reading of 50 μg/m3 again. So the Model 3’s system does work better.
One other thing of note is that the RAV4 ended up with a much higher concentration of TVOC (total volatile organic compounds), even though the vehicle is five years old. Presumably this is off-gassing of some of the materials in the cabin.
Oh, and I forgot to turn off A/C in the RAV4 for the test – hence the temperature drop.
Here’s more detail in screenshots – RAV4 start and finish with recycle on:
Model 3 start and finish with recycle on:
On a subsequent four-hour drive to Tahoe in the Model 3, I encountered much worse air along the way (San Jose, Central Valley, Sacramento, etc). I’d guess the PM2.5 count was easily at least 150 μg/m3 and probably much higher in places, but I avoided opening the windows to test it. I kept the air on recycle and saw that the particle count held down around 20 but sometimes climb to the 30’s. Not bad, given how bad it was outside.
Darlene joined me for a trip to Vancouver, British Columbia, last week to enjoy three days of board gaming at Shut Up and Sit Down’s very own, second annual board gaming convention (SHUX ’18). I only discovered Shut Up and Sit Down and their most excellent and entertaining board gaming content last year. I’ve since been hooked on their written and video reviews as well as their podcast. They’re also responsible for me being driven to buy a trunk load of additional games over the past year. (As if my game collection wasn’t large enough already.)
We got to try out a bunch of games I’ve been meaning to check out, meet some new people, get to see Quinns, Paul, Matt and Pip live and even see a little bit more of Vancouver – including tooling around on some electric bikes for a few hours. It was a great trip and great convention, though I wish we had used our time a little more wisely and squeezed in a few more games as well as been prepared for the early closing of the game-lending library. Also, would’ve been great to participate in one of the day-long megagames (if the convention were longer) or in a more involved version of Two Rooms and A Boom. We only got to try the basic version with just a couple of people with roles. We did get to try and got hooked on several great ones: Bunny Kingdom, Mystery of the Temples, Bårenpark, Great Western Trail, Sagrada, and Azul. Not so great: Crows, Koi and Kodama: The Tree Spirits. Terrible: Cat Lady, Nefarious.
I also wish I had thought to take pictures of all of the games we tried (and the folks we played with), but click through for the full gallery:
A month ago I received a mysterious package containing a message in a bottle, clippings, printed emails, a pendant marked with symbols, a message written in pictographs and a modern nautical map of part of a certain part of the world. (I’m being intentionally vague to prevent this from being easily found via search engines.)
It appears to be some sort of puzzle-solving game surrounding a lost treasure. Seeing as how it arrived soon after my birthday, and how my brother was acting coy in denial, it would appear to be a gift in the form a puzzle game to solve! Looking on the web, I saw that others have received these packages many months ago and have formed groups to try to solve them. However, I’ve avoided looking too hard on the web since I don’t want to spoil the fun of figuring it out.
More recently, I received a second package containing hand-drawn, pseudo-aged map fragments, a contract between pirates, pages from a diary and more printed emails. So… aye! We have lost treasure and pirates!
Darlene and I finally spent some time on this last weekend and found that solving the code puzzle in the first package ended up pointing to the longitude and latitude of an island that was then confirmed in a diary page from the second package. Seems strange to me that it works this way – that a solved puzzle is simply revealed in the later package. Instead, I would expect solving one puzzle would lead to the key to another puzzle, rather than being simply given away. We’ll see, I guess.
Without giving too much away, the contents of the second package made it possible to use the message in the bottle and the amulet to pinpoint another location on the modern nautical map, so we’ll see what comes of it. That appears to be all there is to figure out so far. There clearly must be at least one more package coming.
Update: Yes, a third package has arrived! This one is pretty cool too. A wooden box retrieved from the sand, containing an animal horn with carvings on it, all wrapped in oil cloth:
Surprisingly though, the carvings on one side of the horn only confirm what we previously solved in the first two packages. (Drawing of the lines on the map and interpreting the message-in-a-bottle as to how to project from the intersection points of those lines.) On the other side, it does have a little treasure map of the island marking out a trail to follow but I don’t yet see what we can do with it. And I’m pretty sure we’re not expected to fly out to the location to investigate the island in person.
Another package to come?
Update: Oh, yes.
And now several theories confirmed, regarding both the content and the intention of the packages – which I will refrain from divulging to avoid spoiling anything for anybody, except to say… very cool! Also, I guess my title for this post was much more apropos than I could have known.
… and Happy Star Wars to all!
A little while ago, after reading “Ready Player One” again (Spielberg is making a movie!) and after seeing a couple of tech talks by old Atari game programmers, I was lamenting that I sold my old Atari VCS so many years ago. Well, Darlene jumped on this comment, found a bundle someone was selling on eBay and surprised me with an early birthday gift. Yup, an old Atari VCS/2600 (four switch version), a set of controllers and a bundle of game cartridges. Sweet! (I think my brother and I actually had the six-switch, Sears-rebranded version, but still very cool!) Thanks, Darlene!
I immediately had to go fill out the set of 40 cartridges with a couple of other games I remember us playing a lot. Of course then was the challenge of hooking it up: the Atari outputs an analog RF TV signal… on an RCA-plug cable. You can use an adapter like this one to go from RCA plug to coax TV cable input. I don’t have a TV tuner, so rather than pulling a VCR out of a box in a closet, I hooked it up via my old USB EyeTV tuner/video converter to my MacBook – success!
Yeah, you can play any of these games via emulation on a modern computer, or even a smartphone/iPad, but there’s something very different about jamming the physical cartridge into the old physical console and handling that classic Atari joystick. (And having to use cotton swabs and alcohol to clean the contacts on all of the Activision cartridges to get them to work again!)
It’s been fun to pick these up and rediscover old visual/procedural memories, like the admittedly-simple path through the Adventure maze. Some titles are only vaguely familiar until you plug them in and see the game again and then go “aha!!”
So… to paraphrase Atari’s old marketing… have you played your Atari today?
While up in Portland, Oregon this past weekend for my brother’s birthday, Glenn, Michele and I made a day’s excursion to the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum, the current home of the “Spruce Goose” and a huge variety of other aircraft. All pretty cool and definitely a worthwhile visit, but it’s a little annoying that they charge extra (and separately) for tours inside two of the aircraft: a B-17 bomber (“Flying Fortress”) and the Spruce Goose itself.
Click through for pictures:
Glenn and Michele sent me this Game of Thrones pop-up book for my birthday… pretty cool! Thanks guys!! Click through to see more of the pop-up book:
And, as it happens, Darlene and I will be off to Croatia for my birthday in a few days, which also happens to be the filming locations for several Game of Thrones locales, like King’s Landing (aka Dubrovnik):
Got some friends together on Sunday to try out Artemis — a “spaceship bridge simulator” game where each person takes on a different role and we work together to successfully complete the mission: helm, weapons, science, engineering, communications, command. We did have some “technical difficulties” and some “minor disasters” (our ship sometimes completely destroyed) but everybody enjoyed the experience — it was a lot of geeky fun!
Darlene was busy working but she was there in spirit — particularly after she sent a photo of herself in uniform. (Yes, those boots may not be “Starfleet regulation” — but I wholeheartedly approve!)
Pictures and a bit of video from a day at the Bay Area Maker Faire:
Pictures from a meetup with “The Geek Club” for “California Extreme” – a terrible name for a video game arcade convention: